One of my favorite authors gave a talk a little over a year ago and I got to witness it, and then see him sign some of my books. You can read more about that encounter here.
One thing that he said at the time, that I have seen him consistently repeat, is, “If you can stop writing, do so.” – He goes on to explain that for him, writing is a compulsion. That he has a story that he wants to get out of him, and things he has to work through in his mind. He does that by writing.
To him, if you want to be a writer, it should be because you feel compelled to put pen to paper and, as he once put it, “Write what you don’t know that you know.” – Or write to figure out the things in your heart you don’t know that you know. When he was writing Mortalis, (A book from The Demon Wars saga that bridged the first trilogy and the second trilogy) his brother had just died. The tone of the book was darker than maybe he otherwise would have written, but it was eventually hopeful at the end.
To be honest, I also loved that he used the old “Ring around the Rosie” poem/urban legend history of it. That amused me greatly.
I sometimes wonder if I have the determination that he espouses for writing. I once saw a video based on a quote by Ira Glass about having Good Taste. I’ve linked to the quote so you can read it. I can’t help but wonder if this is true about me, or if I am just delusional. Because, to me, I have to love a character before I’m invested. I fall in love with other people’s characters very fast. Harry Potter, Tyrion Lannister, Jake Berenson, Drizzt Do’urden, Raistlin Majere, Elminster, Mara Jade Skywalker, Batman, Odd Thomas… And countless others. As my friend Jenn said, I need to love my characters as much as I love these characters.
In trying to determine what I love about these characters, I pick out certain aspects of them and I try to incorporate them into characters I’m writing about. But the problem that I’ve found, and am looking for a way to overcome is twofold: I don’t have a voice that I enjoy writing in. That might be because I never finish stories, and so I can’t shave off the pieces of my voice that I dislike and turn it into something that I enjoy, or because I just haven’t found it yet.
The other problem is that I don’t have what some other authors have in their heads: living, breathing, growing characters. I may be too analytical in my approach to the world to have stories drifting through my brain that I can be detached from and just enjoy watching. That might be why I can never fall in love with my characters; they are a part of me, and thus they don’t surprise me.
Jenn once said to me, “You’re creative, in a mechanical sort of way.” – She didn’t intend for it to sting, but it did. And so here I am, consistently trying to find a way to be creative in a way that I can enjoy.