To look at Seth Stone you would not know that he was one of Argonne County’s most powerful, influential bloggers. His build is slight and his shoulders somewhat stooped He’s pale and his skin shows signs of the teenage acne that he still, at age 23, was outgrowing. His sandy colored shoulder length hair is shaggy, not in a fashionable way, but just unkempt.
But his blue eyes give away his sharp intelligence and wit. Right now, they were focused on Brad Jones, the sleek aide to Ron Mancuso, the Speaker of Virginia’s State House of Delegates. Although both young men were the same age, Brad, in contrast to Seth, was dressed in sharply pressed khaki slacks, a pale blue Oxford shirt and penny loafers. His light brown hair grazed his neck and fell in an expensive haircut. Brad stood taller than Seth, a difference in height exaggerated by Brad’s erect posture.
“Seth you can’t put this on your blog,” Brad was arguing.
“Of course I can,” Seth said sharply. “I can put anything I want on it.”
The blog in question was Throwing Stones: For People Who Don’t Live In Glass Houses. And it was read by the entire Virginia political establishment, both Republican and Democratic. Activists quoted it and newspaper reporters cited it for their stories. Throwing Stones was equal parts political humor, expose, and spot on analysis of electoral trends around the state.
Brad said, “But this is false. It’ll kill Ron’s chances to run for the Senate.”
“So, you don’t want it to run because it’s false or because it hurts Ron?” Seth asked. “I mean, enquiring minds want to know.”
“Seth, you say you’re a Republican. Why on earth do you want to hurt your own party?” Brad countered.
“It’s not about my personal beliefs. It’s about the truth. I’m a blogger and I have a responsibility to my readers just like any journalist. And by the way, it is true!”
“Oh bag it, Seth. You’re not a journalist, except in the Enquirer sense.”
“And Ron’s not a leader or a good Republican, except in the Tom DeLay sense,” Seth retorted.
Just at that moment, a gunshot rang out. Brad’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh my God,” he muttered under his breath as he backed away. He watched Seth crumble, a look of pained surprise in his eyes as he fell onto the ground. Brad looked up into the killer’s eyes. “Why.”
“You weren’t getting anywhere.” The person snapped. He then turned the gun on Brad.
Ok, the above passage is not the stuff of great literature. It needs work – lots of work – to make it even as commercial, genre fiction. But it’s a start and it’s something I want to work on.
But that’s not the reason I’m posting it here on my blog.
I hadn’t wanted to announce this just yet, but after this election cycle, I’m probably going to stop writing AIAW. My blogging is probably my most important contribution to politics. It’s not that I think blogs are more important than GOTV efforts. I actually think it’s more important to knock on every door and make every phone call, especially if you are at all a people person and can actually hold a normal human conversation.
I’m better at writing.
Seriously, when I phone bank, I pray that the people at the other end of the line won’t be home so I can just leave a message. I’m also better at – and more comfortable with – talking to answering machines than to live people, who tend to fluster me.
My friends don’t realize it because I can be pretty talkative with them, but I’m actually shy. Approaching strangers to ask for something, even a vote for somebody I feel truly passionate about, is way out of my comfort zone. So, while I’ll probably never win a Pulitzer Prize, I’m more comfortable with, and better at, writing than true political campaigning. And at blogging.
So, when I say I’m giving it up, I announce that with great guilt.
But there’s something else that’s pulling me in another direction. It’s the desire to write fiction. I’ve got a couple of short story ideas and one story written that I need to revise and then I’d like to send it out to an old fashion print venue. It would also be nice to be paid for some of my writing. I don’t know if anybody would be willing to pay to publish me, but I’d sure like to fine out.
And one of the projects I’m working on is a full length novel, still very much in the pre-planning stage. That means, still a dream. But ideas, characters, and plot points are starting to dance like holiday sugarplums in my mind. I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas by the idea that I could write a novel someday.
And that brings me to the reason that I’ve decided to announce it now.
I know something about fiction.
It’s the obvious point. Fiction is not necessarily true or factual. It involves acts of imagination as well as craft and hard work.
I read a work in progress to a writing workshop that I occasionally attend. It was a story that involved a death of somebody close to the main characer. Because it was in the first person, the group was hesitant to say anything. I quickly realized that their silence was because they thought it was a memoir and they were waiting to make sure I wasn't about to burst into tears after completing the reading. I quickly assured them that it was a made up story.
There was a collective sigh of relief and then the dam burst and I got some really excellent feedback. The best was that everybody agreed it was so realistically written that they couldn’t tell that it was fiction. While the group gave me really good suggestions to tighten and improve my writing, the consensus was that it was already a thoroughly believable work of fiction. And I had made them care about the protagonist. I felt tremendously gratified and encouraged by their feedback.
After the workshop ended, I lingered on the steps of the Pohick Library to chat with some of the other workshop attendees. One person wanted to call me Donna, the name of the protagonist. He laughed and said it was because he still thought she was so real.
“Are you sure it’s not true?” He asked again.
“Not a word,” I assured him.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because of the absurd brouhaha the Allen campaign has been making over Jim Webb’s so-called sexually explicit writing in his fiction. Besides the Allen campaign, which apparently has been shopping this non-story to all the major media (only the Drudge Report bought their premise and ran with a story about it), bloggers like Mason Conserative are questioning whether Webb has the integrity and moral fiber to serve in the Senate because of his fictional writing.
But other conservative bloggers (here, here, and here), who are a bit more sophisticated than Mason Conservative, and who haven't drunk the Allen Kool-Aid, have condemned the Allen campaign for their cheap tactic of trying to impugn Webb's character because of his fiction writing.
Just as I’m not Donna from my story, or even the killer from the above fictional passage that I've posted on this site, Webb is not the sexually predatory characters in his work.
Webb is a far better writer than I’ll ever be. That’s not false modesty on my part. I don’t aspire to write serious literature as he already has done successfully. Repeat: He writes literature. Not genre stories.
That George Allen has bragged that he doesn’t read fiction, by the way, is a badge of shame. It’s also the mark of an uneducated boob. Lots of conservative Republicans proudly read works of fiction, including John McCain, Lynn Cheney (who even writes some pretty hot stories herself), and Newt Gingrich, another novelist with some sexually explicit scenes in his historical novel . Even George W. Bush admits to reading novels. Note to Senator Allen: Reading good fiction is not a partisan activity; it’s merely the mark of an educated and civilized human being.
And anybody who reads fiction will tell you that you can’t judge an author’s moral fitness by taking one of his fictional passages out of context. Webb, in his work, is not in favor of all the actions that he has his characters commit. In the same way, the writer of a thriller or mystery might write a very convincing scene depicting a murder. But that doesn’t make that writer a murderer himself.
I hope, someday, to be one of those people who successfully write a murder mystery. However, since the premise of my novel is the murder of a popular blogger, I do promise all of my readers, no actual Republican bloggers will be killed in the making of my work of fiction.
And let me hasten to assure you, no Republican blogger or legislative aide was killed in the writing of this blog despite the opening paragraph. Because that was – well – fiction.