Writing Fiction By Example

Learn to write fiction by reading and analyzing excerpts from published novels.

That's Not Writing, That's Typing

That's not writing, that's typing.
~Truman Capote - commenting on Jack Kerouac's books / style.

This article (blog entry) could be considered Part 2 of my previous Saber Slice, Write Like You're Baking Cookies (link)

Jack Kerouac - Beat Writer
Jack Kerouac was a journalist / novelist who brought the beatnik generation to the masses. And for that, he became famous.
Have you read any of Jack Kerouac's novels?

If not I suggest that you, at most, browse them via Amazon.com's samples.
Check out his novel, Big Sur (amazon.com link where you can read an excerpt)

Big Sur is a novel, but if you read Kerouac's memoir, On the Road -- his most famous book -- you'll discover that the main character seems to be a thinly veiled rendition of the author.

Stream of Consciousness
In either case, both are written as a stream of consciousness. There are no periods. Try and find one. He uses other forms of punctuation, but the entire story is just one rambling spew that hops from one subject to another.

No Spider Monkeys
Readers are screaming, "I do not want to know everything about everything. I just want to know everything important about your story."

Which brings me to the two reasons I won't read his books and two reasons I enjoyed the excerpts I did read.

Two Reasons Not To Read the Drivel
1. It is depressing.

The voice of the main character is so miserable that you literally feel his hang-over (constant) force itself into your veins. Read a few pages of this and you'll come away feeling like everything sucks.

I know, I understand. Back in Jack's time everything in the media was hunky dory and Leave It to Beaver and all that, so he was on the cutting edge of depression and all that. It just doesn't work for me. I like to think positively.

Reading this stuff feels like you're trapped inside the prison of the character's head. And the thing is, the character isn't healthy. Muy enfermo, amigo. Muy.

2. You can't tell where it's going. Is this going to lead somewhere good? Not with this character's voice. Who could withstand the torture to find out?

This is the kind of book that you definitely want to read a physical copy of, so you can mutilate it as you read it. At least throw it across the room.

Will Everyone Feel That Way?
No. There are obviously people who will (do) think Kerouac's books are high art and are fantastic. However, the average reader won't. That's good and bad, isn't it?

Huge Marketing for 40 Years
The point here is that he does have a limited audience even though he has been pushed by a major publishing house for over 40 years.

Limited Audience
So, if you're writing like him and getting nowhere, but thinking, "hey, there are people out there who like this stuff," but are wondering why most people aren't paying attention

Two Reasons to Read This Stuff
1. So you don't write like that.
Best reason to read this stuff is so you understand how it affects the reader.
Read the excerpts then don't do what he did.

Use it a little
Okay, after my hyperbolic statement above I guess I can say that it can be cool or funny to use this stream of consciousness writing in extremely short snippets.

2. Publishing History
It is very interesting to see what the market has accepted in the past. It becomes a narrow-lense view of that era and gives you an idea of how things were changing in the culture.

If this is your style, then your market is probably going to be smaller. Do you often digress into a stream? That's fine (or even great) for first drafts.

I just suggest you take that raw work and mold it so you are actually writing instead of just typing. Why? Because it'll make your writing better and create a broader market for your work.