Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dry Run: Update 10

The other day--wait, did I write about this already?  I honestly can't remember.

They hired a new second-in-command at my work not long ago, and the other day, he saw me with my notebook, and asked me what I was doing.  Luckily, I was on my break, so I didn't have to lie that I was, uh, making a list of people I needed to kill or something.  I told him it was a story, and he asked me what it was about.

Now, if you're a writer, you'll get that question from time to time, right?  And you never really know if they are actually interested, or if they are just saying that in the same way that you say, "Oh, that's good," when someone tells you they're fine, or you say, "Oh, that's too bad," when they tell you they passed a kidney stone the size of one of the Stones of Shankara in INDIANA JONES.  But this guy seems alright, and has tried to befriend his employees rather than intimidate them, and mentioned he loved Stephen King, so I told him.

"A Western, huh?" he said, shaking his head.  "That seems pretty intimidating."

I didn't get that.  Writing about a teenaged underwear model turned terminal cancer patient seems intimidating.  So I asked him why.

He said, "Well, I imagine you'd have to do a lot of research, to make sure you got everything right, you know?"

That gave me pause.  I've never been one for research*, and in "Birth of a Sidekick," the only research I believe I ever did was to look up a list of famous kid sidekicks from the 1940's.  And that was for my frickin' Author's Note.

Should I be doing research?  Should I try to come up with facts to back up my fiction?  On a story like this, I'd be hard-pressed to find anything that could make things easier rather than harder, and the one thing I did look up (a story at least thematically similar to my own) ended up being much less cool than I thought it would be.

But you know, the more I thought of it, the more I thought I didn't have to rely on research, not for a Western like this one.  You see, the Wild West as you and I (and especially my dad) know it, didn't exist.  It was created for entertainment in the early Twentieth Century, and that entertainment influenced other entertainment, and that inspired knock-offs and imitators and lazy and brilliant Western movies, and what we know in the 21st Century is pretty much what my father's generation gave us: a Old West of gunfighters, saloons, piano players, horse rustlers, dancing girls, stagecoaches, telegraphs, Autobots and Decepticons, bartenders, old prospectors, hookers with hearts of gold, sheriffs' deputies, and drunks sleeping off the night in jail.

I know filmmakers have made fairly accurate Westerns, and Larry McMurtry would often put real-life people from the period in his books, but the response is usually that of boredom or apathy when compared with the fairly light, fairly fun Hollywood version of the Untamed West.

So the pressure, in my opinion, is off.  Especially when you (if you) read my tale and discover what it is about (shoot, did the Decepticon mention give it away?).  It seems to me that writing a Western isn't that much different than writing a Slasher movie, or a Fantasy or Sci-Fi tale set in a far-off world.

Or am I wrong?

Rish Ou--

Oh, shoot, I'm supposed to include this meter thing, aren't I?  Okay, here:

Yes, this is a shameful display that shows I did absolutely no work in the several days since my last posting, but it's not accurate.  The other day, I wrote and wrote and wrote, like a real writer would write and write and write.  And today, I tried doing the same thing, taking my laptop to the park and writing until its battery died.  And before I went to work, I plugged the laptop in just long enough to email myself the document I created, knowing it would be wildly impressive when I incorporated it into my master document.

Unfortunately, when I checked my email tonight, I had nothing but spam in my inbox, and nothing from a younger version of myself.  I turned on the laptop, and there was no email in the Sent folder either.  So, I guess I have to appear to have done nothing, the way Bruce Wayne appears to be a drunken, selfish loudmouth in BATMAN BEGINS, which isn't such a bad thing to compare myself to, when I think about it.

Rish Outfield, Novel Writer

*In college, I wrote a story that I prided myself in doing the most research I ever had before, speaking to a nurse about drugs and infection and medical treatments.  But that pride faded away when somebody in my class said, "I'm pre-med, and it's obvious you didn't do any research here."  He pretty much accused me of never opening a book in my life.  I wish I had been man enough to either a) vow to never do research again on any writing project, or b) stand up and say, "I did a hell of a lot of research, actually.  On your mother."

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