My Issues with Realistic Fiction

If you regularly read my blog posts, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t really dabble in realistic fiction. I don’t focus this blog on fiction with people and events that could conceivably happen. I’ve passed over some great books simply because there wasn’t an element of magic, sci-fi, or horror. I don’t even like mystery books if they involve realistic events. I’ll only read a book without a supernatural or futuristic aspect to it if it’s historical fiction, which I love.

I guess when I really think about it, I just don’t like reading about reality.

I’ve got nothing against real life, but it can be so boring at times. I wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, hang out for a few hours, and then go to bed. Why on earth would I want to read a book that reminds me of that routine? If I’m reading a book that takes place in the 21st century United States, I’m always thinking in the back of my head, “Do I really want to spend my free time reading about something I can actually experience?”

I’m not saying realistic fiction is crap because it’s not. I’m just saying it doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’ve always been the type of person who looks for an escape. When I’m stressed out, I don’t want to read a book that reminds me of my reality. I want to be taken as far away from my reality as possible. I’d rather think about the adventures of the dragonriders of Pern (Anne McCaffrey. Look her up!) than think about my long day at work. I’d rather read about a witch’s struggles with her vampire husband (All Souls Trilogy) than think about my own relationship status.

Magic, futuristic technology, outer space, supernatural horror, and dystopian societies are so much more fun to read about. I just don’t think I’ll ever be the type of person who enjoys reading a book where ever single event could actually happen.

Advertisements

Writing Prompt: Starbucks

This writing prompt comes from the wonderful world of Reddit. It’s amazing the kind of stuff you can find on there…

A Starbucks Barista has given you a Double Chocolaty Chip Crème Frappuccino with soy instead of a Caffè Vanilla Light Frappuccino with non fat milk. Make this as tragic, heart-wrenching and miserable as possible.

It’s funny how a last day on earth is the same whether you’re sick or scheduled for a lethal injection. In my case, I’m sick, dying to be precise. The doctor has given me about a week…about six days ago. I’ve been holed up in this hospital bed, feeling my body weaken, counting down the seconds of life.

My wife cried. My mom cried. My dad cried. My siblings, cousins, niece, nurse…they’ve all cried. I cried with them.

But now I’m done with crying. Now all I want to do is enjoy my last day on earth as much as I can. I want Starbucks, specifically a Caffè Vanilla Light Frappuccino with nonfat milk.

Back before I got sick, I used to have a Caffe Vanilla Light Frappucino with nonfat milk every single day before I went to work at my law firm. It was the best way to start each day working at my dream job. I had it all back then…now I have hours.

It took some doing, but I’ve convinced the doctor to let my wife and me go out to Starbucks. I remember striding into my local Starbucks dressed in an expensive suit. People, specifically women, used to stare. Now everyone stares at the withered man in the wheelchair.

“What can I getcha?” the chipper barista asks.

“A Caffe Vanilla Light Frappucino,” my wife says, trying to sound chipper herself.

“With nonfat milk,” I put in.

“Certainly,” the barista (Her name is Tiffy…not Tiffany…Tiffy.) says. She gives me a sympathetic look. It’s like I’m dying or something.

We go to a table and wait. I look at my wife, who is trying not to look at me. I remember when we used to compete to tell the best work story. I remember when it was a race to see who could get promoted at their job first. I remember when we had our entire lives together to look forward to.

Now she won’t have anyone to compete with. I reach out for her hand, and she jerks it away because she has to wipe her eyes.

I’m helpless. I can’t work. I can’t be with my wife. And if the doctor is right, I can’t live to see a new week. There is only thing in my life that I have control of anymore: a Caffe Vanilla Light Frappucino with nonfat milk.

“Here you go!” Tiffy comes bouncing over.

“For you, ma’am, a passion iced tea lemonade.”

“And for you, sir, a Double Chocolaty Chip Crème Frappuccino with soy.”

I stare at this foreign drink in front of me. Of course. Of course I can’t even get my favorite drink correct on the day I’m probably going to die.

“Um…that’s not what he…” my wife begins.

“It’s perfect, Tiffy,” I cut in. “It won’t kill me to try something new.”

The Black League-Creative Writing

So I decided to share a bit of random creative writing that I’ve been fooling around with for a while. I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with it, but it’s fun to write so far. Let me know what you think!

The Black League

It was so dark that Reese could not see anything in front of him. His other senses did their best to compensate for his lack of sight. He could tell from the constant jarring contact that someone was directly in front of him and that someone was behind him, stepping constantly on his heels. He could hear whimpering and sniffling from the other children with him, and he could smell that someone had wet his or her pants in fear.

But the predominant smell that attacked his nostrils was the stench of old blood and rotting meat. It turned his stomach, and he tried not to vomit on whomever was in front of him. He heard someone retch behind him, and he knew that if that person threw up, he was sure to follow suit. His kidnappers had not given any orders when they stole him from his bed, but he had a feeling that they did not want him expelling the meager contents of his stomach all over the floor.

More than anything, he wanted to know where Lucas was. His twin brother had been sleeping in the bed next to him, but Reese could not remember for the life of him if he had been dragged out of bed as well. Was he still sleeping soundly? Had one of the kidnappers slit his throat? Or was he somewhere in this line of filthy orphans?

Reese wanted to call his name, but he had a feeling that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated. He hoped he could wake up. All he wanted to do was wake up in bed and realize that this was all a dream. He was with his brother, and his parents were still alive. If only that was the reality.

Racism in America

Race is huge focus in the media right now. I’ve been wondering how I should respond to it all. Then I remembered a very short story that I wrote when I was in Intermediate Nonfiction in college. It’s a little creepy how I sort of predicted that race problems would persist. Feel free to comment!

“The End of Racism”

Barack Obama was elected as the first African American president on November 4, 2008. His election was considered to be “the end of a long journey” and “an event that shattered 200 years of history.” The United States of America had finally “put an end to racism.”

The neighborhoods in Collierville, Tennessee were filled with McCain/Palin signs. They were in the yards, on cars and on t-shirts, and the frequency of these sightings increased as long as John McCain remained ahead in the polls. The McCain supporters didn’t mind the occasional Obama/Biden sign or bumper sticker. Their man was in the lead. When Obama took the lead for the first time, someone or maybe a group of people went around and tore all of the Obama/Biden signs out of yards and off of cars, including the yard and cars of the house at 579 Hermitage Trail Drive.

Collierville High School held a mock election a few weeks before Election Day. John McCain won by a landslide. It made sense. CHS had a Republican Club that boasted more than 300 members. There was no Democrat Club. The vast majority of students had wealthy parents who had wealthy parents who had wealthy parents. And there were race fights almost every week. A white student would call a black student a nigger, and then the black student would get in trouble for trying to hit him. Needless to say the idea of a black, Democrat president did not sit well with most people.

I begged my dad not to make me go to school on November 5, 2008. He refused, telling me that I needed to hold my head high. All I wanted to do was disappear. The school was unusually quiet that day, but you could almost hear the unspoken tension. The majority of the white students walked in with their heads down and their faces sullen. The majority of the black students were wearing shirts with Martin Luther King Jr. on them. Many of them were sent to the office because the shirts violated the dress code. One white student wore sign pinned to his shirt that said, “Free at last, free at last. Good God almighty, we’re free at last.” The sarcasm got laughs and approval from his white peers. He didn’t get in trouble.

“The nation’s bird is now fried chicken.”

“Do we call it the Black House now?”

“God! Those black kids are so obnoxious today.”

“I hope Obama gets shot.”

I came home from school that day to find my dad watching the election news coverage. He had stayed home from work to drink and cry with happiness. By the time, I got home, his lap was filled with used tissues and his eyes were red from crying.

“It’s actually happening, Andrea,” he told me. “After years of oppression, we’ve finally done it. The race war is over!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him how wrong he was. He would eventually find out on his own. We all would.

Writing Prompt: Climbing

From Poets & Writers: Climbing is an exercise that’s both exhilarating and exhausting. This week think of the highest you’ve ever climbed. It could have been a ladder to your childhood tree house or Mount Kilimanjaro. Were you climbing for fun, or out of necessity? How did it feel once you reached the top? If you feel you’ve never climbed to any significant height, would you ever want to?
“Climbing”
I never considered myself to be afraid of heights. When it comes to roller coasters, there is no such thing as too tall. I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building, and once in Florida, my family stayed in the twentieth floor of a hotel. I spent most of my time on the balcony.
But it’s one thing to be securely in a seat on a ride or restricted by railings. The Alpine Tower at the University of Missouri did not provide any of that security. All I got was a rope.
Yeah. I climbed that.
Yeah. I climbed that.

Of course it was a very secure rope, but ropes break! At least that is what I foolishly told myself as I made my attempts to climb.

I would always get to the same spot, the spot when I knew that if I fell and that rope did break, I could break my neck. My friend was yelling encouragement from the ground, but I clung to my log like a squirrel for a few minutes. I could feel my legs trembling with effort and with fear.

And then as with most things in life, it took a leap of faith. I had to push off of a rock and trust that I could catch the next log or trust that if I missed, the rope would catch me. The first time I failed miserably. The second time I scraped my knee and had to start over. The third time I made it.

After that, climbing wasn’t nearly as hard. It was as if I had to get past that point of no return to realize that I could keep going.

Success!
Success!

Of course once I got to the very top of the tower, I realized that the only way off was to jump and pray that the rope caught me. It did.

After two leaps of faith in within the span of an hour, I was ready to be back on solid ground.

 

National Novel Writing Month

First off, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted. Sorry about that! Moving is very time-consuming. I’ll try to get back to posting at least once a week.

Anyway, it’s National Novel Writing Month. I’ve never participated in it before, but I think I’m going to get it a shot this year. Basically the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. With a full-time job and some freelancing on the side, it’s probably going to be a stretch for me to do this.

For me, the point isn’t to finish a novel in a month. The point is to write. Getting in the habit of writing is incredibly valuable.

I would encourage anyone who is considering taking part in National Novel Writing Month to give it a try. If you can’t finish the novel in a month, don’t worry! As cheesy as it sounds, when it comes to writing something, it’s about the journey not the destination.

 

Is This Book Good?

I’m certainly not the best judge in the world of whether a book is good or not, but I know what my criteria is for if something is worth reading. I judge all books against this list, and I try to make sure that my writing fits all of these standards as well.

1. Is it interesting?

Obviously I’m not going to waste time on a book that bores me. If I’m taking my free time to read something, it better keep me interested.

2. Is it a cliché?

I can’t stand clichés, especially romantic ones. It’s the reason I don’t watch chick flicks. If I think a book is going to be about an ordinary girl who falls for a handsome, extraordinary man, I will put it down (or throw it out the window). It is possible to take an overused idea and make it your own, but that has to be made obvious very early on in the book.

3. Do I care about the characters?

This one is also pretty obvious. I don’t want to read about characters that I don’t care about. To take it a step further, I stop caring about characters if they aren’t well-rounded. I like characters who surprise me and who challenge my interpretation of who they are.

4. Is it descriptive?

I’m a sucker for long paragraphs of descriptive prose. It’s one of the reasons I love The Lord of the Rings so much. Maybe that’s not your cup of tea, but I like the type of description that yanks you out of reality and places you right in the middle of the events in the book.

5. Does it inspire me to write?

This is the last and most important item on my checklist. My favorite books are the ones that make me want to write something just as good. When I really love a book, I always find myself coming up with stories that have similar elements, whether that is ideas, writing style, or characters.

What makes you want to keep reading something?