Saturday, November 05, 2005

aaron: A Novelization

A couple of weeks ago Dad suggested that I should write my novel. And while I'm flattered that he thinks I have the capacity for producing a work of book-length fiction, I know better.

Now I know that someone reading this post (someone other than Mom or Dad) is going to think that I can write a novel, and that I'm either being too modest, or worse, that I'm being falsely modest, in the hope that someone will comment to the effect that, "Oh Aaron, you write great -- of course you should write a book." And see, that's a perfect example of one of the reasons why I shouldn't -- I suck at adjectives. When I'm writing, I think in nouns and verbs, and while I don't hesitate to use creative nouns and verbs, there's a limit to how much description they can provide. Adjectives and adverbs are largely forced, and when I use them, either they're trite and common, like "great," or they sound like they're being used to show off that I'm erudite, like "erudite." Occasionally I find the opportunity to throw in a color, but that can take your writing only so far. I distinctly recall when I took a one-week, short fiction class in 1997, during which time everyone was required to write a short story. Most people's process involved writing sequentually, with the plot revealing itself as they wrote along. Mine was writing out a four-page story skeleton on the first day and using the remainder of the week in an attempt to add flesh to the story. The idea of writing a 20-page story and fleshing it out into 300 pages seems like a very forced process. That's not to say it can't be done, only that descriptionese isn't my first language, and I don't use it like it's my native tongue.

Incidentally, although law school is notorious for beating the adjectives out of its attendees, I don't think it's responsible for my plight -- I think my adjectivial shortcoming predates law school, even if law school may have reinforced it.

The other problem is that I lack for plot. This is a lifelong problem for me -- for example, I had trouble coming up with a thesis for every term paper I wrote. The papers would get acceptable grades for their writing and logic, but would never get top marks due to the pained parallelisms that formed the very bases of these papers.

At that short fiction class, since the idea of the class was to write, it wouldn't have done any good to spend the first four days trying to come up with a plot. Thus we were given suggestions on how to come up with a plot, all of them essentially involving taking something from our lives and fictionalizing it. This isn't really a big deal, as the suggestion to "write what you know" likely appears in every creative writing guide ever written. That works fine for a short story -- a discrete vignette or incident can be a captivating story. But applying that approach to a novel? Writing what I know of the working life involves relating adventures in the scintillating life of an administrative law attorney, plus a few odd jobs in high school and college -- I suppose some people would be interested in the misadventures one can have flipping pizza for a summer, though I'm not sure it has best seller written all over it. What I know from growing up involves the lives of an upper-middle-class family that had its share of problems, and its share of anecdotes ("did I ever tell you about the time my brother stole the family car, and among other things, drove it into the ocean?"), but nothing compelling plotwise (maybe my brother did some stuff he didn't tell me about). Even if there were, I'm on speaking terms or better with everyone in my family, and while that may be trying at times, I'm not ready to throw that away just for fame and riches . What I know about romance involves a pretty short love life before I met Kathy, and an amazingly satisfying one (a.k.a., an extremely boring one to anyone else) since. As for my hobbies, I guess I could see a story that combined the wine-related component of Sideways (as applied to beer) with Fever Pitch (the book, about soccer, not baseball), though that strikes me as pretty derivative. Fortunately, I've done enough traveling, and live in an interesting enough city, that establishing a setting shouldn't be a hindrance (so long as I could provide enough description so readers unfamiliar with these places would appreciate them).

Of course limiting one's writing to experience would result in far fewer stories in the world -- obviously one can stretch one's plot beyond the adventures one has actually experienced. Until a Muse has kissed my brain with an inspiration, however, that's really all I have.

So to all my book-writing fellow bloggers, I say good luck, and keep up the good work. As for me, I'll just stick to cheering from the sidelines.

The preceding has been presented by the louder of the point/counterpoint entities that inhabit my brain. Someday perhaps, the quieter, less confident one may write on this subject. It may even write about an idea for a book, something about a suburban teenager who spends his summer flipping pizzas.