Got Characters?

Was just talking about this with my family, after my recent bout of addiction to Season One of The Wire. Now, this show ran 10 years ago on HBO and I’d been hearing all this time about what a great show it was, but I never had HBO until recently it came with my job, so there you go. We watched all 8 episodes of Veep, with Julia Louis Dreyfus, and all the recent episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher, and then I got hooked on The Wire. Damn!

12 hours of my life but well spent (I am someone who almost never watches TV and haven’t for decades now). Sure there were a lot of cliches and stock crap about police corruption, seedy lawyers, hard times, the streets, etc but done with characters. Excellent characters, well written, well acted, well directed.

If you have good characters, it doesn’t matter how bad the story is. If you have bad characters, it doesn’t matter how good the story is.

That’s my writing tip for the day. Earlier I was reading a blog post about ‘writing as a craft’ and ‘working at it’ and ‘putting in the time’ and all that. Uh-uh. Not for me. For me writing is entirely OCD. I get the idea and if it’s got legs I am stuck with it, day and night until I squeeze out enough time in my full schedule to get it out of me. And once it’s gone, yeah there’s a high in all of it, but what a relief. I have got plenty of other things I’d rather be doing. I’d rather be messing with Blender or Gimp. I’d rather be kayaking out on a lake or the bay or some river. I’d rather be walking the dog WITHOUT paragraphs and chapters streaming through my brain. I understand some people talk about how it just comes through them, and they talk about inspiration or muses or whatever but I chalk it all up to some form of mental illness. Just saying that’s how it is with me.

And it doesn’t have legs with me if it smells of anything typical, commercial or traditional. I don’t want to write it and I don’t want to read it. I don’t go near a bestseller. I hate that shit. I CAN put it down. 

What I like is writers who can tell a good story and can just tell it (Jim Maher, Zvi Zaks, among my recent indie finds), or writers who have the raw gift of a voice (Carla Herrera), or writers who have got something to say (Paul Samael). If it’s coming at me with juvenile wizards or romantic werewolves or come on now, really, end of the world getting laid bullshit, I’ll pull out my wooden cross and garlic or whatever it takes to keep it away. 

I sometimes feel I need to apologize to my Goodreads contacts, because I spent years reading all the classical great stuff and there’s not much left in that department, so lately it’s all indie writers and that’s cool, but I’m leaving out a lot of the best stuff, the Roberto Arlt and Demetrio Aguilera Malta and Clarice Lispector, and Guy de Maupassant or Montaigne or Chuang Tzu or Julio Cortazar or Flannery O’Connor or Toni Morrison or Stanislaw Lem or Jorge Luis Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Herman Melville or Lermontov or Pushkin or all the other fantastic writers who made all those tremendous craters in my mind when they all exploded up in there. I’ve got reviews of the old in there but all the newer ones are newer ones and it is somewhat distorting.

We just swim through the waters we’re in now. It’s all we can ever do.

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