Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I, Marcel Marceau

Before I started writing articles and stories in multiple media, I wanted to be a short fiction writer.

One senior journalist - one of the Three Legendary Journalists (Sanjou) - said to me, "Isn't writing stories more fear-inducing than writing articles?"

She was trying, I think, to keep me focused on writing articles. Journalists who stay on as journalists, are hard to come by.

Well, writing fiction actually affords more freedom. You can create anything, make people do anything. That's why, my first work in fiction, was porn. I wrote porn. Had to get the God complex out somehow.

Freedom, always comes at a price. Writing fiction, creating your own world, means that you would have to start everything from scratch. You have to reinvent the wheel, the spokes, the spindle, etc.

Just to show off: Like building a staircase. You need to construct the balustrade, the bannisters, the steps, bit by bit, to get to where you are in your head.

Now, as for the design of fiction - and we're not talking about overall structutre, which is boring, but the fundamental building blocks - we writers use a little something called style.

All great writers have a style. A flavour. The really, really great ones - and there are many - can even use an attractive, distinctive style while writing something as boring as an annual report.

I didn't have a style. I still don't. All my styles are copied from something or someone.

When I was younger, like 13, the style I was trying to imitate was Jack McKinney, who wrote the Robotech books. McKinney is actually a pseudonym - an amalgam of two writers who wrote the Robotech novel adaptations.

McKinney's style was to bridge the sometimes over-the-top designs and happenings in the Robotech cartoons. His was explanatory. He reasons things out with the reader. Why this happened, why that happened. When describing a fight scene, he/they treated it like a story in itself - with dips and curves and a climax and resolution.

Then I moved on to Stephen King, who is even more explanatory. King sets up a scene in his books, right, and it takes ages to get anywhere. He puts history in everything. The monitor was cracked on the left side cause while moving from one house to another one summer in 1998, the protagonist hit the love of his life, who wore leg braces or some shit.

The table had a crack because one night, after fighting with his wife, the protagonist had make-up sex with her and decided to lose weight.

Everything has a history. Everything matters. It's exhausting. And for a while, it was fun.

I began to notice that with children's books, such as ones written by Enid Blyton and JK Rowling, there is a lot of focus on food. Because food was something important back then, when taste-buds were unsullied with other things like clitoris and dick. And sometimes, balls.

Blyton also used a well-known style for children's books - how the kids were right, IF ONLY the good adults would listen to them, and not the mean Mr whatever. It appeals to the righteous side of kids.

David Eddings and Stephanie Meyer have something in common. They deal with all-powerful characters who are in favour of the protagonist. And women, usually hold the reins while the men have all the power.

This is women's power fantasy. They want to be taken care of, by super, God-like beings with no weaknesses. Only THEY can hold sway over the mighty vampire or knight or whatever the fuck.

Writers of women's fiction, or people who want to fuck women better keep this in mind. While writing independent women may attract some readers, or some pussy, the real money is when the female characters are dependent, or weak, but controls the all-powerful men.

Anyway, styles.

The greatest writer ever, the God of Writers, is Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman does not have a style. He copies other people's styles, and makes it better. He copied Arthur Conan Doyle and HP Lovecraft's style and came up with A Study in Emerald - my favourite Sherlock Holmes AND/OR Ctulhu story EVER.

He copied Baywatch to re-write Beowulf and came up with Bay Wolf. He copied Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Alan Moore etc. You name it, he's done impersonations of them all. Even Rudyard Kipling.

While some themes are distinctly Gaiman-esque, his writing style has always been copying other writers, and he details this with glee, in his forewords.

"I want to write a John Aubrey story." or "I wrote this, as an R.A. Lafferty story."

He is the ultimate copy-ninja. An art forger whose paintings sell for more than the original.

For years, decades now - Ohhh, I'm getting old - I tried to emulate this. I wanted to be a copy-ninja (not a copy-writer, though that does pay better). Not intentionally at first, but later more deliberate.

I had success with King, though nothing I write could ever sell as many books as he did. With King, it's about stamina.

A few others, sure. But Gaiman? The bastard. Never could capture his essence. He goes left, right, like wisps of smoke and then BAM! a hammer. IN YO FACE!

I write articles based on the styles of writers for magazines in the '50s and '60s. My father has a collection of Reader's Digest from 1956-1983. RD was supposed to be a collection of the world's best articles from various magazines. Life. Time. Newsweek, and numerous others.

Right now, it sucks because... I don't know why. But I much prefer those articles than the ones they have today.

I mean, sure, some of the articles had the word 'negro' in it, and they mistakenly called steamboat as 'chrysanthemum pot', but they were a pleasure to read.

There is a quality to those articles you can't find anymore. It's gone. A lost art, in an ever-expanding discipline.

It's like everyone's on YouTube, and you want to do vaudeville or Mr Punch.

Anyway, I need to go back to those books. It is the one thing I asked from my father. I want those books.

Oh well. Maybe the next Chinese New Year.