You can’t be a writer when you constantly ask people what they want you to say.
There are “Immature Writers” and there are “Incomprehensible Writers.”
I just got back from reading a chapter or so from The Dark Tower by Stephen King at McDonalds. I’ve decided to read a McDonalds today because the seats are comfy, the lighting is tolerant, and the windows hold up the ceiling. That, and the fact that it’s 20 or so steps away from my house and everywhere else is freezing.
This morning I had the choice between reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov or The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Out of the slim selection of books I found around my house, which included, Twilight, FightClub/read, The Perfect Mile, Paradise Lost, some poetry by T.S. Eliot, and Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks, I figured The Dark Tower and Lolita were the only books worth reading at the time. I weighed out the pros and cons with each, I didn’t want to read something close to horror simply because I’m writing something in that genre and I don’t want to unconsciously steal the creativity in that work and end up writing just like it. However, as good as Lolita and the luscious details of caressing children would’ve been, I still decided to go with The Dark Tower, simply because it’s written in third person. From the numerous writing forums I’m currently participating in, a lot of people are telling me I need to work on a structure of writing in third person.
Within the First Few Pages
Within the first few pages I found myself reading the same sentences over and over and trying to focus. That’s bad. Most people would say that type of behavior is signs that I might have some attention disorder, or an inability to stay focused. Bullshit! It’s the freaking book’s problem. The book is broken! Maybe not to everyone, but if I open it and it doesn’t make sense to me, it probably doesn’t make sense to a lot of other people either. Books are supposed to draw in the reader, no excuses. It’s not the reader’s fault that they’re bored. It’s also not the fault of the reader, or most people altogether, that they’re not at a reading level of someone with a graduate school degree. What’s really the point of writing if no one can understand what you’re writing. If a tree falls in the middle of the forest and nobody’s around, do you really call yourself a writer?
People read Twilight. The only people who don’t read it, are writers. The language is too 5th grade. However, the reason for Twilight’s success was because people we’re into the idea, not because they like reading. Most people don’t even like reading, yet Twilight got practically every girl in America to not only pick up a book, but to read four of them. Most people don’t read for the poetic weaving of words or the underlying politics that hides subliminally behind every idea, they read because they want the story. They don’t want the Harvard vocab.
“Sorry Stephen! I don’t know what a god damn ‘hovel’ is!”
It is not your readers fault that he or she has no idea what you’re talking about. It is not your readers fault that they put down your book because it seemed like homework. It is no one else’s fault but yours that you were trying to speak a language that only a small minority of the world can comprehend.
But, if that’s what you’re going for, it’s your move.
“You see any beer in that refrigerator, Pete?” Chase said as he closed the back door of his SUV. He took the rifle that laid on the curb of the sidewalk and threw it into the passenger seat.
“Nope!” Peter replied, walking down the path that led out of the condo and onto the open street. “Drank it all.”
“Are you serious, boy?” Chase said with a frustrated glare in his eyes.
“No, of course not,” Peter smiled as he pulled a tall can of IPA from the inside of his jacket. He tossed it over to Chase. Chase opened the can, the fizz engorging to the edges and toppling off to the side of the beer. He brought it to his lips quickly. “Good work!” he said, curving the surface of his beard in an adequate grin. “How much salt did you find?”
“Like 3 ounces.”
“You should give it to that Colin boy.”
“Already did,” Peter reached into his jacket again, pulling yet another beer out from another pocket in his coat. Chase watched suspiciously as Peter broke the top open.
“How many pockets do you have in that thing?” Chase marveled.
“Oh, just enough pockets to hold my beer. I keep all my valuables in the pocket in between my butt cheeks.”
Chase snorted coughing up beer. Peter fashioned a silly open grin on his face. “I’m too old for this,” Chase proclaimed.
It was almost noon. Peter finished his beer, crumpled it in his hand, and threw it on the front lawn. “We need to finish loading,” Chase said, placing a half drank beer on top of the hood of the car. Peter shook his head lightly back and forth. He started to giggle lightly, until his lips parted as he started shaking in laughter. “What?” Chase asked, wondering what was so funny.
“lWhat, you too old to finish your beer, old man?” Peter said with a devious smirk working it’s way across both ends of his face.
“Nope! I’m just too old to drink like a college drop out, that’s all.”
“Hey, at least I learned how to drink like a man!”
“Son, you’re a boy. . .”
Both Peter and Chase argued until Colin walked out the front door with a box scarcely filled with things he found in the laundry room wrapped in his arms. He placed the box down next to Chase’s feet. Peter and Chase stood silently. Colin could hear the birds chirping in the trees 5 blocks away.
“You got another beer?” Colin asked. Chased turned to head to face Peter.
“You got another beer?” Chase inquired of Peter.
“Nope!” Peter replied, quick without a thought of hesitation.
Colin looked down the street to his left, and then down the street to his right. He stared back at Chase and Peter with a small pebble of confusion biting at the back of his neck. “Wasn’t there a girl with you guys?” Colin asked.
“Yeah, she’s hijacking a car right now,” Peter replied bluntly. “Why? Do you want to take those? Make her into a sexy infected zombie friend?” Peter said overconfident as he obnoxiously ranting off making musical porno sounds. “BOW CHICA WOW WOW!” Chase smiled, pulling the beer off the hood of the car and bringing it to his lips.
“No,” Colin replied soundly, “I thought you might’ve shot her in the head like Michael.”
A sudden veil of silence drew in. Peter’s laughter trailed out and dissipated. Chase stopped with his beer midway through the air. They could, once again, hear the birds chirping down the street. The silent veil was once lifted at the sound of an engine. A red Camaro appeared at the end of the of street driving in the middle of the road, sharing both lanes. They all watched her wave from the driver’s seat. She pulled up by Chase’s SUV and got out. She wore a tight fitting turquoise spaghetti string tank top that left her firm shoulders, her lean arms, and her black bra strap bare. She held her long neck high, and her narrow angled face tore a confident, almost sadistic, smile. She brushed her brunette hair back, then shook it vigorously, then tied it back in a pony tail. When she walked, Colin noticed the sound of her heavy leather boots as they stepped on the cement.
“Colin, this is Jessica,” Chase said, “You’re riding with her.”
Jessica walked up to Colin and stretched her hand out in front of him to greet him, “Call me Jessie.”
“Yeah, sure, I’m Colin,” Colin replied, staggering his words.
“Yeah I know, you’re the virgin,” Jessie smiled, her eyebrow slightly peaked. Colin could hear Peter choking on his laughter.
Colin smiled, “I guess the pleasure’s all yours.”
Jessie openly laughed. “Yep!” she replied quickly.
Colin felt a slight confusion as he remembered what Chase said. “I’m riding with her?” Colin asked, as he turned to look at Chase. “What about my sister, who’s she riding with?”
“She’ll be riding with Peter,” Chase answered.
“No, no I don’t want to do that,” he said staggering. He shook his head back and forth, “I don’t want to leave my sister.”
Chase looked at Colin. He could see the lack of courage Colin had in his eyes and the way he held himself up. At some level, Chase didn’t want to hurt his feelings but he had to be forward with Colin. “Son, you have 3 ounces worth of salt on you. It’s better if she goes with Pete.”
“Then give me more salt!” Colin asked impatiently. His voice echoed of worry as his emotions started to dig it’s way up from his torso.
“Nope!” Peter interjected, “No can do there! The most irritating thing is seeing a rookie panic and throw all our good salt onto one infected. It’s just logic.”
“Then I won’t do that! I’m not leaving my sister,” Chase yelled, his voice becoming more and more desperate.
Chase, finally finishing his beer, crumpled it and threw it onto the front lawn. He exhaled, wiping his brow and forehead with his open palm. “Look, have you seen these things coming. They come at you in waves. And people panic. It just happens. Now there’s no telling how many of these are going to be out there, and there’s no telling how you’re going to act. It’s not that we don’t like you, it’s because we’re out here trying to save our own ass at the same time. Do you understand? I’m not ready to trust you! We all aren’t!”
Colin turned away. Colin understood what Chase was asking of him. They couldn’t spare the salt, and Colleen was just safer with Peter.
“. . . okay,” he said hesitantly. “She could ride with Peter.”
Peter looked around, turning his neck and scanning the yard and the front of the condo walls. “Where is your sister?”
Colin wrapped his arm around the cans of food in the cupboard, pulling them over the edge of the shelves and dropping them into a cardboard box. He knelt down and opened the cabinets under the sink. He scanned the labels of all the different soaps and kitchen cleaning products. He could hear Peter’s footsteps behind him.
“Hey Pete, should I grab dish washing soap?” Colin said looking over his shoulder.
“Well, dish washing soap is as effective as it is against normal people.”
Colin, confused, looked back at the label and then looked back at Peter, “. . . so, no?”
“Not unless you want them to smell like lemon zest.”
“Oh,” Colin put the dish washing soap back down. “I do like lemons,” Colin said, turning to look back at Peter.
An awkward dimly lit silence wrapped around the kitchen where Peter stood and Colin knelt. Peter held his stare until he turned away; unsure as to what Colin meant by mentioning his admiration of lemons. He slowly tilted his head to the side wondering if he just didn’t understand what Colin was referring to.
“What else is there?” Peter asked, ignoring the remark.
“There’s some Lysol. Will that work?”
“Yeah grab that, you want things with chemicals,” Peter nodded, “Using chemicals against the infected should work in tight situations. It won’t kill them, but it’ll definitely sting.” Colin nodded, his face focused on the products under the sink.
“Did you find any salt?” Peter asked.
“Not much,” Colin replied, “There’s a salt shaker on the counter over there.”
Peter walked over to the kitchen counter. The salt lay in a small 3 oz glass container amongst the pepper and other spices. He carefully pulled the salt from between the paprika and parsley and placed it in an open available space on the counter.
“Colin, come here. I want to show you something,” Peter said. Colin got up and walked next to Peter while he was slowly turning the cap off of the salt shaker.
“You probably already know this, but salt, it’s very important. The infected are like slugs, they have sensitive skin. Throw salt on them, and they bubble. Now it’s not like chemicals, it’s way more effective. The salt digs into them. Over time the salt will reach their brain, their organs, and it’ll eventually kill them.”
“Why can’t we just shoot them?” Colin asked.
Peter raised his brow, smiling as if he just heard something funny. “How many bullets do you think we have? How many random gun stores do you think there are out in suburbia? How many lucky houses have an weapons armory just casually sitting around? Yeah, they’re humans. You could stab them, you could shoot them, they could break a bone. But have you seen these things? They run in packs. Twenty, thirty, forty, maybe even more. I mean it’d be cool if this were a video game and we had infinite ammo, but it’s not. Every bullet could be our last.”
Colin stood quietly attentive as he listened to Peter. Peter pulled a small woven sack out of one of the pockets in his cargo pants. He pulled a string on the sack to unravel an opening. He then took the salt shaker and started pouring the salt in.
“See if you throw one of these sacks into a wall, it explodes. If you throw it hard enough into an infected, it’ll explode. Pour a line of salt on the floor and they won’t start bubbling, but they’ll definitely start reacting to it. It’s the most useful weapon against a swarm of infected.” Peter pulled on the strings of the sack tightly sealing it closed. “Salt is very important!”
Peter held the salt in his open hand leveling it up and down to acknowledge the weight. He turned to face Colin who stood attentively, “Be my Valentine?”
Peter placed the sack filled with 3 ounces worth of salt into Colin’s open palms as if it was the only thing that mattered. Colin felt the light weight on his palm, and thought about how essential 3 ounces of salt must be worth.
Right now it was worth their survival.