I can taste the sleaze

With the early feedback from my book, one of my long-held suspicions was confirmed – I’m not that good at descriptive prose (yet). I love to plot and I have a good grasp of dialogue, I keep my characters consistent and my pacing is alright, but when it comes to painting luscious pictures with naught but imagination and words, I’ve got a ways to go.

I’m just not sure I understood exactly how far I have to go until I began reading Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace.

I’ve only read a couple of the included essays so far, but the first tells this story well. It’s titled “Big Red Son”, and it describes Wallace’s experiences at the 1998 Adult Video News Awards.

Yes, that’s a thing. Stay with me.

I feel like I was there. I was not, but through David Foster Wallace’s masterful portrait of the events I can picture it like I was standing right beside him. I can picture the characters he met, Dick Filth and Max Hardcore and Jasmin St. Claire and many more. I can taste the smoke of thick cigars spitting into the cloying air of garish casinos. I can see ballrooms filled with professional “woodmen” in all-black tuxedos and B-girls in dresses so slinky they would barely cover a basketball. I can taste the $12 drinks, feel the plastic cups filled with top shelf vodka, and hear the chatter of narcissistic sleazebags reveling in their own shameless debauchery. Just by reading about it, I don’t feel clean.

I like a good plot and funny dialogue, but sometimes all it takes to tell a great story is painting a scene with such beauty that your readers can’t help put step into the page, and get lost there.

I know what I’ll be working on when I get back to editing, and on my next story and beyond.

4 thoughts on “I can taste the sleaze

  1. Lucky you. I struggle with meaningful and flowing dialogue, though prose I have no problem with due to my background as getting into story writing from poetry. I seem to have troubles where you are strong, and I seem to have a strength where you have a weakness…almost like an anti-thesis in a way. It’s cool…and weird at the same time.

    • Mayhaps! Though I don’t so much struggle with descriptive prose as tend not to do it. Not sure yet whether I’m actually shite at it, or just not as interested in that facet. I’ll find out soon!

  2. You’re reading through that book? I’m actually impressed… if Big Red Sun (which I just read after seeing this post XD) is anything to go by, the author’s style is good but very long winded. He spends a page-long paragraph almost entirely constructed of short sentences (probably fully aware of how painfully unreadable that is) describing buildings in Vegas. I’ll freely admit that his grasp of vocabulary is masterful, but his sentences are at times just… bleargh.

    More on topic, I actually find description and narration easier – or rather, more natural – than dialogue. I find myself writing a thousand words (not really all that much, I know, but that covers enough material for a short story) with maybe one or two lines of actual dialogue. Weird, huh?

    • True, David Foster Wallace can tend towards the long-winded and descriptively profuse, which is impressive if not always easy to read. I don’t have as much fondness for descriptive prose, so I doubt I’ll ever rise to his level, though I would very much love to have the option.

      As for your second point, different people truly are better at different things. Or interested in them, I guess. My real goal is to become more interested in prose so that I want to do it more. That way I’ll not only get better, but enjoy it more!

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