In Writing 201: What’s Your Angle?, WordPress asks the following questions:
What’s your story? It’s all in the telling.
— Rebecca Solnit
1) What makes you you? Which elements of your experience and unique perspective couldn’t possibly be present in someone else’s story?
3) How can you mine your personal history for just the right angle?
4) Once you’ve got detail, look even closer — a new angle may be waiting to surprise you.
5) Consider using an object as a way “in” to the story.
Since writing 201 does not have specific assignments, like 101 did, I will answer these questions in separate posts. These questions seem to do a lot of assuming that bloggers are writing about real-life experiences, and I suppose most of them do. I suppose that my writing blog is unique in that it is devoted to my fantasy novels. I have chosen to keep things at an author’s point of view, and to focus my posts from the prompts on the world that I created, so I have to do a lot of interpreting the questions here.
1. Sometimes, when I’m feeling excited about my novels, and you ask me what makes them so special, I have this inexplicable urge to shout out, “dragons!” Then I tame the dracophile in me and focus on a bit more… ahem… noble behavior. if you ask me what makes me who and what I am, I keep thinking, “we are the sum of all of our experiences, filtered through our consciousness and tempered by our karma.” Aye, there is a point where I become philosophical. Still, the next question becomes, what experiences have I had?
I remember always being more fascinated by sword-swinging heroes, armor and shields, magic, faeries, and (lest I evoke their temper by leaving them out) dragons. The prince who comes to the rescue, the enchanted castle, nobility and knightly duty. If a book had a dragon or a knight in it when I was really little, that was the book I wanted. I remember my grandmother buying me a huge illustrated excerpt of “The Jabberwocky” from Alice in Wonderland; they made the poem into a picture book, and I loved every page of it.
“Sleeping Beauty” was everything I could want, with the heroic prince and the faeries and the dragon. A little cottage out in the forest, a terrible evil; those images and concepts remain with me to this very day. I am a bit loathe to admit (mainly because of what assumptions might be made from this) that it was the Disney version that really attracted me, but it really did have a lovely art style and compelling music. My mother was sure to take my sister and me to anything Disney, and even though I am well aware of the criticism and over-marketedness of that company, I cannot deny having seen the castles and swords and magic as a child and having really developed a love for those things. And to be fair, I haven’t just watched Robin Hood and Sword in the Stone; I have the books on my shelves.
Then I graduated from fairy tales. By junior high, I discovered actual fantasy novels. Namely: Anne McCaffrey, and Tamora Pierce not long afterwards. My grandmother took me to book wharehouses and bookstores whenever I went to visit her, and I always had a hard time narrowing down which books to get. As a teenager, I didn’t go to the mall to hang out; I went to hit all the bookstores. The saddest thing to watch, as the decades passed, was when the mall bookstores closed and some no-name place opened up. But while they were still open, they got my allowance money (and later my wages, when I was able to get a job).
My friends opened me up to Dungeons and Dragons, and I discovered Dragonlance’s world of Krynn. Life was grand. There was Final Fantasy, Link & Zelda (I never could get into Mario, although my sister was obsessed with it), Flight of dragons, and so much more. I was even interested in the saga, heroism, and special powers of the world of Marvel. Eclectic much? Why, yes!
Best of all, I wanted to write! Homework’s done, Star Trek is over, there’s time between classes– my pencil is moving! There were dragons, of course, and leagues of elves. Sometimes they were running to the mountains to fight their battles; other times they were discovering the princess hiding in the tower deep in the forest. I wanted a legendary sword, magical powers, the wind in my characters’ hair as they traversed the sky with their mighty dragons! If it couldn’t be real, I would fill my mind and my pages with it.
I am the sum of all my experiences with anything fantasy or sci-fi. It could be a movie, a game, a book, anything. I had my Magic cards, my fantasy-themed anime (Lodoss opened up a whole new world for me), and all the used bookstores in the city to help me amass a mighty collection of books. I learned as a teenager about classic literature and its ability to inspire me. Stories and legends, tales of kings and witches and heroism. Beowulf, the various legends of King Arthur, even Inferno. Different versions of ancient lore, translations, mysteries lost to the ages. Greek Mythology made me want to create myths for my own world. Dante’s works made me wonder how to set up the realms of my gods.
I think this is what everyone does, though. How could they not? We take in everything around us; I am sure that even things that are not fantasy and literature had an effect on me, even if it was just making me long so much more to make Lorata real–or as real as being published could make it. And once those experiences, images, and concepts are inside of us (not to mention the music), we filter them, churn them, and use them to create something new.
We all have our own lenses. Mine took everything that I love– and there is far more than what I have mentioned here– and made Lorata. I created a planet, its own mythology, its heroes, it language and traditions. The elves, dragons, and fae are familiar, but I also re-interpreted what angels are in order to make the Starr. As my spiritual beliefs changed, developed, and evolved, and as I studied Anthropology, I became much more open, more flexible in my ability to create the various kingdoms.
After everything that I took in, I wanted to put something out there, fantasy done my way. I’m not saying that my story is the best or the ultimate, but really, “wouldn’t it be great if I told it like this…” So yea… what happens when love for the princess goes wrong? Can elves and dragons live together peacefully? Will the hero always be strong and pure? Is the new king really all that evil, or has he been good for the kingdom?
I think there’s bits and pieces of every story that some other story out there has in common, like some kind of mosaic, or a really complicated venn diagram. Most stories have castles, but not all of them. Westeros and Pern have dragons, but none fly over Sherwood Forest. I have faeries but not unicorns, while many other stories have both. Lorata has sea serpents yet no mermaids, even though I enjoy stories with them. My characters sail on ships from time to time, though they do not face the same things that old Odysseus did, and they are not looking for treasure on distant islands. Stories cannot help but have things in common, the elements that are important to us. It’s how you see into the writer, what is important to him or her. And to me? Well, I suppose you’d see that what I hold dear are dragons, magic, and love.