‘Muh Novel’

Development.
Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner


I’m developing a novel and it’s going quite well. But there’s a problem — it’s meant to be an allegory of the Trump Era in the guise of a very snappy, accessible thriller. I’m growing a little nervous that while I will finish it, when I try to sell it, the context of the market will be profoundly different than I might ever expect.

The novel I’m developing has zero literary aspirations. It may if you realize it’s meant to be me screaming — in a very diffused manner — about how much I hate extremism, but, lulz. I just want everyone to have a good time. Ok, maybe not MAGA, they can suck it. But everyone else.

I really like this novel because of how character-driven it is. I really enjoy the characters I’ve come up with — especially the heroine. She’s a lot of fun. While she’s a bad ass who will kick your ass as need be, she’s not dark and unlikeable like Lisbeth Salander. She does have a pretty warped background like Salander, but I want you to like her. I want you to root for her.

Of course, I have to balance that will the risk of her coming off as nothing more than yet another sexxxy slutty assassin. I have to make her dark enough and complex enough that women (the audience) like her, but attractive enough that the marketplace (men) can hang their sexxy time fantasies on her in their minds. It’s a very complicated artistic balance.

I just hate the idea that I have to sacrifice my heroine’s likability or sex appeal in some ideological quest to make her a feminist icon. I mean, there IS sex-positive feminism, as Emily Ratajkowski makes clear on a daily basis. (Whoa buddy.)

All that doesn’t even begin to address the issue that because of identity politics I could do exactly what I set out to do and STILL “trigger” people because, well, lulz I’m a man and I should just fuck off. An example of this is a little Twitter tussle I got in with Crooked Media’s Erin Ryan. I will admit that I was a bit passive-aggressive about this very issue with her and she called me out on it, but I did make a pretty important point: it’s unlikely I will ever be able to placate her in my art. Not only am I not wealthy and / or talk dark and handsome, but I’m exactly the middle-aged white male member of the patriarchy she complains about all the time (albeit a very well-meaning loser version of it.)

I think I’m just going to pause here for a moment and have a pity party about how brutally real this concept is.

Ok, back to writing.

I guess the issue is — I want to placate Ms. Ryan with this novel while not being so preaching (ex: Olivia Wilde’s movie Book Smart) that center-Right men won’t be able to enjoy the novel on the face of it as a thriller. That’s my goal — to write a “woke” tenpole, if you will. But really, it wouldn’t be seen as all that woke because I’m going to rant against “woke” and “cancel” culture just as much fucking MAGA.

All I ask is a pandemic doesn’t make it impossible for me to sell this novel. Please?

The Vision Thing #Novel

The Once & Future Artist
Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@SheltGarner


Development of the novel I’ve been working on for about the last year is going well. But I have to accept there are some existential issues that aren’t going anywhere. I’ve been using Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire as my “textbook,” and, as such, I’ve picked up some of its macro structure, at least the first part of it.

As you may know, that novel actually has a “first part” that is more of a first adventure for the heroine than anything to do with the greater plot. That’s one of the reasons why that book’s word count is about 185,000 instead of the 165,000 of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I’m growing so frustrated with how long development has taken — and it’s actually going really well — so I’ve decided that the metric I’m going to use is results. I’m going to keep going with development, finish it and the write a first, serious draft as quickly as possible.

Though any number of disasters could strike that would make finishing the novel at least more difficult. I know the general plot of the novel so well that it’s really just a matter of doing the hard work at this point. I’m fully prepare to do that, but I also don’t want to wake up and it be a year from now and I’m still struggling with the finer points of this or that plot point. I want to actually finish the damn thing and try to sell it.

I really enjoy this novel for a number of reasons. There’s a surprise on every page and it affords me the opportunity rant — in a very diffused manner — about a wide range of things that really piss me off about the modern Trumplandia Era. If I was a better writer, you wouldn’t be able to figure out my politics. But, alas, while I’m not going to preach at you, I think you’ll be able to figure out I fucking hate MAGA with a white hot creative rage.

I kind of — for the time being — have something of an idyllic situation for developing and writing a novel. I would prefer a pandemic not make that a lot more difficult. But time will tell, I guess.

The ‘Bustle’ Syndrome: The Agony & The Ecstasy Of Being A Male Author Struggling To Write Complex Female Characters

Thinking of you Ms. Ryan.
Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

As you may know, “Bustle” is a Website for women that has a male publisher. In the identity politics era we live in, this has lead to more than a few raised eyebrows. I thought of this after I got into something of a brief rhetorical tussle with Crooked Media star Erin Ryan on Twitter about my person attempt to give her, as a woman reader, complex female characters. She essentially say, “I don’t like your attitude.” But the issue I was trying to convey — it’s unlikely she would even, really, give me a chance if I did develop the type of female characters she demands still stands. I’m a man — a member of the patriarchy — and as such either she wouldn’t read my novel or I would have to work extra hard to prove to her I really was meeting her extremely high demands. I refuse to come to her as a supplicant in search of validation. Either she takes me for who I am as an artist, or doesn’t.

It became clear that her followers were going to rain scorn down on me for not being a sycophant, so I muted the conversation and decided to use the brief encounter as motivation to buckle down on my goal: prove that a man who fits the heteronormative spectrum can, in fact, write women characters for women as part of a tenpole piece of pop art. The issue is, I refuse to be a “soy boy” who fits the feminist narrative. I’m going to be myself –smelly boy attributes and all — and let the chips fall where they may. I really like Ms. Ryan and she’s really is the exact type of person I want to serve with the novel I’m writing. It would be quite an honor if I could do what appears to be the impossible — be both a man and someone who manages to provide a novel with universal truth that she would enjoy the hard work of.

Yass, Queen.

Or, put another way, I want what every artist — male or female — wants: to be accepted for who I am on my own terms because of my art. It’s extremely rare for that to happen. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a recent example of that happening. She has both artistic AND commercial success. In a sense, she’s one of my artistic inspirations since Woody Allen has personal baggage I don’t wish to contemplate. (Wink.)

Anyway, all of this plays into my personal anger about how identity politics makes it more and more difficult to provide an audience universal truth in storytelling. The American Dirt controversy is a prime example of this — apparently only each individual little subgroup has the right to tell their story. Of course, at the same time, when someone like Stephen King is openly dubious of the need to tell non-white male stories, there’s outrage as well. So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And there’s an ADDITIONAL outrage if you point out the Catch 22. So, in other words, you pick your poison and expect the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I want to write a modern tentpole and, as such, I want to give the female audience what they seem to be demanding — honest portrayals of the female experience.

That’s what I’ve been working so hard on for about year now. Whatever the consequences of all that hard work may be, I am prepared for.

Back To #Novel Development #amwriting #writing #writinglife

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner


Barring, like, a global pandemic, I am going to officially jump back into the development of my novel immediately with an eye to wrapping it up in a few months. Things are going really well and as such I’m going to give myself until April.

Then, I’m going to throw myself into writing a really, really good first draft.