Writerly M-Type Thing
So I'm going to do this writerly m-type thing that I've seen ... well, everywhere.
1. of the fic you’ve written, which are you most proud of?
I suppose I'm supposed to say Another Man's Cage, but I actually find that story (and its popularity!) rather mortifying at times because I can do so much better and so much of it really was self-indulgent purple prose. At the moment, my favorite of my fanfic stories are Reembodied, an alternate history of the awakening of the Elves at Cuivienen, and By the Light of Roses, which was a very emotional story for me to write and has some scenes that I think are still tops in terms of my ability as a writer.
O-fic-wise, it is harder to say. I have several stories that I like and think are effective and intend to try to publish. My absolute favorite at the moment is probably Cogs, which actually was published in the anthology Magic and Mechanica.
2. favorite tense (past/present/future)
Present. I got dinged for writing in present tense when I first started writing fanfic, but it remains my preferred tense and the one I slip into when I'm not really trying. I have to make the deliberate decision to write in past and work not to drift back into present.
Does anyone write predominantly in future tense?? (Like second person, this strikes me as one of those gimmicky things mainly undertaken to be DifferentTM.)
3. favorite POV (first/second/third/etc)
First person, although I do quite a bit in third person limited as well. I am often surprised at the vitriol directed against first person. I've seen literary magazines state outright that they don't accept first-person stories. Third person omniscient I don't really see working for me. I like to delve into a character's mind and motives, which seems to require focus on one person at a time.
4. what are some themes you love writing about?
In my fanfic, I love exploring perspectives that aren't privileged in the original works. That's how I ended up writing Fëanorians so much: I imagined what The Silmarillion would look like if it had been written by a loremaster of the House of Fëanor. I like exploring the idea of "truth" in literature, myth, or history.
I enjoy writing about the creative process. I like writing about characters who have mental illnesses or who are otherwise significantly different from "normal." I love revolutionaries and the themes they inspire about freedom and authority. I like writing about families, particularly messed-up ones, and how family dynamics influence people's personalities and behaviors later in their lives.
In my o-fic, which is mostly horror, I enjoy exploring the concept of fear at a psychological level. What is something that deeply horrifies us? Not jump-out-and-go-boo fear of the googly-eyed horror movie variety but things that are deeply uncomfortable to us for something deep, atavistic reason.
In my fantasy stories, there are again a lot of themes of rebellion and independence. The relationships between gods and mortals. Mortality and immortality. (My original fantasyverse, the Midhavens, of course has Elves. ;) The ability of the creative process to form and shape reality (what Tolkien might term subcreation). The lives of ordinary people, those marginalized by the mainstream narrative, and those generally thought unsavory. The highest-born character in my Midhavens!verse is a half-Elven agoraphobic dispossessed necromancer-turned-apothecary who is 738th in line for the throne of the Ancient Elves.
5. what inspires you to write?
Writing, for me, happens when something turns a switch in my brain that makes the stories seem to come to me. I say "come to me" because my impression is not one of crafting a story; the words just seem to come and the story sometimes takes its own direction without much input from me. What turns that switch can be many things: an image, a line from a song, a discussion, something I've read, something I've thought about. When I'm angry and opinionated about something, that will often trigger me to write in response to that anger/frustration. My brain just seems really good at taking the sum total of my experiences, perceptions, and observations, mashing them into a ball, and shaping it into a story.
At the same time, I am very good at making myself write, which is why I like to sign up for challenges. I play with an idea until I find an angle to pursue that seems so irresistibly interesting that *flip* goes the switch, cue mashing, and a story is born.
6. thoughts on critique
I don't personally use a beta, although I have been a part of workshops, both as an undergrad writing minor and through the Critters speculative fiction workshop (which I highly recommend). I am pretty thick-skinned. I like critique that tries to understand and build on what I'm trying to do rather than change my story to what the person wishes I had written. (The latter makes me quite angry, actually, and the few times I've snarked publicly in fandom have often been motivated by comments on my story that "critique" me for not writing according to the reader's personal vision.) I've found, through my work with Critters, that about 10% of critters don't "get" what I'm trying to do with a story. At all. Which could be my fault as a writer or theirs as a reader. I'm not assigning blame.
I once figured out that I have beta'ed/critiqued around 2,000 short stories and novel chapters. So I have more experience on the other side of the desk, and I try to be the beta/critter that I would want someone to be to me. I try to help the author toward her vision, not toward mine. The author is number-one, and my ego and my preferences have nothing to do with it.
7. Create a character on the spot…. NOW!
Okay, I've never written Turgon before ...
He listened to Nelyo speak and waited for his in. Something awry or at least suggestive of an error. He felt his weight padding back and forth between the balls of his feet in his eagerness to speak and watch his relatives' faces swivel to notice him.
8. is there a character you love writing the most? the least? why?
I love writing Caranthir. My decision to make him gifted in "mindspeak" because I thought it would be fun to write has turned out to be one of the best rash decisions of my creative life. He is incredibly fun to write, and it's also interesting to see how different readers receive him.
I enjoy writing Nerdanel, Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, and Finarfin as well. I still find Fëanor intimidating as hell. I've never gotten over that string of corrupted and deleted files associated with everything I wrote from his PoV.
9. a passage from a WIP
Oh lord. I don't really do WiPs. Okay, here is the opening paragraph to my Nerdanel/Fëanor novel (yes, the AMC prequel of which there are only two chapters, since the first four that I wrote and really liked became corrupted a few days later--see above about writing Fëanor). Nerds' PoV:
I run—run until the wind whisks all other sound from my consciousness. All but three: my feet pound the earth and my blood roars in my ears and my ragged breathing keeps time with them both. And of course, there is the wind. We are united, I think, in this moment. The wind and the earth and me.
10. what are your writing strengths?
I am best at characterization ... at least, this is what I get the most compliments about and what I enjoy the most in writing. I like exploring people and psychology through writing. I don't start with plots but with people. I ascribe to what I call the "characters in a room" technique of writing: throw a bunch of people in a room together, lock the door, and see what happens.
Someone once told me I was the most literary of the authors they knew in the Tolkien fandom. I think I am good at creating stories with layers of meaning. I love the many layers of meaning in a single word, for example, or how changing even small details in terms of structure and punctuation can create a certain effect. I love playing with symbolism and foreshadowing. I am very deliberate in making these kinds of stylistic decisions and enjoy when people pick up on it.
11. what are your writing weaknesses.
Plot. I am not a plot writer. Unless I have read a story several times (my own or someone else's!) then I will not remember what happens in that story. I remember characters or images or even lines from a piece but not the plot. I sometimes read stories with complex webs of plots and admire these. I cannot imagine being able to do this myself.
12. what’s your favorite place for writing, resources?
I can write just about anywhere. I have written at ice rinks and ski lodges, on the beach and in the car. I do a lot of writing in my head; I had awful insomnia when I was younger because I was always laying awake and thinking about stories. (I discovered that writing them down fixed this.) I prefer to type my stories at all stages of the process but can handwrite if I must.
Resource-wise, I am lost without Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com open on my computer. Those are really the only resources I consult while writing. Like any Tolkien writer, I review my Tolkien texts before starting a story on a section of canon with which I am not familiar. I have a shelf over my desk in the study reserved for my Tolkien books, so they are always within reach (assuming that I am working on the study, which lately, I do not).
13. who are your favorite writers?
J.R.R. Tolkien, of course. Ursula K. LeGuin and Neil Gaiman. Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, and Joyce Carol Oates. W.B. Yeats, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens. Walt Whitman (my ultimate literary crush!) and Robert Burns (my other literary crush!). William Blake and John Keats. Miguel de Cervantes. The Gawain poet. The Beowulf poet. Whoever wrote the Epic of Gilgamesh, which proves more than anything I've ever read that we are all, to an extent, walking in the footsteps of those who came before.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!