It’s Going to Have All the Right Stuff
April 27, 2023 § 23 Comments
By Victoria Lynn Smith
I’ll write the best damn piece of shit that I can write today.
I’ll bare my soul, not keep anything back, not be afraid to reveal my inner being to the world, you know, I’ll get real. Truth will explode from the prose.
I’ll hybrid, genre bend and mix, braid and twist, and be lyrical in all the right places, in just the right measure.
It will have a hero’s-journey, three-act-play, save-the-cat plot all rolled up into one.
The tragic will be seasoned with a dash of humor—the ironic, wry kind that only the best of readers will get.
Backstory will be pertinent, inciteful, limiting, expanding, and perfectly placed.
You’ll know what all my characters want, and who doesn’t want them to have it. And perhaps, in a warped turn of events, they will sabotage their own desires.
You’ll immediately recognize the validity of my characters and the veracity of their words. Even the unreliable narrators will speak a form of truth.
The characters will be so dimensional that they’ll stand up on the page, illuminated holograms of themselves. You’ll declare, This character is just like my arthritic uncle Joe, my first love in third grade, my obnoxious roommate in college, the butcher who smelled of booze at the meat market.
My badass characters will be loveable in a dark, mysterious way. You’ll want to sleep with them, and you might, but if you do, it’ll be a one-night stand. Because they’re just a little too badass. But you’ll remember them, wishing you could’ve reformed them just enough.
My goody two-shoes characters will be flawed in a light, bubbling, tickle-your-nose-with-champagne way. You’ll want to sleep with them, and you probably will, but if you do, it’ll be a short-term fling. Because you’ll both move on to other stories. In your golden years, you’ll recall them as the ones that got away.
My villainous characters will harbor all your darkest fears, will be unredeemable and keep you up at night. Unreformed, they will haunt your quiet corners.
Dialogue will be snappy, understated, overstated, implicit, explicit, and like two ships passing in the night, talking about different icebergs they’re trying not to hit.
Taste and smell and sound and sight and touch will pulsate in every passage. You’ll taste the sunsets; smell the tunes little chickadees sing; hear the moonbeams bounce off the earth; touch the air, feeling its atoms; and see the odors of wet dogs lying on the floor.
Twists and turns of plot will give you a thrilling ride. Sitting in your roller coaster car, you’ll see those twists and turns yet not see them, and when you ride over the sentences and paragraphs and pages, you’ll zip along, screaming, “I didn’t see this coming, but I bloody well should’ve.”
I’ll start in the middle of the action, so you’ll be in the middle of the proverbial car chase/love affair/homicide/dysfunctional family that will lead to a bad accident/broken heart/dead body/estrangement, denting up more cars/hearts/bodies/egos than you can find in a junkyard/pickup bar/morgue/family reunion. And dismembered limbs/vases/bullets/insults will be flying everywhere. And you’ll turn the page and keep reading because you’ll want to know how it all comes out. You’ll want to know: Who started this? Who made it worse? And who in the hell is going to stop it? And in the end, squad cars and ambulances will come. Fire trucks will douse flames. Traffic will be redirected. Counselors and therapists will arrive. Characters will be hauled away. Messes will be cleaned up. And everyone will be changed, damn it.
Just as I started the story late, I’ll leave early, before you know all the answers. Overt is passé, implied is chic. You’ll need to figure out what it all means in the grand scheme of the universe. Form a book club to discuss its deepness, its symbolism, its thematic reverberations. I’ll include discussion questions at the end.
Maybe my best damn piece of shit won’t turn out to be the finest. But I’ll write anyway because I love to.
It’s much better than doing dishes.
Victoria Lynn Smith writes short fiction and essays, with varying results. She was inspired to write “It’s Going to Have All the Right Stuff” after reading Charles Baxter’s essay “All the Dark Nights—a Letter” from his book Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of Literature. In his essay Baxter recounts his early days as a writer and his ups and downs. Because it was late at night, and because she was overly tired, and because Baxter’s words struck a cord with her, Smith was laughing out loud by the time she finished his essay. Instead of going to bed she grabbed her laptop and started to write. Read more at Writing Near the Lake.
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That’s very clever. And it sounds exactly how I’ll write my next piece of fiction—tomorrow. 🙂
Thanks. I also aspire to keep a lot of this in mind when writing creative nonfiction.
Delightful! Smith has included everything I’ve learned in a multitude of writing classes in one essay. It’s a keeper!
I was thinking the same thing!
Thank you, Lois. I had fun writing about all of the things writers try to achieve when writing.
Yes! It could serve as a checklist!
Your bell sings, I am listening . . .
Thanks, great post! Has it all, suggests more . . .
Thank you. Sometimes it’s just fun to have a sense of humor about the crazy world of writing.
Brilliant! Sharing far and wide –
Thank you so much!
Just what I needed to read today. Well done!
Oh thank you for this. I love it. I would love to hear you read it outloud. I would love to read it out loud to my students in a workshop. May I? Persmissions would I need to do so. Credit will be given, of course. And applause.
Judy, you have my permission to read this to your students in your workshops. I was a teacher for years and I believe in sharing material. I would actually be honored if you shared it. And I’d love to hear any feedback the students have. Share my bio with them because that talks about how I came to write this piece. I love to write, but it’s sometimes a difficult process. And thank you for your kind comments.
Oh thank you so much Victoria. I will def give credit/read bio, etc. And let you know response. Such a lively piece and what we all want for our writing (and seldom get!). Also just wanted you to know I ordered Charles Baxter’s book on your rec. I have his other too craft books. Thanks for all this.
By golly, I’ll buy a copy of that!
Victoria, you had me at “I’ll write the best damn piece of shit that I can write today.” Forget action or thrillers–write humor!
Thanks, Karen. I do like writing humor. And I’d like to write more of it.
Masterful. Now how to achieve all this with a boring, nothing-happens story, with entirely unsympathetic characters, a quiet novel that foretells the end of everything? I would settle for someone to read it. Anyone at all. Ha!
I will surely want to have a taste of the mind blowing book in my head…