What the hell are you even talking about?

What the hell are you even talking about?

A Lesson by Mike Lamb

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Good storytellers are not.


So you want to write a book. What's it about? The first thing most people do is try to think of a plot. The plot, however, isn't as important as you think. What is important is whether or not you're any good at storytelling. The plot is only the skeleton of the book. Your style is what gives it life.


So let's say you want to write a story about a robot assassin that has been sent back in time to kill...I don't know, somebody famous. And you're really excited about this project because robot assassins are pretty damn cool. Unless of course they happen to be stuck in a s****y book. So forget about robot assassins for a minute and write a quick practice excercise about a trip to the grocery store. If you can turn something that boring into a mind-blowing epic of masterful storytelling, then you've earned the right to make up a novel about robot assassins.


I'll give you another example. Now I happen to love the movie Evil Dead. I also happen to hate the movie Twilight. Is it because one plot is better than the other? No. Because if Stephenie Meyers wrote a book called Evil Dead which followed the adventures of Ash and his battles with the legions of Hell over the soul of his zombie girlfriend and ultimately the fate of the entire world, it would still be a Stephenie Meyers book. If you like her style then you'd go for it, if not you'd still hate it no matter how many chainsaws she put in there. On the other hand, if Sam Raimi's first movie had been a love story about sparkly vampires, I'm willing to bet he could have turned it into some seriously badass s**t.


Now I realize these are subjective things and ultimately it all boils down to your audience. There will always be people that love what you hate and hate what you love. But as I've said before: you are the model of your own audience. Read some of your work out loud. Record it. Now play it back. Can you listen to the whole thing? Or did you actually manage to bore yourself? Step outside yourself for a minute. Look at your work through the eyes of a stranger. Or better yet, pretend someone else did it. Do you like it? Do you care? Would you spend money on it? Would you recommend it to friends? What would it be like to lose your memory of ever writing a book, and one day you come across it in a bookstore. You flip through a few pages and think "who wrote this crap?" And then you realize, "Oh s**t. I did."

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Posted 8 Years Ago

I just had this humbling experience this week when digging up some stories I wrote 15 years ago. (yeah, I"m old) I thought they were the bomb.... I was right they were stink bombs.... yikes.

I used to commute a lot and would listen to NPR and get ideas that I'd forget by the time I got to write them down. So I bought a voice recorder to capture the ideas to transcribe at home later. That worked pretty good, yet the "in the moment" excitement of the concept sort of paled.

I've downloaded an audio app for my computer and record my micro fictions at certain stages to see how they sound... most of the time I fall asleep... but the endings usually wake me up.

As always great advice. btw Twilight is for pus*ies...... lol.
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Added on September 21, 2010
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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..