Is it just me? Am I weird? Probably, yeah.
Maybe I dislike fiction because I suck at it and can't write that way, it could be that. The only attempt I have ever made at fiction writing was an amateur computer game I made called "The Legend of Liberace 3," which even though I made it (with map editing help from my friend who edited my template maps into more better looking maps), I will admit it is possibly the shittiest thing ever. I dunno, me sucking at writing fiction can't be the reason I don't like readin' the stuff though.
Maybe I gotta take a step back and figure out why I can't get down with fiction, I really should. I mean I used to read that shit back in the day. When I was a kid I used to read those Sesame Street books like where Grover is the monster at the end of the book, or where Ernie and Bert meet at the wrong lamp post at the park, and this and that. Those books used to rule but even they weren't really fiction, they were stories to teach kids lessons about life.
I used to read fiction books for school if they assigned us some or during "15 minute free readin' period" but that wasn't by choice. Like I read that Rebecca for school and wrote my mandatory 500 word essays on what a horrible woman Mrs. Danvers was but that wasn't by choice.
I've read really old fictional stories, like Gilgamesh or Outlaws of the Marsh,...but I'd classify that as historic research as much I'd classify it as fiction. It's so old that they really are a window into a past society's views and writing techniques.
I don't think I've really ever read pure fiction by choice, though I think I know what turns me off and it is the use of Over Descriptivism which is plaguing ALL writers in ALL languages on earth at this current moment.
This is not in reference to "linguistic descriptivism" or "philosophic descriptivism" in any way, I'm really just talking about over description but am calling it by the term "Over Descriptivism" because it sounds chicer and cuter.
Describing things is the essence of writing...yet, at what frequency are writers (in this case ALL writers of fiction) over describing things? It seems like all the time and always.
Some writers take 2 pages just to introduce a character to you. How they look, how they look at a distance, how they smell, how they are currently feeling, how they know other characters in the book, how tall they are, how fat they are, how ugly/not-ugly they are, if they have tattoos...blah, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc,.
You build characters in fiction by making them do cool/respectful things (for good guys) and making them do horrible/bad/annoying things if they are villains. Let the imagination of the reader decide what they look like. If you leave your lead character ambiguous to the reader they can more easily give the characters the features (physical, etc.) they want him/her to have.
There's a very very fine line separating being descriptive of a scene or a character and just jotting down autistic nonsense. I almost couldn't read Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" (which is a highly acclaimed book) to the end because I didn't care what the fucking gas station you stopped at looked like, or what the truck you hitched a ride on looked like, or what Neil whats-his-name's hair smelled like, or how you felt when you walked into someone's house. blah blah blah, blah...
Sarcastically Emulating Standard Fiction Writing whilst Employing the Over-Use "Technique" of Describing Shit
In the following grouping of words and sentences, I will attempt to write a few paragraphs of standard fiction. Our lead character will walk into a room and scratch his head, then he will scratch his nutsack. Ahem...
Reggie was standing in the archway which led to the room he wished to walk into. He was a quaint man of regular to minute stature, many of his colleagues respected him yet he suspected they only respected him due to this modest stature he projected unto the world. He knew if he walked into this room he would have to do it in a manner which made the people already in that room feel that the man walking into the room was a man of average to great importance. He began to feel nervous, "what if they think I walk into rooms funny?" he thought to himself. The last thing Reggie wanted was to walk into the room in a manner which attracted ridicule.
The archway over the doorway was quite beautiful, in more ways than one. The wooden curved facade was oaken yet had a golden plating which made the room he was standing before appear daunting to the person attempting to enter it. Doorways have a way of sneaking up on you both physically and mentally Reggie thought to himself. Life is full of so many archways leading to unknown rooms...will you enter a nice room full of nice experiences, or a horrible room full of horrid experiences? Reggie was making himself more nervous as each minute passed, he began to break out in a cold sweat, he grabbed his hair with his right hand and wiped up some of the sweat from his hair and his temple. In the process of wiping his sweat Reggie disheveled his hair which made him even more nervous. He wondered if the people in the room he was about to enter had seen him wipe his sweat and mess up his hair.
"Oh no," thought Reggie, "did they see me? I better just walk in right now before they think I'm a big weirdo!"
Reggie, like ripping off a band-aid, walked briskly into the room before him. In the case that anyone saw him mess up his hair he pretended that his head was itchy and coolly and collectedly scratched the right side of his head. Reggie dislodged some white flakey dandruff from his scalp and it cascaded onto his shoulder and lapel. The feigned itchiness was now more real than ever and like a contagious disease his itchiness spread to his legs and crotch.
"My balls," Reggie pondered inwardly..."My balls are itchy now..."
Reggie had no choice now but to scratch his balls....
TO BE CONTINUED
Okie dokie, a couple of paragraphs describing a man walking into a room and scratchin' his nuts. Wasn't that interesting? No it wasn't, it was boring, stupid and utterly pointless.
Over Descriptivism is Spreading like a Virus
Forget just in fiction novels, OD is spreading like a freakin' swine flu to every form of writing. I read an article today on the net which was at the point of being unbearably OD. It was an article about my boy Nathan Fielder (the dude behind funny jokes like "Dumb Starbucks" and other funny ass shit), and the author claims to have interviewed him but only has about eight or nine quotes of what Nathan says to him...the rest of the article is asinine autistic description of what was around him as he interviewed him.
"Article" in question: (http://grantland.com/features/nathan-fielder-nathan-for-you-comedy-central-season-2)
This is over description to the point of it being un-fucking-readable. I know the internet is full of hyperbole and calling shit the worst thing ever is overdone...but this is the WORST article I've ever read in my whole entire life. The "journalist" probably talked to his guest for 8 seconds but managed to produce a full length short story of asperger-infested fluff.
Another example of OD seeping its way into other media is from that dumb yet insanely popular podcast This American Life by ass pie icon extraordinaire Ira Glass. This is the worst interviewer I've ever heard EVER. I listened to him interviewing people a long time ago and Glass in post tends to edit over the audio with his own opinions over-layered over the interview. So, in the final product that hits airwaves, the guest is talking about his/her experiences...and then the sound fades out and you can barely hear him/her talk...and Glass starts saying shit like "When he/she started talking about that...I felt like I was beginning to understand how he/she felt." Okay good for fucking you for thinking that, thanks for fading out the volume in post and inserting your BORING autistic opinions over your guest while they talk...you fantastic bozo.
Tools are better than Over Describing Fluff
I think it was Vladimir Nabakov or Alexander Pushkin (or one of the Russian guys) who said that you shouldn't introduce a piece of information to the reader if that piece of information is not pertinent to the story and/or is a writing tool to set-up some sort of event in the story. I tend to agree with this idea...if you're gonna take ten pages to describe what a wolf or a doorknob looks like...that fucking thing better have an important role to play in your god damn story. The interesting thing is that any item/person/thing at all can become an important story tool.
|A Maltese MacGuffin|
Examples of MacGuffins many are familiar with are The Maltese Falcon, which is just some silly object that many parties seem infatuated with and desperately want (including Peter "Ren Hoëk" Lorre). Another good one which worked well was Tarantino's "shiny briefcase" MacGuffin from Pulp Fiction. How much did Tarantino describe the briefcase? Not much, we never even knew what was in it. Why didn't he need to describe the briefcase (the major plot point of the story)? Because he's not a moron, that's why.
MacGuffins can be used for minor plot points too not just major ones. You can use a MacGuffin as a "leitmotif" too. Leitmotifs are more common in music but they are applicable to writing tools just as much. A good leitmotif in writing will sort of string-together your shit and make it look sharp, chic, and fucking organized.
A writer who employs leitmotifs very well is that Shigesato Itoi, the writer of literature pieces such as Mother 2 and Mother 3. His works are rife and abundant with leitmotif macguffins that really give the story a real nice flow to it. An example of one of his leitmotif macguffins is the doorknob from Mother 3.
Writing a musical symphony is more scientific than most people think, and writing a book is way more scientific than people think. There's tools you need to employ to do this successfully and the way you string your writing tool events together is kind of like laying foundations and bricks down to build a house or a shack or something.
Fiction is kind of dumb...and it's not because it's a bad art form but because the current popular styles of articulating this art form are annoying and dumb.
Bottom line is...if you take 400 words to describe something then that something and the features you give that something better be important and crucial to the final product.