If you're bored writing it, I'm bored reading it

If you're bored writing it, I'm bored reading it

A Lesson by Mike Lamb

It's a book, not a term paper.


As you write, you may from time to time find that you need to research  things for greater depth, detail, and believability in your story. But here's the thing...are you researching it because it fascinates you, or just because "it has to be there"? Because, guess what? Nothing has to be there unless you want it there. If you read a book where the author goes on and on about architecture in vivid detail and historical accuracy, it's probably because they themselves are deeply fascinated by architecture. If you describe something that interests you, you're much less likely to get bored and frustrated with it. And that shows in the writing. Likewise, if you take no personal interest in the facts or details you're describing, it will read as being very dry and bland.


But let's say you really need to include some large chunk of information that you personally find enormously dull. This is where secondary characters can come in handy. Let's say, for some bizarre reason, it is essential that the protagonist knows about the housepets of every American president. Since you will personally think that this information is either fascinating or pointless (or somewhere in between), there should be at least one character that agrees with you (hence, voicing not only your view on the matter but the view of many readers). So either the protagonist is explaining the timeline of presidential pets to someone who is clearly uninterested, or vice versa. This is one reason that so many books and movies have the token smartass character. Because they know that at least one jackass in the audience is making snotty remarks about everything going on in the story, and he/she wants to see a character that actually shares his/her viewpoint. And it allows the author to go into extreme detail about things without taking themselves too seriously and/or alienating the readers.


One of the interesting side effects of research is trivia. The nice thing about trivia is it makes people with no attention span feel smarter. It sifts through all the boring crap and finds the most obscure facts with the most bizarre details and condenses it into one or two sentences that you can easily remember and quote.


So let's say you found a comprehensive list of every American president and every pet they ever had. Now there's a really good chance most of that list is pretty boring, but there might be a few strange ones on the list worth paying attention to. What if, for example, FDR had a pet badger that had to be put to sleep after killing the neighbor's toddler? I think that might be pretty interesting...whereas something like "Nixon had a poodle" would not be very interesting. And no, I'm not going to actually look up presidential pets because I don't care and I'd rather just make up facts.


So do your research and figure out which parts are worth writing into the story and which bits are useless. I hope this has been at least marginally helpful...because I have completely lost interest in this lesson. I probably had some other examples, but...screw it. I basically just make these up as I go along anyway. They can't all be winners. Go look up Abraham Lincoln and tell me if he had any pets. Then write a little story about it. I'm going to sleep.



Next Lesson
Previous Lesson


[send message]

Posted 8 Years Ago

An example from Jack's Inferno. In one scene Jack finds himself in a sort of nuclear facility. I did some minimal research on nuclear power plants to get a basic idea for the visuals, but beyond that I knew I had no inclination to educate myself on the intricate complexities of modern nuclear physics. As a result, Jack does not pretend to understand his surroundings beyond the basic visual description. However, the strip club scene is described in vivid detail with a level of realism. Because I know strip clubs. So Jack knows strip clubs.

[send message]

Posted 8 Years Ago

It's kind of funny, and hopefully relevant, but most blogging/journaling on the internet is like archiving material for autobiographies. Yet within each blogged autobiography entry, the authors proclaim their boredom and dissatisfaction with life. I appreciate the "therapy angle" and I guess it is a kind of personal story, but the reality of it after reading a hundred of these things just isn't relatable to the reader. The stories are out there, then what? Art and culture on any level is supposed to elevate. It seems we've lost that capacity as both audience and creator.
Research? Depth, detail and believability? Then why virtual worlds and reality shows?

I agree with the lesson 100%, but I wonder how important it is to the bulk of the contemporary readership. I think the "research" might be closer to home, like their own lives and how they observe, reflect and problem solve within those lives. Telling a story, a tribal history if you will involves commitment as well as research.
WHOA.... huffing that glue is killer... I think I'll hold off on sticking pencils in my eyes until my eyelids unstick.......

[send message]

Posted 8 Years Ago

These lessons just make less and less sense the more I ramble on. I'll probably be telling you to huff glue and jab pencils into your eyes before long. You know...to help you come up with good story ideas.
Subscribe Subscribe


111 Subscribers
Added on October 6, 2010
Last Updated on October 11, 2010
My Rating

Login to rate this


Mike Lamb
Mike Lamb

greenville, NC

Artist, writer, and a drunken lunatic prophet. I am the author of Jack's Inferno, a dark comedy bizarro/horror novel about Hell, previously published through Wordplague (now defunct). I am also a pro..