Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Farging ice hole

I am really bad at this blogging thing. Case in point: I've been freaking out all day today trying to draw something, to post up here that doesn't suck and isn't half-finished.

Nevermind that Thursdays are when I'm trying to upload new art and today is Wednesday.  Yeah, I'm an ass.

Today I want to talk about drawing from what you know.  Whether your writing or drawing or making up some lame excuse on the fly, you're going to do your best work, working from experience.

That's what they tell me, anyway.

Mostly I'm talking about writing here, because I'm trying to sift through my process to clear the chaff and find some way to spur myself on to more productive things.  Part of what keeps me from doing the work is my lack of faith in my ability to do so.  So I'm trying to become a better writer by analyzing how I write.  I'm doing it here just in case it can help someone else.

For instance, I find it hard to "write what I know," unless I make the focus of my fiction the characters and not the story.  None of this stuff I write about ever happened to me.  It's not even stuff I'd want to happen to me.  Even so, when I try to focus on the characters, I often find myself in over my head.

Take this vampire story I'm writing.  The original idea was to write a vampire novel that would kill the vampire fiction genre.  Yes, I am often just that full of myself.  It won't be hard to see that original thread in the overarching plot of the finished book.

As the story progressed, however, it became less and less about killing vampires and more about addiction.  But what the fuck do I know about addiction?  I smoked cigarettes for a few years and quit.  I drank copious amounts of alcohol in the Navy (it's a requirement for advancement), and quit.  I'm not addicted to drugs or sex or anything, really.  I often wonder if I can't be a great writer because I'm content with a glass of Scotch in the evening, and I don't need to get shit-housed to put pen to paper.

Coca-cola. I'm addicted to sodas; but that's a helluva lame thing to base a novel on.

I keep writing anyway, however, because I believe in the story.  I know it can be good; and the farther into it I get, the more I realize that its all metaphor.  Its not about addiction at all. No more than it's about vampires or teenaged angst. I'm getting pretentious again, but now I understand my characters better.  I have some idea where they're all going and why.

I've been writing what I know without really knowing it.  Or - more likely - my experience has shaped the story and my perception of it.  Someone else might read a story about killing vampires, it might still be about addiction or depression or any of a number of different things.  I'm actually happy with that.

I guess what I'm saying is, don't worry about trying to only write what you know.  I write mostly fantasy and sci-fi; but I've never encountered a vampire, or a talking frog, or the ruins left behind by an extinct race of interstellar humans from before the dawn of history.

Write the story you'll want to read and let your natural inclinations guide you through to great storytelling.  Drawing from what you know doesn't mean writing only what's happened to you or around you - but it informs your work with the experiences you've shared in.

Adding in the "what you know" helps bring your characters to life and adds believability to your plot. At least I hope so. I guess we'll find out when the book's done.

Now if I could only work out how to do characterization and plot, I'd be on my way.

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