In 2013, I ended up (almost) finishing two drafts, very different drafts, of a story I’ve been thinking of for the longest time. First was the summer, which I was writing for a creative writing course, where I would write 2,000 words a week and so on. The second was NaNoWriMo, where I had to write 1,667 words per day. Both were difficult to achieve, but the fruits of me effort were evident.
I could visibly see myself improve between the drafts. Which is such a cool thing. To place in metaphor, the butterfly doesn’t see itself change into a butterfly within its cocoon, so seeing myself making a step, even a tiny step, closer to my goal of becoming a novelist was just… awesome.
I will admit, I have a long road ahead, trust me. My characters need more development, my setting needs more character, and the plot fell short to what I’ve come to expect from books. But you know what? It’s getting there. As slowly as I’m moving, I’m getting there. And it’s exciting.
Over the second draft, I realized something that reminded me of what my old saxophone teacher used to tell me. I remember the small room in the corner of that Music tutoring business, fumbling over the notes of Charlie Parker’s transcribed solos and thanking the lord there was carpet on the wall to muffle my sound from the others in the building. The thing about Charlie Parker is, he’s a beast a music. If you look at some of his solos, some of those pages are slathered in ink from all the complicated and quick rhythms. There’s 32nd notes and 64th notes at ridiculous speeds, and if you don’t know how fast those are, then think of the fastest piece of music you’ve heard and multiply that by a million. I fell short every practice because I obsessed about the rhythm. But I could not pack so many notes in the right rhythm with so little time.
My teacher, seeing my continuous struggle, stopped me and told me this: don’t worry about the technicalities, just get the ‘feel’ of it.
What he was getting at is, it’s MUSIC, so let music be music. If all we needed from music was the right rhythm, we could get a robot to play it for us. We have to remember that it’s an art, as well as it is a product of rhythm. The same goes with writing. Yes, writing needs its connection with reality. But is it reality? Of course not.
This principle is most easily applied to fantasy, because one of the things that’s always hammered into the heads of students about fantasy is: it must be connected with reality. It’s used to help us recognize ourselves in a foreign world, so we can see ourselves. It also helps us begin to understand it. If there’s something from our own world to cling on to, you’ll be able to see the rest of the view. However, if you’ve ever read Tolkien or Narnia, you know these worlds are way different than our own. Yes, they’re based off of reality somewhere, but it’s MORE than the reality. The beauty of this new world becomes an art form, where the setting becomes a painting. A painting doesn’t need to have the correct perspective or lines to convey its message.
Writing needs its bits of reality, and characters need to be based on people and yada yada yada. That will always be true, no matter how you look at it. But will it always be a direct translation from reality? NO! Actually, novels would be so much more boring if they were. Since frankly, very few people live the action-packed, drama-filled lives that a novel portrays.
Writing is an art form. The characters, settings, plots, do not have to be direct links to reality. They can be made into the different colors of a painting. Although the scene is familiar, the light and colors might be changed to come more artistic. My novels lack that at the moment, because I was so afraid to just let my characters be more than just humans trapped in my head.