Patterson, Tolkien, King, it’s assumed that if you read, you read names like these. They’re great writers, to be sure –– dominant forces in their genres. But everyone has a story to tell.
Haughty readers almost turned me off of writing in high school. I handed a short story to a teacher and mentioned how much I thought she would like it.
“Who wrote this?” She asked.
“I did,” I said.
She took the paper. Three days later, she gave it back. It bled with painful red markings, noting mistakes that were totally valid. On the last page, she wrote:
Concentrate on the class readings. You’ll learn a lot from <whomever the fuck we were reading in class>.
Being the arrogant little prick I was, I decided to submit another story I wrote, but changed the by-line to the author we were reading (again, I’ve totally forgotten who this was; high school was a looooong time ago).
“I took your advice,” I said. “Here’s a short story I found from the early years of <author>.”
“I’ve never heard of it, but I can’t wait to read it.”
The next day, she asked me to stay after class and pointed out a particular paragraph. I think the story was about fantastic creatures –– I was into Magic: The Gathering at the time.
“This is a good story,” she said. “Look how well this creature is described. The author put the perfect picture of it in our heads with only a few words. He let us fill in the blanks as we read it.”
It’s ironic that I suck at description now, unless it’s of that minimal sort. It’s also interesting that she mentioned how the author showed “signs of being new to writing,” but didn’t call them “mistakes.”
No <Writer> is Welcome in His Hometown
If we know people, we assume that they aren’t capable of what so-called “great people” are or were. We know them, their faults, their skill level…their age. We know that they haven’t been working at something for very long, and possibly even envy them for having the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.
Twenty years later, I don’t think I’m the equal of the author I impersonated, but my teacher assumed that because I was young and had terrible grammar (still do), that I couldn’t tell a story.
Everyone has a story to tell. And if they’re honest in the telling, it’ll be worthy of reading, if you’re okay with them making the “mistakes” that popular authors cover by saying they’re “breaking the rules.”
What fucking rules?