Monday, June 25, 2012

Industry Month in Review: Smart People, Smart Stories

Welcome to another edition of "Industry Month in Review".  It seems like just yesterday we were at the tail end of May and now voila, summer is officially here!  I have a bit of a loose theme for June's IMIR.  Smart people, smart stories.  You'd think that would be a natural compliment.  Often times it's questionable.  How do you define what's a smart story?  Does a smart story have to be a best-seller? 

In Nathan Bransford's June 11th blog post, Bransford ponders the randomness of bestsellers.  He notes:

"There are more sophisticate and more accessible and more edgy and more simultaneously sophisticated/accessible/edgy books than Girl With a Dragon Tattoo. Why was that the one to take off?

Why was Girl With a Dragon Tattoo such a success? I think it was a good story, surrounded by a good story (sadly the all too sudden death of it's author Stieg Larsson) and a great marketing team. 

That's my two cents.  I'd like to think that my thoughts and writing are smart (or at least can be), but after reading the next article, I'm not so sure.  

The New Yorker recently published an article entitled Why Smart People are Stupid.  

The first paragraph poses the following question:

"A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?"

If you said 10 cents, you're wrong, think again.

The article discusses the many mental shortcuts that we as humans take which often leads us to make foolish decisions.  While the article is science and not fiction, as a writer, I find that it lends itself nicely when thinking about some of the characters that I am developing and why they make certain decisions.

If there's one person that was a smart person and a smart story teller it would be the late Ray Bradbury.  The legendary sci-fi writer passed away earlier this month at the age of 91. This article from the Atlantic Wire sums up Bradbury's venerable career.  

The article quotes an interview that Bradbury did with the Paris Review in 2010:

"Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible."

I couldn't help but think of a recent post I'd seen that ties in nicely with Bradbury's quote (and also made me giggle). 

Star Trek and the tablet.

Finally for those of us who are continuously seeking bits of wisdom in our journey to writing smarter stories, I leave you with this article from io9 where Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats discusses her 22 rules of storytelling.

Now go forth writers, and prosper. 


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