Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creativity Workshop #3: My Three Goals

The way this creativity workshop works is that each writer creates three goals - typically from the list of Issues and Interests we'd been asked to compile just a few days earlier - and then spends a month devoted to each goal, with one short story written towards that goal each week. Each of the stories in the sequence should be linked, somehow.

Three goals; one goal a month; one story a week; three months, twelve stories.

It's going to be quite the ride.

This post, essentially, is me tentatively outlining my three goals, the tasks within those goals, and maybe - just maybe - a rough outline of what I'm writing for each week. I haven't really thought that far ahead, but you know. Have to have something planned.

Below, comrades, the Glorious Goals of my Three-Month Plan:

1. Australia Dreaming

Whatnow: For the past, oh, two or three years Australia has been of much fascination to me, especially as a setting in which to place urban fantasy. I want to explore this further, with a deeper emphasis on Australia itself. I want to do urban fantasy, especially set around Melbourne. This is the easiest goal, being strongly related to my writing past and a throwback to my earlier attempts at a novel, and yet something I wish to reach a state of perfection on.

Links and Stories: Exoteric setting, obviously. Each story will be set in Australia. They'll also be tied together, I think, by a common protagonist - a riff on the Sorcerer and Private Investigator trope I find myself enjoying more and more, in the lines of Harry Dresden, John Taylor, etc - who's actually given up magic entirely. A murder brings him back to the Art, but he finds that he's lost the talent forever - and yet his old enemies haven't forgotten him, things are heating up, etc. These four stories will be vignettes from the overall tale. I like the idea of a protagonist who is powerless in the sense that he has no supernatural abilities and yet strives towards a different sort of power - the power to be free and secure.

1. Write for thirty minutes to an hour each night, no matter what. 2. Figure out exactly what four stories you wish to tell, and where in Australia they fit. 3. Think some more on the protagonist. 4. Finish the stories.

2. Mars! Exotic Mars!

Whatnow: The Sword and Planet subgenre of speculative fiction has long been a favourite of mine. John Carter, Lietenant Gulliver, whatshisname Carson, Michael Kane: I enjoy them all. I love the idea of a jungle-wrought, savage Mars, a place so close to our world and yet so far... and I've long been wanting to write a series of stories set in my own fictional Mars, Aukrahk. I want to pay loving homage to the stories which have so recently inspired me, to the pulps of that era, and to the idea of good, readable fantasy with my own unique spin. The last time I wrote an honest fantasy? It was my first story and novelette, written when I was ten or eleven, entitled The Unholy Ale. It's been a while - time to try my hand once again at a genre I love and a subgenre I adore. This will also be my chance to start thinking about the Exotic Cultures held within the cradle of the Red Planet, merging - I hope - two of my Interests.

Links: The setting will be the link between the four stories - Mars - though each story will take place with different characters within a different Martian locale, whether it be the Earth-obsessed, sprawling Yordes or the metal-infested utterly western, antagonistic nation of Edgarb. The stories..? I'm not entirely sure, yet.

Tasks: 1. Start reading some more Savage Mars fiction - both to get me in the mood and because I still haven't finished Edgar Rice Burroughs full Barsoom sequence. 2. Solidify my understanding of Aukrahk so that I might feasibly set a series of tales within it.

3. The End

Whatnow: Okay, this might sound a little mad, but for my last, and presumably toughest, goal I want to write each of four stories to be an understanding of the ending, the finale - I'm not entirely sure what the technical term is, but each story will encapture an ending to a longer tale, perhaps explained, maybe not. Each story should, if I succeed, at once be as self-containing as a good short story, wrapping up all loose ends, while simultaneously feeling as if it were an ending of something larger. It's evoking a false, though perhaps valid, sense of mood through the style of the story itself. I hope.

Links: The link will be the fact that they have all been designed to feel like an ending. Probably nothing else, though each story may explore unused Issues/Interests from my list.

Tasks: 1. Don't give up. You're going to want to because you're a coward, Nat, and this will be hard. But it doesn't matter whether you succeed wonderfully or fail miserably - all that matters is that you learn and you finish what you start. 2. Start seriously studying how the Ending is formed, and how I can try to emulate that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Creative Workshop #2: Icebreaker Mission

Merrilee Faber is crazy. Her 'icebreaker' exercise involves sorting through 31 blogs in what must be a parody of the traditional scavenger hunt, trying to attach 31 clues to 31 writers. Madness.

But it's awesome.

And I love a challenge.

So below is my attempt..

  1. Missing purple? Try under the trapdoor. Vixen Phillips; Lyrical Trance
  2. English author rapping in the bath? Umbrella required! Rosalind Adam is writing in the rain
  3. Moon across the ocean blue. Where’s the long white cloud? Anna Caro
  4. Who says you have to grow up? On Escapism
  5. Five times I love you. Aurora's Creative Corner
  6. California garden with a foxhound. Of Angels and Plants
  7. 21 + 6 + 5 + 5. Oh, and a chicken. Coyote; LykosEcho
  8. Considers the lillies, but still a wage-slave to the empire. Sigh. Constant Revision
  9. Lips as red as cherries, hair as blue as…electric? The Magic Spoon
  10. All singing, all writing bird! I’m so Lost… Kayla Olson; Owl and Sparrow
  11. Pigs DO fly! I told you so. Valerie Sloan; It's All Make Believe
  12. Manchester daisies. Greener than home? Kerryn Angell; No Excuses. Just Write
  13. Not in Penzance, and the gender’s all wrong, but still! Raise the Jolly Roger, arrr! Amandasea; Pirate Queen at the Helm
  14. Raising goats, joyfully. Hallelujah! Amber Dawn Weaver; Joy of Dawn
  15. There are thirteen ribs, apparently. Ashley Nava; Right Brain Spasms
  16. Love and stars and hearts and butterflies and swirls! One Big Adventure
  17. RIP Cooper, dear friend. Catherine Mede Writes
  18. Who’s to blame for the rain? Blame it on the Weatherman
  19. Living in Melbourne, dreaming of Mars. Me; Pen and Paper Initiative
  20. Canada’s in the pink! Chibi Doucet
  21. Siochain’s amulet, 50% off! Davina Pearson
  22. Not a serial killer, but an explorer. Exploring Eliza
  23. Bun in the oven, two kids, no time! J.C. Hart; Just Cassie
  24. Beautiful Jalal. Out of my Mind
  25. Africa? Australia? Jicama? Africanaussie
  26. Japanese poetry, in the popular form. Stories of Sommer
  27. Mother, 8, grandmother, 12, not enough chairs in the garden! The Grandmother's Garden
  28. Law of Attraction, no magnets here! Janette Dalgliesh
  29. Ngapuhi? (Gesundheit!) Letters from Silent Hill
  30. I’ve got your contest right here! Epic? You bet! Simon C. Larter; Constant Revision
  31. This is not the Olympics, no matter what the header says. Five Rings
My God this is crazy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Creative Workshop #1: Issues and Interests

So, I’ve stumbled across the magnificent writing blog of Merrilee Faber, and not a moment too soon - she’s taken the time to begin an online writing creativity workshop. Everyone who owns a keyboard and blog is invited, and as I, myself, am always looking to increase my own productivity and the quality of my ideas I thought I’d give it a shot. Ms. Faber being genuinely lovely and my love for a challenge don’t hurt, either.

As a sort of preliminary task we’re supposed to write about issues and interests we face as a writer. I present to you, my readership - the list of Nathaniel Robinson:

1. Momentum and Discipline - issue

I really only get things done when I place deadlines upon myself and stick to them. That only begins to happen, mind you, when I’ve gathered sufficient momentum to do so – to see an end in sight and then, naturally, begin to think of the destination. This happens all too rarely. I often lose momentum, and then it is a struggle just to continue. I know a lot of begins with discipline; my own sense of discipline is something I need to realise if I wish to seriously up my game.

2. Versatility of Character – issue

My typical protagonist: white, young, male, often a writer, sometimes smokes (I do not), often bitter about some tragedy he inflicted upon himself. This is because I am male and white and often a writer and often screw things up, as well as a host of other reasons that I’m not entirely sure of myself. Nevertheless, my most recent short story involved a jinn who was of Arabic descent (tick), had no particular interest in writing (tick), was powerfully ancient (tick) and did not smoke (tick). He was, unfortunately, male and inclined to messing up. But I enjoyed the process of studying an entirely different character, adding variety to my typical writing, and so I’d like to continue to buck my fascination with bland characters.

3. Dialogue – issue

Frankly? My dialogue sucks. It gets better with revision, but I still execute it poorly, I feel, perhaps because I personally believe that the speech of the individual is the truest indicator of their character. I want to be able to do dialogue damn well. I want my readers to almost be able to hear the words coming out of the character’s mouth.

4. Unpleasantness – issue
My stories never really have a happy ending. It’s always bittersweet at best, horrific at worst. As I am no Roald Dahl I can’t always pull it off well, and my writing suffers for it.

5. Exotic culture – fascination

Culture in general fascinates me. Especially culture I, personally, find exotic – it is the relative strangeness in thought and activity (at least compared to my own culture). The most enjoyable thing about writing the aforementioned jinn story, besides the nonstandard character, was researching and grasping Islamic culture, extremist and otherwise, ancient and modern, esoteric and exoteric. I’d like to continue with this.

6. Man versus Mythology – fascination

This is a theme that I find cropping up more and more in my writing. The idea of a man battling against his culture has consumed me over this past month. Whether it’s the life of an atheist man who bitterly searches for his ascended religious wife after the Christian Rapture, or the career of a superhero learning to actively despise the task of saving people, or the struggles of a genie trying to break free of his cultural programming – it all fascinates me. This is something I’d really like to explore. In a way, it’s almost about personal control versus the external world, with a twist of the fantastic, and I like it. It harkens back to Greek myths and prophecy and the idea of fate, karma, destiny… and there is something subtle and powerful about it.

7. Romance and Lost Love – fascination

As a writer I tend to throw in a lot of my own life into my stories (as, I am sure, most writers tend to do). Recently this has manifested through the motif of romantic screw-ups, lost loves, etc, especially through the actions of the protagonist. I’ve tried to keep away from other favourite themes – such as the absentee father or the idea of addiction to action – but this channeling of personal guilt into the story has formed something positive: a slow love for the romantic (in the modern sense) genre. I like to see one individual chase after another; I like to see them fail and I like to see them succeed.

9. Mars (and the pulps) - fascination

Hey, who doesn’t love the pulps? Don’t answer that. I’m absolutely intrigued at the moment with the idea of writing stories in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories (and the further stories of Michael Moorcock and several others). Sword and Planet is a subgenre I’ve come to truly love.

10. Home – fascination

Australia isn’t boring. Melbourne is exceptionally interesting. So why don’t I write more stories set in Aus? Now, to my credit, most of my more recent tales have been set in Australia… but I’d really love to focus on the mystery, the culture, the power of Australia. Australia can’t be less interesting than America, after all, and look how many novels are set in the United States.

11. The End – fascination

So I’ve recently finished watching the entire first season of the soap opera teen drama frenzy The O.C. with my girlfriend. (Before you judge, the dialogue is much greater than I remember. The plotting – while ridiculous at times – is dense and well-executed, the characterization is fantastic and the entire set up is very clever. That’s where I stand.) The last episode was quite sand, and she was weeping as the credits roll. Even I, the epitome of all that is MAN, felt a little teary. That is an affect I sorely want to emulate – I need to learn how to craft the perfect ending.