Once again, I’ve got to tip my hat to my good friend Aaron. He has inspired me to yet another topic for today. It’s nice to have it happening again.
Before I begin, let me give you a tiny bit of history. Mr. Kite and I would often grab a coffee together back in the days when we were both employed by the same company. We would sit and swap story ideas and I would almost always walk away with some great plans for my next post. Then, Aaron got a better, more satisfying job and our coffee times ended.
I miss those days. Still, contacting each other via technology (and sometimes beer) although less frequent, keeps things on track.
Back to present day, I have just finished reading Aaron’s latest post. As always, it is insightful and clever. This time, it has gotten me to thinking about my own adventures into the fantastic.
He is absolutely right when he says “Write what you know”. It just flows so much easier than making something from scratch. Story building (using the imagination) is REALLY hard. I know that as well as anyone. But in many ways, the difficulty is offset by the sense of pride that comes with a plan that comes together.
Don’t get me wrong, writing what you know is very satisfying, almost theraputic, at times. For example, when I wrote Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero, I pulled tons (tonnes?) of the story from my memory growing up and the things I did and wanted to do. There were times when I actually teared up because the story hit close to home. The story flowed from my fingers and I wrote with a big smile on my face.
I can’t wait to write the next one.
But, while the world was completely invented, it still carried enough of reality that I can’t say I really created it. Borrowed from many sources is perhaps a little closer to the truth.
Yves and Rich have both talked about how they enjoy building worlds. That’s really the essence of what I’m talking about here. That’s where it starts to get hard.
Like any creation from scratch, planning is not only important, it’s absolutely vital. Unless, that is, you don’t care what your creation looks like when it’s done. That planning is the hardest part of the whole process for me.
The good news is, once that hard planning is complete… wait a minute… I WAS going to say it gets easier, but that wouldn’t be quite true, would it? Once the planning is complete, it can still be a tough slog to write story.
Still, when the story is finally done, you can often look back and see something amazing… something you really didn’t expect. For me, the amazing part was when the characters took over the story.
I was a bit miffed initially. I mean, I created this living, breathing world for them to interact in and what did they do? They shoved me aside and started writing the story themselves.
Would a simple “Thank you” have been too much to ask?
All complaining aside, it was fun to have the help. The characters suddenly coming alive and asserting their own personalities really made the writing process rewarding for me. After re-reading what I’d written, it also started to become quite obvious where they took over; the story got more interesting, more dynamic.
I was reminded why I want to write for a living.
So, after all the rambling, which is the better thing to do? Write what you know or rely on your imagination?
Honestly, I think I’ve managed to confuse the issue for myself, so I doubt I’ve given you any real answers. I love both methods because they are so rewarding in different ways.
Maybe that’s the secret to a long, happy career as a writer. Mix up the methods from time-to-time and challenge yourself.
I can’t help but think that all your writing will benefit from it.