What Do You Take Seriously?

I’ll bet I know what you want—to know who won Meg Wiviott’s novel, Paper Hearts. If that statement totally confused you, click here to read the interview with Meg Wiviott and get caught up. All set? Can you wait a few minutes while I blather on a bit? Thanks.

Ant-Man-Movie-PosterA friend and I headed to the cheap theater to see Ant-Man recently, having had little time to see it in the previous month. I won’t spoil the movie for you, so don’t worry. Actually, this post isn’t so much about the movie as it is about a quote from Entertainment Weekly’s review of it. And yes, I will not spoil that either. The review, written by Chris Nashawaty, included this line:

Like Chris Pratt, he’s [actor Paul Rudd] smart enough not to take these films too seriously or fall prey to Marvel’s tendency to be morose and heavy.

Smart enough not to take these films too seriously. I could read all sorts of things into that statement. But I won’t. Instead, I’m reminded of a page from my own life—the second semester of my grad program, when I thought I was “smart enough” not to take something seriously. I handed my advisor a 126,000-word fairy tale I’d written before entering the program, feeling a bit proud of myself. She read it and gave it back. I’ll never forget what she said. “I liked some of it. But you need to take writing more seriously.”

I was all, “What you talkin’ ’bout, woman?” like Gary Coleman in the old TV show, Diff’rent Strokes. But after fuming, I realized she was right. I had written a parody of a fairy tale, rather than a fairy tale. With every silly scenario, I showed not what I loved about the genre, but rather contempt instead. I acted as if I was so far above it all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is NOT a slam against parodies. I grew up reading Mad magazine and watching Saturday Night Live. But what my advisor explained was that I needed to learn the hard work of writing a compelling story instead of merely poking fun at stories written by others—a fact evinced by my so-called fairy tale. (More like fairy stale.)

When author/illustrator Grace Lin visited my campus one semester, she showed some of her illustrations. If you’ve seen her books, you’re familiar with her cartoony style. But these illustrations were gorgeously complex like the border of the book cover below. As she explained, she had to learn the hard work of composition, design, and color in order to develop her own style. In other words, she had to take art seriously.

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Charles Yallowitz also comes to mind as I think of someone who takes writing seriously with his Legends of Windemere books. Yes, they have a lot of humor. If you follow his blog at all, however, you know he’s studied the fantasy genre for many years and regularly posts about the craft of writing fantasy novels.

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I took my advisor’s advice. Want to know something ironic? The middle grade book I’m finishing probably has more humor in it than that parody I wrote—the result of taking writing seriously. *shrugs*

What have you discovered recently that you need to take seriously? While you ponder that, I’ll move onto the winner of Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott.

Paper Hearts  MegBarn1

That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Geralyn of Where My Feet Are

Congratulations, Geralyn! Please comment below to confirm and email me at lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com to provide your snail mail information and phone number for book delivery.

Nashawaty, Chris. “Ant-Man.” Entertainment Weekly 24 July 2015: 43. Print.

Ant-Man poster from fatmovieguy.com. Meg Wiviott author photo and cover courtesy of the author. Grace Lin book cover from Goodreads.

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36 thoughts on “What Do You Take Seriously?

  1. The size of the universe. Wow! I’m serious. I’m just starting to be able to imagine what’s outside the picture frame – the one I used as a child to contain it. Mind blown. Perspective achieved… unless I’m in the Total Perspective Vortex and just don’t know it, like Zaphod Beeblebrox.

  2. Thanks for the shout out. Though I never really thought of myself studying fantasy so much as reading it a lot. 😀 Funny thing about taking something seriously is that you can go too far with that. Making something so serious that it becomes dull and almost arrogant. I prefer to find the balance between humor and seriousness, which helps maintain a rollercoaster of tension/lightheartedness instead of going mostly to one side. Not to turn this into a promo, but that was the challenge with my latest release. Merchant of Nevra Coil has a ‘silly’ premise and I had to show that it still impacted the story and characters with a level of seriousness.

    • I just saw that the book had been released! I wish I’d seen that yesterday. I missed it for some reason. I would have linked to that book instead! Congrats! I’m going for my copy now.

      I can appreciate a lighter premise. I can’t help thinking of the Ember Island episodes of Avatar. They came at just the right time–in between really serious episodes.

      • Yeah. I had just watched the second Trickster episode of Supernatural. I forgot the episode name, but the one where Dean is repeatedly killed. Felt like a nice way to ease into the next stage of the story. Surprisingly, this one sets up Book 9 and other events so well that you’d think it was part of the original idea. 😀

  3. I constantly rediscovering how much I need to take seriously… Some days it’s the writing, other times it’s family, or friends, or my health. So many spinning plates! I guess that’s life. Thanks for the story about your fairy stale (haha, i love that). 🙂

  4. Good for you for viewing her critique as friendly advice not unwarranted criticism. It’s good to take our “work” seriously . . . and our ego not at all.

    Congrats to Geralyn!

  5. Being funny is serious business. It really is. I forget the name of the actress who worked with Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English, but she talked about how he’d really think about the jokes and sight gags to make them as funny as possible. One of the guys who worked on Shanghai Knights with Jackie Chan talked about how he’d spend a long time pondering the stunt routines for the same reason.

    Of course, writing is serious business, too. It’s not just throwing words at a page. It’s a massive process most not-writers do not appreciate at all.

    • You brought up some really good points, ReGi. Comedians work really hard. And Jackie Chan has always been an incredibly hard worker. I remember some of his earlier martial arts films. My goodness. I’m impressed by his work ethic.

  6. You are so admirable, Linda! You took that constructive advice, who many would have taken offense to and would have dismissed completely. That is why you are such a successful writer and a wise soul! 🙂

  7. Different Strokes-used to love that. We would watch it after school. I believe everyone concerned with that programme, the cast I mean, went on to have difficult times in their lives. Ironic really as they brought a lot of laughter into ours.

    • So true, Andy. I thought of that as I wrote the post. A cautionary tale for parents contemplating an acting career for their children. Sadly what happened with the cast seems common.

  8. Congratulations, Geralyn! What a wonderful prize. Oh, and sometimes I think I take my writing too seriously … in that I lose my sense of play and wonder. I focus on the negative much more than I should. It’s a constant battle for me ;(

    • Oh Marie. I hope you can rediscover the play and wonder. Do you write poetry? One of my grad advisors suggested that I write poetry and short fairy tales. She also assigned word plays. I fought her on those, but eventually I gave in and discovered that she was right.

      • Funny that you mention poetry. I got a rejection by email today about 4 poems I had entered into a contest. The rejection was very nice, actually, emphasizing that choosing poems is a subjective process, but I know it was a form rejection. But I know I should keep trying 😉

  9. First off, I’m a great admirer of fairy tales. I loved them as a child, and they’re still part of me I think.

    At the top of my list at the moment is to take character development more seriously … to give my characters more depth. And right along side it is to take plot more seriously, to make serious things happen and at just the right time. This morning I heard an interview of Lauren Groff on NPR. She was talking about her characters in her new novel, “Fate and Furies.” They sounded so complex and interesting that I immediately pre-ordered a copy on Amazon. You see, I have to get more serious about character development.

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