Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On Crotch Thrusting and the Newbery Medal

Of course, I was amazingly popular in high school.  Check that mess - I am still massively popular.  (According to my blogpatrol stats, I'm apparently huge in Slovenia.)  But whatever.  You know all of this.

Besides the smashing good looks, the saint-like altruism, the prophetic wit, and a tendency to always say Awesome things, I do have some faults.

DO NOT BE ALARMED.  These faults are mostly minor things like a tendency to lean over to my wife during a movie and say, "You do realize that the husband is the one who killed the girl..."  And, of course, a way of finding humor in situations that most people would find inappropriate.

So, my 'faults.'

Seriously, I've had many awkward situations where my sense of humor (and lack of filter) have gotten me in some trouble.  For example:

MOM OF STUDENT: Hello, it's nice to meet you.  You're the youth director at the church, right?"
ME: Oh, YEAH! (vigorous crotch thrusts)

Or a recent e-mail conversation with a friend:

FRIEND: You're going to write a middle grade book?  Awesome!
ME: Well, maybe.
FRIEND: That sounds cool!

So maybe you get the point?  I'm flawed, even if it is in a very awesome and (at times) amusing way.  There are times when I think, Man, I wish I could be like one of those, like, contemplative dudes... spending time in silence and shit... Ultimately, I come back to the conviction that I am who I am.  And that makes me special.  Feel free to make that 'special' if you so choose...

Anyway, the point is: I'd be pretty boring if I was stuffy, tucked in my shirt and, you know, shaved on a regular basis.  

Recently, I read a book - CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers - and the whole time I thought, "I probably shouldn't like this Parker chick.  She's so... mean."  And then I started thinking, "Yeah, she's like some of my friends in high school..."  And then I started crying.  What brought me back from the edge was  a blog post (again by Courtney) that made think about characters who are difficult to like, and the importance of taking chances.

You may have read the way I swooned over a book called CATCH.  Well, as I was reading CRACKED UP TO BE, I felt that similar flutter of excitement.  Know why?  Let me give you a quick answer: I love good characters.  I love real characters.  But for a character to be real, they need to be flawed. 

I know, I know.  This is like Writing 101 (wait for my next explosion of knowledge when I blog about the importance of showing, not telling...) but I'm not talking about these minor imperfections found in some books.  Like, He always burps when he's done drinking Dr. Pepper!!!!  No.  Real imperfections.  Real problems.  Personalities that struggle to do the right thing, to move beyond their own issues, self-consciousness - beyond their own ability to feel comfortable.  That's what makes a character exciting, I think - when an author takes a chance and writes a character in a way that might make people say, "I don't like this person."  That's risk.  And I think that's what makes great fiction.  

But who knows.  Let me remind you that I am the guy who just wrote, NEWBERY, BITCHES!  So a grain of salt, all that.


  1. I sometimes like salt, but the salt here is like exquisite Grecian Sea Salt and the flavor is infinitely amplified.

  2. Crap. I was liking my book and all. And now, I have to go back and make sure that I really get my characters. I know they are real, it's just whether I can truly bring them to life... Thanks for making sure that I don't query crap.

  3. I just started a new project this morning, and my MC is turning out to be quite the brat.
    Maybe she'll be my Newberry Bitch.

    btw, one of my best friends is one of the kindest people I know, and also someone who has never left a message on our ansering machine without saying something wildly inappropriate.

  4. Love it. You are like no one else, Bryan!

  5. best. post. title. ever. and yanno, the rest wasn't half bad, either. :)

  6. Jonathan: At first, I thought, "Did he comment on the wrong post?" I understand now. I think. ;)

    Heather: Don't worry. I was just looking for a way to say "NEWBERY, BITCHES!" in a blog post. Disregard the rest.

    LC: That's me. Not your friend. That's her. But you know what I mean, RIGHT?

    Nova: is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    Elissa: I try.

  7. I must be for reading these books you are making writings about.

    As soon as I finish lesson 34, of How to Write More Better, I will have times for this.

  8. Reading your posts with a grain of salt brings out the flavor.

  9. Say not all that you know, believe not all that you hear.............................................................

  10. Ha! It's about time a writer admits he's writing a middle grade for the Newbery. They're usually all, "You can't try to win those things" and "I didn't set out thinking I'd win any awards."


  11. You're way out of my league, Bliss.

    I find it interesting that you wrote this blog post shortly after reading my book, because, as you and I both know, my characters are scarcely more developed than a bucket full of little green Army men.

    Now I've got to go back and fix every book I've ever written.