Saturday, June 9, 2012

Three Thoughts for a Saturday in June

Scott D. Parker

Story Development

There are a lot of books out there. And many of those books cover common things: mystery, crime, SF, fantasy, romance, etc. It’s a wonder that some authors rise to the top and the vast majority live in middle.

When I come up with story ideas and work through them, I spend time at the outset thinking about them, writing ideas, and wondering if they are deserving of my time *before I start writing*. It’s a limited resource, you know. Often, I will consign an idea to my mental dust bin since I don’t *think* that it’ll stand out amid the sea of books that flood the marketplace.

Is that wrong? Should I actually put for some time actually writing prose rather than merely discarding an idea before it has a chance to take shape? What do y’all do?

Ray Bradbury

I have read woefully few Bradbury stories, so I am not the best judge of his works. In the days since his death, I have been reading a bunch of memorials and have cracked open my copy of Dandelion Wine and Zen in the Art of Writing. Fellow readers of DSD know that I have a penchant for nostalgia and history. So imagine my happy surprise when many of the remembrances focused on Bradbury’s own nostalgic writings. It’s nice to know that a few of my thoughts were shared by one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century.

Louis L’amour's Place on the Bookshelf

Seeing all the writing about Bradbury made me remember the day, last year, when I went to four estate sales. The historian part of me drooled (and sweated a lot) at the treasure trove of magazines in one garage: Life, Saturday Evening Post, Time, among others. I picked up the issue of Life from 1971 with the cover story about the opening of Disney World (two words back then). I also found the first issue of Time after JFK's assassination. Cover: President Johnson.

While those were good finds, I was struck by something else. In two of these homes, the man of the house literally had shelves of nothing but Louis L'amour westerns. Mostly they were paperbacks, a mix of the Bantam titles (with the black spines) and the more recent white ones (with the westerny font on the spines). One house had what we now refer to as a man cave but was, probably, just the library. With all the stuff of a certain age, the L'amour westerns did not seem out of place. In fact, they seemed almost a requirement. I say that because, when I was growing up, my dad and his dad both had their collections of L'amour westerns on their respective bookshelves.

Which led me to this question: is there an author's work nowadays that is required reading for a man? In forty years, at estate sales in 2052, will some future buyer look at the bookshelves of men who lived in these early 21st Century decades and think: "Ah, right, it was altogether fitting and proper for a man to have read those books."


Dana King said...

I throw away ideas all the time. I get too many to try to work something out of all of them, and have developed a feel for which stories I can tell better than others. I used to feel guilty about that until I read William Goldman (I think it was him) say he didn't write down story ideas because if they were any good, he'd remember them. I;m not that cavalier (IO'm obviously not William Goldman, either), as I'm about to start taking notes on a story idea later today, but I've also already decided this is one that's worth looking into.

Thanks for the heads-up on the Bradbury book. i wasn't aware of it, but will BOLO.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think few men read. The ones I know that do mostly read non-fiction or crime. But I cannot think of anyone to take the place of a Louis L'Amour or a Jack London or a Patrick O'Brien.