A Field Guide to Creative Writing Classes (Part Three of a Series)
Some Notes on the Various Types You Will Find in the Literary Classroom
WARNING: This post may offend women, men, minorities, animal-rights people, SF fans, horror fans, romance fans, poets, sociopaths, sociopathic poets, Moms, Dads, Christians, Narcotics Anonymous people, vegetarians, vegans, and well, pretty much anyone who isn’t me.
However, none of the above can match the total narcissism of…
This writer is a memoirist in the style of Samuel Pepys or Anais Nin, only without Pepys’s historical significance or Nin’s sexual heat (or anything else that would make their long, detailed account of their own life even remotely interesting.) The Hagiographer will give you long accounts of their suburban upbringing, going over to Grandma’s house, fawning portraits of his / her parents (or even worse, voyeuristically detailed accounts of the abuses of said parents), his / her teenage romantic trials, an account of his/her college years and into his / her job at the record store or accounting office – during which time the Hagiographer remains entirely secure in the knowledge that because all of this really happened, it must be interesting. Which of course, it is not. Not even remotely. Truth is, it’s dull as ditchwater and of interest to absolutely nobody but the Hagiographer him- or herself, and might get a duty read by his or her children after the funeral. Fortunately this person is so wrapped up in him- or herself that making a few “I really felt for your protagonist when his / her dog died” comments will be all you’ll need to do to make this classmate happy.
But even self-absorbed diarists are better than…
The Really Prolific Total Hack!
This person’s writing is bad. I mean, BAD. I mean, fucking excruciating. It’s a plotless collection of clichés, melodrama, contrived situations, unfunny attempts at wit and dorky-ass dialogue that bears no relation to anything resembling narrative or even coherence, yet this person can somehow keep this shit up for literally thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of words, with no end in sight. (You won’t even want to think about how many hours and hours of this person’s life have been devoted to producing this piece of unreadable, irredeemable crap.) And the worst part is – s/he wants everyone in the class to lovingly go over his / her heinously bad magnum opus sentence by sentence, when the work is so fundamentally flawed that the most constructive suggestion anybody could ever make about it is: Mulch this garbage and start over.
But even the Prolific Hack is easier to deal with than…
The Too Avant-Garde For This World Writer!
Instantly identifiable by the copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five that s/he hauls to every class session, and his / her use of a form of language and sentence structure that defies all convention so thoroughly it might as well be written in Martian. Plus, the Too Avant-Gardist is always completely impervious to any and all critique of his / her heartbreaking work of staggering genius; to suggest that perhaps s/he make a few less peculiar word choices, or explain a few of his / her more obscure references (“Albedo! At last, at last!”), or maybe introduce a plot, or make the piece just a tiny bit more accessible is to identify yourself as a complete Philistine and probably mentally defective.
But even the Too-Avant-Garde Writer is less annoying than…
You’ve got all the same problems with the “Poet” as you do with the Too-Avant-Garde Person, only now his/her unintelligible crap is in verse.
Last but not least are my three very, very favorites (especially since they all seem to want to go for coffee after class with me) are…
TO BE CONTINUED...!!!