Friday, September 24, 2010

Quest for the Back Patio

I'm going to try not to focus on the fact that other people may be reading this.  I'm going to try not to worry too much about how much sense it will makes to other people, or how good it is, or how it might sound to someone else.  I'm starting this blog for me, myself, to try and get back something I seem to have lost.

When I was a kid, I used to go with my mom to this old bookstore called The Dusty Bookworm.  It was an aptly named establishment; a cramped, cluttered, dusty place crammed with shelves and boxes of used books.  It was one of those places where you could bring your old books to donate or trade.  My mom used to bring in her old paperbacks by the dozens.  She is an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers of the serial killer sort, and I've always been secretly amused by the fact that she has read so many different books by different authors of the genre that she has trouble remembering which ones she has read before.  She will sometimes come home with a book to start reading it, only to realize two chapters in that she had indeed read it before.  Then it's back to the bookstore.

I loved going with her to the Dusty Bookworm, because I knew that if I did she would buy me a book.  That was one thing she would never deny me.  She encouraged me to love books as much as she did, and she provided me with a steady supply of reading material.  Obviously it is to this that I can attribute my avid love of books, but it is to this that I also attribute my love of writing.

I wrote my first "novel" the summer after fourth grade.  I took a pencil, a stack of loose leaf, wide ruled notebook paper, and my tape player out onto the back patio every day, and it was there that I wrote an eighty-something page plot-less story containing exactly eight characters, composed almost entirely of dialogue.  Double spaced, of course.  At the end of the summer, I went to my dad and asked if he wanted to read my novel.  He chuckled and said, "Sure, sweetie," prepared to indulge his nine-year-old daughter.  So I shocked him by dropping this manuscript of notebook paper into his lap.  He still tells this story to his clients at cocktail parties.  His daughter, the writer.

Since then, I have identified myself as a writer.  I've written hundreds of pages of fiction over the years, but I've rarely finished anything I've started.  The last novel-length story I finished was some time in middle school.  Since then, I have written various pieces of fiction, taken classes on writing, and even earned my Baccalaureate in Creative Writing from an accredited four year university.  

So why don't I feel like a writer?  Because I haven't written anything original in almost two years, probably.  I've written fan-related things.  Many people call it fanfiction.  One word.  My fanfiction is mostly in the form of RP (role playing) with other people, though I have written a few fanworks independently.  My fanfiction orbits around Blizzard's Warcraft universe.  It's a verse that I enjoy immensely for its mythology and lore.  The World of Warcraft is absolutely enormous in it's size and span.  There is literally something in it for everyone.

But as much as I love it, the Warcraft universe is not my own.  It's not mine.  And no matter how at-home I might feel there, it's not my place, and nothing is as liberating or as comfortable as my own house.  When you live in another person's house, you have to abide by their house rules.  It's the same for me in the Warcraft verse.  It is enjoyable to a degree, but ultimately stifling.  And now, it has been so long since I have written anything outside the Warcraft verse that I'm afraid I've lost the ability to create my own stories comprised entirely of my own ideas.  I know on some level that isn't true, but it's a fear that is constantly eating at my brain.

I want to get back to my house, but I don't know where it is.  I can picture it in my head, I just don't know how to get there.  I guess the only thing I can do is start writing, and hope that I will eventually navigate my way back to the back patio.


  1. I sympathize completely! I'm sort of in the same boat myself.

    One thing that I've been thinking about is WHY fanfiction, and especially WoW fanfiction, is so compelling to write. One huge factor is that I like the lore and I like the world that's been built for me. It's really convenient to use it as a launching point and skip a lot of explanations that would be necessary if I didn't rely on my reader's familiarity with the WoWiverse.

    So... maybe you could start with some world-building? I don't know if you want to write fantasy or some other genre, but I guess it doesn't matter. You could start with getting down all the details of your characters and the world they live in, especially details that would be assumed rather than explained in fanfiction. Even if the information never makes it to the page once the really story starts, I think the tale will be richer if you hav e them in the back of your mind.

    That's my plan anyway! Good luck and happy writing :)

    (I'm here from your journal link on dA)

  2. Oh, wow! I have a comment! lol I totally didn't expect that. XD

    Thanks so much for your insight. I agree. the Wow verse is convenient. And it's... how do I put it... it's all-encompassing, but more than that, it's... inclusive and it draws millions of people together through their shared interest of this single universe. I think that's the grand appeal of any fandom, really. Thousands of people are into the same thing your are, for potentially the same reasons. And it's an attractive prospect to write in an established universe, like you said, where you don't have to waste a lot of time explaining things to your reader, because you know that anyone who is reading it probably has at least a basic understanding of the lore behind it.

    My own personal writing shies away from fantasy and sticks more to modern/realistic fiction. But your advice is still very valid. To write with a character, you need to know everything about him or her and their world. Even if that world is our own, they still have unique lives and situations, and those things need to be mapped and fleshed out. I think that's what I'll be doing this month till November 1st when I start writing for Nanowrimo.

  3. I was in that exact same bookstore I don't know how many dozens of times. It was literally across the street from my grandmother's house. I LOVED that place. My dad and I would go after school a lot of times, right up until I started driving, and I kept going there until it closed. I still miss it terribly. Just terribly.

    I've never written fanfiction. I don't have a problem with it, but I think some of my reluctance is due to what you describe here. I am afraid that if I allowed myself to get tied up in someone else's creation to that extent, I would have a hard time pulling myself out. It's VERY hard to pull myself out of the worlds I have created, and the fantasy worlds I love that were created by others are no less adored and powerful, so you can see why this would be a concern. I've kept away from it sort of the way you stay away from something for fear you will like it . . . a little too much.

    That said, the urge to write fanfiction for:

    1) Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books
    2) the Dragon Age setting
    3) Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths series

    is DIRE.

    It would be a way of having more stories with the characters I love, even though there's not more source material. I love John Carter and Gahan of Gathol, and ERB's Mars is ripe for possibility; he never fully explored the implications of much of what he wrote. I love Zevran and it would be so easy to write for him. I love Mildmay so much it hurts, to the point I finished the books and started them over again almost immediately, something I have never done before. And when I am not engaging with those characters, I miss them. If I made them my own by writing about them, I would miss them more. I don't think I would like that pain much.

    OH OH OH I forgot Assassin's Creed II, and Ezio. Oh, HELL yes.

  4. Omg ilu Zevran. <3_<3 XDD I just started playing Dragon Age and beat it the first time through as a dude. I was totally gay with Zev. Now I'm playing a second time through as a chick and I'm going to seduce Alistair. = u = How awful would it be if I wrote smut for myself with my own character and the two of them together...? <_<

  5. I've played through completely 5 times, and I screw Zevran every single time. I can't stay off him. Alistair is so sweet, though, I almost always try to seduce him too. He's so clueless and adorable and goofy. "It sounds so strange. Sister. SSSSSIIIIISTEEERRRR."

    The only romance option I don't care for is Leliana, who is obnoxious.

    Morrigan is fucking awesome.

    I will have to upload pics of my last male character someday, because he was SO HOT. Yes, I was tempted to write slash!

  6. Yeah, I really don't care for Leliana. I didn't use her at all during my first play through, because I was a rogue, and I didn't need her for anything. So I actually didn't use Zev at all either. But I always made sure to talk to him at camp. XD And he always gets all the gifts.