Monday, December 19, 2011

What's up.

Hey y'all.  I feel really meh at the moment, as I have not won the Blizzard fanfiction writing contest.   Nor got a honorable mention.  Well, I think this was due to my posting the story on, which, after checking the rules, I noticed was not proper.  I think someone tried to warn me, but my pm system on that site shut down.  Crap.  Or else they just didn't like my story.

I think my story, Shadow Falls, was very good.  I'm not too disappointed I lost, as I can construct my sentences somewhat weirdly.  Also, the judges for Blizzard tend to like mildly depressing war stories, not cheerful one shots such as what I wrote.  I wrote a story about a Judicator meeting a little hick girl on the Terran planet Moria, and quite frankly I think it's nice.  I'm not the judge, though, and I can live with this.  I just wish I hadn't posted it, that way I'd know whether I lost by mistake or by flawed writing.

That's life.  Nothing's posted from my short story contest entries, so I'll hold up hope for that.  The stakes and the prizes are higher.  I'm confident in my chances, and I know I'm a good writer.  We'll see what happens with that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Write Club: Types of Writers

Hey y'all.  It's about dang time I updated this blog.  I usually only do when I get ranty, and now I'm ranty again.  I promise I will get to reviewing the MM10 soundtrack at some point in the future, but for now, it's writers.

Okay.  First of all I would like to point out that everyone is a potential writer.  Not "writer" in a narrow sense.  Every one of us can use writing in accordance with our regular and preferred occupations.  There are three general types of writers: Fiction writers, Non-fiction writers, and Non-writers.  Yes, Non-writers are a type of writer.  Deal with it.

What these basically mean to say is that it takes a special sort of person to be the first two categories, whereas all writers start out as Non-writers.  First of all, what makes a fiction writer so special is their ability to create plot.  Create plot, you ask?  This basically means that all natural fiction writers are thinkers.  They think of stories quite naturally, forming the ideas in their heads based on their personalities and experiences.  Even if they are not actively writing at the moment, their brains are already churning with story and will proceed to do so until the fiction writer dies.

The downfall of a fiction writers is that while they are brilliant with ideas, many times they are completely incapable of showing these ideas properly through their language.  We've all seen it in school or online.  We find these people, and they are so dang excited about their fun story.  Then you get to what they actually posted, and it sucks.   Those used to interpreting words, like a teacher, can clearly see that their main idea is good.  Their execution sucks, however, until they learn that writing involves learning the english (or whatever) language.  Words are tools, and they have to learn to use them.

Quick Hint: to speed up your learning, try to write as you would speak.  Normally people are more interested in your talking than your writing, so try to figure out why.

As you may guess, non-fiction writers are the opposite.  They suck at plot, but they can rock out words.  They know how to present a point in a more clear, simple, or interesting metaphor than fictionists.  Usually the non-fiction writer is primarily concerned with getting across a point, more so than the fiction writer (who is trying to get across a story or an emotion).  Thus the non-fiction writer is already better geared to present what they have in a coherent manner.

Quick Hint: to learn to create plot, write out the true story of something that happened in your life.  Not something very detailed, but just something simple like how you got your first pet or how a day at your work goes.  Write it out exactly as it happened, and then start thinking up things to spice it up.  What's something that could have happened to interfere with getting your pet?  What kind of weird customer/client could you have had?

Finally, the non-writer.  These people are not geared towards conveying ideas or emotion, and their primary skills generally concern something either people or physical objects.  There is nothing wrong with this.  If everybody could write, then hardly anyone would buy books.  I'm sure there's someone out there just as afraid of writing as I am of running a restaurant.  They get scared at the very notion of having to put ideas on paper.

This fear is bad.   Like General Patton would always say, never take council of your fears.  Granted, none of these people will be bestselling writers, but at the same time they shouldn't fear putting words to their thoughts.

Quick Hint: Write.  Just write.  Write whatever you're thinking right at this moment, no matter what it is or how coherent it is.  Seriously, it's so fun.  Pick whatever thing you've been thinking about today and just start. Even if your thoughts get off track, write that down too.  It doesn't matter if you're going on about dogs and then you suddenly comment about how much you love collard greens.  Just write.  Don't try to edit yourself, just get the ideas out there.

So these categories are the general categories.  Allow me to expand on other types of writers that are more specific.  Starting with-

The Worldbuilder:  This writer is one that has a natural talent for thinking about a universe.  By "universe", I mean the world in which a story takes place.  This is especially important in fantasy or science fiction, where normal scientific rules can be broken, and yet have to be replaced by new rules that cannot be.  Every story, no matter how fantastic or realistic it is, has its own set of rules about how far science is allowed to go, what cultures or peoples exist in it, or what the landscape/housings look like.

The Worldbuilder is naturally inclined to think of these things, and often will spend a good amount of time just thinking about all sorts of little details, like wild creatures, natural landmarks, and an imaginary government.  These are the most daydreamy of all writers, though all fiction writers must build their world, and non-fiction writers must present the world they wish to describe.  World building shows up in all writing in one way or another, but the Worldbuilder is naturally inclined to do so.  I am this type of writer, and the very fact that I'm writing all of this out right now shows that I think too much about the world of writing.  Worldbuilders in general want to know how things work, and crave details about how movies are made and edited.

Worldbuilders -- fantasy and sci fi are your strengths.  You don't like to play by anybody's rules.  While this can be creative, you must be careful.  Don't get too rebellious, or you'll end up insulting readers by doing something like, say, ignoring traditional vampire rules and have them only sparkle in the sunlight.  Lameness.

Hint for non-Worldbuilders: to help your skills in this area, just describe your city or hometown.  Don't give your writing any plot, but just describe the people in your town, how wealthy this place is, what kind of shops and entertainment one can expect, what the weather is like, and what sort of animals live there.

The Characterist:  This is my favorite type of writer - the person who knows people and therefore writes the most interesting and realistic people you've ever read.  I love how they intelligently comment on the ways of individual behavior.  These folk are just so excellent in crafting not only believable people, but crafting the sort of people you could go on and on hearing about.

An example of this is Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down.  This book is friggin' excellent, and if you haven't read it, that's a shame.  It's basically the story of a group of rabbits that leave their warren to escape an unknown doom and create a new warren of their own.   This story is excellent, because each of the bunnies involved has his own personality, like Fiver, the seer of sorts, Bigwig, the tough rabbit that can outfight all the rest, and Hazel, the unintentional leader of all these buns.

The best part of this book is that the rabbits have their own language, religion, and explanation for the world around them.  They have to figure out things that we already understand, like roads, rivers, and traintracks.  They call all motor engines "Hrududus", and they even have a legend as to why rabbits are near the bottom of the food chain.  There is something dang special about this book, and y'all would do well to read it.

Characterists -- you can write basically any type of fiction that you want.  Biography, on the other hand, is not so good for you.  While you are extremely good at reading personalities and implying them in a work, you're not always the best at writing a real person.  This is mostly because you come across as biased, even though all you're doing is displaying your in-depth understanding of them, rather than being a blunt non-fiction writer that you'd need to be.

Hint for the non-Characterists: Describe yourself and what you believe in the clearest terms.  Take for example, your belief in Canadians.  Write down exactly how they make you feel.  Then find two or three people who are different from you (but not Canadian) and ask them how they feel about Canadians.   Compile your research and try to figure out what sorts of people feel what way about them.  As a last but optional step, you can meet Canadians (or research whatever topic you prefer) and see how they are different from what you have compiled.

The Satirist:  This person can be either fiction or nonfiction, though generally they are bent on nonfiction or tend to write fiction very sarcastically and as a thinly-veiled covering of their ideas about the real world.  These people are good at making a person feel like their dumb whenever the Satirist is around, despite the fact that the Satirist is only about as smart as the normal person.  Their advantage comes from the sharp and forceful way they use their words.  In debates they generally either make you feel that you shouldn't say anything, or make you feel like you have to shout to get your point across.  They're not good listeners.

What they are good at is words.  They love dialogue, and are extremely good at making readers laugh or otherwise emote with their works.  Their primary skill is dialogue, and while a Characterist is also good at dialogue, the Satirist is capable of writing sharper words that are fun in and of themselves, without having to have them spoken by any specific character.  There is a type of Satirist that feels he can only get his ideas across through writing, and another type that feels he's better off doing so outloud.

Satirist -- do your research.  There's nothing worse for you than thinking you're right and being clearly wrong. You get away with it a lot, but not always.  You can write webcomics and screenplays very well, while also dodging having to describe backgrounds.  Your primary nonfiction talent is philosophy, in which you are very clear in what you write.

Hint for non-Satirists: Pick an issue you feel very strongly about and defend it.  Write a page or so about this, until you feel your opinion is described.  Then go back and edit your work.  Then go to a thesaurus or and try to find a few complicated words (not too many, just ones that tickle your fancy) and use them to replace your more common words.  Or, alternatively, take any random sentence from any book you like, and then rewrite it an entirely different, and more interesting way.

The Oralist:  This is a "non-writer" type of writer.  These sorts of people prefer to talk, and though they come up with good ideas, they find it so much easier to just say their ideas rather than write them down.  Their notes tend to be shorter and choppier, or just fairly boring sentences that will serve as a talking point.  These guys'll talk your dang ear off, but reading anything they write can be rather....huh.  They aren't stutterers, but from their writing voice you'd think they might be.

Oh, don't be offended, Oralists.  You know your weaknesses.  You also know your strengths, and you have a physical bearing and adaptable personality that outshine even the Satirists, who must use words to defend themselves.  You have friends and you have fun.  What do you need writing for?  Well, making yourself look intelligent for one.  Oralists tend to feel a mild nagging within themselves to put into writing their opinions.  It depends on the individual for how good they are at ignoring these naggings.  In any case, at some point in your life you're going to have to explain yourself to someone who is not present with you.

Oralists -- You are very good at nonfiction, particularly at "how-to" manuals.  If you venture out into fiction, you tend to write "nonfiction fiction" -- things like detective/cop stories, westerns, historical novels, modern women fiction, or just any genre that involves very strict rules of reality.  You aren't really interested in fantasy, and there's no need for you to be.  We've got that covered.  You just write a "how-to" about your favorite hobby, and you'll do well enough.

Hint for non-Oralists: Go outside already.  Get off the dang computer and talk to real people.  Go read a "how-to" manual about something and get yourself a hobby, preferably one that involves hanging out with others.  Trust me, talking helps you write.

The Journalist: The Journalist is a person that isn't fantastic at all.  They like excitement, but they also like reality and being involved in it.  Excitement that is fake isn't excitement to them at all.  Generally Journalists like to know everything and travel lots of places, and they feel most comfortable when they know every angle of the truth.  Note that I do not mean someone who is actually in the occupation of journalism, but the Journalistic archetype -- someone inclined to get a journalism job.

Oh, if you're an occupational journalist, beware if you start reading a lot of fiction that isn't related to a news story.  It might be a sign that your subconscious brain is unhappy, and you need a change in career.

Journalists can be a bit annoying and hyper, but they seek knowledge, and that's cool.

Journalists -- Don't get big headed.  You're educated but you don't know everything.  Take the time to learn about personality and logic, as knowledge ain't no good if you don't know what to do with it.  Consider yourself on the earliest segment on the production line of information: you don't build cars or shoes, you produce fabrics and sheet metal.  Don't come to conclusions, just produce the facts.

Hint for non-Journalists: Pick a subject you hate.  No, not something you like, something you hate.  Then research it.  Find out what the deal with it is and present it in a way that disguises your hate entirely.  No critiquing, no insulting, no nothing.

The Catchphraser: This is the sort of person that very naturally is able to describe things in simple but eloquent terms.  They sometimes complete your sentences for you (even though you're more of an artsy fart and like to use lots of words) and don't always have a lot of patience.  These are more "non-writer" writers, and they are happy enough being more social than other writers.  They are particularly good at shutting Satirists down or ignoring them.

The Catchphraser is a realist, and should stay away from fantasy as much as possible.  This group doesn't enjoy writing, as writing can involve a lot of work with delayed or non-monetary result.  This is fine.   Catchphrasers are practical, and we need practical people in this world.

These folk do know people.  Maybe not as in-depth as others, but they know enough about people to figure out in their own terms and get them to understand new ideas.

Catchphrasers -- get into marketing or speechwriting.  Take vague ideas that already exist and make them clear.  Take a product and sell it.  You're already good at this.  I don't have to tell you.

Hint for non-Catchphrasers: take a thing in your house that you really like, such as a computer or a shoe, and market it.  Write down reasons why a person should buy this and create a sales pitch that would make people want to buy this.  Don't let the idea intimidate you; pick something you really, really like, and you'll gush about it.  Edit the gushing.

The Poet and the Bard:  I put these two together because their differences are insignificant.  They both dwell in the more fantasy side of things, but can go more literal if they prefer.  Out of all the writers, these are one of the most able to go back and forth between fiction and non, though most of what they produce tends to be fantastic, or described as such.

The Bard is a musician.  Not so much a singer as a music writer.  Usually the can play an instrument, but this isn't an iron clad requirement.  The Poet, though similar, does not necessarily work with music, though in the end they both do the same thing: take things that are real and describe them fantastically.

Of the two, the Bard is a little more narrow.  Whatever the Bard does has to be singable or playable, and is usually more about an emotion than a happening.  Poets have freedom in both places, though in my opinion if they forget a certain musicality about their work, they're just ranters who rhyme.  Sometimes they're ranters that don't even rhyme.  I once read this poem by some schlub that was basically him apologizing to someone for eating their strawberries.  No meter, no rhyme, no friggin' POETRY.

What the Bard and the Poet both do is to take hold of a small idea, place, or emotion and strive to describe it, strive to make both themselves and the listener feel strong emotions and see very clear ideas in their head.  They are essentially fantastic equivalents to the Catchphraser, though brevity isn't a requirement for them.   They relate things that don't normally relate except through the thread of emotion that they see while others miss out.  Other times they reach through a feeling that permeates everyone, bringing us all visions of the things that these artists see.

Naturally, these are the hardest to describe, and there is an element of poetry in all fantasy writers.  These are the most spiritual of all the arts, and they relate to us in ways we don't understand -- if the poetry is good.  If the poetry is ranty, dull, trite, or completely unthought out, people are quick to reject it.  Making this the most risky of the arts.

Poets are different from Bards, as a Bard can sell his works commercially far easier than can a simple Poet.  One of the things a Poet can do is transition into fiction writing, and their poetry comes in handy for use in describing otherwise boring parts of a story, like transitions, narrations, or descriptions.

Poets and Bards -- remember to love what you do.  If you don't love it, you will fail.  Also, don't be sensitive if someone doesn't like your work -- practice makes perfect -- or doesn't get it -- the song or poem is possibly still good even if it's not entirely clear.

Hint for non-Bards/Poets: get out the thesaurus!  Pick out two things that seem unrelated and compare them, tying them together not with a comparison, but an emotion.  How does a peach relate to love?  Or how does a piece of paper relate to driving a car?  Be creative, you can do it!

So anyway, that's the major ones.   I may add some more that I think of, but for now, here you go.  I hope it gives you a balanced view that everyone is talented in writing, in one way or another, and is able to add things to the literary part of society.