A while ago I blogged a viewpoint arguing the notion for every writer to embrace a smidge (just a pinch of the smidge mind you) of arrogance.
Just a Smidge
This, I suggested was necessary to fire up self-belief when starting a project, when the times get rough when starting out on the marketing part or all the other aspects which torment most writers.
Once the post was posted a thought cropped into my mind. Now most of us have a store of quotes from films which we use on all sorts of occasions, and my thought was encapsulated in the line from Full Metal Jacket;
‘You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?’
In short, there I was going on about how you should be arrogant (just a smidge), and leaving myself wide open to the criticism…..’Oh yeh. That’s fine for you to say! I mean SAY, but how does it WORK for you? Uh?’
Sssssoo, I thought maybe there should be a walk-through with this book of mine just to demonstrate how this arrogance approach works. The business is not without risk when I have completed this post some might say:
‘He’s delusional if he thought his book was working’
‘Ha! Cheap marketing-central!’
‘I wonder what’s new on Netflix?’
Lesson 1: “So what do I care? I’m going to say what I am going to say”. This is a fundamental of the Smidge approach.
(At this stage, dear reader you are entering my world. Do not worry. You are only experiencing diagrammatical commentary on the subject matter. Take notes if you feel these are necessary)
As stated in the previous post my writing usually focuses on Fantasy. It is the area I am most comfortable in mostly because the world of Reality does not suit me. To be able to make up my own and make sure things go my way (with the consent of the characters of course) is my idea of rewarding effort, if the known Laws of Nature need to be extended or circumvented, so much the better.
Lesson 2: “I will work my story on the ground I am most comfortable with, (or I am intent on carving out my own way)”. Familiarity and Intention breed confidence. Confidence is the dry tinder for the Smidge, which in turn gives fire to more confidence.
A writer will, of course, encounter successful writers. They might inspire. They might also inadvertently stifle the new writer. A new writer might think: How can I ever reach this standard? Fair enough, however in any book you have read, would you say the whole work was perfect. Were you happy with every aspect of the narrative? Open your mind to the small whisper of doubt, the slight nagging of unhappiness at one aspect; dwell on just why you skipped quickly through those few pages.
Lesson 3: “I think I could have done that theme better if given the chance…. I will give myself that chance!” There is nothing wrong with having your own opinion. It’s only those play at being kritks and whine about anyone new without having lifted a pen/tapped a keyboard to write their own stuff who should shut the frib up.
A writer will encounter much worthy advice often contradictory, which is nothing new under this particular sun. However, there will also be the subtle and pernicious beyond the realms of these blogs which will suggest that certain themes, styles, and even conclusions lack the zest or punch. Says who? More to the point…. Don’t’ care.
I happen to like a tale which has well-meaning folk of approachable personalities as central to the tale. When I start out the intention is to have if not a happy ending have one which suggests hope and that the bad folk have not triumphed. My book ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’* was always going to be a feel-good tale, with mild triumphal action, some romance, a running theme of humour and an upbeat ending. There are many good books which don’t give the reader as easy time and have stark endings. I don’t do them. Enjoyment was my intention.
Lesson 4: “I am no one’s Imitator. I will not follow What Sells. Only What Spurs Me”
Lesson 5: “Balance & Credibility. Never forget The Balance & Credibility of the Characters”
The theme I wanted to explore would involve three young women, from different backgrounds. This was not going to be easy, hence using a style which was comfortable. If I as a man in his late 60s was going to write a credible tale without prurient interludes, lacking ‘female’ stereotypes but sufficient reality and trying to concentrate on believable people in a fantasy world I did not need to have to be looking over my shoulder or at my feet (in allegorical ways that is) with the narrative construction.
I wanted to avoid an ‘Alpha Female’ of greater than average height, folk who grumbled, made mistakes, squabbled, didn’t have a smooth answer for everything and at times lost control of a situation. Although there is a nominal leader in the form of the soldier Arketre, she is at times failing to impose her will and making bad decisions. Whereas Karlyn is somewhat appearing to be crazy, she does not have a thick hide and blind confidence. Trelli is the newbie, but has her feet on the ground; she is the one who has to grow up quickly and has the biggest struggle, it’s a challenge for her.
With these three occupying centre ground in essentially a male world, the next problem was to make sure many of the men were their equals or at best not in awe of them. This required a deal of attention, honing of words, and re-writing to spreading strength of purpose all around the place, so we just had People.
Going back to the humour, there was some slap-stick, being set in a Middle Age/Renaissance era a lot of bawdiness and observational comments. The effort was trying to keep in context, putting humour into situations which themselves are not comic but can seem funny at the time in the stress of the situation, trying to think what one person might say in a pithy or sardonic way, when they are fretful, just plain ticked off or giving way to mischief. Karlyn being the loose cannon allowed for leeway in some of her more outrageous actions, after reading a few chapters of her no one would be surprised at her behaviour.
Then came the very, very tricky part. Since anything I write being feel-good will end up with a romantic interlude (I’m sentimental. So sue me!), this was going to find a way in. One conclusion was written, then read and the response was ‘What The Frib, were you thinking about when you wrote that? It’s worse than bad; it’s verging on the ridiculous straight-to-DVD-in-a-supermarket bargain-bin-terrible. It wouldn’t even qualify for a tenth-rate fan-fiction/slasher site!’. Well, Trelli and Wigran the young son of the Household she worked in who got her involved with ‘powers’ were always going to be in a will-they, won’t-they? But there was more traction and potential in nothing being concluded, particularly as Wigran was out of his depth in most things and their last meeting went badly.
It was the other which caught me by surprise. Originally Arketre, the soldier was being loved at a distance by a captain of the same outfit, forbidden by regulations romance. Didn’t work, like went you try and fit a jig-saw bit in the wrong place. Then as I re-wrote something occurred to me, Karlyn and Arketre were scraping a lot and yes, Karlyn was definitely flirting, what was more she was getting very upset when they truly argued; while Arketre was comfortable with Trelli, she was edgy around Karlyn. ‘Are you sure?’ I asked myself ‘Read the damn narrative willya!’ the pair told me…Yes, you should always listen to the characters. Well, Arketre, the soldier had been around a lot, seen the world, and once the crisis had passed, she made the first move. Gay romance. Well, it hadn’t been the original intention, but the jigsaw piece fitted., as long as there was romance within in the situation, yes it worked. I was not worried about any reaction or analysis, it made sense in this context.
The above ‘lessons’ were my guidelines. I don’t know if the book will ever become visible to the public at large because I am a terrible marketer, but when I read it for continuity as the second volume gets underway, it doesn’t seem too bad. (even if despite Grammarly a spelling error has still slipped in!).
So be your own person when you write, don’t seek the invisible and intangible ‘approval’ as you craft each word. Not going to happen. Write for your sake and its own sake. Just that smidge. Just that smidge is all you need.