One of my Theatre teachers (note, The Theatre, as opposed to the pedestrian theater that screens “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”), liked to say, “No one writes plays about people brushing their teeth.” Her point was we, as an audience, want the exceptional, the crazy, the amazing story, not the pedestrian stuff we all do every day.
There was a scene in The Simpsons back in the day where Homer & the gang took Mr. Burns’ yacht out into international waters. Now, for those of you in the know, that means US law no longer applies and the sky’s the limit. Of course, also for those of you in the know, it doesn’t quite work like that, but for The Simpsons, it was a great excuse to go nuts.
How did they go nuts? Monkey knife fighting, of course.
Whether or not monkey knife fighting is a thing – and I’ve heard it’s extremely popular in Canada and Yonkers, NY, but that could fake news – it served as an example of what Homer thought going bonkers was. That and drinking in the nude, if memory serves.
Of course, as the Canadians will tell you, monkey knife fighting isn’t really all that bonkers. For true, balls-to-the-wall, pissing-on-cop-cars, pants-on-head-crazy, you really need to turn to the master of the art. The man who made Gonzo Journalism a thing; the one and only Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Dr. Thompson lived the life he wrote about and not all of us have the iron-clad constitution to wake up every morning to a glass of whisky or the balls to pull a gun on a crowd of people during a speech. But that was Thompson, he lived his life like he wrote about the world and we, as a people, are better off for him doing it.
Writing fiction shouldn’t be about people brushing their teeth or sitting in offices hammering GPS code; that’s boring stuff that we all do every day. Or at least I do. So, if your audience is already living it, or worse, inured to it, it’s probably not a great thing to work with. Likewise, if the story has already been told, don’t tell it again. The world needs to be amped up if people are going to want to lose themselves in it.
Sure, even The Bible (Ecclesiates 1:9) said there’s nothing new under the sun, but that doesn’t mean there’s no new way to tell that tale. Rather than building a fantasy world where the spotless hero is trying to take the castle from the evil villain, how about a fantasy world where the bad guy took the castle because he wasn’t really bad, just a victim of bad press? What about an alien abduction story where the people getting abducted steal the UFO?
The bottom line is, we live in a world where the president of the United States communicates through Twitter and has accused his predecessor of tapping his phone lines, what seemed crazy and abnormal last year is becoming the norm this year.
Don’t be afraid to include monkey knife fights in your story, maybe not literally, but figuratively. Unless you’re planning on selling a lot of books in Canada. Get nuts, make the dragons duplicitous bastards who’ve managed to turn religion into a drug or make a main character a Valkyrie who thinks Odin isn’t doing enough to hasten Ragnarok.
It’s time to put on the tinfoil fedora and go a little nuts. Make it surreal, make it fun, make it so outside the ordinary people will have to sit up and notice it.
As usual, Hunter S. Thompson has a quote that needs to be applied to more fiction.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Go bonkers with your writing. Don’t be afraid to write that scene; I assure you its only problem is it’s not crazy enough.