Benjamin Percy on How Genre Can Help Literary Writers

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percy_si-303x335Benjamin Percy on writing in Poets & Writers:

“Consider this. Picasso trained in realism before he shattered our way of seeing. Patricia Smith can rock a sonnet or villanelle as well as experiment with free verse. Can you say the same? Can you write something that is scene-driven and as tightly fitted as a Lego castle and then turn around and write something masterfully nonlinear that artfully employs summary? Or are you exclusively “artful” because it’s easier to excuse your sloppiness as purposeful? Oh, the fact that nothing happened in my story? That’s because I was trying to capture the nothingness of the modern condition. Uh-huh. Good luck with that, smart aleck.”

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  1. I very much agree with the skinhead’s contention about genre writing being an excellent disciplinary tool for the writer. I have been writing stories now for six months, and the ugly truth was that they were mostly meandering masturbation fantasies mixed with completely contrived political points about Latin America being raped by American capitalists. I then disciplined myself and said “No – you’re not going to just wank it all over the computer screen. You’re going to go from point a to point b and then to point z – not just let if fly all over the place and end in an orgasm and some statement of despair about how the capitalists have won yet again (despite you getting the poon). Since writing erotica – which starts with the young woman, feeling her first stirrings of erotic passion, then happening upon a strange man with a large bulge in his pants, then dreaming of him pumping said bulge deep in her love box, then actually masturbating to the image, then having him walk in on her doing it, then giving her tennis or gold lessons, then porking her brains out, then in comes an old girlfriend, threesome, regrets, tears, triple homicide, end.

  2. Anyway, I forgot to finish my sentence (a thing I never do when writing erotica or science fiction masturbation fodder for 13 year old geeky boys – as once was I) – since writing erotica, I have become much more disciplined. I am now trying my hand at writing westerns but struggle to not have the cow hands staring at the fire in Indian country break into a huge butt fuck circus….hard boiled fiction is a good genre too, though it is almost impossible to avoid having the private detective engage in all kinds of double entendres about being a “hardened dick” as he fucks every single women he encounters in the story. I generally find that when I delete those scenes, I usually have the beginnings of a pretty hackneyed, cheap detective story.