Tim Kreider is a popular guy lately. As of late, readers are starting to pay attention to him for his comments on the difference between being "too busy" or "too tired" and this cartoon. And while I would love to comment on saying your too busy when you're really too tired, I think there's something else in a recent Huffington Post that moved along a few wheels in my head: The concept of messy writing.
Messy writing is certainly an under-appreciated thing. There appears to be a disconnect about how much work actually goes into writing a messy book.
It's Not a Lack of Discipline
Admittedly, there are quite a few disorganized books out there, and I don't mean for effect. These are the sort of stories an author haphazardly writes in an effort to make money or because they don't read enough. They're sloppy and terrible.
Then there are the other type of messy books. These are the stories in which a tale is told from middle to beginning to end to middle to beginning to 1,000s of years ago in the future. Stories like these are written with the intent of being disjointed. Writing a decent disjointed tale takes a tremendous amount of patience, planning, and revision.
Some people will automatically disregard such novels because they aren't verse-chorus-verse. But should all books be?
Euphoria Comes Before Epiphany
The standard way of writing a novel is to pick a starting point and build to the end.I think we've all encountered Freytag's arc. Most novels anymore have this unrealistic progression of events. Right now you might be thinking my stories aren't the most realistic, especially stories like Excluded or Lovely Weather in Long Brooke. However, my focus isn't whether or not hands can reach out of walls or whether a man's identity can be literally stolen. Instead, my argument surrounds the way a story develops.
We tend to have a certain mindset that after something happens, we immediately learn from it. I don't know about you, but I'm normally left in disarray after something momentous strikes. For example, the minute you lose a loved one, you might not immediately think, "Oh, I should've listened to them more." On the other hand, you're more likely to lose yourself to thought.
This is the sort of messy story I like. After significant events, characters should spend some time in a euphoric or miserable state. They need time to sort things out and make great or terrible decisions as they begin to learn and change.
Writing a disjointed tale, one that is messy and all over the place, can sometimes be serendipitous to the read. Unfortunately, they require a second or two of patience, but they tend to be worthwhile in the end. While we all - myself included - are influenced by the norm of it-has-to-make-sense-by-page-two, we should consider reading a novel in which things aren't linear and don't always make sense right away. At the beginning, you might think, "Now why would Character A do that?" It's likely you'll know the answer in the next few pages, as long as you're willing to travel to past, the future, throughout the present, and somewhere else in time.
He's a rough snippet or my disjointed narrative in-the-works:
from His Daughter
Someone in the mob yells “bastard” at my second-story bedroom window. They all sway in my front yard, trying to keep warm and all yelling the same word. They’re like geese calling . And considering I’m a girl, their insults don’t even make sense.
On the tenth anniversary of the bridge incident, I remain indoors, hiding. I don't understand these people, or how they can ridicule me for a past I did not control. Just because my father murdered those eight people, doesn't mean I possess the same blood-lust. I’m not like my father. Not at all. Consider this my confession.
It's the third day of October, and in Lakeside that means something—means something more than any Halloween. This day means something more than any goddamn Styrofoam cup of hot apple cider or ghost costumes made from bed sheets. Halloween’s essentially a holiday when kids pretend they are things that matter. The third of October is the day when the adults of Lakeside do the same. At times, however, the mob in my front yard means nothing more than the crinkled, dead leaves on my front lawn.
The protests mean more nine years ago, when I’m ten—the first time anyone gathers in my front yard. I still live with my mother. My mother still lives.
"I don't know what they want from us, Cameron," mother says. She gazes out the front windows of the living room, her eyes barely peeking between the blinds. She shakes her head every so often and mutters something I cannot quite understand. I don't know that she really says anything; perhaps, her words are as broken as her thoughts.
The second anniversary of the bridge incident isn’t much better. I lie on my bed the entire day, alone in the townhouse; my uncle out somewhere. It's a narrow place. Hardly accommodates three, which by some standards, is significant. To me it means a little less than half as many people as my father killed. I need people around—as many as possible. Otherwise the world hates me; radiates animosity, hot and stinging. On the second anniversary I pray to God—something I haven't done in years. I ask for my mother back. I ask to go back in time so I can take the gun out of her hands.
I prepare for the day, sliding neon green gages through my earlobes. I brush my teeth and straighten my black hair. Setting the straightener down on my sink, I glance at the pack of cigarettes on my medicine cabinet. I pull them down and flip open the lid only to find that the box is empty. “Fuck,” I mutter to the mirror.
Moving on, I slide on black and blue Chuck Taylors and creep downstairs to my living room windows. Through parted blinds, I see the mob taking a break. They all sit on the ground, munching on thick sandwiches stacked with deli meats and generic American cheese and foam cups of steaming something. It’s all routine procedure for us, like we’re counterparts, except I’m not the one allowed to take a break.
Changing my direction, I sneak underneath the windows and scurry out of my backyard. In case I haven't painted the right picture yet, this is what it's like every October 3rd. Normally I would stay indoors, but a mob on your front yard will make anyone want a cigarette. Even if you don't like cigarettes, you can understand what this feels like to me. Imagine having to sneak around your own house or town for a large cup of coffee. I have been denied such simple guilty pleasures. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t just stay indoors. Then again, I won’t succumb to their torturing.
Determined to have my safe blanket of cigarettes, I head down the street, where something heinous is bound to happen.
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