Writing challenges and musical insecurity

6 10 2007

As you may or may not know, I want to write and I have ideas in my head, but I’m not sure how to get them on paper/computer, and I don’t know what’s the best way to proceed. As I see it, there are a number of questions you have to ask yourself when constructing a piece, and here is the list of things I’m asking myself:

  • Fact or fiction? In some ways, nonfiction is way more artistic because you can talk about something that really happened and find research sources. You spend more time crafting and perfecting your art. And fiction is way more limited, because in order to add reality to an invented scenario, you have to decide upon a “realistic enough” sort of scenario.
  • “Novel” ideas, anyone? With books having to compete with far more interactive kinds of media, is there a way for the ol’ tome to get in on the business? It’s my feeling that old-fashioned book reading could benefit from a little modernity, just enough to get people in on the game. Perhaps authors can start blogs and discussions and encourage people to share their perspectives and fan art. The fan art and fanfiction (and yes, slash) are seemingly a biproduct of this sort of need we have now to be participants in the media we consume.
  • Why create a standard text story in the first place? Maybe interactive storytelling is the way to go. Stories constructed from the start in an inherently interactive manner. Don’t ask me how that would get done, but I’ve done a little research into interactive narratives and perhaps that’s a good starting point. On the other hand, reading purists know (and I feel) that text has its own value; an intimate connection with the author as the words stream through your head in a sort of musical rhythm designed to dance through the verbal centers in your brain. The resulting imagery is often more powerful than any movie, and most people can attest to disappointment at the seeing a movie after reading an associated book. The trick is you, the reader, have to be of the right mindset to receive text. More and more, it’s getting hard for me to focus on something so old-fashioned as a book.
  • So you’ve decided you want to write a fiction book. How fictional should it be? Should it be set in a real place or a fictional location? How much should this place resemble real life?
  • Do you want to play it deadpan and straight, or do you want to have an element of humor mixed in?
  • How to narrate the story? Third-person narration feels safer because the narrator doesn’t have to have a stake in the story, but first-person narration can have its benefits. It depends on how involved the narrator should be. You can even have an omniscient narrator speaking in the first person about events happening to others. In any case, how reliable is this narrator going to be? The default typically is a “journalist narrator” who uses colorful commentary to describe the situation, but ultimately steps back and lets things unfold. Still, things could be done differently. A more unreliable narrator might choose to withhold information or give their opinions. In any case, it’s something to think about when constructing a story.
  • What’s the point of writing this? To have fun, make social commentary, address inner fears of the psyche or maybe do all of these and more? Maybe there’s something out there I can’t think of. In any case, it’s important to figure this stuff out.
  • Is there a workable storyline going on here? Is this a sustainable plot? Where is this going?
  • Has this same exact story been done BETTER by someone else?

I think that’s enough for now, but I’m working on some ideas. We’ll see.

Oh, and WordPress has added a tags feature (or else I’m blind to the fact that it was there before) so I can now add tags instead of relying only on categories. Now I’m wondering how exactly I’m going to use these in concert now, seeing as I’ve been applying a tag approach to my use of categories. Ah well.

Oh, and whilst at Borders today, I purchased four CDs. One of them was a Richard Marx CD (my first) and the others were from shall I say “cooler” artists. (Remember that “one of these things is not like the other” sketch from Sesame Street?) I was a little awkward about the Richard Marx disc and I put it near the bottom of the stack. I mean, I’m not such a wuss as to not buy the actual CD, but I’m still insecure enough to try to sandwich it between more socially acceptable items and pray to the deity of your choice that nobody says anything about it. So the Kevin Bacon-esque clerk chuckles a little and asks me straight out, “You a big fan of Richard Marx?” and I flatly denied it in the same way that I might flatly deny that I have some horrible disease, which was silly, but I did it. It turns out that *he* actually enjoyed it and I squashed him without really intending to, and I felt a little bad about it.

I’m going into this awful amount of detail about this extremely mundane event because music is such a personal and telling thing, but at the same time it means nothing at all. It’s a singular reflection of one aspect of our inner emotional state, and in some cases represents our fleeting emotional and social desires. Exposing your musical interests via playlist is a bit like opening up your soul to show who you are and maybe even who you wish you were. So, then, it’s not really in vogue to be emotionally vulnerable in this day and age. Sarcasm, stoicism and a stiff upper lip are common sights. For that reason, you (me, whatever) cringe at the thought of enjoying really emotional or cheesy things, until you reach a certain point that it’s so ridiculous that you can only celebrate it. I think that’s where I’m at now. And don’t get me wrong; maudlin, over-emotional and perhaps clingy people drive me up the wall. But sometimes it’s nice to indulge, and yet I feel very defensive at the store counter. So, everyone, the moral of this story is it’s time we embraced the Softer Side of Sears. And Richard Marx.

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3 responses

6 10 2007
manofroma

Well, what I can say is that, to me, writing is v-e-r-y hard. I write and rewrite a lot. But I am not a novel writer thanks God. I am only a Roman (from Italy) amateur essay writer (former journalist) who had the crazy idea of communicating with this northern language which I do not totally master and which, though a bit chilly to my heart, I find not entirely deprived of charm. The reason for this language choice, that makes my writing even more challenging, is that variety excites me like a drug and I am tired of talking mostly to my fellow people, this lingua franca, English, allowing me hopefully a wider exchange of ideas. As I said to a woman interested in writing-and-rewriting techniques I do really hope this new blogging experience thing can allow this. Best regards and cheers from Roma
PS
Incidentally, music (any kind) is the passion of my life together with writing

6 10 2007
Matt Adams

I’m going to be writing (and drawing) fiction over my break because I get my nonfiction fix from writing on my LJ. Your entire career being “writing nonfiction,” I suspect that that particular bug has bitten you rather hard. Just write what appeals to you and worry about if it’s art later!

There’s always going to be a market for books, but they are starting to backslide into the realm of the intelligentsia, just like the old days. Schools are talking about saving money by not getting books, but rather have everything on a computer screen. Great idea…except for the fact that screen skimming and search features will totally destroy the critical thinking that’s supposed to be taking place. Do a website with some Flash animation. That’s pretty good promotion. ^_^

“Interactive storytelling?” This is what RPGs are for! =)

For my next comments, I will use my series RotS (which has been on my mind lately) as my reference. It’s actually the fiction that I’ve done the most of by far, so it’s the one that feel most confident in talking about as if I had some sort of wisdom to share. *^_^*

The story was about 1/2 made up and 1/2 psuedo-fact. There were dozens of species other than human (and you could even break them down into “RotS-human” and “Earth-human”), but the basic language was essentially English and the science was at least internally consistent, even if I was inventing new amino acids and fuel sources generated by micro-organisms. But then there was all that magic…^_^

My writing style in general is jam-packed at my attempts at humor, so even in the most serious situations my characters tend to get a one-liner in. I was overly influenced by writers like Tom DeFalco and Peter David in my youth, it seems.

Narrative in RotS was always third-person, except during flashback sequences. This is pretty standard, in my experience. I’m thinking of going with first-person on my next story just because it would be easier to fill new readers in as the story progresses. Instead of a whole page of [This guy’s backstory], I could have the character actually relating what’s relevant while the action continues simultaneously.

What’s the point? Because you have a story to tell and if you don’t your brain will explode. That’s all the point that a writer needs. Don’t try to justify that you’re going to write The Great American Novel. There’s no such thing. Somewhere there will be people whose lives are changed by what you produce, and elsewhere you’ll be decried as the worst hack writer in history. Write for yourself, and write for the people who support you, that’s what I say.

As for the “exact same story” bit…how much of a microscope are you looking at this with? RotS has elves and dwarves (the result of loving Tolkien and RPGs coupled with a 19-year-old’s sensibilities) but thousands of writers and millions of storytellers have used those races going back into folklore! It’s what you do with it that counts. Look at vampires; there’s a billion takes on the vampire folklore, but some of them are really much more original than others and those are the ones that fascinate people.

Which Richard Marx CD? His first one was his best, and come to think of it, after something that happened last night I should’ve known better… =D

18 10 2007
Nicole

I never got around to replying to this message because I wasn’t sure I could come up with a suitable reply. I will say that you’ve given excellent advice in that aspiring to write a “great” piece of work is sort of ridiculous and probably not a good reason to begin writing. It’s probably best to just write *something* just for the love of what you’re doing (with some necessary consideration of audience in mind of course) and get it out there.

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