9.26.2007

Writing on the Right Side of the Brain,
Or, Whate Harley Daydreams About on the Drive Home

One of the exercises in “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”* is standing a chair upside down and then drawing the chair. At work here is the idea that if asked to draw a still life of a chair, normal schmoes like you and me draw our memory of what a chair looks like, rather than drawing what we actually are seeing. When a chair is set upside down the artist is forced to look at, and refer to, the thing itself, not his or her memory.

As a result, through forced “seeing,” the renderings of the chairs are usually quite remarkable. Non "artists" produce incredible work. It follows then for more difficult subjects – portraits, for example – if you can force yourself to see, your drawings will improve.

Now one reason that fantasy and science fiction is typically frowned upon in college creative writing classes is because too often the novice writer (like myself) reverts to genre clichés and stereotypes (pointy-eared elves, hairy-footed hobbits) instead of actually writing the thing itself.

This is true of all genre fiction, but fantasy and science fiction get picked on more often that the rest because, likely, there just aren’t that many would-be western novelists showing up in college creative writing classes. But do away with the genre assumptions, and suddenly a story is a story.

Put another way, aspiring artists often have lazy eyes. Aspiring writers often have lazy imaginations.

So we turn a chair upside down, in order to see it accurately. What would it mean to do the same with a genre? What would this “look” like? (And perhaps: Does this defeat the purpose of a genre? Maybe the point of people reading westerns is because they know what they are going to get.)

Anyhow. Just some thoughts from an amateur looking to improve his craft.

//H


*If memory serves. I haven’t looked at this book in ages.

2 Comments:

At 12:31 AM, Anonymous Cassandra said...

I know some of what I do with our published material is to tweak wording a little so it "sounds right" - using familiar fantasy phrases and so on. It gives the right "feel" for the genre.

Your comments made me wonder - how would a story be different if, instead of writing a fantasy story that had a mystery as a plot, one were to write a modern mystery story and then modify it to be in a fantasy setting? What difference would it make if the protagonist was an elf instead of a Texan? If you change the lighting in the bar to lanterns instead of electric lights, and garb the staff appropriately, does it seem like a fantasy bar or is there something about the writing that would not suit the fantasy setting?

How does one turn a genre upside down, anyway?

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger saurus said...

for lack of a better place to post it and for all the would-be-authors out there, lulu does self-publishing.

http://www.lulu.com/en/products/

might be something worth looking into. or not. hell if i know, i just troll here.

 

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