When I talk about writing I feel confident in my viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean I’m correct at all. Writing, as you know, is organic and each writer must feel out how to approach the beast with the intention of creation and not destruction. Which, coincidentally, is how I think of trying to pet my cat’s stomach. There’s a chance that I could die every single time I tempt fate when the cats expose their belly.
But while reading three things at once that touch on very different subjects, I’ve spent some time thinking about how I choose what I choose for the journal. And then I think about how I write what I write and how I need to start writing what I write to see it make it somewhere other than the folder of shame. As writers, we’ll always be working on optimizing our mechanical skills and tightening sentences, so they’re delivered as short devastating punches. But the one singular thing that I think those of us that like to write about the weird is to accept the world of the mundane as our canvas.
When reading stories that go sideways, what I’ve found that makes them worth reading is how they’re framed. Every single time I start reading a submitted manuscript, I like to settle in a world that, at first, seems like it’s not going to have any kind of weird aspect to it. Then lo and behold a man will peel the flesh off his face to reveal he’s a giant fly. And then I buckle up my let’s fucken go seatbelt.
To make something shocking happen, or at least, for the reader to feel the shift from the normal to the strange, we need to set up rules of our small written worlds. The first one being that we should never minimalize the small details. Effective stories usually have the main character do normal things like making some coffee, worry about bills, pet a cat, or think about petting a cat. This is something that’s been said to us all over and over and over and over (make it stop) but I’m going to say it again: keep the reader grounded.
This is especially important for those of us that like to explore the idea of the weird. As a reader, I want to be immersed in the story and the world, no matter how short it is. I want to be. And to do that, we must use regular and mundane details and actions as anchors that we can latch onto. Because deep down, we’re always looking for something in a story to take for ourselves and apply it to our own lives. Maybe not an answer, but just the simple single truth that seems to keep us afloat.
But to step back a little, sometimes there are stories that I call carnival rides. Meaning that we, as the reader, are supposed to understand that this is wild from the get-go and we’re to enjoy it as a passenger. Shiver and laugh at the right places while the actors move and do their things for entertainment.
Either way, both styles have their place in our journal and in the world. Many academics will tell people that there’s just no worth (except entertainment) when it comes to the scary, weird, strange, or new age. But I think they’re the most visceral types of art. Because it peels back those layers and exposes parts unknown to us. Once the initial shock is over, we then explore the why. And truths about our darkest selves, once unraveled and understood, only makes us a little more whole.
Let’s be honest. Isn’t that what we’re looking for anyway?