Writing vs. Story

I love that scene in Infamous where Truman Capote tells the same story, with slight variations, at different dinner parties, to see which version goes over best with his “audience.”

capote

 

The fact is, the way that a story is told is just as important as the words used. Kind of like how the tone of voice used while talking to your significant other can either get you kissed or slapped. Are you being sincere or sarcastic? It is the tone of voice, the way you are talking that tells the listener which adjective is correct.

But you can’t rely on tone to help you in your writing. Unless you are composing something you plan to read to others, you have to utilize your language skills more carefully.

I have been thinking about writing vs. story a lot recently, because I just recently re-read Christopher Moore’s The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. It is a book I definitely recommend reading. The writing is solid, and the story is fantastic. But it is definitely a case in which the story transcends the writing, which makes it a slightly disappointing read.

lust lizard

 

 

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove has zany characters (but they work so much better than the Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club), as well as a smart, funny plot. The lust lizard is a dinosaur that has been sleeping in the Pacific Ocean, but wakes up, and is attracted to the depressed residents of the small town Pine Cove (because it preys on depressed animals), the majority of whom have been taken off of their antidepressants, due to a guilty-feeling psychiatrist who mistakenly thinks she caused a suicide via overmedication. Sounds pretty awesome, right?

It starts off strong, but somewhere in the middle of the book, I begin to lose some of my steam while reading this book. I continue to read, because I want to see how Moore wraps up the story, but I’m just not as interested. I can be interrupted mid-sentence, without being cross like Sarah in A Little Princess.

Go ahead; interrupt me again. I dare you.

Go ahead; interrupt me again. I dare you.

The reason I find this subject interesting is because it is generally mid-story that I begin to lose steam while writing. I just… care a bit less. I get a bit bored. I try to push through this, keep writing, because I can always edit it and make it better later, once I have a finished draft.

Except I’m kind of crap at editing. And finishing, actually, but that’s another story.

So, if you’re kind of bored writing the middle stuff, it will probably make it kind of boring to read, which means the readers will probably care less about how the story ends. I guess the best way around this problem is to get better at editing, and have kick ass beta readers.

Any other suggestions/thoughts? I would love to hear them!

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Story –> Writing Prompt –> The Tattoo

Shelby was not an alcoholic. She didn’t consume enough alcohol to be an alcoholic. Unfortunately, when she drank too much, she could be convinced to do almost anything. And it didn’t take much to be too much.

While she objected to the label “one beer queer,” it was accurate.

It only takes one...

It only takes one…

Fortunately, when sober, Shelby was a goal-oriented individual who was easily able to discern and carry out the actions necessary to fix the situations her drinking got her into.

Broke a lamp? She found a broom and dustpan and swept up the mess before heading home. Ripped her dress? She borrowed a dress/shirt/etc. from a closet before heading home. Slept with her friend’s boyfriend? She stopped and procured the morning after pill on her way home.

Then one late morning, Shelby woke up, head aching, eyes burning, torso extremely sore. Pulling up her shirt to ascertain the extent of her torso injury, she was shocked to be faced with the sight of Chuck Norris punching a unicorn. It was undoubtedly the worst tattoo she had ever seen… and it was on her body.

bad tattoo

She knew there were only two options on how to deal with this: cover the tattoo up with another one, or get the tattoo removed via lasers. Both options were expensive, but she couldn’t very well deal with keeping the tattoo, as it was…

No more bikinis. Seeing Chuck Norris’ furious face every time she glimpsed her torso in the mirror stepping out of the shower. Explaining the unicorn to all of her sexual partners – assuming they were still willing to seal the deal after seeing it. Because nothing is creepier than a twenty-something girl who’s still into unicorns. She could walk into the bedroom holding a knife, with blood dripping from her mouth, and it would still be less creepy than cuddling a stuffed unicorn – or worse, marking herself with one.

No more bikinis...

No more bikinis…

The thing was, while sober Shelby was an intelligent, discerning individual who could fix problems, she was also a bit of a wimp. Not quite as bad as a recovering heroine addict, but still fairly intolerant of pain. The idea of allowing a needle to torture her skin repeatedly was unbearable. The thought of a laser burning her? Possibly worse.

The solution hit her as she was nearing the end of her waitressing shift. But she needed help. Reliable help.

“Hey, Melissa,” she purred, setting down her tray and smiling at her friend.

“What do you want?” Melissa asked. Her eyes looked a bit red and puffy, and her voice was low, almost muted.

“Are you okay?” Shelby asked.

“I- I’ve just got a bit of a headache,” Melissa answered. Shelby wasn’t certain she believed her, but whatever. She needed to take care of this problem; she could get to the bottom of Melissa’s drama later.

“Well, you know what they say about headaches,” Shelby said. “There’s only one cure.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s that?” Melissa asked, raising one eyebrow in an arch display of skepticism.

“Vodka. Preferably in martini form. Possibly shaken, possibly stirred.”

Isolated Martini Glass

“That’s not going to make me feel better,” Melissa said, shaking her head.

“It might. Plus, I need help. From someone I can trust,” Shelby replied. “Please?”

After a pause, Melissa said: “Yeah, okay. At your place?”

“You know it. Call Jake and let him know I’ll be giving you a ride from work.”

“…Ok.”

*     *     *     *     *

“Who did this to you?” Melissa asked, giggling and scratching at Shelby’s torso. “This is… kind of amazing. And actually really good artwork. Are you sure you want to get rid of it?”

“Yes! Now get me drunk, and tell me to get laser removal.”

“I can do that,” Melissa replied.

*     *     *     *     *

Bright light burned through her eyelids and awoke Shelby. “…the f@#k?” she muttered, pushing herself up into a sitting position. She was on an unrecognizable orange couch. She knew that she had been drinking. And her arm hurt like a motherf@#cker.

Looking down at her left arm, Shelby spied another tattoo… of a teddy bear.

MP900314047

A high-pitched keening sound escaped her throat. This visible marker was only slightly better than the last one, but it was also far more…visible.

“Oh, you’re awake.” Melissa appeared in the doorway. She smiled, before asking: “How are you feeling, honey? Would you like some water?”

Shelby pointed to her arm, as another whine fell through her mouth.

“Yeah, you look like you need some water. Just a sec.” Melissa disappeared, returning a few minutes later with a large glass filled with clear liquid.

Shelby took it from her, sipping slowly. “Where are we?”

Woman Drinking Water from a Glass

“Oh, we’re at my buddy Zach’s house. He’s the tattoo artist who helped you today.”

“Weren’t we supposed to get rid of a tattoo?” Shelby pulled her shirt up, but the enraged Norris and victimized unicorn remained stamped on her skin.

“Well, that’s what you wanted. Until you had a few martinis in you. Then, my suggestion of a teddy bear complement really excited you,” Melissa responded.

“But… You were… Why?!” Shelby looked down at her arm.

“You know, that’s what I’ve been asking myself since I found out you slept with Jake. I mean, you knew we were pretty serious.  Why would you sleep with my boyfriend? And that’s what Jake asked me when he broke up with me yesterday. Why would he stay with me when I make him wear a condom and I have slutty friends who are happy to have unprotected, hopefully not STD-ridden sex?”

“Uh…” Shelby looked down at her arm.

“I should probably thank your drunken, slutty ass for showing me what an asshole my ex-boyfriend is. But I won’t. I’m still pretty f@#cking pissed about it right now.”

“Was it really this – ” Shelby waved her toy-infested arm before her friend – “bad?”

Melissa laughed. “Probably not. But that – ” she pointed, giggled again. ” – made me feel better. You’re still pretty inebriated, so I’m going to borrow your car so I can get home. I need to shower before heading to work. You can pick up your car, later, ‘kay? I’ll let Oliver know you’re running a little late.”

Goodbye, bitch.

Goodbye, bitch.

With a little wave, Melissa snagged Shelby’s keys off of a nearby table and walked out the door.

“Shit,” Shelby said, flopping against the back of the couch. Water sloshed onto the orange couch and floor. Her arm throbbed. Her head throbbed. And she now had two problematic tattoos instead of one.