a writer's eye
I am awake with the sunrise looking out of my window at a perfect summer's morning in Melbourne, so I thought I would write my last blog entry for 2011. I am a little tired as I am still having the uber-epic dreams at the moment - literally a nuclear war dream last night (expect the short story based on that dream will be called something like "the Fall Out").
I want to spend some time reflecting about the writing year that was, particulary two things I learned about the triggers to my own creative process over the last twelve months working with some semblance of discipline writing the second novel.
First, I (re)discovered how effective short breaks were in unblocking any temporary lulls in the development of creative ideas. The short breaks for me included going for an hour long walk around Princes Park in Carlton North or sometimes just sitting in front of the computer looking at xcxd comic strips. The latter option has also been an unexpectedly good way of opening my mind to produce left field ideas in both my fiction and non-fiction writing.
I managed to come up with a lauded solution to a complex policy problem that had stumped everyone around me for months after only one morning of such 'mindless' activity. It seems clearing the head or engaging other parts of your brain removes the clutter to allow your mind's eye to see things previously hidden. Pretty cool really.
Secondly, I discovered I cannot watch television shows or movies or read books now without (a) noticing the script structure and how I might write it differently to improve the delivery of the story's main themes and/or (b) take the story beyond the immediate story told to determine endings for tangents not explored in what I am actually viewing or reading at the time.
By way of example, I watched for a second time (and admittedly a third time with my mater because I liked the scripting that much) the Terminator - Sarah Connor Chronicles (TSCC) television show (that screened originally in 2008-09) and found my mind was making the links between characters, their individual stories, and the overarching story with a degree of sophistication that surprised me.
I am sure my mater found it a little peculiar that I spend some of the time that we sat on the couch, viewing the show, talking to her about character development and motivations and what it might mean for the third series of TSCC if a smart producer ever decided to make it. I had a million ideas on where I would take the story beyond the season two finale (and final show). I am quite sure I could write an entire third season such was the flow of plot development pouring out of my mind.
This was not the only show (or movie or book) where I found my writer's eye unpicking what I was viewing/reading. The jury is still out on whether having this skill is a good thing or a bad thing.
On the plus side, I found that the process of exploring where I could take a story that was not originally my own actually helped me with the development of my own work. When I sat down to write the second novel, I was able to pull threads together and define plot links with greater clarity, and establish and develop character motivations more easily. The characters and story in my second novel live and breathe with such life and breath now, much more so that my first novel.
On the minus side, I can spot the 'manipulation' that occurs in books, movies and television too easily now. All writers want to engage a reader/viewer at an emotional level but it is better when that occurs seamlessly and at an unconscious level. If I feel like I am being taken for a ride, I feel less inclined to 'connect' to the characters or with the story (and therefore do not enjoy the product). I think one of my goals for 2011 will need to be improving my own writing so that it mesmeries rather than alienates my readers. Something every writer aspires to achieve!
No cathartic deeply personal reflections on the year that was in this last blog I'm afraid. It doesn't feel quite right to share that stuff today, especially given the most challenging thing my brain wants to think about right now is who has the longest eyelashes of the actors I have watched in the last week. The selection on offer in that choice is Justin Chatwin (Weeds, episode 1, series 1), Thomas Dekker (TSCC), and Jake Gyllenhall (Love and Other Drugs). I just cannot choose...
I think I will go for a walk to clear my head. One more sleep and the new year will be here.