Friday, November 30, 2012

Why fantasy is hard for me

It's been a busy month, and I haven't checked in much here at Plan D (don't even ask me about my Words Up, Weight Down check-ins!), but my last post about fantasy fiction has been on my mind a lot and I want to further explore my issues with getting too "involved" with fantasy (again).

Brenda and I both make sure we have HBO when the new season of Game of Thrones starts. I watch for new issues of Beneath Ceaseless Skies to load onto my Kindle. And every time I go to any Powell's location, one of the first things I do is check the 'H' section of the Fantasy and Science Fiction shelves to see if any new (to me) Robert E. Howard books have come into the store (to tempt me!).

There might have been a time in my life when I was a bit more fervent about it, but I'm still a fantasy fan. I just happen to consume more horror and monster media than anything else these days. I don't have an issue reconciling the two genres (although those of you who know me know I like my fantasy a bit more dark, more Conan and less Frodo).

As a writer, I tend to write the kinds of things I'm reading or the kinds of things I want to read. For the most part, though, I've managed to tuturned off the part of my brain that wants to write fantasy. I still enjoy fantasy fiction as a consumer, but I've been pretty successful at keeping the fantasy writer at bay.

But every once and a while . . . I hear the clanging swords, the chants of evil necromancers, the horse hooves and all that and I want to try writing it again.

The key word being "again."

I don't lament this because of any sort of lack of enjoyment. I do. My biggest issue is that I can't seem to pull it off. My Robert E. Howard collection is filled with characters that trample through all kinds of worlds, imagined and historical.  The characters push my through the stories.  There's a reason why the character of Conan is more well known (in most circles) than the writer Robert E. Howard.  It's the characters.  (Well, and the action, the description, the plot, etc., etc., but I hope you see my point.)

I'd like to think I'm good at creating characters.  But something happens when I sit down to write fantasy.  I get hung up in the world-building.

From the Submissions guidelines at Beneath Ceaseless Skies:

Beneath Ceaseless Skies publishes “literary adventure fantasy”: stories with a secondary-world setting and some traditional or classic fantasy feel, but written with a literary approach.

This is what I like to read and write - adventure fantasy in a secondary world.  And I LOOOVE creating those secondary worlds, so much so that I get hung up on the setting, the history, the "rules" of any magic (if it even exists), races, geography, economy, mythology, and any and everything else.  I don't think I do this a way to avoid the actual writing.  I enjoy it, and I really WANT to get to telling stories in the world with characters I enjoy hanging out with (at least I hope to enjoy hanging out with through the first draft), but I just find I struggle in this regard.

I've got characters in mind, but as soon as I start putting them to paper, the enthusiasm to tell THEIR stories just starts to fizzle.  I don't know why.  I feel like they're well-conceived and I WANT to want to hang out with them, but there's just something that doesn't work and I find myself spinning my wheels instead of spinning any words.

I don't know where I'm going with this.  I'm not writing fantasy right now - I still have my Super Zecret project in the works, and I have some other stories in various stages of "pre-writing" - but as I've been feeling that tug back to fantasy fiction, I wanted to explore this particular hang-up of mine.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why fantasy is bad for me

Once I discovered fantasy fiction back in grade school, I was immediately hooked.  Lloyd Alexander grabbed me, and I must have read his Chronicles of Prydain dozens of times, often times picking up the first book (The Book of Three) again as soon as I finished the last book (The High King).  A friend of mine and I would see who could read them the fastest.  I loved those books.

In junior high, I stumbled across David Eddings, and a similar thing happened.  The Belgariad became a series that carried me through many math classes that I didn't care about.  And in high school?  A Creative Writing teacher who finally introduced me to Robert E. Howard proper?  (He also introduced me and a few friends to Dungeons & Dragons.  He swore us to secrecy about meeting at his house over the weekend to game as he didn't want it getting out at school that he was teaching D&D to his students.  I think the statute of limitations on that has passed on that . . . )

I've been a fan for years.  (During all this time, I was reading other genres, of course.)

So when I started feeling the draw toward writing, I wanted to write fantasy.

Thing is, I've never had any real success at it.  Not only in the sales department, but in the actually-being-happy-with-what-I-wrote department.  I liked my set-ups, and some of my characters, but things never quite gelled.

It took me a long time, but I finally shelved that urge.  I write . . . just not fantasy right now.  And I'm good with that.  I'm enjoying what I'm writing now.  And I still read Howard, but haven't read a lot of fantasy seriously (outside of Martin) since.

Then Bren came home from work last night with a copy of LEGO Lord of the Rings.  We like the Lego videogames - they're puzzle-based, they're co-op, they're fun - so I'm not complaining about that.  It was a BLAST playing a game with my wife last night.

But those sword-on-sword sound effects ring out, that Howard Shore Lord of the Rings music plays, and my brain starts to itch again.  And then I start thinking about writing fantasy.

Sigh.  Curse you, LEGO . . . CURSE YOU!  Don't you know I have a super Zecret project in the works?  A collection of short stories I need to edit?  Why?  WHY?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: Missing October Already


The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category. October is over, which means, with the occasional clearance sale, Halloween is already a distant memory in the collective mind of the masses. And I already miss it . . . especially for the following thirteen reasons.

- Halloween-themed reality televisionFace Off (although I think of this as more a long-form game show).  Making Monsters.  Hell, even Halloween Wars.  My favorite holiday has been getting some representation in TV's most popular (for better or worse) genre for several years now, and I dig it.  I love being able to flip through TLC, Food Network, the channel formerly known as The Sci-Fi Channel, etc., and see series or specials devoted to all things Halloween.  Makes me happy.  Deal.

- Non-horror-specific podcasts going all-horror-all-month.  I don't just listen to horror-related podcasts, and it's nice to hear them all get into the spirit of things during the month of October.

- Horror movies all over the place.  When was the last time I walked into a Walmart or Target and saw horror movies in the check-out lane?  Last October.  Sure, I probably either already had them or didn't want them, but it's still nice to look over when I'm paying for groceries and can see Pinhead or Elvira looking back at me.

- Horror "stuff" all over the place.  Even places like Powell's City of Books put up a bit more than normal in terms of mood-setting in their Horror aisle.

- Wearing my horror- or monster-themed t-shirts.  Granted, I wear them all year 'round, but I feel like I can puff out my chest a bit more.

- The weather.  I live in the Pacific Northwest, and it rains a lot, but the temperature, the nip in the air, the moisture . . . October weather makes me REALLY happen, even if it gets a little wet.

- No one looks twice at my monster-/horror-movie artwork/memorabilia at work.

- People in my life that don't normally talk horror movies with me not humoring me when it comes up in conversation.

- Not feeling bad about blowing my weight-loss goals over eating bowls of Franken Berry or Count Chocula.

- Season/Halloween-specific food and drink items.  I'm sure if I look hard enough, I can find things like Celestial Seasonings' Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea elsewhere, but even before Halloween, it disappeared from the shelves of the local New Seasons Market.

- Halloween-specific businesses.  I didn't go to any haunted houses this year (next year I'll plan better!), and, unfortunately, Brenda and I didn't make it out to any corn mazes, but I fantasize about these being available to me anytime I want to hop in the car and go to one.  And while most of the Spirit Halloween stores are usually a nightmare (and not in a good way) to visit, knowing that there's one over by one of the bookstores I probably spend too much time/money at was a bit comforting.

- Horror films in the theater.  I was able to see Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Night of the Living Dead theatrically this past October, and if I rearranged my calendar, I could have seen the original Halloween and Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn.  A drive to Seattle would have put me in front of Phantasm.  How often do opportunities like this come up?  Other than in October, that is . . .

-Having a ready excuse to put off anything and everything because, hey, "It's Halloween."

(And, as a bonus, the best thing about the first few days/first week after Halloween?   The sales.  This weekend, we're so making the rounds at various stores in the neighborhood.  Halloween costume supplies?  Halloween make-up?  Even Halloween-themed fabric at the fabric store?  Good thing I get paid on Friday . . . )