In general, as my last post demonstrated, I'm easily fascinated by many subjects. It really doesn't matter if I know nothing about a subject. If you're enamored, your passion suddenly becomes contagious.
At any rate, as part of my, ah, geekish tendencies, not only do I dabble in the church brats of Christendom, I engage in writecraft. Devious, eh? 0=) Granted, it's a bit sporadic: binge periods where I read or listen to everything about writing I can get my hands on.
Right now my books on writecraft include but aren't limited to:
-The Art of War for Fiction Writers
Also, Fiction Addict is among several writerly podcasts I listen to. They like author interviews and panel discussions, which feeds the beast for me. I write book reviews over there some (though the other reviewers pump out reviews far faster than I do). Anyway, Jake and Josh were interviewing Travis Thrasher and Sigmund Brouwer about the 'craft, and Travis said something I haven't quite forgotten and that hit in a rather timely fashion.
He said writers should always challenge themselves. He said it much more eloquently, but you'd have to catch the podcast to hear all the detail that went into how he keeps on his toes.
On some level, though, that's what I wanted - perhaps needed - to do with my own writing: Something new.
You get used to what's comfortable. What's familiar. You know what works, and keep doing it - and all the while you're developing a kind of tunnel vision in which you can't see the story any other way.
So a few things I've done this time:
- Switching genres. It's not a major switch, as the whole supernatural, surreal element is so ingrained it's almost a staple. But this one is more of a mystery cross with a gothic/supernatural feel. Fantasy, for me, is a control thing. (I don't think all writers have this problem; but for me, I could control the world and its rules, so I used it.) I know, a shocker: I have to abide by the natural laws of the world I actually live in. Shock, horror, wonder, amazement, and awe.
- Dragging out the tension. How long, really, can I maintain the tension before it must be resolved? It's a lesson in patience for me. This means maybe I have to allow for a character to look something other than what they are, put their reputation on the line. It's intriguing to me.
- Playing between the lines. In other words, how can I create a scene where everything the characters say has something else underneath it that the POV character might not understand? Or, perhaps, how to write so that it's quite plain what they're discussing, even though they never mention the topic by name. For me, this is a test: Can I write so clear the reader grasps it without my having to publicly announce it?
- Researching several topics. This one doesn't require much explanation, I don't think. Hey, when you're making the rules, it's a different animal. When the real world causes the perfectionist who must be accurate in all things to rise from its state of dormancy, that's another monster all together.
Small things, maybe. But even if it doesn't work, it'll make me a better writer, I think. This particular story poses, for me, many other challenges as well (though some of them would require spoilers to explain).
One thing the masters will tell you is that teachers are always students; and writers are always reading; artists are always perfecting; athletes are always training. You never 'arrive' and have nowhere else to go. There's always more room to grow, always a new challenge, always an area where a strength must be tested and a weakness must be stretched and strengthened.
So it is. But that's nothing profound.
I like to bring characters to the breaking point, dash them against the rocks, and then restore them to something far better than what they were before. It's like breaking a bone, only to have the bone repair itself and become sturdier than it was before the break.
Yeah, writing always has a life analogy. You saw it coming.
Suffering produces perseverance.
Perseverance produces character.
Character produces hope.
Hope does not disappoint.
And faith is the daughter of hope.
My favorite writers do that: They push characters beyond the brink of what the character thinks they're capable of handling (sometimes, the writer isn't completely sure) and the test only refines them, forging something stronger in the aftermath.
So it is with us and the Master Writer. (You saw this coming. Don't mock. :P)
I had a teacher in high school who, quoting his own mentor, said, "I would rather you learn from a flowing stream than a stagnant pond."
Always learning, then.
I noticed, though, that the things I needed to break from as a writer, I could stand to break from as a person, too.
-The need to control is an illusion. Even with fantasy, set rules cannot be broken. In the real world, more so, natural and spiritual laws cannot be broken. I am not in control.
-Impatience is not a virtue. For a writer, it's a lack of trust in the reader's ability to comprehend. As a person, it's lack of trust in God's timing.
-The need to explain and/or defend is simply a self-defense mechanism. As a writer, I may be trying to defend a character's action, or distance myself from their beliefs and actions. I can't put their reputation over the story arc. As a person, I've placed my own reputation, again, above my faith in God's ability to sort it all out (and/or other people's ability to understand what's going on).
So there you go. Just some musings. Have at it if you want.