Weird For The Sake of Weird by Carlton Mellick III
I was asked this question last night by a young writer named Miles, so I decided to blog about it today.
The question was:
How do you guys or the publisher discern what is bizarro and what is weird for weirds sake?
This was my answer:
Well, in a way, all bizarro is weird for the sake of weird. Just as horror is scary for the sake of scary. But weird can have different meanings for different people. Sometimes weird means interesting, sometimes weird means nonsensical, sometimes weird means funny. Bizarro isn’t all definitions of weird.
If it is weird for the sake of being interesting or weird for the sake of being funny, then that is bizarro.
If it is weird for the sake of being random or weird for the sake of being nonsensical, then it is not bizarro.
Really, though, the term “weird for the sake of weird” is just bizarro when it is weird but boring. When writing bizarro you want it to be so weird it is interesting, not so weird it is boring. Usually, the way you make it interesting-weird instead of boring-weird is through good storytelling. A good storyteller can make anything worth reading no matter how weird it is. A bad writer can make anything boring no matter how weird it is. However, what is good writing and what is bad writing, what is interesting and what is boring…these are all opinions and can vary from person to person. One person’s bizarro might be another person’s “weird for the sake of weird.”
Another thing I want to mention is that there are certain people out there who think all weirdness in fiction has to be a metaphor, or have a deep hidden meaning, otherwise it is “weird for the sake of weird.” These people, I have to say, are complete douche bags. Never listen to them. While creating a metaphor through weirdness can be interesting, it can also be very very lame if handled incorrectly. A story about woman who gives birth to a marshmallow could be interesting on its own. It raises questions: how would the mother take care of a marshmallow baby? Would the family dog try to eat it? What would its childhood be like? What could it be when it grows up? These could be interesting avenues to explore. However, this story could just be a metaphor for the fragility of youth…which would, more likely than not, just come off as really really lame.
So, my advice is: never force meaning upon your weirdness. Just focus on telling an interesting story. More often than not, the meaning will slip in naturally. It should be so subtle that a reader wouldn’t even notice it until their third or fourth read through. If it’s too heavy-handed it will make people groan. Don’t make people groan.