Generic Storytelling

I saw an interesting quote from a writer whom I respect that said we, as writers, rarely get to write what we want to write.

Often, we’re pushed into a corner or a section of the literary world where we’re required to fixate on a specific topic or follow a particular path and it’s up to us to find something we love enough in that topic to make it work.

While I admire the concept, I have to wonder, isn’t that how we continuously get shitty work? Put an artist into a scenario where they’re required to do something they’re not particularly interested in or don’t overly enjoy and then hope it somehow works out?

I do like the idea of being able to find something to love in whatever subject you’re given, though I definitely chafe at the idea we’re given a subject in the first place.

I know, I know.

If you’re in comics, sometimes you have to write about superheroes.

About specific superheroes, and there are boundaries.

The trick then becomes finding the thing to love that inspires passion for the project in you. Often, that allows you to twist the story into something you’d want to read (which if you’re a writer, should always be what you’re writing, because if you’re not invested, why would anyone else be?).

Unfortunately, when it’s for pay, if the writer can’t find that connection, that’s when you get formulaic or badly written shit.

Worse, the writer finds the connection, does something wonderful with it, but the person who gave them the project doesn’t see it that way, and it gets hacked up, reworked and churned into something bland and predictable (see most movies with potential that ended up poor).

I don’t really want that. I don’t even like it when others do it. You can tell when an author is writing about something they’re passionate about. Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class is a great example, as was James O’Barr’s The Crow.

Writing of great personal investment is how we got Fight Club and The Great Gatsby and James Clavell’s Shogun series. I’d wager it’s how all great cult classics are made. It’s certainly how all of the work that stepped outside of the status quo became successful. Punk’s not great because it’s musically layered or brilliant. It’s great because it’s raw and emotional and personal.

Nirvana is a perfect example of something played with passion, rather than an abundance of technical skill. If it were up to what other people wanted, Kurt would never have made it, since he wasn’t going to trade solos with Bon Jovi or Van Halen. I doubt he would have found much inspiration in Nelson or Mr. Big.

Of course, this is all nice to say, but how many works of “passion” end up falling by the wayside because they didn’t resonate with enough people?

Or because the artist didn’t think anyone would “get it”?

Or the artist lacked the proper promotional tools or temperament?

It’s no good to be an artist if you’re a martyr of the unknown. It’s no good to be an artist if you can’t generate passion for what you create.

The trick is finding the convergence, and I’m not sure I’m there yet.

Martyrdom, here I come.

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