Earnest Improvment

*This is another old post I made; June 2016 in fact. But it still rings true and I think it deserves to be shared ^^

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men; true nobility lies in being superior to your former self – Earnest Hemingway

I love this quote so much; self-improvement is to be better than you once were. To always challenge yourself, to try new things, to never do what’s easy, that is my creed.

You will never get anywhere if you’re content with your current skills or trying to measure yourself to others success. It is only what you can accomplish that matters because you are different from the person you look up to.

I hear sometimes people ask who you wish to be and they usually pick a celebrity. But that means you as a person is dead. You become this other person because you’d never had this person’s experiences while still retaining your own identity.

You can never emulate another person’s journey to success.

To the End, from the Beginning, and Back Again.

*I wrote this a while back but it still holds true. I’m glad that I’m getting closer to understand my own process.

When I write a fantasy story, I start with a concept and go by instinct. Everything unfolds as I put words on paper, but while I work on the first draft, I have to ignore contradictions (that may arise along the way) because I don’t have a clear grasp what the story is about yet. Just plow through it until the draft is finished.

When that’s done, I go back to the beginning, and I mean from the very beginning, a creation story. From there I did what I did before and let the story unfold itself and fill in the blanks of the first draft.

But, often it’s not as simple as that. I’ll find more contradictions that I need correcting and I find that I have to go back again and correct it from the start.

That’s how the process is: I write until something need correcting and I start all over again, polishing it until it all makes sense.

This makes it very difficult to write fantasy as I need to go back to the beginning of time for each story, unless I make several stories from the same universe. I understand why people borrow heavily from Ronald Tolkien when they make their own fantasy story and why people write urban fantasy.

I haven’t tried yet, but it feels like I could finish and polish a story set in the real world in a fraction of the time than if it was set in a fantasy world.

Who Carries the Plot?

Is it the characters that carry the plot or is it the plot carries the characters? I’m not sure. Perhaps there isn’t a simple answer to that, at least not for me.

For me, stories never start with a character. My mind is so deep in the gutter I imagine entire worlds before I move down into a single character’s perspective. Sometimes it feels like the purpose of my stories are to give a satisfying conclusion to a tale that will never be published, that only exist in my head. Kinda like the first three Star Wars movies, a lot had happened before then and the prequels didn’t really need to be made.

Not that I’m a very big Star Wars fan but I just saw the Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars was on my head… In any case, this means that the characters are not in control of the plot, right? They have a destiny to fulfill and that is to finish what the past started.

Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s not the characters that make me excited, it is the concepts and ideas that I love to explore; the characters just helps me do it.

For instance, lets say there’s a boy who finds a magic item in a world where magic shouldn’t exist. He has to come to terms with magic existing and what he should do with that power. Do I then need to know the character before I start writing or will the character reveal himself through his actions?

Dreamland

Have you ever had a story so vivid play out in your mind only to disappear once you start thinking about it? The story was so clear and masterful that I wanted to write it down, but in that instance, it’s gone… All I remember is that there was a dragon involved, and sort of a eureka feeling, other than that, it might as well never existed.

It wasn’t a dream, however, because I was awake. I had my eyes close, sure, but I was never unconscious, I’m pretty sure. Perhaps I simply touched dreamland rather delw deep into it?

I believe stories are brought to us from another realm, how else do you explain the things we come up with? Why does words appear when I write and how do they somehow become a story, as if it wanted to come into existence from another place? I just simply have to let go and let it exist, use me as a vessel of its creation.

Which I don’t mind, really, but perhaps some of them doesn’t want to be revealed yet, perhaps I saw into something I wasn’t supposed to? I was thrown out because I revealed myself, I made a noise, or in this instance, I had a rational thought, which doesn’t belong in this realm, in dreamland.

What’s it About?

I’m writing a novel – maybe a novella – and I decided that the premise would be a kind of ‘Boy Meets Girl’ kind of story with a twist. It’s not a love story, it’s a story about overcoming weakness, which could be said about all stories really where the characters grow and learn – however, mine doesn’t have a happy ending. In any case, because the important bits of the story happen on an island where the main character is sent to on military service, I want to glance over the things that happened before, meaning I want it to be short but comprehensive but this might prove to be a bit boring because the reader should fully understand, care, and relate to the main characters struggles, if I don’t display what lead him reach that point when the he meets the girl, will the readers care?

At the same time, it’s very dangerous for me to spend too much time on backstory because I’ll just go deeper and deeper, finding more and more characters until I’m so far from the original premise that it might as well be a completely different story! And as I have many unfinished novels under my belt, I cannot afford to let that happen, I need to decide what the story is going to be or else it’s going to be everything and nothing, because it will never be finished.

Or perhaps the reason why I haven’t finished anything is because I don’t let go. it’s my process to start with an original purpose and it’s supposed to transform as I write…? I seriously don’t know, and I suppose I won’t until I try. With this one, I’ll keep my mind on a leash, on the next, it will run freely; perhaps it will result in a complete story in the end after all?

The Destroyers

“You can destroy our society, kill a great many of us, even most of us. But when most of us are gone,and only a few are alive, we will rise, because humanity never gives up. Survival is in our blood; desire is our moto. There will be no hiding once we rise and take revenge on those that destroyed us.”

Stay True to Yourself

Have you ever come across the notion that writing in first person is bad? Of course, people can like whatever they want but I suspect they don’t like it because they were told to. Somebody told them that adverbs are bad, that cliches are bad while they themselves have never encountered these cliches themselves. Writing in first person was very common at the turn of the 20th century, which is why I believe they think it is bad because it is old, or maybe it is the industry that suddenly decided that this form of writing is bad, arbitrarily telling the readers that this is not what you want, like short stories and novellas, people don’t want that, they say. There’s no money in those and I suspect that first person stories tend to be shorter as well… But I’m not here to investigate this but tell you that I love writing in first person.

When I write stories, they tend to concern one character, the story has to start somewhere and that means the protagonist is the only thing that matters, at first. I tend to write without reason, there’s no logic at play, no plan, but it ends up coherent anyways. As if I’m not making a story but rather finding one which I’m trying to convey.

There is merit, however, to listen to industry visdom, because you do want people to read your stories, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon yourself, because if you are not true to yourself you are not true to your stories. Such stories are dull and they will chip away at your heart until you hate writing. I want to enjoy the process of writing, that’s my goal, and if nobody likes what I write, that’s a shame, but there are limits to how much I’ll change to please others.

Books are Spellbinding

It doesn’t matter what kind of of book, which genre it is in, books has a way of transfixing the mind, bringing it back to the present which is the greatest gift we have in these times of infinite distraction:

Books pierce into the depths of the mind, opening up another level of consciousness that we don’t understand – a mind free of distractions. Everything we do and everything we see and have done is bombarding our mind, constantly, but when we read, we have this moment of clarity, where we focus only on the words before us somehow opens up the floodgates that had been damned by everything else that concerns us. It is when we read that we are the most clear, when the mind wanders freely and we have our most profound thoughts. However, as soon as we put the book down, our train of thought is lost and we aren’t sure what we were thinking about to begin with. It is as if these thoughts are only meant for the clear, so abstract that they cannot be actualised in the distraction filled reality that we live in.

However, there are also those times when profound thoughts happen once we write. It doesn’t help mulling over everything as the mind is clear when we write. It forces us to focus on nothing but the words in our heads.

Perhaps the ancients were onto something, words are magic.

 

Why does LotR still hold up today?

I still hold that Lord of the rings is the greatest fantasy story ever written, at least among those that I have read, and I often wonder why? Why does Tolkien’s story still hold up? It’s far from perfect and you know what will happen a mile away, but strangely, I never considered what would happen next and was just taken on a pleasant ride through the story. I think the longevity of Tolkien’s tale is his superb world building ability. He was a historian and linguist and he knew exactly how to cater to that crowd, he knew what he liked and he liked deep history and that’s what he focused on.

I’m currently reading a fantasy epic “The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan. It’s a well written story, much better (at times) than Tolkien. But 200 pages in and the heroes have left their hobble of a village and I find myself disinterested. I am not captivated by the world the author created. I’m not drawn into the mystery, the names and places, and I find myself skimming through a lot of the action scenes. It’s a dull world and everything is explained to me. There’s a mountain over there and something bad happened. There’s monsters in the forest across the lake, bla bla bla. I would be much more intrigued if they were actually at those places when this information is revealed to me, which I think Tolkien does excellently.

There’s one particular scene in the first book of the Lord of the rings when the Hobbits and Gandalf comes across some ancient ruins. They are almost trapped by the ghosts there, and afterwards, Gandalf explains that this was the sight of a great kingdom once and you are instantly hooked! It’s a bit of information that has no consequence, also, because it has no bearings to the plot overall, it’s only purpose is to enrich the world.

Something happened there; a lot is unexplained; the reader wants to know, but the reader doesn’t need to know more. The author won’t reveal anything else and thus this piece of information will linger in the readers mind until they learn what really happened. They would have to read the Silmarillion to do that…

This is a fantasy world done right and is what I aspire to do.

Fairbanks Island – Day 19 (End)

I really like this ending. I hope it brings a lot of questions while still being a satisfying enough to not feel cheated. I do sprinkle some of the answers across the story, after all. My goal is to not be explicit and I want the reader to imagine themselves some of the answers because I adore mystery and I want the story to linger with them for a while. But the story is far from done, there are characters that aren’t fully explored (or explored at all) and you never know if they will change the ending in some way or another. I’m excited to see how this turns out!

Epilogue

Read More

%d bloggers like this: