Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On the destruction of the writer's spirit

I was listening to NPR: All Things Considered today and one of the segments praised a book by an author who I took a creative writing class with (okay, "with whom I took") about twenty years ago, and who on the first day of class did something that made me decide he was a complete ass.

You might say that being a good writer doesn't make one a good teacher, so I'll agree with that and move ahead.

I tried to get into the creative writing class with James Hall (who doesn't seem to have a Wikipedia page (wtf??) ), but at the time, everyone signed up for that one so I took what was available.

So this other guy, who is not James Hall, opens the first day of class by asking what everyone is writing.  And the first person to chime in reads her story which was something like this:
Arcmage Thelia Ravenshield raised her golden bow to her eye in line with her target.  The Iceblack Lord could feel the air vibrate with the tension of the bowstring being pulled taught.  The arrow was forged from metals belched forth during the one thousand year eruption of Mt. Killak, metals rumored to have the godlike powers of restoration or destruction.  The Iceblack Lord was as old as time and no mortal weapon could injure him, but this arrow, so it was told, could pierce his stonelike heart and finally extinguish his reign of terror.

Pretty awesome, huh? Ugly chicks can really write. And then person number two reads her stuff:
Professor Dumbledore eyed Harry's wand suspiciously, "Are you positive you have never used this wand to make Hermione's breasts larger, Harry? Not even a little?"
"No," Harry protested.  "I think Ron's got her preggers."
And he stops the class and says, "No. This class is about Contemporary Fiction.  Elves and wizards are not part of contemporary fiction."

This was 1990, not the pre-Hobbit world of 1920.  Elves and wizards were definitely contemporary fiction.  So the class didn't get off on the right start.

So when I heard his name on NPR today, I was a little annoyed.  Because he sucked the life out of (at least) two budding novelists.  You know, I don't read non-Batman fantasy fiction or non-Batman gay-lesbian-transgender fiction or non-Batman Christian fiction, but I would never say that some author's orcin gangbang is craptacular bullshit.  So when this guy did that, it just killed my spirit.

And I never wrote another word again. 

On the plus side, I learned two important things from that class.  The first is that in storytelling "only trouble is interesting."  And the second is that there are only two basic plots: "A stranger comes to town," and "A man goes on quest."  I don't remember anything else because I never did the assigned readings.

But I never wrote another word again.