Do You Read To Death or Read For Sex? On Narration Style
A friend told me that there are mainly two types of readers out there: the ones who read to death and the ones who read for sex. The ones who read to death surrenders to the author’s siren call to turn the next page. They’ll gobble up a book of over 200,000 words in a matter of days, certainly less than half a week. The one who reads for sex, like myself, makes the experience last. They aren’t necessarily slow readers, but gluttons for the suspenseful moments. They might read a few chapters, then set the book down to make their own predictions about the story or daydream of what the characters would do or say if they met in person. These people may also read like professors who are wondering more about what they can learn from the author, what each character’s archetype is, how and why the story structure was presented as is rather than in a more traditional or more contemporary way. I do read and write for sex. No it’s never been a procrastination technique, but a very pleasurable learning technique that keeps me enthusiastic about my career. I don’t want to bore the ones who read to death with extraneous details and I do hope as I grow as a writer, every sentence will have such an addictive quality that it will be hard to put the book down and even harder not to break it down critically.
Gothic: Originally referring to the Goths, barbarian tribes who sacked Rome in A.D. 210, the term Gothic was mistakenly applied by eighteenth-century critics to everything medieval, including the kind of cathedral still known as Gothic–with its vaulted arches, flying buttresses, and gargoyles. Used in reference to literature…the term calls to mind gloom, grotesqueness, mystery, and decadence, the atmosphere also earlier gothic novels…
– NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms
Carson McCuller’s story “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” is Southern Gothic.
Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the earliest gothic novels.
My Take on Gothic
As an aspiring dark fantasy novelist, I basically worship gothic literature. The era of dark romanticism in English and American literature has always been a favorite topic of mine to research and analyze. Gothic literature inspires me because I feel less alone in the experience of describing my fears, my sorrows, and existential wonderings through poetry and prose. If Hugo, Shelley, Poe, King, and all the other greats can do it, so can I.
I strived to make “Autonomy Bleeds Black” gothic with some magical realism, but it’s my first ever short story. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but I’m proud that one of my first attempts to blend beauty with darkness, fear, and dread can still be considered “gothic” in a way.
I’m determined for my novel series to fall into the gothic genre as well. We have many novels today that dabble with gothic or horror elements, but I’m hoping to join the authors who made it so their stories were immersed in gothic atmosphere.
This is a video from the YouTube channel XELASOMA, who I cam across recently. I’ve been diving into the Jungian archetype meanings after taking a test and doing some research specifically for my novel and the VPD articles. I think this youtuber explained The Magician so precisely and eloquently. I hope you enjoy his video … Continue reading Archetypes 101 – The Magician – [Video]
Wow, I am… I want to say I’m “exhausted”, but really I’m proud. There were moments of emotional adversity within the previous week. I survived it. Sometimes it’s weird to look back at a past moment that previously would’ve led to a more explosive result. I’ve been practicing ignoring things more, which I shared on … Continue reading Gratitude and Wisdom – [Just Me]
neoclassicism: The dominant literary movement in England during the late seventeenth century and the eighteenth century, which sought to revive the artistic ideals of classical Greece and Rome. Neoclassicism was characterized by emotional restraint, order, logic, technical precision, balance, elegance of diction, an emphasis on form over content, clarity, dignity and decorum. Its appeals were to the intellect rather than to the emotions, and it prized wit over imagination. As a result, satire and didactic literature flourished, as did the essay, the parody, and the burlesque. In poetry, the heroic couplet was the most popular verse form…Neoclassicism survives in the twentieth century in works that exhibit the styles, forms, and attitudes of classical antiquity and that emphasize the importance of universality, objectivity, impersonality, and careful craftsmanship.
Popular writers from this period: John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson.
So, I would say that if you’re a fan of the fiction/mystery subgenre dark academia, then you’re already into neoclassicism. Wit over imagination surely meets the dark academia standard; knowledge and how you use it will always supersede fantasies unless that act of escapism tickles us intellectually with faint crack of a character’s psyche. I am and always will be a proud aesthete, but as an essayist and student of literary criticism, I’m naturally akin to this movement because it’s naturally noble and disciplined. Especially when I write a research article, objectivity is crucial. I do admire this movement though the more I think about it, the more paradoxical it seems. Technique, balance, and elegance are all good and well, but chaos and all its messes are beautiful too. I think those immersed in this movement knew that, thus the satire, parody, and burlesque.
rhetoric: “The art of persuasion, in speaking or writing…The rhetorical process included five stages–invention (discovering the logical, ethical, and emotional arguments), arrangement (organizing the arguments), style (choosing words and figures in which to express the arguments), memory, and delivery.”
When you decide to become an English major or have to take an English 101 class for Gen Ed, rhetoric gets beaten into you. As repetitive as it gets, I would say it benefits you in the end. There are so many writers out there, fiction and nonfiction, who don’t have substantial rhetoric, meaning their attempt to write something believable fails. Frankly, it happens to all of us. I’m not saying that everyone should stick to the decrees of rhetoric coined by the almighty Aristotle and his wonderful pathos, logos, and ethos formula, but for writing to become a personal art, you need that foundation that often comes from our studies on rhetoric. It’s more for the sake of sharpening your style rather than limiting you. Especially in our current time, if someone is writing or speaking to us without logic, without credibility, and without heart, they won’t pull us in. We’ll sniff out bulls**t instantly. Of course, we’ve taken in fantastical, illogical events and enjoyed them, we found interest in those who lost their credibility in some manner, and we have learned from those who have a blackhole instead of a heart. Persuasion is an art and like any art, it can’t be bound, but the study of rhetoric surely gives you something to start with.
aestheticism: Reverence for beauty; for “art for art’s sake.” …Also refers to nineteenth-century movement in art and literature that held that beautiful form is more to be valued than morally instructive content, and even that morality is irrelevant to art…In part a reaction against the ugliness and mere usefulness of the products of industrialization, the movement reached its peak in the 1890s and is usually associated with Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Aubrey Beardsle, who aspired to live their very lives as art, to live lives of beauty and intensity and brilliance rather than lives of goodness or usefulness.
aesthetics: the philosophy of art; the study of the nature of beauty in literature and the arts, and the development of criteria for judging beauty.
I don’t know what else to say on this topic other than…this is the fucking dream. It’s the dream because subjectivity rules and understanding what is beautiful and what is “ugly” rules. Aestheticism is a paradoxical chaos in itself and that is why it is intense, brilliant, and philosophical. As a writer, this is certainly how the worlds and stories in my head form. It’s all chaos I try to organize, but the momentum isn’t tamed in the slightest. That’s what makes being a creative spirit absolutely thrilling. The criteria for judging this kind of art, though I’ll never believe it’s set in stone, must be just as Wilde says, “…a search for the secret of life.” That’s exactly what I live for. It’s what I’ll die for.
I really hate it when I disappear for a week or so at a time and I am sorry for that. It really comes down to the way my energy has been distributed. The part-time job (which really is a measely 4-5 hours 3 times a week) drains me. And it’s not necessarily the job itself, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a high sensitivity to how and where I give my energy. I find it’s very similar to how introverts are drained by people and extroverts are drained by loneliness, but for me it’s being drained combined with a lack of fulfillment.
Yesterday, I gave myself a rest day. I decided to read more of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and came across a passage that reminded me of the major arcana “The World” in tarot, which then led to an idea about my own novel and that led to a quick study into Christian gnosticism, which then inspired a backstory for my antagonist and protragonist. I could spend an entire day diving into literature, history, religion, philosophy, and any other river of knowledge because it literally quenches the thirst I need for feeling fulfilled.
As I wrote on my tumblr, this is all I am. I consider my “art” basically anything I write, compose, sing, draw, or any creative project I get into. Everything else is self-explanatory. I can’t handle being caged in like it seems at the moment. But I’m not caged. I have plenty of resources that I am and should be using to build the life I want (and really, it’s a life I already have; I’m just building upon it every day). Just need to take my own advice from my article, “The ‘Lack Mentality’ is Killing Us” :
“None of us like being inconsiderate with our resources or insensitive to those who are trying to support us, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough. The lack mentality encourages the emptiness that no one asked for. It’s just there. One thing to remember is that the emptiness you struggle with developed over time. This means, decreasing that emptiness will happen over time…Stop expecting the resources and support given to provide instant gratification,”
So, each time I go to the part-time job and decide to work more and more hours there instead of trusting myself to provide my own income through my work, that emptiness expands a little more. The mental and emotional fatigue comes from feeling hollow and uninspired. I plan to change that and use every resource to do so. It will take patience, because it won’t be instant, but I’m so damn sure it’ll be worth it. Financial responsibility and dream building is a tough tug-of-war for many of us, but you certainly feel more alive when you let the dreams win. We forget sometimes that our dreams can manifest into a real lifestyle that monetizes itself.
For those who read and check up on me, thank you for the support. You’ll hear more of my work very, very soon.
“For unknown reasons, the gust of energy that had swept me up and fizzed me around all summer had dropped me hard, mid-October, into a drizzle of sadness that stretched endlessly in every direction: with a very few exceptions…I hated being around people, couldn’t pay attention to what anyone was saying, couldn’t talk to clients, couldn’t tag my piece, couldn’t ride the subway, all human activity seemed pointless, incomprehensible, some blackly swarming ant hill in the wilderness, there was not a squeak of light anywhere I looked, the antidepressants I’d been dutifully swallowing for eight weeks hadn’t helped a bit, nor had the ones before that (but then, I’d tried them all; apparently I was among the twenty percent of unfortunates who didn’t get the daisy fields and the butterflies but the Severe Headaches and the Suicidal Thoughts); and though the darkness sometimes lifted enough so I could construe my surroundings, familiar shapes solidifying the bedroom furniture at dawn, my relief was never more than temporary because somehow the full morning never came, things always went black before I could orient myself and there I was again with ink poured in my eyes, guttering around in the dark.” – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Tartt has such a particular diction that drowns you in sensory detail. I had to share this because it’s a very modern take on depression; our medicines don’t work, the people in our lives aren’t enough, our occupation doesn’t help, our environments become warped and formless even when the most substantial and solid things are crystal clear visually. “…Guttering around in the dark.” Damn. It really is a directionless stumble, an unexpected drop triggered by the cycles of nature that ironically have a more direct path of living than most of us do. When things become pointless and incomprehensible, it is difficult to ground yourself. I remember feeling so heavy during my depression; chained to the bed involuntarily and when I tried to remember the world around me, it seemed so pointless I would dissociate. I wanted to blend with the nothingness surrounding me; vanish. To ground yourself in the midst of this sensation leads to the feat of reaching out. When any of us stumble in the dark, we’re forced to depend on our other senses and often resort to touch. Clinging to walls or railings is the same as clinging to a book, a video game, a movie, a blanket, a pillow, our phones, or we may even touch ourselves. That sensation can become a “squeak of light” acting as a reflection, giving us a glimpse of who we are and what we need. It takes a very vulnerable and honest perception to peer into that reflection, understand who you are, and press on. It’s not easy. It’s just possible.
I’m determined to finish this book and see the movie soon. I really do hope it will do this wonderful work of literature justice. I don’t think I’ve read anything this human.
Most writers know about this very famous diagram of dramatic structure.
When I look at Freytag’s Pyramid, I also think of Dan Harmon’s Story Circle, which is one of the coolest and simplest ways to explain storytelling.
My favorite aspects of the story circle of the paradoxical nature of life/death, stasis/change, order/chaos, and the conscious/subconscious working together. These are the most important elements so we can see DEVELOPMENT in the characters. When a story is lackluster and unsatisfying, it’s often missing these elements. We’ve seen many stories flop due to a lack of transformation and purpose.
Another thing to point out is the vast difference between Freytag’s Pyramid and Harmon’s Story Circle is the climb versus the cycle. I think Freytag’s pyramid is very pre-modernist and concrete. A situation is presented, choices are made, and those choices lead to an inevitable end or revelation. We’ve structured the pyramid by sequential acts, beginning, middle, and end, but stories being told this way seem to be rigid, half-truths. It’s like these stories are saying “If this happens to you, and you do this, and things will end like that.” It’s a very black-and-white way of defining how we deal with conflicts in life. Harmon’s Story Circle, on the other hand, presents stories as cyclical. The Story Circle is postmodernist, more subjective, and fluid. The cycle of the character’s life do come to a finish, but only to allow a new one to be birthed. There really is no conclusion, yet there is still a revelation along with acknowledging the constancy of change.
So yeah… food for thought for my fellow writers. I’d love to know what you think if you’d like to leave a comment.
Some flowery writing is going to scratch you where you itch and some is going to bore you to death. Either way, I don’t think any of us want to get in the habit of using flowery language to describe a simple setting, character design, scene, or anything else. That’s what editing is for, right? Well, I also don’t want to be negligent of those who are picky with their diction. Sometimes we know that elaboration for something that could be described simply is necessary like the narrator’s tone, for example, or for characterization. Where’s the happy medium?
While researching this topic, I ran into a wonderful YouTube channel called Reedsy, a London-based, “…award-winning community of over 100,000 book publishing professionals,” according to LinkedIn. After watching this very helpful video on purple prose, I immediately added them to the list of resources to tap into later.
Learning about purple prose helped me think about how our mentality shifts when we’re writing in different forms of storytelling. I wanted to finally work on my short story last weekend and it was really hard to pull my mind away from fantasy novel writing. The first 900 words weren’t even elaborate. My narrator was info-dumping due to my insecurities–”it’s a fantasy short story, so I need to worldbuild and tell you the details about every culture involved”– yeah, no. A novel is more of a journey, from a stroll through unfamiliar woods to cautiously crossing a battleground; a short story is a quick trip across town, but the trip was far from ordinary or expected. You don’t want to go purple when you’re writing either. Purple prose is more unwanted projection than progress (excuse the alliteration). Being elaborate and emotive doesn’t require dumping extra adjectives and adverbs. This clicked when I thought about writing poetry or music.
I compared short story writing to writing a song or a poem because I get very picky with word choice and composition when I’m songwriting. Poetry has a bit more of a flow, but editing poems makes me particular. So in my experience, I’m not necessarily saying that short story writing or avoiding purple prose means make your narration robotic and bland; I’m saying consider if your story and your audience will favor your “dark and stormy” tendencies at certain places. Audiences don’t really like repetition or extravagance without meaning. For example, the chorus of a song is repeated 2-3 times during a performance and we don’t mind it if it’s harmonized with the melody, connects the verses and the bridge well, and ends the song in a satisfactory way. The person in the Tumblr post argued there was nothing wrong with “dark and stormy” because it gave you setting and tone; for that reader “dark and stormy” harmonized with the descriptions given later. This is what Shaylynn addressed in the video: “Dense or elaborate language doesn’t have to be purple if it’s substantial and adds to the story.” We’ve had elaborate writers for centuries, but the ones who stand out are the ones with masterful diction in their storytelling.
Time for an ungoth confession…I used to think Edgar Allan Poe was in the purple prose realm when I was a younger, less critical-thinking reader. After reading some analyses of his writing in college, my perspective changed. Poe was actually quite meticulous. Lovecraft is the same. So, if you break down someone else’s writing or your own writing and find descriptions, DIALOGUE (this is a big one), or anything else that isn’t contributing to the plot and theme of your work, you’re going purple. Get rid of it.
Hope this helps anyone who needs it and be sure to check out Reedsy because they seem pretty reliable.
A few things. First, this is the year of Stark lol.
Next, the eagerness for the completion of the first draft makes me want to just write nonstop. I’m so excited! I can’t watch a show or listen to music without thinking about my story and characters. I’m excited to edit the second draft because it’s not just time to venture into my own world and comb through the details, but I also get to study. Much of what I’m creating requires study of so much history and culture. Understanding the world is just so satisfying to me. With as much intent as possible, I hope my creations will allow me to travel the world. I want to go everywhere. I want to feel everything.
Also, one thing that has been knocking at the back of my mind is my PhD. I want to get it because I simply want it. But what do I get it in? I’ve swayed between mythology and more obscure topics like the occult or metaphysical studies (yes, these programs exist). I figured out what I wanted while I was watching Midnight in Paris (2011) (with Owen Wilson. Suuuuuuch a cute writer movie). I got really giddy seeing so many artists come to life through so many actors (Salvador Dalí was superb. I really want a movie of just him. Hiddleston stuck out to me too ’cause that American accent messed with me, but he was a great Fitzgerald! And Hemingway omg. Pain in my ass in undergrad, but his lines were great. Overall, I really, really admired the dialogue writing in the entire movie. I need to read the screenplay). I put myself in Gil’s shoes and wondered if I went back in time, which artists/authors would I want to hang out with? I started looking up some of my favorite authors; they were all from the late 18th through the 19th century. Romantics. The original emo kids and goths hanging around a lake or other areas that were nature-rich, thinking about death, subjectivity, challenging what enlightenment was and was not. It’s not really a golden age, like Gil was wanting for himself, but an imaginative one lodged in the unconscious with little bits of it escaping through poetry and other forms of artistry. Those are my people. I fell in love with so many writers, musicians, and artists from the 1800s. Mostly Romantics, some Victorian. It feels like “goth” was born there. So, if I were to get my PhD in anything, it would be Romanticism/Literature from the 18th/19th century. I’ve already decided on some easter eggs I want to put in my novel and even some study articles I want to write about my heroes. Hopefully, that’ll snag me a few letters of recommendation or references.
Gosh. I’m excited lol
I’m traveling Tuesday and I hope I’m conscious enough to write, read, and study on the plane and thereafter.