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Three Types of Stories – The Sublime, the Grotesque, and the Boring

Recently I woke up early in the morning to find someone had published a pornographic story on my Facebook account using School Feed. It was embarrassing since the story had my picture next to it. Initially the pornography upset me; but as I pondered the subject I saw a real chance for a writing lesson.

This pornographic story seemed realistic; it was a mechanical rendition of the sex act. I don’t think it really did justice to the form of writing we call ‘realism’ though. Too often the sensual is displayed in a trivial and negative light that ruins the story literotica. There is, after all, a sharp difference between the poetry of a couple making love and pigs rutting in the mud.

And in the morning, really? Not many can stomach a cold stale rendering of the sex act before breakfast. Like coffee, it’s good when it’s hot and yucky when it’s not. My advice to those attempting to portray such disagreeable material in the morning is to tell, not show. For all who have been taught to ‘show, not tell,’ this may sound like bad advice. But when one has not taken the time to develop the subject of their fiction, the only way to lessen the impact is to hide the subject in fancy telling. After all, the perfect rendition of an unworthy subject is at worst mundane and at best grotesque.

The pornography published on my Facebook was an imperfect portrayal of an unworthy subject. So twice the writer failed to do her job. She neglected to study the subject of her story enough to develop an imaginative scene. Or perhaps she simply lacked an imagination. Then she revealed the scene by showing it in a pedantic and insensitive manner. The picture she created was clear but offensive.

The worst crime a writer can commit is to bore readers. To avoid committing this heinous act, one can strive either for the sublime or the grotesque. The sublime can be reached by creating for the story a subject scary beautiful and painting it with brilliant colorful strokes. Most writers strive for the sublime as often as possible in their stories. But often sublimity evades even the greatest artists. A grotesque half human subject with three arms, one leg, and an ugly temper appears in their view and obstructs all else.

Even monsters have a place in literature. Fat hairy bellies and misshapen spines are best portrayed on characters otherwise kind, generous and beautiful inside. The juxtaposition of grossness and beauty at times can lead to wonder and awe. The hunchback rings the bell and falls in love with a gorgeous lady. Murderous thugs join the pure society of ladies and gentlemen. Pain is suffered in patience. Lust is overcome by romance, or romance overcome by lust.

But if there is no beauty to effectively compare to the gross ugliness, that ugliness can be portrayed alone. If portrayed clearly it can cause unpleasant gag reactions that have an entertainment value of their own. This value, though sometimes as intense as the sublime, is rarely as satisfying. It can, however, pinch hit for sublimity long enough to patch one sublime scene with another and keep a work alive for publication.

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