My attention span is about as short as hey a butterfly!
Nevertheless, I’m not going to be successful at anything unless I can stick it out, and come up with something that can be interesting for more than a paragraph. All the great ones can do it. F. Scott Fitzgerald would constantly rewrite and edit his drafts until they became something completely different than what he started with. That explains why the first 1,000 printings of “The Great Gatsby” had that infamous “axe murder” ending that was subsequently removed and replaced in later editions.
Some authors have the gift of being able to keep their readers glued to the pages, unable to put the book down for any reason. This is due to an abundance of adhesive applied to the spine of the book, and that was a funny joke. But seriously, pick up anything in the “Goosebumps” series, and that magnificent bastard R.L. Stine can keep you gripped for upwards of 48 pages. I’m convinced you need to be born with a gift like that.
Lesser authors will unnecessarily pad out the book for hundreds of pages with worthless fluff; Describing clouds, gratuitous sex and violence. Swears-a-plenty, that sort of thing. Stephen King and Dean Koontz have made an empire out of quantity over quality. But you can’t argue with success!
So I decided to test the waters a bit, and figure out what writing style was not only the most comfortable for me; but which one was also the most commercially profitable. I took a common task (walking across the street for a gallon of milk), and adapted it to 3 different commercial styles of writing. This would calibrate my style, and shape what I would become.
First off, I described the act using the writing style of depressing, descriptive memoir. This style has been around for literally hundreds of years, and I thought it would be a good jumping off point. Here’s what I came up with:
Tender steam escapes from between my parted lips, my feet stepping onto dirty melting snow. The dark full moon in the clearest sky of early spring beams down its’ spotlight, leaving me alone on this stage of asphalt. Cautiously avoiding sidewalk cracks and wingless doves roams I, trickling tears turning to ice on red cheeks. Cars dodge the fool who doesn’t check for danger, too immersed in failure and loss to comprehend basic pain. Crossing the street of broken dreams, and into the supermarket of lost souls.
Is it I who holds the gallon of milk? Plastic container of life-giving fluids, clinging to me like a frightened and cold child during the most violent of thunderstorms? I will comfort it, shelter it, and do what I could not do for myself.
Stepping into the unforgiving fluorescent light, cradling moo juice like the most premature of infants. The shelter is quiet now. The glass sits empty, waiting, yet begging to be flooded with sweet nectar. I shall comply, and give satisfaction when I could never receive it tonight.
Drink, dear Sir. Drink.
This worked well, and was surprisingly comfortable for me. I could have stopped right there, and decided on a winner. But I wasn’t going to half-ass my one shot at success. I continued on. My next style was that of a Stephen King or Dean Koontz. They like to tell stories about people in dangerous situations coming to terms with past mistakes to overcome their peril. Here was my interpretation:
The Pick-N-Save on O’Keefe Avenue had been built on an ancient Sioux burial ground. Everyone knew that the dairy isle had been site to some of the most brutal killings this town had ever seen. Everyone, that is, except Ryan.
Ryan knew he had less than 5 minutes to get the milk, as he urinated fiercely into the eggshell toilet. “Shit”, he said, “I’m later than shit”. “I’m no better than a damn shitty woman”. He quickly squeezed out the last few drops and headed through the lush forest to the abandoned market.
Being in these woods reminded Ryan of when he was 9 years old, and a stranger had stopped him as he played alone in the forest by his home. The strange man was nude from the waist down, and repeatedly made Ryan sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, as the man laughed and danced, his flaccid unit swinging wildly.
Being reminded of this, he picked up his pace, knowing he had only 3 minutes now before the milk went bad, and the entire market would be sucked up into an abyss. It was at this point that Ryan pondered shopping at a different market.
“Shit”, he said to himself. But nobody could hear him anymore.
This proved to be quite uncomfortable for me to write. Living a virtually molestation-free childhood (almost), I couldn’t relate to graphic depictions of male genitalia. I quickly moved on, as I hope that you will do.
Finally, I wanted to try my hand at a gritty, courtroom drama. With people like John Grisham and Tom Clancy ruling the bestseller lists, and television shows booming with true crime mysteries, I thought I could certainly cash in here. And if I was lucky, maybe I could sell a script as a pilot to CBS. Something like “Communist Dance Party Productions Presents: Detectives of Death!” I gave it a shot:
They were on to him. He could feel it. Sensations tingling up his neck and straight down his spine. He was being watched, and he didn’t like it.
“Did you steal the milk?” She said, stern and to the point.
“I did no such thing!” He fired back. “I never left the house that night! I have witnesses!”
“Really?” She replied coyly. “Well then, let’s just have a look at the surveillance tapes.”
And so on and so forth. Upon completion of this search for my niche, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I couldn’t compromise my morals and ideals, and I couldn’t be someone I’m not. Unless it was for a reasonable amount of money, then I can write any way you want me to.
Hey, a butterfly!