True story, sadly. I got to the climax of my in-progress book and now I feel like there’s something I forgot to do.
Lead the way, Delia.
The character always knows better than you do, authors. Listen to them.
I’m really sad to say this is based on several real conversations I’ve had, and it just blows my mind. I’ve had several grown people condescendingly tell me fantasy is childish and mythical creatures aren’t actually ever in books written for adults. In reality–say these people who know nothing about fantasy because they don’t read it–the presence of imaginary creatures actively MAKES the story juvenile, and adults who read these things are both Not Really Adults and Not Very Plentiful.
I’m not even kidding when I say I’ve been told that I don’t know my audience. Because I actually think adults who would read about fairies exist in droves.
I’ve seen the hundreds of thousands of reviews and excited discussions about fantastical stories, guys. Most of the buzz comes from grown-ups.
Also, it kind of irks me that as soon as I say I write about fairies, people immediately default to regarding my work as for kids. There’s nothing wrong with writing for kids or young adults, but it’s just so frustrating for me that I discuss the subject of my work and my conversation partner switches to “oh that’s so cute, I bet my kid would like it.”
Your kid would not. Like. This. Unless they like nightmares.
Wait until they’re at least a little older until they pick up my stuff. It leans creepy. The fairies I write about aren’t all sweetness and light. . . .
My irritation with this phenomenon has three main points:
1. Just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I am excited about any opportunity to write something, especially if I have to collaborate with someone else. I do not play well with others when it comes to creativity.
2. Your idea? Probably isn’t as awesome as you think. I’m sure some of these folks have ideas that aren’t terrible, but nearly everyone I’ve spoken to who is convinced of the amazingness of their concept does not have a particularly original or mind-blowing idea.
3. IDEAS ARE THE EASY PART. I personally am not lacking in ideas anyway, but execution is pretty much the entire battle when it comes to writing a good book. Even if I did like your idea and want to work with you, doing your grunt work is not appealing. If you’re looking for a ghostwriter and a place to sell your idea for cash, there’s a time and a place for that, but it certainly doesn’t involve me. . . .
So this is partially a true story.
The true part: This has happened to me now and then. I realize I don’t really know what a character looks like; I make a doodle of them that doesn’t really come out how I planned; I nevertheless start imagining them the way they came out of my pen, and from then on I just go with it when I’m inserting descriptions in the story.
The false part: The specific characters I included in the comic actually did pretty much come out how I planned. :X
These guys are from my new short story “Aquarius” and I think they’re pretty damn cute. Here’s the finished drawing.
This seems to be the case with most of the arts: people who aren’t artists consider them to be hobbies, not jobs, even if you actually make a living at it. (Not that that’s the case for me, by the way.) Basically, some people think arts that are “fun” aren’t really “work”–a concept at which every single artist on the planet will surely laugh their ass off–and will insist on categorizing arts as hobbies no matter how we include them in our lives.
Personally, I never considered my writing to be a hobby even before I sold any of it; it was closer to an identity than a hobby, something I AM rather than something I DO. And yet, when I engage in it, I’m often considered to be playing, or having fun, or enjoying a recreational activity–not doing my most important life’s work. Sure, sometimes–often, even!–it’s fun. But it’s work. It’s not just something I do in my spare time to kill some hours, and it’s not something I do “as a side thing.” It’s the main thing.
I recall having a roommate in college who was a business major. I was a music major and my other roommate was a theatre major. When she got mad at us, she’d roll her eyes and say “You two just go color your homework.” Because, you see, she was the one with the real work to do. And the major preparing her for a real job.
Funny how if you dedicate your life to something you love and it happens to be an art (or, sometimes, a sport), your life’s work is considered by many to be just a game.
This is a sarcastic version of a conversation I actually had with someone. People sometimes actually claim that reading fiction is silly and childish, and then they’ll turn right around and consume fiction in plenty of other ways.
Hey, it’s actually totally okay if you don’t like to read stories. It’s fine if you prefer your fictional media delivered visually and aurally and you only pick up a book if you want a true story or something informative. And it’s fine the other way around too.
But can we kill the message that nonfiction is worthwhile and stories aren’t important?
YES, BABY WRITERS! COME HERE! I MUST HUG YOU!
I love when I meet someone who’s just getting started on this whole writing journey. They have yet to be dragged through the mud on their critiques, shamed and demeaned by the submissions process, and more or less emotionally destroyed by the shiny, beautiful evil that is the publishing world. They’re brand new and precious, with that idealistic glee floating around them in a way that reminds me what it was like when this whole thing was only about telling stories.
There’s a certain sensation of feeling weathered and wise when you meet Baby Writers™, but at the same time, they have a lot to teach us. Sometimes you need to get back to when it was all about the story before you can do it fearlessly, unselfconsciously, without worrying about is this right for the market or what if my word count is out of control or should I stop here and revise or should I do the next chapter? As a writer who’s written so much and sold some of it, I have perspective now, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but sometimes I do catch that unmistakable scent of Baby Writer™ on some plucky new enthusiastic artist, and . . . a certain part of me envies them.