It can feel a bit like fiddling while Rome burns.
The world at large has always been a tumultuous place, particularly with the advent of new online media entities, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle of network news making us more aware than at any other time in history of the shit going down across the globe.
Lately, however, it seems it’s not just greater access to the news that’s making the world seem so untenable, but rather the quality of the news as well.
Earlier this year, I met a writer who was also an actor, from whom I received some interesting writing advice.
It happened during a session of the writers’ group that I run. At each meeting, we discuss a specific writing-related question that all attendees are given a chance to answer.
The question du jour inquired which element of writing craft folk felt they needed to learn more about.
When it came my turn to answer, I said character voice.
Specifically, the fact that I wanted to someday write a sequel to my WIP from the first person point of view of a different character, but was unsure how to make the voice distinct from the first person narrator of my WIP.
As writers, we often believe we were born to write.
I certainly have early memories of my writing life. My first “novel” – a masterpiece inspired by the cartoon Jem and the Holograms – was “published” in grade three. I haven’t really stopped writing since.
“It’s in my blood,” I’ve heard writers claim. “I couldn’t not do it.” And I find, for the most part, that I agree.
However, I’ve never been one to champion Nature as the sole determinant of anything. Especially after reading a recent blog post by literary marketing expert Dan Blank about an artist’s chain of influence, which led me to examine my own early writing influences.
If I were desperate, the internet is not without various resources.
I’ve been unhappy with the name of my blog for some time now.
Not that The Rules of Engagement is terrible as far as names in general go. There have been at least two movies called that (one about the 1993 Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas no less; the other a military legal thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson) as well as a sitcom that just concluded its seventh and final season last year.
And yet, The Rules of Engagement is indeed the name of two movies and a long-running sitcom.
Which is to say, it’s not particularly original.
Plus, I didn’t put any real thought into it when I chose it as the name for my blog.
(L-R): Nyima Funk, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady from the TV show Whose Line is it Anyway?
Out of all the different types of artistic expression, the artists I seem to befriend most often are actors.
I’m not really sure why this is, for I’m sure as hell no actor. I have no poker face whatsoever, let alone the ability to re-create a given emotion at will, and body movements range from woodenly awkward to determinedly abrupt.
As well, the mechanics and semiotics of acting are largely lost upon me. I can’t really distinguish a “good” performance from a “spectacular” one, and when I watch movies or plays, so long as the story obeys its own internal logic and follows a satisfying story arc, that’s good enough for me.
I’m a writer; I’m far less interested in the performance of a story than I am in the creation of that’s story’s script.
And yet, as different as my actor friends and their art seems to be from me and mine, I’ve come to discover the usefulness one particular actor’s tool can have for writers.
That tool is improvisation.
Sun by Dawn Banning
We writers – when we discuss our work and our process at all – tend to restrict said discussion to other writers.
After all, who else could possibly understand our unique brand of crazy? How can anyone genuinely comprehend, for example, the compulsion to sit up in the dead of the night and scribble down a story idea unless s/he too has endured the utter frustration of greeting the morning with forgotten inspiration?
Artists of other disciplines (e.g. painters, musicians, actors, etc.), while themselves not fully cognizant of what it means to be a narrative writer, might come pretty darn close to understanding us.
Amy Lee of the alt rock/metal band Evanescence, whose song I borrowed for the title of this post.
When a writer becomes utterly fixated on his/her WIP, is that a sign of artistic revelation or that s/he has become a less well-rounded person?
I’ve twice had it happen where writing has taken over my life, the first time being back in 2004 when I was writing my first (incomplete, shelved) novel, and the second in 2005 when I wrote the first volume of my two-volume historical fiction WIP.
In 2005 especially, I fully gave myself over to my writing.