Quote of the Moment:

Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.

--Ursula K. LeGuin, 2014 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

For the People Out There Who Equate Fantasy With Drug Abuse

"All advances are [fantasies in origin] until someone makes them into reality. Airplanes have existed in fantasy ever since the story of Daedalus; Arthur C. Clarke invented communication satellites as part of a fantasy; a thermos flask figures in several Celtic tales as one of the miraculous Treasures of Britain. And so on. The ability to fantasize is the most precious one we know. Because it solves problems, it has tremendous survival value. And--fortunately--it is built into us so that, unless mistaken adults inhibit us, we all have to do it.

"Children, of course, do it all the time, but even the most adult of businessmen in the most boring meeting will say "Let's play with a few figures here" or "Let's play around with this idea for a bit"--and this is the right way to talk about it because it helps if your imagination is exercised with a lot of pleasure and in a great deal of hope. Then your "What ifs" go with a verve and you're really likely to get somewhere.When the missing bit is found, it is often accompanied with wonder and enormous delight. Eureka! I always see Archimedes bounding about punching the air like a soccer player who has just scored a goal, and dripping all over the street.

"People probably thought Archimedes was insane, but actually what this element of play and delight is doing is keeping you sane...[fantasy is a way] of keeping your mind cool enough and clear enough to deal with a difficult situation."

--Diana Wynne Jones

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

From William Faulkner

“I would say to get the character in your mind. Once he is in your mind, and he is right, and he’s true, then he does the work himself. All you need to do then is to trot along behind him and put down what he does and what he says. It’s the ingestion and then the gestation. You’ve got to know the character. You’ve got to believe in him. You’ve got to feel that he is alive, and then, of course, you will have to do a certain amount of picking and choosing among the possibilities of his action, so that his actions fit the character which you believe in. After that, the business of putting him down on paper is mechanical.”

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thanks, Patricia.

I just read this blog post by Patricia Wrede on research and imagination and thought I'd share.

This is something I've been thinking about for awhile, since I often wonder if I'm over-reaching myself. It sometimes seems outrageous to be writing what I'm writing, about a culture that not only isn't mine, but was mistreated by mine. I'm sure I've mentioned this before. Not long ago, a friend whose culture it is (sort of, though you could argue nobody quite knows precisely what culture that is, as the city which inspired my story disintegrated almost 900 years ago and everybody argues over where the descendants went and where the ancestors came from); anyway, this friend warned me that bad things happen to people who over-reach themselves when dealing with such stuff. She casually threw out an ominous warning or two about skin-walkers and other ghostly wreakers of vengeance. And about strange, coincidental accidents.

To those who like to send such curses: I mean my story as a gift. An offering. Please take it as one. Also, as an apology for the evil things my ancestors did to yours.



To Patricia Wrede: Thanks for reassuring me that, no, I don't have to know from personal experience or have been there to write about it, as long as I've done my research and have imagination.

Imagination can make it real. Of course I know that. Does any writer not know it? But your validation gives it authority. So, thank you. Curses are at stake.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

When Writing Turns into Map-making

This week I realized something while working on my novel: Until I chart out my city and its outlying regions in detail, I can't write my final battle scene. Got the climax basically wrapped up (that final showdown between the two brothers), but what's going on down below them in the city is fairly important, too, and that's just a little hazy in my head, because I haven't figured out where everything goes. Not exactly.

I need a map.

This would not be a problem if I were an artiste.  Or if I hadn't played around so much with my setting, which is only loosely based on reality. I had to play. The real setting didn't fit my story well enough. And anyway, it was fun.

Apparently, this sort of thing happens to writers a lot.

I came across this entertaining article on the subject while I was looking for ways to procrastinate drawing my own map. I laughed a little. Those crazy writers! And sighed. Because I'm one of them. And yes, I know I do need that map.

I was interested--and a bit relieved--to learn Tolkien didn't draw his own maps. He commissioned a map-maker for Middle Earth. And then C.S. Lewis borrowed Tolkien's map-maker for Narnia.

Map of Narnia by Pauline Baynes

However, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Ursula Le Guin didn't need to borrow anybody. They drew their own maps of Treasure Island and Earthsea long before they ever began to write the books to go with their drawings. Even Faulkner drew maps for his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, and was duly proud of the result.

Apparently, writers are obsessed with maps.

Perhaps because we live in other worlds and want those worlds to be real? What we want is the biggest possible map, with as much detail as possible, and then to step into that map and...

Well, whole stories have been written about that.

I don't draw. And unfortunately, I'm too impatient to wait around until someone who can has enough time and ink to create a map so I can plot out the details of my big battle.

So this week I am writing by drawing a map, and wishing I'd taken an art class or two in college. Who knew drawing was one of those prerequisite skills for creating a novel?  And I keep running out of room on my paper.

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