Bad Influences

I’ve made it a point with Curio Macabre to only talk about things I like: the artists who have inspired me and those works which have influenced me, no matter how small the degree. I don’t want to spend time talking about things I don’t like– life’s too short for that kind of stuff. I have mentioned works, and other things, I don’t like, but I’ve not gone into any great detail about those things. For this article, I am going to talk a little about some books I do not like, yet I intend to do it with great respect.

There are good writers and bad writers. Good writers cannot hit a homerun every time and, sometimes, bad writers can knock one out of the park. I respect and admire every writer, every person who decides to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and spill their thoughts onto the page in the forms of prose and poetry. I’ve heard it said many times that writing is not real work, and it’s always been said by someone who has never attempted to write anything of any real substance. In the words of John Willis Clark, “Three fingers hold the pen, but the whole body toils.”

When it comes to less than stellar books, I’ve not read many. If I’m don’t like what I’m reading, I usually quit it and don’t finish it. Again, life is too short to waste your time on books which are boring, uninteresting or not well written. I feel I’ve learned from these works, though, just as much as I’ve learned from books I enjoy, or think are better.

There are movies are so bad they’re good, and the same goes for some books. Personally, I only know of one book I would consider so bad it’s mildly entertaining and that is Edward Lee’s The Golem. I don’t recommend you read it– me having done so is probably enough. I was most profoundly struck by how unintentionally funny the dialogue was. From this book I learned the values of good dialogue and that it should be written in a way in which people may actually speak. Also, it’s important to try to write believable characters, along with the worlds they inhabit, so that when the craziness starts, the reader is more than willing to go where the author leads.

Some readers may not be familiar with Edward Lee, but I think most everyone in the world knows the names of Michael Crichton and Stephen King, the authors, respectively, of The Lost World and Insomnia.

When it comes to sequels, usually the thought process is to take the original and beef it up like a WWE superstar. Crichton upped every ante in The Lost World, his sequel to Jurassic Park. It had more dinosaurs, more gadgets, more people, more victims, more everything. More action and intrigue seems like a plus, but it was all crammed in and ambled on so long that nothing caught fire. I felt the same about Mark Frost’s The 6 Messiahs, his sequel to the excellent The List of 7.

King’s Insomnia…I recently said it was the cure for the condition of the title. I honestly can’t remember what it was about, and I read the entire novel. There were some interdimensional beings…or something. An old man couldn’t sleep. I really don’t recall a lot of it, and there were a lot of pages with words on them. Like The Lost World, Insomnia could have used some aggressive editing to tighten up the tale.

What I learned from those books (also Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, which I felt was, absolutely, the most frustrating read ever) is that it’s okay to write more than you need. It’s better to overwrite than to underwrite. It’s much easier to cut what you’ve already created than to have to create whole swathes of original material to write in. But we writers also have to face it like adults when something needs to be excised, especially for the sake of the story.

I am by no means an expert at writing, I still don’t know what I’m doing the majority of the time. Neither am I the best at what I do; if I knew the secret of success, I would have exploited that baby a long time ago. I like the process, though, just as much as the end result.

I admire all artists, not just authors, who can take an intangible idea from the cosmos of the mind and create something which can be held– doesn’t matter if it’s a basket, a bowl, or a book. I’ve written more than my fair share of crap, but I keep slugging away at it for the off-chance I knock one outta the park one of these days.

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