Top Three Things I’ve learned about writing 2016
1) Little Adventures
This may sound strange, ‘little adventures’—what does that mean? Well, only when I sat down and started to think of it, that is of the many books I loved, it was always the little events in each chapter, each book that remained so vivid. I think this is something that needs to be in every story. I only say this because, looking at my writing and some of the other fare I’ve read this year, I’ve found few little adventures in them.
For instance, any of you who have read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ probably remember the many little vingettes at the beginning of the story, all the happen before Tom Robinson’s trial even starts or pops up. There’s the fire story where Boo ends up putting the blanket on them; there’s the rabid dog story where Atticus shots it dead on; and there’s the Mrs. Dubose story where Jeb has to read to her to quit her pain medicine addiction.
After reading a lot of YA and such this year, I can’t recall one book that deals with any of this, that gives us a little taste of daily tomfoolery. And yet, old books seem so rich with them.
2) Character Immersion
I never understood before all the language thrown around by other web writers about detailing their characters, getting all the likes and dislikes of them down on paper before writing. I’d have to say I still don’t. Too often it feels like the wagon pulling the horse, or rather, prepping the wagon before you even own a horse. One is ready but can’t do a thing without the other more vital part—the story.
No, instead, I like my characters to grow organically as I write. I discover more and more about them and by the end they are just as three dimensional as all the others that sit by the wayside waiting for the story to start. I can see now why developing them beforehand is useful, but I need my characters in the story I’m writing, so if I need them to be another way, then I go back and alter it.
Still, character immersion is needed, and what really makes it apparent are the side characters. Sometimes I forget about them—I don’t flesh them out enough. In this way, I’ve grown a little bit and made their movements, although maybe never seen in the reader’s eye, more distinct. I can now account for a lot of what they’ve done, even if no one else will ever see it.
3) The Canon is Difficult to Ignore
This only comes after reading a lot of contemporary writing—and watching a lot of current movies—and I can’t help but feel disheartened most of the time. What I mean is, I don’t like a lot of it. Every story I read seems so similar, so copy and paste. One book I read this year—a trilogy touted by many to be amazing and heart-breaking that supposedly will soon be made into movies—was dry and expected. Even the dialogue rang like something you’d expect to hear. Every turn and instance just felt like filler to stretch the book out to its over 400 page count. But it’s not just that.
This is what is popular now. This is what people want to read, and the little stories I find so interesting and amazing don’t really fit in. It feels like there’s a certain formula, and that’s what people latch onto—the familiar. I don’t want to say my writing is phenomenal different, but there are many books that I enjoy, and others look over them. They don’t see how great they are, and yet these are the books I want to write.
In the end, it’s hard to believe in something when everything else is so bland, so…the same. I can’t help but wonder if my taste is off, if my keen eye toward art is somehow off. Maybe, it is.