Ryan Collins writes “Media Retrospect,” a commentary about his debut novel Narrative Loserdom.
Writing from the perspective of a teenager without referencing pop culture would have been blasphemy. Familial relationships, not so important. World affairs could take a back seat, too. But the music video with Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule was considerable, especially for some suburban kids in 2001. And while exploring a time that may not quite be deemed ‘historical’, it felt okay to shine the spotlight on the marketed entertainment that is now only somewhat familiar. Given the esteem and perceived state of Justin Taggart, even obscure and isolating references (to the reader) didn’t seem to be outside the realm of possibility.
As each journal entry began to flow, I noticed that references to music, movies, and video games were among the most natural ingredients. While many served to fill a void in the characterization department (largely due to the narrator’s own subjectivity), some existed solely as placeholders for the setting. For the modicum of energy expended in describing lyrics or gameplay, there seemed an inverse amount for fact checking. This consisted of making sure references were relevant to the setting (not Google, Yahoo!) and personality of the character that brought it up. In comparison to the overall research effort, though, this process was still more pleasure than pain—primarily because the characters’ encounters with most entertainment mediums were casual. Referencing Eugene Levy’s role from American Pie (1999), for example, wouldn’t be that far removed from the (then) current year, making its mention relatively believable.
Admittedly, the freedom of the journal format made crossing the line into obscurity both tempting and easy. Non gaming readers may experience Starcraft and Silent Hill as obliviously as a hip-hop fan’s brush with Tal Bachman. But even on the chance that readership became so vast, vague reference would still accomplish the goal of exposure. One of the joys of writing (for me) comes from the reader’s reaction to the characters’ tastes, good or bad. The idea that anyone would wonder about your ‘people’ is a reward all its own, even if the reader isn’t completely ‘in the know’.
From an aerial view, all references felt right at the time of writing, but any one could lack the substance or explanation desired. Since reader accessibility is generally good, an expressed disconnect experienced by the majority might be bad. I suppose it depends on the goals of the writer and type of story. If I know anything, it is that Narrative Loserdom was an attempt to present a writer without an audience, and nothing more.
Thank You Ryan for the commentary. You can find Narrative Loserdom on Amazon through the links at the bottom of the post.
From the synopsis of Narrative Loserdom:
Justin Taggart doesn’t know anything (about being a loser). He likes girls and plays sports and has some friends. Unfortunately his fear of rejection outweighs his ability to deal with these well. Mostly there’s Sterling, the girl of his dreams who knows how to stop his heart by not knowing he likes her. Another thing is trying to get money with Adam, who’s rich anyway so it’s more about hanging out. As for Justin, he makes ends meet by mowing people’s yards with Adam, and sometimes by breaking into vending machines and selling late-night cable programming to peers (also with Adam). But it’s not like he doesn’t feel bad about it, since Jesus died for his sins. School is pretty terrible with all the work and practice, but there are a few people there worth mentioning. Anyone who picks up his journal will be in for something, if they feel like getting through a lot of grammar and spelling problems. They’ll probably end up seeing that they shouldn’t have looked at it anyway, because this is someone’s private anthem of girls, grass, and loserdom.
About the Author
Ryan Collins was born in Texas in 1985. While attending Texas State University he earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a minor in writing, and moved toward a post-graduate degree in computer information systems. In the company of a few unpublished short stories, Narrative Loserdom represents his first self-published novel. Ryan works for a local communications company in Austin, Texas, where he resides with his girlfriend and pugs.is available from Amazon through the links below.