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Transcript for Episode 1.22

Writing Excuses #22: Doing the Unpopular (Aka When DoYou Do Unpopular Things?)


The ABCs of unpopular writing. Tell the reader ahead of time (foreshadow!) the unpleasantness. Consider compromising to make good salable art, not just art. Good writing first, do what you need to make the best story, and fulfill your promises. And stick to your guns. Popularity polls doth not good writing make.

Brandon, Dan, and (still) Howard

When should you do things that are unpopular?

  • Unpopular may not be the best word.
  • One of the best things about being a writer is that you can do things to a reader that they would never do to themselves.
  • Does this sometimes hurt you? Cut into sales?
  • I’ve heard people say they are never going to read an author again, that they are too mean to their characters or they kill people that I like.
  • [skip by spoiler discussion of Serenity and discarded alternate ending to Return of the Jedi]
  • stick to your guns. Don’t try to second guess popularity with audience. Do what makes the best story.

How do you make the distinction? What makes a story better?
COW? Story in general. I have several unpublished, because I wrote what interested me.

When do you decide only I would be interested versus what’s popular?

  • I think 80% of it is deciding to make a living, that makes artistic compromises easier.
  • We should note that when someone asks what’s popular, the easiest and most true answer is good writing.

This week’s ad is for buy Dan bacon. On the webpage, there is a link to Dan’s wishlist of baconalia. [editor’s comment: You really should take a look. Why, I never knew you could get frying pan cufflinks with bacon and eggs, Kevin Bacon topless pictures, bacon mints, bacon and egg breakfast bandages, a bacon wallet, or a bacon air freshener from Newbury Comics? And who knew that Dan had a bacon fetish?]

[skip the Schlock spoilers except to note that Howard does not give away the ending, merely affirms that Tagon may threaten and bluster, but he is still one of the good guys, so real extremes are not going to happen. As he says, he set boundaries on what Howard would do. Some comics will break the tone to get a joke. Important to preserve tone.]

  • Learn how to do this – find the overlap between here’s what I want to write, and how can I do that in a way that is marketable.
  • set yourself limits.
  • Practice.
  • Know the markets.

Need to look at George R. R. Martin. He does evil, unpopular things to his readers. [muttered: he breaks his readers’ thumbs] but he’s popular. He promises that these are brutal books and delivers. This is very different from the Schlock promise of loveable rogues, but with a laugh.

Final Words: Learn how to rein yourself in. (not reign or rain, but rein)

Writing Prompt: Write a scene from the POV of a frontline grunt in an army of the undead. A grunt who gets thrown onto the spears, dies, gets reanimated, and gets ready to die again.

Howard’s amendment: You are not allowed to use the word “brains.”

And that’s it for another week.

Current Mood: unpopular
Current Music: Put A Girl In It, Brooks & Dunn