Monday, March 7, 2016

Adventures in Writing Adventures

Further to my post about beta readers, I mentioned in a forum that I was hesitant to use them and got back a reply from someone who thought one should never write in a vacuum, and that beta readers could alert you to unconscious plagiarism or misogyny. And that right there was enough to permanently close my mind. *seals airlock*

Because as a writer of adventure stories, my job is to make people a little bit uncomfortable. Possibly even sweaty. Things could easily get bogged down and acrimonious at the beta stage.

I didn’t realize that I was a writer of adventure stories until I wrote some, having previously wasted my time trying to exude something more literary. I was in denial at first, convinced I was really writing science fiction or YA, with a side order of adventure. But no, "adventure" seems to be my primary orientation. 

Lots of people besides me have tried to reinvent the adventure tale, and most of them have done a far better job. Pulp Fiction is an adventure story at heart, with a glowing treasure and strange temples and irritable natives flaunting extreme fashions. I just saw The Good Dinosaur, in which corny Western tropes are reborn with dinosaurs swapped in for cowboys. We could talk about Star Wars, but – ow, I just slapped my own knuckles with a ruler. One digression at a time!

Adventure is like horror lite. It’s meant for kids, as well as uneducated, boorish, unrefined, profit-oriented, non-literary oafs who are reading something that inflames their senses when they could be learning something. It is upsetting to the sensibilities of the refined, who prefer the long agonizing ache of despair to the bright flare of panic. People who enjoy policing art for problematic content tend to throw up their hands when they get to adventure, as adventure is all about making you feel uncomfortable. Deliberately.

I'm not sure you could really write adventure effectively as part of a collective given the amount of deliberate button-pushing that occurs, as well as the need to dance along the tightrope of appealing to kids without warping their minds. 

Adventure is both for children and bad for children, and throughout history there have been various crusades against the kind of stories that inspire children to bounce around and bop each other with sticks. Modern readers frequently cringe at the kinds of things that were accepted as children’s entertainment in days gone by (while other modern readers fetishize the first editions). I’ve never raised any children myself, but I’ve got some in my extended family that keep me on course as far as writing stories with responsible values which probably won’t inspire anyone to commit badness, or incite enraged Twitter mobs.  

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