WriterWoes #6 – Flash Fiction: a fear of formats?

So, this is a problem – or maybe something less severe than a problem, but still a problem – that I’ve come across lately, both here on my own blog, but also elsewhere. Whereas story formats like the novel and the short story are as old as time, there are the newer formats which have become popular due to the rise of digitalization, the information age, and any other spiffy term that indicates the 2000s. These are the “easily digestible” formats; the ones that offer instant gratification, because for some reason, a lot of millennials know nothing of patience.

Also, I’m twenty-six years old, mind you, which makes me a millennial, and yet I am old enough to know the patience of dial-up internet.

So, what am I saying here?

Well, I’m really trying to put words to the fickleness of the newer story formats that I myself engage in.

When is it a six-word story, and when is it a writing prompt?

What makes it a drabble, and what makes it a vignette?

Can a fifty-word story be 51, or must it be 50 characters?

Also, Twitterature, people – huh?

What about fanfiction and fandoms; what part have they played in this, if any?

Working with the flash fiction format, here, on my own blog, I’ve found that when it comes to flash fiction, there are so few rules set in place, and so little guidance to find.

What’s more; do we follow the rules, or do we follow the customs?

With the flash fiction format, new and flourishing, it is indeed hard to get a good grasp on the format…

… but is that also not what makes it interesting?

Playing with flash fiction (and, really, playing with any kind of newer format within any kind of creative art) is like playing with your mother’s lipstick as a five-year-old. You don’t know what you’re doing, and you feel as if you’re not supposed to be doing it, but there’s nothing stoppin’ you— aaaaah, is that glitter lipstick?!

And, so, yes, what are your thoughts on this, readers of mine, old as new?

I’d love to hear some inputs; for all that I know, I’m simply inexperienced and could do with a wise word or two from an Exalted One – does anybody volunteer?

Fairy-tale (flashfiction): “On Top of a Hill”

ontopofahill

Once upon a time, there was village on top of a hill. It was small village, a friendly village, and it was surrounded by trees as thick and tall as palace towers. Every other month, food and water would be brought to the village from faraway lands and the village would fill with lively chatter and children’s laughter. And yet, no matter how happy the villagers were, they did not leave the top of the hill, because at the very bottom of that selfsame hill lay the forest – and the forest grew thick and strong like weed underneath the sun. The forest was safe only to the merchants who traveled with the lights of their lanterns to guide their way. At night, if the moon sat high on the sky like a perfectly round pearl, you could see the moving shadows of the forest as it circled the hill. Some villagers said that the forest was haunted by evil spirits who would grab you by your ankles and drag you into the heart of the earth unless you screamed loud enough; others said that the brushwood was so thick that you fell straight through, no evil spirits needed!

The village sat on a hill, surrounded by forest as far as the eye could see, and nobody walked off the hill.

As for those who did?

Those we do not speak of…

(illustration done by me)

 

‘Tis I, at Your Service!

First, I’d like to throw my thanks at R. L. Tierney for tagging me to do this, providing me with a great way to spend an otherwise dreary Danish Sunday. Next, if you’re not interested in my personal perspective on writing, you probably wanna skip this post… probably, possibly… definitely…

  1. Name
    Amalie (not a misspelling; sorry!)
  2. Five words that describe your writing?
    Dialogue, subtlety, versatility, wittiness… erm, animals in armor?
  3. Literature / art / films you’d recommend?
    Literature:
    Outlander
     by Diana Gabaldon – rarely have I read such extraordinary characterization!
    Art:
    Pixcell-Red Deer (sculpture) by Kohei Nawa – something about this series of his is just so gurh for me; it’s vulnerability and force combined.
    Films:
    The Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy (Japanese) from a couple of years ago, because wow, the best manga-to-anime-to-liveaction adaption that exists on the market! Plus, the soundtrack is to die for!
  4.  Images, symbols, and settings you associate with your work?
    I’ll give you one overall image: a tightrope of brightly colored wool stretched taut between the trunks of two trees, hard rocks scattered on the ground below, water lapping gently nearby.
  5. Themes / concepts you are hesitant to write about?
    Hm, I can’t think of any. I’ve done a lot, including LGBTQ and (admittedly poor) erotica, but I suppose I haven’t done… well… fables? Ah, no, wait, I have done that, too – damn. Ah, an epic! An epic would be something that I would hesitate to write. I plan my novels as I write them, and I imagine that planning an epic only while you write it is… well… a bad idea.
  6. What would you tell someone who’s nervous about starting out?
    Writing is like getting your first tattoo; you feel afraid to mark a clean canvas, but once it’s marked, it’ll be a part of you forever (and what a fantastic thing that is!)
  7. Three of your writings you’d recommend to people who’d like to know more about you?
    Children of the Gods (drabble), Showtime (novel), Rubble (poem) —— though, honestly, I’m super versatile, and my best stuff is not accessible online, but kept on my dusty windowsill, ready for adventures in publishing!
  8. What pushes you to keep writing?
    ……… air? my lungs? ……. my roommate that pesters me for more chapters first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening?

So, this was super fun! I’ll keep the trend of tagging alive, and tag three of my favorite writing blogs below, but even if they don’t feel like doing this – which, really, is their decision and all; I’m not interested in forcing their hand – I still urge you to check them out. The content on their pages is just superb!

Flash 365
HoloVerse
Richard Ankers

WriterWoes #5 – Editing: masochism with words?

Editing.

Editing…

I spent eight months writing my last novel. Being part magical realism and part everything else, I developed my alternate contemporary world, did cultural research, did historical research, did climate research— hell, I even started doing Japanese language courses for research!

Then, eight months later, I now sit with my product in hand, feeling satisfied with what I’ve made…

Until the editing begins— holy clusterfuck of all that is green on God’s round earth!

Thus begins Edit Numero Uno.

And, mind you, I’m the type that also edit while I write, so at this point, the novel had technically been through profound editing – or so I thought.

Edit Numero Uno takes a couple of weeks with a focus on editing the flow – fair enough.

Edit Numero Dos involves printing the entire thing and editing in hand, focusing on the grammar – also fair enough.

Edit Numero Tres… was not supposed to happen. When I print my novels to edit them in hand, I consider that the last edit simply because it involves grammatical editing – the tiny bits, you know?

And yet, here I am, doing Edit Numero Tres, back to editing the flow, and it makes me wonder about the double-edged sword that is editing. It’s a lot like putting on makeup; you slap on a perfectly subtle layer of makeup, but then, there is that bit of eyeliner that is a little crooked, and what if you just pulled it further out, like that, and added some depth, and- oh fuck, no, no, raccoon eyes alert, abort mission! Likewise, imagine that you’re cooking a sauce, and wow, this is delicious, but it just needs a pinch of salt, and maybe a bit of rosemary, and yes, that’s— oh no, too much, no, no, I take it back, please!

…. You catch my drift here?

Just when you think you’re done editing, you realize that you’re not. Simultaneously, as you realize this, you also realize that you have a new problem to handle; one edit is fine, a second is also fine— but at the third, you begin to grow worried. You begin to wonder when enough is enough.

Am I polishing my work to its finest shine, or am I rubbing a hole in the silver?

I don’t believe that there is an answer to this (and if there is, then surely the answer is a much individual one), and so that’s not what I want to achieve with this post/rant. What I want to achieve, apparently, is to highlight the masochism that’s forever inherent in editing and writing by comparing it to beauty products and whisky sauce (rosemary works wonders for whisky sauce, didja know?)

Now, please, be gone and allow me to sit and bleed out my brain on my computer’s keyboard, and let’s perhaps add a little splatter on the screen for good measure, no?

WriterWoes #4: What’s in a talent?

This will be a long one, I warn you.

I almost didn’t want to delve into this question.

Why, you ask?

Well, delving into this question means delving into a debate that is as old as time – the debate as to whether talent trumps hard work or vice versa – and I feel that there is next to nothing new to say about it, so why should people want to hear my two cents in the matter?

But, but, but—then I remembered an interview with Neil Gaiman. He always proves a great inspiration to me, and he is often on my mind while I write my own pieces. In this particular interview, a member of the audience bemoans how she wants to be a director, but she has been told multiple times that there are too many artists in the world, and that she should pursue something more noteworthy than directing. Gaiman responds as such: “saying that there are enough artists is like saying we have enough scientists, we have enough designers, we have enough politicians (…) but nobody gets to be you except you. Nobody has your point of view – except you.”

Now, when I first heard this interview some odd years ago, his answer resonated strongly with me, and I find that it still does to this date.

Why am I paraphrasing this interview now?

Well, even if the talent/work debate is as old as time and has been discussed by far more established and adept authors than yours truly, my two cents in the matter still remains of value… because nobody has my point of view except for me!

And, so, what is my point of view?

In the 7th or 8th grade, I had a teacher that I, to this date, still remain in contact with. In Denmark, you have what we call “class-teachers”, meaning a teacher that follows you consistently from 1st till 9th grade. In my case, that was my Danish/English teacher by the name of Lene (and my math teacher, but that’s kinda irrelevant for this conversation; sorry, Jes!). I consider Lene the very reason that I decided to pursue a life in writing. Never before have I received the same interest and support as I did from her, not even as I got older and the opportunities for mentoring began to properly present themselves to me.

My point of view in this debate has, in all probability, sprung from hers. I remember quite clearly how she one day stood up from behind her desk and told us, the many hopeful youngsters sitting before her, that 50 percent talent/passion and 50 percent hard work would take you far in whatever endeavor you should choose to pursue in life.

I’m aware that this might be seen as a halfassed answer to a much difficult debate, but that’s not the way I see it. The way I see it, you cannot succeed in any craft unless you make the effort to cultivate and actualize your talent/passion.

Like good and evil, and like black and white, one cannot exist without the other.

Without talent and passion, there will be no effort.

Without effort, there will be no beautiful, breathing, actualized talent.

That is my point of view, and it is a point of view that is not liable to change any time soon, but rather live on to a seventeenth- twentieth- thirtieth- XXXX anniversary.

Phew…

So, I think I’ll let that be the end. Yes?

WriterWoes #3 – What’s in a genre?

In all of the years that I’ve been writing, I’ve never focused on practicing a specific genre to heighten my odds of publication by becoming an expert in one genre or another. As a result, at the end of each and every novel, after a year or less of writing and thorough editing, I end up with a piece of work that I cannot define as romance or horror, but rather as romance/horror/magicalrealism/action/poetry/music/blerghblerghblerghbiiiiiip...

… and I wouldn’t have it any other way, honestly.

Literary agents and publishers alike say that you should stray away from cross-genre works because they are hard to sell within an industry that relies on labels to keep their audience alert and absorbed, but then I ask, in turn, what makes a cross-genre piece, and what makes an idea that has come to fruition as unfiltered as it can possibly be without modifications to make it marketable for the industry?

Does genre, I ask, come before inspiration?

Should genre dictate what ideas that are worth pursuing more so than others?

Does the cleanliness of genre really matter outside of the publishing industry?

When we, the audience, sit with a book in hand, reading in front of the fireplace on an early morning, does it really matter whether the book stays clean in genre or not?

WriterWoes #1 – What’s in a name?

At first, for me, it was the young adult genre. Then, suddenly, it was the celebrities on TV and in the glossy tabloids you find at gas stations all over the country. Then, somehow, it has now become my next-door-neighbors and their questionable, mange-ridden cat.

With the rising popularity of names like Katniss, Four, Renesmee, Blue, North, Saint and Facebook (yeah, that one, amirite?), I’d like to profess my love for all of the Bills, Toms, Marys and Sarahs out there. But hold on just a minute before you let my words offend you, because, you see, while I do understand the appeal of exotic names for your characters and the thereby implied uniqueness of one’s character – hell, I’ve done it before myself – I have to say that I no longer understand why the name of a character has come to matter almost more than the traits of a character. I suppose that this is not always the case, but it certainly is a case from where I’m standing. Characters must be relatable. Perhaps this is why unique names have become so popular both in fiction and in real life – two worlds that mirror one another. Regardless, I would feel much more gratified, much more wholesome, if I wasn’t bombarded with Cease Everlights and Wyrth Starstrobes every time I opened a random book in the shop down the street. But, before I get ahead of myself, I suppose that this topic truly ties into a much larger debate. In a world that preaches uniqueness and individuality, and this rightly so, must there not be a limit?

When does uniqueness, like any other thing of great mass and appeal, become standard?

When does unique become the new normal – or does it ever?