f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Don't Panic!: Thoughts of a Summer Intern

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, July 22, 2005

Don't Panic!: Thoughts of a Summer Intern

In taking a cue from Dave's latest deep thoughts, I thought I would tangent out on that. Debating (with myself) the key elements of a good book/story has been occupying too much brain energy these past few days. And it piggy-backs on "Mr. Difficult".

You see, to me an amazing story will have dynamic characters, a gripping plot, and a distinct voice. Which of these is the most important? Which of these can carry an otherwise painful read? But here's the question: These days does it really matter?

The reason I bring this up is that I have begun to notice how many books are being published that lack ALL of the above. I can think of a slew of examples, but I won't name names. Authors have interesting and even great ideas, yet these stories are all falling on their proverbial faces. Maybe it's just that I am an English writing major and read too critically—but I think not.

So are we as a human race mentally degenerating? Or are authors catering to the lowest common denominator? I think both.

I have begun to lose faith in my fellow man. He (or she) wouldn't know the difference between amazing and atrocious if it poked him (or her) in the eye. We have, as a people, become so dull-minded that anything harder than "See spot run" becomes too much to grasp, causing massive headaches cured only by hours of mindless TV.

Okay, that was a little over-the-top, but you get my point. So if this means that people won't challenge themselves, books that challenge them are out of the question. And here we are as writers, caught in the paradox of our time: Do we do our job with integrity and starve, or do we sell out and not care all the way to the bank?

Is there a happy medium to be found? Will humanity understand a book that is challenging? Can a book be challenging, well-written and still hit the NY Times' best-seller list?