This post was going to be about something else. I’m quite certain that it would’ve been clever, even erudite, and full of multi-syllabic dazzle and pontification–you know, all the usual crap.
You can be a genius storyteller and a lousy writer. You can be a lousy storyteller and a skilled writer. No other form of storytelling is as hypocritical, rigid, and contradictory as writing
Imagine a choreographer refusing to use a pas de quatre in a new ballet piece because it’s in Swan Lake and gets “overused.” Imagine a blues guitarist shunning a riff because it’s “cliched.” Nope.
Dance has a vocabulary and a set of accepted forms and traditions. So does every musical style. (No, I am not saying that all dances, songs, symphonies or paintings are telling stories. Work with me. It’s an analogy.) When there are disagreements between tradition and innovation, a new style gains acceptance or fades away on its own merits. (Disco, I’m looking at you.)
Why doesn’t this happen in the literary world? TVTropes.com is a treasure trove of information on storytelling themes, plots, characters, and yes, tropes. It’s an incredible writing resource, an easy place to lose hours in “research,” but most importantly, it does not mock its own content. It presents material with an eager enthusiasm for story.
Creation builds on the rotting bones and rich compost of past creations. Break a rule here, play with a trite phrase there, and rip off the ideas that tickle your fancy. This is how new happens, This is how great stories are born. The literature community has a bad habit of eating its young.
Writing is relatively new to the arena of storytelling. The printing press has only been around 600 years more or less. The word processor, which gives people who don’t think sequentially the priceless tool of cut & paste, has been readily available for less than 30. The internet, with its capacity to connect writer and reader, is still practically in its infancy.
Poor novels. I think of them as the stodgy oldest son of the modern storytelling family. No sooner had written narrative begun to gel into stage and page, poem and prose, then the cute baby siblings of film-making and graphic narrative came along. Now everyone coos and fusses over them. Books are dying, the pundits say. People don’t have the time or the attention spans to handle extended reading.
Bah. The youngsters are blowing away long-form literature in popularity because they’re nimble and stylish and inclusive, not because they’re “visual” or because people stopped being smart, or even because internet.
TV and comics are cliched. Stereotyped. Hackneyed. Fun. The newest generation of adults grew up reading. They’re starved for serious writing, but most of them have no interest in picking up a traditional novel. They were taught that reading novels meant that they had to think hard and study hard.
We need to let reading be fun for people. That’s all I’m saying.