Why Can't Writers Just Be Cool?
I've been excited for the past few days, because I modified a character in the book I'm writing in a way that completely changes the dynamic it has with the protagonist. A formerly male character is now female. (Uh-oh! Gotta pretend like men and women act exactly the same for some fucking reason, because G.R. Martin's quote or whatever. Maybe if writers spent more time talking to girls, they'd understand that men and women tend to interact differently in social situations...) So, I've been tweaking dialogue while I twiddle my thumbs on the bus and having a good time with myself. My original article was about that, how writing dialogue is like playing chemist. Then it hit me: I'm a fuckin' dork. Who wastes their time on this shit? “If I talk to myself this way, but also talk to myself that way, that'd be really neat.” You're inventing social situations from the safety of a control panel and expecting anyone to be entertained by that. You might as well be playing with sock puppets. Or action figures for that matter. “Hey, wouldn't it be cool if Han Solo said this to Bowser?” No, it wouldn't. You're twenty-four.
I see lousy memes all the time on the internet about things like, “Go ahead, be mean to me, I'll write you into my next book.” Are you kidding me? I'm not a violent person, but shit like that makes me wanna hand out serious noogies. Could you imagine if somebody pulled that shit irl? They'd be headed straight for the inside of a locker. You ever try to befriend a kid that everybody gives a hard time only to realize that the kid's actually not bullied, he's just a total prick that no one else can stand? That's us. We're snivelly little brats who think we're the most fucking precious thing because we string words together in a manner that pleasures ourselves. I always see these cliches about how writers and readers are more in-tune with emotions and are more compassionate, understanding people. Well, here's the thing; that implies that we're actually good at what we do. Just writing doesn't make you a humanist. It doesn't make you more aware of feelings or any of that shit. Sure, if you're good at it, it'll help. Are you seriously trying to sell me H.P. Lovecraft as a socialite? I know Stephen King's all chummy on late night TV these days, but you gonna tell me that dude was a player back when? Now, the thing is that both those writers tend to fall short of the third dimension more often than not, so I'd definitely say that such qualities help, but aren't necessary. How about David Foster Wallace and all his creepy shit? Infinite Jest is one of the most obvious examples of humanistic literature on this side (the gentrified end, that is) of hipsterdom, yet...
Here's a secret. Nobody respects virgins. (I'm sorry, incels is the nuspeak politically correct term.) Let's be real. Writing is just masturbation. Getting published or read is equivalent to a bone, I guess. Idk. Maybe it's more like jerking off on someone's face. Us writers can't control ourselves when we have even the smallest audience. After years of toil and self-doubt and being ignored over dinner, someone is finally willing to hear us out. A platform for most of us is like if the dog caught up to the newspaper man and dragged him off the bike. Great, now we have this vehicle, but what the fuck are we supposed to do with it? We're just hairy, clueless animals. Everybody wants to be John Bender. Nobody has ever wanted to be any character that Michael Anthony Hall has played. Ever. I don't even know that Anthony Michael Hall has ever wanted to be an Anthony Michael Hall character. “Oh, boy. I get to be the geek that doesn't get the girl.” I know what you're asking myself, now: “Well, what about Lloyd Dobbler? John Cusack was hanging out with AMH in Sixteen Candles, remember, Todd?” Lloyd Dobbler was a fuckin' kick boxer. He was sensitive (like, really, really sensitive) but he wasn't a dweeb. The kids in SLC Punk graduated from DND to the music scene. I mean, not everything worked out, but at least they got to party for a bit. If the kids in Stranger Things were fifty pounds heavier and pounding back Gamer Fuel like my Uncle Ned used to pound on me, I don't know that the show would have its mainstream appeal any longer. It's a miracle that people tolerated The Lone Gunmen for one season. Anyhow, not enough writers can maintain that balance. They're either the bullies from Revenge of the Nerds (me) or they're that crazy kid from Super Dark Times. You don't see many Morrisseys on Goodreads. When did writers become such pansies? Were we not given enough wedgies in our playground days? What the fuck?
I think the “geek” era, making it hip to be square, suddenly made everything cool about being uncool suddenly just uncool. Finally, in the era of Createspace and the Nook, writers get to play like they're the cool kids. Problem is, they don't know how to handle that power. You ever see a person who was never in a relationship, a typical “nice guy” that immediately becomes the most possessive, gaslighting piece of foreskin once he finds himself in a relationship through some cruel twist of fate? I believe that's what's happened to us. We've become the schoolyard bullies of the internet, and the thing is, we suck at it. We spit down from our high horse, but we never learned how to cough up real loogies. Dudes like Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Rian Johnson, Louis C.K...they never stood a chance on the A List. We're the assholes who think we're political pundits because we read 1984, or at least we've read a synopsis of it. There's a great Built to Spill quote, "Jack thought it twice and thought that that thought made it true/Some brains just work that way." Even if our whole thing is writing, I think most of us really need to learn when to shut the fuck up. On that note...