So there is an IWSG Question o’ the Day for today, but…well…I’m gonna go my own way on this one. Not because the question is bad, but because…
Well, honestly, just because.
Something I’ve mentioned in passing in previous posts is bringing yourself into your stories. Not yourself as a person, but your passions and interests and knowledge. How can you not, in all candor, bring yourself into what you create? You are who you are; you are the sum — and more — of your experiences and your knowledge and your psyche. That sum can, and arguably must, come through in everything you create…every story, painting, photo, quilt, cake, what-have-you.
Now, for me, that puts a number of things in play — it brings history and astronomy, it brings photography and music, it brings both the untracked wilds and foreign cities, it brings different languages and cultures and the love of not knowing where you will be or what you will do from one day to the next…
It’s easy to talk about all of that in general, philosophic terms, by the way. It’s harder to get into the concrete, real terms of how all that actually comes into play in writing, but I’ll give it a try.
I’ve mentioned before that I am currently writing sci-fi. One thing to keep in mind is that my current series — and the original “trunk novels” that gave rise to it — were based heavily on my work in naval history. The DockRat series is about as far from that origin as you can get, however. Rather than being based on the hopes, courage and self-sacrifice of a few, it draws instead on the depravity, crime and exploitation of an entire society…
When you get right down to it, DockRat is a series that comes from where I grew up (Los Angeles) as much as it does from my experience and knowledge of history and modern society. I am still in there, however. In the music, in the visualization and contrasts, and in the (intentional) cognitive dissonance that is a key part of my protagonist, and his society.
Now, I mentioned those first stories not to lead into DockRat, but to make a point about bringing yourself in. I love astronomy. I get all geeked up about astronomy, so of course I spent huge amounts of time working out the physics of the speeds and distances and travel times of the various ships involved. I spent even longer working up a 3-D simulation of every single star within 50 lightyears of Earth*, then figuring out all the shipping lanes and traffic patterns and the like.
*That’s a LOT of stars, by the way…
Erm…I seriously nerded out on all that, actually.
When I wrote a story, way back when, about a gunslinger? Yeah, I spent months training on the mechanics and realities of quickly drawing and firing a pistol. It is — ahem — a hell of a lot harder than it looks.
Now, the point of those examples wasn’t that we all should do the writerly-equivalent of method acting. No, the point was that your own interests and hobbies and knowledge, as the creator, very much should run through what you write.
To give a negative example: I once read a (to-remain-unnamed) novel set in Samarkhand. I’ve never actually been to Samarkhand*, but it was pretty damned apparent that neither had the author. If you’re going to write about an exotic locale, you better have at least been there! Colleen McCullough, for instance, accumulated several years in Rome before writing her outstanding Masters of Rome series.
*It’s on my list of places to go.
I had, I’ve mentioned before, two stints in college — one studying linguistics, and the other history. I love history. I love the cut-and-thrust of the politics, and the intrigue, and the back-stabbing, and all the wheeling-and-dealing. But just as much do I love languages. Just as much do I love the differences in culture and behavior and thinking that lie at the heart of different languages. I, honestly, think differently when I speak Japanese, or French, or Czech, or any of the other languages in which I can make my way*.
*Yes, I’m fairly fluent several…they come easy to me. Unlike math. Math is evil.
Those twin loves — those obsessions, really — enter into every story I write. They give depth to the settings and plots, yes, but even more do they give depth to the characters. They also give me a pool of knowledge and expertise from which I can draw as I write.
Oh, and they let me geek-out on stuff I like while I’m writing!
Addendum — By the way, the other part of me that comes into my writing is procrastination; if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m trying desperately to bang this post out on the morning it’s “due.” It’s nice to know SOME things haven’t changed since college!