Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dear Matty: So You Want to be a Writer Edition

One day, lad, all this will be yours!
What, the curtains?

I reside at #32 Cliche Cave

Dear Matty:
I started playing WoW about a year or so ago, and I love it. It has rekindled a long-time passion for fantasy, make-believe, and experiences I haven't felt since I was a little girl. It's funny, because when I was a little girl I pretended to be all kinds of things--but mostly the theme was "princess." Yes, I know it's not fashionable these days to only introduce little girls to 'princess-y' things, but in my imagination I was the start of the show. (I didn't like to be rescued all the time, but do some of the heroic acts myself.) Now, I get to interact in a role-play situation with real, live humans on the other end, and explore, be strong, and act out several different types of characters. I know there are a lot of blogs out there for World of Warcraft, and I think I could do a good job, too, of writing some stories about WoW. The hesitation I have, Matty, is that when I read some of the circular conversations about WoW and its players it gets a little tiresome, and I don't want to become just another nameless face. I just want to write stories and share some things about WoW with others, and hope they enjoy it. Do you have any advice for a WoW blogger?
Pen-less in Pandaria

From Writer's Write

Dear Pen:
I don't blame you for being hesitant: when you read all the different opinions about writing, writers, viewpoints, and others defining what is being open-minded and what is not for us, or trying to, it's hard to know if we're coming or going in our own voices and convictions. And then you have goofballs like me who are constantly swimming in both directions of the tide, seeing many sides, and being as abstract as possible. Even lately writers I enjoy sometimes write things that make me go "huh?" but I just shrug and realize they're doing nothing different than what I want to do - explore an emotion, an opinion, or a situation. That is my only advice for you. All of us beg, borrow, steal, and give to one another, whether we are creative types or not. But here's my #6: we're all creative types. The thing is, unless we do have a variety of voices out there, how else can we begin to question, create, challenge ourselves? I am beginning, however, to understand more and more over time why John Irving believes we don't, or shouldn't, write autobiographies: we are boring: static characters and lives stagnate. I want to explore all kinds of characters, with several motivations. But more importantly, when others begin to call out that those in "charge" of creating say the 'emporer isn't wearing any clothes,' they shouldn't be lambasted either. Many in current media are using tired, formulaic responses, and they are in danger of losing audience. But you know what? Maybe this will spawn fresh voices, fresh insights. There is nothing wrong with classics such as the Hobbit to rely solely on the archetype of female characters being goddess/wise women, but perhaps this is a call for new writers to create other archetypes as we change and grow. Dare I say: evolve?

I got the whole princess thing figured out myself, Pen, and let me tell you that is why a new point-of-view like Shrek is so much fun, or when Colin Stokes talked about the Wizard of Oz in a different way than I had ever thought about: it truly is the grand conversation that is the joy, and the bane, of of the blogging world that is open to you. This doesn't mean that, for example, this past week I confessed to CD Rogue that the inner voice, that little tiny girl who used to play princess, too, just like you, didn't want some rescuing. I am not exaggerating when I say I had several dragons I had to slay on my own this week. The men in my world, young and old, all looked to me to do many hard and difficult things. But if any of the game designers were to tackle my own real-life plot line, it would bore people to death: MOM FIGHTS EVIL PRINCIPAL! Whack! Slam! MEETING TIME! WIFE takes care of SICK HUSBAND! Zoom! Whammo! Colleague gives CRAPPY SECRET SANTA GIFTS…and lives! Yeah, not so much, huh?

Now I could generalize and start to stress that male writers drift toward formulaic and angry stereotypes and archetypes. Grimmtooth's "sausage fest" analogy made me giggle. All I could see in my mind after reading his post was a band of merry sausages, armed with axes and mounts, trying to save the world. Onward, Bratwurst! Have at thee, Chorizo!

But the thing is, (and this is what kind of surprises me about my sweet blogger buddy Effraeti, and even Bear for that matter), is that I think they would agree that really GOOD writing naturally doesn't make the reader self-conscious about gender or stereotypes. Many deep, rich characters are portrayed, without a protest or second glance. I think of some of my favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, East of Eden, Harriet the Spy, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, just about anything by Alice Hoffman, or John Updike, Neil Gaiman, etc., and not a single one of them relies solely on tropes or gender stereotypes. Not one. (This is not to say Game of Thrones isn't full of all KINDS of archetypes, it leaves no gender archetypal image unturned - true equality!) But somehow the game industry does: to me, this just show more immaturity than anything else, that it hasn't quite caught up with really substantive works. This was my own epiphany this morning: the more my own writing stagnates is when I depend on too much tried-and-true (read: cliche) plot lines. But that's just me. If I write something that makes me cry, or makes me laugh, then I'm somewhat satisfied. (But writers are never satisfied.)

Now, go back to #3 above: write what you want to read. If you want to write a certain way, we applaud you, and that's awesome. We say this all the time: write what you want to write. And if you don't get readers, that's okay, too. You don't need to pander, or subjugate yourself for anyone. As long as you know there may be consequences for your work, then please, please write. There is only one of you, and your point-of-view adds texture and richness, and there is room for all: see #2 and #6. Not so sure about #8. Let me know how it goes. I have to go write Christmas cards now: talk about tropes and cliches! Dios mio...


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment!