Ideas: Self-Permission

As I said in my previous post, taking a look at where my ideas come from turned out to be a more complex subject than I anticipated, and ran into this one, which I think counts as a subject in its own right. Also as I said there, please be patient with material that looks like it’s wandering off-topic; it isn’t.

When I was nineteen, and came out as not heterosexual (I lacked the terminology at the time; the word I use now is “pansexual”), my writing went through a massive transformation. Instead of trying desperately to keep it “clean” with no sex or gender exploration, I started to allow myself to play with whatever came.

Fairly early on, I created, as a kind of shortcut, a set of characters that I dropped into a wide variety of urban fantasy situations, essentially to observe what happened – what if this character isn’t human but is a, oh, werewolf? dragon? vampire? Now, what happens if I switch which character it is? The dynamics were fascinating, watching how the story shifted and flowed and altered with small changes. Along with being an immense amount of fun (yes, this is my idea of how to spend not just a Friday night, but an entire weekend and then some), it also taught me an incredible amount about how stories work. However, since I was writing these only as an experiment, I didn’t censor anything or rule out anything, just let it all happen. Continue reading

Ideas: Where Do They Come From?

It’s now a cliche, to ask a writer, “Where do you get your ideas?”

It’s been a long time since anyone bothered to ask me that, and most of those were not out of any particular admiration – generally more along the lines of, “Where on earth do you come up with this wierdness, anyway?”. I decided I’m going to answer it anyhow, because it’s an essential part of the whole process. After all, you don’t get far writing unless you can think of something to write about. I’m reluctant to comment on where anyone else gets their ideas, but I do know where my own come from – and I know that I had a struggle with myself over one major source and its validity. In fact, this subject ran into another, turning this into two closely linked ones. The second part of this will be posted on Thursday. Meanwhile, since this is a more complex issue than I expected before I sat down and started to think about it, please bear with me if I seem to wander off-track at moments.

So. Where do I get my ideas? Part of the answer is, everywhere. From books I read, either fiction that sparks a thought of a variation, or non-fiction that triggers an “Oh, that’s neat!” reaction. From my own real-life experiences. From things people around me say. A major part of the answer is, from other ideas: starting to experiment with one idea leads to others. Trying out variations by changing a factor or two at a time and testing the results can lead in fascinating and unpredictable directions within the internal logic of the concept. Continue reading

Assumptions: Culture and Technology

Along the same lines as my previous post about assumptions, but of a different kind:

Why is it that fantasy fiction is, with overwhelming frequency, set in a thinly-disguised version of Dark Ages, or possibly Renaissance, Western Europe? There are exceptions, of course, but this has become a kind of industry standard.

Even if there’s no sign of Christianity as such, basic Christian values as understood in the modern mainstream Western world (not the same values as understood in actual medieval Europe) are prevalent. Men have careers and literally wear the trousers; women stay home to mind the fourteen kids and cook the meals in long skirts, although they may have access to limited career options. Charity may be present, but shaming of single mothers or same-sex relationships or non-monogamy may also be present if acknowledged as possible at all. If you’re creating a world, rather than using a historical time period per se as your setting, then why swallow this whole instead of experimenting? I’m not suggesting anything as heavy-handed as having the men stay home with the kids and the women all have careers; it’s not a feasible idea, anyway, biologically. Why not make at least small changes in the social structure? It makes it genuinely your own world, instead of a generic medieval setting. Whatever aspects you want or need for your particular story, great, by all means keep them – but do it as a deliberate and conscious choice, not by default, and take a good look at the other aspects of the society that you might be able to play around with. Continue reading

Assumptions: Gender and Sex

Everyone has basic assumptions about the world around us. We have to; they’re a part of how we keep functioning.

When you’re writing, however, and especially if you’re writing speculative fiction of any sort (speculative fiction is an umbrella term for fantasy, science fiction, and anything else that doesn’t fit precisely into either but is nonetheless outside “normal reality”), it’s a good time to take a look at your own assumptions. Speculative fiction is, after all, about transgressing the normal rules. I’m not going to try to give specific instances of these, mainly because there are so many I’ve long since lost count and I’d rather not single out individual works from a long list.

A personal pet peeve is the assignment of gender to absolutely everything. Beings of kinds that have no sexual reproduction nonetheless are treated as intrinsically either males or females, no reason for this offered, and Western society being what it is, that tends to then colour everything else associated with that being. Continue reading

Right brain + left brain = magic

2021 note: no, I do not mean the overly-simplified notion of literally specialized brain hemispheres. Yes, there are regions devoted to specific abilities, but it’s complex. Think of it as a metaphor, please – something I didn’t really make clear.

Everyone’s perception of the direct process of creativity is going to be unique to them. I experience it in terms of two halves working together – right brain and left brain, for lack of any terminology that works better.

The story itself, the content, often feels like it comes from outside of me; I’m just watching the events, writing them down as rapidly as my hand can move. Characters and setting are there, waiting for me to tap into them, and once I tune in properly, the characters go ahead and do their thing. Friends have many times heard me muttering dire curses on a character who simply refuses to do what I would prefer that they do. The pure raw material comes from the creative and holistic right side of my brain, which immerses itself in the emotions and experiences and sees the story as a unified whole.

That’s wonderful, and intoxicating, and that side has strengthened over a lifetime of encouragement although it was pretty vivid even as a child. Maybe it just never had the chance to curl up and go dormant. However, it isn’t enough to make a writer. Continue reading