A Note on Scope
Greetings and salutations, oh beloved Blogorians! ‘Tis a lovely day in the Land of Blog!
AF Henley: *raises eyebrow* Oh boy. She’s in one of THOSE moods.
Hush. I’m here today to–
AF Henley: No.
AF Henley: No, I will not hush. If there’s going to be rampant silliness in this post I want not part of it. I am a dignified author and this is a dignified space and these are dignified people.
…says the man in the green tutu and the pink fedora holding the Sailor Moon wand?
AF Henley: I am fucking austere.
Is he any good?
AF Henley: You know what I mean! You cannot deny my fabulousness!
No, no, nor would I try. And hey, at least it’s not the furry outfit.
AF Henley: IT’S A VELOUR TRACK SUIT! IT WAS A GIFT! I DID NOT WANT IT! I ONLY WORE IT ONCE! YOU SAID YOU WOULDN’T TELL! AND IT IS NOT A FURRY OUTFIT!
Which must be why every animal chases you down when you’re running through the park wearing the thing.
AF Henley: And there is your fallacy. I do not run.
You do when chased. And there was that guy… at that thing… with the pen…
AF Henley: Become an author, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
I bet they profoundly didn’t say “Never fear, good sir, you won’t get chased by rabid, acne-faced fans who want you to sign their–”
AF Henley: DIDN’T YOU HAVE SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO SAY IN THIS BLOG POST, KELLY?
Right. Uh huh. Anyway. As I was saying…
AF Henley: And I still say it’s better to get asked THAT than to get asked to beat people all the time.
It’s more cathartic than you think.
And with that, let’s discuss scope.
AF Henley: It does wonders for the breath.
And for BREADTH!
AF Henley: … I see what you did thar.
You always do, love. And I want my hat back later.
So the other day, I received an email that was supposed to be a department summary. Instead, it read more like a Dick and Jane novel. The sentence structure was simplistic, the repetition was without purpose, the grammar was basic. And I looked at that and I thought to myself, “This is a person who doesn’t read very much.”
Because if you read, you start to learn how sentences are put together. You absorb it through the sheer osmosis of hand-to-page and eye-to-word. Read enough, and you pay attention to little things. There’s a comma before “too” at the end of a sentence, usually. There’s another one before conjunctions, sometimes. These words with “ly” tend to describe other words. We learn to spell by reading and repetition. We learn how to construct paragraphs and stories by reading them, and also by hearing them. And hey, even by watching them.
In fact, once you realize you’re a storyteller, which happens from what I can gather about the time you learn how to talk, you start to see stories everywhere. There’s the story of how you got on the bus and went to school. There’s the story you’re reading, the story of your parents’ day at the dinner table, and the stories being told on your favorite TV shows. And then there’s movies. And comic books. Comic strips, even. I remember reading For Better or For Worse when I was little, ’cause my mother dug it, and thinking how cool it was to tell a story in comic strip panels that spanned years and years of a family’s life.
The point is, stories are everywhere. Which is why it’s very confusing to me when I run into aspiring authors who tell me, point blank, that they avoid entire swaths of popular or even unpopular culture on the off-chance that something might be like theirs and thus be forever tainted.
And I don’t mean this in a plagiarism sense. I get that we’re all trying to be unique snowflakes in a field of solid crystalline white. I’m talking about how people think watching something like theirs will kill an idea in its infancy.
I actually attempted to work (on a short story told in four parts), once upon a time, with an individual who believed this. At first, I was like, “Okay, cool, I get it. We all want to be different, and sometimes we can do great things in ignorance. If you don’t know you can’t do something, occasionally you find out you’re fantastic at it.”
So we began working together, and I quickly discovered a long list of limitations this person had. The person could only write in present tense. The person didn’t do transitional movement, so the characters had better stay in one place. The person could only write about 100 words in a stretch. That’s it. There could be no sex or sensuality or anything remotely physically intimate. Considering we were writing a technical romance, that made things interesting.
The list went on.
AF Henley: And just to be clear, folks? She’s not talking about me. *leans over to whisper to Kelly* Right?
Of course not. You’re a dream to work with. This is less about the person, who is actually brilliant if narrow in what they do, and more about how shocked I was at the limitations. And honestly, I didn’t get frustrated until I started asking things like, “Okay, well, we could sort of do it like X or Y. Have you read/seen/heard of/watched that?”
The answer was always “No.”
It was a head scratcher to me because until that point, the creative types I’d run into were basically into everything. If you could absorb it through any means up to and including smearing it on your skin or consuming it, then they were there. Some of my mentors ascribed to the old, “Write what you know” adage, which meant they had to go out there and DO things. Skydive. Heart surgery. Law. Dangling people by their toenails. Whatever. Others, who made me feel more sane for not wanting to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, said that if you didn’t know it, then you damned well be able to fake it. Which means researching your arse off.
And research always included finding everything in the genre/style you were interested in and diving into it. See what’s what. Figure out how it works. Discover what’s good about it and what you hate. What you want to do differently.
Another former writing partner of mine said, “It’s all compost.” I agree. I tend to say, “It’s all canon fodder” but you get the gist. Every way you can tell a story, every vehicle, mechanism, you name it, there’s a lesson to be learned there. The Greats are Great for a reason. I believe in studying them. Granted, I only understand about 20% of Faulkner on a good day, but hey, there you go. The same goes for what’s popular. I hate Twilight with a passion that has quite literally had me thrown out of bookstores, but I still read 3.25 of the books (once I figured out that what’s-her-name wasn’t actually going to get bitten and fucked like she wanted, and even asked for nicely, without some seriously toothless vampiric angst, I was just over it… Actually, no, scratch that. I was over it when they made me read THREE ENTIRE TOMES before we get TO the sex-and-biting portion of the program and… it went… to a… CUTSCENE. I don’t care if this is young adult. CAN I GET SOME HEAVY PETTING? Jesus. Right. Like I said. Thrown OUT of bookstores. Asked to leave, ma’am. Immediately if not sooner.) For good or ill, what’s popular is what sells and knowing what sells helps you to market yourself.
I’m not suggesting you only write what will make you money. We covered that in a previous installment. But if you have a knowledge of what’s good and a working knowledge of what’s selling, then when you bump into that agent at the writer’s workshop and they ask you the inevitable question, “So what’s your book about? What’s it like?”
You can say, “Well, it’s like a Lovecraftian Dr. Who with a touch 50 Shades if the latter was written by someone who respected people and their craft.” Or, “It’s like The Shining only in space.”
You most certainly would not say, “Well, I don’t know, Mr. Agent Man. I don’t believe in TV, movies, theatre, or any form of popular culture that might expose me to something similar to mine.”
At least, I don’t think you would. Because the sad truth of the matter is that this creative field we’re in? It’s a business. And if you want to sell something, it has to be unique enough to qualify for the term but also familiar enough to draw people into it. Unless you’re really lucky. And if that’s the case, well, hell, you can ignore me and go win the lottery, start your own publishing company and my people will call your people? MMkay?
AF Henley: *goes to buy lottery tickets*
So yes. Scope. It’s not just a mouthwash. And we all should have some.
Until next time!
Light & love & fresh breath,
A supernatural reincarnation romance novel.
Outer Banks bookstore owner Hyacinth Silver Fox has a secret millennia in the making: her soul was magically entwined with another, and at night she dreams of every lifetime they’ve ever spent together. The rules of their magic are simple: Hydee always knows her lover, but he, or she, doesn’t remember her. It’s up to Hydee to find and make her soulmate see they are destined for each other, and this lifetime is no different, but there’s one problem: her soulmate is Theo Monk, heartthrob actor and Hollywood’s sometime-infamous bad boy. Hydee’s hope of reuniting is wearing thin, but she has no idea how dire the situation really is.
Because meanwhile in California, Theo Monk is losing his mind. Anxiety and paranoia rule his life, along with his on-again-off-again girlfriend and her entourage. When fear and frustration push him to an edge, Theo cuts and runs as far from his problems as he can without knowing Fate’s giving him one last shot to unite with the only person who can help him. Hydee and Theo must save one another before hope runs out and Hydee’s despair and Theo’s fear keep them apart forever.
Get Your Copy Now on Amazon.com
Kelly Wyre enjoys reading and writing all manner of fiction, ranging from horror to romance. She used to work in advertising but is now happily chained to her writing desk and laptop. She believes she’s here to tell stories and to connect people with them. She’s written several novels, novellas, and short stories and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.
Kelly relishes the soft and cuddly and the sharp and bloody with equal amounts of enthusiasm. She’s a coffee addict, an avid movie lover, a chronic night owl, and she loves a good thunderstorm. Currently Kelly resides in the southeastern United States.
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