Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What to Read, What to Write?

When Dan Wells was still a nobody, he read epic fantasy. He wrote manuscript after manuscript, all epic fantasy, none of which were working. It wasn't until he wrote six (six-ish, I forget the actual number) that he finally tried a horror novel, and that was the one he was able to get published, the first John Cleaver book. And you know what? That horror novel is a really great book. But I always wonder if he (or authors in general) feel conflicted, like they are betraying a part of themself by writing in a different genre.

So, what's the moral of this story? If all you read is teen contemporary, you should write adult paranormal? No, not really. More that you should be brave, and write outside your expectations.

And let me tell you, this is really freaking hard. I don't have one specific genre I want to write in, mainly because I read across all kinds of genres. I read whatever I feel like. But all of the stories I fall in love with have something in common. The characters are real enough to cut your throat, real enough to fall in love with. They have real issues and real conversations and real wants and needs. They no longer exist solely on the paper, and become a living, breathing person that just happens to be in a different room while they tell me their story. Please find me one person who didn't want to be best friends with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and until then I think I've made my point.

There's another thing I like: first person. I like to think that the character is telling their story directly to me, that they sat down and wrote this long letter because I needed to know, and the pages are their heartstrings because they couldn't live another second without me knowing what happened to them. For the same reason researchers go to letters and other primary sources, I want to hear the story from the primary source. Not filtered through a faceless narrator (although I can definitely enjoy third person, those stories always feel one step removed from the emotions for me). Perhaps that makes me a romantic. I don't care. This is why the printed word will never die for me, because turning the pages in a book is like uncovering another layer of the person it encompasses.

I'm losing faith in Bria's story. I'm not surprised, it was the Shiny Awesome Thing that took me away from the story I was working on previously. Marshmallow's story has already existed in a partial draft, and I'd done a lot of work on the outline of the new draft before thinking up Bria's story and starting on that on a whim. I worked on Bria's story for a little over a month, without an outline, just writing wherever my fancy took me. And that was fun for a while, but there was no real depth. The characters were all just mushy, and it wasn't long before I would go an entire week without writing because my interest wasn't there.

Now, I find my interest moving back to Marshmallow. First of all, the main character's name is Marshmallow, and it totally makes sense and that's awesome. Second, this is the first story that I thought of a plot that worked, and I created the story, instead of creating chapters in a generic story shape like my other attempted manuscripts. This is hard to explain... Really, this is the only story that truly works, that I am writing because I want to know what happens, instead of creating a simplified story that I think my novice writing skills can handle. It's never fun to do something that's dumbed down. Bria's story is dumbed down. So was Visola's, though it wasn't as obvious. But Marshmallow's story is much fuller and rounder, and more interesting for that. What's the point of writing something if it's not the most interesting thing I can think of? (Seanan McGuire touched on this in another podcast interview at Roundtable. She is made of so much awesome.)

I'm not really sure what I set out to say with this post. My writing life is in upheaval yet again while I switch gears between stories. Relevant to how I feel is this post from Chuck Wendig. He always seems to come out with articles just when I need them (then again, I can always use a motivational article). I keep trying to simplify things so that I can handle them, and finally finish something, but by simplifying them I am making them boring, thus encouraging me to abandon them. It's a vicious cycle. What I really need is to sack-up and stick with something long enough to get the story out. It doesn't matter if it sucks, it doesn't matter if plot arcs don't match up, and any character that comes out boring can be revised until they are awesome. The important part is getting something out that I can fix.

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