I wish I was a surrealist.
I don’t write much genre fiction. Usually my stuff can be characterized as realistic fiction, as twisted love stories. That’s discounting my poetry, which is usually my attempt at understanding other people’s stories. I think that’s the biggest influence poetry has in my life; it’s a cheap substitute for actually showing empathy towards someone else’s struggles. My logic is that it beats out not understanding the millions of other humans crawling through their lives on our planet.
But I’m not a poet, not really. I tend to write short stories; miniature sagas of varied complexity tracing the protagonist’s daily difficulties and love life. I also tend to write female protagonists who die, but I try not to overanalyze that part of my writing. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I hope.
Those stories tend to be exactly the ones I avoid reading. I remember a dismissively cynical analysis I gave of the ameatur writing world in a creative writing class my freshman year of high school. The class had been derailed - as always happens when you let fifteen creative-type teenagers express themselves around an easily frazzled, middle-aged English teacher - onto a discussion of why it seemed like all of our stories always centered on love or death.
“I think,” I said, attempting to validate my freshman-level intellect, “that it’s a sign that we’re lazy. Everyone can relate to a love story, and the easiest way to create emotion in a story is by killing a character that the reader is supposed to love.”
I remember this because I said something similar later that year, after joining the literary magazine as a submissions reader and noticing the death and love themes holding strong. I said something very similar the next year, once I had become somewhat respected on the magazine staff. I still believed it - but kept it to myself - when I served as managing editor on the same magazine.
I still believe it now. Sure, there’s something to be said about how our main submission base was angsty teenagers - much like editors note that aspiring authors tend to write characters who live like aspiring authors, teenager’s characters tend to reflect their authors as they go through that phase where the only thing more popular than pouring out the contents of your veins is doing the same with your heart - but I still think it’s at least partially laziness. If something has worked forever as shorthand for “care about this character”, why change it?
I think that this copycat effect is a much larger factor than typical teenage temperaments. After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
And that’s why I wish I was a surrealist. I wish I wrote genre fiction; I wish I tended towards anything other than realistic love and less realistic death. Value doesn’t just come from an object itself; it comes from the rarity of that object versus other objects. Similarly, the worth of a piece of work doesn’t just come from the piece, but from the novelty of its ideas and themes versus those in other pieces.
And for that reason I don’t like reading my style of writing. For that reason, I wish I wrote surrealist fiction - or really, any type of "different" fiction: to read it. I don’t want to read another heartbreak, another step off a building. I want to see a clock melt, feel a metamorphosis. I want to watch angels and hope. I want to hear about thunderstorms and white lightning. I want to write a story where a cigar is more than just paper and ash.
After all, that’s how you make a story have value. You make it different, you make it notable. To make a piece worth anything, you must first make it rare.