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Three Things I Don’t Write, and Three Things I Do

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June 14, 2014 by Nathaniel Tower

Jason E. Rolfe recently challenged me to discuss some things I do and don’t write. Of course, when I say recently, I mean several weeks ago to the point where this might not be relevant anymore. But it’s never too late for a blog post, right?

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Three Things I Don’t Write

1. Pretty descriptions. I tend only to describe what I really want the reader to see. Even then, I might not do much in the way of description. While some may argue this goes against the old “show, don’t tell” rule, surreal writing tends to follow a different set of rules. If I tell you there’s a wildebeest in the laundry room, then you know what you’re supposed to see. If you don’t, then go Google a picture of a wildebeest.

2. Weird for the sake of weird. The vast majority of my stories have some element of the weird, but none of them are written just for the purpose of being weird. I don’t sit down to write and think to myself, “Hmm. What crazy shit can I come up with that will really freak out my audience.” No matter how odd a plot or character may seem, there’s always a point. At least there’s supposed to be one.

3. Fight scenes, bar stories, or stories about people getting high. I don’t do fight scenes because about 99% of fight scenes ever written sound terrible (he throws a punch, he ducks, that guy blocks, a blow to the face, teeth falling out, bloodied noses, etc.). Some people can do them. I can’t. I don’t write bar stories because they aren’t interesting. If I wanted to hear people talking about stuff in a bar, I would go to a bar. And I don’t write stories about people getting high because I think that’s about the dumbest “storyline” ever.

Three Things I Do Write

1. Life. Yes, my stories are weird and impossible. But the characters are real, and the way they handle the surreal scenarios is the way real people handle everyday life.

2. Humor. You might not laugh at my stories, but someone does. And if no one else does, then I do.

3. What I feel like writing. Someone once asked me why I can’t write stories that are more normal. I write what I feel at the time I’m writing. I can’t write “normal” stories because I never feel normal. And for that, I am very thankful.

Whew. So that’s what I don’t write and what I do write. What does it say that the things I don’t write require more explanation then the things I do?

What do you write and not write? Tell me in the comments or post your own version on your blog.

2 thoughts on “Three Things I Don’t Write, and Three Things I Do

  1. Paul Lamb says:

    Your third “do” point is probably the most resonant with me. I write what I feel too. Or rather, I writer the stories I have rather than some grand or general idea of what fiction “is” or “should be.” I know that Flannery O’Connor bristled at comments from people that she should write “nicer” stories about “regular” people. (She said those stories/people weren’t interesting to her.) She also hated when people asserted that she should write stories that were more Catholic, as though her fiction was in service of her faith.

    • Paul, thanks for commenting. Funny you should mention the Flannery O’Connor anecdote. I’ve actually been asked why I don’t write “Catholic” things before. I think non-writers often struggle to understand where writers find their motivation.

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