I’ve gotten ten rejections since the end of May. This isn’t much compared to some of the authors I’ve posted, of course, but still it takes the wind out of my sails.
Sometimes, even the stuff that would inspire me makes me despair.
I’ve been trying to write a dark humored critique of the U.S., then I re-discovered “The Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” by Seth Fried. Wow. A town struggles with its free annual picnic, an event which invariably leads to horrible deaths, while being forced to keep the tradition alive by unseen forces. This is the story I wanted to write, done so well it leaves nothing left to say. It honestly should be required reading for every citizen, because I think everyone would agree with it Progressive, Conservative, anyone. And it won a Pushcart.
You ever read or watch something so good it makes you say “screw it”?
I’ve also listened to the frustratingly multi-talented yet pleasant Mary Robinette Kowal on Writing Excuses, and she plainly states on the episode for “Short Stories”: “Think up a character. Have them need something. Then keep them from getting it. A happy ending is them finally getting what they want. A sad ending is them not getting it.” I would add that a weird ending would be the character getting what he wants, then being taken in a brain canister by intelligent fungi to realms beyond time and space. I tend to write endings where the character gets what he wants, then realizes, no, he didn’t quite think it through and actually wanted something more basic.
But this structure doesn’t approach the structure of most horror or comedy, where the character wants something basic but is kept from it by an unforseen irony. Miles Funke statements mistaken as propositions while trying to remove a “Thing” Costume (New season of “Arrested Development”). A twin’s lifeforce absorbed by his sibling, due to their father’s dying wish to keep the family lands intact (Algernon Blackwood’s “Terror of the Twins”).
Meanwhile, Mary Kowal wrote “Evil Robot Monkey”, which does all it intends, is emotionally moving, and is less than 1000 words.
There is so much in life to work with. In my case: working for a city government, being a white guy in an increasingly pluralistic society, being a frustrated artist in a transforming media landscape.
I’ve got three characters chasing around in my head looking for a tone and setting. All the while I have no commitment to my time while more productive artists are cranking out thousands of words while employed full-time, and care for families, and in some cases even have life-threatening diseases.
Have you ever read or seen something so good it made you want to say “screw it, I quit”?