Writing for Escapism
I know this isn’t exactly a new topic, but I was thinking about this over the weekend. What is it that compels us to write? What is it that compels me to write?
Let’s have a look shall we?
Write what you know
This is an old maxim in writing, and I’ve often questioned how appropriate it is. If you consider yourself to truly be a writer (and this has sparked a lot of discussion over the past few weeks) then surely all you would write about is writing. Which isn’t – I imagine – the most compelling read. But there are elements of this that are true. If you happen to know a lot about a particular subject, then obviously it is going to filter into your work. This is why a great deal of Stephen King books have writers as their main characters, as well as a great many of his novels being set in Maine. We can only hope all the horror stuff isn’t something he knows first hand. Ditto the work of H. P. Lovecraft.
The question I have asked myself more than once in the past is that surely you should write about what you don’t know. Yes, at first this sounds counter productive. How can someone write in detail about cars for example, if they can’t tell the difference between a GT 500 and a Dodge Challenger? This is, I guess, where the research comes in.
Write what you’re interested in
What I’m interested in is cutting edge science and technology. People who know me well may raise an eyebrow at that statement, but it’s true. It doesn’t mean I necessarily like technology, or its current applications, but that’s what I’m interested in. And a lot of it filters into my writing. As a bit of a science fiction geek, I do a lot of thinking into how certain science fiction themes can work in a ‘realistic’ manner. Time travel for example. A big element I feel is not so much making it realistic, so much as making it plausible.
Because making what you write sound believable is what writing is primarily about, right? If your reader isn’t going to accept what you write, then they’re not going to read it.
Ecologies and Evolution
These are two other subjects I’m interested in. And while I may not write them heavily into my work, I do ponder them. My obsessions often get the better of me under these circumstances, especially when I watch films. If I can take Star Wars as an example (because really, we can’t get enough of dissing Star Wars, can we?) I can watch it, and even occasionally enjoy it, but I’ll be honest, a lot of the time I’m thinking “well how the hell did that evolve?” This can of course be said for all science fiction. I recently went to see Skyline (amazing trailer, appalling film) and as interesting as the aliens were in it, I couldn’t stop myself from asking how the hell they could have evolved the way they did.
Again though, I’m drifting off point. I’m not saying that if you know a lot about cars, then you have to write about cars. But it certainly helps in the sections you write that include cars. I think I may have mentioned previously about assumed knowledge. This is another one of my hang ups. I’ve read books before – in different genre’s – that assume the readers are idiots. Every few pages the writer will stop the narrative to essentially give a lecture about what they’re talking about, just so people remain up to speed. Not only is this distracting, it breaks the flow of the narrative. Of course, the other extreme is to just not explain anything at all, and leave everyone else in the dark. I’ve tended to do this in the past too. I have it all in my head, and I sometimes forget to put enough detail in so everyone else gets it too.
Anyway, the crux of my post is this. I feel that writing gives people the chance to experience things that they may not get to do in the real world. I may be a little detached from reality to think that, or a fantasist, but you know, I find it highly unlikely that I’ll ever ride in a helicopter, or climb something in monument valley, or go white water rafting. But hey, I can write about these things, right?