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To Show Depth Or To Bury Depth? That Is The Question (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
What I've noticed about genre versus 'literature' is one is about telling a good yarn, whilst the other is all about digging deep into the human condition, expressing in allegory the concerns of the writer, or exploring social inconsistencies ... to name but a few. Does that discredit 'a good yarn' though? Many people aren't seen as 'true' writers because they choose to write horror or fantasy or science fiction. This isn't controversial to say. You've only got to listen to established authors to pick that up. Detective novels were frowned upon back in the day, even though they were written with equal care and skill as 'literary' works. Once upon a time literature was just literature and Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde and Dracula where not viewed any differently to anything else. Today is different but why?

I think it's a matter of focus, where you aim that lens and what you choose to show with that lens. It's almost like a right of passage, in which the expression of depth is more important than the story itself. That's not to say the story isn't important, just that that expression of 'intellect' (overt or subliminal) supersedes all else when the work is being evaluated by 'the industry'. Those learned people who smell of old books and crack like a snapped pencil when they stand from their lectern.

For me, you can take that depth and understanding of human nature, build an idea around it and then remove what it was that aided in the building. It's no longer overt but it's there nevertheless, buried beneath the idea. So buried in fact that it can no longer be seen. Take Yarrod for instance. He sees pain as proof of existence, of worth, and when he meets Frerreleise, a dominatrix, he feels he's met someone who gives him value. But where did that idea come from and what well of the human condition am I drawing from? Is it deep? Would people think it was depth?

When I was a volunteer for an organisation who looked after the disabled or troubled, I met a woman who self harmed. She fascinated me because every interaction showed nothing of that inner sadist. I began compiling a list of questions I'd love to ask but sadly never got to ask them. Those questions stayed with me though. What was the cut off point I wondered? If we are to take a potential scale of 'not wanting to self harm' and 'now I want to self harm', surely there are moments either side of that tipping point? I was particularly interested in the possible scale prior to the tipping point, the journey from 'I'm perfectly fine today' to 'do I self harm or not?' I gave that a lot of thought.

Then I thought about the pain itself. Given that there are a variety of different pains available, such as abrasion, stabs, cuts, burns, punches, do each have a different function? Depending on how bad the self abuser feels that day, do they reach for a particular pain? And if so, in what order would they put those pains? Is a stab worse then a cut? Is a bruise worse than a burn? Do they think 'today is a cutting day or does it just happen? Something told me it didn't just happen. Something told me there is likely a link between how bad they feel that day and what pain they choose to use.

I started wondering about tattoos after that. It's a painful process and some people are covered in them. Does the pain of getting a tattoo in some way verify their existence? If they were brave enough to get the tattooist to tattoo exactly what it was they needed on their skin, would it simply be the word 'help'? I actually asked a friend about it. He quite liked the thought and I could see he gave it consideration. It wasn't that he agreed, just that it seemed he couldn't entirely disagree. He was a troubled man, that I knew for sure.

So anyway, that's why Yarrod suffers and is glad to, and why he often thinks of his scars. They remind him he lived, while the pain reminds him he lives. The literary work is probably in the above three paragraphs, but the yarn is in the last.
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
What I've noticed about genre versus 'literature' is one is about telling a good yarn, whilst the other is all about digging deep into the human condition, expressing in allegory the concerns of the writer, or exploring social inconsistencies ... to name but a few. Does that discredit 'a good yarn' though?

I've about decided that 'literature' is just writing without concern for genre. If you're classing your product as horror/action/romance/sci-fi/whatever there are certain tropes you're expected to know and acknowledge. How you address these is given a great deal of latitude - but unless the author is one of those 'subvert the expectation' types you can reasonably expect to encounter horrific things, action set pieces, intimate human interaction, or strange new frontiers.

For instance, Chekhov's gun is in the glove compartment of your car.

In genre fiction, it must be fired. In lit, it may speak to the character's state of mind, or their ties to the relative from whom they received it, and the article itself might as easily be fired at rats at the garbage dump as wind up dropped into a lake or ignored while the character searches for a spare fuse.


Many people aren't seen as 'true' writers because they choose to write horror or fantasy or science fiction. This isn't controversial to say. You've only got to listen to established authors to pick that up. Detective novels were frowned upon back in the day, even though they were written with equal care and skill as 'literary' works. Once upon a time literature was just literature and Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde and Dracula where not viewed any differently to anything else. Today is different but why?

Some pieces of classic lit are garbage. A lot of it goes by taste...but then, I've never yet encountered a compelling argument for the existence of Ethan Frome.

What gives most a sense of longevity isn't the work itself; what entrenches a story into the public conscience is as much the product as the time. Bonnie & Clyde wasn't a hot movie because people in the '60s were suddenly fascinated by the Great Depression - it was a hit because the whole thing was a '30s-era skin stretched over a '60s countercultural sense of outrage, distrust, and hatred towards the powers-that-be. M*A*S*H and Catch-22 didn't signal an interest in U.S. Army surgical advances in the Korean War or USAAF medium bomber operations in the Mediterranean Theater so much as tap into the waste, insanity, and gallows humor of modern warfare (Viet Nam).

Incidentally, there were a fair number of popular American novels about insanity in the 1960s. Almost makes one wonder if there wasn't something in the air.

Dirty Harry was a reflection on Americans' collective sense of a justice system failing the citizens. Chinatown was about the machinations of those in power and the downstream effects on those without. Dracula may be about a bloodsucking night monster, or it might be about a distrust of strange and ancient cultures rearing their heads in the modern world. Frankenstein met a public struggling to make sense of the Industrial Revolution and begged the question of what might happen when man's ability to do outpaced his ability to reason why; some time later, you could argue the Terminator series asked the same.

With a few exceptions the stuff you find in genre fiction fiction are highly adaptable. Westerns can move pretty easily into space without losing much. A monster sinking cruise ships in the Pacific Ocean will kill victims just as dead as one stalking the upper levels of the Empire State Building. People meeting and falling in love in Paris works about the same as it would long ago in galaxies far away.


I think it's a matter of focus, where you aim that lens and what you choose to show with that lens. It's almost like a right of passage, in which the expression of depth is more important than the story itself. That's not to say the story isn't important, just that that expression of 'intellect' (overt or subliminal) supersedes all else when the work is being evaluated by 'the industry'. Those learned people who smell of old books and crack like a snapped pencil when they stand from their lectern

I believe what you're describing here are the intellectually inbred. What fun is reading a book when the peons get as much as their betters? Time to wheel out the robes and secret decoder rings, lest the unwashed find out what their favorite books are really about.


For me, you can take that depth and understanding of human nature, build an idea around it and then remove what it was that aided in the building. It's no longer overt but it's there nevertheless, buried beneath the idea. So buried in fact that it can no longer be seen.

I'm unsure about the burying part. Worthwhile, I think, to leave things lying around where the reader can find them without the author standing just out of frame and strongly suggesting that the reader notice all these important things.

The best part is having a reader who out of the blue says "You know, I just realized..."

Take Yarrod for instance. He sees pain as proof of existence, of worth, and when he meets Frerreleise, a dominatrix, he feels he's met someone who gives him value. But where did that idea come from and what well of the human condition am I drawing from? Is it deep? Would people think it was depth?

Paraphrasing Hemingway: "The old man is an old man, the boy is a boy, the fish is a fish, and the boat is a boat. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is full of shit."

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

When I was a volunteer for an organisation who looked after the disabled or troubled, I met a woman who self harmed. She fascinated me because every interaction showed nothing of that inner sadist.

I dated one, once. Of the experience I can only state two things for certain:

  • You can't save someone bent on their own destruction, and
  • Though it was not apparent for some time, the inner sadist is more indifferent than cruel


Then I thought about the pain itself. Given that there are a variety of different pains available, such as abrasion, stabs, cuts, burns, punches, do each have a different function? Depending on how bad the self abuser feels that day, do they reach for a particular pain? And if so, in what order would they put those pains? Is a stab worse then a cut? Is a bruise worse than a burn? Do they think 'today is a cutting day or does it just happen? Something told me it didn't just happen. Something told me there is likely a link between how bad they feel that day and what pain they choose to use.

Most self-destructive types have a go-to - it's the favorite brand of alcohol, an X-Acto knife with a No.11 blade, the drug of choice...in my experience there's not much variety. They either want to deaden the pain or sharpen it to the point they feel nothing else, and in doing so they fall back on the methods most familiar and comfortable.

Somebody who burns themselves with cigarette lighter isn't likely to start cutting themselves one day. Cutters probably won't pick up a narc habit.

It's the devil you know.


So anyway, that's why Yarrod suffers and is glad to, and why he often thinks of his scars. They remind him he lived, while the pain reminds him he lives. The literary work is probably in the above three paragraphs, but the yarn is in the last.

Scars, trauma, and individual reactions are going to vary wildly from one person to the next. Some will be proud. Some may be ashamed. Depending on the story, it may be a mix of both.

Years ago I worked with a vet who'd done three tours in what he called the Great 1965-1972 Southeast Asia War Games. He got in early enough to believe Viet Nam was winnable. By the end of his last rotation home he knew it wasn't. We were pretty good friends. Enough so that I asked him if there was anything in particular he'd taken from the experience. I'll close it out with his reply:

"I wouldn't go through that s*** again for a million dollars, and I wouldn't sell the memories for ten million."

Take from that what you can.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I've about decided that 'literature' is just writing without concern for genre. If you're classing your product as horror/action/romance/sci-fi/whatever there are certain tropes you're expected to know and acknowledge. How you address these is given a great deal of latitude - but unless the author is one of those 'subvert the expectation' types you can reasonably expect to encounter horrific things, action set pieces, intimate human interaction, or strange new frontiers.

For instance, Chekhov's gun is in the glove compartment of your car.

In genre fiction, it must be fired. In lit, it may speak to the character's state of mind, or their ties to the relative from whom they received it, and the article itself might as easily be fired at rats at the garbage dump as wind up dropped into a lake or ignored while the character searches for a spare fuse.




Some pieces of classic lit are garbage. A lot of it goes by taste...but then, I've never yet encountered a compelling argument for the existence of Ethan Frome.

What gives most a sense of longevity isn't the work itself; what entrenches a story into the public conscience is as much the product as the time. Bonnie & Clyde wasn't a hot movie because people in the '60s were suddenly fascinated by the Great Depression - it was a hit because the whole thing was a '30s-era skin stretched over a '60s countercultural sense of outrage, distrust, and hatred towards the powers-that-be. M*A*S*H and Catch-22 didn't signal an interest in U.S. Army surgical advances in the Korean War or USAAF medium bomber operations in the Mediterranean Theater so much as tap into the waste, insanity, and gallows humor of modern warfare (Viet Nam).

Incidentally, there were a fair number of popular American novels about insanity in the 1960s. Almost makes one wonder if there wasn't something in the air.

Dirty Harry was a reflection on Americans' collective sense of a justice system failing the citizens. Chinatown was about the machinations of those in power and the downstream effects on those without. Dracula may be about a bloodsucking night monster, or it might be about a distrust of strange and ancient cultures rearing their heads in the modern world. Frankenstein met a public struggling to make sense of the Industrial Revolution and begged the question of what might happen when man's ability to do outpaced his ability to reason why; some time later, you could argue the Terminator series asked the same.

With a few exceptions the stuff you find in genre fiction fiction are highly adaptable. Westerns can move pretty easily into space without losing much. A monster sinking cruise ships in the Pacific Ocean will kill victims just as dead as one stalking the upper levels of the Empire State Building. People meeting and falling in love in Paris works about the same as it would long ago in galaxies far away.




I believe what you're describing here are the intellectually inbred. What fun is reading a book when the peons get as much as their betters? Time to wheel out the robes and secret decoder rings, lest the unwashed find out what their favorite books are really about.




I'm unsure about the burying part. Worthwhile, I think, to leave things lying around where the reader can find them without the author standing just out of frame and strongly suggesting that the reader notice all these important things.

The best part is having a reader who out of the blue says "You know, I just realized..."



Paraphrasing Hemingway: "The old man is an old man, the boy is a boy, the fish is a fish, and the boat is a boat. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is full of shit."

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.



I dated one, once. Of the experience I can only state two things for certain:

  • You can't save someone bent on their own destruction, and
  • Though it was not apparent for some time, the inner sadist is more indifferent than cruel




Most self-destructive types have a go-to - it's the favorite brand of alcohol, an X-Acto knife with a No.11 blade, the drug of choice...in my experience there's not much variety. They either want to deaden the pain or sharpen it to the point they feel nothing else, and in doing so they fall back on the methods most familiar and comfortable.

Somebody who burns themselves with cigarette lighter isn't likely to start cutting themselves one day. Cutters probably won't pick up a narc habit.

It's the devil you know.




Scars, trauma, and individual reactions are going to vary wildly from one person to the next. Some will be proud. Some may be ashamed. Depending on the story, it may be a mix of both.

Years ago I worked with a vet who'd done three tours in what he called the Great 1965-1972 Southeast Asia War Games. He got in early enough to believe Viet Nam was winnable. By the end of his last rotation home he knew it wasn't. We were pretty good friends. Enough so that I asked him if there was anything in particular he'd taken from the experience. I'll close it out with his reply:

"I wouldn't go through that s*** again for a million dollars, and I wouldn't sell the memories for ten million."

Take from that what you can.
There's more depth and knowledge in this post than I could muster in a lifetime. Who the fuck are you? All I'm thinking right now is 'Goddamn, I wish I'd have got an education.'
 
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Megan Pearson

Senior Member
Hi TheMightyAz, I love how you think. Here are some thoughts in return:
What I've noticed about genre versus 'literature' is one is about telling a good yarn, whilst the other is all about digging deep into the human condition, expressing in allegory the concerns of the writer, or exploring social inconsistencies ... to name but a few. Does that discredit 'a good yarn' though? ... Today is different but why?
Louis L'amour once lamented that if you wrote a historical novel but didn't showcase sex in it they labeled you a Western writer. (His novels were very well researched.)

If the distinction is market-driven, then it seems the average reader with the average busy life might prefer an escape to life, rather than an evaluation of life.

If the distinction is content-driven, like you said, "about digging into the human condition," then something like Dracula is literary because Dracula represents something other than he seems to be. He's a metaphor for the sexual predator. This makes me wonder if 'the good yarn' isn't somehow lacking in metaphorical representations of society--but this idea doesn't hold, especially in SF.

I think it's a matter of focus, ... It's almost like a right of passage, in which the expression of depth is more important than the story itself. That's not to say the story isn't important, just that that expression of 'intellect' (overt or subliminal) supersedes all else when the work is being evaluated by 'the industry'. ...
I think, too, that literary works tend to be more character-driven than plot-driven, so there are some pretty important genre distinctions here in how the stories are executed.

For me, you can take that depth and understanding of human nature, build an idea around it and then remove what it was that aided in the building....But where did that idea come from and what well of the human condition am I drawing from? Is it deep? Would people think it was depth?
You might find Joseph Campbell's work on myth compelling. (That is, assuming you haven't read it already.)

When I was a volunteer for an organisation who looked after the disabled or troubled, I met a woman who self harmed. She fascinated me because every interaction showed nothing of that inner sadist. I began compiling a list of questions I'd love to ask but sadly never got to ask them. Those questions stayed with me though. What was the cut off point I wondered? If we are to take a potential scale of 'not wanting to self harm' and 'now I want to self harm', surely there are moments either side of that tipping point? I was particularly interested in the possible scale prior to the tipping point, the journey from 'I'm perfectly fine today' to 'do I self harm or not?' I gave that a lot of thought.
I know such a person. It is sad and distressing to family and friends in not knowing how to help someone like that.

Then I thought about the pain itself. ...Something told me there is likely a link between how bad they feel that day and what pain they choose to use.
I think it is emotional. Maybe, perhaps, rooted in concepts of identity and self-worth?

I started wondering about tattoos after that. It's a painful process and some people are covered in them. Does the pain of getting a tattoo in some way verify their existence? ...
I actually heard an interview with a psychologist in the mid-nineties who was commenting on the sudden rise in tattooing and piercing (which by then wasn't socially acceptable as it has become). His analysis was that it reflected the individual's felt lack of control over his or her own life. Not sure if that helps you, but could be a direction to research.

So anyway, that's why Yarrod suffers and is glad to, and why he often thinks of his scars. They remind him he lived, while the pain reminds him he lives. The literary work is probably in the above three paragraphs, but the yarn is in the last.
In thinking about depth, because you care for your characters, so will your reader. That's not something you can contrive on paper but has to be genuine and come from within. Maybe that's the real answer to your question, "To Show or Bury depth?"; it's to write what you find within yourself on these matters.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
IMO - a lack of depth shows a lack of writing skill. A rollicking adventure where the character(s) emerge unchanged at the end has no point.

Well written SciFi, Horror, Romance, (etc), often addresses social issues, personal struggles, and even metaphysics. To give your story meaning, you must go deep.
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
There's more depth and knowledge in this post than I could muster in a lifetime. Who the fuck are you? All I'm thinking right now is 'Goddamn, I wish I'd have got an education.'

I'll ask that weird reflection in my mirror and get back to you.

Can't claim much on the education side, though, not as far as the arts are concerned. The pinnacle of my school career was squeaking by on a technical associates' degree from a nowhere meth-town in south Oklahoma. Nobody there knew about the writing thing. I didn't join any clubs. The handful of people who did know were limited to online discussion boards dedicated to other topics. Most of them I've never actually met.

The experience was worth more than the degree, at least so far. I could see the point in paying to learn a trade. Never could find the utility in paying to learn an art, seeing as you can get that for free.

Lemme put it this way...if you've ever encountered serious adversity, made bad decisions based on faulty intel, or tried to a fight a machine against which you had no chance whatsoever, you've got everything you need to write a compelling character in a believable situation. Ever been aggressively in the wrong? Lost somebody you couldn't afford to let go? Gambled on a sure thing and walked out shoeless? Looked at those avenues available to you and realized none were acceptable?

If so...you've got more grounding in good storytelling than somebody whose daddy shelled out for an Ivy League degree.

I tell people I spend too much time digging in garbage. That's only half a joke. Sometimes the best stuff is at the bottom of the trash pile. Besides, it gives you a good calibration for what's workable and not. The trick then is to search the empty spaces between the known garbage and the unknown good and map it out as best you can.
 

WasatchWind

Senior Member
Anyone who says that something like Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia are not literature is an idiot.

Just because a novel has fantasy or science fiction trappings doesn't mean that it isn't speaking on deep important topics. Both of those series were a response to the disillusionment with many traditional values following the depression and the world wars. They spoke on the departing of humanity from the natural world, and replacing it with industrial society.

I might look at another crowd pleasing work, Jurassic Park, in the science fiction genre. The book has awesome dinosaurs rampaging and causing destruction - but it is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of genetic engineering, and wielding any kind of technological power without restraint.

These themes I find extremely full of depth and meaning.

Then I can point to the contemporary fantasy of Brandon Sanderson. In the Stormlight Archive, he dives into the challenges of mental illness. In Mistborn, he follows the struggles of a character and what they should believe in regarding religion.


And according to prudes who wax poetic about the beauty of literature, these stories are not literature, simply because they have fantastic elements. But I don't think that is true. I bet if you asked someone if the works of HG Wells or Jules Verne are considered literature, they would say "absolutely, they're classic works." Yet the stories involve people traveling through time, journeying to the center of the earth, and more.

The real determinant of what makes something literature, first and foremost, is that it is old. People of the 1800s ate up these books just as we enjoy many contemporary works. I bet if you went back to that time, and asked professors of literature their opinion on things like the works of Mark Twain, they would dismiss them, and point to things like Shakespeare - something that was old.

Today however, these repugnant individuals are left with the task of determining what today is literature. So they search for an arbitrary classification. Something that feels like those old stories. Even though modern sci fi and fantasy are an outgrowth of those older works, they want something that is trying to imitate those older works, or is simply speaking in an artistic, stuffy way.

I'm perhaps being harsh. Not everything that is called "literature" today automatically becomes some artsy nonsense. I will say however there are many, like in the mediums of film, music, and even games, that rather than setting out to tell the desires of their heart, address something they feel hasn't been addressed, they simply want to be award bait.

No matter. Time will pass. Media that is not considered literature, or cinema, etc, by stuffy people, but is loved by millions, will be remembered for having great impact on their mediums, influencing works for years to come, and all these dozens of intentionally artsy works that were eaten up by these stuffy gatekeepers will be forgotten.

Then a century from now, you will hear someone say "yes, Back to the Future is true cinema, but this utter trite today that all the commoners love is not cinema at all!" (pompous scoffing noises). Such is the wheel by which it all turns.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I never said fantasy, horror or science fiction didn't have depth. In fact I said the opposite. :)
There are some hack writers out there that just issue a standard story without depth - in an interview Michael Crichton said he wrote Jurassic Park because he wanted to have people chased around by dinosaurs... the deeper meaning came later and perhaps that depth springs from the author's POV. Maybe all writers create stories with depth, but I'm too shallow of a person to get it; could be, I've been called worst things. Yet still, I've stumbled over many books that are either shoot-em-up adventures with two dimensional characters that start end end without much change, or the stories have horrendously overused plot lines - like they're following a template.

As far as horror and SciFi - those are the books I most enjoy reading... and what I write. I don't care for fantasy though - not because it lacks depth, I just don't like magical stuff.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
There are some hack writers out there that just issue a standard story without depth - in an interview Michael Crichton said he wrote Jurassic Park because he wanted to have people chased around by dinosaurs... the deeper meaning came later and perhaps that depth springs from the author's POV. Maybe all writers create stories with depth, but I'm too shallow of a person to get it; could be, I've been called worst things. Yet still, I've stumbled over many books that are either shoot-em-up adventures with two dimensional characters that start end end without much change, or the stories have horrendously overused plot lines - like they're following a template.

As far as horror and SciFi - those are the books I most enjoy reading... and what I write. I don't care for fantasy though - not because it lacks depth, I just don't like magical stuff.
Yes, exactly. I've listened to hundreds of video interviews and the take away for me is, unless all of that 'deepness' is expressed as the main backbone of the story, it's not considered 'literature'. Of course the musicality of the prose plays a big role too in some cases but not always. My approach is to deliberately hide it in the hope readers feel it, but I'm wondering, if there's this assumption concerning genre fiction, is it even worth hiding it in such a way it could be found? My stuff is filled with little images and symbolism but I don't draw attention to it. Having said that, those things give me a structure around which to build so I don't think I'd want to stop making that effort, regardless of whether the reader spots it or not. I do think I need to stop doing it so often though. That's what leads to sentences and paragraphs that are far too plump for their own good. lol. I do listen to critique you know! :)
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Yes, exactly. I've listened to hundreds of video interviews and the take away for me is, unless all of that 'deepness' is expressed as the main backbone of the story, it's not considered 'literature'. Of course the musicality of the prose plays a big role too in some cases but not always. My approach is to deliberately hide it in the hope readers feel it, but I'm wondering, if there's this assumption concerning genre fiction, is it even worth hiding it in such a way it could be found? My stuff is filled with little images and symbolism but I don't draw attention to it. Having said that, those things give me a structure around which to build so I don't think I'd want to stop making that effort, regardless of whether the reader spots it or not. I do think I need to stop doing it so often though. That's what leads to sentences and paragraphs that are far too plump for their own good. lol. I do listen to critique you know! :)
It could be that there is a lot of depth out there, but I'm too shallow of a reader to grasp it.
All of my books are about something - an issue or a problem with society.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
It could be that there is a lot of depth out there, but I'm too shallow of a reader to grasp it.
All of my books are about something - an issue or a problem with society.
I'm the same. I've often read a book and then watched seen a breakdown of it and thought 'I had no idea it was about that'. A perfect example is The Body Snatchers. Evidently, it's about communism.
 

WasatchWind

Senior Member
There are some hack writers out there that just issue a standard story without depth - in an interview Michael Crichton said he wrote Jurassic Park because he wanted to have people chased around by dinosaurs... the deeper meaning came later and perhaps that depth springs from the author's POV. Maybe all writers create stories with depth, but I'm too shallow of a person to get it; could be, I've been called worst things. Yet still, I've stumbled over many books that are either shoot-em-up adventures with two dimensional characters that start end end without much change, or the stories have horrendously overused plot lines - like they're following a template.

As far as horror and SciFi - those are the books I most enjoy reading... and what I write. I don't care for fantasy though - not because it lacks depth, I just don't like magical stuff.

I'd say it does come later most of the time. My story began thusly - I was reading stuff about north america in the early 19th century, and how much early exploration into the continent was done by trappers. It struck me how odd that so much important stuff happened for a silly reason - europeans wanted weared beaver fur top hats.

I then thought of what a story would be like based on that - you could have a world where merpeople are imprisoned, and their colorful scales are harvested to make jewelry. This expanded into there being a stalemate war between the humans and merfolk. In another world, these two cultures would have quickly eliminated one or the other - but they are unable to directly attack each other because humans can't go underwater and the merfolk can't go land.

Then I further extended it to where our main character, Irian, is involved in this practice of scale farming. He is caught in the crossroads of this war, and is forced to confront difficult realities - and it is not nearly as simple as one side is good, one is evil...

The idea started out simply, and had many other ideas with it - I wanted to have a well fleshed out underwater fantasy world, that wasn't just a single city Atlantis style. I was also annoyed that all the depiction of merpeople in media were - A, mostly targeted towards girls, and B - were almost always on the side of being super pretty princess stuff, or a grimdark story about violent sea monsters. I wanted a story that where they were just themselves. That they weren't specifically targeted to be for boys, girls, or be dark or light in tone - just to be their own world.

All these elements came together. They all started from little kernels of ideas. Now those kernels have all burst and I've got myself a bowl of racial tension popcorn.

Was not intending this when I started thinking about this story at all. It just kind of became this.
 

WasatchWind

Senior Member
My stuff is filled with little images and symbolism but I don't draw attention to it.

And be cautious about doing so. I point to "Terrible Writing Advice" and his video on symbolism - making symbolism too obvious, repeating the same phrase "the real dragon was the friends we made along the way" or something, only comes across as "Hey! Look at me! Look at how smart a writer I am! Don't you get it! The impenetrable scales of the dragon are symbolic of their relationship!"
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
...Having said that, those things give me a structure around which to build so I don't think I'd want to stop making that effort, regardless of whether the reader spots it or not. ...
Yeah, I try analyzing my stuff beforehand and it never--quite--turns out the way I imagined it.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
My novel Redemption started out as a discussion with a friend about the nature of good and evil. It seemed a gradient scale, so we wondered if anyone could be pure evil or good. Regardless of religious texts and biographies of tyrants, I don't think so. The worse villain believes they are doing good and some people believe him/her, and purest saint believe they are righteous but often do harm to others. The conversation stretched to whether the sinner or the the saint could be redeemed and move toward the center gradients of the scale - I believe they can.

From that, the story began, and I grew excited about writing a novel with two antagonists, and no protagonists. It was fun to write.
 

JBF

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Anyone who says that something like Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia are not literature is an idiot.

Speaks to longevity.

Moreover, you could fairly argue that both are strongly underpinned by canon. Tolkien is legendary for his worldbuilding, whereas Lewis had Christianity for his guidelines. This is what sets LOTR and Narnia apart from the Dungeons & Dragons players down the block who are more or less writing up their last session and pulling random magical deus ex machina crap out of thin air when they paint themselves into a corner.


Just because a novel has fantasy or science fiction trappings doesn't mean that it isn't speaking on deep important topics.

I may be mistaken, but I don't believe anyone here is stating otherwise as yet.

I might look at another crowd pleasing work, Jurassic Park, in the science fiction genre. The book has awesome dinosaurs rampaging and causing destruction - but it is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of genetic engineering, and wielding any kind of technological power without restraint.

Jurassic Park is Frankenstein with raptors.

That is not at all a bad thing. ;)


I'm perhaps being harsh. Not everything that is called "literature" today automatically becomes some artsy nonsense. I will say however there are many, like in the mediums of film, music, and even games, that rather than setting out to tell the desires of their heart, address something they feel hasn't been addressed, they simply want to be award bait.

Well...Oscar Bait is an accepted term for a reason. A lot of what passes for culture is just another mask for the in-crowd to set themselves apart from those dirty stinking paisanos out there keeping the lights on the water running. It's not that the peasants are bad people, you understand - just that they're so terribly...unsophisticated.

Ever read John Gardner's Grendel? Utter garbage by a nothing author who knew deep in his heart that he was better than everybody else and proved his brilliance by puking up an unreadable mess of symbols, allegory, and endless navel-gazing. Tragically, whole generations of future English/Lit teachers drank deep of the kool-aid and subjected generations following to this piece of literary...achievement.


No matter. Time will pass. Media that is not considered literature, or cinema, etc, by stuffy people, but is loved by millions, will be remembered for having great impact on their mediums, influencing works for years to come, and all these dozens of intentionally artsy works that were eaten up by these stuffy gatekeepers will be forgotten.

Then a century from now, you will hear someone say "yes, Back to the Future is true cinema, but this utter trite today that all the commoners love is not cinema at all!" (pompous scoffing noises). Such is the wheel by which it all turns.

Sturgeon had the right of it.

Unfortunately, application of the law takes time - but in consolation, we find the passing of decades to be brutal towards mediocre art.
 
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