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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I Do Not Write Fiction

This is Steven Petrick posting:

I am not a writer, in the sense that I cannot write stories with characters. I have a difficult time dealing with thought processes that are not my own. I know there is such a crime as treason, but I cannot imagine an amount of money sufficient that I would betray my country as an example. So I cannot truly fathom that concept, i.e., I cannot imagine a person such as Anthony Snowden or Charles Manning. I know both those men claim they did what they did for higher moral reasons, but to me they both are traitors and I cannot understand why they did what they did, so I could not in a story create characters with their motivations.

I do understand loyalty, at least I think I do, but that comes from a context in that I cannot imagine betraying a trust: the oath I swore to the Constitution, for example.

What I can bring to writing are my own experiences and the mechanical processes. I will listen or read a scene and think about other things that should be there. A recent example is a story shown me in which (to not reveal any specifics) I noted that when "the truck moves to this new location, in your scene, they are going to be driving over "X," so you will need to make some mention off this." Also, I have read that one of the things a writer needs to do is add "background" in the sense of setting the scene. Mention things like a smell, the color of the sky, clouds, the shadows, to help place the reader in the place he is reading about. These do not need to be used heavily, but should be used often enough to make the reader feel part of the story. In a horror story it is often a good idea to juxtapose normality with the horror: the sun shining brightly on the bloody bits of cloth that are all that remain of the monster's most recent victim, for example. That applies to stories about reality too, i.e., the cheerfully babbling brook cascading past the body of the soldier killed while trying to fill his canteen.

I can imagine scenes of carnage if I could write the overall story arc to include them. The character entering the forward phaser room where the inertial dampers flickered for a pico second, and in that interval of time the five crewmen in the compartment of a ship traveling at tactical warp speed were reduced to a thin veneer of matter spread over the rear wall of the room. At least they never knew, but now the character (and others with him) have to take over the controls and continue the battle. Or the young lieutenant, j.g., waking up in the dim darkness to see the eyes of the Andorian officer he had been infatuated with staring into his. While he is wondering how he got her to his quarters the ship shakes and the emergency bridge lighting is restored and acrid smoke assails his nostrils from shorted out panels and he realizes that her dead body is laying atop him where they were thrown by earlier damage as the battle goes on. (A scene imagined for the start of a short story about a young lieutenant having to take command of a ship in a battle after the bridge and auxiliary control have been knocked out leaving him the senior officer, perhaps including the scene in the forward phaser room of the heavily damaged ship.)

I can imagine scenes, but I cannot create characters.

So, mostly what I write are scenario backgrounds where rather than characters, I try to create history. Why the situation in the scenario exists without delving into the motivations of individual commanders beyond the strategic situation which led their ships to be where they are. The grander scope of the randomness of the universe is far easier for me to address than the simple motivations of a small group of people, or even a single individual, to be able to tell a good story.