With the advent of the sta.sh writer, Literature deviants now have the ability to create skins for their pieces. There has been quite an uproar from many different factions in regards to this. I though I would take the time here to explain why this actually is a benefit, if properly utilized. I thought I would dispel a few myths in regards to lit skins, as well as in regards to literature and presentation as a whole.
The Visual Movement
I think the only way you might have missed the visual movement in literature is if you've been living under a rock.
For the past week, I've seen two DDs that are Visual based poetry. Hey, guys, I thought you didn't judge things by looks?
The fact is: we live in a society that has become inundated with the visual. Our minds have been wired to respond to it. It's psychology, it's sociology, it's anthropology, it's a fact so how about we all just accept that, hmmm?
This isn't new. What do you think "concrete poetry" is?
It isn't going to "ruin" literature. In fact, I find that it enhances it. It allows writers more freedom to make their vision come to life. It allows for more experimentation. Poets have been doing it for years. Don't believe me? Haven't you heard the The Humament?
The Humament was created in the mid-1960s and first published in the 1980's. In it, the author took a Victorian Novel titled The Human Document and cut, copy, pasted, and all around removed and added parts of the inside to create something new. In his own words:
"I plundered, mined and undermined its text to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents and surrealist catastrophes which seemed to lurk within its wall of words. As I worked on it, I replaced the text I'd stripped away with visual images of all kinds. I began to tell and depict, among other memories, dreams and reflections, the sad story of Bill Toge, one of love's casualties."
That's not art? That's not literature? Writers find words in a sea of words that they can put together, meld together, and create something new with them. When one excludes the possibility of the visual, one basically shoots oneself in the foot. You are taking away something that you can use to make your story what you want it to be. What it is supposed to be. You can say things that you might not be able to express otherwise.
"But I don't use that fancy stuff!" Do you have page breaks in your novel? Do you have line breaks in your poetry? Do you have paragraph breaks in your short stories?
Do you decide to shrug off these "rules" and go Faulknerian, creating sentences that stretch for pages upon pages with no breaks at all?
Do you write on paper? Do you put words in a word processor and transmit them to a screen?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions: then you do use that fancy stuff.
Take a deep breath. Accept it. Now, embrace it. And find a way to make everything you have to work with work for you, instead of believing that everything is working against you.
If you want to shirk this idea and pretend you live in the 1400s and are scrawling your books on parchment with quills by the light of the candle, go for it. But art and form should never remain stagnant. Nothing that has been groundbreaking in literature, art, or culture has ever been exactly like what has come before it.
"Don't judge a book by its cover," or "I care whats on the page, not what the page looks like."
Yeah. Right. I don't know about anyone else, but I have countless books on my shelves that I have chosen to pick up JUST because I like the covers. These are a few that come to mind that I happened to love and actually have a place of honor on my "favorite books not by my favorite authors" shelf:
Therefore, saying that people do not judge literature on the value of the way it looks are lying. Yep, I'm accusing you of being a liar. Because it's true. The second you accept that you do, in fact, judge books by their covers the world will be a better place.
This isn't always the case. Sometimes, you buy a book because you want to read it. You've heard of it. You go to the store and, gasp, there are about six different versions of it! (I'm thinking of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha here.) Oddly enough, they all cost roughly the same amount of money. Which one do you grab? The one with the nicest cover.
Other times, you buy a book with an ugly cover for the same reason, which was that you just wanted to read it and there wasn't any other ones. Fair enough. But you probably grumble somewhere in your heart of hearts about having to spend money on something so ugly.
But, let's say you are just walking through the bookstore, looking for something to read. Something that strikes your fancy. Do you pick up every single book and read the back? Nope. You wander around until something from the shelves "calls" you. Here is where I'd like to extend this idea to DA: there are millions of Lit deviations on this website. Of course, you will read something by your friends, or something that is recommended by your friends, and sometimes things that are DDed or DLDed. But if you are just browsing around, how will you decide what you want to read?
You'll click on something with a lit tag that appeals to you. Or a preview image that seems neat. Or maybe you are flipping through group submissions--you'll stop on one that looks different, that appeals to you in a sensory way, and you'll at least read the first couple of sentences. Maybe you'll read the rest, and maybe those sentences were terrible and you'll move on. But you'll stop for just a moment and look at it. And sometimes, all someone needs is that moment to drag you in with the words, and hold you down by the cuff until you've finished reading.
Publishers want a clean look!
They sure do. They want your manuscript double spaced, in Times New Roman twelve point font, single-sided, numbered with the title of the book and name of the author at the top of each page, and unbound. They want a cover letter included, and y'know what, you probably had to send a query letter, too, before you were even allowed to send your manuscript in.
This has nothing, at all, to do with your DA page.
I would like to take the time here to dispel the starry eyed myth that lives in the hearts of all young writers: that you are just so brilliant that someone will stumble across you in the wide, wide wilderness that is the internet and immediately offer you a contract and a six digit advance check. Excuse me while I laugh a little, then sigh about how adorable that is. Publishers don't go out looking for writers. They don't have to. Because writers look for publishers. Actually, most writers aren't even allowed to approach publishers on their own, Agents are, and that's because Publishers get so many people chasing after them.
I know, I know: "But! so-and-so was discovered on the internet!" I don't doubt it. Many publishers run sites that are like DA, just you are required to upload an entire manuscript and people "rate" it. It's a rather complicated system, and the number one book rated at the top of all the others each quarter is presented to the publisher! And then, they just might probably reject it. After that quarter, all stats are reset and you have to actually upload another novel. You can't enter the same one twice.
That sounds like fun, doesn't it?
"But! BUT!" In today's publishing industry, with the advent or e-readers, there are authors that are getting picked up off of the Amazon marketplace after self-publishing their books. That is, if they sell a few million copies and make it to the top of the Kindle list, and if they generate a buzz in the market. However, this is going to take a lot of footwork on your part in convincing people to read and buy your book. The downside of trying this route? If your book doesn't sell, your screwed. That's the nicest way I can say it. No publisher is going to take a chance on something that took its own chance and failed.
That being said, DA is a great place to create a base of people that you think might buy your book. Makes that chance worth taking. Which brings us back to: "but how am I going to get people to read my work anyway?"
Well, standing apart from the crowd is a good start.
"Staff should have thought of more innovative ways to improve literature deviations than pretty backgrounds."
Maybe they did think "oh, pretty background! They want pretty backgrounds! Let's let them use skins!" So, what? It isn't the staff's responsibility to take you by the hand and tell you what to do with your own art. That is your job. And why does everyone immediately assume that skins = pretty backgrounds? (is this partly my fault? It could be. But I don't think I have THAT much of an influence and I'd hate to think people took all of my statements literally.)
"They should have given us a way to link together chaptered works!" They did. It's called a skin.
"They should have restricted the use of skins to certain ones that we deem worthy!" And who gets to decide this? Why would you want someone to dictate what you do with your art? Am I the only person that sees the logical fault in this demand? I mean, come on. You're just asking for another shit storm with this one. It is just asking for something else for people to rage and pick up pitchforks and torches over.
"They should have found a way for us to annotate each line!" I'm pretty familiar with simple code, and this seems like it would be a hot mess and more glitchy than anything ever created ever. Why? Because you would have to have some sort of smart program that would identify different sentences. Different lines. That could save multiple annotations. Also: don't you think all those comments sticking off the side of your deviation would detract from it? Someone new just pulled up your story and sees all these marks, comments, and annotations: do you really think they are going to read that, or do you think they are going to assume that your work is riddled with mistakes? I could be wrong, but I am picturing this in the same was as the review pane on Word and it isn't pretty.
What point are you making here?
How do I put this nicely... how about I pose it this way:
Why is everyone so afraid of the introduction of skins and literature?
Yes, people will probably use them poorly. Is that your problem? No, it isn't. It isn't your business what and how people present their work. It is the same as you being unable to dictate what your favourite visual artist decides to create next, and it is the same as the fact that you can't pick what characters get to die on a TV show or in a book.
Your personal preference will define what you read, just as someone's personal preference will decide how they present their work. It isn't your work, so you don't really have any right to judge whether or not it is presented correctly. If something looks insane, then go ahead and leave a constructive comment on how/why the presentation doesn't seem to work. The same way you would leave one in regards to a literature piece before.
You don't have to jump into lit skins right away. Wait until you find something you like. Commission someone to make you a custom one. Wait until the right thing happens, the right idea occurs to you. Just as you wait for inspiration for your next lit piece, wait for inspiration on how you want to present it.
I guess I wrote this whole thing just because I'm tired of hearing people complain about lit skins, and gripe, and claim how bad they are for literature. Yet, when people saw the skin I made for my novel, nearly everyone was somewhat impressed by it. At least, the footer part.
When you close yourself off to something in art, you hamper your ability to express what it is that you really want to say.