Ok, so here's another random posting about something that Ello wrote about on her blog...it got me thinking. I seem to need other people for that now...and it's helpful that I stumbled across a group of inspiring people.
So-on to the musings-
Her post is discussing the different associations and conclusions people have or come to while reading different stories. This is something that has always interested me as well...I had a teacher tell me once that part of the attraction of specific genres is that the reader knows, sort of, what they're going to get. Which sounds obvious, however, it's also a good point. There's a certain level of expectation that happens within each genre. This is more true with genres than with writers I think...in the sense that a writer can change their voice and tone and style to suit each genre (some better than others) so that each book in each genre delivers something appropriate as it were. When I run out to buy a new book I tend to look at them like I do clothes or accessories sometimes-much in the way I wake up each morning and decide what style I'm in the mood for, I also have to decide what style of book I'm interested in reading. What feels right?
Now then-my question is, are we drawn to different books because they remind of us of such and such story or movie or whatever, is it because of the feeling we get when we read a certain type of story (are these the same thing just in different forms?)
There's a lot of answers and probably the answer is "yes to all" but how much control does the author have over the trains of thought the reader boards while reading his or her book? How many times have authors or authors-to-be shied away from writing a certain book or using certain scenes, characterizations, options, conflict resolution etc. because it reminded them too much of so and so or they felt that it had already been done.
The thing that I find so interesting, personally, is how many times I've done this. We all have an inner quest to be original. creative. snowflakes. However, when you look at things and at people's lives, I find quite often that I am not, despite the beliefs we held when we were younger, the only one to have gone through various conflicts (having to go to bed early, getting our hearts broken, all that good mushy hallmark stuff and others).
These things are cliche because they've happened over and over again. So what's to say that an author can't "copy" an idea...how much of this is ok? How much should be changed about a story or conflict or the approach to a conflict to make it more original, personal, more specific to that author's sensitivities.
I have a huge hang-up with my writing because of these questions. I find myself saying...literally all the time...oh so and and so already wrote something like that so I can't do it. And then other half of my brain goes "ok, but lots of people have had problems with their fathers or their mothers or have lost a love or have pined away secretly for years and been driving mad or...or...or..." so I argue with myself. A lot. Can I, Should I...I am consistently stuck between trying to reinvent the wheel and wade through all the damn wheels I already have lying around for my use.
"Beyond the Seven Seas' is idling right now because of this debate. I have the "easy" and "logical" choice that may be appropriate for the genre that I'm writing but I am refusing to use it because I feel like it's been done so many times and in so many different ways that I feel like a hack. Granted, it would probably put forward motion back into my vocabulary and let the story continue but I think that it would only do so because at that point I'd just be following in too many footsteps. Ok, so some of that is fine, I don't really believe that anyone can write a fantasy fiction novel without having some throw back to Tolkien or McCaffery or any of those.
And then there's the whole idea of influence. Of course (warning, blanket statement) people who have only read a certain type of book will most likely turn around and write that sort of book...it goes along with the idea of writing the type of book you would like to read I think (thanks again Tim)--which is really good advice and also really difficult for me. I want to write the kind of book I like to read but I want to make it original enough that I don't feel like a copy cat.
My influences are all over though-at times it's great because I feel like I have a decent sized bucket-o-junk or just-add-water options floating around in my head that I've snatched from the various science fiction, "modern literature" (I can't think of the actual genre heading at the moment so that will have to do), humor, fantasy and non-fiction historical that I've read....my instinct is to smash them together. Ok, so that's what I'm aiming to do with Beyond the Seven Seas because I believe that in a lot of ways that's how life works. We all have elements of magic and drama and humor and the such in our lives...and these experiences and examples are ours for the taking and so what if so and so got there first? Isn't there enough to go around?
And yet. And yet.
I sit here and I wonder what other angle, what new perspective, what different idea can I take that will make my idea (which seems to change by the minute) and my vision really come to life?
I knew going into this book that I was going to have problems because Neil Gaiman had, in essence, beaten me to the punch. Ok, so I'm not Neil Gaiman...I'm not trying to be-I also feel that he hasn't said everything that can be said about this specific type of writing but at the same time I'm not sure what it is I'm trying to say.
Someone please tell me...what is my point? hehe.
So far I've deduced that I want to write a book that I would like to read that gives me the feeling I get when I hear "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt that evokes images and ideas of the magic in life that happens when we aren't really looking or expecting it, that ties us to a sense of our history and a sense of our Jungian group story, that pays homage to the idea of Myth and Mythology because those are our roots as storytellers I think and that touches people and that pushes their ideas about the way they interact with others. And that celebrates being an artist because those are the kind of characters I like to read. Maybe because I am striving to be like them.
I read books because I want to emulate all those wonderfully sensuous, meaty, creative, damn funny, cheeky characters I meet.
I write because I have this noise in my brain that needs an outlet and sometimes, verbal thinker or not, I need to give it form that I can see and revisit and god knows, edit.
So....where does this leave me.