Okay so hey guys. I feel like I haven’t blogged in a while…but I’ll be back with some actual non-poetry things eventually. I’m working on a new small project, and some littler ones. I plan on e-publishing a few of my short stories this summer, so stay tuned! 🙂
Art is seriously messed up. Smearing pigments across canvas, smudging charcoal on paper, sewing stitches into fabric to create a unique something, carving out chunks of wood or stone to make a likeness of someone or something that maybe never existed. Blowing into a brass tube with holes cut into it, or plucking strings on a wooden vessel to create notes to create something called music, shaping white-hot metal and gluing broken pottery together.
It can be realistic, it can be disgusting, it can be heartbreaking, it can make you laugh. It can be the most unrealistic, otherworldly thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. It can be like looking into a mirror. It can be like looking into every curve and whisper of the human mind and soul. It can be confusing, it can make no sense, it can have absolutely no purpose, rhyme, or reason.
What I think is beautiful you might think is ugly. What you find beautiful I might find repulsive.
It’s messed up, art is.
Art is waking up at three a.m. with an idea, and stumbling out of bed and smashing into the wall because you can’t find the light switch. It’s not being able to find a pen or pencil, and so you write a poem with a crayon on a napkin from the floor of your car. It’s giggling maniacally at what will surely be a masterpiece or slamming your fist in frustration because this isn’t what you wanted. It’s pulling out your hair and drinking obscene amounts of coffee and tea and spending days locked in your house wearing pajamas. Art is quiet and slow and rolling and honest. It takes time. Or maybe it doesn’t. It could take a second, a snap of a camera shutter. It lies. It makes another reality, a better one or a worse one.
We obsess over it. We lose our minds, our money, our lives.
We hold onto art from centuries and millennia and civilizations past, we worship it in glass cases and with cotton gloves and anti-contamination body suits. We study it, teach it, love it, hate it. We argue about it. About the medium used, about the artist who made it, about the year the artist was born and who his/her parents were, about what it means, about where it came from, about the symbols and hidden messages that may or may not have been included within its walls of paint and stone. We spent thousands and millions of dollars collecting it, making it, learning about it.
We judge others based on their art, we value their worth to society with their art.
We scorn artists who can’t make a living at their art and hail the few lucky ones that manage to.
We can be ashamed of our art, keep it hidden and protected like the wounds in our souls. Sometimes no one else ever sees it, and sometimes people see it without understanding it.
Art is everything and art is nothing. It is power, and yet renders us powerless at its feet.
On this beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, let’s be thankful to all the people who’ve ever asked an author, “Is Mary Sue’s story based on yours? You and her are a lot alike!” Without those people, I would not be writing this.
In the dozens of novel ideas I’ve had and started (most of them not making it past five chapters with few exceptions) I have not based my main character on myself. They were all their own individuals with their own quirks and flaws and habits and experiences.
But people just love asking writers if their characters are based on themselves. It has happened to me, and you see it all the time in author interviews.
And once an author admits that yes, my punk-rock ninja boarding school heroine is based on myself, it doesn’t ring the same. Mary Sue is based on the author? Well, that’s, that’s….that’s cheating! Why couldn’t she just write a memoir? Isn’t that, you know, pretentious? Wow.
Suddenly people are treating the author the same way people treat those unfortunate souls who announce their love for One Direction. “Oh, well, I guess that’s your choice…but we’re not friends anymore. I’m deleting you from Facebook.”
Very not cool.
The next step up (or down?) from this is when writers take themselves and make them better. Thinner, more confident, usually with added combat skills and some steamy romantic interest. This is even worse in the eyes of people who find this out. It’s just…weird to most readers.
But here’s the deal. My characters are not me, nor are they better, stronger versions of myself. That being said, a lot of the times the easiest things to write are things I know best. “Write what you know” mantra. That includes certain circumstances and certain reactions. First hand experience is the most accurate way to present the same situation in writing, and I incorporate this into my storytelling. It could be something small, like a joke I shared with a friend, or a similar reaction to the wedding of Will and Kate.
There are aspects of my life that make for good reading. So why not include it? It isn’t intended to be a reflection of my life or the way I live it, but it makes my characters’ lives a wee bit more genuine.
But these are far and few in between. Great Aunt Emily in my WIP, for example, is a total figment of my imagination. I never had such a great aunt (thankfully). There are a few exchanges between characters that are snapshots from dialogue with a friend, and little annotations about things like rural life (e.g., the smell of manure in July) or the woes of going to a small high school.
Taking this another step deeper, I like telling stories that are “real” and “relatable.” I mean, who doesn’t? That’s the obvious goal of every writer. I grew up in a small town — a village, technically. The cow to person ratio is something like 6:1. You always get the “small town girl/boy” protagonist dominating YA stands, but this always bugged me; if they have their own high school, or more people than cows, then I don’t see it as “small town” simply because of my own experience. I relate best to 6:1 cow-to-people communities. I want to read about them.
So I’m writing one.
It’s not my life. I am not Ingrid Fletcher. Her story isn’t mine. We share similarities and some characteristics, but if I wanted to write my own story I’d write an autiobiography or start a hardcore diary. I’m a bit of a bookworm. Ingrid is 100x the bookworm I am. Ingrid is 100x shyer than me. Her friendships are different, her opinions are different, her habits and flaws are different, her deepest darkest secrets are completely her own. I’m just helping her explain everything to the reader in the most accurate way I can, without, you know, going skydiving so that one scene is all the more genuine.
No sir. I am not going skydiving for Ingrid’s sake.
Do you incorporate aspects of your own life to your writing? Is your protagonist a slightly different version of you?