The World Happiness Report is out, and the news is … cheerful. In spite of one of the most stressful years of our lives globally, people’s assessment of their own happiness didn’t change much. It’s not so much that all is well, one researcher says in the Washington Post, it’s that people aren’t giving up, our belief in the future remains optimistic. The takeaway? We are really, really adaptive.
Now that my whine is out of the way, I really thought when I sent the severely rewritten Act One to Krissie and Bob that I was done. I knew it was kind of slow, but you know, it’s Act One, so there’s some set-up there . . . .
Nope, it’s slow. I have analyzed this sucker, charted it, looked at conflict boxes, I’m ready to scream. And the horrible thing is, I can hear the wrongness of my rationalization even as I make it: But I need that information.
Readers don’t need information, they need story. Must tattoo that on the inside of my eyelids.
Yale has a course in happiness that’s been getting rave reviews for years. It’s available on Coursera (see link below) for those who want to study happy. I’m at the point where I don’t want to study anything but comic book art and the ceiling, but for those of you who still get up in the morning with a need for a song in your heart:
So I have this friend, let’s call him “Bob,” and on St. Patrick’s Day he sent this picture which has now been haunting my dreams for three days, and not in a good way. Anybody here know where it came from?
Okay, I bought a lot of Art Deco china for Fast Women, and I own all of Liz’s t-shirts and all of Nita’s socks, and . . . the POINT is that I understand getting the details right. But even I never wrote an anthem for an imaginary city state. Hat’s off to Terry Pratchett for “We Can Rule You Wholesale,” the anthem of Ankh-Morpork.
(I particularly like the second verse, which (Pratchett explains) was written by a non-Ankh-Morporkian vampire who had noticed that the world over, people faked the second verse off their anthems because they couldn’t remember the words (I have no idea what the second verse of the Star-Spangled Banner” is) and therefore tend to sing “ner, ner, hner” until they hit a bit they remember. The soprano singing this does a really good job on the “ner”s.)
I started a book I was really enjoying and then, somehow, got frustrated with–it involved the protagonist deceiving somebody–I just turned to the back to see how it came out and dropped it. I’m wondering if the single first person voice didn’t just become so annoying in its cluelessness or maybe in it’s over-the-top-ish-ness (which I originally loved) that I just gave up (there’s some pot-and-kettle going on there, I’m sure, since I’m sure my voice eventually grates, too). Great character, great voice, interesting community, but she kept charging around missing things.
On the other hand, I read a three-book series–classic modern romance, nothing innovative–about three women who’d gone together on a lottery ticket and won big. The lottery bit wasn’t a big deal, although I did wonder why they weren’t overrun by scammers, but their individual stories were different and interesting and none of the men they met would dream of sending a dick pic. They were good comfort reads, and since it was a series, I could settle into the community. I do not discount the benefits of comfort reads, especially right now as my world is coming back to life: Kate Clayborn’s Luck Series. (Note: All three had Big Misunderstandings that made me groan, but she cleaned them up nicely.)
I think every reader picks up a book of fiction and thinks, “Tell me a story.”
Not “give me beautiful writing” or “give me the psychological profile of a character” or “describe a setting vividly” or “dazzle me with a theme.” All of those things are good and to be hoped for, but the overarching need of most readers who deliberately choose fiction is “Give me a story.”
I came to this conclusion while reading the opening page of a BookBub offering. (I learn a lot from BookBub samples.)