Thursday, September 8, 2011

Not Proper Writing

I've been reading through a lot of the posts on the New Voices Facebook (or if I'm really super trendy I should write Fb shouldn't I?) and one of them struck a real chord with me.  One woman posted that her 23 year old daughter suggested that her mother "try to be a proper writer".

Upon reflection two things occured to me:

1. The use of the word "proper".  Now there are several ways one can use the word proper.

a) established standards of behaviour or manners.  Eg Proper writers only write once they have clothed themselves in a floaty dress, applied copious amounts of baby blue eyeshadow, ensured they have an opened bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne on hand, donned their multi-strand pearl necklace, plonked a tiny yappy dog on a pillow beside them, teased ones hair up into a coif high enough to frighten small children and THEN they can begin to write.

b) applicable.  Eg After marrying seventeen times to multi-millionaires, magnates and playboys and being seduced in every manner imaginable, it was only proper that Venezuala become a writer.

c) fitting, right.  Eg Jaenypher had spent six long months writing, editing and polishing her manuscript.  She and her critique partners had worked hard to ensure the finshed product was as good as it possibly could be.  She had sent off her frist chapter and a synopsis to the publisher and today she had received "the call".  At long last she felt like a proper writer.

To me, anyone who slogs it out and goes through the emotional rollercoaster of writing is a "proper" writer.  Anyone with the guts and determination to see their work published and who works towards that goal every day (or at least tries to every day) is a "proper" writer.  Anyone brave enough to enter the NV competition and plonk their beloved first chapter up on a website where ANYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD can read it (and let's not even get into the whole leaving comments thing) is a "proper" writer.

2. Some genres are much put-upon whereas others, that deserve an even greater amount of disparaging, remain unscathed.  No genre is trope free and how shocking you find them is largely determined by your own prejudices.  I for one, cannot for the life of me see the value in Westerns.  My father would blow a fufu valve if he knew I'd said that, being a Western addict for decades but I can't stand them.  Now I will preface this next statement with an admission: I have only read (and by that I mean scanned) one or two Westerns and they were fairly old ones so I am, by no means, a connoisseur of the genre.  BUT the men are bigger than life, they also seem to sweat, swear and swagger more than any real person possibly could and still keep breathing; despite reassurances from the author that the hero is actually a sharp witted, extremely clever and astoundingly cunning fellow he still manages to get himself into some really dumb situations; and when women are featured in these sad books the reader can only assume that they all come from the same family (where the genes run to buxom beauties who pant, pout but only put out for the hero) but can't do anything for themselves forcing the hero to constantly ride in and rescue them, bed them and then ride off again; oh and the whole my-gun-is-bigger-than-yours thing?  Ewwwwwwww.  Gives a whole new meaning to sharp shooter ;)

But fear not gentle reader, I'm not selective in my criticism.  Whilst contemplating genres I stumbled upon one I bet very few of you would think to impugn: the fairy tale.  But think about it - how "proper" are they?  Each and every one of them is a big FAT LIE!  And not only that they contain plots that, upon examination, would make a "proper" writer cringe.  Don't beleive me?  Here's a few examples:

1. Rapunzel:  Even before we get to the whole rope-made-out-of-hair-that's-still-attached-to-someone's-head part, let us examine the beginning of the story.  Pregnant woman has cravings for fresh vegetables.  Being poor, her doting husband risks stealing them from a witches garden but he's caught and to escape being punished himself, he promises to give the witch his baby when it's born.  WTH?  Now tell me how many women you know, when advised that their husband has just promised to give away their first born baby, would sit back and go "oh really?  Well that broccoli sure does look tasty so I suppose it's a fair swap"  I don't think so Tim.  She's going to all hormonal on her hubbies bee-hind and then she's going to pay a little visit to Old Witchipoo.  And once that baby is born - Lord help anyone trying to take that child away.  I once heard a Mummy-blogger describe a situation where she perceived her child to be in danger as it "bringing out the Mama Bear" in her.  Magic Wand vs Mama Bear?  I'm putting money on those post partum hormones every time.

2. Sleeping Beauty:  Girl sleeps for 100 years.  100 years.  That's 5200 weeks.  36400 days.  36400 days without brushing or flossing.  Let's be honest here folks.  When that girl woke up her morning breath could have melted solid rock.  What man in his right mind is going to pucker up to that?  And even if he downed a couple of six packs right before he hacked through the sea of thorns and the bruskies dimished his sense of ewwwww and he was still prepared to lay one on her what woman in her right mind is going to wake up and go: "Ta for the kiss possum.  Marry you?  Sure!"  I mean after 100 years of beauty sleep I'm thinking she could have gone to sleep Ugly Betty and woken up Megan Gale - y'know what I'm saying?  Any girl worth her Prada pumps is going to politely thank the guy and then spend a few months making up for lost time.

Photo courtesy of Disney

3. Snow White:  Hair as black as ebony.  Skin as white as snow.  Lips as red as blood........Brain the size of a peanut. 
Dwarves: We're off now, love.  Don't let anyone into the cottage 'k?
Snow White: What cottage?
Dwarves: This cottage.
Snow White: Oh!  Oh, okay! I'll just sweep and clean up and cook and sing with the wee little birdies and fluffy cute animals in the forest.
Dwarves: Er........yeah sure, that'd be great.
Witch: Hello my lovely.
Snow White: Hi creepy old witch looking lady.  Sure I'll eat your susicious looking apple but you can't come in.
Witch: Er.....whatever.

And hello?  Who in their right mind would marry a guy who fell in love with a girl everyone told him was DEAD?!  Imagine telling that story to your kids: 
Snow White: Yes and then I fell into a coma and everyone thought I was dead and one day your father rode by and saw me and fell in love with me.  Then he kissed me -
Kid: Wait a second Mum, are you saying Dad thought you were dead but he kissed you anyway?
Snow White: Yup.
Kid: That is like so many shades of ick!

Photo courtesy of Disney
So to sum up: Westerns = 0
                       Fairy Tales = 0
                       M&B = 1

I'd call that a right proper victory I would!

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