Entertainment and Amusement

I was thinking about this last night, when I wanted to escape from the world for an hour or two. I was in a sour mood, and sometimes being able to step into a book gives me the mental reset I need to regain my normal mental equilibrium… but the book I had been reading wasn’t holding my attention at all. So then I was contemplating two things. One, I was tempted to go ask for book recommendations on social media. With the stipulation that the books that were recommended not be ‘oh, you should read this.’ Or even worse, ‘everyone should be reading this!’ because ugh. No. I don’t take books like medicine.

I take my books like I take chocolate these days. As a treat, to be savored for the sweet and the little hit of theobromine that helps make my brain happy. If I am reading fiction, it’s as a pick-me-up or it’s because I’m supposed to read for review or feedback – which is a completely different mental place. And I definitely do not virtue signal with my reading. So I didn’t take to the intarwebs and ask for recommendations.

I did soak in a hot bath, read a chapter of a great book on retraining your brain for math, and then contemplated my own writing. Why I write what I write. It’s to entertain and amuse. Sometimes, rarely, it’s to ignite the imagination of the reader. The Violet Mouse ends the way it does because there are literally infinite possible endings. As I told my mother when we were discussing it, the only other way to have done it was sort of a ‘choose your own adventure’ collection, where I wrote story after story all coming from the last moment in the titular story. Instead what I wanted was for the reader to follow through on their own and be off and running with the ‘what comes next?’

It’s a bit like writing sex. The best way to make it really sexy for the reader is to leave most of the action to their imagination. The writer’s job is to set the scene, and then take a step back for a minute to let the reader’s own mind take up the slack. Then, step back in a few beats down the timeline and pick it back up. Done well, this can generate far more mental heat than describing every slippery moment and touch. Which is not to say there’s not a market for erotica – there certainly is. I’ve been in a few groups where authors talked about their marketing and sales, and it was eye opening. I couldn’t write it – would bore me to tears very quickly – but given the strange sub genres that have popped up, it does lead me to wonder about the paths we go if we aren’t willing to let our imaginations free. If you want the entertainment spoon fed to you, is that amusing?

It must be to some. Which is the delightful thing about writing. You can write as many stories as there are kinds of people. And since they are your stories, they have the flavor of you. Looking back at my own work, I can see that I have certain proclivities. I tend to write character-driven stories. I tend to be ‘gentle’ enough that I have surprised and shocked readers when I used rough language or worse, killed off characters. I don’t usually write dark. I know why, and where all of that comes from. Usually. Sometimes something pops out that is like ‘huh. That’s weird.’ But then again. I rarely analyze myself through the lens of my own writing, because I’m not writing to put me on the page, I’m writing to amuse and entertain.

Take The Case of the Perambulating Hatrack (please! goodness knows where it will take you, it’s running away with me!). Like Pixie Noir, I started writing Hatrack on a lark, with no expectation of… anything. It was a prompt challenge piece. It wasn’t supposed to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That first scene in Pixie was a throwaway piece to make a friend laugh. That I later finished the trilogy of noir books, by that time happily married to that friend… Makes me wonder where Hatrack is taking me. At nearly complete arc, novel length, it’s still a prompt challenge. Every week a new prompt takes it down a turn I could not have seen coming. And it’s fun to write. Pretty sure I couldn’t sustain that over and over again, but there is something to be said for writing to amuse myself.

Because when this stops being entertaining, exploring the worlds in my mind and writing them down, I’m going to stop writing. I’m thinking that’s not going to happen any time soon. In the end, it’s why I do what I do. To entertain and amuse myself. That it does the same for others is pure gravy.

There’s a sarcastic thing you’ll hear someone say once in a while, or at least I have. “Do I amuse you? Am I a clown?” Well… I was. I even have a little red nose (not the full honker, just a little cap) around here somewhere to prove it. But clowning isn’t a job, it’s a calling. And when I write, I’m not clowning around. I am, however, very aware of my role in what I do. And that isn’t to educate with my fiction, or achieve some sort of social betterment. At least, not like the way you usually see that attempted. But if I can cheer a heart, and give someone an escape route from reality for an hour or two, so they may return to this real world refreshed and lightened… I am achieving a better society, one amusement at a time.

9 comments

  1. — Because when this stops being entertaining, exploring the worlds in my mind and writing them down, Iā€™m going to stop writing. —

    I’d imagine that’s what stops most writers: the loss of interest in their own imaginings. When you’re on fire with it, it’s hard to imagine how you could ever lose the passion for it…yet most writers do eventually retire. Myself, I hope never to be afflicted by the condition. The ones who write Exeunt Omnes at the end of their last opus and immediately keep over dead are the lucky ones.

    1. Some writers… it’s like they only have a certain number of scenes to write, and then they rehash them until they don’t sell any more.

  2. Writing to prompts . . . it wasn’t quite as formalized, but that’s how I came up with scaly, cold-blooded, Martian lawyers. And it was fun!

    1. The only reason I read that book was because you wrote it. It was wildly unexpected and I loved it.

      1. That reads strangely, doesn’t it? I couldn’t have read it if _someone_ hadn’t written it. Since it is Pam’s book, she obviously wrote it. How about: The only reason I read that book is because you are the author.

  3. Speaking of Violet Mouse– bought it for mom. (I am really not in the mental place for that kind of story right now, but wanted to support what sounded like a good story.)
    She read it and text messaged me at six in the morning their time that it isn’t her usual kind of book, but she really loved it EXCEPT she wants to KNOW what happened. šŸ˜€ I think she’ll be tickled that, basically, so does the author.

    *********

    These days, I find myself going to anime for that “I just want something that’s kind of fun and doesn’t require critical thinking.” The last story I can think of that wasn’t via Mad Genius that came close was… from Catholic Otaku, the light novel My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! . I’d suggest the anime on Crunchy Roll if anybody is looking for absolute fluff. Before that, Count Taka and the Vampire Brides.

    There really should be more stuff that you can actually just READ without having to fight it.

  4. Fun. I want something that doesn’t require too many brain cells, but that doesn’t insult my imagination or intelligence. It can have kissing, but I don’t want an instruction manual, either. Whatever it is, be it fiction or history, it has to take me away from here and now, and give me something fun.

    1. Exactly. Too many writers get hung up on editing and polishing and waste huge amounts of time and effort on a book. Yes, it’s good to do your best, but all I’m asking for is a fair amount of entertainment for my money.

      I have a special fondness for Carter Brown’s “Al Wheeler” police books. They’re short and highly formulaic, though he mostly managed to avoid “repetitive.” Deputy Al gets involved in something weird, solves the crime, and gets the girl, The End. I can read one in twenty minutes to half an hour; I mostly pick one up when I’m having trouble sleeping. They’re unpretentious basic entertainment, and Alan Yates (Brown was a pseudonym) sold 120 million copies of 322 books, some of which became a radio show, three films, and two TV series. Not bad for a writer almost nobody remembers nowadays.

  5. Yep. I don’t want moral lessons or life lessons or anything that is “eye-opening” and I’m terrible at reading books that I should read. I want to leave this world and enter a different one. Which is what I’ve always done with my reading, ever since I was a little kid and found all the color fairy tale books. It was all downhill from there. šŸ˜€

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