Archive for August, 2012
Shut tight the doors and dim the lights. I want you to read me a story.
No, seriously. I want you to read me a story. One of mine. Out loud.
I’m asking you to choose your favorite passage from one of my stories; any story will do. Pick an evocative passage (if there are truly any to be found) that really grabs you, gets inside you, makes you feel something. Record yourself reading it. Then I want you to send it to me as an MP3 file. If you need ammunition, let me refer you to my wares available on Amazon and any of my 100% free fiction still available via Podiobooks. You can even use one of my blog posts if it was something that was particularly meaningful to you. The only requirements here are that I wrote it and you liked it.
Why am I tasking you with this mission, beyond simple vanity? Next year I will be launching a huge new multimedia fiction project. I’m not ready to discuss the details yet, but it’s a big deal to me and if you’re a fan of my work in any or all of its forms it will be a big deal to you, too. Your voices will be used to help raise awareness for that coming project (read: shamelessly promote, pimp, and shill). I’ll be stringing them all together in (hopefully) a very cool way that many people will see and hear and you will be pleased you took part in this.
I want as many voices as possible, and I want them from as many places as possible. I’m fortunate to have readers and students from almost every corner of the world, and I really want that represented in this mission. That doesn’t mean I’m discounting all of my homegrown readers in the USA or my extremely polite and healthy fans in Canada. I need you all.
But let’s face it. Accents are cool.
So pick a passage that moves you and read it like it moves you. That doesn’t mean you have to perform it. I’m not looking for high drama. I just want to hear what the words make you feel and how they sound to you when you read them. If you want to read several pieces, feel free to do so. If you want to get creative and cast character voices or anything along those lines, feel free to do that, as well.
E-mail your readings to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15th to make sure your recording is included. I’ll send everyone the finished product in advance so you can hear what you helped create.
Depending on how many recordings I get, I may not be able to use them all. So make your reading count.
There. You have your mission. You have your deadline. Go forth and read me a story.
I got to thinking about the term “life experience” last night, how we use it, and how the concept has and is changing. Then I got drunk on Devil rum and wrote about it.
Life experience is vital for a writer. I have very little interest in reading a novel written by the NYU grad with an MFA in creative writing who went directly from home, to college, to a rent-controlled apartment and an office job. I want to read the novel written by the guy who knows what it feels like to lose five teeth to a headbutt delivered by a Mississippi biker on homemade oxycontin.
He doesn’t have to be writing about that experience, but I find whatever he is writing will be better for having had it.
I recently spent the better part of a week in Vegas celebrating my 30th birthday. I like the city. I like people watching and occasional interacting on Fremont Street. I like gambling. I like the action. I love blackjack. A couple of trips ago I played my first official poker tournament. I took it seriously. Spent a lot of time on poker.dk building my game (I recommend learning poker from the Danes. They’re a savvy people. I also recommend learning Danish. It’s the language of the future. Whatever the Chinese tell you).
I tell people about all that and they’re interested. They have questions. They relate to the experience through times they’ve had in their life. Sometimes when I’m writing I recall the sights and sounds and smells and the visceral rush of a lot of those moments and incorporate them into a story. It’s useful life experience when entertaining and engaging others.
Following that thread, many years ago I lost a vintage motorcycle in a backroom poker game in New York City. That’s a cool story. To other people. I fucking loved that bike.
Telling a story about losing a comparable amount of money playing on-line poker, however, is not a cool story. Not even to other people. It doesn’t matter that your emotional response and memory of the experience might be the same. It often doesn’t matter if you’re talking to someone who has the same hobby. They simply don’t care.
The point is that as we experience more and more on-line and through gaming and social media and technology in general we risk losing the key to the Human subconscious. We risk losing the components that form a connective route to relating to our audience. This is especially important for a writer to consider.
But when we say a writer has to go out and live before they have a story to tell does that completely exclude the digital landscape? Even if you’re still interacting with people from all over the world? Even if you’re still risking? Even if your emotional and psychological take-away is the same?
To me it’s the difference between the internal and the external. That’s what most on-line experiences come down to: your internal response. They lack the tactile in any sense. They lack the color and detail of the world at large. They lack the stink of a visceral incursion with the real. And as prevalent as the digital becomes, as much its own culture as it becomes, we will always (probably) be physical creatures who live in a physical world and that world provides our strongest connections to everything we see and hear and read.
It’s ultimately important to remember bringing experience to your writing is different than conveying how that experience made you feel. Both are important elements, but for me a deep sense of place and time and reality can carry a scene or chapter that lacks deep feeling. A sense of real emotional without all of those other elements will often fall flat.
Ideally you want to bring both to your work.
But we are, none of us, perfect.