Tim Pratt's Journal
2457274 Curiosities served
2006-08-18 10:05 AM
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First, I just want to give a shout-out to my brilliant and talented wife, Heather. She's been working on a story all week, "Immolation", trying to get it ready for the F&SF slush bomb. Taking her laptop on the train, working in the evenings, and doing a marathon session at her desk last night to finish it. I gave it a read-through when she finished, and I think it's one of the best things she's written, with some really luminous passages of prose and a great ending. She gets better with everything she writes, I swear.
And now, inspired by the inimatable ebear (well, I guess she's a little imitable, since I'm imitating her, but still):
Eleven things I intend to keep doing in my writing, whether anybody else likes it or not:
- Characters with complicated sexuality.
I will continue to write about characters who are various kinds of queer, often label-defying and/or label-rejecting, and who are kinky to various degrees, without the kinkiness being the point of the story, or an indicator that they're SO EVIL or SO ENLIGHTENED or anything else.
- Magical ability as just another personal quirk.
In my fiction, you don't have to be the chosen one to do magic. So you can do magic? Cool. But it's no more inherently important than having perfect pitch or, alternately, being born with a clubfoot. Just accidents of nature.
- The rejection of destiny as a plot driver.
Nope. No destiny, no fate, nothing pre-ordained. There will, of course, be self-fulfilling prophecies, and people who do stuff because they think they're destined to, even though they're not.
- Lots of True Romance, but not much One True Love
I'm not a believer in "the one true love" myth of romance, that there's a perfect soulmate out there for everyone. There are a lot of potential matches, some better than others in different spheres. But I'm a total romantic, and I love writing romances, even if they do go ugly halfway through. Just because a love affair goes kablooie doesn't invalidate the good things that came before. And some people really do live happily together until one of them dies. Sometimes even groups of people do it!
- An absence of formal religion
I know, it's alien to the experiences of many people, and I respect that. I also respect the persistent criticism that SF/fantasy doesn't have enough religious characters. But it's not a problem I'm going to solve. I grew up in the deep south, in Baptist country, but my parents weren't particularly religious, and neither were my aunts, uncles, grandparents (on either side), etc. Oh, if you asked, they'd probably say Jesus Saves, but they didn't go to church or ponder theology overmuch, for the most part. I dipped into a few churches before settling into my current state of cheerful atheism, but formal religion has never been a big part of my life, and my characters default to secular humanism. On the bright side, that means I won't have many villains who are super-religious, the way many writers reacting against an overabundance of religion in their early lives sometimes tend to to.
- Mentioning books, songs, works of art, etc. in my stories
People have criticized me for this! Screw 'em. I wouldn't have read Watership Down if Stephen King hadn't mentioned it in one of his novels, and there are dozens of other situations like that, where an author has mentioned a book, movie, etc., and sent me to seek it out. I want to provide that same service. Besides, I swim in a sea of cultural references, as do most of my friends, and I think it would be more artificial if my characters didn't read books, see movies, and listen to music like the rest of us do.
- Characters who hang out in coffee shops.
Sorry, y'all. I love hanging out in cafes. Especially the ones that also serve beer! Mmm, beer. So that's going to continue.
- Bad guys getting away with their evil deeds.
Because they do. All the time. And while it's sometimes satisfying to smash them to bits in fiction, it also feels false to me, much of the time.
- Witty repartee in fight scenes.
I know it's unrealistic. When people are really fighting, they rarely trade quips. But, damn it, it's so fun, I don't care!
- Friends who have casual sex with absolutely no detriment to their relationship.
Because it is possible, contrary to most representations in fiction. (Of course, sometimes it also goes disastrously wrong, and those can be fun to write, too, but such outcomes aren't inevitable.)
Dude, I love monsters! I don't even care if they're a metaphor for anything! Whoo, monsters!
Now a few things I'm trying to do better in my writing, especially in my novels:
- Less linearity, more complex plots with more reversals.
- Stories that take place over greater lengths of time, instead of being jammed into a few action-packed days (that's fun, but I haven't ever really done the former).
- Better action scenes. (The Marla books are forcing me to work on this.)
- More smells. (I'm actually not a very olfactory-oriented person, but that doesn't mean my characters shouldn't be. I routinely go through my first drafts and add in a bunch of smell-related sensory details.)
- A better color pallete. (I'm color blind, but my characters aren't, and it's not like I can't fake it.)
- Characters who have real jobs. (When they have jobs at all, they tend to be graphic designers, editors, copywriters, or Generic Computer Programmers. I really need to be a little more creative here.)
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