The received wisdom is that if you want to be serious you must write every single day. I fail there. Sometimes I need to stop and take things in for a while.
Stories come at us these days in more forms than ever. We have more books than ever since the world began. We have fan-fic, wild, expicit, silly, sad and fun. It is driving up the quality of all writing. We have tv, some of it is great. Even video games tell us stories. Imagine if the ancient Greeks had had video game tech. Wouldn't you like to play as Odysseus?
Stories can be well or poorly told. They can be well or poorly written. But stories cannot be debased in form.
This week I have been binge-watching Grey's Anatomy on Netflix. As far as medical realism it is ridiculous. It depicts doctors performing surgery while wearing dangling hoop earrings that stick out of their caps, Everyone is improbably good looking, they run around in flattering scrubs, performing complicated life saving surgery in between bouts of angsty fornication. Patients die constantly, doctors die some too. Other doctors weep and it makes them better looking.
But it does not matter if the story is silly. I think of it as sort of a medical AU where these things are normal. The emotional underpinnings of the story feel real and right. And the writers never let the story rest. No sooner has the doctor cleared up the misunderstanding and had a reconciliation with her hot doctor boyfriend, than there is a school-bus crash. She has to cut someones leg off, and he is missing. What will happen next? The story drags us forward.
I can learn from that. I can learn to make my characters uncomfortable, confused, endangered, miserable. It is hard sometimes. I love them, I want them to stay indoors, eating soup in safety. But a little soup goes a long way.
I have been reading 'Voices from the Workhouse.' It is just what it sounds like. It is written transcripts of those who went through the workhouse system, from the end of the 1600s through about 1930. It includes mostly England, but some interviews from Wales.
Very interesting. Most of the people talked about being separated from family and spouse, of having clothing taken, of poor food and mistreatment. All this is properly Dickensian, and no surprise. But the book also included interviews and records of the administrators of the workhouses. You can see that some of them tried. They had to contend with overcrowding, embezzlement by hired workers, disease, and poor sanitation. These concerns feel very modern and vital to me. How do we help those that need help without destroying human dignity in the process?
No, the workhouse was not the way to go. And you can see that the people then were hung up about class. They were sidetracked by the idea that the poor could be divided into the deserving and the debased. It is easy to sneer at such foolishness. But I do see the same arguments being made now, here. Remember Reagan's welfare queen? She never existed, but the idea persists. We don't want to see the poor, but if we must look We want them to be humble and grateful. Even better if they are old or sick, or kids and cute.
So I have been thinking about all that.
And as a complete palette cleanser I am starting Chuck Wendig's Invasive. He is reliably good. His stories make you forget the world, you surface from his books and you have to take a moment to remember who and where you are. This one is about giant killer ants.
In other news-- we did not get hurricane Hermine. Just as well. Even so we have had to have the beaches closed to swimming. There are rips. It is cooler now, the storm chased the summer away. There may be warm days yet, but the leaves are changing. There is that back to school excitement in the air. I feel it, even here at my desk.