Michaeline: Crazy stories

Now here’s an example of structure combined with crazy — leading to an incredible body in motion. Strandbeest by Michael Frey, image via Wikimedia

We love structure and craft here on Eight Ladies – combined, we’ve spent thousands of hours on classes, and maybe tens of thousands reading about how to write, and listening to podcasts. Structure is important, and it makes a book great.

But . . . it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. There’s that big, blasted sword of Crazy that only shows up in this dimension when it wants to, and can disappear nearly as fast. It’s also only visible to certain readers, so whoever wishes to wield the sword of Crazy had better have a thick skin or numb ears: a lot of people are going to be telling the wielder that s/he is . . . well, crazy.

Crazy sometimes carries the day, though. I love Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – adored them as a teen and imprinted on them, and even read them as an adult and still loved them!

Adams had a gift for funny ideas, and was skilled at winding them up and letting them run into each other at full speed. Structure was more hit and miss – he was more like a jerry-rigger than an architect of literature. The Hitchhiker’s Guide has not just one, but multiple prologues. The climaxes seem to come regularly, but not in any particular order. And the dangling threads? Well, apparently that’s why this trilogy needed four sequels instead of the usual two.

Still – look at Adams’ impact on culture. Anyone in the English-speaking world who has Continue reading

Michaeline: Talking About Topicality

Lydia E. Pinkham, "iconic concocter" according to Wikipedia.

A product, a song, a celebrity can convey setting, character, theme and more. Or it can date a story.

The other day, I was fact-checking some of my favorite quotes for  Michille’s post when I ran across this very interesting quote by James Thurber:

When I wrote ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,’  I had a scene in which Mitty got between Hemingway and an opponent in a Stork Club brawl. Helen [his wife] said it had to come out, that there should be nothing topical in the story. Well, you know how it is when your wife is right. You grouse around the house for a week, and then you follow her advice.

And my gut instinct was, “Yes, that’s right. If you want to write classic literature, don’t include references that are going to fade with time.”

But then I got to thinking. First of all, Hemingway hasn’t faded with time. And, there will always be celebrity clubs where gossip-fodder-type fights break out. Did Thurber do the right thing to cut it? Or was “topicality” just an excuse to excise a scene that didn’t feel quite right? I suppose we’ll never know. Continue reading