- write what is already there - speaks to the imagination/research/etc. Have to distill a view, hone into the details that bring something to life
- make the words fit the picture - when you don’t, that’s when readers won’t believe you. That’s the larger part of work, that’s where you can get stuff.
Many ideas came due to past career as a paramedic.
“The Gryphon Project”, marketed as sci-fi, speculative fiction, and fantasy in others. idea jumped from a real story where a man’s ear was ground off in an accident, and a year later, he was re-growing an ear in his arm that would later be sliced off and reattached. So the idea launched off, what if you could regrow your entire body?
When wiring this world, focused research on reconstruction of bodies, only a dusting of ‘future’ stuff. Didn’t make a big deal out of flying cars/etc, focused on the social/theological questions of what happens when people can be regrown, question of the soul, is murder viewed the same way, etc.
As opposed to “The Opposite of Tidy”, a contemporary/realistic. Idea launched from paramedic calls in order houses. If you’re writing about a real city, a real neighbourhood, etc, you have to get the local details right, not just what Wiki tells you. What shorthand do locals use to refer to buildings, bridges, parks, etc?
“The Droughtlands” - a key research point was cloud seeding, how to control the rain when and where it falls using silver iodine? used in Vietnam during the war to rain on certain passes to make them too muddy/etc to use for soldiers. Also, Burning Man and Cirque du Soleil shows, how to use it in the rebellion. Controversial idea: who owns that piece of the sky, who owns that cloud, especially in times of drought/etc. Original idea sparked from 9/11 - what is the value of life? 3,000 Americans vs 500,000 children in the Middle East starved to death due to US sanctions?
At first you have one idea, then comes the story:
Where do your ideas come from?
Do them come easy?
How do you catch them?
How do you know any one is a keeper?
What attracts you to the story?
How much of a story do you have?
Is it possible to be entirely in charge?
Where are your characters and how do they end up in your story?
Do you want to tell this story?
How do you know?
“Writing a novel is like walking through dark room, holding a lantern which lights up what is already in the room anyway.” Virginia Woolf
“We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it.” CS Lewis
“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, bt you can make the whole trip that way.” EL Doctorow
If you’re walking around with a lantern, you only describe/etc what is in the circle of light/immediately in front of you - don’t overwhelm the reader with the big pictures. Don’t blind them with too much light/illumination. Focus on what’s ahead of you, not the greater world outside. Don’t get distracted by the periphery.
“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t - and, in fact, you’re not supposed to - know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing. First you just point at what has your attention and take the picture.” Anne Lamott
Give the reader nugget. Small, illuminated space. Those are what you want to record, those are what you shouldn’t miss. Don’t lose those.
“The Words don’t fit the Picture” - on the Vancouver public library.
Make the words fit the picture - read the words out loud, record & play back, or read out loud to someone else who knows how to give critical feedback.
Your most gigantic tool:
This is why she doesn’t believe in writer’s block. Whenever you get stuck, asking this question repeatedly is how you move forward.
What if this world is just like ours?
What if this world is like ours?
What if I bring in a very strong character? - how can/will they grow if they are already strong?
What if my character is weak?
What if there is a conflict?
What if the culture is the same?
What if I manufacture the culture?
What if there is a tragedy?
What if there is a quest?
What if they fall in love?
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Mark Twain
What is your character doing, what do they like? Try to immerse yourself in those experiences.
Immerse: to plunge into or as if into a liquid, to baptize by dipping under water, to absorb deeply; engross
The Burning Man experience was particularly immersive for the creation of “The Droughtlands”.
Write it: As you write it, the details come.
Read it: Out loud. Faulty details and failed plot points will sounds wrong.
Research it: Get all the books, read all the sites, ask all the people. Even if your story is sci-fi or fantasy.
Live it: Are there elements you can do? Fencing? Owl research?
Go there: Visit the places that inspire the story.
Record it: Notes, photos, voice memos, etc.
How to illuminate your story:
Bring your story - but don’t pack it at the bottom of your bag
Keep your story close at hand, literally, or in your imagination
Bring a flashlight
For real, or an imaginary one. Line it on those shady crevices and deep woods and all the hidden underbellies
Bring your near-sight
Look at everything with a magnifying glass. up close. For all the details in the patina, whether you[ll use it or not.
Bring your far-sight
Step back, waaaaaay back. See the context. See the larger picture. Take notes.
Think things over. Ruminate.
Fake it until you make it:
When you’re building an imaginary world - no matter what the story is about - you are in charge. no matter how confident or shaky you feel about it.
“At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing - a sunset or an old shoe - in absolute and simple amazement.” Raymond Carver
When a reader’s senses are aligned, a world is complete, whether it is real or imagined.