Monday, August 17, 2015

Removing Blocks

Just the other day, I read a quote by a famous writer, albeit a non-genre writer, who basically said that writer's block is simply a symptom of not being entirely certain where you're going.

It struck a chord, as often, the tales that stick out as being particularly difficult to write are generally those that I begin writing without a clear idea of where they will end - and it also seems that the SFF genre is a particularly fraught genre to write within if you don't know how the tale will end.

Why?  Well, because it's the literature of ideas, and as such, the shiny fireflies of the mind flitter to and fro and bring really neat concepts fully formed into any receptive writerly mind.  Fully formed, that is, except for that small detail of how the story is going to end... meaning you now have this awesome idea that you can't really take anywhere until you think and think and think until you're just about ready to jump out of a window (I believe Asimov mentioned this as his method).

It would be bad enough if all we had to play with was technology, and perhaps that is what made the golden age so delightful.  Black and white, good and bad characters were a given, so all the writer really had to do was to figure out how to use those marvelous new death mittens to beat the bad guy.  It certainly made for entertaining and popular reading, but literature has a way of evolving beyond what works, and pushing the boundaries.

So now we explore not only technology but the workings of unimagined future societies - and that opens up a completely new spectrum of social roles, gender politics and economic modeling.

As delightful as exploring these ideas is, when they came on strong in the 60s, they brought with them a new ambiguity.  Authors were suddenly faced with the need to move beyond black and white and explore the grays inherent in differing points of view.  Suddenly black and white were juvenile concepts, both for good and for bad, and conflict became the province of masters of psychology.

Writers adapted, of course, but writer's block suddenly became a real thing.  Suddenly faced with the need to walk the fine line between favoring idealism or pragmatism - or bashing both, it became paramount to have everything worked out from the beginning or risk writing oneself into a blind corner from which it is impossible to emerge.

Hence, the number of writers sitting around who've never completed a single tale.

And it gets even worse when you realize that some of these people add dragons and elves to this volatile mix.

I'm sure there should be a point to the above, but for the life of me, I can't think what it might be.

Maybe I should have thought of that before setting fingers to keyboard...

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