“These are my options if I want to become a serial killer? I’m killing people because I’m either a gold digger or a woman scorned? What, I can’t kill people because it’s fun?”
“Yeah,” Helen said. “Why can’t I kill people because it’s exciting and new? This is bullshit.”
From We Are Become Pals, Chapter 7 by Joey Comeau and Jess Fink (illustrator)
One of the things I love about web fiction is that it breaks the rules. Many times, it breaks the rules and sucks because of it. Most fiction sucks. Think about the books you love and the books you like. Then think about the books you don’t like: the ones you wanted to chuck in the bin, the ones that you did chuck in the bin, the ones that you didn’t even pick up, the ones that you hated before you were done with the first page and wished you could chuck in the bin but couldn’t because you hadn’t even bought the book and you were never going to. Think of the genre that you hate the most and think of all the books populating it.
Fiction is not good because it follows rules. But most fiction follows rules anyway.
People who follow the rules don’t write web fiction.
I sat down to write a summary for We Are Become Pals. This is what I came up with: What is this story about? Two girls. What are they doing? Stuff. Where is the story going? I don’t know. To school?
It doesn’t follow those drawings we drew on the chalkboard in middle school that mapped how how a story was supposed to look. You know, exposition, boring stuff, the exciting part, some boring concluding remarks, then thank god it’s over. This thing:
Even serial things like comics, book/story series, tend to follow this pattern. We are become pals doesn’t. I mean, that’s not to say there isn’t intro, conflict and resolution. Things happen. But there’s not much of a single unifying, driving question or focus–at least not for the first several chapters. I think there might be some things coming up, but for a bunch of chapters it’s just the story of these girls doing stuff. If you think this sounds dull, then perhaps you should explain to your psychologist why aspiring serial killers sound dull.
It’s really more like this, which is actually kind of cool:
You may think this is not surprising because web serials have to have an up and down type of pattern because they need to keep people engaged for short episodes as well as throughout a longer story arcs. In theory this is true. However, I have found most lengthy web fiction to happen more like this:
They preserve the same basic structure of regular fiction but with a few sharp upswings to keep people reading. (btw This is not a critique, just an observation.)
We are become pals, rather, covers such disconnected things as the size of Jane’s head, the joys of snorting dust from old books, and UFO presentations in science class. There is hardly a pattern besides “Weird girls doing weird things.” This is cool.
It’s totally against the rules. And that’s why it rocks.
And in case you still think all this sounds dull and you can’t get to your shrink’s office till next week, you can check out other things by writer Joey Comeau whose work is truly a bundle of oddness.
I thought I’d sit down with Mr. Cormeau for an interview, but as I suspect he is in hiding from the FBI, I’ll have to do the best I can without him.
Check back in tomorrow for the results and for the rest of this post that isn’t getting written because I need some fucking sleep.
And while you’re waiting take a look at Joey’s website.