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Sunday, August 15, 2010

FRIDAY CHALLENGE Submission Formats

The question once again seems to have come up: why do I have an unreasoning objection to FC entries submitted as audio files? The answer is that I don't. In fact I have had a lifelong love of the radio play as a storytelling medium, and still feel that Vidad and KTown's "Heather Has Two Mommies, Three Daddies, A Pig's Spleen and a Baboon's Heart" is one of the most entertaining entries we've ever received.


(You knew that was coming, didn't you?) The thing I've observed in writing group after writing group, for more than thirty years, is that a really good story teller can sell listeners on a story that, on later reflection, makes no sense whatsoever. I first ran into this in a writing group in which the working method was for each writer to read his or her story aloud. We had one writer who had a magnificent baritone reading voice, worthy of Charlton Heston, and as the saying goes, could read the phone book out loud and make it sound exciting. We all loved to hear him read his stories—and then, after the meeting was over, a few of us would be cleaning up, and we'd start looking at each other, and then somebody would invariably ask, "Uh, did you understand [name]'s story? 'Cause I gotta tell you, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about."

More recently I was in a screenwriting group composed largely of wanna-be and out-of-work actors, and observed the same principle in operation, in spades. These people all had a pronounced tendancy to write great lines, and sometimes great scenes, that sounded great while the writer was reading them. But all too often a good dramatic reading obscured the fact that there was nothing connecting one scene to the next, and no overall sense to the work. These people were producing patchwork quilts of cool images and strongly dramatic interactions, not works with any central—or even coherent—ideas.

I dunno. Perhaps I'm just stuck in the last century. I've certainly watched enough movies lately that seemed to be the results of the patchwork-quilt writing process. And the prevailing wisdom does seem to be that to be a successful writer in the Internet age, you can't just write: you've also got to have a Facebook presence, a Twitter channel, and a YouTube hit with a million views. I don't know that I really believe that, as while there certainly have been enough publishing contracts signed, and booklike cellulose products manufactured, marketed, launched up the bestseller lists like skyrockets and then instantly remaindered, I've yet to read a coherent book actually written by a talk-radio host or a prominent blogger—or at least, by one who was not already a successful print writer first, before transitioning to electronic media. (Ghostwritten books don't count.)

But... your thoughts? 
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