El Castel en Chetzin Itza
El Castel en Chetzin Itza

Yes, that caption is in Spanish. Be happy this whole post isn’t.

The Encore is the theme of this posting: Commercial Fiction. I’ve written about the topic before, here and in former web presences. But, every few years, I like to go over it. I am inspired at this time by an article my wife shared about Romance Fiction. It was the six reasons people put down Romance Fiction. All six of them were, “They’re Jealous.” Yep.

Commercial Fiction, which of course Romance Fiction is an example of, is fiction meant to sell. When I was in college I knew a number of people, both fellow students and professors, who put down anything meant to sell as somehow inferior to that which was written for some higher purpose. Art, I suppose, or serious social commentary. Whatever. This is a common theme, and one, I believe, exacerbated by jealousy, because Commercial Fiction actually does sell, which makes its authors some money, whereas Art Gratia Artis makes for starving artists. So, yeah, some folks are jealous. But, here’s what I have to say about that.

Will Shakespeare didn’t want to write great literature. He wanted juicy parts for himself and his friends, and to pack the house, because, after all, eventually he owned the theatre. I’m sure he’d be pleased to know that his plays are considered great literature, but that wasn’t his goal. He just wanted to keep doing what he liked doing, and making enough money at it to keep it up. He was a success in life, even though his life wasn’t a particularly long one.

Mark Twain wasn’t trying to create great literature when he wrote Huckleberry Finn. He was trying to show the evils of racism through telling a great story. He didn’t want literature, he wanted to make a living writing stories, and, in spite of some setbacks along the way, he was a success.

I could cite hundreds of examples of this were I so inclined, but I’m going to refrain because this blog features mostly succinct posts. You want a treatise, hit up an academic. I doubt that very many famous artists started out to create great art. What they started out to do was to make a living selling their products. Some times it worked, and some times they starved, or kept lifelong day jobs. But they almost all hoped to live off of their art, whether it was great or not.

And that’s why I write commercial fiction myself. It’s too damned much work not to keep refining it and honing it and tweaking it until somebody is willing to pay me for it. If you’ve tried writing stories, you know that it isn’t an easy thing to do. But, you can make a few bucks (Euros, whatever) at it if you persist. And that, by definition, is Commercial Fiction.

Literary Criticism

CaptureThis is a picture of a post I shared on Facebook the other day. It’s funny, but I think it would be better if it substituted “literary critic” for “teacher.” Not all teachers are literary critics, and some of my favorite teachers were responsible for the foundation of what I know about language, so I don’t want to insult them unduly.

Literary critics, though, are a different story. Besides the obvious question of, “Who died and made you the arbiter of things artistic?” there is the issue of destroying art via deconstruction. Sure, it’s fun to do sometimes, but if you’re really enjoying something, be it a painting, a book, a show, whatever, delving into the details of how it’s made will only take away the attraction. And, that’s what happens, a lot, especially with movies, or movie-like entertainment. That “Look Inside the Episode” at the end of each Game of Thrones episode is worthless for anyone wanting to write good drama for themselves, and it does absolutely nothing to advance the story, characterization, or plot. It is, in short, a waste of electrons to watch.

And this is not a modern phenomenon. Way back in college, in a previous century, I read an article by John Ciardi explaining what Robert Frosts’ poem Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Day is all about. You know the one: it ends with For I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep. I imagine that you, having at least the brains of a hamster, can figure out what Frost is saying with those lines. It, as they say, ain’t rocket science. (Truth to tell, some of the rocket scientists I’ve met haven’t seemed all that bright, but that’s another story.) But Ciardi goes into excruciating detail about the meaning of each line, his description of the area, the deep, metaphorical significance of it all. By the time I’d finished reading the explanation, I didn’t want to see that poem ever again! I have since recovered, because the art endures long after the taint of deconstruction fades.

For an artist in words (that’s a writer, you know) the moral is simply that you must make your meaning so clear that even a detailed analysis of your work will fail to make people fall out of love with it.

As for the critics? Deconstruct ’em!

So, You’re Having A Bad Writing Day

You’re having a shitty writing day. It happens. I get a crap writing day at least once a week. Maybe twice. Once in a while, I get a whole bad run of writing days, like I’ve got some ki…

Source: So, You’re Having A Bad Writing Day

Here I am retweeting this guy. Again. He’s, um, demonstrative, and his advice is good. Remember, smart people use more profanity than normal people. Click it and read, it will help you to write!