The year dwindles and we humans become reflective as holiday traditions and the last page on the calendar set us up for looking back.
In some respects, my reflective mood began when I started planning my Ontyre sequel in October. Now, with so many short stories and two novels in various stages of completion, I’ve learned a lot about my process tendencies and writing direction.
What makes us different is what makes our writing unique and that’s always good. Like finding my voice, I’ve found certain writing approaches appeal to me as I find my way to the niche where I feel at home. Who knows, maybe there are kindred spirits out there with similar ideas and tastes.
Like the connotations words carry, so do people, places, and eras. A writer can work these to their advantage, but as an author I prefer to create from scratch, drawing from many sources to construct composites.
To create characters, I draw from many sources, sometimes well known people, occasionally people I know or have known, and always a pinch of me. In doing so, it’s more like I’m presenting a person not before encountered as opposed to (in extreme cases) someone who’s tainted with baggage. I don’t want to introduce a character who’s saddled with someone else’s private life, public life, past, and perhaps movie roles.
The same approach is applied to world building and is the reason I set my speculative fiction in a world removed from our own. People can speculate as to real world parallels all they want (as they did with Tolkien), but I don’t want them easily making associations I didn’t intend. This also applies to locations and cultures.
There’s also the possibility I’m just a control freak. I can live with that.
Yes, I look to portraits, landscapes, and art for inspiration, but in the end what makes it to the page are the composites I create. The flip side of this is that it’s difficult to find art similar to the places I write about. I make do.
All that said, there are a few exceptions (don’t you hate that) I allow. Obviously, I’m not going to invent every little thing for Ontyre. A wheel is a wheel. Fire is fire. I create some never before seen creatures (grips, for instance), but I also borrow a few. There are gryphons and gargoyles. There are also mammoths. Oh, and werewolves, but they tend to congregate together in the months outside moon season and often hunt in packs. A little familiarity for the reader is a good thing.
So, is any of this important beyond the fact that it’s what I prefer? It’s important because it ties to talking about genre, which I’ll do next week to keep this week’s post from becoming epic in length. Mostly, though, it’s important because it defines what I do and I can’t tell you how long I’ve beaten myself up about that. Silly or not, it’s all been about defining my writing and where it fits. If I don’t understand that then it becomes more difficult to connect with my audience, both on the page and on social media.