The Greatest Story

I came across this remix of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” a song that I really like and about which I have written before. Take a look.

Watching the video, seeing the story of this couple play out, all I was thinking was, “What happened that brought them together, then apart?” Which then brought to mind what I consider to be one of my little quirks: as much as I like reading the whole gamut of speculative fiction, when it comes to writing fiction, I naturally gravitate towards relationship stories set in the real world.

I have tried my hand at fantasy and science fiction before, yes, but overwhelmingly, the stories that I prefer to imagine, develop and write are those where I am following the process of a relationship, whether it is the beginning, middle or end. Relationships interest me. It’s why I love romantic comedies, actually. The endless factors that feature into two distinct people coming together, staying together, and sometimes going apart, are simply fascinating. As the creator of these stories, it’s like I get to fall in and out of love over and over (which can actually be very draining when you consider what I wrote about being a method writer). Even better, it is a story that can be told across any milieu, whether real world, the far reaches of space, or lands ruled by magic and dragons (seriously, “The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm,” the Burning Wheel roleplaying game I’ve been playing with my friend Judd, for all the awesome fantasy stuff it has going on, can be summed up as the story of a love triangle, which is why I absolutely love it).

That’s why to me the greatest story will always be that of the process of love between two people. And I look forward to many years of exploring this story in my fiction.

Being A Method Writer

There’s a very popular style of acting called Method Acting, in which the idea is that the actor embodies the character to be played, and draws on his or her own experiences to achieve a better portrayal. It is a style usually classified as immersive, and it can lead some actors to stay in role even after the performance has stopped.

I am not an actor, but I have discovered, and accepted, that I am a method writer. The definition found in Urban Dictionary nails it:

A writer or author who uses a technique of writing in which he/she identifies emotionally with a character in the story and assumes that character’s persona in the telling.

When I am writing a story, especially a longer one, I get into my protagonist’s head space so I can understand them better and thus achieve a better narrative.

The one problem with this approach? I get into my protagonist’s head space.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that I write stories in which I have a personal stake. While I am able to churn out a few pieces to specification for a freelance assignment or writing challenge, I mostly write stories that possess me and *must* be told. And more often than not, the way that these stories possess me is via a character, who becomes like an alternate personality until I am able to exorcise them onto the page.

This also means that I live with these characters, and that their lives affect me. When they are happy, I am happy; when they are sad and angry, I get sad and angry. My facial expressions change as I’m writing to match the mood of the scene and sometimes it gets to be too much, too draining, and I need to walk away, remind myself that *I* am the real person, not my character.

The novel I am writing now features a protagonist who was a supporting character in my first novel. She stayed with me long after the novel was done, daring me to find out her story so I could tell it. Her story isn’t necessarily a happy one, and it is taxing to get into the mind of a person with major depressive disorder. But I have to tell her story, so I, we, push through.

Method writing isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. I cannot fathom writing any other way, and if that means that my fiction output is greatly reduced, that’s fine as well, because I know the stories I will tell are those that *had* to be told by me and no one else.

Writing A Female Protagonist

The novel I am writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo features a female main character. What’s more, it’s written in first person, so not only am I writing a female character, I am writing her from inside her mind.

I bring this up for a reason. Because of the online social circles I frequent, because of the people I know, because of the classes I have taken and life I’ve lived, I’m sensitive to issues of gender, cultural appropriation, and privilege. These are lenses through which I filter life, especially things I create. So I’m sitting here writing a novel with a female character, it didn’t take long for a voice to erupt in my head saying, “You have no right to do this.”

I am a guy, after all. I might be a member of two minorities (Hispanic and Jewish), but I’m a guy. And I can already hear in my head comments about me putting words in women’s mouths, about me misrepresenting women, about me acting all patriarchal and stuff by controlling this female character. Mind you, no one has said any of this, but what if they do (with “they” being people I know, or people I don’t know)?

This paralyzed me somewhat as I started to write. It even shut me down completely one day. I briefly considered just scrapping the whole idea and moving on to something else. Then I thought better about it.

I hope no one feels that way after reading my story. I hope that I bring an honest voice to my female protagonist that sounds true regardless of her or my gender which will make any comment like the ones above superfluous and unnecessary. I am for nothing less.

Thing is, I can’t worry about the ‘What ifs’. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work, for whatever reason. It may be that reason is even a valid one. But I can’t let that stop me from writing. My protagonist (Deirdre in this case, but really, any protagonist) is a person, an individual, with hopes and dreams, skills and limitations, who makes good and bad choices. She isn’t meant to represent an entire gender any more than my actions represent my entire gender. So if Deirdre does X or says Y, it reflects only on Deirdre, not on all women.

I’m being slightly paranoid in even thinking that I need to state all this upfront, I know it. In truth, this post isn’t for anyone out there, it’s for myself. It’s so I can get this worry out of my head, where it is blocking the flow of ideas. If it happens to speak to someone else, even better.

If you’ll excuse me, now that I got that off my chest, I need to go back to writing.