Libraries/Bookstores Should be Dismantled?

I came across an article recently that had a really catchy message. The headline was something along the lines of “Writers Need to Get Paid”. The article went on to begrudge used book stores as a resource for readers. The reason, the argument said, was that the author doesn’t get paid when someone purchases a book from a resale shop. The solution, the argument argued, is for consumers to purchase e-books. The reasoning behind this is that e-books are often similar in price to used books.

Fair point there. If you have a few bucks and you want to read a new book, maybe it’s easier for you to download an e-book than to peruse the dusty shelves. And yes, the author gets a royalty for the e-book whereas they don’t for the used/resold book.

But the article went on to say that used book stores (and libraries to boot) were abominations that needed disassembly,  dismantlement, and disparagement.

And no one disses my libraries, bro!

So. I understand the article’s outrage. Authors do not typically swim in the dough. Partly because the market is tough and complicated and huge, and partly because we, as writers, get distracted by the difficulty of swimming in a viscous substance like dough. But that’s a metaphor for ya–helpful until it confuses you.

Writers Unite

The article in fact began with the statement that Writers Need To Protect Their Interests–in a very stand with me against the evils of corporate greed way. Except, instead of railing against corporate greed, the article railed against small business greed.

The article was a slam against the resurgence of used bookstores, given the fact that used bookstores don’t actually produce income for the writers themselves. Ergo, argued the article, used bookstores should die instead of revive, because we should care about the author and not the bookstore.

*contains energy of a thousand suns*

This either doesn’t take into account or ignores the way a market works. It also demonstrates a focus so zeroed in on the authors that it sidelines the even more important player: the readers.

Yes, authors are important to the buy/sell system of books, but you can’t dismiss the readers’ roles. (For those of you who understand markets and business and math better than I do, it’s the consumer.)

Business and Money

Indeed, the article started off with the proposition that we consider writing and publishing and getting paid like a business instead of just a fuzzy-feeling-hobby. And I totally get that. Wanting to have validation (in the form of dough, cookie dough, doughy-eyed looks from an adoring public, [running out of dough phrases]… and… doughnut something something relevant imagery) is an important part of producing art.

So, putting aside my doughy-heart of I-love-libraries-and-bookstores-and-art-for-the-sake-of-art-ness, my biggest issue with the article was this:

The article disregarded the importance of the resale market. Yes, re-selling goods doesn’t pay the original seller/creator. And yeah, that kind of sucks for the creator. But this isn’t something restricted to used book stores.

Flea Markets, Clothing Resale shops, Goodwill Resale stores, second-hand anything shops, E-bay, personal sellers on Amazon, garage sales, selling your old TV to that kid down the street who really wants to suffer in the independence of living in the garage, but he totally needs a TV still.

Importance of Resale

The importance of the resale market, I think, is two-fold:

  1. It allows objects to transfer hands instead of getting thrown away/wasted/lost in the dark corners of your grandmother’s kinda-still-creepy-even-though-you’re-older-now basement.
  2. It allows people to purchase and experience and own things that they otherwise couldn’t afford, and it keeps the flow of money through the markets.

 

1. Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, Reduce

OK, I know, I know. This isn’t the same thing as separating your plastics from your cardboard. But it is.

You’ll notice I rearranged the “reduce, reuse, recycle,” phrase and added an extra one. That’s on purpose, because it illustrates how people treat material objects when considering money.

It looks like this:

  1. Someone buys a Thing.
  2. Thing outlives its usefulness.
  3. Person either reuses it. (Rereading the book; moving the TV to the garage for the kid who wants freedom)
  4. Or person repurposes it. (Uses the book to prop up a table or decorate a mantle; use the the TV in a retro-art installation.)
  5. Or person sells it/gives it away. (Give this book to your BFF or donate it to a library or bookstore; sell it on Craigslist or leave it at the curb)
  6. Or they waste it. (Throwing it away)
  7. If person can’t do the above choices, person stops buying Things. (AHHHHHH)

What does this mean in the realm of writers and their books?

It means that if a person can’t flow through the process of acquiring and releasing and re-acquiring objects, they will simply stop buying those things in order to prevent either a massive build-up of Things or a massive build-up of debt. If people are only allowed to acquire and access books at their market price, you won’t see an incline in sales or popularity—you’ll see a decrease.

And you don’t want people just to throw things away when they are done with it. That’s being wasteful on all accounts. It applies to clothes (resale), food (leftovers and charity donations), books (resale and donations), and, well, everything!

2. Ain’t Made of Money, Honey

Libraries

Speaking from personal experience, if I had to buy every book I read growing up, I would be at a vast cultural, educational, and personal disadvantage. That is to say that I would not have been able to read all of the books I did.

Because, to put it plainly, people can’t spend money on books (or any luxury) when dinner isn’t on the stove yet. That’s the beauty of libraries—putting books and knowledge and entertainment and joy in the hands of everyone, regardless of class and income.

Resale Markets

And let’s twirl it around to get a full perspective on resale markets:

Whether it’s food, clothing, materials, or anything really, a resale market is vital in order to allow people of lesser means to function and survive. Resale markets are necessary. And they aren’t going to go away.

Markets exist on all levels, resale to wholesale, because the economy and income and luck are vast, complex, and sometimes disparate.

What About You

Yes, it’s a bummer that writers don’t typically make bank–and sure, there are aspects of the system that are unfair.

Chances are, you’ve been able to survive or simply benefit from having resale markets available, and I’m absolutely certain that you’ve benefited from libraries (tax-funded education) and schools (tax-funded education).

And I know this mostly because you can read this, which is a luxury and privilege that so many assume is a burden and a right.

So keep reading, keep sharing, and keep learning!

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Editing — Preference vs. Correctness

Whether your working with beta readers, critique partners, a workshop class, or working on an essay, it’s tough to distinguish between what you didn’t like and what was wrong.

It’s easy to say something is wrong, that it doesn’t feel right. But being able to sort out what you don’t like personally versus what is incorrect can be difficult.

For instance, it can be tough to tell whether you don’t like a character personally (maybe you have a thing about boys with green eyes), or if the character isn’t fully developed. It can be tough to tell whether dialogue is flat, or if you don’t really enjoy banter or small talk.

If you’re giving or receiving feedback, try to get to the bottom of why you don’t like something.

No matter what, that feedback is important. When you’re reading something and you don’t like it—no matter what the reason—the writer wants to know.

The IMPORTANT part is that you clarify for the reader (if you’re doing the editing) or you ask for clarification (if you’re receiving feedback). Let them know if what they’ve done is incorrect or if you just don’t like it.

If you cross out half of a sentence, maybe include a comment that it’s “redundant information”, “improper syntax”, or “too wordy.” These things will help the writer keep an eye out for similar areas where they can improve.

Writers need to have thick skin, so they should be able to handle all sorts and shapes of criticism, but be constructive and kind. Thick skin takes a while to develop, so be sure to explain your criticisms and always include things you liked as well!

Jurassic World — The Storytelling Involved

I finally got on the bandwagon and went to see Jurassic World. I’d seen all the others, but not since they gave me nightmares as a child.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie for several reasons. Chris Pratt. Dinosaurs. Theme Park of dinosaurs just begged for mass casualties. FRICKIN’ DINOSAURS, MAN.

What I enjoyed even more was how much sense the story made. For me, you can have as much gore and special effects as you want, but if you don’t have good storytelling, I ain’t buying it.

These important story telling devices that were used in Jurassic World are:

  • Threads
  • Throwbacks
  • Comedic Relief
  • Second Glance Information
  • Details and Research
  • Expectations and Cliches
  • Loose Threads

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The Threads

(“threads” in a story are story-lines, objects, and concepts that make recurring appearances throughout a story, but don’t necessarily have a direct impact on the plot. Threads can be anything, like a character searching for a Twinkie, a Pizza Planet truck, and rushing for an arbitrary deadline.)

I realized that I was in love with the storytelling when my friend mentioned her favorite part of the movie (SPOILER!): when the giant-fish-monster made his final appearance, and the T-Rex just ambles off like he knows he’s the biggest bad ass ever.

I responded with: “I especially like how they introduced the fish-dinosaur early on, then brought him back for the long dramatic death scene of that British nanny chick so you wouldn’t forget about him.”

My friend just kind of gave me this weird look like, “I see your point, but you’re being weird about it.”

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Throwbacks

(Along the same lines as threads, throwbacks are when a story references what came first (either previous books/movies or a nod to the classics).)

Jurassic World had a lot of good throwbacks. From the classic theme song opening the movie to the original set and props from the first movie. Throwbacks, like threads, are fun and can provide perspective and humor without endangering the plot. Just think of the feeling you get when you hear that theme song or the pointing and prodding when you saw those doors with that icon. The smile when you saw the nerd wearing the original Park T-Shirt.

Just like the Pizza Planet truck in Pixar movies, throwbacks let the readers and viewers know that you’re paying attention. It’s a way for you to reward them for paying attention too.

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Comedic Relief

(things that make you laugh in the middle of an otherwise terrible, dramatic, or scary/sad scene)

Humans are complicated creatures, just like dinosaurs. We don’t feel just one emotion, and we need variety. In Jurassic World, there were a lot of chuckle moments. In a movie about monsters and death and fear, these comedic moments are what keeps us entertained while we’re being awed and jump-scared.

Like when Nick from New Girl (the nerdy computer guy with the throwback Park T-shirt) tries to kiss that girl, and she totally has a boyfriend. And when the Aunt says that there’s no way the kids are telling their mom the details of the adventure.

These moments provide balance in a narrative. Tonal balance can be tricky in real life AND in stories. Just think back to a time when someone said a joke, and the whole atmosphere just got sticky with awkwardness. Or when someone says something sobering, and the room goes from smiles to grimaces.

Tonal shift and balance can make or break a scene.

Also: Archaeornithomimus.

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On Second Glance

This goes along with rewarding the reader with throwbacks and threads. In Jurassic World, there’s a lot you might miss the first time you watch it. But if you slow it down or just watch it again, you pick up on all the nuances that really flesh out the story and the scenes.

When the old guy runs from the dinosaurs, but takes careful precautions to protect his double-fisted margaritas. I caught that the first time, and I almost busted out laughing, because I knew it was an under-the-radar joke. It shows the writers and storytellers are paying attention and, again, rewards viewers/readers for doing the same.

It’s the same moment when you read a book again and this time you catch all the foreshadowing. Or watching a movie for the second time and you see a funny face a background character is making.

You want to make sure these subtle background elements aren’t stealing the limelight. You wouldn’t want your readers to pick up on those cues and totally spoil the plot twist. You don’t want the background noise to drown out the song.

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Details and Research

There’s something wonderful about saying, “Yeah, that would totally be true.” These things can be small and large. The amalgamation of genetic code resulting in varying expressions of animal behavior. I would have liked to see more unique traits or cross-overs instead of cherry-picking behaviors and abilities like shopping for superpowers.

I liked the balloon with streamer dinosaur legs (I want one!) and the informational exhibits. The honest approach to the fact that 20 years have passed. The respect paid to the question of how exactly would a multimillion dollar island theme park keep interest and keep it’s popularity?

It doesn’t have to stand up to scientific and critical acclaim (it’s not an actual scientific proposal). It just has to feel right enough to get the reader on board. In the end, almost all science fiction is fiction. It’s based on untruths and assumptions and imagination. But it’s the details and the research that make it feel real. That said, the more flaws logic and reasoning and science has, the more complaints will be filed. The more acclaim a story gets, the more scrutiny will befall it.

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Expectations and Cliches

Every story has expectations and cliches. Sometimes, subverting these cliches can be very powerful. Sometimes, though, we just want what’s familiar.

In Jurassic World, we get some of the classic cliches. We get uptight boss lady and down-to-earth old flame. We get the doofus jerk character who dies exactly the way we dreamed he would. We get the budding romance, complete with banter and wit. We get the eccentric billionaire and the “we can’t evacuate because that would make us look bad,” and the “I’m doing this with or without you.” These things aren’t inherently bad, and they aren’t inherently good either. They’re just familiar. Sometimes familiar is good—necessary even. If you make something too bizarre, it becomes unrelatable.

Being able to intentionally avoid cliches in a way that feels original is important to generating a new experience for viewers/readers. Like when the girl turns around and saves the guy (though even that itself is becoming an old hat turn), and when the nerdy computer guy goes for the kiss and is turned down. We all thought at some point that Aunt really should just remove the high heels, but then she’d be running around barefoot through the forest and park of shattered glass, and that feels like a worse idea. These things make us think, though, which is good.

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Loose Threads

As satisfying as it is to have all the plot threads tied up at the end, it can be just as important to leave a few threads dangling. Don’t confuse this with unresolved plot issues. If you present viewers/readers with a problem and don’t give us some sort of resolution, you’re going to get backlash.

But what the Jurassic Park movies do best is leave that dangling thread, enticing you to keep going, but leaving you satisfied with the movie. We saw it with the stolen dinosaur egg, the pterodactyls flying into the distance and, in Jurassic World, the research the military/doctor absconded with.

That feeling that the story goes on is vital. Just like life, there is no way to contain everything between the covers of a book or the the beginning and the end. That sense of continuity makes the story feel real to us. It leaves us wondering, wishing, and imagining. That’s what stories are good for.

All I Wanna Do is Read and Write

Bahhhhh humbug. Being an adult is a full-time job (in addition to my already full-time job!)

All I want to do is read The Madness Underneath (Maureen Johnson), read and critique my CP’s manuscript, write my query letter, and drink coffee.

But being adult, while it has its privileges, also has its responsibilities. Dealing with insurance, sending super-professional emails, spending exorbitant amounts of time thinking about how to not plan the elaborate dismantling of the lives of Annoying Humans, and doing things called “errands”, which is really another name for out-of-the-house chores that you don’t get an allowance for.

Being busy and having things to do is like fuel to me. It keeps me busy, motivated, and productive. Yet it is always good to have those few things you can retreat into, like falling into a depthless beanbag chair where all the world becomes a waterfall of packing peanuts.

We should all aspire to be this cat.

For me, those things are reading and writing. Sure, writing can be an errand-chore sometimes. It requires hard work a hefty deal of thinking. And sure, reading can go either way. But falling into those things is like wading into that ocean of Styrofoam peanuts. It requires a bit of effort to not get lost, but it’s a wonderful experience of indulgence and excitement.

What is your retreat? Reading your favorite book? Writing poetry on the bathroom walls? Listening to music while sinking into The Chair of Ultimate Comfort?

I DID IT

I told my coworker that I finished revisions, and she can read it now if she likes. I’m still going to warn her of the issues (it’s still not a polished draft; there are still mistakes; there might be some plot holes). I’m going to give her thirty grains of salt for while she reads it.

I’ll either send it to her nook or lend her my kindle, and hopefully she won’t think it’s the biggest pile of marbles since the Collection of Crazy.

I’m still very nervous about what she’ll think of it and what she’ll think of me as a writer, but getting feedback or even just overall impressions is very important. My end goal as a writer is to entertain. If I can bring a smile or a watery eye or a chuckle or a white-knuckled grip, then I’ve succeeded.

At least, that’s the comfort I’ll be whispering to myself while I rock back and forth on the futon, awaiting any word from her.

DEAREST COWORKER: you are wonderful for showing an interest, and I hope you’re uninhibited by my anxiety while you read!

Why Are You Reading THAT Book?

My roommate is a big fan of Brandon Sanderson. My sole exposure to Brandon Sanderson was his NaNoWriMo Pep Talk in 2014. Since I hadn’t read anything by him, and I wasn’t swept away into the first couple pages of one of his books (it’s less action and more description/narration at the beginnings, I’ve found), he’s lending me his copy a Sanderson novella, The Emperor’s Soul.

What I found instantly captivating was the premise and the main character.

Premise: The emperor has died, and the powers-that-remain have tasked the main character with Forging (as in a replicated forgery) his soul into his already-healed (aka Forged) body.

Character: An excellent thief and Forger who is one day away from execution, miles from freedom, and yet somehow on the doorstep of an incredible opportunity. She is tasked with Forging the Emperor’s Soul.

What got me in the first few pages: The seamless incorporation of worldbuilding and the easy yet in-depth explanations of how this magic of Forging works.

Identifying what you like about books and what you dislike will make you a better writer.

What is it about the book you’re reading that drew you in? Was it a friend’s recommendation? The first pages? The book jacket? A review?