I've been back and forth about this about a thousand times, but after
half a bottle of port my inhibitions have been lowered sufficiently for me to do something I will most definitely regret later.
I'm going to whine like a bitch.
Here's the deal. Chuck Wendig has a wonderfully profane blog—www.terribleminds.com—and I lurk over there regularly. He occasionally hosts a writing contest, giving out copies of his ebooks as prizes, but I've always been too much of a pussy to enter. Today I figured I would give it a try.
The rules were simple: Write a story with a beginning, middle, and end in only three sentences. The only catch, it must be a story. No vignettes.
Determined to take a shot at this contest, I rolled up my sleeves and busted out what I thought was a decent entry. It wasn't terribly original, but it adhered to the rules, and I was happy with it. I posted it into the comments section and waited patiently for Mr. Wendig to make a decision.
Here is what I submitted:
Jake drove like a maniac, taking corners too fast and weaving in and out of traffic, desperate to get to the wedding before it was too late. He burst through the doors of the chapel to find it empty; rose petals and rice covering the floor, the echoes of his entrance fading as he stared at the deserted pews. Jake turned and trudged back to his car as hot tears fell, destined to forever hold his peace.
Not too shabby. Like I said, not terribly original, but it had a nice arc, and it incorporated a nifty play on the last part of a traditional marriage ceremony. I didn't expect it to win—I had already read a bunch of the entries and I knew mine wasn't going to be in the running for the prize. As a matter of fact, the two that were my favorites ended up being the winner and one of the top four.
“So whats the problem,” you ask? Sit down, dear friend, and let me crybaby all over that question.
Prior to announcing the winner, Mr. Wendig berated everyone for making his job so difficult and posted a list of entries that he “really loved”. Nestled in the middle of the list was this entry:
The bad men came and took Pa away. They said they’d bring him right back. They didn’t, so now I’m man of the house.
Look, I know this is entirely subjective, and Mr. Wendig is entitled to love any damn thing his bearded heart desires, but I just can't wrap my head around this one. No disrespect to the author, but that shit ain't a story. It's something the retarded son of a ranch hand might say when the Sheriff came 'round to find out what happened to Curly Slim, but a story? I don't think so.
At first I thought what bothered me was that Chuck singled out an entry as exceptional, while to me it didn't even meet the criteria. But after awhile I realized what my problem really was: What if I don't know good writing when I see it?! I mean, I think I know good writing, but I fully admit to being a foal—still slick from birth and barely able to stand on my own wobbly legs—while Mr. Wendig is a goddamn racing stallion. Who the fuck am I to question one who has achieved so much with their writing when I haven't finished more than a short story?
So, I read it again.
I turned my monitor upside down, squinted one eye, and slaughtered a lamb in a desperate attempt to see what I was missing. No dice. I still don't get it.
I have come to the conclusion that maybe I just don't know enough to be able to appreciate it. Like a beer drinker swishing around a mouthful of late bottled vintage and declaring, “Tastes like wine,” perhaps I just haven't developed the palate necessary to discern why this entry rated so high on Mr. Wendig's literary scale.
Or maybe I just need to douche the sand out of my vag.