Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Writing has Changed (For Me) Since the 1970s--Part Two

These are two covers I actually remember from when I was a child.
Science Fiction Fans, Science Fiction Writing Class, and Dirty Purple

From the time I was six years old, I read science fiction and fantasy without knowing anyone besides my dad and my aunt (his sister) who also read books in those genres.  My dad had boxes of magazines with colorful, fascinating covers--robots and spaceships and aliens--in the basement.  So I devoured Galaxy and Astounding Science Fiction magazines from the 1950s, not really understanding a lot of what happened in the stories, but captivated by them nonetheless.  My dad read A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, to me at bed time.  Then my aunt gave me some paperback novels--a few of the Witch World series by Andre Norton.  I wanted more!  I searched the school library and found books by Robert Heinlein and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How Writing has Changed (For Me) Since the 1970s--Part One

1970s:  Handwriting a Novel and Typing it on a Manual Typewriter

Throughout my childhood I was a voracious reader, and also loved playing make believe and making up stories.  I remember lying on my bed one day (I was probably in my early teens) reading a book I was dissatisfied with.  I thought, "I could write better than this!"  Shortly after that, I started brainstorming stories I could write.  I carried a small writing notebook around with me, and wrote down ideas and scenes.

Then, as now, I loved science fiction and fantasy, so my first novel was science fiction.  I brainstormed it after dark with my younger sister (who slept in the lower bunk bed while I slept in the upper bunk).  When I started writing it, I was in high school.  Since I used lined paper in a three-ring binder at school, that's how I wrote my novel:  in pencil, double-spaced, on college-rule binder paper.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Micro Short Short Stories

For nearly two decades, I’ve helped judge a writing contest at CONduit, the science fiction/fantasy convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It’s called “Micro Short Short Stories.”

The rules are simple.

1.  Each story can have no more than three sentences.
2.  It should be a complete story, with beginning, middle, and end.
3.  It should be grammatically correct, and have correct punctuation (we take off points if we have to fix punctuation and grammar to make the story work).
4. The title can help tell the story.
5.  We give a story extra points if it contains foreshadowing, characterization, and/or subplots. (Amazingly, this can be done in only three sentences, although it's difficult.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

There Is No Such Thing as an Original Idea in Art

There is no such thing as an original idea in art. Or so my husband keeps telling me (he is an artist). He tells me this when I struggle to come up with a new story, a new world, even a new name for an unknown cousin of the main character. This got me thinking, where do I draw inspiration from? And how original, really, are the elements of my story?

 Many ideas are reused over time. There are a huge number of stories involving the main character coming of age, the epic journey, the predestined hero, basic human emotion stories (love, revenge), and the telling of fairy tales and fables. These stories pop up all the time, not because they are easy to tell, but because they are easy to relate to. A story is a success when the readers identify with the events and/or characters. One example is the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, a coming of age story with a hero that was chosen by events outside of his control, and over the course of the story he grows into his role. Or another series (which shall not be named) where both vampires and werewolves have been tamed and sexualized to appeal to young readers. Many stories are also retold in new ways, such as Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, a retelling of The Odyssey.

So. Is there such a thing as originality in writing? Yes! But there is a caveat: your story needs to draw from reality, and that necessitates a bit of borrowing.