A Rant about Stories, Using a Story

Ladies. Gentlemen. That weird guy in the back with a DeLorean. How are things in the future?

Firstly, I apologise for not updating this since July. Three things have demanded my attention:

  1. Uni work, assignments and readings. Self explanatory.
  2. The Australian 2010 Federal Election. Since I’m doing Constitutional Law as part of my degree, the current hung Parliament scenario now is almost like a dream come true. I’ve been boring my parents with the possible legal and pragmatic scenarios that could happen at any time, so much so that they are thinking of switching my degree to Bachelor of Leatherworking. Is that even a real degree?
  3. Plain Laziness. Yeah, sue me.

Today, though, I want to talk to everyone about something that has been bothering me for quite a long time: The State of Writing.

Huh?” You may say. “Is the state next to Washington?” And then I will hit you.

Or you may ask, “Whatever do you mean?” Good question.

Books and stories used to be really well written, with famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hugh Lofting, and to a lesser extent Captain W. E. Johns producing marvellous works of fiction. Who could forget the best-selling Sherlock Holmes series,

or the intrepid Biggles series,

or even the famous vampire novel, Dracula?

Oh, har de har har har. That DOES serve to illustrate a point, though. Stories today have been “dumbed down” for the shorter attention span of the public, who can’t even sit through a 5 minute speech or 100 word document before getting distrac – OOH! BUTTERFLY!!

But how is the writing getting lousier? The creation of Fan Fiction. Yes, the very thing that allows people to use their creative juices and think of great alternate adventures involving their favourite characters in TV, books, movies and so on leads to a massive lack of quality writing. Many FanFiction writers (not all, I do stress) create stories that have poor grammar, or no description, or their characters inconsistent with the original show/book without saying so. Or even all three.

If you want to have a look, go to FanFiction.net and just click around on a couple of stories. Without a doubt, there will be many that are poorly written. Enough that would make you feel like buying the poor sap a dictionary.

(A/N) I would like to stress here that there are some FanFiction writers who are great writers, and their stories are marvellous. However, those that do not tend to bring it down for the rest of us. No insult is intended. Please don’t sue / kill / use a cattle prod on me.

To illustrate a good story, let me tell you guys one. This is how I got into writing in the first place. A story of love, determination, and friendship.

I was just a young kid, living the high life in the school system. I would painfully meander along to class everyday, strive hard to score good grades, and hang out with my friends during recess. Afterwards, it was homework, television, music, and piano to while away the lonely nights. Life was just, well, mundane.

Until one of my best friends changed all that.

I had known Kelly for a long time, ever since I was young, and she was one of the few people who would give me the time of the day. Often times, people would ignore me and regard me as a weird outcast – but Kelly never did that. Most days we would hang out and talk (always with other friends around, of course), just enjoying the other’s company.

And I committed what, in hindsight, was definitely a bad decision. I fell in love with her.

Oh, it was a gradual thing. I only noticed it when I discovered that all I wanted to do was to talk to her, to hold her close, and be the best friend that she could ever want. Maybe even more. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. And by then it was too late.

Being the romantic that I was, I decided to confess my true feelings to her. Being the coward that I was, I decided to do it by letter. Night after night, when my parents thought I was simplifying a polynomial equation to the lowest algebraic factor, I was actually hard at work pouring out my feelings on paper.

Finally, it was all done. I chose Valentines Day to give it to her (cheesy, I know), and boy, was I nervous. I was figuratively sweating bullets and wetting my pants, and my teeth were literally chattering. In hindsight, I much preferred it that way rather than the other way round.

Gathering up my courage, I strode up to her, card and rose in hand. She was on the phone, and just as I approached, she hung up and turned to me, her pretty eyes aglow and excitement radiating off her face.

Before I could get a word out, she leapt forward and hugged me, words tumbling out in a rush.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe it! Mark just asked me to be his Valentine! I’ve had a crush on him for, like, ever! Ohmigod, I can’t believe it! This is the happiest day of my life!”

***

I still can’t remember how I got through the rest of the year. Needless to say, I burnt the letter and the rose when I got home (to which Greenpeace objects strenuously). I was devastated, heartbroken. But eventually, I got over it. Kelly never knew about my feelings, since I decided that our friendship is more important than my selfish ambitions. All I wanted was for her to be happy. And to this day, Kelly and I are still really good friends.

I started writing short stories after that, as a way of keeping myself occupied. And now it has become a full-blown hobby. Other than assignments, church, and TV, this is what I do in my spare time.

But you know what? I still think of her from time to time. To use a line from a song by a band called The Young Veins:

“I tried to love you, but you still love him, so
I’ll keep my distance and lie to the truth….”

And I’ll never know what would have happened had I told her just one day earlier.

***

So, what was the point of all that? The point was, I made it all up off the top of my head.

But before you start booing and throwing rotten grapefruits, that was done to demonstrate a good story. There was good grammar, formatting, and the story flowed logically. And most importantly, it was interesting. And that’s all that matters.

Before I go, I’m going to leave you with a something written by a real author. C.S. Lewis, author of the bestselling Chronicles of Narnia series and other great Christian books (which I recommend everyone reads), also wrote this great paragraph in is sixth Chronicles of Narnia book, The Silver Chair:

Gay,” said Puddleglum with a deep sigh. “That’s what we’ve got to be. Gay. As if we hadn’t a care in the world. Frolicsome. You two youngsters haven’t always got very high spirits, I’ve noticed. You must watch me, and do as I do. I’ll be gay. Like this…”

Stirring stuff. I bet Puddleglum voted for the Australian Greens Party.

Did you ever have a bad experience with a poorly written story? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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    • Jessica Thiele
    • August 23rd, 2010

    Well, well, well, I most certainly have had a bad experience with a poorly written story.

    The first bad experience was in grade ten. We had to write a short story for English. Well, a friend of mine asked me to read through her draft, and holly molly it was terrible. The story was two pages long and only had three full stops in it 😮 Seriously come on, this is a grade ten student I’m talking about, they should have known better.

    And now to a real author. ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy. This book has recently been turned into a major film. I’d read a review on the movie and it greatly interested me, so I went and bought the book. To my disappointment I struggle to read it, due to the author’s writing style. Here is a snippet from the book:

    ‘A quarter mile down the road he stopped and looked back. We’re not thinking, he said. We have to go back. He pushed the cart off the road and tilted it over where it could not be seen and they left their packs and went back to the station. In the service bay he dragged out the steel trashdrum and tipped it over and pawed out all the quart plastic oilbottles. Then they sat in the floor decanting them of their dregs one by one, leaving the bottles to stand upside down draining into a pan until at the end they had almost a half quart of motor oil. He screwed down the plastic cap and wiped the bottle off with a rag and hefted it into his hand. Oil for their little slutlamp to light the long gray dusks, the long gray dawns. You can read me a story, the boy said. Cant you, Papa? Yes, he said. I can.’

    Now I don’t know if it’s just me having issues with this book, or if the author is in fact bad. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

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