My passion is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. It is what drives me, It is what makes me want to live and grow and fight. Yet at the same time, it is my greatest weakness. My passion is my strength and my vulnerability. My passion for my boyfriend is underscored by the fear he will leave me. It makes me vulnerable and places me entirely at his mercy. My passion for learning makes me terrified of failure. My passion for my writing is what makes me vulnerable to what other people say. In being my passion, it means my supplication. In being so wound around writing, so dependent on it, in it being a huge part of my core and what makes up me, I have to bare my throat to it, and that submission scares me more than anything else. I have to lay it before everyone else in the world.
In art, I find meaning, and I lose it.
In being an artist, I am exposed.
And that terrifies me.
Whether or not you’re writing fanfics, short stories, genre or the next great thing, there is something that you should always keep in mind when writing, and I cannot stress this enough - your audience.
Your audience defines you. It is what makes your work great. It’s a big task sometimes. Everyone always wants to write for themselves, and you should. You should write what you want to write and how you want to write it. However, writing and reading are so closely tangled together. It’s a big snarly mess, and because it is, a writer is snarled together with their readers sometimes more than they’d like. When you write, you’re creating an interaction between the two of you. This interaction is key when trying to sell or promote your writing. Here are some tips I’ve compiled for when I forget who I am writing for, now available to the general public! Woo!
1) Be aware of your genre and literary conventions. I’ve written about this before, and I will continue to shout it from the mountains. Aiming your writing towards a specific audience is good. It is always good.
2) Be aware of your language and your demographic. I’ve told this before to people who claimed to be writing for young children and young teens, but whose language was more flowery then a garden described by Shakespeare. A twelve year old is going to quickly lose interest if they’re reading Hemingway, or have to run for a dictionary every few sentences. It’s hard to do this sometimes - sometimes you have to think a little dumber, or with the mind of a child. This is easier for me since I never really grew up, but if you’re having trouble, talk to someone in that demographic. The maturity in your words is very important. The same thing with the issues and underlying themes.
3) Sometimes go a little out of your demographic. Sometimes you have to be a little two-faced, and need to appeal to more then just your specific demographic. This takes skill (I have no idea how to do it unconsciously but I know it can be done and sometimes I am just lucky enough to achieve it…). A good example of this is the television world (because it works so well) is in the cartoon animaniacs or the movie Shrek. Both strongly appeal to children, their main demographic, but are also hilarious to adults because of all the subtext. If you watch animaniacs now as an adult, it is absolutely filthy television and hilarious, but a child would never get it. Harry Potter isn’t filthy, but has enough things going for it that it appeals to almost everyone. Try practicing this, or take notes while watching or reading things that achieve it. Yes, it’s homework, but totally worth it.
4) A little bit of targeting goes a long way. What is your audience looking for? What are they interested in? What are their favourite things to read? What is popular right now? What are key words, tones and phrases used in this demographic? A little bit of research goes a long way. It might make it harder to make something that stands out, but a little bit of creativity and ingenuity can solve that.
5) Know yourself, and know your writing. We’re constantly changing. People are not static, and neither is writing. It is constantly developing as we develop. You adjust, your communication adjusts, how you feel adjusts. We flux, and so does our writing. And even though we are constantly developing, try to know where you stand. Know where you stand as a person, and in your writing. Be strong, and know where you stand. When you know where you stand, your writing might as well, and that can help you do all of the above things that I’ve mentioned. Know where you want to be, and where your writing is.
Again, the usual disclaimer that I’m just kind of bumbling through life and spend too much time on the computer or in imaginary worlds, so you can totally just ignore all of this, no hard feelings, let’s have tea.
I want to be a writer so badly. I try to sink my desperation into my words, that aching need to accomplish something, my willingness to sink into it with my teeth and just hold on. But at the same time, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I won’t work hard enough, that I won’t finish it. That I’ll have all these half-finished stories that are never complete, my characters left hanging, waiting for me to continue their lives so that they can exist. Because I won’t until they do.
It was half past four on a foggy April morning when Barty B. Barts promptly went sane. He had been eating stale Easter jellybeans and was contemplating changing the channel from “Planet of the Apes” when it hit him suddenly, not unlike the falling of an old bowling trophy on his balding crown (which is to say, precisely what happened).
While he was recovering from the effects of this rather heavy blow, he had only just began to realize that his entire outlook on life had drastically changed. However, he wasn’t fully aware of just how monumental his change really was until he switched the channel to watch some European parties argue endlessly on about nothing in particular.
Then, enlightenment. You see, Barty realized that the majority of humanity was, indeed mad, nutters, and absolutely bonkers. Yet, he mused silently, ‘insanity’ itself, its meaning and overall essence, is defined by the majority of society. The majority could be as insane as they wished, and even then dictate that those who were indeed sane were insane, a grave injustice in Barty’s eyes.
The majority would find that a man dressed in a Barney suit humming the battle-hymn of the republic while hopping up and down on one leg on a stump in the countryside could be insane, and odds are that poor Saurian would be locked up in a madhouse to be later devoured by publicity crazed saber-tooth celebrities. A few lonely individuals would understand, but since most of those viewing would be insane, they therefore wouldn’t be able to comprehend the meaningful and deep sentiments behind such an action. The world was most definitely in the pits. How else could a society with silicone implants, instructions on matches and people blowing each other up pointlessly with boom-sticks exist? It would make much more sense if the world were insane and kept locking up the harmless sane ones.
A few hours of plotting later, he dragged up a moldy soapbox from his basement and headed off toPiccadilly Circus, confident and sure in his mission. Upon arriving, he set up a small stage, climbed onto it and began to twist his body into the most peculiar shapes, all the while squawking like a dismembered crow. Within moments, a large crowd had gathered, attracted by this unusual avian contortionist routine. Barty ignored them. Finally, a rather large red-faced man in a bowler hat spoke up.
“Oy there! What are you doing?” he guffawed.
Barty turned a baleful stare on the man. “I’m preparing, of course.”
“To tell you an astonishing secret that I learnt just this morning. It will revolutionizeLondon,Britain, the world even.”
The loud man brayed with laughter. “I’m sure you are. If you had such a secret to tell, you’d have gone to the press.”
Barty turned to the man fully, his body still rippling and moving. “If I were to go to the press, they’d announce it loudly and call in experts. The government would interfere, and they would then issue a public statement and turn it into a giant debate. They’d put it to a vote, and time would be spent pointlessly arguing. Nothing would ever get accomplished, and it’d fade into the background like everything else. That’s not the way to affect change. No, this is much too important to hand it over to people who don’t know what they’re doing. Precious time would be wasted!”
“That actually made a lot of sense,” A fresh-faced university student called out. The crowd tittered its agreement, eyes riveted on Barty. A few cries of ‘bloody government’ and ‘finally someone’s making sense!’ went up.
“So let’s hear this big secret then,” said the man in the bowler hat pompously, puffing out his chest. “I’m a very important man, and I have places to be.”
“Well,” said Barty, unhooking his leg from behind his head and straightening up. “You’re mad.” The crowd hushed.
“I bloody well am not! I’ll have you know I went toOxford!” The man in the bowler hat yelled, his jowls shaking in a hypnotizing manner.
“Oh no, not just you,” Barty said pleasantly. “All of you are quite mad. I have all the proof I need. You spend your times watching other peoples lives on reality TV instead of living your own. You starve yourselves for beauty while others starve for hunger. If that’s not mad what is? Furthermore, the lack of common sense among you is startling. I mean, you need ‘Caution, this beverage is hot’ warnings on your coffee. Now, really people. It’s coffee. It’s bound to be hot. And wars? Yes, because sane people go around blowing people up into little bits for an oft-imagined slight. You’re nutters, the lot of you. I’m brilliant compared to all of you. I’ll embrace my sanity outside of society, thank you very much.”
The crowd stirred uneasily. The crazy man on the soapbox was making an awful lot of sense. Something began stirring deep inside of them, and truth began to slowly dawn on them
“That’s what’s wrong with you people, you’ve lost your sense of feeling, of understanding, of random acts of joy. Where’s the fun? The love? You walk around in drudgery…” Barty’s voice grew louder as he began as he began to approach the real moment of truth.
Unfortunately, at that moment, two police bobbies approached them.
“Oy!” The plumper of the two called out to him. “What’s this then? You can’t do that here son. Create an uproar you will. Disturbance of the peace and all. Kindly desist and run along then. We don’t want to have to put you away.”
“Sod off.” Barty said, turning back to the crowd that was eagerly awaiting his next few words. The larger policeman turned a brilliant red and sputtered indignantly, frothy spittle flecking his multiple chins.
“That’s a warning sir. Now come along quietly, or I’ll have to resort to physical force.” The crowd cried out angrily at them.
“Sod off! He’s trying to tell us something!”
“Go away! Bloody policemen!”
Both policemen were now quivering with anger. “One more warning sir.”
Barty said something unrepeatable and made a rude gesture.
With a roar both policemen attacked. Within moments poor Barty was crumpled on the pavement, his eyes rolling senselessly as a goose-egg sprouted on his brow.
“Now now. That man was about to tell us something important.” A housewife clucked reprovingly as the policemen dragged Barty away.
“Really? What exactly was he talking about?” the younger one asked with mild interest.
The women clasped her child’s hand and screwed up her face in order to remember. “I can’t rightly remember now…it was something important. I know it. It was terribly interesting.” She frowned down at her shoes. “Something very important. If only I could remember…”
“Well, that’s a pity,” he said, as he loaded Barty into the back of a Lorry.
“Indeed,” she replied as she stared down at the tabloid magazines in her hand. “Such a pity.”
… … .
Excerpt from the morning talk show on New News KZ103
“…in other news, a man who was charged last month with disturbance of the peace and whom was judged insane and was incarcerated at St. Barnaby’s Home for the Mentally Ill was found dead today in his isolated cell. Police aren’t saying much about the incident except that he was found partially devoured. However, rumor has it that Madison LaJolie, a local celebrity, has been taken into custody after dental records matched her unusually long canines to the marks found on the body. As for the war in the East, 130 civilians were needlessly killed in a…”
I’m working on the saddest/most gruesome story I’ve ever worked on, so here, have some gruesome but quirky fiction exercise from class last year.
Death and Cocktails
by Hannah Birss (theroadpavedwithwords)
When Michael Dosser was five, he walked into his kitchen and found a dead woman. She was blonde, with her hair fanned out against the white tile floor like a halo that fluttered in the breeze from the quietly whirring ceiling fan. Angry bruises marred a lovely white throat, and and blood was smeared across her left cheekbone like some gruesome tribal war paint. Her lifeless jade eyes started up at the ceiling, and her bright red lips were parted.
“How interesting!” A woman declared once at a cocktail party when the rather morbid subject of death came up.
“What in the hell was she doing there?” An opulently fat man asked, his jowls shaking as he raised a half-empty martini to his cavernous mouth. A black opal ring gleamed from a sausage finger. They all had looked at him expectantly.
Michael swallowed, and in a quiet voice explained “My father was the Silttown Strangler.” At that, most had moved away and avoided eye contact for the weeks.
He almost always neglected to mention that the dead woman was his mother.
Michael had a rather unfortunate history with dead bodies, beginning with finding his mother laid out on that familiar, careworn floor. Next, of course, came the discovery by police of several more buried in the backyard to match his mother and a dozen others left littered around the old coal-mining town.
Michael moved into his grandmother’s while his father was arrested. However, his father never made it to trial. Instead, he was found hanging in his cell by a crudely constructed rope made out of braided dental floss and hardened toilet paper. That was Michael’s second funeral in as many weeks.
To comfort him, his grandmother bought him a dog – a tiny Springer spaniel that little Mikey named Bones. Bones was later found at the side of the road, with Michael sitting quietly beside him.
And so it was. His connection with the dead continued; from the homeless man behind the convenience store dumpster at his high school job, to the dead girl with the slit wrists in the college boys’ locker room, and then, finally, the half-decayed body of his grandmother waiting for him in her favourite paisley chair one year when he came home for Christmas.
Yes, death had a particular fondness for Michael Dosser.
So when he arrived home one night to find the fat cocktailer dead, throat slashed with a crimson bib staining an immaculately white shirt, he wasn’t all that surprised. The man sat at his kitchen table, and in his hand an empty martini glass hung limply. The black opal winked at Michael as he took in the scene – the blood, the body, and the green olive that had rolled under the kitchen table.
The man and the body regarded one another.
“See,” Michael said with a sigh. “I knew this was going to happen.”
The dead man didn’t respond.