As a young man, life was clear. There was good and evil, defined simplistically as black and white, and rules were defined, as were customs, manners, and other behaviors that occurred as part of normal life. My father, a meticulous man, would hand write a few drafts of a letter before settling on the final, spell-checked and error-free, version. It was a slower time, although I confess, I have no idea why that was. It just seemed that days lasted more than the alloted hours one would expect, and when evening arrived it came as though a long journey had been concluded.
My father always told me that I overthought things, that some things just were as they appeared, no further detail or analysis required. What he failed to understand was that asking me not to think something through, was like asking the planet to stop rotating; I was, and still am, wired that way.
As a writer, we have to over-think. We need to know all the ramifications of all the potential actions of our characters in order to lead us to a satisfactory conclusion. Or, as many authors report, they simply start the story and allow the characters to take over, not knowing the ending until it arrives.
Now, mid-plus 2017, we live in an unclear world, fraught with lack of definitions, many of which have been systematically attacked by the politically correct militia in their quest for a socialistic balance. Words have become the enemy, let along phrasing, past terminology and even outright censorship on topics that are now considered racially negative.
With all the corruption from all sides of life, whether government or corporate, laws have begun to break down, with more exceptions than not, leading, inexorably, to a point where no guilt can be proved in a crime, despite gun in hand, a dead victim with the bullet hole in head, and an admission of guilt from the assailant; the moment his abusive childhood emerges in court, the judgement changes where the assailant becomes the victim and the victim gets lost in the shuffle of justice.
Dystopic fiction/science-fiction has been popular for many years, reflective of a society that has broken down, and incorporating street justice, alternative rulings and anti-heroes, a far removal from the good guys of the 1950s through the 1970s.
Shock value has been lost, even within the horror genre because reality has proved far more shocking and those witness to it in news, Online, or through other means, have become desensitized enough that it has reached saturation.
Likewise, in a jaded society where love is fleeting and riddled with deceptions, where marriage appears a dying institution, or one of short enough duration that the vows need to be updated, novels of love, novels of virtue and sacrifice seem almost anachronistic to the needs of the readers, those with a lower vocabulary level whose first sense comes from film and television, rather than books.
Just go to the bookstore, the supermarket bookshelf and see what bestsellers are made of. Staple authors like Grisham and Patterson aside–who can write garbage and sell well by virtue of their brand–the rest of the books are repetitively themed murders, war, romance with stories so simplistic, and a page count thinner than a middle-aged man’s head. There are fewer and fewer solid novels, thought-provoking, long reads that require the reader to possess the skill of reading, a decent vocabulary, and the patience to allow the story to unfold in its own, subtle way.
If you are under the age of 40, you probably do not remember being read to, long novels spread out over days or weeks, as a parent would sit with you and start, alloting a set number of pages each day. That was wonderous. Now, the television blares a non-stop barrage of sound, noise, commercials, inhibiting peace of mind and the ability to concentrate on anything. Not to mention the crap that passes as entertainment.
Simplicity is needed. Quiet times, free of global stress, lousy, slanted news, reports of murders and crime. It’s about balance. We have no balance. Just the sheer numbers of people on anti-depressants should be clue enough that there is a problem.
I read through the lists of new titles on Amazon, or at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore, each book weighted, cover, title, blurb on the back cover. And like the music we hear, these are variations on the same theme, nothing exciting, nothing breaking the mould, nothing to quicken my heart.
That’s where you come in. That’s where I, hopefully, will come in. If you are reading this and you are a writer, consider beyond just making a sale, to making something that will stand the test of time. This does not have to complex. It needs to be clear, not convoluted. It has to have meaning. And something must be achieved.
What do you think?