Want to Be a Great Writer? Go Over the Top

OMG, lol… A little over the top, yes? But if you think about it, over the top means standing out. I can get behind that.

Stephen King cartoon over the top

It’s kind of a serious point, though. As writers, we often censure ourselves because we’re afraid of going too far. But sometimes, too far or over the top is where our real voice is. And as Stephen King’s success shows, the market for too far can be surprisingly healthy.

That, of course, raises the question of what too far even is. If there’s a serious market for over-the-top stuff, is it really over the top at all? Or is everyone just hiding the truth of who they are and what they enjoy because they’re too scared by social norms to be honest? And just because something is out of the norm doesn’t make it bad. If someone stands up against a whole society of cannibals, for instance, that’s arguably a good thing, yes? Or take the fictitious Addams Family. They were all “weirdos,” but they embraced it with such ferocity they’re classic.

It does make me wonder a little, too, about how much of our voice is inate and how much is shaped. Clearly, here, in the cartoon, the concept is that his mom had a massive influence. And I think exposure to experiences does matter. But then I think about how I grew up, and I can tell you right now my parents weren’t sitting around talking about Victorians or romance or any of that. They certainly didn’t teach me to teach. Yet, here I am, and I don’t think the teacher who told me my writing voice was beyond my years was off. And I think if others see what is inate and pull it out of us, when they tell us “too far” is actually acceptable, we can see genius.