Nathan Bransford, Author

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reality is Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Life. It's deep, right? I mean, just look at the word. Life. Wow, man. Just, wow.

Here's the thing about real life. Real life is boring. Do not write about real life.

Let me put it another way. People say rap is "real." Rap isn't real. Rap is a fantasy world. As I always say: Consider the Wu. The Wu Tang Clan have created an elaborate fantasy world based upon martial arts mytholgoy, 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 the best rap takes 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.


Jenna said...


I knew I loved you, but I did not yet know I loved you.

Any man who references WuTang while discussing literature is my hero. This makes you my new hero. You have been warned.

I, too, thank the RZA repeatedly. I suggest googling 'wupeanuts' . If you have not already read them, You will love them!

(as a side note, there is one other man with similar convictions down here in L.A. - and I am desperately trying to get the fool to marry me!!! )

Ok, that is all. Just glad to find someone else willing to say that, in the world of writing, pimpin' ain't easy.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Nathan. Your blog just made it into my bookmark file.

Nancy said...

I always said, "The truth can hurt a good, true story."

:) n

T.D.S.Hudspeth said...

I think I have just found my new best 'it' friend. Nathan, and I think Jenna said this best, anyone who can put RZA and literary in the same sentence has definitely got me as a cyber friend for life. Wow, I mean,

I am loving your blog - just wish I had come across it sooner. By now I could have become an American idol; Danced with the Stars; looked for Flav's love and babbled irreverently on Celebrity Rehab...Only - if I had come across your blog sooner...

Well good thing I still have time..

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bransford,

Congrats on making it into anon's bookmark file!

We should all be so lucky!

willbe said...

I hate reading, it sends me to sleep, but I am trying to write my life story, it's interesting but don't know if I can get passed my ignorance of never having written before and not knowing the first thing about writing, what I would like to know is, "is there somewhere you can send a few pages to so they can tell you if it's interesting enough".

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