Sunday, May 1, 2016

Your Fun is Wrong!

Writing process is something I think about a lot, especially when it is frequently used as a device to tell new writers that they're “doing it wrong”. Personally, I can't imagine any one wrong way to write – if you're doing what works for you then by all means, carry on. I say this because I've been told that my “process” is wrong more often I really thought I would when I first started writing seriously, and I can't help but wonder what sort of irrational thought process would lead someone to judge another person's way of getting the ideas out of their head.

I've made no secret of the fact that my writing always has been, and likely always will be, influenced by fandom and by nearly twenty years so far of writing fanfiction. Fanfic is great, it brings a lot of things to the table that I think a lot of "traditional" authors dismiss much the same way fanfic itself has been dismissed as juvenile and the very worst of the craft itself. Writing fanfiction means the author is taking familiar characters, settings, plot devices, and situations and using them to tell a story that is uniquely theirs. In this process, you are required to examine the characters in all their glory and fault; a good fanfic author will take the time to know their characters as well as any you can create yourself. You study their motivations, their history, their shortcomings, and in the process you begin filling in the gaps (as with any medium there will always be gaps, how dull would a story be if it told you everything there ever was to know about a character?) that can either play a part in your story or not. For some fanfic is less about the characters and more about the world they live in, but the process is remarkably the same; what is this world about, what sort of things happen there, why is this a place. In taking apart what has already been established you also learn how to build it, how to create your characters and worlds and relationships. Fanfic, at its best, is a study of something you love and want to know intimately.

Another huge influence on my writing has been the world of RPGs. I'm a geek to my core; and my brand of geekery has always been heavily steeped in the world of roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: the Masquerade. My first breaths of writing, of creating characters and worlds, was sitting around a table rolling dice. When I open the player's guides of these games the very first thing you're introduced to isn't charts and rules; it's how to make your character. The template for building a character quickly became how I relate to all characters, my own and those created by others. What do they look like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What motivates them? What are they afraid of? Who are the important people in their life? Where do they live, and where did they come from? What is their community like? If you can answer those questions, you have everything you need to know to create a living character.

That's where my stories start. Sitting down with a piece of paper or an open document with one or two of those questions already answered, I flesh the rest out and then draw from there. By the time I start writing, I know what genre my story will be and what sort of goals my main character will have in it. From there I can layer on how they get from where they are to where they're going, what obstacles they'll face and their epic wins against them, or utter failures. I rarely outline, preferring instead to follow that vague track and let this character that now lives in my head to guide my path to tell me where they're going. I let my characters shock me with unexpected turns, and disappoint me when they revel secrets I hadn't considered until it came up in the moment. At all points the character drives my story, not necessarily the plot. In a lot of ways, I'm writing fanfiction for a character and universe I created, because really I love my characters and want to know more about them and the world they live in.

Which is why I'm wrong, because all authors should have a clearly defined narrative when they first set on their quest to write a story. I should have a clear message that I want to put out, not one that happens by chance as my characters are blundering through their world. Honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. My fun is wrong, and that's okay.

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