Please help us welcome first time visitor, author Matthew Lang, today on the tour for his newest Dreamspinner Press release, Better with Bacon.
Better with Bacon – In the Beginning with Matthew Lang
In the beginning, there was a word. Actually there were three: ‘in’, ‘the’, and ‘beginning’. And really, it should be there are three. Even after you’ve passed on to new phrases – that one does and will always have three words, even if those words break up and join up with other words to create new meanings. Words are the building blocks of our sentences, our novels and our stories. And interestingly, the main issue I’ve always faced as a writer is the freedom to overuse them.
Stories, at the end of the day is the description of a series of events to impart a meaning. Once upon a time, they were used almost exclusively as teaching devices. ‘The moral of this story’ was part of every Aesop’s fable for a reason, and as much as we might protest otherwise, our stories are no different. At least in the western school of narrative, stories are about overcoming obstacles. In The Hobbit reluctant adventurer Bilbo Baggins must ultimately overcome the curse of dragon gold to save his friends and their kingdom from their own greed. In my new novella, Better with Bacon, finance whiz David must learn to share decision making if he’s to have any hope at finding a loving partnership. In the Mass Effect Trilogy, Commander Shepard must ultimately harness the diversity of the alien cultures of the galaxy to defeat an ancient invading force of sentient machines over a billion years old. Now, some of the geeks out there will notice what I did there. I just listed a video game as an example of storytelling. And, that’s happening more and more. Video games are becoming increasingly story driven, striving to keep a player hooked on narrative, and succeeding to various degrees, but the good ones have a lot to teach writers about structuring obstacles and antagonist confrontations.
Usually, a game wants to make you, the player, feel important, and usually, they do that my giving you a really big goal – such as the extinction of all advanced sentient life in the case of the Mass Effect trilogy. When I was studying theatre, my teacher explained this to me in two questions: “What are the stakes for your protagonist?” she asked, “And how can you raise them?”
Or in other words, what is the core conflict of your story, why does he care about the conflict you’ve placed him in, and how can you make him care more? If we do our jobs right as writers, by making our hero care, we should then make the reader care and invest more in our narrative and give them a bigger emotional payoff at the conclusion of the story.
So, when I write, I always have to ask how, or even if, the scene I’m writing feeds into the core narrative? How does it raise the stakes? What new information does it give that furthers the story, and if it doesn’t provide new information, why am I writing it? And will a reader get bored reading it?
I think my background thinking in terms of theatre, where you have at most 2-3 hours that you can stretch your audience’s patience and bladders has made me willing to make changes to characters and their surroundings to strengthen a story. On stage, every set item costs money or time and must be important and not pull focus from the story. Every line of dialogue must be important because unlike fiction, you can’t keep piling on words once you hit the usual end point. If your audience walks out of the theatre, they don’t come back in to pick up where they left off or give you a second chance.
In Better with Bacon, I remember having discussions with my editors about why specific things were mentioned and what they meant for the narrative. I’d say hunt for those moments, but honestly, if you can’t find them on a casual read through, then I’ll have done my job. I hope you enjoy the story, and I hope this has given you an insight into my thought processes when I’m writing.
About the Book
When Patrick’s long-term girlfriend Li Ling dumps him just as he’s working up the nerve to propose, he ends up drunk on David’s couch—and later in David’s bed. Although initially reluctant to pursue anything beyond a one-time drunken tryst, David throws caution to the wind during an intimate dinner, where the two men also discuss Patrick’s dream of entering the food industry. Just as the friends-turned-lovers are settling into their new romance, Li Ling calls Patrick—she’s pregnant.
Convinced the announcement spells the end of their love affair and a return to their platonic friendship, David flees to Sydney to escape his heartbreak. But upon his return to Melbourne, David discovers the situation hasn’t gone the way he’d expected. There might still be a chance for David and Patrick’s dreams to come true if they can forgive each other’s mistakes and move forward.
Matthew Lang writes behind a desk, in the park, on the tram, and sometimes backstage at amateur theater productions. He has been known to sing and dance in public and analyze the plots of movies and TV shows, and is a confessed Masterchef addict. He has dabbled in film, machinema, event management, and even insurance, but his first love has always been the written word. He is suspected of frequenting libraries and hanging around in bookstores, and his therapists believe he may be plotting some form of literature.