How to Write the New Story

WRITING THE BETTER SHORT STORY

feather pen

ONE THING which surprised me after we released to the world the first3-D” multiple viewpoint short story is how not-obvious the technique appears to people. A tribute to how well the tale is put together to maintain momentum and flow, despite there being 82 individual mini-chapters, with continual switching of point-of-view– what had been told to me by esteemed literary writers should never be done by the serious writer.

(When an expert tells you something is impossible, or shouldn’t be done, that’s exactly what you want to work on accomplishing.)

MOST story writers maintain a single viewpoint throughout, whether that of one character, one consciousness, or for the more ambitious, the omniscient narrator, who in a short story still tends to have a narrow focus. Many use first person, which strongly emphasizes the single viewpoint.

A similar narrowing effect is created when writers eliminate quote marks normally used to distinguish when characters are speaking. (See Sally Rooney.) This strengthens the solipsism of the work. Many writers today, focused more on themselves than the reader’s experience, are solipsistic.
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The new 3D fiction writing technique destroys all of this to bring in a multiplicity of viewpoints. Shifting angles, so that characters, events, and the world are viewed multidimensionally. The technique gives a more real depiction of the world, but also makes for a faster-paced story. “Vodka Friday Night” compresses enough plot and number of characters for a short novel into a 7,000-word short story. The overall effect of the piece becomes more concentrated. Intense. Dynamic.

HOW IT WORKS

A few simple tricks are utilized to do this. One is dividing the story into chapters, making sure each one is extremely brief. Separating them in some way, whether by asterisks, titles, or chapter numbers. F. Scott Fitzgerald did this in his long 1920 story “May Day.” Jay McInerney did something like this as well in his 1998 novella, Model Behavior. (I’m sure other authors have done so also.)

How brief of chapters?

I settled on a 240-word limit. Fitzgerald’s “May Day” chapters are way longer– except for the concise conclusion, which comes in at 238 words.

I came to the limit though by having the McInerney book open before me, on a particularly A.D.D.-tired eyes day, and choosing which chapters held my interest at a glance, and which didn’t. The ones at 240 words or less always came out right.

If you notice in the “Vodka” story, I also play with time in it, using a flashback or two, or not putting a few sections in strict chronological order. The idea being that we don’t experience the world in a straight line. Interspersed with the moment may be memories of past happenings, or images of future dreams.

There’s a lot more which can be done in that regard. The idea is to get the short story out of the narrow corridor it’s been trapped in, by playing with both time and space. (Ideally, expanding the number of views, characters, directions, broadens the work.)

THE RESULT

The result is a faster-paced yet more involved story. The reader enters a new world– of hyper-experience.
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I plan on using other tricks in future prototypes. My co-editor Kathleen Marie Crane plans to do so as well. (Her first foray into the idea was when she took the title story from her short story collection, “Aloha from Detroit,” and rewrote the same events from the perspective of another character– which we ran at New Pop Lit as “Aloha from Detroit Revisited.” Reading both stories one after another adds roundedness; depth.)

THERE REMAIN many, many aspects of the short story form which can be played with. It’s time writers began playing with them.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

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Anti-Consensus Theory Applied to the Literary Game

FOUNDATIONS OF 3-D WRITING

Teslathinker

THE PREMISE of the 3D Short Story and the New Pop Lit project is that literature can become not only better, but way better.

We humans are at a primitive understanding of most worldly things. Including the nature of art and the waves and flows of cultural history. Yet expected consensus on this issue or that one is the rule of the day. We’re expected to agree– even if agreement is impossible. Because total knowledge for us is impossible. It’s usually one side attempting to impose its unique perspective on another side.

The classic work addressing the pack mentality is The Crowd by Gustave Le Bon. (Much studied by creators of the Madison Avenue ad industry.) Itself a primitive work, for all its insights.

We can reach a consensus on some things, sure– that the earth is round. That planets revolve around the sun. As often as not a consensus is wrong. Especially if accompanied by arrogance or complacency.

Robert-McNamaras-by Cecil Stoughton

The classic example of that is brainiac Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and his team of the “Best and Brightest” who blundered into, then misfought the Vietnam War. (Replayed forty years later in Iraq.)

JFK_best and brightest

They had their charts and computer models and “experts” generating reams of data– kinda like the FiveThirtyEight crowd in the last big election– and broke the fighting of war down to a matter of graphs, statistics, and body counts. Then were outfought or at least outlasted by impoverished bands of guerrillas. The lessons of arrogance.

The lesson is that one needs to continually search for counter narratives. Other sides.

Sometimes statistics are the counter narrative. Sabermetrics was a leap ahead in understanding the well-regulated game of baseball. But other leaps await, even there.

nixon chou

We need modesty about our understanding of anything. The kind shown by Chinese Premier Chou En Lai in 1972, who, when asked by Richard Nixon his opinion of the French Revolution, said “It’s too soon to tell.”

IN THE ARTS we can assume the current consensus is wrong. Art has always been about cultural change. Change, and more of it. Mimicking the nature of the universe. An art reaching moments of perceived perfection– then throwing the moment over in the interest of discovering an entirely new way of viewing things.
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We should strive for the imagination of a Nikola Tesla, who circa 1880 imagined fantastic happenings– who conceived then the world we live in now. The trick is to look beyond the moment, the “now”– what’s directly in front of us– to envision new ways of thinking and creating.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Reinventing the Short Story

CAN THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY BE REINVENTED?

question mark

MOST in the established literary scene would say, NO. They scoff at the idea. To them, work from currently approved writers– most if not all of them the product of prestigious writing programs– is the best of all possible worlds.

officer training(Photo public domain.)

The graduates are like soldiers in elite units of the U.S. Armed Forces. Navy Seals, Green Berets, Airborne and the like. Best of the best. HAVE been through rigorous screening and training. ARE the vanguard and face of a gigantic billion-dollar investment in the literary art, via hundreds of university writing programs headed and taught by hundreds of extremely talented writers.

photo by Virin(Photo by Virin.)

HOW COULD THEIR STORIES NOT BE THE BEST?

THE PROBLEM is the consensus itself. Because everyone within the system believes writing produced by the system is the best possible– raved about in articles, reviews, and blurbs– no one questions it. No one looks outside the parameters of the consensus searching for ways to change and rearrange the product.

NO ONE EXCEPT US!

COMING on 3D-Day June 6th, a different model for the short story.

3D postcard 5-page-001 - Edited

EXCLUSIVELY at NEW POP LIT.
http://www.newpoplit.com 
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Critics and New Art

THOUGHTS ON THE 3D SHORT STORY

impression sunrise claude monet(“Impression Sunrise” by Claude Monet.)

THE TEST of an artistic critic is how swiftly the person adapts to artistic change. The ability to embrace the NEW and not be left behind.

EXAMPLES from the past include the rise of modernist art, beginning with the 19th century Impressionists. As Robert Hughes and others noted, the inability of art critics to keep up with change became a cliche, until anything new was automatically accepted in fear of being wrong again.

jazz singer

ANOTHER example is the transition in the late 1920’s from silent cinema to sound. Or, in the 50’s and 60’s, from “silver screen” movies to Technicolor and Cinemascope, which even as astute a film critic as Pauline Kael found difficulty dealing with, so enamored was she with smaller films of the 1930’s. Kael’s antipathy to wide screen movies was such that director David Lean once exclaimed to her, “You won’t be happy with any movie I make unless it’s shot on 16 mm in black and white!”

lawrenceof

HOW will literary critics react to the emergence of a new style of short story? One faster, more designed, more exciting than any short story offered now? A story, moreover, which fuses literary and pop elements to create a visibly different work?

Questions, questions. . . .
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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Pop Lit as Art

BASICS OF 3D STORY THEORY

ART! postcard b&w-page-001 - Edited (1)

WHAT Ernest Hemingway was working toward in his early short stories– before he adopted the persona of Papa Hemingway– was writing as art object. Whole and complete. As finished project.

MANY books and articles, too many to list, document the influence of modernist painters such as Joan Miro and Paul Cezanne on Hemingway’s writing. Though his quoted remarks are vague on the specifics of that influence, we can look at his works themselves to see. Not simply the marvelous descriptions (the opening to A Farewell to Arms for instance), but the sense of form and conciseness in his best stories. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” to name one.

HEMINGWAY was working toward something which could metaphorically be put on a wall and looked at– meaning, seeing the entirety of the work. Moving away from linearity.

This is a starting place for Pop Lit. Emphasis on clarity and transparency. The essence of “Pop.” Pop as in an Andy Warhol painting, or in a classic two-minute pop-rock song. Or a two-minute punk rock song which gives the listener two minutes of concentrated energy, then abruptly ends.

This is what I was striving for in my experimental work Ten Pop Stories. (An ebook written under the pen name King Wenclas.) Ten pop songs– or ten pop paintings.

THE MAIN IDEA is giving the reader a sense of the American experience– as Andy Warhol in his depictions of Coca-Cola bottles and of Marilyn Monroe so brilliantly conveyed the fast-paced madness of American experience. The American civilization, which for a hundred years has been the world’s dominant civilization.

THE 3D STORY

Speed and immediacy– what this aspect of Pop-Lit theory is about. What the upcoming 3D Story form will be about, in multiples. If our experiments work, things in the literary realm are about to become very exciting.

yellowpop

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

 

Modernism and Editing

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON 3D WRITING

Paul_Cézanne_058(“A Painter at Work” by Paul Cezanne.)

Modernist art IS editing. It’s cutting away all unnecessary material and allowing our minds to fill in the empty spaces. A technique in writing pioneered by Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Georges Simenon.

These writers knew painting and they knew how a daub or two of paint could touch our emotions and allow us to “see” the reality of the image. In writing, a key touch of color or taste or sound to suggest something greater. To stimulate our memories, our own experiences.

This is the antithesis of standard literary writing which strives to tell you everything, overwhelming the narrative with details.

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AN EXAMPLE of modernist editing in another art form can be found in this movie trailer:

The film: the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. (Which WILL be playing in movie theaters across the country this month, April 14 and 17, to celebrate the film’s 60th anniversary.)

The trailer is a work of art, superbly edited to suggest the four-hour long motion picture. It achieves a conciseness, a modernist sharpness, not possible from the larger work it serves to advertise. Note especially how the unknown editor uses voice-overs from other scenes to make thematic points; and how he dissolves the two biggest sequences, the chariot race and the crucifixion, into each other.

All movies are shaped and “cut.” Material left out. The trailer is extremely cut.

The idea points a direction for those wishing to make fiction– the short story in particular– as sharp, angled, fast-paced, and exciting as possible.

Which we’re attempting to do with the 3D Story.
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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Gimmicks and Art

THOUGHTS ON THE 3D SHORT STORY

IS the 3-D Story a gimmick? Yes. Most arts innovations at first are gimmicks.

A classic example was the change from silent movies to sound ones, which began in 1927 with The Jazz Singer. In that Al Jolson flick, sound was used strictly as a gimmick– intended only for the musical numbers. That Al Jolson ad-libbed a few lines of dialogue created (according to this video) a sensation and signaled the upcoming end of silent cinema.

CINEMA in its early years progressed through continual innovation. Most of them when they were tried were considered to be gimmicks. (As movies themselves at the outset were thought to be a gimmick and not art.) Among developments: Technicolor, introduced in the 1930’s and becoming widespread by the 1950’s. The 50’s also saw the rise of wide screen film processes like Cinemascope, Vista-Vision, and Todd-AO, culminating in triple-screen Cinerama, most famously used for 1963’s How the West Was Won. The ultimate movie gimmick of course, in the 1950’s and more recently, was 3-D.

Viewing_3D_IMAX_clips

All of them began as gimmicks, but some were perfected and became standard part of the film art form.

Sound became so dominant, the making of a silent film in 2011, The Artist, was– let’s face it– a gimmick

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GIMMICKS have sustained the world of painting since the late 19th century, beginning with the impressionists–

340px-Claude_Monet,_Impression,_sunrise(Claude Monet, “Impression, Sunrise.”)

–then expressionists, cubists, Dadaists and surrealists. Abstract art, fluxus, op art, pop art. Was not Andy Warhol a genius of gimmicks?

Andy-Warhol-Stockholm-1968

Only recently has the art world run out of new ideas.

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What about music? Rock n’ roll— though it sprung from authentic American roots music– was definitely a gimmick, promoted by carny barker hustlers like Alan Freed, Colonel Tom Parker, and Dick Clark.

rock n rollers(Little Richard and Elvis Presley.)

Some might say that hip-hop began as a gimmick as well.

dmc and mc hammer(Run DMC and MC Hammer.)

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ONLY ONE arts field has displayed no gimmicks– and no progress– for sixty years: literature.

Our task is to change that.

(We’ll be ready to preview our innovative new story in one month.)

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BONUS: “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” from Gypsy (1962)–

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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Year-End Wrap-Up 2018

CONCLUSIONS OR DELUSIONS?

Paranoid-schizophrenia
(Painting c/o wikipedia commons, “outsider art.”)

2018 was a challenging year, as we injected ourselves, on several occasions, wisely or unwisely, into debates in defense of free expression and of truth.

A score of posts at this blog were devoted to our investigation of the Junot Diaz Controversy. See one of our reports here.

We also came out publicly in opposition to the depublishing of poets in response to pressure by what I called “Poetry Cops.” One of our reports on that matter is here. In this post we asked the question, “Is American literature becoming a censorship horror show?” As of this writing it remains an open question.
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AMID the noise, we found time to present some of the best fiction and poetry found anywhere, from present and future literary luminaries and of all kinds and styles. Examine them and their work at our Features line-up here.
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OUR own highlight at this blog and in our lives in 2018 was this trip back up to northern Michigan’s Hemingway country, this time for distinctly personal reasons.
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What’s in store for New Pop Lit for 2019?

More new fiction and poetry,

BUT ALSO–

We’ll attempt to reinvent the short story. That’s all.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

WHO’S NEXT at New York Review of Books?

IN HINDSIGHT–

A man at a writing desk, by Rembrandt

In hindsight, the appointment of Ian Buruma as Editor of the New York Review of Books was a disaster. Buruma was daring enough to court controversy, but not strong enough to fight for the integrity and independence of his publication.

Ian Buruma (2015)

(Ian Buruma.)

A fighter would’ve done a better job of explaining why he ran the Jian Ghomeshi essay. Why recovery and redemption are important. Why editorial autonomy is necessary– especially in a climate of rush-to-judgement lynch mobs and unthinking hysteria.

A fighter would’ve gone to advertisers– one by one if need be– to make his case. Instead, Ian Buruma became one more casualty of today’s Literary McCarthyism.

WHAT KIND OF EDITOR?

What kind of editor is needed as Ian Buruma’s replacement?

Someone who could replicate the daring intellectual excitement represented by the New York Review of Books when it arrived on the media scene in February, 1963.

1963-02-01-600x0-c-default

NEEDED: A large personality.

A contentious, voluble writer akin to Norman Mailer. A person willing to be aggressive in taking on and dispersing any unthinking mob– willing to use the momentum of intellect and power of voice to restore sanity to today’s literary world.

mailer at mic

WHO?

WHO WILL New York Review of Books choose instead?

One of two safe alternatives.

1.) Almost certainly, a woman. Knee-jerk reaction to appease the angry mob. In this time of MeToo mania, it would be too risky for their risk-averse publishers to choose otherwise. Have to remember those advertisers!

(The result: A completely neutered intellectual journal.)

2.)  IF they were to choose a male editor, it would be someone properly screened and defanged, without a shred of volatility. Fully establishment and left-leaning, on the order of smiling Keith Gessen. Ready to appease everybody. Affable, innocuous, and bland.

gessen smiling

Someone who’s had a relationship with New York Review of Books. Whose own publication, n+1 magazine was in many ways made by them.

Or someone of that kind.

(Painting: “Scholar at His Desk” by Rembrandt.)
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Media Morality Play

MORE THOUGHTS ON JIAN GHOMESHI AND IAN BURUMA

theater

LOOK into media controversies like the one involving Junot Diaz– or last week’s scandal featuring Jian Ghomeshi and Ian Buruma– and you begin to see patterns. You notice the theater smoke and stage scenery, and realize what you’re watching is a form of elaborately produced play. Cast ready; scripts on hand; producer or director lurking somewhere backstage pulling the strings.

The truth? The core truth of these matters is buried beneath layers of hysteria and noise.

As in many theatrical plays, today’s media productions involve stock characters.

A.)  Villain.

B.)  Innocent victim(s).

C.)  Hapless buffoon.

Who plays the hero?

In media morality plays, the hero is ourselves. We the Audience, observing the venality of others while congratulating ourselves for our sense of pristine justice, our virtue.

Justice is the key component of the plot. By the end of the play the villain is walked off stage in handcuffs, reputation shredded, name blackened, career over.

As We the Audience applaud.

OSCAR WILDE

Oscar_Wilde_sitting_portrait

ONE of the more famous early show trials involved Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. In 1895 Wilde, a homosexual, was put on trial for Gross Indecency. The case provoked a storm of press publicity– public outrage over private behavior.

I’ll discuss the Oscar Wilde trials and their parallels to the Jian Ghomeshi matter in a separate post.

ERROL FLYNN

ANOTHER early example of the personal scandal style of media show was the 1943 Errol Flynn rape trial. The famed Hollywood actor and well-known sexual wolf was charged with statutory rape for having relations with two under-aged women. One of them, 17 year-old Peggy Satterlee, worked as a nightclub dancer. For the trial, the producers of the morality play dressed up Miss Satterlee to look as young and as innocent as possible.

satterlee2

The staging didn’t quite come off. Flynn, a man of good looks and outstanding charisma, was miscast in the role of Bad Guy– a part usually played in his movies by Basil Rathbone.

VILLAINS

robin-hood(Rathbone and Flynn.)

TO PROPERLY stage a media morality play, you must discover the proper villain.

Since we’re fallen creatures, there’s no shortage of corruption and evil to be found. Venality and worse are everywhere. In all of us. When we assure ourselves of our own virtuousness we’re lying. The Villain stands not in contrast to our actual selves, but to the image we hold of ourselves.

RICHARD NIXON

richard-nixon_1973-09-20

From the beginning of his political career, Richard Nixon seemed cast for a villainous part. Scheming, dark-browed and jowly, oozing the air of dishonesty. A Richard III essence.

richard III
(Laurence Olivier as Richard III.)

Nixon was eventually brought low by Woodward and Bernstein, with much drama and mysteriously-scripted characters like Deep Throat.

A DIRECTOR?

jesse brown

Jesse Brown, director of the Jian Ghomeshi drama, is hyper-ambitious. His career, beginning with a series of media hoaxes, has been marked by absence of restraint. Combine this with self-righteousness and you create a dynamic force.

In this period of MeToo, potential and actual villains are everywhere, and it’s easy to become self-righteous.

IF Jesse Brown had been searching for a possible villain, CBC co-worker and rising media star Jian Ghomeshi, in looks and lifestyle, well fit the part.

Ghomeshi

Jian Ghomeshi had a taste for rough sex, and frequented bondage clubs. Not a nice guy. Ghomeshi also turned out to be notably inept, unwittingly himself providing the evidence which allowed Brown’s budding expose to find print.

CLUES as to how Jian Ghomeshi was taken down are provided by a nerdy-but-earnest filmmaker named Diana Davison. Here’s one of the videos she made about Jesse Brown and holes in the plot.

Yes, victims and witnesses were enlisted– one of them, Kathryn Borel, a good friend of Jesse Brown’s. The accusers rehearsed their lines– too well, it turned out. When matters went to trial in 2016, the testimonies of three of the witnesses fell apart. (Here‘s a different look at the trial from an unlikely source.)

Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted on the charges. Another charge, the one involving Kathryn Borel, was dropped. Ghomeshi made a token apology. Jesse Brown celebrated this as victory.

Despite the missteps, it was. Jian Ghomeshi’s reputation was in permanent tatters, and more importantly, Jesse Brown’s reputation was greatly enhanced.

WHO WOULD’VE GUESSED that two years later a bigger target would be brought down by the same production– Ian Buruma, Editor at New York Review of Books.

an buruma
Villainous? Not really. But Buruma did fit the role of bumbling supporting character. Ian Buruma and his publication still carried the mores and mindset of a long-past genteel literary scene. Slow and refined. Patriarchal. Believing in old-fashioned liberal values of alternate viewpoints. Completely unprepared for a fast-moving new world of podcasts and twitter attacks. Of morality play productions with ongoing flurries of outrage and outrageousness, melodrama and dramatics.
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MORE Can’t-Miss stuff to come. Stay tuned!

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS