Skip to main content

First Post, about Palahnuik's "13 Writing Tips"

After a good, long run, we have decided to close our forums in an effort to refocus attention to other sections of the site. Fortunately for you all, we're living in a time where discussion of a favorite topic now has a lot of homes. So we encourage you all to bring your ravenous love for discussion to Chuck's official Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. And, as always, you can still post comments on all News updates. Thank you for your loyalty and passion over the years. These changes will happen June 1.

Below are long-winded, poorly written justifications for a seemingly unrelated arguement... (Scroll down for the [B][COLOR=Red]ACTUAL POINT[/COLOR][/B] [in caps/red])

I am 22. I just graduated college (Boston College). The first thing I heard in Freshman high school English was, "You need to learn the rules before you can break them." I majored English/Philosophy in College (Eng Lit, Not creative writing). I eight years, I never learned grammar. Grammar Nazis are pricks, but they are necessary. I admire them, even when they embarrass me.

I posted this [I]here[/I] because I couldn't find a better place. That's a half-lie. I am also too cowardly to start a new thread (this is my first post). I just read "13 writing tips" by Chuck Palahniuk. His 2nd point hit home with me, [I]"Number Two: Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don't be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. My personal theory is that younger readers disdain most books - not because those readers are dumber than past readers, but because today's reader is smarter. Movies have made us very sophisticated about storytelling. And your audience is much harder to shock than you can ever imagine."[/I] (Palahnuik)

This is an issue I've been thinking about a lot lately. We are more SOPHISTICATED, but we are NOT SMARTER. We are basically just starting out farther down the line. We are stepping on the shoulders of our forefathers (JP reference). If you are looking at the progression of artistic tastes as a long line of logical conclusions, we got to take all the long, well thought-out, fiercely debated breakthroughs of the people before us, FOR GRANTED.

Example: The Movie "Shoot Em Up" (2007, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Belucci) displays the point that I've taken far too long to make. Shoot Em Up is a parody of the bad-action movie genre. It is a bad-action movie that is SO bad, that is it clear that it is being done IRONICALLY. It is hilarious. The action is great, and they do it in a way that the viewer knows it is a joke.

This way, they get to hit viewers from both ends. They please lower tastes with over-the-top action, and please higher brow/more intellectual tastes with a sense of ironic detachment. It's a great movie, BUT...

THIS MOVIE IS BAD FOR VIEWERS. THIS MOVIE SETS A PRECEDENT THAT WILL HURT ALL MOVIE WATCHERS. If movie studios think they can get away with producing a low-quality product "Ironically", then we will never see QUALITY again. This extends throughout all of art. Today's audiences are so "jaded" and "SOPHISTICATED" that many times the "IRONIC" turn is doing what the normal person would expect.

I think you know what I mean. In movies, books, television, (even video games) etc... the genres are so WELL DEFINED along incredibly specific and rigid guidelines that as soon as the characters and setting are introduced, you already have a picture of : the plot, the plot twists, and dramatic conclusions. If this is your baseline, then the IRONY would come from double-faking the viewer/reader and NOT surprising them (i.e. leading them on like you're going to make a big twist, but then just giving the most obvious conclusion).

This is a problem because it leads to a complicated meta-game situation of thinking. A situation where there are so many levels upon levels of reasoning that you can make anything and pretend its QUALITY. You can make a huge piece of shit, and call it ironic. You can make a mediocre product, and call it a parody of the current situation. You can make a crazy, artsy surrealist piece, and call it challenging. I'm not saying movies can't be made with this type of concept and be good. I'm saying that this leads to a situation (similar in many ways to modern visual art), where you can take a shit on a canvas, write a paragraph justifying it, and its genius.


[COLOR=Red][B]Issues to address:[/B][/COLOR]
1) Modern sophistication in artistic tastes has created rigidly and specifically defined genres across all mediums of art.
2) This has led the modern/sophisticated consumer to view what one would normally expect, as ironic. Not surprising them (i.e. not using lots of twists) has become surprising.
3) Objectively, this is fine. It is merely a natural evolution of artistic tastes.
4) When viewed in a broader spectrum, this can lead to the destruction of quality. If studios can create pandering, low-denominator crap, but, call it ironic, high-brow parody; then, there is no reason to take a risk on interesting/challenging ideas. They will make safe, boring, crap "Ironically", and have intellectuals call it it brave, interesting, Art.
5) In some ways this has already happed to modern, visual art. It is not the painting itself that matters (i.e. its aesthetic beauty and difficulty of technique), but the few paragraphs that accompany it. Example: A white canvas is splattered with long streaks of red and black... If this comes from some prep school, upper-middle class, suburban white kid from Connecticut, nobody cares. However, if this comes from the recently saved 17 year old refugee from Darfur... it is genius. Yes, the expression of agnst [I]is[/I] far more interesting from the refugee. The problem is that you had no idea, which was which, until you read the paragraph. This creates a situation where anyone can produce anything, and make up a back story. The entire work is solely judged on the tiny paragraph next to it... the work itself might as well not even be there.
6) Conclusion: I think as consumers we should be wary of these so-called "ironic" works. They can be great, and more than a few that I've encountered are... However, we must be aware of the slippery slope.