Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Escape artist

Society seems to be more divided than ever, with strong feelings on every side of every issue, and very little middle ground. How do you deal with putting your views out there? Have you ever had to deal with a flame war?

by Dietrich Kalteis

I don’t regularly pick up a newspaper or turn on a newscast, at best I skim the news, a headline here and there. There’s little about it I need to know, most of it’s fear-based and often depressing. So at best, I’ve got a passing knowledge of current events, so I usually haven’t got much to offer about the issues of the day. Nothing wrong with a healthy discussion among friends, but sometimes talking about what’s making headlines can seem like striking a match and lighting a fuse — especially in a public forum. 

I write fiction, I make stuff up. When I stumble on a news gem that interests me — especially if there’s some dark humor attached — it might spark a story idea in my head. The kind of news that might get me thinking, “Well, what if this happened.” A number of my short stories and novels were influenced by actual events that I stumbled on. Ride the Lightning came about after I read on an article a few years back about the number of grow-ops in this province, how pot was the biggest cash crop, worth billions annually, rivaling softwood lumber. And not a tax dollar was being collected while talks of legalization continued. The spark for Triggerfish came after I read an article about a captured narco sub used by a cartel to transport cocaine from South America. Authorities established that the sub, which was constructed in the Amazon, could travel two thousand miles virtually undetected, and that got me thinking …

As a story takes shape in my head, so do the characters, and I like to let them loose and allow them to express their own views, which don’t have to line up with my own. I don’t step in and inject my own viewpoints.

There’s a natural seclusion that comes with writing a novel, which can take a year or longer, so I spend a lot of time working on my own. When I’m not writing, I like to spend time with family and friends, and there’s so much more to talk about than what’s making headlines. And of course, I sometimes add comments on social media sites, the perfect place not to get into heated discussions on hot-button issues of the day.

Some of my favorite authors were reclusive, greats like Lee Harper and J.D. Salinger. Some like Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy still are. While others are outspoken. At times Hunter S. Thompson came off half-mad in those dark glasses and golf hat, behaving like he’d been imbibing in something stronger than the office coffee, and often while wielding a firearm. But he wrote with passion and fury and had a great sense of humor. And if he was around today, he’d likely have a hell of a viewpoint to share on some of those hot-button issues.

I’m not reclusive and I don’t consider myself outspoken, so maybe it’s just the polite Canadian thing, but I tend to keep my two cents to myself, especially on public forums. One thing’s for sure, life’s far too short for flame wars. 


Paul D. Marks said...

Totally agree with you, Deiter, life's too short for flame wars. I tend to avoid political posts of both my own (which I don't post) and others. I'm sure we all have opinions, but nobody's going to change anyone's mind so what's the point?

RJ Harlick said...

Totally agree with you, Dietrich, on avoiding flame wars. Good post.

Unknown said...

I'm more or less the same, except I can't avoid the headlines so well as I live with someone who talks about them - a lot ... sometimes I drift off and plot my next novel while he rants on ... :)

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Sometimes I think that's the best part of the news, Rachel, when it gives you something you can use in a story.

Lisa Ciarfella said...

"A number of my short stories and novels were influenced by actual events that I stumbled on."

That's basically how I write too. Stuff I see or do randomly effects me, and stories have tumbled out of that rubble!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Sometimes these bits in the news just fit into a story I'm working on too, Lisa, often giving the stories an interesting twist.