That’s What He Said…

So, one of my least favorite authors is Chuck Wendig. Mostly because how he writes is a slow string of wording that dribbles on for too long and makes for a frustrating read. Let me offer up an example of what I’m talking about from the novel Star Wars: Aftermath. I will write the first part of it out for you and let’s see if you see anything that annoys you as well. I mean it may not. You might like it just fine. But there’s just a certain cadence to the storytelling structure that annoys the ever-lovin’ piss outta me. Let me… let me just show you:


Monument Plaza.

Chains rattle as they lash the neck of Emperor Palpatine. Ropes follow suit–lassos looping around the statue’s middle. The mad cheers of the crowd as they pull, and pull, and pull. Disappointed groans as the stone fixtures refuses to budge. But then someone whips the chains around the back ends of a couple of heavy-gauge speeders, and then the engines warble and hum to life–the speeders gun it and again the crowd pulls–

The sound like a giant bone breaking.

A fracture appears at the base of the statue.

More cheering. Yelling. And–

Applause as it comes crashing down.

The head of the statue snaps off, goes rolling and crashing into a fountain. Dark water splashes. The crowd laughs.

And then: The whooping of klaxons. Red lights strobe. Three airspeeders swoop down from the traffic lanes above–Imperial police. Red-and-black helmets. The glow of their lights reflected back in their helmets.

There comes no warning. No demand to stand down.

The laser cannons at the fore of each airspeeder open fire. Red bolts sear the air. The crowd is cut apart. Bodies dropped and stitched with fire.

But still, those gathered are not cowed. They are no longer a crowd. Now they are a mob. They start picking up hunks of the Palpatine statue and lobbing them at the airspeeders. One of the speeders swings to the side to avoid an incoming chunk of stone–and it bumps another speeder, interrupting its fire. Coruscanti citizens climb up the stone spire behind both speeders–a spire on which are written the Imperial values of order, control, and the rule of law–and begin jumping onto the police cruisers. One helmeted cop is flung from his vehicle. The other crawls out onto the hood of his speeder, opening fire with a pair of blasters–just as a hunk of stone cracks him in the helmet, knocking him to the ground.

The other two airspeeders lift higher and keep firing.

Screams and fire and smoke.

Two of those gathered–a father and a son, Rorak and Jak–quick-duck behind the collapsed statue. The sounds of the battle unfolding right here in Monument Plaza don’t end. In the distance, the sound of more fighting, a plume of flames, flashes of blaster fire. A billboard high up in the sky among the traffic lanes suddenly goes to static.

The boy is young, only twelve standard years, not old enough to fight. Not yet. He looks to his father with pleading eyes. Over the din he yells: “But the battle station was destroyed, dad! The battle is over!” They just watched it only an hour before. The supposed end of the Empire. The start of something better.

The confusion in the boy’s shining eyes is clear: He doesn’t understand what’s happening.

But Rorak does. He’s heard tales of the Clone Wars–tales spoken of by his own father. He knows how war goes. It’s not many wars, but just one, drawn out again and again, cut up into slices so it seems more manageable.

For a long time he’s told his son not the truth but the idealized hope: One day the Empire will fall and things will be different for when you have children. And that may still come to pass. But now a stronger, sharper truth is required: “Jak–the battle isn’t over. The battle is just starting.”

He holds his son close.

Then he puts a hunk of statue in the boy’s hand.

And he picks one up himself.”

Every time I read something by Wendig I’m reminded of the stilted dialogue of the lighthouse keeper from Rick and Morty episode ‘Look Who’s Purging Now’ wherein Morty has to listen to his script first before they can set up a beacon to call Summer.

And always I think, ‘Shit, If Chuck Wendig can get published, so can I, damnit.’ Not to say that Wendig’s stories are… bad… just, for me, hard to get through because of his slow pacing and stuttered presentation.

That having been said, and why I’m even bringing any of this up, I do believe he has a salient point in one of his recent blog posts about writing.

In it, he discusses the idea that writing can and has been taught contrary to popular belief in certain circles that only the talented have a real hope of getting published (clearly, Wendig has some experience in this avenue). And I think he’s right. As much as I hate his writing, I think anybody can write and can be taught. I mean, if you’re writing you have to have been taught how words work, right? Story structure comes from understanding how books work. And literature classes can make you appreciate the art and structure more if you’re committed to the written word.

That’s what it boils down to really. If you want to write and be successful at it, you have to dedicate yourself to how the written word works. Even a Creative Writing class (it won’t make you a writer so don’t think you need the class to find a career on that path) can help you develop your skills and see how other potentials approach the craft. There is no one answer to becoming a writer. Just hard work and determination.

Now if only Mr. Wendig would learn how to WRITE a better story, then we might be getting somewhere. Of course, that just might be my own personal tastes speaking. Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, or C.S. Lewis either. And all of them are up there with the great writers. So take what I say with a grain of salt.

Alright, back to it.

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