It’s Follow Friday on Twitter, and I like to post a little something to take advantage of the possible extra traffic heading this way. Don’t have anything big in mind today, but I’m sure I can think of something interesting to say.
Just signed a couple of contracts: one for my current project, another for audio books, and another for a movie option. It’s both incredibly cool and incredibly weird. It’s safe to say I’m doing far better as a novelologist than I ever expected to do. I’m still mid-list at best (and probably not even that), but this is a tough business. A lot of people want to do this. So many that it strikes me as absurd that I get paid to do it. But I do. And thanks to everyone, big and small, who makes that possible.
So I play World of Warcraft. I play it too much. But I really like the game (and of course I’m not alone). Currently, I’m working on a Tauren Paladin, but I hop around. I’m in a solid guild now, full of cool people, and we’ve even taken to some raiding, which is pretty cool since I’ve never really done that before.
One of the things I love about WoW is the people. It’s pure science fiction that I can log onto my computer and play a game with people across the world. People I would never meet in real life or if I did meet them, I’d have nothing in common with. But in this virtual realm, in this land of digital adventure, I’ve discovered a meeting place for friends and acquantainces I’d have never known. Oh, sure, they’re not real friends in that they can’t help me move and I don’t know much about their real lives. But I do know I can count on them to help me kill giant dragons and dare Ice Crown Citadel. And that’s gotta count for something, right?
I also play a lot of tabletop games, and recently, I acquired one I’d like to recommend. Sid Meyer’s Civilization: The Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games is great fun. Almost beat for beat, an adaptation of the computer game, it still manages to be accessible and easy to play. I wouldn’t really call it a civilization building game because your nation will only have 3 cities at the most and it’s entirely possible to have railroads and not horseback riding. But as a game allowing you to experience the journey of nation via broad strokes, it’s fantastic. Highly recommended.
Finally, let’s go ahead and talk about writing because that’s what I do and this allows me to pretend like I’m an authority.
I’m sure someone has said this already and much better than I, but storytelling revolves around emotion. That’s what’s makes or breaks every story. It’s not about great sentences or poetic expression. Those things help, but ultimately, if you can instill an emotion in your audience, then you’ve succeeded.
I love Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, yet most of them are stilted, written in a dated style. It doesn’t matter to me though because I have a visceral connection with most of his worlds and characters. I love Tarzan because I can relate to his outsider’s perspective. More importantly, it allows me to see the world from a whole new angle. It’s not just that I can relate to Tarzan, but that he allows me to experience things I never will. His reactions, his character, make those situations tangible. They open new windows.
When Tarzan’s ape mother was killed by natives, I felt Tarzan’s pain. And when Tarzan discovered civilization, I experienced his confusion. And when he strangled a Russian villain to death for daring to threaten Tarzan’s family, I felt his rage and power. And while I, as a civilized human being, never imagine myself strangling anyone (and hope to The Mighty Robot King that it never comes up in real life) I can relate to Tarzan and his way of viewing the world because the stories make a boy raised by apes and make him real somehow. Believable? Not for a minute. But still somehow someone who I know.
I watched Tangled this weekend, and it was really very good. Very, very good. And I think I liked it so much because it struck all the right emotional notes. Even the songs are built around universal dreams and desires, whether it’s Rapunzel singing about waiting for her life to begin, having a dream, or falling in love. These notions are so basic that almost all of us can understand them.
The funny thing is that I don’t know if a good story needs to be founded on emotional relatability or if emotional relatability can be relied to happen on with good writing. It’s almost as if it needs to happen as a byproduct, that if a writer tries too hard to invest his story with emotion that it’ll just come across as forced and obnoxious. Not always, of course. And even as individuals we have different assessments of what works or doesn’t. Still, I’ve always felt that worrying too much about theme or emotion before writing is putting the cart before the horse. Maybe it’s just the way I write, but I like to discover the emtional resonance of what I’m writing while I’m writing it. It always seems to end up the stronger for it.
It brings up an interesting question (to me at least). Is it necessary to study story structure, theme, and other such writerly pursuits to write a good story? I can see why it could be helpful, but at the same time, it seems the more a writer obsesses over these things, the less natural they can become. Or not. I don’t have the answers, and I can’t even pretend that I do. I could write the greatest novel of all time, and it still wouldn’t mean I knew why it was the greatest.
Except maybe that it will most likely have a slime monster in it. And probably a giant robot fight.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,