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Update on Mars Needs Writers
Staring Forward
I’ve had two sessions of my scifi/fantasy writing class, and I am loving it. The teacher is engaging, knowledgeable and entertaining (at least from my perspective). I get excited at the prospect of going to class each week. I find it so empowering to be with a group of people who swoon over Neil Gaiman’s name, who don’t laugh derisively when the talk is about FTL or vampires (or vampire-powered FTL? Ooooooo….), who nod in agreement over random-fact-surfing as inspiration, who want to notice weirdness!

I was a little disappointed that it seemed there wouldn’t be a whole lot of writing exercises – more lecture, discussion and critique. I don’t want to put those things down, because they are things I can certainly get into. But at the same time, some of my most interesting ideas in college came from random exercises thrust upon me by professors. I need an assignment, I like a deadline, cause it gives me the kick in the ass that I need to create instead of just muse.

So, joy of joys, we got an in-class writing exercise last night! Beyond being a good opportunity to just write without heavy expectation, I had some interesting observations.

The first is that not everyone in the class was like “yes, yes, make me write immediately!” Some individuals voiced that they would rather just write at home. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it was not something I was expecting from someone in a writing class. Just another example of my insular view of people – I expect that everyone is pretty much like me on the inside. Everyone daydreams 50% of the day. Everyone wants an excuse to write a story at the drop of a hat. Everyone talks to themselves as they walk, and sometimes dances like no one is watching. The Boy has called me out on that last one several times.

This is not the case. People’s internal mechanics are all different, and it’s one thing to say that on an intellectual level, but I keep catching instances where the lesson has clearly not sunk deep enough into me.

The second observation came from my story itself. Loved the opening premise I created – a parallel between listening to a sleeping lover’s heart and the heart-beat like radiation of a dying star. But looking it over, I realize that once again I have fallen into my ‘lyric voice’, which is pretty damn prevalent in my writing. half_double noticed it enough to point it out to me. It makes me worry, especially after last night’s discussion on narrative voice. I thought I had a knack for it, but maybe I’m stuck in this one voice, this lyrical narrator in love with details, metaphors, subtle action and unique descriptions. I think it’s a sophisticated voice, but if it’s all I got, I view that as a big fault.

It might just be something that surfaces in my short story work – or at least the stories that start with the short story feel. I create these works around concepts and ideas, characters and conclusions instead of actions, and so I filter everything through what I hope is a beautiful lens. I need to break out of that mold. I need to be less scared of writing funny. Writing terse and tense. Writing over-the-top, writing cliché, writing gruff and gory. Writing unpretty. Not necessarily ugly.

I think what really stands in my way is the need to fall in love with every word I write. I know several people to “blame” for that. It puts me ahead when it comes to short prose, but I think will hinder me as I try to write for the scifi/fantasy genre. So, conclusion? I’m aware of it now, I need to stay aware of it, and I need to practice.

I love this class.


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