BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Myth or Reality?

I read this blog post last week about myths of writing that kind of irked me. It started out well enough. Item one was that reading and writing alone weren't enough to make people good writers. That education classes shouldn't be forgotten. This one I could get behind because I took a lot of writing classes--in high school, in college, after college. I also read a lot of craft books.

Then the blog post completely derailed for me. Myth two according to this male writer (I think of SF/F, but I'm not 100% sure) is that authors write what their characters tell them. He insisted that characters only do what the writer has them do and that any surprises are because of the writer's awesome subconscious at work.

Dude, maybe your characters are happy to let you move them around like cardboard cutouts, but mine are not. Mine will bring the story to a complete halt until I change what they don't like. You can call this my writer's subconscious at work if this makes you feel better, but I know differently. You suggest that I should write my character putting a gun to her head and pulling the trigger, then delete it later. That I could do this without any problem because my characters are not real and not in control.

Ha! My heroine lowered the gun to her side, looked at me and said, "Are you freaking nuts?" She didn't pull the trigger, she wouldn't even lift the gun to her head.

SF/F Writer Dude, I counter with this question: If your characters aren't real to you, what can you do to make them come alive? What can you do to give them more depth and dimension?

Myth three, according to him, was that there is no magic in storytelling and that writing an outline/synopsis/etc doesn't steal the magic.

I can agree with him to an extent, but not completely. There is magic in storytelling. That's what the surprises are. I don't think throwing together a synopsis steals the magic, I actually like having a synopsis after about the third chapter of the actual story because having a road map is nice. A detailed outline? Maybe one that's 60 pages long? (Yes, there are authors who do this.) If I'm writing 60 pages, my story is done. It's told. It's time to write another one. So for me, over detailing the story before I write does kill something. It kills what makes it magical to me--the discovery, the wonder, the surprises.

I'm afraid I couldn't read any farther. Not only did I disagree strongly with item 2, but his tone really put my back up. It was the "I'm right about writing and if you don't agree with me you're doing it wrong" attitude. I learned early that I was never going to write the way the "experts" said was right. When I tried, I hated writing enough to want to quit it all together. So I do it my way--no matter how wrong it is--and I enjoy it.

Anyone beginning writer who's reading this, just know that there is no right or wrong way to write. If it works for you, it's right for you. His process is right for him and it works for him. Yea for him. But just because my characters are real and in control, just because I don't want to write the story in abbreviated form before I write the real story, doesn't make my way wrong. And no other writer--no matter how successful they are--gets to tell me I'm not following the "one true way." He doesn't get to tell you this either.