Siri, Read This For Me
by Julian C. Brooks
I’m a verbose writer and, in today’s world, that seems like more of a vice than a virtue. Back in the day, reading R.A. Salvatore’s writing, observing his use of wordplay and vocabulary was like microwaving my brain until it exploded with wonder. But nowadays, I imagine that type of writing—the good writing—seems to falter in the midst of ‘cleaner’ reads, or that prose that lacks more uncommon words or grammatical modifiers. Granted, consuming too much of a thesaurus and then vomiting it onto your writing is never good practice, but that’s also not the type of writing I’m referring to, in case you might be thinking that.
Either way, I blame smartphones. Everyone blames smartphones, or rather, the readily accessible, infinite cesspool of information that smartphones provide. See there—all those crazy adjectives, like ‘readily’ and ‘infinte’ and ‘the’? If I haven’t lost you by now then, chances are, you’ve got a greater attention span than a goldfish. Denzel Washington said it best, “What are the effects of too much information?”
It’s easy to blame the smartphones, but they’re not the only cause of the attention span deficit. It’s the films, the video games, and all the other media that does the work of the human brain. Reading requires the reader to imagine, which can be quite a bit of work. And a busy mind is an easily-distracted mind. Putting your imagination to work is not always such a hindrance, except for in those instances when you’d prefer to do something else. Case and point: I could care less to read the instructions in a table-assembly manual, especially if there’s pictures. But, I’ll read every section of Car and Driver’s review of the Volvo XC90. I mean, in all fairness, it somehow makes 400 horsepower with only four cylinders; 100 horses per cylinder. Like, how?
So, what does that mean? Is the future of literature doomed? My biased answer: nope. It seems to be generational. Let’s break it down. The Baby Boomers (born 1946-164) are readers because they’re set in their ways and still appreciate the beauty of sophisticated writing. Generation X (mid 1960’s to late 1970’s, early 1980’s) is hit or miss, but, at a glance, appear to be heavier readers as well. I can only surmise that it’s because a significant chunk of their upbringing was during a time when the Boomers were the most relatable example, and technology was still blossoming. By the time an X got ahold of a Blackberry, or smartphone, it was merely a cool novelty. But, Millennials? No, I’m sure Siri will be automating audio books soon because even voice actors would prefer not to read every word of a 400-page prose. Millennials have an undefined age group—probably because they put a Millennial in charge and he abandoned the task to tune into President Trump’s Twitter beef with Snoop Dogg. We, the Millennials, grew up with readily available technology and information, and impressive filmography, and innovative video games, to the point that our growth was not nurtured, but rather supplemented with automation. Everything was made easy for us. You remember the people in Wall-E who floated around in hovering chairs because their legs no longer worked? Millennials.
Hopefully, this upcoming generation—the ones still in grade school and high school, earn themselves their own generational moniker. They give me hope. I’ve gotten ample feedback about Arcan: The Missing Nexus (my 400-page Millennial headache) from kids. Not too long ago, I read an article titled: “Children prefer to read books on paper rather than screens.” And that is why I believe this whole thing about simplistic writing is more of a phase than a new way of writing. Kids growing up with technology have known little else, to the point where they demand the ‘other’ thing, the real stuff. Kids want to explore non-automated stuff. I hear about kids, not only mastering drone flight (consumer drones; not military Predators), but also building and modifying them; learning what makes them tick. It’s the details that we discover through exploration that paint more words on the page (or screen, for you Millennials). Like, for example, a bird’s don’t always flap ‘up and down’. They sometimes flap in a rolling, hooking motion, so that they catch more air in their plumage.
I met a young kid once, still in grade school, who told me about the Egyptian gods he’d been reading about. He went on to tell me about how they compared to the Greek gods he’d read about prior. I thought to myself, Wow, I’m really getting schooled by a grade-schooler, right now. This is so satisfyingly embarrassing.
So, as a verbose writer, how do we thrive in a time period when Millennials are moving toward their peak? Do we simplify our writing, or as we say at the coffee table, ‘Dumb it down?’ Here’s how: we rally and we petition to ban all stupid writing. Just kidding. That’s not realistic. No, we do what we’re expected to do; to keep on writing. Survival usually favors those that can adapt, which doesn’t mean you should abandon your thesaurus—I mean, extensive vocabulary—but, rather write some millennial pieces that appeal toward the mainstream market. And when your anxiety climaxes, here’s what you do: grab a brass candle holder, a tall candle, an ink pen with a raven’s quill, and some parchment. You find a dark corner with stone walls, a wooden table and stool, and crank out a thousand-page manuscript loaded with all manner of adjectives, metaphors, and paradoxical stanzas. Turn into a creepy hermit!
Were I a betting man, I’d wager that our style of writing will see the light of day again. Keep hope alive!