The New Fiction: Dullism

Thomas was advised by a fellow writer (one who could write, as opposed to the “vague arrangement of loosely related words” she described his writing as) that one way he might improve his craft (besides learning to spell) is to put his characters into escalating conflict to create interest for the reader. Thomas told her firstly that he was quite happy with his craft as it was, and secondly his characters didn’t do that sort of thing because they have far more original things to do through what he terms “the normalisation of domestication”. She asked what this meant. So he told her it revolved around the idea of making characters more relatable to readers by emphasising the mundane, which allows the reader to find an empathy with them. She asked him what this meant. So Thomas told her he made the everyday routine of characters come to the fore in his novels. She asked him what he meant. So he told her that rather than filling books with intrigue and excitement, he does quite the opposite and instead highlight his characters’ dull, mundane world of the mediocre. She asked him what he meant. So Thomas told her that if readers want excitement and escapism and thrill and adventure, that there are thousands—perhaps millions—of books offering this. And that because her books attempt to be some of them, she was fighting within some pretty overwhelming competition. His books however, compete with no other author because they’re so fundamentally un-inspiring. He normalises domestication of character by relating their most dull moments in excessive and often quite unnecessary detail. On one occasion, Thomas included a three thousand word exposition about why his character couldn’t find matching socks, followed by another three thousand about why he didn’t care. This has readers relating to characters through a deep familiarity rather than any desire for escapism. The socks are the conflict. A highly relatable conflict.

His author friend said that the problem with such a concept is that readers want escapism. They want adventure and thrill and excitement, and why on earth would they bother reading about something as mind-shittingly boring as socks? She said reader wants to get away from their drudgery, not be reminded of it. So Thomas told her that this was where his premise is so brilliant: he normalises it. She asked me what he meant. So he told her that his characters are far more boring than any real reader could ever be. Therefore, in comparison, readers realise the dullness of their lives is not quite as dull as they might imagine. Readers feel, therefore, far better about themselves. They can spell their mundane with a capital M rather than not bothering to spell it at all. When she looked at Thomas strangely, he explained that by reducing or normalising domestic tedium to quite unprecedented level of grind, it can only colour far better their everyday battle of the same. I.e. he makes the dull so dull it’s black. He writes the boring so boring, that it’s not even spelt correctly. Thomas makes reading a sufferance. A chore. Painful. She said no one would get past the first page, let alone read the entire book. So he told her that he already has, for a start. As has his mother. She scoffed at this and told Thomas he was stupid, before insisting that no audience exists for such rubbish. So he told her the world is full of people with dull and mediocre lives, to which she agreed wholeheartedly before reminding him such readers were looking to escape it. So he told her escapism is unhealthy denial, and reminded her that making readers’ dull, mediocre lives seem not so dull and mediocre is far more constructive than her novels of flee. She scoffed at this and said he was “so astronomically wrong that I actually hate you”, so he advised such comment arises from the envy at his having invented a genre so raw and profoundly innovative. She scoffed at this shouted some dreadful things, some of which Thomas doubted she could even spell. So he explained her envy again and reminded her that he is not only the creator of dullism, but also its best-selling author. She asked how he can be a best-selling author of such rubbish. So he told her that his mother bought a copy of ‘Ruthless’, the first in the genre of dullism, and as a consequence he had out sold all other authors of said genre, principally because there aren’t any. She scoffed at this and tried to hit him. So Thomas said he’d rather invent a genre than be compete hopelessly in an existing one. She scoffed at this, and then did hit him. Which

Thomas took as her conceding his point.