How to Write the New Story

WRITING THE BETTER SHORT STORY

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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

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

Blackballing 2018

A FICTIONAL EXAMINATION OF DEPLATFORMING AKA CENSORSHIP

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WE BELIEVE that fiction is a valid way of addressing current issues. “Fiction” can illuminate truths escaping other forms of investigation and argument.

The trick, of course, with writings that are in any way political, is making them credible. Putting balance into them so they’re not simply polemics. Not merely an unbalanced screed. Toward that end I focused as much on the failings of the lead character as on the issue he deals with. That much-dissed concept of objectivity comes into play.

The short story is “Safe Zones,” posted at one of my several personal blogs. (When deplatforming of myself occurs, eliminating all my forums and writings will be no easy task!)

***One of the things I wanted to convey in the story is how we’ve completely lost control of our own lives. That everything we do today requires a technological platform of some kind– without them, it’s difficult to live; to survive.***

Feedback to the ideas expressed, and to the writing itself, is welcomed.

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Junot Diaz: Captive of the System

THE HARASSMENT CONTROVERSY VIEWED FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE

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IF all men are monsters, then that psychic grievance needs continual proof in the form of visible examples. Junot Diaz fit that need.

THE NARRATIVE

Evidence shows the accusations against Junot Diaz to be flimsy– more a case of bruised egos or a dismissive personality than sexual harassment. Junot Diaz fans blame the accusers themselves for the controversy. (Two accusers, in fact, are ambitiously eager to exploit every opportunity to gain publicity.)

For me the matter is caused more by a politicized literary scene– and by the media which covers that scene needing a steady supply of victims and guilty. The accusers are the Id of that media– the realized expression of their beliefs and needs. Without encouragement behind the scenes, the matter would never have become a story in the first place.

THE MACHINE

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One has to write outside today’s New York-centered literary system in order to see it AS a system. Those inside it have no perspective on it.

THE PRISONER

Junot Diaz’s reaction to the accusations against him has been constrained by his membership in the club. He became successful as a creature of the machine, but now the bill has come due and he’s paying it.

MUCH has been made about Diaz hiring a PR firm, and by appearing at his Boston Globe interview accompanied by a lawyer– but these are shackles on no one so much as him.

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Did you see the expression on his face in the photo by Suzanne Kreiter which the Boston Globe used? The expression of a prisoner. What you didn’t see are the invisible handcuffs chaining him to that lawyer. Said attorney and said PR firm exist to keep Junot Diaz from speaking his mind. From being himself.

That’s a hell of a position for any artist to be in.

BUSINESS

What was the quote from the Hyman Roth character in the movie Godfather II?

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“This is the business we’ve chosen.”

Junot Diaz chose the world of establishment literature when he signed up for the MFA program at Cornell University he was later to write about in his 2014 essay “MFA vs. POC.”

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Diaz was one of the few writers of color in that writing program. He also may have been the only non-bourgeois person in it.

MFA programs teach students how to write in the proper upper-middle class “literary” style of long slow paragraphs of finely-detailed descriptions expressed in well-wrought sentences and it’s all very impressive to the cognoscenti but it’s also removed from the fast-paced real world lives of 95% of the American populace– a big reason why the short story, once the most popular American art form in the vulgar days of O. Henry and Jack London, is today only the delicate captive of writing programs, MFA grads, and New Yorker magazines sitting unread on Manhattan-or-the-Hamptons coffee tables.

manhattan c of alexkotlickDOTcom(Photo c/o AlexKotlik.com.)

It’s to Junot Diaz’s credit that his talent rises above the limitations– the handcuffs– of that very same refined writing style.

NOW he’s being judged by the same people he loathed when he was in those classrooms. Yes, those perfect beings currently staffing Buzzfeed, The Cut, Slate, The New York Times, etc. etc.; almost all from privileged backgrounds and in their Resistance daydreams looking for purpose, looking for causes, looking for harsh macho misogynists looking for anyone they can accuse hang and shred on the altar of their virtue signaling. Someone to nail to the wall for offending their sensibilities with too much reality brushing indelicately and intolerably against the fragile bubbles of their sterling New York City lives.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

View from the Dominican Republic

OUR COVERAGE OF THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY CONTINUES

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WE’VE been receiving a certain number of tips and information regarding the Junot Diaz matter and are trying to look into all of them. Several of them come from the Dominican Republic.

One, for instance, about the mysterious @Get_Hip twitter account. This person joined the anti-Junot Diaz bandwagon when news broke, claiming to be from the Dominican Republic. Journalist Anna Silman even encouraged this individual to contact her– but when “Get Hip” was questioned about her claims the twitter account swiftly vanished. One of Monica Byrne’s apocryphal 38 names?

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AMONG other emails we’ve received, I can excerpt these quotes, from individuals who wish to remain anonymous:

One (almost) invisible aspect– at least in the mainstream media–of this saga is the silence of the Dominican artistic community. Why? you might wonder. According to a well respected male Dominican writer and early supporter of Junot –and early means the time he was starving like a dog–there is a climate of fear thanks to the way some people have reclaimed the #MeToo movement or sentiment to advance their own personal, reactionary and individualistic agendas that have nothing to do with fighting for women’s liberation or fighting for a just and better world. So some people are waiting to see how it all ends. No one wants their careers, personal reputations or livelihoods destroyed by a media frenzy. Despues de la tormenta viene la calma.

And this:

When the Junot affair exploded it also had important ramifications in the Dominican Republic where most people adore him except for right wingers because of his political outlook. In social media, right-wingers used Zinzi Clemmons’ words to destroy Junot and demonstrate what a ‘pervert” and “degenerate” he was. For right wingers, Junot should be silenced at all cost for his outspoken support of social justice causes: immigrant rights, abortion, gay liberation, etc. Was Zinzi aware of the damage she was inflicting on Junot or the Dominican community? Did she know that by attacking Junot she was also silencing someone who spoke out against injustice against immigrants and other marginalized groups in society not only in the Dominican Republic but also in the US? Perhaps she never cared about the consequences or she was not aware of the activism Junot was involved. Or better yet, she never cared. The middle class never cares. Clearly, there are class issues at play. 

Zinzi and the others aided far right xenophobic elements in the Dominican Republic who now argue that Junot is a rapist or a sexual predator. Her actions damaged the reputation of one of the most outspoken writers of these last decades in the US and the world, someone who went to picket lines; denounced corrupt politicians here and abroad and expressed solidarity for the best causes. And the end, this is the story of how a media frenzy was able to silence–for the time being– a public intellectual.
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THESE quotes are a mix of information, speculation, and opinion. I’m offering them here for information purposes– our goal to present vantage points not given by the mainstream media. Take them for what you will– Dominican writers can better judge their accuracy than I can.

THOUGH I think in some sense the affair is over– or should be over, given what’s been discovered about the weakness of the accusations against Junot Diaz– I also believe there’s more to find out about the larger picture. Including the full role of media people in creating this controversy on May 4.

If YOU have credible information to add, feel free to send it to us c/o newpoplitATgmailDOTcom.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

How Does a News Story Go Viral?

PUBLICITY IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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I ADMIT IT. I’m amazed at how fast the publicity game has changed, thanks to social media. Compared to ten years ago, the creation of buzz moves now at lightning speed.

It’s the difference between military techniques in World Wars One and Two. The speed of blitzkrieg in the latter contest revolutionized the game.

As I’ve said a couple times in this series: Who wins the debate over the sexual harassment allegations about prize-winning author Junot Diaz will be decided by who’s better at PR. Institutions (MIT; Boston Review) cleared Diaz, but it’s out of their hands. In the new media age, static bureaucracies have been left behind.

A key post of ours in this regard is “System versus Zeitgeist.”

The Junot Diaz camp is now fully in the game with their army of twitter fans and trolls. They’ve moved quickly up to speed. Will it be enough?

We have two opinion armies maneuvering against one another online– across twitter, blogs, and media sites.

The accusers’ side has made significant mistakes– but their opening moves in the chess game which began May 4th were breathtaking.

CREATING HYSTERIA

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THE GREATEST publicity feat of all time was the creation of Beatlemania. Most people believe it was spontaneous. Yeah, yeah, the band was talented and young people liked them. As simple as that? Not really.

In November, 1961, Liverpool record store manager Brian Epstein saw an unkempt band playing in an underground club in that beaten-down UK working class city and thought, “I can make these guys bigger than Elvis Presley.” A hidden genius behind the scenes, Brian Epstein was in back of every step of the band’s rise. Some of the facts of how he accomplished this are known. For instance, mass hysteria in New York City in February 1964 when the little-known (in America) band landed for the first time. Reluctant Capitol Records was forced by Epstein to spend $70,000 ($570,000 in today’s dollars) to promote their arrival and the concurrent release of their single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

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WE ALSO know the mob of kids holding signs at the airport wasn’t a spontaneous happening. Their presence was arranged. The kick-off of Beatlemania was staged.

MAY 4 ANTI-JUNOT DIAZ HYSTERIA

I’m still amazed at how quickly fervor against Junot Diaz took place. Three threads of tweets from Zinzi Clemmons, Monica Byrne, and Carmen Maria Machado taking place in the middle of night, one right after another. By morning they’d gone viral. To such extent that The Cut’s Anna Silman was already contacting Monica Byrne for a statement.

Spontaneous? Byrne said to Silman, “The network was activated”– which might be clue enough for an explanation.

Monica Byrne’s unsupported rumors about Melania Trump in June 2017, which went viral, albeit on a smaller scale, served as trial run for this situation. This time out Byrne had at least a smattering of substance to the story, and other women on her side. Enough substance that even the mighty and respectable New York Times joined the generated hysteria.

QUESTION: Was the hysteria against Junot Diaz generated or spontaneous?

Another tweet from Monica:

AIDING buzz creation was dramatic language used by the accusers in the tweeted narratives.

BYRNE: “I’ve never faced such virulent misogyny in my adult life.”

MACHADO: “–a blast of misogynist rage.”

Promotional blitzkrieg on May 4th worked masterfully– on that very same day the accusations were news across the globe. The feat deserves a chapter of its own in the history of publicity. The planning and coordination worked– but not well enough to claim quick victory. No knockout. Junot Diaz apologized, but he and his institutional backers held firm. By now, today, the controversy has settled into trench warfare– both sides sniping at each other from steady lines, World War One-style.

For the time being, the controversy is at a stalemate.

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WILL the stalemate continue? More to come from:

-New Pop Lit News-
https://newpoplitnews.wordpress.com/

-Karl Wenclas on the literary news beat.

 

Are Comic Books Propaganda?

COMICSGATE EXAMINED

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HOW FAR should one take politics in art?

The question arises with the ongoing “comicsgate” controversy which has split the comic book publishing world. (Background on the issue is available here  and here. Debate has raged across the internet, especially on twitter, for weeks.

A point made by those on the social justice side of the issue is that superhero comics have always been political. Nazis in particular have been socked by superheroes for decades.

They’re right. Superhero comics have been political almost from the start. The kicker is they’ve been more than political. From World War II through the Cold War they were outright propaganda. Cheerleaders for American empire.

WORLD WAR II

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The Second World War was a battle for civilization– a no-holds-barred fight to the death, during which all rules of civilized behavior were broken, by all sides. This was reflected in the propaganda.

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Comic books were a big part of this– including “Superman,” fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way.

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STAN LEE AND JACK KIRBY

The two great creators of Marvel characters and storylines during its formative years were both New York City natives who fought in World War II. Both firmly bought into Franklin Roosevelt’s ethos of America saving the world. Given the nightmarish regimes on the other side of the oceans, this was an understandable, even necessary viewpoint.

Kirby and Lee retained this ethos after the war. (Evidence suggests that Stan Lee retains it now.) In the 1960’s they launched “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos,” refighting the same battles.

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NOT that this was unusual– Germans continued as cartoonish villains across the culture, from movies to television shows to professional wrestling, which featured arrogant Nazi bad guys such as the nasty “Baron Von Raschke.”

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ALL’S FAIR in love and war, as they say, even when the war’s long over. Or even when it’s a Cold War. So, while Sylvester Stallone fought cartoonish Russian movie monsters like Ivan Drago–

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— Marvel’s Captain America battled his Soviet nemesis, Red Guardian.

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The question can legitimately be asked: When were superhero comic books not outright propaganda for Pax Americana– usually of the most jingoistic variety?

MANY of Marvel’s recent superhero movies– the “Captain America” and “Iron Man” series come quickly to mind– have continued this mindset. Always with a global, America-running-the-world mindset. One “Iron Man” flick had the character outdoing drone missiles in blowing up bad guys in Afghanistan. (See this Noah Berlatsky review of it.)

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THE SURPRISE is that today’s social justice warriors in the comic book realm, ostensibly on the left, use these precedents as justification for their political aesthetic now.

(It could just be that “left” and “right” are obsolete concepts for truly understanding today’s world.)

CONTRADICTIONS

When dealing with issues like fascism and anti-fascism, one will always run into a host of contradictions. A good example is recently deceased award-winning novelist Philip Roth. Roth’s 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, depicts a world in which Charles Lindbergh has become U.S. President and imposed a fascist-like regime, with Franklin D. Roosevelt offstage as ostensible good guy. Kind of a misguided slant on history, in that Lindbergh was politically inept and non-interventionist. The contradiction is that FDR himself came closer to being a dictator than any President before or since. Elected for four terms; hyper-devious and charismatic; a popular demagogue; knew how to use media, particularly radio; built America’s military-industrial complex and empowered giant corporations in order to do so; put an unpopular ethnic group into concentration camps; tried many maneuvers to get around the U.S. Constitution; etc. etc.

THIS was the offstage ideologue and ideology which comics creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby explicitly followed– a worldwide American interventionist viewpoint.

TODAY

The big comic book companies today have a different agenda– or are pandering to a different agenda. As before, the goal is some level of social engineering– real life masters of the universe deciding from above what the brave new world should look like. Art usually gets lost in the process, and always has.

ART AND PROPAGANDA

CAN art be polemical and at the same time, important art?

THAT Frank Norris’s populist novel The Octopus, and Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead— the first from the left, the other from the right– are both polemical, yet two of the best American novels ever written, says the answer to the question is “Yes.” But there are lines to be crossed. (Rand crossed them herself in her next major work.)

In this critic’s opinion, two major comic book superhero series have crossed into the realm of important, even mythic, art: “Batman” and “Spiderman.” Most of the rest have either been harmless entertainment or indoctrination pamphlets.

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-Karl Wenclas

 

 

Who’s Appropriating Whom?

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AS DISCUSSED in our previous News blog post, Current Affairs magazine and other “hard left” periodicals are staffed by well-educated cultural aristocrats appropriating the voice and stance of leftist radicals.

Yet we find to our surprise that Current Affairs published an article by Briahna Joy Gray about the very subject of cultural appropriation! It’s here.

NOT surprising is that the essay presents the Harvard tops-down viewpoint, and is filled with distortions.

New Pop Lit‘s editor (me) is writing a series of posts at his personal blog addressing the Current Affairs essay’s viewpoint. The pieces are being written in reverse order. The second one is “All About Chuck Berry.” The third and concluding part of the series is “All About ‘Hound Dog.'” The opening salvo is upcoming.
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ABOUT APPROPRIATION

The charge of so-called cultural appropriation, applied to rock n roll history– coming from of all places Harvard University; home of the Elite of the Elite– seems to this commentator designed to shut down (and wipe history books clean) of small-scale business run by street hustlers. IF the culture of the 1950’s had worried about matters of appropriation, that would’ve been the result– and rock and roll would never have happened. Including England’s Beatles, who did their share of appropriation, of artists black and white, and of every possible style, including Broadway show tunes and 1920’s English music hall ditties.

(My series is showing that during the rise of rock music, everybody was freely appropriating everybody– with one of Ms. Gray’s chief victims, Chuck Berry, as one of the appropriators.)

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THE PROBLEM with the tops-down Harvard Viewpoint is that it eliminates artistic diversity, integration, mutation, choice, and change under the guise of doing the opposite. Without such appropriations by low-rent wannabe-capitalist scramblers trying to make a buck, the music industry would’ve remained as static and uninteresting as the literary scene is today; dominated by unknowing conglomerate machines and Ivy League-dominated foundations understanding only one way of viewing the art; one safe way of thinking, writing, promoting and publishing.

-Karl Wenclas

 

New Pop Lit at NaNoWriMo!

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New Pop Lit editors Karl Wenclas and Kathleen M. Crane are scheduled to make a rare public appearance at the Troy Public Library  on Thursday, November 17th in connection with National Novel Writing Month. Register for NaNoWriMo and read about Troy happenings here, then scroll down for information about our specific event. Or register for our event directly here.

For new writers, we intend ours to be THE NaNoWriMo event to attend. We’ve registered for NaNoWriMo ourselves. Kathleen has begun a new novel. Several of the stories in her collection, Aloha from Detroit, were taken from a novel she wrote. (Yes, writers are allowed to cannibalize their own work.)  Karl meanwhile has resurrected an unfinished novel of his own, excerpts of which were recently posted here.

We also of course edit one of the hottest literary sites around, New Pop Lit, whose mission is to discover exciting new writers. We’ve also published a print issue which we expect to be the foundation for a small press devoted to dynamic writing.

What are various ways to write a novel? How does one overcome writer’s block? How does the new author publish and promote the book once it’s finished? These are questions we’ll address at the event. Are we “experts”? No! We’re in the same boat as you the struggling writer– finding our way in a new publishing environment in which, over the past ten years, all the set rules have been overturned. Never have there been more options for authors– more opportunities. These are exciting times for writing and reading– we’re in the early stages of more changes to come.

See you in Troy next Thursday!