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"Insurgent" hurts my soul in a way that weeping will never express.

If you're the type of person who's lived so sheltered a life they don't truly understand the definition of "bitter," then I refer you to me drinking myself into a stupor last Friday while contemplating the career of Ms. Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series.

Full disclosure: I have not read any of Ms. Roth's books.  I have read no excerpts, no reviews, not even a plot summary.

I did, however, watch Insurgent recently, and that thing is a turd on a spike. If you want specifics, you can read the review I wrote on my side blog.

Watching a crappy movie by itself is fine - I do that all the time.  But what made Insurgent stab at my soul the way few things do is the realization that 1) core plot elements from it are so childish and poorly-conceived that I have quite literally thrown them out from my own writing ten years ago when I said, "Wow, that's terrible," and 2) Roth not only didn't throw out those same elements - she made millions off of selling them in her debut novel.

This throws me into a state of depression I cannot even begin to express coherently.  I struggle all the time with worry that I'm not growing as a writer, that I'm only fooling myself when I put on a cheery face and suck it up after failing and I say, "Oh, well, maybe the next one will have an audience," and that it's a vain dream to think I may one day have a respectable critical and commercial following.  I worry I may seem deluded or narcissistic to say it, but I truly do want to be the best writer I can possibly be and I can't stand it when I don't feel like I'm making progress, either personally or professionally.

And then somebody achieved all the success I could ever hope for by picking up my past sins where I left them in the garbage and saying, "Say... this looks fantastic!"

I need another drink to make it through the day now.

I've written before about "Norton Is Thinking," a novel I drafted in college about an introverted doof and his outgoing friend who take over their high school and run it as the new administrators.  It was (supposed to be) a satire on many topics, corporate sponsorship, public education, and teenage motivation among them.

One of the biggest conflicts that takes place is that the principal antagonist decides the school would run better if students were forcibly clustered into cliques so that teachers can cater to their personality types.  He even formalizes this by calling their groups "Titles."  Inevitably, some of the kids find that they don't fit neatly into their group, and they break off to become part of the "Untitled" group instead.  And once enough kids become Untitled, the resentment toward the new system swells until they rise up and rebel against it.

At the time, I thought this was such a genius idea I even called the first draft of the book "The Untitled."  And it wasn't until my professor told me that the premise of teenagers rejecting an identity / brand that has been put upon them is one of the basest and most done-to-death ideas in the history of literature that I second-guessed myself and started to wonder if there might be more potential in the story.

For a couple of years, I fought with that doubt and tried to shop the book around to some agents, anyway.  After getting no response, I took my professor's advice to heart and really thought long and hard about what she was saying.  Finally, when I was maybe 24 or so, I buried the draft on my computer and said, "I'll come back to that when I understand the world a little better."

Now that I'm in my thirties, I see how shallow and naive the story is.  The real potential for comedy and growth in this story comes either from the corporate sponsorship angle - wherein the antagonist starts making kids wear NASCAR-styled uniforms with logos and their textbooks are bloated with ads like fashion magazines - or from the blase, sarcastic way that teenagers will embrace an identity while pretending they're upset in order to cover up the fact that they're all scared shitless about growing up.  There's literally dozens of ways I can rewrite the book now that are all way more clever and meaningful than "kids who don't like being lumped into factions turn into rebels."

And then I look at the Divergent series, which takes the exact same concept and ran with it in the most superficial possible way and which even has a title that's as in-your-face and vapid as my original name... and that lady made a bazillion dollars.

I wrote "Norton Is Thinking" in 2005.  Divergent came out in 2011.  In those six years, I may have matured, but I got a hell of a lot poorer.

I need somebody to tell me I made the right decision.  Either that or you can leave the bottle.

PS - She even named one of her characters "Four," for fuck's sake.  I did that same crap in my teen angst evil clone story, "The Diamond."  Ugh.

PPS - Apologies to Ms. Roth.  I know you're just doing what you love and getting paid for it, so good for you.  I'm just feeling miserable and jealous right now.

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