Monday, November 30, 2015

Literature vs. Popular Fiction

I bounce around the internet each morning after checking email. I scan a lot of articles, but rarely get by the first few paragraphs. My time is precious and there is just so much stuff out there. If I tried to read it all, I’d never have time to write.

An exception was “Literature vs genre is a battle where both sides lose” by David Mitchell, published at The Guardian blog. I don’t enjoy dissertations on writing as an art form. I’m a storyteller whose medium is the written word, so I prefer articles about how to improve my craft. But Mitchell grabbed my attention with his first sentence.

“Literary fiction is an artificial luxury brand but it doesn’t sell.”

There is an audience for literary fiction, but Mitchell points out that the demand for genre fiction dwarfs the high-tone variety. He claims, “fancy reading habits don’t make you cool any longer. The people who actually buy books, in thumpingly large numbers, are genre readers.”

I think the difference is how a writer approaches a project. If a writer starts off to tell a story, a good craftsman will focus on writing the novel properly to keep the reader engaged. If a writer starts with the goal to write a literary masterpiece, then the focus becomes assembling sentences so clever they stop the reader to admire the prose. A good storyteller never takes the reader out of a story, so fancy writing is counterproductive.

Here’s the dirty little secret of fiction writing: if it doesn’t sell, it’s soon forgotten. Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Owen Wister, Raymond Chandler, Louisa May Alcott and many other “Great Writers” understood this truism. 

“It might reasonably be said that all art at some time and in some manner becomes mass entertainment, and that if it does not it dies and is forgotten.”  Raymond Chandler

Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Look and Listen

Whispersync is an Amazon feature that allows you to switch between an ebook version and an audiobook of the same title. It’s a pretty cool way to read at home and listen to books on commutes or jogs. (This link explains Whispersync.) Not all books sold on are set up for this synchronization feature, however. For my own audiobooks, only The Shopkeeper is Whispersync ready. Bummer. But at least Amazon says they’ll eventually get to the other books in the Steve Dancy series.

How do you know which books in your Kindle library are set up for Whispersync? Amazon has made it easy. To reference your Kindle library against existing Audible Whispersync titles, you can just log into which automatically lists every Kindle book you ever bought that has a Whispersync companion. This list will also give you the discounted cost to add the audiobook to your library. This may not be very valuable for books you’ve already read, but when I showed the list to my wife, she immediately added several of these titles to her to-read list.

If you buy a print book, the Kindle version may be discounted—sometimes to 99 cents—and if you buy an eBook, the Whispersync audiobook is discounted. Consuming books visually and/or audibly has become a snap. If you don’t have lots of idle hours to read, try a combo approach. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Is it possible to stage a Inimitable western street duel?

The western fast draw setup is as well known as the title sequence for Gunsmoke. Two men face off in the street, settle their stance, flex their fingers, and bet their lives on who is quicker. Great drama, but how do you make it fresh and different. There was the knife scene the Magnificent Seven and a lifelong secret about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but  Terror In A Texas Town outdid them all.

And for a nostalgic moment, here's Matt Dillon's famous duel, ending with a little film crew fun.

I ran across this movie clip in an interesting article by John Heath titled "Why Superhero Movies Aren't Like Westerns." I believe Heath makes some good observations.