Life. It’s deep, right? I mean, just look at the word.
Wow, man. Just, wow.
Here’s the thing about real life. Real life is boring. Do not write about real life.
As I always say: Consider the Wu. The Wu Tang Clan created an elaborate fantasy world based upon martial arts mythology, Al Pacino movies and, I’m told, cash ruling everything around me. These geniuses accomplish the impossible: they make Staten Island seem cool.
(Of course, you could call any place “Shaolin” and it would seem cool. Like I said, they’re geniuses.)
People call rap “real” because it deals with real life issues (i.e. the aforementioned cash ruling everything around me), but my favorite rap artists take those real issues and places them in a fantasy world that adheres to its own moral code.
When you take the completely boring trials and tribulations of real life (i.e. cash ruling everything around me) and place it in a foreign surrounding (i.e. Shaolin), that credit card debt and those student loans aren’t mundane, they suddenly appear poignant and powerful. (Bless you, RZA. Bless you.)
Don’t strive to write about real life as it is actually lived. That’s boring. Take life to the next level.
Put real life in a strange world or filter it through the gaze of a unique character. When you put real issues in a strange world a funny thing happens: your book seems more real.
Now, my intention here is not to tell you to write gangsta rap inspired fiction (although, actually, that’s not a bad idea). Think about the unique worlds crafted by your favorite writers — even the ones that take place in “real” life.
Great books are transporting. They take you away to a new place before they bring you back to what you know. To put it another way still, when a sales rep goes to a chain and tells the buyer about the books on the upcoming list, they need something to point to that makes a book stand out.
They need to be able to say, “This is what makes this book different.” A unique character, a unique way of telling the story, a unique plot, a unique world, something, anything that sets a book apart from the thousands of other books that are published every year. And I’m here to tell you: real life isn’t enough.
Now go write me some gangsta rap fiction.
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Art: The Dragon by Kunisada II Utagawa