Second-Grade Reading

The writing market, and those in charge, tell me I need to write simpleton books. To be taken seriously as a writer, I must simplify my ideas to one, two, or at most three parameters (more on this in a second), and pare down character personalities so far that they are plot devices. Thus, I am expected to play to society’s second-grade reading level if I want to be successful.

I recently read a comment on a blogger’s entry about keeping entries simple. His exact words were, “Keep it simple, stupid!” I know he wrote it in humor, and I know it was sarcastic, to a degree, but he also spoke truth.

I recently watched the preview for Cloud Atlas, a movie on reincarnation made by the same guys who made The Matrix trilogy. It holds a lot of promise, and could be the next Fountain (Rachel Weiss, Hugh Jackman. Greatest movie ever made, IMHO). Yet on the Youtube page, the most liked comment (145? Maybe?) was, “I have no idea what this movie is about.”

Really. I know this movie will be a flop, just like The Fountain and The Fall and Stay and Baraka. I know it will get dismal reviews and be touted a failure in the big scene. Even if it’s brilliant, perfect, and exactly what I expect out of it, society will not understand it. Too complex? No. Too foreign. Too misunderstood. But yes, label it Other and move on.

I was made fun of quite extensively for studying English in college by friends and family that said I won’t make money, that it’s pointless (“Why study English? You know how to speak and write it, right? Who the hell cares?”). Yet I find myself above so many others in the understanding of the system. Not in a capitalistic way (and, of course, in America, the only way that counts), but in a societal way. Culture is bleeding out to Science and Money. I am blessed, through study and dedicatoin to this nare-laughingstock word English,to sit and understand all the brilliant depth of good writers/moviemakers/singers/performers while the businessmen, engineers, lawyers, and accountants say, “That’s too complex for me.” (No offence to anyone in those fields. They’re needed, and I have great respect for them.) People don’t understand the importance of complexity, of mental hoops, of digging down the convergent depths of quantum possibility. (Example: my brother, studying to be a mechanical engineer, posted a great flash video of a physicist explaining, in very simple terms, the 10 dimensions and how they correlate to one another. Yet, when I open my mouth about reincarnation, he laughs as if it’s some kind of religious voodoo. The two are directly connected.)

What’s the point of studying English, literature, or any other language? We study the connective tissue. We study the ligaments that tie the great civilization-being together. We study all those things that make all the other things work. Yet the connective tissue is disintegrating. The ligaments are tearing, popping, and for some strange reason (not strange to me), American society is falling. Why? Not because the moneymakers are making too much money–they’ve perfected the art. Not because engineers are getting lazy at engineering–power output is at the highest it’s been… ever. But because all the things that tie Science, Technology, and Culture together are being disregarded, disposed of, and removed.

Now, back to the parameters. 1) My MC for IGMAN is about as multifaceted as they come. He’s dark-skinned, adopted many Eastern spiritualistic traits, and has a world consciousness. He’s a loner, suffers from PTSD and high anxiety, is hyper-sensitive to criticism and his own reality is an amalgamation of real, imagined, and the Astral. Oh, and he’s a vegetarian. 2) My MC sees Astral energy, and has abilities most don’t because of it. 3) My MC lives in a world where death isn’t seen as permanent, but transitory, and all the things that come with knowing death isn’t the end. 4) My MC fights demons with archaic, obscure magic. 5) My MC wants to help people and simultaneously also wants to die.  Someone recently told me to “tone it back.” Tone what back? Remove all but one of the ten aspects of him that makes him different from most Americans? Change this to a non-fiction fiction literature novel? I didn’t understand: Except for two traits, this character exists in the real world. As a real person I know. This book is nearly biographical. When reality is more complex than fiction, Something is Wrong with the Picture.

The advice of “Keep it Simple, Stupid” has its merits. I understand where it comes from and why it’s important. If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t have a firm enough grasp of it. Overexplanation is the death of good flow. Yet the world is full of 9 to 5 retail clerks with big dreams and small wallets, where the only tool is the written word. The world is full of complex, complicated people in simple, dynamic environments. I’ve yet to meet a “Simple” thinker. Even the guys I know that have burned out on hard drugs are complex enough to merit a complex book–maybe even moreso.

Keep it simple unless you have a story to tell that requires many simple things adding up. Keep it simple until you realize you’re writing caricatures. Keep it simple if you’re pursuing genre fiction created entirely out of your imagination. Keep it simple unless you’re writing research papers, compiling data for companies, or mapping assets/expenditures for a business (no other professional field writes simple, and just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I should dumb down what I have to say for everyone else to feel comfortable reading it).

I refuse to settle for mediocrity just because bigwigs tell me I should. I have too much faith in society: my goal is to raise it to my level, wherever that may be, and show everyone what they’re missing by ignoring the writers.

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4 thoughts on “Second-Grade Reading

  1. It’s great that you refuse to lower your own standards to create a product that’s more palatable for mass audiences. I never thought you would.

  2. …did you just use me as a ranting device? Cause i don’t remember you ever talking to me about reincarnation besides telling me “it’s about reincarnation” regarding the cloud atlas movie.

    And if you weren’t, then you read into my laughing at your assumption that i didn’t understand the movie’s premise to a point that was wrong.

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