Today the wonderful John Abramowitz joins UFR for a guest post. When I got his request to review his book, Atticus for the Undead, I was super excited. And a little bit bummed that I had to wait like three months before I could review it (UFR really got busy). You should check out the synopsis, it will make you want to read the book. So on to his post, I hope you enjoy it:
I’m going to tell you about the biggest problem I had when I started writing stories.
Don’t worry, it’s not a problem that shows up in any of the books I’ve self-published. I’d been trying to write stories for about fifteen years before I was comfortable letting anything I’d written see the light of day. And I’m about to tell you why.
I was trying to write Great Literature.
Anyone who’s ever been through a middle-school English class knows what I’m talking about. Great Literature has meaning. It has import. It contains layers of symbolism and weighs in on the important issues of the day. It ventures bold opinions on slavery or sexism or the Defenestration of Prague — well, okay, maybe not that last one.
And so I went into fiction-making (at the tender age of twelve or so) with the idea that if I couldn’t say profound things, I’d better not say anything. The first problem with this line of logic, of course, is that I didn’t have any profound things to say when I was twelve (a situation that hasn’t changed much now that I’m twenty-nine). Beyond that, though, this led me to try to construct the stories I wanted to tell around the messages I wanted them to have.
Moral of the story: Don’t do that. It’s pretentious, you run the risk that your deeper meaning will be lost on your readers, and worst of all, it usually leads to boring reading. Put your energy into telling a compelling, entertaining story. If you do that job right, the meaning and social commentary will flow from there.
For instance, my latest novel, Atticus for the Undead, has social commentary and opinions in it. It deals with issues of bigotry, the gap between parents and children, and the moral rightness of risking others’ safety for your own beliefs. But I didn’t write it to do any of those things — I wrote it because I wanted to put a zombie on trial for eating brains. Everything else flowed from that.
I’ll conclude with one of John’s Cardinal Rules of Fantasy Fiction (others can be found hereand here). For this one, I’ll paraphrase Star Trek: First Contact:
“Don’t try to tell a great story, just tell a story. And let history make its own judgments.”