Wednesday, August 31, 2011

For Fun: A TED Talk with Amy Tan

Without further adieu:

Thoughts? I'll edit my post later this evening with my own after my hands stop shaking; I weedeated (weedate?) today and I'm having a little more trouble typing than I thought I would.

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Alright, thoughts.

I haven't written much fiction. Or rather, I have--but not the kind that "counts." Yes, I wrote awful "novels" in middle and high school, and the occasional short story during college, and then a scrapped novel. It is only recently that I've really gotten my hands dirty with fiction writing, and I think that is only because the amount of fiction I've read has finally reached critical mass in my brain, and is beginning to overspill the boundaries of my skull.

And I'm gearing up for NANO; my first ever...the legwork of this book is proving...frustrating. Oh hell, I  can admit it: I'm lazy.  Shhh....

I think Ms. Tan hit the nail on the head when she began talking about how we as writers must let go of our own beliefs, in order to develop a cosmology relevant to the world of our story. That cosmology will influence every event and every emotion for the entire book. Our characters will respond to certain situations because of the cosmology we build into their story. So what for me would be terribly morally ambiguous reaction at best, might be a natural, possibly positive response for one of my characters in the exact same situation. It's an uncomfortable thing for me, I guess, to try and "write what I know,"  and then try and remove myself from it so completely--at least for longer writing. I don't get why. When writing poetry it is the same thing; "emotions recollected from tranquility" or whatever that quote is exactly. Or even when writing an essay...even though the opinions certainly belong to the author, the author remains distant, so that everything comes across clear-headed.

I am creating my female main character using the personality and life of a childhood best friend. But only in part. Obviously she is just the palette with which I will paint the novel, not the painting itself. My FMC is going down a significantly different career path; her cosmology is definitely different than the girl with whom I spent hours playing Little House on the Prairie. But it's definitely based on her--just in a completely different, oh, universe. Yeah, like in an alternate universe. One in which I am in control. Sometimes I feel like I'm worrying too much about it all, and it will all just magically flow out just perfect--ha!--and other times I get all panicked and don't know where to let the story line diverge from the person I know into the person I am creating to explore the point of my story.

I wish there were some golden rule for the research and grunt-work required for creating believable characters in longer fiction, and the cosmologies that surround those characters.

What little research I do for short fiction is all pretty much to the point, and takes just a short while.  But just like the last novel, I have masses and masses of information to get through, and no idea whether or not it will be the type of information which I even need to ingest. Is it just because I'm trying so hard to keep the real writing part for November? On shorter stuff I research and write almost simultaneously--I hunt, I gather, and then I consume my fuel while making a pile of crap for someone to read. LOL. Tips from seasoned novelists would be welcome. Hint, Hint.

My mind is actually going about ninety miles a minute right now, but I don't want to make this too long. I'd rather know what you thought of the talk, or of my tangent, or both. Or neither. Perhaps you want to tell me about your little orange cat, Suzy. That'd be cool. My FMC is a cat lover, you know. And I am allergic. *sigh*


  1. The research and planning will pay off! It has to!!! I haven't done NANO yet so no advice... but I can send good vibes :)
    PS I love a good ninety mile a minute mind!

  2. Hi Jolene--I sure hope so! Sheesh, lol. I will take every bit of good vibes I can get.

    Too bad my eyes and fingers can't go ninety miles a minute, or I'd already be done with research!