Bringing Fun Back

Recently I posted about Matt Archer: Monster Hunter, and about how much I was enjoying those books.  Today I want to mention another YA book, Imminent Danger And How To Fly Straight Into It by Michelle Proulx.  It has just been released, and I’m about 40% into it right now (because I’m just a hip, happening kind of cool cat who is always on top of the latest thing)  and it is one of those books that reminds me why I love reading in the first place.

Fun.

It’s easy to get sidetracked by important serious issues and pontificate on themes of post-materialist isolation as a consequence of the inevitable decay of the gestalt zeitgeist in the face of existential pique as a metaphor for man’s inhumanity to  the inner personhood of blah, blah, blahty blah.  And in conclusion, blah.

Trust me, once I get my blovation groove on, I can deconstruct with the best of them.  I’ll go all Wittgenstein on you, see if I don’t.  I’ve got literary cred out the wahzoo.

But, seriously, folks, isn’t fiction really all about enjoying ourselves?  Isn’t reading supposed to be fun? 

I think that’s one of the reasons that I am so often drawn to the kind of fiction that the folks at the NYT Review Of Books pretend doesn’t exist.  Genre fiction.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, YA fiction.  I don’t think that there is anything inherently more fun about a book that has a dragon or a spaceship in it (God knows there’s a lot of really dull genre fiction out there) but I do believe that once you embrace being a literary pariah you don’t feel the need to write Serious Fiction to impress the post-docs at Harvard.

It’s kind of like: “Well, I got a big scary monster in chapter one, so I’m out of the running for being used in ENG 301 as a text–might as well skip the Zola reference and Nabokov allusions and go straight to the part where the cute guys take off their shirts and blow shit up.”

What I’m getting at is that I tend to forget that as a writer I am primarily an entertainer.  That’s my job, to keep my readers entertained.  Not to convince them that I am smarter than everyone else, or to instruct them on my personal interpretation of the flaws in Calvinist cosmology, or to be a catalyst for social change, but to simply give people something that’s enjoyable.  Fun.

That’s not to say that a writer of fiction shouldn’t have serious moments–both of the authors I’ve referenced above have points in their stories where things do not look good for the home team.  Entertainment can often be pretty darned bleak–we like horror movies and sad movies because, well, we’re kind of a perverse species.

At the end of the day, though, I have to remind myself that the readers aren’t being paid to read my book, they are (ideally, anyway) paying me, and that means that I am writing for them, to give them something that they will enjoy.  Using my writing as a means of confronting my personal demons is all well and good (and I certainly do that) but I’d best teach those demons to dance in step and carry a tune.

And you know, I’ve written little reminders to myself in my characters.  The reason that James isn’t called “Jim” or “Jimmy” but always “James” is because of James And The Giant Peach (I have no idea if anyone out there caught the parallels, but they are in there) and Godiva is named after a brand of chocolate, and Cobb Russwin is named after a lock manufacturer–little in-jokes to myself to remind me that if my reader isn’t having fun then I’m not doing my job.

All of which is to justify spending time reading about a high school girl getting kidnapped by aliens instead of sitting down and writing.  I’m doing research, damnit.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
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16 Responses to Bringing Fun Back

  1. lala1966 says:

    Hey I figured out how to advertise you book on your side bar. Make it a link. you can even add an image of your books cover!

  2. Tarl says:

    “At the end of the day, though, I have to remind myself that the readers aren’t being paid to read my book, they are (ideally, anyway) paying me, and that means that I am writing for them, to give them something that they will enjoy. Using my writing as a means of confronting my personal demons is all well and good (and I certainly do that) but I’d best teach those demons to dance in step and carry a tune.”

    Very true. We writers must write what is true to us, and if song-and-dance demons fit your truth, teach them Rigoletto and Time Warp and let them wreak havoc on the world. Genre messes always seem to be the most fun to clean up, or try to explain away.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      There is writing what is true and there is writing what is fun to read, and while they are not always the same there is a healthy intersection, I feel, and that is where good writing lives.

      As The Pirates Of The Mississippi sang, “Tell the truth and make it rhyme.”

  3. First of all, thanks for the awesome shout out 🙂

    Secondly, thoughts on the post. I enjoy a serious, thought-provoking, morality-twisting story every now and then, but at the end of the day, what I’m really looking for when I pick up a book is that it, like you said, will entertain me. I have fond recollections of Madam Bovary, and Romeo & Juliet, but when I am looking at my book shelf, wondering which book I should re-read, I inevitably go for the Harry Potters of the book world. Maybe I just need to upgrade my literary taste, but when I read a book, I want to have fun, dammit!

    Thirdly … are you calling me a literary pariah???!!!!

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Well, yes, I am calling you a literary pariah, but in a good way. The dirty little secret of Literature is that today’s Classics are almost always yesterday’s Pop Fiction. Dickens, Hugo, Shakespeare, Marlowe–all of them were ignored by the Elite of their day because they appealed to the popular taste.

      Look at two novels published in 1969, for example, say, “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “The Godfather”. At the time which one was lauded as a work of genius and which one was dismissed as sensationalist trash? And today, which one have most people heard of?

      I rest my case.

      • Haha, yes, I figured it was in a good way. I doubt my book will be hailed as a classic a hundred years from now, but so long as today’s readers find it entertaining, I’d call that a win 🙂

  4. reikiheidi says:

    Yes yes and yes!
    Fun – and let’s not forget the escapism!
    I’m currently thoroughly enjoying Jordan/Sanderson Book 14 of Wheel Of Time – you might of heard of it…
    I can read it anywhere, no matter how crowded, loud, crazy (or quiet and solitary) and will still be within that book…. True Escapism!

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I’m not familiar with that series, but I know the feeling. The Dresden Files are like that for me–only, if Harry Dresden is such a great wizard, why hasn’t he defeated the Blackhawks yet? The source of ultimate evil, right there in Chicago, and Dresden just ignores them…

      • reikiheidi says:

        I don’t know that one, sounds good though – apart from the flaw you just mentioned 🙂
        Seriously, you don’t know the wheel of time? Jordan started it in 1996, died in 2007, and it was taken over by Brandon Sanderson. It’s (probably) the most involved, complex, detailed, original fantasy series since… well, since Tolkien! Book 14, the FINAL book, 900 pages long!
        It’s been an epic journey.

  5. David Emeron says:

    Well stated sir! My sweetest girl and I recently (in old people years–a form of reckoning similar to dog years) found ourselves reading the first of the “monster hunter” series. It reads very well aloud. We have a few of these going a time. Another is a very entertaining story by Warwick Deeping–I can’t remember the title, and I find myself unwilling at this hour and after a long night’s work, to google it, but it is about a war veteran. WW1, I think, although which war is not particularly dwelt upon, in England who retires to the countryside to mend his fractured psyche Hilarity ensues, and…. where was I… Um… going to sleep. Yes… I believe that was it….

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Yeah, I can see how Matt Archer would make a good read aloud book. Unfortunately I don’t have anyone in my life right now who likes being read to.

      • David Emeron says:

        This makes me feel at once sad, and most fortunate. I thought of you only yesterday when our dear Mrs. Emeron read me another chapter in the Monster Hunter series. I love his humour as well as his entertaining style of story telling.

  6. Pingback: Magnet Giveaway Results + FANART!!! + Vlog #6! « Michelle Proulx – The Blog

  7. fortyoneteen says:

    I thought a whazoo was a musical instrument? Ha!
    You can smell when someone is writing for the critics, and you can feel when someone is just loving what they do. My fave author is John Irving – he speaks in good old fashioned plain english and then… wham! Hits you with a line of words that stops you in your tracks. If all the lines are show stoppers, they just get lost. Just like the dark sin that is chocolate… you can have too much of a good thing, no?

    • MishaBurnett says:

      “Writing for the critics”, yeah that’s a good way to put it, and you’re right, it’s pretty obvious. In film, too–I have seen so many scenes in movies where I thought, “this is their Academy Award pitch–wake me when the movie starts again.”

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