I’m comparing street lit with hip hop because 1) street lit comes from the streets like hip hop and 2) street lit is becoming exactly like the foolery hip hop has become. What I mean by foolery is all of the storylines are the same. The brothas write about getting caught up in the drug game and the female writers write about a supposed bomb ass high yellow heifa who has everything but gets messed up with the wrong street hustla, falls in love yada…yada…yada – que violins right about…now! Don’t believe me? Go to your local library and pull out a stack of urban lit, go ahead read the backs of them – I’ll wait.
Yeah, you see what I’m talking about, pitiful isn’t it?
Damn near all of writers of the ever popular street lit are followers and not attempting to distinguish themselves from other street lit writers. It’s similar to when T-Pain came on the scene and brought back the auto-tuned voice. People who could not sing worth a lick ran to the studio in droves to put some auto-tune in their voices and voila! niggas could sing. Now I know you remember when Jay-Z came up with D.O.A. He made everyone shut it down – including T-Pain. Now he sitting somewhere singing I wanna be a billionaire, lol.
Well I’m about to play Jay real quick and call a challenge to a lot of you bum following, wanna-be writers! Just because you hopped on a bus one day and strolled through some hood does not mean you can sit down and write a hood story! It is an insult to the writers who have mastered the art of storytelling, i.e. Sister Souljah, K’Wan, Cynthia White, this cat that goes by the letter D (on some Prince ish fa real), just to name a few because that’s all there is anyway. And I’m only speaking on urban lit not all of the other African American great writers.
Let me break it down on what I don’t like:
1. Cliches. All hoods are not the same! My hood today is a hell of a lot different than what it was when I was a child. It changed for the better which is good now that I’m a mama. Most hoods do not have that kind of a blessing. Be original! People in my hood go thru a hell of a lot more than selling drugs and having sex. I’m not saying to get rid of that part of your story just don’t make that the plot. I hear you flapping your gums – but Ms. Talia I gotta keep it real! Keepin’ it real my azz! You’re writing fiction!
2. Show Me Not Tell Me! This one frustrates me to the Nth degree! I can’t get too mad because I just learned this concept within the last year and I’m enjoying my writing style better because of it. When I am writing a story, I make it a point to hit the five senses. Don’t go into description overload now. Let me give you an example:
Grandma placed the cooked
food on the dining room table.
Okaaaayyy. Well what kind of food was it?! Do she even know how to cook? Was she by herself? You get the picture. So me being me I’m gone wanna know what grandma cooked cause one it most likely will spark up memories from my childhood and two cause I’m always hungry. I might re-write it like:
Honey glazed ham sat on a reflective dish
that only showed itself on holidays in the the
middle of the table. Dressing, baked macaroni
and cheese with the shredded cheese still bubbling
from the oven, collard greens, yams, potato salad and
rolls all made from scratch complicated the center
Look at you, mouth watering! Go get a towel. Now isn’t that better than the first boring azz sentence? Told you. This takes practice, trust me but it’s worth it. You want your readers to zone out of their world and feel everything coming out of the pages. That’s why Mary J. (yes I went back to music, what can I say I’m a music feign) has been so successful. Having women and men too crying and going thru it at her shows because she gives you that raw emotion!
You little writers out there step your game up. I wanna see variety people! Stop hopping on band wagons just to make a quick buck. And don’t think that because you’re a published writer that you deserve all of these accolades and is nice with your writing skills; you might have just caught the editor on a good day that’s all. There is a reason why your work is not in as high as demand as James Patterson, Toni Morrison, Jodi Picoult or Stieg Larrsson, where there is a waiting list even at the library for these authors. Obviously they are doing something right. I’m not saying copy them just watch what they do. We have busted our way thru the door and have now got peoples attention now lets take it to the next level. Well I’m not all about me being on some bougie bestsellers list! I just wanna see my name on my book! Bullshit! This is the moment where I turn my big Angelina Jolie lips up until I’m damn near kissing my eyeballs! Spare me the fake humility. I said that when I was five. Upgrade and challenge yourselves.
Now you know what I think, tell me what do you think. Do you feel street lit is dead?