Recently I learned of a contest called Write Club. Unlike most other online writing contests that I’ve seen, this one is mostly just for fun, rather than designed to help connect authors with agents or editors. Apparently it’s been going on for at least several years, and has even been copied by others who’ve created similar contests.
The inspiration for the contest is Fight Club, so the rules are modeled on the Fight Club rules, which is rather cute. It even includes Rule Six: No shirt, no shoes. That’s a joke, of course (no one expects the authors to refrain from wearing a shirt or shoes while writing)! Though in my case, if that were an actual rule I’d already be partly in compliance; since I can’t stand wearing shoes in the house, I almost always write without shoes. 😉
I confess that although I’m definitely a Brad Pitt fan, I’m not really a big fan of that film. I saw it just once and while I didn’t dislike it, it’s not something I’d be interested in watching again. I suppose most people would say that the quintessential masculine version of a ‘chick flick’ is something like the Die Hard films, filled with intense action and things blowing up from the first moment to the last. But I might say that Fight Club is a more intellectual form of a ‘guy movie’; it certainly has a lot more depth, but I would guess it still tends to have more appeal for men than women.
Although I understand that the film is meant to have a fair amount of dark humor, I admit I still have a suspension of disbelief issue with the idea of someone being able to get into a bare-fisted boxing match with themselves, no matter what sort of split personality or other delusional disorder they might have! (It’s no surprise that the scene that shows this in the movie is so absurd that it becomes purely comical.) But I believe the real issue for me is that I generally dislike it when a writer — in this case, Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the novel the film is based on — has characters behave in an unrealistic manner or has something contrived happen in the plot solely for thematic reasons.
One becomes too conscious of the author’s deliberate efforts to illustrate the theme; it’s almost as if Palahniuk broke the ‘fourth wall’ and stepped into his book to make the point that men’s issues with their role models and their position in society causes then to be embroiled in a struggle with themselves, and the story just becomes a transparent vehicle for the message. Perhaps due partly to my obsession with realism, I find it more effective — and also a greater display of the writer’s skill — when a story feels very natural and believable, and the underlying themes are only apparent upon reflection, or even only upon rereading the book.
To get back to the Write Club contest, I’m curious about following it and seeing how it plays out. I would guess that in such a context the most competitive writing samples will be those with fairly accessible and immediate entertainment value, particularly humorous ones. But I would be pretty disappointed if the actual quality of the writing and the evident skill of the author weren’t also instrumental in determining the eventual winner.