No, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up writing, or even taking a real break, because honestly, I’m honing in on the fine detail of destroying the old town of Cologne in Guardian (it’s Carnival (Fasching). Julie ends up driving a float. With intent and malice. Long story and besides none of this is approved and Larry could change it all. But it’s fun.) and I want to do more of it. But I woke up this morning and my body went “Why are we vertical?” And even the prospect of going out with Dan for breakfast is not enticing me, so maybe I’ll rest a little before writing.
But the story thing…
We live in the most story-soaked society in history, ever. This is like saying we live in the best fed society in history, of course. Humans like food and stories, and to be healthy, and we live in the best society, so far, for all of these. So, it’s not like I’m complaining.
It’s just that there is a small problem with it. You see, a story world is not a real world. It can’t be. Stories are little compacted chunks of meaning and emotion. Really life is long stretches of boredom interspersed with moments of either elation or terror. The boredom is part of why we like story — in book, movie, tv, or game, narration, doesn’t matter — so much. That and because stories make sense.
But the problem is that we have near to no ability to distinguish lived experiences from “vividly experienced events” which can be fictional. Psychologists and psychiatrists have actually done tests that demonstrate that a lot of our remembered experiences are things we read or watched. They won’t be the IMPORTANT experiences, but for instance almost everyone remembers being separated from their parents and lost in a mall, even though it never happened TO THEM. (I on the other hand remember being separated from my parents and lost in a cemetery during all saints night. But since my parents remember it too and were a bit freaked out by my almost walking out hand in hand with a woman who’d recently lost her daughter, this is probably true. Oh, a chick who looked freakishly like mom, too.)
So what is the problem with this?
The problem is that we’re all surrounded by stories, saturated with them, dripping with them.
And that until very recently the publishing/entertainment in general establishment was firmly in leftist hands. This means a deliberate narrative was being pushed. Still is, but don’t worry about that. They’ve gone so fargin incompetent and crawled so far up their behinds that their influence is a vanishing thing. Now they’re just annoying the public.
But in the early 20th century, they weren’t that far. How much of the de-Christianization of Europe was accomplished by having heroic atheists being persecuted? How much by making religious people the villain in mysteries and thrillers? People absorb that and after a while religious equals nutter, never mind the history of Europe.
I was thinking of this because, since I’m not feeling particularly well, I’ve fallen back on my default “popcorn reading” which is mysteries, from thrillers to cozies. I’m one of those people for whom KUL is a deal because over the last two weeks I’ve read something like 25 books, not counting the ones I started and discarded. (But fear not, that is ADDITIONAL money I’m paying for reading. Without the Kindle Unlimited Lending I wouldn’t be reading those books, I’d just re-read books I bought. I spent years doing that because, you know, I can’t afford my own reading habit. Now KULL throws additional money at some authors I’d otherwise not try. And if they impress me madly (had happened, though not often, because I’m looking for popcorn books, after all, I either write about them OR buy them anyway.)
In the last twenty five books, the criminals have been: professors, police officers, priests, archeologists, millionaires and, the latest one, a MONK.
Look, it’s not that all those people can’t be criminals. Holy hell, anyone can be a murderer. I think of murdering people at least once a day (it passes. I boil in very little water, but it cools fast.) Usually stupid drivers or annoying bureaucrats.
But ask any police officer. The average criminal is not a person in a position of power or authority. The likely suspects are the junkies, the homeless, the career gangster.
Of course you know that. We all know that RATIONALLY, i.e. if we pause to think about it.
And of course, with very few exceptions, there is no fun in writing about the expected suspects, or reading about it.
But sometimes it seems to me we go too far the other way. Partly, of course, because our idea of story for the last 100 years has been formed by the left, who, of course, have a nostalgie de la boue to end all nostalgies de la boue. Or if you prefer, they’re like to dogs who really love to roll in something rotten and bring it all home to share with us.
After all, big governments exist to protect victims and the despised and who is more of a despised victim than the criminal who deserves to be despised. Show your enlightenment today by glorifying him!
Which is part of the issue. I don’t even have a problem, so much, with unlikely criminals, as I do with the other elements in the book. They’re all UNEXPECTED. The ex-cons are saintly, the ex-junkies are the only ones who “get it”, the crazy environmentalists are the unsung heroes. And anyone in a position of respectable responsibility and work is a SUSPECT and a white washed sepulchre… which doesn’t accord with the real world in any way because, well, because the very virtues necessary to hold down a job or keep things from collapsing around you are the same that keep you from being a petty, self-obsessed villain most of the time. Of course there are exceptions. Look at most of Hillary’s staffers. But even they are probably too with-it to be committing crazy crimes like the ones that a street-person would commit. Most of the time.
The problem is that stories — well told stories — get under our skin and change the way we act. And in this case change it in dangerous ways.
Most of us would prefer our kids were friends with the A student than with the (allegedly-)ex-junky who is barely making it in school, right? But we’ve read enough books and feel guilty enough for that idea that we’re probably not going to tell the kid anything. Which could lead to real, immediate, personal fall out.
In other ways, it implants an immense distrust of all authority figures. I’m a libertarian, okay? My answer to authority figures is “Am I being detained?” and “Did you bring your army?”
But this goes beyond that. This is the crazy assumption that if you look and act clean, if you work like crazy, if you have a decent family, you MUST be dirty. You must be.
You hear this in the wild-eyed accusations the left bandies at anyone who opposes them. If the person looks clean and “normal” they must be racist, sexist, homophobic, tools of the patriarchy and who knows what else. Because that’s what story has told these misguided children from birth, and they’ve never stopped and examined it.
This is also part of the reason the left is SO dirty when it gets in power. They KNOW everyone is doing it, and there’s no such thing as “clean”. This is also why old fashioned virtues like thrift, hard work and chastity are LAUGHED at. Because people have seen those facades torn down over and over again, and KNOW those are just fronts, and don’t exist.
So what do I suggest? Do I suggest we only write to enforce reality? To enforce society?
Hell no. Part of why I write is to make you question things (the other is because I have to) so no.
But ask yourself, is this surprise ending even a surprise? Does the minor character need to play to the counter stereotype that has become a stereotype itself? Am I writing a book in which no one is clean and humans have no redeeming qualities? What am I putting out in the world?
There are books that don’t do that, of course. Take MHI’s Holly. We know she’s an unlikely/not typical ex-stripper, but we also get a strong feeling there’s something really dark lurking there. Larry certainly didn’t make her a hidden saint.
So, if you have to play to the counter stereotype, make sure you still nod to the stereotype. This can be as simple as saying “Most homeless were drug-addled or mentally ill, but–” and then give a reason your guy is different. Which is known, btw, as good writing.
Of course this requires examining the stereotypes in our own heads.
The thing is, just like an excess of food, we’re not evolutionary designed to survive an excess of story telling, much less an excess of story telling that undermines and destroys what makes our culture work.
I’m not one of those people who tells you what you should write, and what you shouldn’t. I’m just going to enjoin you not to be lazy and not to rely on the (mostly left) stereotypes created in story telling over the last 100 years.
Your moment of thought will prevent me walling the book when it becomes clear “no one is clean” but more than that, it might help people get a clearer idea of what the world is.
And prevent their destroying the Western society that can help them survive.