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.


Meredith said...

Hi, Nathaniel. Good to meet you before the class bell sounds. You sound like you have a solid grasp on where you are in your writing and where you want to go.

I was especially interested in your Man vs. Mythology section. Have you written the story about the rapture-widower yet? It sounds fascinating. I grew up in Christian fanatic country and still struggle to write about any of that stuff.

Merrilee said...

Really excellent analysis there, Nathaniel. And, oh, Edgar Rice Burroughs! I loved his novels as a teen. Now that would be an interesting challenge, making that style interesting and accessible to the modern reader, while still capturing that lovely pulp-era feel. Now I am inspired!

You've got plenty of material to work with here, and great to see lots of interests as well as issues.

exploringeliza said...

Man, reading through your points makes me feel like writing something! Particularly the romance/lost love themes and the fascination with exotic cultures. Both are just so full of intrigue and possibility I can almost see a story unfolding already.

N. F. Robinson said...

Meredith: Good to meet you too, Meredith. Thanks for the compliments, and thanks again for stopping by my humble blog. : )

The story of the rapture-widower has haunted me since I was fourteen. I've gone through four of five unfinished attempts at the story, each one lacking a certain something which I can't quite figure out. Each story does get better, though. I hope.

If anything ever comes of it, I"ll make sure you know :)

Merrilee: Yeah, the idea of somehow pulling off a pulp-infused story that is still accessible to the modern reader.. it's a tough one, I think. Thanks for stopping by the blog and for hosting this wonderful workshop. :D Glad to see my random thoughts actually inspired someone!

Eliza: Yeah, that is my main interest with the exotic culture/romance fascinations - not the romances or the cultures themselves, but the mystery, the intrigue of those things. I hope that doesn't cheapen it. Thanks for stopping by. said...

Hey, Nathaniel, I'm stopping by on Merrilee's "scavenger hunt." It seems we're all looking to increase our discipline through this workshop. That being contrary to my nature, that's why I've avoided workshops until now. I wish you excellent goal reaching.

darksculptures said...

Wow! I wish I had as much depth in my interest and issues. I'm still trying to get organized and focused. Good luck!

N. F. Robinson said...

Thanks for stopping by, both of you. :) Yeah.. I think 'solidifying discipline' is a very common one this year