My mental age may still be stuck solidly at 9 years or so, but my writing isn’t. While looking over my writing today (two finished stories, what the heck, when did that happen, huh?), I realized that, though there are some incredible similarities between what I wrote as a ten or eleven year old, I’ve broken multiple of Ten Year Old Me’s cardinal rules.
I started writing for very concrete reasons: namely, the books I read at the time irritated me, and for a variety of reasons. Too much romance. Characters all felt the same. Worlds need expansion. Not enough gore. (Some things never change, heh.) Me being me, there was only one solution: write my own flippin’ stories, ’cause no one else could do it right!
So, just for kicks and grins, here are some of the reasons I started writing, and how I’ve stuck or broken with them.
Reason #1: My favorite character always died.
Then: I couldn’t stand it. It drove me to tears and to insanity. Why did my favorite character always have to die?! I didn’t understand, I was a child, why did these sadistic authors inflict such emotional trauma upon me?!
Now: It still bothers me to some degree, but for a specific reason: so often, when my “favorite” character dies, it’s a cheesy or unnecessary death. I dislike it when the author specifically builds reader attachment to a character, only to destroy it for no apparent reason except for making things “realistic” (or some such excuse). I call bull. I’ve read so many character deaths that were entirely out of character – situations that were so contrived they became laughable. Call that realistic? No. However: I will write character deaths now, and when done well, I can only object to them so much in others’ writing. Death can be a very useful plot tool, it can make sense in the story, and it can work. As long as it’s not pointless, I’m… *sniff* … okay with it.
Reason #2: Fantasy all felt the same.
Then: Everything felt like a LotR ripoff. Same world, same species, same interracial and cultural dynamics, same problems… blah! Who wants that? So, I set to work making my own worlds, and they’d sure as heck better not be straight out of LotR.
Now: It’s still a major complaint. Too often, a new fantasy story feels like LotR slightly reimagined… I’m sorry, but Tolkien and Tolkien alone did his world best, now can the rest of the world get off the bandwagon? So, it’s still driving me to write – but I’d like to think that after over ten years of practice creating my own worlds, I’ve started getting the knack for not dishing out the same thing over and over again. I’m not sure I could even enjoy LotR style fantasy as much as I did before; exploring new worlds and new ideas sounds far more exciting than revisiting a Tolkien-esque world not done by Tolkien.
Reason #3: Too much romance.
Then: Cut the kissing and go kill the demon!
Now: Okay. I let you hug. You acknowledged your emotions. Now get moving and kill the demon!
Needless to say… I’m not into the kissy stuff. I had a minor identity crisis when I realized that Icewriter opened with a proposal scene – but the guy got cursed less than thirty seconds later, so my psyche escaped undamaged. 😀
Reason #4: The main characters were stupid, to the point that I, a ten year old, could have strategized better.
Let me start out by saying this: as a ten year old, my estimations of my own intelligence were slightly exaggerated.
Then: Plot holes, predictable beginnings, middles, and ends, and stupid battlefield tactics. Couldn’t stand it! … but, looking back, my writing wasn’t exactly brilliance in action, either.
Now: If I’ve got a character screwing things up out of their own stupidity, it’d better be for a darn good reason. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better about evading plot holes and ensuring that characters act rationally and intelligently (but always within character)?
Reason #5: The creatures bored me.
Then: if I had to deal with another stock vampire, werewolf, or dragon story, I would have chucked the book across the room. I hated the lack of originality, and even as a ten year old, I came up with an entire zoo of my own mythical and magical creatures.
Now: if I had to deal with another stock vampire, werewolf, or dragon story, I won’t even read past the description. I’m twenty-three, and my zoo has turned into a menagerie so large I have species sheets to keep track of everything within each story so I don’t accidentally mix story-worlds. I’ve learned that I do enjoy utilizing undead, werewolves, and on rare occasions, vampires; however, I still can’t bring myself to use the stock style critters in my writing. Example: in Everfire, the undead can be killed by breaking the skull, snapping the spine, orrrrrr…
by consuming chocolate. Yep. Chocolate. Yes, there’s a reason behind that, I swear! (And, just so you know, coffee works, too, but not as effectively. Want to drop an animation fast? Throw cocoa powder at it!)
Reason #6: I wanted characters with spunk and fire.
Then: I don’t mind characters who are mellow and softspoken and consistent about it. I do mind when characters are supposed to be tough, strong, zippy, and wild – but then they are faced with adversity and collapse in tears and shudders (in the case of female characters, there’s usually a convenient male character waiting to catch them and support them and provide awwwwwwwwwww material). I don’t want to know about this girl who’s a fighter and brilliant swordlady and efficient and matter-of-fact and generally awesome… and then she kills for the first time and promptly dissolves into sobs. For no reason. Ugh.
Now: I just want solid characters. That’s all. Whether they’re spitfire and lightning incarnate or a mouse who would rather interact with others only through books, I want them to be consistent and have their own unique personality. Spitfire and lightning does tend to make the mix more interesting, though…
After reading this little list, one more thing struck me. When I was a ten year old, I had a fundamentally different approach to writing itself. Is that surprising? No, hardly – but I still find the shift interesting, and it’s easy to sum up. Basically:
I wrote because I wanted a story to read that didn’t frustrate me.
I write because I can’t help myself.
So, that’s me when I started vs. me now. All you other writers – how about you? Why did you start writing? Why do you keep writing? Has your approach drastically changed over the years? I’d love to hear!