I love eating out. I love everything about the experience. Walking into a restaurant and taking in the smells of freshly cooked food, Perusing the menu to see the choices on offer. Waiting expectantly for my food to arrive. And taking that first mouthful from a steaming hot plate. Mmmm. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it. What sorts of restaurants do I like best? All sorts of restaurants. I love Italian restaurants and Thai restaurants and Indian restaurants. I love seafood restaurants and even vegetarian restaurants. I like restaurants where the food is rich and spicy, and I also like restaurants where the food is simple and homespun. Basically, I would never restrict myself to only eating at one kind of restaurant. I love the variety of different types of food, and even of mixing different cuisines in the one meal. In many ways, I reckon restaurants are just like stories. Just like there are different types of restaurants, there are also different types of stories. I guess the word we'd use to differentiate those types of stories would be genres. And just as I like to eat in a wide variety of restaurants, so I also like to read a wide variety of different types of stories. When you think about stories in the same way as restaurants, sticking to a single genre starts to sound a bit silly. I can't imagine anyone who would only ever eat from one type of restaurant. And similarly, I can't imagine only ever wanting to read one type of story. Whether a story is a detective mystery or a science-fiction saga or a fantasy adventure, there's no reason why I wouldn't want to read it. When it comes to both stories and restaurants, I really only have one criterion. Is it any good? If I'm going to a restaurant, I want to know that the food will be tasty, regardless of what type of food it is. And when I read a book, I hope the story will be interesting and engrossing, with good characters and unexpected plot twists, regardless of the genre of the story. Which (inevitably) leads to my writing. Just as I like to eat a variety of foods and read a variety of books, so I like to write a variety of stories. Why would I want to restrict myself? In my world, continuing to write stories in the same genre would be equivalent to only ever going out to eat in Italian restaurants. I'd get bored really quickly. And if I'm bored as a writer, I'm sure that will come through to the readers of my stories. So that's my piece for the week. If you're eating out, hope the food is great, no matter what sort of food it might be. And if you're reading a book, hope the story is great, no matter what genre it is.
Here's a little known fact about me. I have a background in science. I even have a science degree to prove it. I know, after reading some of my blather, it's hard to believe that I have any kind of degree at all, but that's the absolute truth and I wouldn't lie to you about it. Anyway, like any good scientist, I like to make sure I follow the scientific method, and employ information and data before I make any conclusions about anything. With that in mind, I've been conducting a bit of an experiment in this site over the last couple of weeks, and the results obtained have been interesting to say the least. In the post I put up three weeks ago, I made a big claim. I suggested that this post was the best post I had ever written. I then waxed rhapsodic about what a wonderful post it was, and all the brilliant literary devices I employed. In my post for the following week, I went the opposite way completely by suggesting that it was the worst post I had ever written. I pointed out all the reasons why the post was inferior to the previous one, and even went as far as to apologise to my readers. I then left things for a week, keeping a close eye on the statistics for number of views, to see if any conclusions could be raised. And here is what I found. The first thing is, the best post got more views. This is not that surprising. I'm sure that if most of us have a choice between something that is really good and something that is really bad, we would choose the really good thing. So nothing unusual as yet. But here is the interesting thing. While the number of views for the worst post were fewer than the best post, it wasn't by that much. The worst post actually got a pretty respectable number of views (at least by my standards anyway). Even after I made it absolutely clear to readers that there was nothing of value to be seen there, they came over to have a look anyway. So what is that telling me? Given that my bad post got almost as many views as my good post, why do I even bother making things good? If I can just chuck something out, no matter how poorly constructed, and get a reasonable response rate, why should I put all that effort into trying my best to make my posts interesting and wonderful? Food for thought I suppose. As a true scientist, I'll need to take a while to fully analyse the results. I may even need to conduct some follow up experiments. In the meantime, if you find the quality of these posts seems to have taken a downward slide, you'll know exactly why.
One of the first things that everybody learns when it comes to stories and books is the difference between fiction and non-fiction.
Everybody knows what that is, right? Everybody knows that fiction is stories that are made up while non-fiction is stuff that is real.
If only it were that simple.
Sure, it looks obvious. Clearly there's a big difference between the things that are the products of fanciful imaginations versus the objective reporting of real world events or occurrences. But from the perspective of a writer, that distinction is far less clear than it first appears. My writing is a pretty good example of this. I like to think that everything I write is completely autobiographical. Okay, maybe not everything, but certainly a good range of it. "How can that be?" you may say. "Is he really claiming to have fallen off the world, or pushed the world out of shape, or drowned in a sea of words, like Neville Lansdowne did in Doodling, Scribbling, and Scrawling?" All right, so I can't claim that those events literally happened to me (which I have to admit is probably something of a relief). But the feelings that are captured in those stories pretty accurately sums up how I have felt at various times. I have felt that the world was moving so quickly that I had totally fallen off the pace. I have felt that the world was the wrong shape for me, and I really wished I could mold it and twist it into a shape that suited me better. And I've definitely felt overwhelmed by the volume of words that have surrounded me. So maybe these stories aren't true in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense they definitely capture the experiences I've gone through as I live my life. And let's face it, isn't an autobiography meant to allow readers to know more about the life of the writer? Sure, I could provide some dry breakdown, full of correct dates and detailed descriptions of real events, but how much would that reveal of the real me. But through these stories that I make up, no matter how fanciful, readers get a much truer sense of who I am, what I think, and what I've experienced. So the next time you read something that purports to be fiction, take a closer look. What you are reading may not be real in the literal sense, but it will often be the truest thing you will ever see.
Well, it had to happen. Last week, I reached a high point. I reached the absolute apex of my blogging career, by creating the greatest blog post I've ever written. I suppose I should have been prepared for this. After such a lot of blogging stupendousness, there was no way I would be able to reach such wonderful heights again. I was kidding myself for even thinking that I could. Unfortunately, in trying to replicate the amazing awesomeness of last week, I'm afraid I've failed miserably. I'm sad to say that this is the worst post I've ever written. Just look at it. Nothing shines. Nothing sparkles. The writing is just drab and uninteresting. And even worse, it hasn't even been editted properly. There are a bunch of erors all the way through it. I feel really sad about this post. I feel like I need to apologise to all my fans (assuming I even have any left after this terrible failure of a post). I want to say that I know I messed up and I'll try a lot harder next time. But what more can I say about this post? This post is as bad as a...really bad thing. It's as tedious as a...really dull and tedious thing. It's stinks like a...really smelly and pungent thing. Did you see that. I can't even think of any decent similes to describe this post. Plus, I forgot to put a question mark after the question I just asked. I'm really letting myself and my readers down. All I can say is that this post is an adolescent warthog chewing licorice flavoured bubble gum of a blog post. Did I just try to make a metaphor. Did that even vaguely make sense. Did I just forget a whole bunch more of question marks. I think that this is the end. I think it's time to put this sad excuse for a blog post out of its misery. I'll be back next week (and that's a promise, not a threat) and I'll do my best to try to improve on the dismally poor standard I've set here. I think we all deserve that.
It's hard to believe, but I've been doing this blog thingy for almost four years.
That's four years of insightful observations and hard-hitting revelations and general fluffy blah.
When I first started, I really had no idea about what I was doing. Every week, I would think, "What on earth can I come up with to post on my blog?" I was scrounging for ideas out of thin air. It really was a challenge.
Luckily, I'm a quick learner. I began to get better at generating ideas for posts. I also began to get better at getting a sense of good topics to blog about. I could look at my hits each week, and that would help to give me an idea of which posts were effective and which ones weren't.
Which has led me to the position I'm in today. After lots of practice and experience, lots of trial and error, even occasional pain and heartbreak, I have a really grand announcement to make today.
I'm proud to announce that this is the best blog post I've ever written.
Sure, I've written some doozies in the past, but I don't think any of them come near the standard I've reached today. This post is like a fine wine. It's like a glorious summer day. It's like winning the lottery, three weeks running.
Did you see that? Not just one, or even two, but three similes. That's what makes this post so great. It's absolutely jam-packed with brilliant literary devices. It's not just a blog post. It's a first-class Rolls Royce of literary invention.
Was that just a metaphor that I put in? To be honest, I'm not completely sure, but I'm happy to claim it. After all, this post really is the apex, the highest peak of my blogging career.
Is there anything else I can add to this post? Have I truly reached the extremes of excellence I've been aiming for? Mmmm, maybe I should stop now. I'd hate to think I was diluting this wonderfulness by adding too much extraneous material.
Wow. I'm quite out of breath now. This blogging thing really can be exhausting. After all this excitement, I really hope I can keep the amazing, incredible high standard up in my follow-up posts.
After all, I'd hate to think I've hit my peak too early.
Just a little warning to anybody arriving at my site for the first time. Don't believe everything I say. So how do you know which stuff I say you can believe and which stuff you can't? Well to be honest I have no idea. I'm not even sure if you can believe me when I say that you can't believe me. That's the tricky bit. As a writer, I am in the business of making stuff up. I'm a professional storyteller, an inveterate and incorrigible fabricator. Everything that comes into my head, no matter how correct and verifiable in the beginning, inevitably ends up getting twisted and turned until it ends up being something completely different. Did I just say that? Then maybe it's not even true. Maybe it's just something else that I've imagined. This lack of clarity about where the truth lies can make life very interesting for a writer. Often, I'll use autobiographical details as the inspiration for a story. But as the reality of events gradually begins to be converted into the fiction of a story, the line between what actually happened and what I imagined happened starts to get very blurry indeed. After a while, I start to have no idea where the distinction between fiction and reality lies. I begin to exist in a strange nether world between the two. Or maybe I don't. Maybe I just made that up too. In the end, does it really matter? If the essential truth is retained, even if the details become substantially different, does that not mean that I'm still a faithful compiler of events? Part of me says yes. I'm the sort of person who is very much into solid facts. If something happened, then it had to happen. The last thing we want to do is find ourselves down some kind of post-modern rabbit hole where fact and fiction become meaningless. But another part of me disagrees. We can never be sure exactly what is fact and what is fiction. Memory is unreliable, and all our experiences are somehow mediated by our senses and influenced by our prejudices and expectations. In the end, I'm not sure I can believe either of those parts of me. So where does that leave me? I have no idea. If I'm stuck down some kind of post-modern rabbit hole, then I guess I better learn how to dig. Quickly. All I can say is don't rely on anything that you've just read. And that's something you can rely on.