Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writing Fantasy: Learning from a Younger Me

This post started as a Facebook status. I got shamefully distracted writing it, but I think I just helped myself a lot. If you snoop around this blog long enough, you'll find evidence (even excerpts) of all three of the complete stories I mention here.

(TL;DR at end)

Writing a Fantasy...

Age 14: "So there's this kind, shy, princess who eventually gets kidnapped, and two guys (her best friend and a foreign prince) work to rescue her... but first, let's get a smaller conflict in there, to introduce the characters..."

(Less than a year later, the story was finished at 65,000 words. I developed cultural stuff as necessary, mostly so I wouldn't forget what I'd imagined. It was just structured make believe. I wrote what I wanted to experience.)

Age 14 to 15: "This seems like a cool place to start: A captive loner with special powers and a social, generous guy who turns out to be a prince. They'll start a revolution... These characters are funny together... this is great, like playing make believe!"

(Started prologue in May, finished 50,000-word manuscript in October same year, with no deadlines or pressure. Developed characters and political climate as necessary and conducted some research on weaponry.)

Age 17: "Okay, this is a fun story idea. Let's play with some stereotypes, just for fun!"

(Finished 130,000 words age 18, a year and nine months later, much more serious than when I began... It was set in our world, so I only had to work on developing a subculture, not a complete culture.)

Now, Age 21: "This idea could be cool... alright, I've got a few short character bios down, and I don't think they're too flat. Their relationships aren't too boringly stereotypical, are they? What's the agricultural situation? Climate? Uh-oh, I don't know this kingdom's religious or moral history. The culture needs more roots. Do I want to use our months and days, or does this world need a different calendar? Should I base it, at least loosely, around a particular culture and date the weapons and clothing accordingly? But I don't have time to research that right now... Oh snap. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?" (Started playing with ideas January, started rough draft last week, complete screenplay due end of April)

Actually, remembering how I wrote as a young teen helps me. Sure, looking back, the political and social structures could use some help, but that meant that I could focus on the characters and their main conflict. I didn't get distracted from that, and I had fun with the story. Was the plot itself fairly typical? Yeah. But the internal development in one of the characters worked pretty well, if I do say so myself, especially considering I was just 15 and undeveloped myself. My writing was immature, but I understood the basics about story development even then. I need to forget about the audience in my professor and classmates and just let myself play again.  


- As a young teen: "Yay fantasy, let's play with magic, adventure, and charming boys!"

- As 21-year-old creative writing student: SNAP. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?!

- Wait, maybe young me had the right idea after all. Relax, write, and stop to brainstorm when necessary. You can go back and change things if you discover new things about your characters and the culture. Stop thinking about your professor and classmates and just play a bit, okay?

If I could write a novel at 14 years old, complete with all the basic structure of a decent story (albeit immature in content, character understanding, and writing style), then with my maturing skills, I can write a screenplay up to snuff for an undergraduate class... yes, even a fantasy screenplay.

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