Writing is all about confidence.
What you don’t have, you learn.
What you can’t know, you research.
When all else fails, you lie.
And hope no one notices you’re conning them.
Occasionally, I do wonder just how rare a breed writers are, more so after my thoughts that most artists have a better colour eyesight range than average. Do talented writers, other than being persistent and imaginative, have other in-built talents in communication that make them different to other people?
People like me who can switch from articles to stories to reviews even rarer although, oddly, from my perspective, it’s all writing. Both require problem-solving and then interpretation. Imagination beyond the idea stage is often more involved with presentation hooks but as mine is turned on all the time, it’s just part of the activity of communication. These days, I do it so automatically, I have to remind myself of the mechanics of the process as it’s so ingrained. As the opening line says, it’s all about confidence and having something relevant to say. Anything else is topping or decoration and hopefully someone is reading it. You are reading this, aren’t you?
It isn’t all in the writing but in the art of communication and that can work in any medium. I can tell a story or gag in person or just words on a paper or screen and still get the same attention so something else must be going on. Some people are better communicators than others. You want to tell a story, then it’s the medium, whether its verbal or written that is less important but both share how you impose your imagination on someone else.
People listen or read tall stories because they want to believe so it must trigger some internal mechanism that will get them. This might seem like a test of gullibility but like a magician taking advantage of distracting an audience, writers are less clinical and people just want to believe. That’s probably not always true or we wouldn’t have so many religions but once taken in, you don’t want to change your story and face an angry crowd out for blood. Thankfully, most fiction is there as a means of pleasure or a distraction from the world about us with a dose of morality. Hence, we like stories about people worse off than ourselves to make us think we could have it really bad. Equally, stories where things are or get better reassure that there is light at the end of the disaster. Both give a sense of distraction and assurance and, hence their attraction, in that we have a need to get away our problems for a sense of relief.
Writing is an unusual trade. You are a natural or learn from practice but you definitely combine the two together at some point to develop the skills to enable better communication. They don’t work independently and both need to improve with practice. Having great ideas but not knowing how to put them on paper still means you’ve still got a lot to learn. A lot of my best ideas come from merely thinking about a subject I’ve read or seen and reacting to them. It’s always a learning process that you can’t stop yourself improving as long as you stick at it. At least, I assume those who have the inkling keep going. No one can do anything without practice and more practice until something clicks. The smarter people amongst you might have spotted this. Thinking is good. Expressing your thoughts means you’re telling others. If you do it well, then maybe you’d be in a similar position to myself here. You’re reading this far because I hope I’m communicating well, although you don’t really see how many drafts or polishes I do on anything I write to ensure I’ve covered everything I have to say. Like a magician, a writer tries to hide such things and just make it look easy.
The mental process is looking for and at the detail of anything. You look for the mechanics of what makes things work far more than the average person. This also extends into storycraft. Even if you write not knowing where a story will lead, at least you’ll know the basics of beginning, middle and end. Whether you get them all right in one go or learn how to improve is down to how much you really want to write. That little extra awareness just means getting down to the nitty-gritty of detail. Everything gets down to consistent detail and how much you need to tell the reader in the motion of a story. I can’t ingrain that enough. That’s why it’s also important to read as many books as you can and understand the content, a sly reference to a need for reviewers here. Not that other authors ideas or techniques will necessarily rub off on you but you will end up with insights into storycraft by analysis, unconscious or otherwise. One thing you can’t do is second guess why another author chose one path over another because it is their right to make that decision. When you write your own stories, you can make your own choice yourself. Choice is often what is good at the time not whether it’s good or bad, but how much we care. That will often come out in the material whether writer or reader realises it.
Mind you, there is still a matter of how much detail. With stories, unless it’s vital to the immediate actions of the plot, it’s better to broadstroke and leave the idea flexible rather than lock it down too much that you can’t change it if you continue the ideas in other stories using the same framework. Often, the reader can be left to his or her own imagination in those areas until you put them right. Of course, if you’re ingenious, you learn how to turn mistakes into something that can grow from such things. Misdirecting readers with the same evidence is the basis of detective stories and Science Fiction certainly uses some if not all of the same techniques. It’s certainly a trick of a magician. Who says we can’t share the same tricks.
Most things about writing can be learnt or cultivated. Even the imagination, believe it or not. You’ve just got to look around in things that are happening and give it a sharp twist into the what if. Once you start looking at things sideways, you start exercising the imaginative muscles in ways the so-called ‘average’ person can’t or hasn’t thought of trying. Even so, it’s still problem-solving, only with more options and that can be applies to anything. Does any of the above make any of you think you are writers or just eager to get out a notepad or word processor and explore any talent you might have? Writing is also about motivation and without such a desire, to paraphrase a quote from ‘Blade Runner’, you’re not a cop then you’re little people. Somewhere in the mix there has to be a touch of ego to stand out from the crowd if you’re a writer. Mind you, any ego I have tends to be to ensure I write decently and communicate well than to be smug.
I think the biggest thing is why there aren’t more talented writers out there superseding their market? Has the media grown or shrunk on the Internet by too many writers? Entries in social media and emails don’t really count. At most, you’re relating things about your life or what’s going on in the world rather than telling something fictitious, which is essentially lying. There is a difference. In real life, I tend to be very honest so any lying comes out in my stories. If anything, my articles are probably closer to the real me because there, I have to be totally honest with information and opinion. With fiction, I can imagine any situation and get you to share it but convince you of the reality of the situation. Then, it’s a matter of how good you are doing it. Even with ebooks, there are far too many to make a mark and a significant fanbase to stand out from the crowd. The future generations of writers might look back in wonder how the earlier generations of writers could make such an impact on society when they can’t.
So what makes for an imagination? For my generation, the geek mentality comes from being isolated and/or bullied at school and the talent tends to flourish. A common occurrence for a lot of SF writers. In the Internet world, people are less isolated and probably feel less alone. If you’re not in with one crowd, then you would certainly seek out like-minded people elsewhere. I contributed ‘The Fate Of Fandom…As We Knew It Once Upon A Time’ a piece elsewhere last year https://downthetubes.net/?tag=fanscene (second zip section page 129-130) that what existed for the comicbook fandom I was involved in back in the 1970s-1980s is never likely to come around again in that form again. It was a lot easier to stand out from the crowd simply by self-publishing a fanzine but so few took that path or stayed for long until the printing costs burnt the wallet. With the Internet and so many websites, it’s become a lot harder to stand out and be noticed no matter how good you are. If anything, I suspect there will be an implosion at some point and the writers will come to places like ours, although I hope some of you will jump that queue and come now rather than later. There might even be a discovery as to what slowed down your success, which I hate to say, can often be put down to poor communication skills in the grammar department. Even if you don’t know something is wrong, the reader might unconsciously.
Another problem is that even geeks are never alone anymore. I often wonder if the really isolated geeks would even consider using the Internet as they would see it as an intrusion on their lives. That might not be entirely true. The Internet as a global village has different facets and they might go shopping or look for information and ignore the social side of things. Hmmm…that’s not too far removed from what I do, so I guess I’m still actually an isolated geek but using my communication skills to reach out to people when I want to let loose my imagination. It doesn’t mean I have to embrace everything, just enough to poke my head up over the parapet and talk to my audience of one. Thinking in terms of millions would scare anyone.
However, when it comes to getting your fiction or articles out there, then it is important to be seen and needs venues like ours to give the needed break to bring out the material so you’re seen. It’s hardly like I don’t want you to write, I’m just surprised so few come to me. Am I that intimidating or frightening? The real dilemma is why aren’t more people doing so? Without that resolution, I’m tending to see myself in a very isolated world. Maybe, you, my audience of one, feels that way, too.
Thank you, take care, good night and isolation doesn’t mean you can’t narrate or lie in a story, it just means you have to do it well.
A Zen thought: An ignorant man is never likely to be right.
What Qualities Does A Geek Have: Continuing the thought from last month, the realisation that many people don’t have our particular kind of talents. I wasn’t so much disappointed, more like realising how rare we really are.
The Reveal: I wrote most of the above editorial before reading Ursula LeGuin’s last book that I’m reviewed this month.
Observation: For those who use twin monitors and get no sound, something I discovered recently is go into the Control Panel and in ‘Sound’ and ‘Playback’ there should be two speaker options, switch to the other one and your sound will return. Taking the second monitor off, only the new default setting will show.
Observation: With ‘Aliens’, the number of xenomorphs killed by the Remote Sentry Weapon Systems would surely have produced enough blood to have melted through the tunnel floor and made it easier to get into the medical centre.
Feeling Stressed: Walls have doors and windows. Don’t feel shut in.