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Writing Longhand

I can get a bit… scribbly!

The more I write, the more I find that I prefer to write longhand instead of using the computer. (It’s worth noting that the computer RULES for editing, rewriting, rearranging, and otherwise molding a story into the right shape.)

I always start a story by hand. I scribble notes and write a page or two. Then, up until the last two it three months, I have always switched over to the word processor to type the following 90% of the story.

It’s fast as long as I know where the story is heading. And maybe you see where this is going if you happen to know that I hardly ever write a story outline, and even when I do it’s less than skeletal. More like a stick figure missing a stick or two.

The words are more likely to dry up after I switch to typing the story. I find myself stalling not just on what to type for the next sentence or paragraph, but on what the next scene is and where the plot is going.

Maybe it’s because when typing my fingers can travel as fast as I’m thinking. But writing by hand forces me to fix what’s coming next in my mind as I hurry to write down the words that bridge the gap.

Or maybe that’s not it at all and there’s a different reason baked into my brain.

Either way, lately I’ve been writing by hand more than I’ve been typing as I compose a story. The biggest challenge is deciphering my own handwriting and making sense of all the notes and additions I cram into the left hand column of the evidence pads I love to use. (Think steno pad, but full 8 1/2″ x 11″ size and with the  vertical rule one-third of the way from the left instead of down the middle)

 

(Edit, an hour or so later: composed this with the voice-writing function on my mobile — it didn’t do too bad, but left me a couple of things to clean up. Technology: the solution to and cause of all of our problems, right? Anything that’s still wrong, I blame on my lovable but very loud and distracting little ones. Oh, and I also clarified a couple of things in the third and last paragraphs.)

Broken Rice: Word Cloud 2

Word cloud -- Broken Rice at 14k post rewrite

A month ago, I posted a word cloud for a work in progressBroken Rice. It was around 8,000 words long then.

 

Since then, I reached a “I don’t know what to do with this next” point, then let the story sit for a while and worked on other things, then picked it back up recently for a major rework.

 

I liked a lot of things about the story and basic premise. Other things weren’t working for me at all. That’s why I took a break on writing it. I do that quite a bit. I start stories, then set them aside and come back days or weeks later. Sometimes I accumulate quite a few half-finished stories. When my pattern of working works well, it forms sort of a natural cycle with periods of drought and periods of plenty. I’ll finish nothing for a couple of months, then knock out a spate of finishes all of a sudden.

 

Broken Rice needed major work. When I picked it back up I overhauled it completely. I radically changed the setting, the personality of the main character, some major plot elements. I had to rewrite from stem to stern, making everything make sense again, then rewrite a second time so everything felt and sounded right, so everything fit in again, had the right new tone and the right new mood.

 

I really didn’t want to change the story so radically. But I had to. It’s hard to explain — you have to be invested in what you’re writing enough to kill it or alter it beyond recognition, sometimes. Get too attached to finishing exactly what you’ve started and you can find yourself writing a lot of meh. I don’t like writing meh.

 

Times like this, I’m so happy not to have hard deadlines. That’s an aspect of being self-published that is a great advantage… unless you let it turn into procrastination. Which I’m sorry to say has happened before and it won’t happen again please don’t be mad I’m probably not as much of a stereotypical GenX slacker as you think.

 

But, back to the story.

 

I’m not sure it will be finished soon. I have a general idea for an ending and some general ideas of what may happen along the way. From 8,000 words I’m now at 14,000. Maybe there are 5,000 more words in this one. Maybe 10,000. But the words keep coming in little chunks of 500 or so in stolen moments deep into the wee hours when everyone else is asleep or when I wake up early. So I keep writing them.

 

The more of them I write, the better I like the story now. That’s a good sign.

 

The word cloud changed quite a bit. Compare and contrast!

Tell me what you think — here’s a chunk of a work in progress

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I know what I’m trying to do here — but I’d rather have your unbiased comments, if you’d be so kind as to give them. I’m interested in your thoughts as a reader. This excerpt is just short of 400 words out of around 12,500 so far and maybe 20,000 or more by the time I finish.

 

(Before I post the excerpt, this is simulposted on my Patreon page for maximum reactions — though if you were to head over and become a patron, even for a buck a month, you’d get free ebooks, see new ebooks a month before they come out, and see most of my posts here three days early. Plus you’d get the satisfaction of helping a self-published science fiction author write his, his wife’s, and his 3 sons’ way out of the trailer park. But who am I to be pushy? :-D)

 

So, the excerpt from Broken Rice:

 

     And thunder boomed into the room and Caleb jerked in panic the needle falling from his fingers and a burst of shards of fine imported Brazilian rosewood (how do I know that?) hit the blinds and the window behind them like the first driving hail out of a Texas thunderhead, the kind of hail blown out of a cloud when there’s a tornado hot on its heels. Caleb saw splinters as long as his forearm, frozen in a moment of timestop clarity, protruding from where they’d impaled slats of the blinds, from where they’d driven their spikes into the thick bulletproof plastic of the window. Sawdust swam like a galaxy of fireflies flying far, far away through the shaft of light that speared the ragged hole one of the bodyguards – Caleb guessed – had blown through the doors of the office with some ungodly powerful weapon. The hole was too small and the light falling the wrong way for Caleb to see who and what and he didn’t try to see but threw himself sideways out of the chair and landed on Jewel who was scrabbling across the carpet on all fours crazy like a crab thrown onto a hot flattop grill (something hit the door again, not the weapon but still like thunder, this time farther away maybe, and the sound of splintering wood and a curse and someone shouted “AGAIN!”) and they tumbled apart Jewel scuttling under the desk and Caleb speedcrawling on hands and knees and he thought he might be screaming but it was hard to tell and where am I going Caleb’s head slammed into the base of the big old clock making the crystal inset of the door shiver and behind it the heavy gold pendulum swung back and forth unhurried like it had no worries in the world and another clap of thunder blew more splinter hail into the blinds and spearing into the back of the chair Caleb had been sitting in moments before and the white hulk of a huge bodyguard shouldered through the wreck of the rosewood doors that cost more than Caleb’s daddy had made in his whole life racking the slide on a shotgun which Caleb knew and didn’t know how he knew is this a dream was custom made to drop a rhinoceros in mid-charge.

So, there it is. Reactions? I’m looking forward to seeing any and all comments! Thank you.

A Year Ago: “It Could Be Anyone”

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A little over a year ago I cooked up this little free short (you can read it here, complete and no download needed) in connection with a creative writing class in the MA program I’m finishing up now.

The protagonist is Ms. Gaither, an eighty-five year old woman, and she came out of more than just the proverbial sugar and spice and whatever we associate with little girls who grow up to become elder women. Wisdom and medication, I suppose?

As a character, she was born from something I have plenty of. Worry. My worry shaped a big chunk of her, and worry is something that, if I’m not careful, can dominate my mood and thoughts and pretty much everything in my life. I’m a bit less consumed by worry than I was a year ago. It’s still there, and some of it is still justified, but I’ve managed to let it become less of a distraction and more of a constructive caution. But I have always worried too much and I probably always will.

She also comes from my love of history — I probably spent an hour looking at vintage soda vending machines in connection with a scene in this story, for example. The first three minutes of it were necessary, the rest was just me having fun.There are a few other things in there.
The science fiction (maybe just science — plenty of debate to find, though I’m not well equipped to judge how seriously it’s taken) notion of alternate timelines, or maybe the science fantasy notion of psychic perception of the future — it’s unclear, deliberately. My mild fear of growing old and feeble (one of my hips is already feeble, how soon will the rest of me follow?), and my greater fear of *not* growing old and feeble because, you know, that damn death thing. Ick.
And the whole premise of the story, as well as Ms. Gaither’s role in it and her role in the lives of the father and daughter she meets, come out of something that comes to me as naturally as breathing: considering risk. It goes hand in hand with being, as my grandmother used to say, a “worry-wart.” When we drive farther than the store down the street part of me considers that we might break down, so I don’t dress to drive to the store, I dress to walk back or change a tire. I’m the one who checks batteries in the smoke detector and worries about the lint buildup in the dryer because fire. I’m first to move something away from a space heater or follow the little ones closely at the beach whether the waves are heavy or not. None of this is to say my wife and older stepson are careless. They’re not. Nor is it to say I never take risks, even foolish ones. I have and I do. I’m just the one who thinks of all of the unlikely things that can go wrong (which brings anxiety) and all of the unlikely things that could go right (which brings longing over stuff that’s probably not happening).

Pretty much every time someone writes, they leave a chunk of their psyche on the page. Sometimes writers who write about awful stuff get accused of believing or wishing they could do the awful stuff on that basis, which is very often wrong.But the writer is in there somewhere. Look for them when you read.

(This post first appeared on my Patreon page on May 6th. Patrons get to see most posts three days early and new ebooks THIRTY days early. Plus they get a FREE copy even if I’m charging for it elsewhere. They’re also a hell of a big help to my household, a boon to me as a writer and a human being, and wonderful people. So, you know… *nudge*)

Work In Progress, Served In Six (I Think) Courses

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(This post first appeared on my Patreon page on the 10th of this month — that’s right, they get to see posts THREE DAYS EARLY. When I publish an ebook, they get a FREE copy THIRTY DAYS BEFORE NON-PATRONS CAN EVEN BUY THE THING. So you should totally support my efforts by becoming a patron. You’ll even have my very sincere thankyous because times are tough, money’s tight, and my family of five enjoys pricey things like “eating” and “having a roof over our heads.”

Enough of that, here’s the actual post you’re here to read:

I seem to like writing about writing about food. Probably because I REALLY like good food. If I had gotten my head on straight earlier in life, there’s a pretty good chance I would have ended up being a chef instead of a writer. Both careers sound good to me — though I mostly lack the patience to make it through the prep drudgery of chefdom (at least in the early career stages). Maybe in an alternate world there’s an S.A. Barton restaurant. I hope it specializes in science fiction themed food.

But I’m WAAAAY off track of what I had planned to write here today. I’ll just mention that I’ve posted on food and science fiction before, in “Eat Science Fiction” and “Eat MORE Science Fiction“, and move along.

So, I’ve got this work in progress. Like about half of my stories, it started with a title that clicked with me. I’ll be sitting around tweeting, reading, or otherwise minding my own business and all of a sudden a phrase or word will flash into my head and I’ll scramble for a pen and scrap of paper thinking, “man, I have GOT to write a story with that title.”

This time, the title was “And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon”. I know, it’s just a nursery rhyme phrase. But this time it came to me while I was reading about machine learning and artificial intelligence.

So I had this little stub of an idea. A story about AI, and this title. The story gears started grinding away in the writers’ lobe of my brain. I sat down to try to puzzle out what to do with this thing. I picked up my pen and a pad. I stared at the blank paper for fifteen or twenty minutes — some of you may recognize this as the vital part of writing fiction that makes non writers say, “so are you ever going to start working, or what?”

DAMMIT I AM WORKING. JEEZ. SHH.

Finally I started to write. I started to write a menu for an appetizer course. Because the Dish and the Spoon suggest a kitchen, and we all know what comes out of kitchens. Delicious food.

And I like to write about food almost as much as I like eating it. A match made in heaven. So now I have a story about food and AI and a kitchen and does it really have to be a literal spoon and dish? Hmm…

…and it started to really come together in concept. I’d open and close the story with a menu card. Place a menu card in between each scene. For framing the story, for punctuation, to play with foreshadowing and tone-setting with my menu choices. Eating a meal and socializing go together all over the world, so I’ll write a story about relationships.

So now I’m fifteen hundred words into my story about AI and relationships and food. I have an AI relationship developing along with a human relationship to make the whole thing more, at the risk of becoming too repetitive here, relatable.

I’m in the middle of soup and salad now, and looking forward to the entree. I already know what dessert will be, and I think it will surprise and please the diners. Readers. Whichever.

Now, I’m sorry to say this one won’t be appearing in public for a little while. Once I finish it and bounce it off a couple of readers, I’m going to see if I can’t sell it, and I think it has a place in a new collection I’m working on. But don’t worry.

Anticipation and hunger are the best sauces a meal can have, they say.

Hacking A Story Apart…

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(This post first appeared on my Patreon page on 24 February. Patrons — even if all they can spare is one thin dollar per month — see my posts first. They also get to see the stories I publish 30 days in advance, plus a FREE .pdf copy, even if I charge for the ebook everywhere else! So you should totally pledge. Seriously. I’m not making a hell of a lot of money doing this (yet!) and the budget is thin, thin, thin — you can see all its ribs, the poor thing. Make my budget happier. Happy, financially secure writers write more writing. Word.)

…so I can put it together better.

I don’t know how many of you know this, but I’m wrapping up an MA in English with a fiction writing concentration. I know, I know — what a huge surprise. It sort of made sense, and the bit of the financial aid that doesn’t go to paying for tuition and books goes toward keeping a roof over our (there are 5 of us stuffed into this little trailer) heads so we have a place to store the computer that I tend to school and work on.

So, in any event, it has been a good ride, and I think my writing is considerably better for the experience.

For my thesis, I am putting together a new collection, and I was working on a story that is part of it.

It was a good story. I liked it. My fellow students and professor liked it. And one of them suggested something (kicking myself — I should have thought of it! See the value of having someone to critique you? Not yet? Read on.) good.

Loosely paraphrased: “good story — but why not start where the action is?”

Oh.

My.

Gawd.

Revelation.

But how many times have I seen that very basic advice in the blogs and similar from writers and editors and readers?

Tons. (Lesson along the way: there’s a big difference between hearing or reading advice and actually taking it OMG I HAVE THE SUDDEN URGE TO CALL MYSELF NAMES) You probably have too. Now, not every story needs to start in the middle of the action. And “action” is a flexible concept. There’s no combat in my story, and we usually think “someone needs to be trying to kill someone” when we think action. There’s a big expedition to somewhere long-lost and mysterious in this story, and instead of having two scenes of lead-in with their own minor conflicts, I chopped them out and relocated them later in the story. So the “action” is just the characters departing from their origin and launching themselves into the unknown. But it’s more interesting than a slow lead-in, by a long shot. Then the structure cried out for another prelude scene buried later in the story, so I wrote one. And that made the characters, situations, the whole damn world of the story a richer and more interesting place.

The moral of this little story isn’t “always, always, always start in the middle of some form of action.” There are wonderful stories that don’t start that way, and maybe you’ve written and/or read some of them. Great.

The moral is, “don’t be afraid to chop up your story and rearrange the bits to see if it’s better off.” We have word processors. We can cut, copy, and paste. We can save multiple revisions in their own handy little folders. We can print if we want and rearrange pages, scribble all over the thing. Some of us (not me — spend money? I don’t have much of that stuff!) even have cool writer-in-mind software that lets us take a story apart digitally and rearrange it at will just to see how it looks.

Look, we’re creative people. Not just those of us that write fiction, but those of us who read it, too. Relatively few of us humans even read fiction. I think it takes a creative spark to read it and love it enough to come back for more without the whip of a teacher behind us and the carrot of a diploma in front of us. Something like a third of us humans never read a work of fiction again after the required reading of whatever level of education we have is behind us. Another third read “rarely.” That’s roughly what I recall, and I’m probably being optimistic about the numbers.

So being creative people, when we create something, we don’t want to change it. We want to think we have it right the first time, that our initial conception is the right one. We’re tempted to make small changes, not big ones. Not even just to see.

Make some big changes. Maybe you’ll waste some time, but you’ll be playing with something you like anyway — and that’s not a bad thing at all if you’re one to voluntarily sit down and write a story. No matter what you do with that story. Even if you write fiction only for yourself in a locked journal with instructions in your will to burn it after you die, even if you “just” write a little fanfic here and there to share with your friends or on a fan forum, even if you never mean to publish a damn thing.

Because sometimes those experiments with big changes pay off.

So is that all I learned? Nah. I learned a lesson I have to learn over and over again, each time a little better — I hope. I’m a hyperactive person, and I’m distractible. I may or may not meet the definition of ADD or ADHD — whatever I am, hyperactive is what they called it when I was a little tyke in rural Wisconsin in the ’70s. I’m impatient as all hell. I really want stories to come out great just the way I first conceive them. And it has taken practice and experience to get to the point where I’m willing to take my time, even sit on a story for days or weeks until I have fresh eyes to take it out and fiddle with it to see if I can make it better. To get to the point where I have found some balance between the humility it takes to listen to advice and/or consider writing a story a different way, and the ego it takes to say, “hey, this is my world, and I think it’s interesting. Come look at it.”

If I can do it, you probably can too.

Holy Plot!

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(This post originally appeared on my Patreon, on 30 January 2016. You can see the post there, or see why I’m on Patreon (hint: I FIGURED OUT WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP YAAAY BUT OH MONEY YEAH I DON’T HAVE MUCH OF THAT STUFF) by clicking appropriately. Here or there, thanks for reading.)

Holy Plot!

S.A. Barton

     Do you write? I’m sorry to be the one telling you this, but your plot has holes. Even if you don’t write, I’m sure you’ve noticed the holes lurking in what you read and watch.

     You can’t avoid them; they’re as sticky as death and taxes.

     And suddenly, with that, I sense a million teachers and writers of writing cry out in anguish at this great disturbance in the authorial Force.

     Hold on a minute. I’m not telling everyone that plot holes are good, fine, or even okay. Lazy writers who sighed in relief at the pronouncement that plot holes can’t be resisted, tense up again.

     Plot holes are not things you should be leaving in writing – for the page or for the screen – if you can help it. You’re supposed to be looking for them and carefully stapling them shut as unobtrusively and believably as possible. That is your job as a crafter of fine writing.

     What I’m telling you is that no matter how carefully you (and your editor(s)) work to find and repair plot holes, they are there. Even if you’re certain they’re not. In fact, some of the plot holes people find aren’t actually there.

     Because that’s how human brains work. We sense patterns and we reflexively look for holes in them. Plots are patterns, and holes are… well, they’re holes. For millions of years our ancestors lived and died, and we still do, by our sense of pattern. The grasses of the African plains represent a pattern, and a lion stalking through them creates a hole in the pattern, a hole that moves and will eat you if you don’t notice it. The ones who were best at noticing were best at living long enough to reproduce and transport their genes into the future. The hole in the pattern in the environment that represents a fish or a deer or a rabbit or a bird or a bird’s nest filled with yummy nutritious eggs (mention sponsored by the S.A. Barton Really Likes Eggs For Breakfast And Sometimes Other Meals Too Because They’re Delicious Foundation) represents the ability not to starve, and obviously organisms that eat are better at reproducing at those that do not.

     We still work that way. Misinterpreting the patterns of traffic or war or politics or finance or law can make or break a life sometimes.

     We’re all about patterns. Patterns are life, and stories are patterns. We love to create them because we’re geared to appreciate them. And we love to look for the holes in them.

     People even find plot holes that don’t exist in real life. Some people are certain that breaking a mirror causes bad luck, and they can explain what they’ve observed that ‘proves’ this. Others just know that the movements of the planets influence your personality and choices. There are a plethora of theories that explain the significance of number sequences in determining world events, of bumps on your head to your place in society, of the impossibility of landing on the moon, of skyscrapers constructed to collapse straight down rather than falling like dominoes collapsing straight down, even the impossibility of the Earth being a shape other than flat.

     So you’re written your story. You, and perhaps some beta readers and/or editorial types have gone over them, helped you find plot holes you missed in your own process of writing and rewriting and polishing, and you’re pretty sure you’ve smoothed the holes all over.

     Someone will think of something you didn’t think of. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”

Someone will see something that isn’t there at all. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”

     Someone will decide that the world of your story itself should be different, or that Character X really wouldn’t do that. “Hey, I found a plot hole!”

    So, if you write, do your best. Take plot holes seriously, and kill them when you find them. Mount their heads on the wall if it pleases you. But don’t obsess. If you do, you’ll start to see holes that aren’t there, and you’ll never escape the cries of “Hey, I found a plot hole!” no matter how hard you try.

EAT SCIENCE FICTION

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Could the future be so cruel?

     I love food, and it shows in my fiction. There aren’t many stories I write that go by without the characters having a meal. I’m working on a story now, and my characters just finished a Kazakh-inspired meal of mutton and rice with dried fruit and garlic. In Kitty Itty And The Seawall Broke, mother and son enjoy a lunch of bread with ham-seasoned foraged beans on a North Carolina coast impovershed by the effects of sea level rise. Sudden homelessness does not deter the hero of Isolation from munching down on some hot crispy cuy in an underground kitchen. Even in super-short Labor Of Love, the alcohol-addicted protagonist takes time out from his quest for drink to scarf down a couple of “Kraut and Cheezies” from a fast-food joint.

     It’s not that I always write when I’m hungry — though I can just about always find room for a snack.  It’s that food is often forgotten in fiction.  Food, after all, is not the main part of the story. It’s not the point. It shouldn’t be center stage, except in the rarest of circumstances, as in Pig where the central situation is that the main character’s food begins talking to her, begging her piteously not to consume it — much to her dismay.

     But most of the time, the food is an aside, and it’s a challenge to integrate it into a story and not have it stick out like it doesn’t belong. But, for me, writing is about life, just as eating is about life. In the real world, people socialize around food. They think about food. They worry about whether they have enough money to buy groceries that will last until next paycheck, they worry if the meat department will have the right sized rib roast for Easter dinner, they’re afraid they’ve burnt the toast, they invite colleagues to talk business over tapas, they stop for food on the way to the hospital to visit a sick relative, they ask the kids how the school week went over Saturday morning eggs and bacon.

     They’ll do all of these things in the future, too. Oh, some details may change. Maybe the kids will go to school via internet instead of taking the bus. Maybe the meat will be grown in a nutrient solution rather than on the hoof. Maybe the pasta will be made in a printer instead of rolled out in a factory. Interstellar colonists may eat alien fruit, or aliens might come to nosh on us, as so many stories have suggested.

     But unless something very radical indeed happens, like the whole world up and loading itself into a virtual reality, we’ll always have the social nexus and sensory joy of eating food. And maybe, if we’re all virtual beings, we’ll still choose to do it anyway, even if it’s unnecessary.

     Because food is comforting. Eating is primal and elemental to us. Mealtimes, for time immemorial, have cemented families and friendships. So given how vital it has been and is to human society, I like to carry that vitality into the future as I imagine it.

Who Do You Write?

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The old saw goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  If you write, the odds are you’ve flattered one, or more likely several, other writers.  As writers, we all begin as readers.  We dig around in the gigantic atmosphere of literature that surrounds us, plucking this and that out of the air, finding what we like and what we don’t.

And when we start to write our own stories, we begin by imitating.  Oh, we don’t necessarily set out to copy author X’s novel Y — though I’ve seen that happen.  Once upon a time I watched a former friend grind out over two hundred handwritten pages of a clone of The Hobbit with the serial numbers barely even filed off.  Instead of a ring, it was a necklace (I think), but it still had to be dumped into a volcano.  The hobbits were called something different, and they were silly practical jokers.  Gandalf had a different name and a different colored robe, but he still puffed his pipe sagely and set the plot in motion.

That’s way too much imitation.  And it might be a waste of time — but that depends.

Depends upon what, you ask?  It depends upon the writer.  My former friend was convinced that he was writing a totally original story, through the exercise of some incredible acrobatics of denial.  I remember pointing out the parallels, and I remember him coming up with some convoluted excuse for why he really wasn’t imitating anyone else.  He was full of shit, of course, but he couldn’t see it.

Imitation is bad if you’re fooling yourself about it.

Now, take the same situation, and imagine a beginning writer who has decided to write a knockoff of The Hobbit as a writing exercise.  This imaginary writer isn’t too sure of himself and doesn’t think he has what it takes to come up with a decent plot for a novel.  But he still wants to practice and grow in his craft.  So he sets off to imitate, knowing he’s imitating.  He’s building on something earlier, and as he goes, he’s seeing what he can add to it.  With that attitude, by the time he gets to the end, he may be confident enough to write a new ending, add subplots, diverge, venture into new territory.

Look, I woudn’t want to do that.  But I can see that, with honest self-appraisal and a consciousness of what you’re doing, such an exercise could have value.  Looking back at my writing, I notice that the farther back I look, the more likely I am to be able to identify influences on my style and tone.  One story smacks of Heinlein, another has a stretch that’s dry like Asimov in the middle of the Foundation trilogy, another was probably written after I’d read some Steinbeck.  That’s not to compare myself to them, but it is to say that those writers and others rubbed off on me.  I admire their work.  I enjoyed reading their work.  And in the beginning, before my own voice as a writer really began to develop, I was prone to imitating the way they wrote — even without realizing.

Imitation is something that happens, deliberate or not, when you are developing a skill, any skill, not just writing.  There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself.  But as Rowling suggests above, if you’re making a big deal out of trying to appropriate the style or stories of someone else, you’re probably just wasting your time.  You’re better served working on letting your own voice develop its own unique richness and depth.

I Got Hoaxed While Writing About How Hard It Is For The Future To See The Past Accurately: Theory In Practice

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So, just a few days ago I was writing about a prime consideration for the science fiction writer: imagining how the future may see their past (our present) inaccurately. I mentioned the fact that time is a bit like distance in terms of what can be seen; whether we measure in years or meters, the more distance between you and what you’re viewing, the fewer details you see, and the fuzzier the image. I also mentioned that ‘fuzziness’ in terms of viewing the past — and an aspect to consider when writing about how your characters in the future view our present or the deeper past — means that things get lost. Like, I thought, this bizarre-yet-plausible video game and 8-track music tape driving game:

Atari8track

…except, as Twitter friend @webmonkees was kind enough to point out, the game is a hoax. What makes my falling for it even more stinging than it already was, I had actually looked at the reference @webmonkees pointed out: a comedy site. Caught up in rapid research, I read only far enough to get the gist of what the ‘double-ender’ was supposed to be: a device for matching background music to themed games. Well, games tend to have background music. Marketing types love things that fit themes. And so, the package was credible enough that my ‘no way’ sense did not engage, and I did not click ‘about us‘ on the comedy page to discover that it was, in fact, a comedy page, and the ‘double-ender’ is a spoof product that never existed.

Which brings me to my subject today: in my earlier post, I missed something other than the hoax. I missed the role of the hoax in making the past fuzzy to us.

Hoaxes, along with assumptions and plain old errors, also cloud our vision of the past. Writing science fiction, it might be worth considering how a hoax or mistake could affect the future’s vision of us today. In fact, there could be fertile ground for inspiration here, and for social commentary. A future that believes that the 8-track ‘double-ender’ was real probably doesn’t offer much in the way of stories, but what about a future that believes, due to a clever montage photoshopped headlines, that aliens destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11? Or in the various ‘reptile humanoids hiding among us‘ theories, or that the moon landing being faked is fact rather than conspiracy fiction, or…

…the possibilities are endless. I wonder how many hoaxes, lies, and mistakes are already presented as fact in the history books we have today? And I’m not even counting arguments, soluble and insoluble, among historians over the ‘correct’ version of controversial events.