Thursday, 9 May 2013

Geek Out About Your Story: Guest Blogger C.A. Brown



I'm always fascinated by creativity - and by my own and everyone's else's creative process. So I thought to pierce the underwater gloom at Jellyfish Day with posts by guest bloggers to show us how they roll.

I met May's guest blogger in our postgraduate creative writing program (that's programme in UK parlance)  in 2009. We're both fans of fantasy and sci-fi fiction, and we've kept up a lively correspondence about sundry facets of the creative life ever since. 

C.A. Brown is a writer, artist and comics artist with an MA in Creative Writing and a BA in English & Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University whose interests include dystopic cyberpunk sci-fi, film censorship, obsolete technology, late 1990s/early 2000s computer & video games, 1950s pre-code American horror comics, heavy metal, gothic rock , Sherlock Holmes, daydreaming, Red Dwarf and a host of other eccentric things. C.A. posts about creativity (and other random things) at  PekoeBlaze and art and comics at deviantArt.com.

I'm excited to hand the controls to a young geek who cut milkteeth on videogames, computers, and other technological wonders . . . please welcome C.A. Brown!

Five Visualisations to Help You Geek Out About Your Story


In one of my blog posts at Pekoeblaze, I wrote about how important it is to seriously geek out about your stories when you're writing them. Or, to quote my other article: 'If you aren't the most obsessive fan of your own work, then how can you expect anyone else to be? '

Anyway, in this article, I thought that I'd offer a few visualisation exercises which might help you get into the right mindset if you're having trouble geeking out about your own work. Some of these visualisations are probably fairly obvious, but hopefully some of them aren't.

Well, I say "visualisations" - but what I'm really talking about here are daydreams. You don't have to sit in the lotus position, do any kind of breathing exercises or listen to New Age music when you do these visualisations. In fact, it actually kind of helps if you do them when you're doing something else - just make sure that it isn't anything which could be dangerous if you get distracted from it.

Like the Voight-Kampff test in "Blade Runner", these visualisations are designed to provoke an emotional response in you. If they're doing nothing for you emotionally, then you're either a replicant or it's a sign that you need to change your story into something you can really geek out about...

Surfing the Internet: Imagine that you're a random fan of your work. A random person sitting at a computer and reading about your story on the internet. What do the reviews for it look like? What does its TV Tropes page look like? What does its Wikipedia page look like? etc...

In short, what does everything surrounding your story on the internet actually look like? What will it look like? When you get to the point where you start mentally quoting parts of your story's future Wikipedia/TV Tropes page to yourself, then you're doing it right.

Adaptations:  Imagine your work being faithfully adapted into other types of media (after all, this is a daydream, there's no point bogging it down with cynical realism). Imagine what the TV series/film/videogame adaptation of it would actually look like. Imagine holding a physical copy of the adaptation on DVD or VHS or Blu-Ray or whatever - what does the cover art look like? What certificate/rating does it have? What font is the title in? What does the blurb on the back look like? What special features does it have?

This type of visualisation is also quite useful because it makes you think of your work as a story in and of itself rather than just as "a novel"/"a comic"/"a short story" etc...

Briefly Become a Film Censor: This is a slightly strange one, but imagine what a film censor would think when they looked at your story. How would they rate it? What would they pick out? How would they describe your story in their report?

Although this visualisation is kind of strange, it can be useful because it makes you think about your story from the outside. It makes you think about how someone who is only interested in categorising (rather than appreciating) your story would think about it. It also makes you look at your own story in more detail too, since censors usually go over things in minute detail (albeit usually looking for four-letter words or whatever). Plus, it also helps you to clarify what kind of audience you're aiming your work at too.

This visualisation might not work for everyone and it helps if you've read a bit about film censorship before you do it (I seem to be both opposed to and absolutely fascinated by film censorship), but it can really help you to see your work from another perspective and think about it in detail.

Lecture:  There are two versions of this visualisation - one where you're delivering the lecture and one where you're listening to someone else deliver it. Choose whichever one feels best for you. Anyway, imagine that your story has become so well-acclaimed that it's actually being studied in universities. Imagine that it's part of the reading list on the English Literature course and it's sitting on top of the pile of set texts which every student on the course has to read. For the sake of argument, let's also assume that your story is interesting enough that all of them have actually read it too.

Anyway, there's a lecture about your story. Everyone attends it. What does the lecturer say?

If you're not particularly interested in academic lectures, then you can imagine a speech at a convention or whatever instead. The important thing is to imagine either you or someone else talking enthusiastically and in detail about your story. And, not only talking about it in detail, but taking it completely seriously too.

Omniscient Writer:  Ok, this one is slightly egotistical, but it can really help you to geek out about your work. Just imagine your (hypothetical or real) fans eagerly waiting for your work to be released, speculating about it on internet forums, reading every preview they can find and counting down the days until it is released. Now realise that you know a lot more than they do about your story - in fact, you're the one person on the planet who knows the most about your story and they're relying on you to pass the story onto them.

At its best, this kind of visualisation can almost make you feel omniscient - as if you know everything before anyone else does. It also makes you feel like you're the best and only person in the world that can tell your particular story too (and you are!)

Plus, in a slightly indirect way, it makes you imagine what the fans of your work feel about it too. If you do this visualisation properly, then you'll feel both a sense of omniscience about your own story and also the enthusiasm of your fans as they eagerly wait for your story and wonder what it will be like. Both of these emotions are extremely useful when it comes to geeking out about your story.

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Anyway, I hope this helped you to get into the right frame of mind to tell your story. Just remember that, although geeking out about your story is really important, actually writing it is the most important thing of all.

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