What do you want to write about?

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Since we have a fair number of people exchanging critiques of their work, I thought it might be a good time to kick off some broader introspection.

The question I'd like to address here is not one of style or motivation but of Content. Irrespective of genre or form WHAT is it that you feel driven to write about? What are the concerns that you wish to address, the issues that you want to illuminate? It doesn't have to be anything earth-shaking, but it helps to know what it is that you want to explore as a writer.

Here is an attempt at my own answer:

Individual freedom, and its role in a larger set-up, is probably what concerns me most. I'm interested in exploring different kinds of social, political and cultural environments and the options they provide to individuals. I'm interested in exploring these concerns in a variety of ways.

To illustrate, a short piece I posted elsewhere here, 'World Without End' explores aspects of the dynamic between divinity and faith, but it also illustrates my fear that the existence of god/s would totally undermine any possibility for freewill.

A story that I am yet to complete, 'The Macchiavelli Device', portrays an archetypal dictator, Henry Temujin Lee, benign despot of a multi-planetary bureacratic state. Lee is faced with a rather annoying thorn in his side - a group of dissidents who carry out acts calculated to make him seem absurd, thereby undermining his authority more than any overtly hostile act would. Lee decides to infiltrate the group and find out what to do. Here, I was faced with two possible endings:

One, Lee finds that the dissidents are mere dilletantes for the most part, and he resigns his post and turns power over to the dissidents, knowing that in time they would become the oppressors in turn and he could return to power, either by popular acclaim or through superior politicking. In the meantime, he retires to a planetary resort for a long-delayed vacation.

Two, Lee realises that, worked the right way, the dissidents' activities could serve as a useful release valve for public grievances, diverting them from more important issues or viable solutions. So he becomes part of the group, eventually functioning both as Dicatator and his own adversary.

Neither ending is what I would wish for in any world where I live, but both would be natural courses of action for a man such as I envisaged Lee to be. Basically, a very canny, intelligent authoritarian, much like Julius Caesar seems to have been.

Well, these are the sorts of things I would like to explore, and I hope the examples helped make sense of it.

Over to you! :)
 

littlemissattitude

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This is an interesting question, knivesout.

Power relationships and how they affect people's freedom have fascinated me for ages. We see it all around us today. People maneuvering to gain power, and inevitably limiting others' freedoms when they get it - it's ugly, but it is a fact of life. What amount of wielding of power is justified, and how far can people legitimately go in claiming personal freedom. This sounds a little bit like what you mentioned, knivesout. I'm especially interested in this in relation to community - how much confomity is the community justified in demanding and how much freedom is the individual justified in demanding? I don't know if this is what you had in mind, but it is something I've thought about a lot for a long time. I think I'm more prone to looking at this working in nonfiction, which is mostly what I've done in the past. I can see some interesting possibilites in fiction too, though, in this area.

In fiction, specifically, I have been playing with ideas for some time now to explore the issues surrounding immortality. Some of these issues are very serious, and some of them can be highly whimsical. I've got a character I've been developing who is very, very old and hasn't always dealt with it terribly gracefully. I'm just looking for a story to drop him into now. I've tried a few things that ultimately ended up not working. But he's one of those characters that just won't let go of my imagination, so maybe I'll figure his story out.

Those are just a couple of things that come to mind immediately, both because I've been thinking about them for a long time and because they play a part in things I've been working on recently. They both sound so heavy and serious. Maybe it's the mood I'm in.
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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littlemissattitude said:
...one of those characters that just won't let go of my imagination, so maybe I'll figure his story out.
I know the feeling. :( Mine is called 'Ria of the Solitudes' and she's immortal too, oddly!

It seems as if our concerns do coincide fairly well - although the great thing is, I'm sure we'll find different ways to explore them.

Immortality is a fascinating topic. You may want to check out Ken MacLeod's novels, where he often depicts people who have achieved near-immortality and how this effects their personalities. Then again, if this is a topic you are writing about, it might be best not to read anyone else's ideas on it!

OK, next? C'mon, fess up?:D
 

littlemissattitude

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It's funny...I always try to not read what others have written that is similar to what I'm writing about when I'm doing fiction, but I always end up doing it anyway. Non-fiction is a whole other thing...reading what others have written is self-defense in this day and age when it's all too easy to get blamed for copying even when that copying is inadvertent. So I read, take voluminous notes, and have them in front of me when I'm writing so that I make sure to attribute whenever necessary and make sure that I haven't put something exactly the way another writer has. Fortunately, I had an archaeology instructor one semester who, in the course of writing our research papers, taught the class the fine art of paraphrasing. This is also why I am a great believer in footnotes when I'm writing non-fiction. That's where you can discuss the effect other writers have had on your ideas without interrupting the flow of the narrative, while still making sure you give all credit where it is due. That's the one thing I hate about writing non-fiction - it can be a minefield if you don't follow all the rules.
 

Vodstok

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I have a few subjects i routinely return to:

Equality is a big motif for me. Usually ajuxtaposition of intolerant villains and accepting heroes.

I love "What if?" situations. My serial, Gloom, for instance, is a "What if a person was thrust into a completely hopless situation, but was determined to survive?"

It also boils down to, what would a video game be like if it were a first person written story?


I also gain guilty pleasure from building a story out of a single, interesting idea. Here is a basic example (and I am writing this one right now), " A man makes a device capable of using ancient spells and rituals to summon and contain creatures from hell for the purpose of learning about/from them" Now, Time to come up with a plausible, interesting plot, good characters, and a readable conflict and resolution.
 

Brian G Turner

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Ideas. That's what I really want to write about.

Back in 1997 I went through some mind bending experiences - if you can imagine somehow reading a childrens encyclopedia from the 25th century in your mind. That's what it was like.

I came away from it with some extraordinary - yet original and practicable - theories that I could and should be able to put into writing for the benefit of others. I've had a sense of destiny since I was a child - to share those ideas I consider a very important part of that.

I actually get New Scientist every week just to see how close they are to discovering my ideas. They are getting pretty close now. If I don't get Emperor published soon then I may have blown my chance. That would be an horrific experience.

I love social and moral issues as well. :)
 

polymorphikos

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I feel foolish saying it, but my stories are all basically evolutions of being a little kid, put into some context of sci-fi or fantasy. I usually write about the things that control us and powers (usually benevolent) that we should avoid. In that way I could cite Lovecraft as an influence, but I was doing it before I read him. I also have a fascination with utter hopelessness, and I've written a lot of very pessimistic stories where not a single good thing happens. Ultimately, it all boils down to extrapolating the nightmares about monsters in the shadows under your bed until they become gods and real monsters, and trying to use them to explain my fascination with wanting to find stuff out, and know everything, and how we really already have most of the answers.

Sorry if that made no sense whatsoever.
 

Myla Starchild

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Good thread, knivesout! :) Hmmmmm...

In my various stories, screenplays and projects I have on the go at the moment, I'm trying to incorporate my own theology and philosophy into stories that are entertaining and enjoyable for others to read. I want to share my views with the world, in a non-boring form, and be successful doing it.
With War Tiger (read it here), I'm trying to break down stereotypes within fantasy, and bring it to a wider audience that it usually reaches. I want to get the image of the nerdy D&D-playing, bespectacled 17-year-old fantasy geek out of everyone's head. Also, War Tiger isn't a "medieval" fantasy story - it's a mix of ancient, medieval, Victorian and futuristic settings, with modern society and dialogue. I think I've managed to create a believable world fusing these themes.
Also, I just love to create characters, and write about their stories :p
 

Brian G Turner

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Nothing wrong with that, polymorphikos. :)

I also like your comments, Myla - "I'm trying to incorporate my own theology and philosophy into stories that are entertaining and enjoyable for others to read. I want to share my views with the world, in a non-boring form, and be successful doing it." And I wan to break down fantasy stereotypes in chronicles as well. :)
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Well, this is turning out to be quite interesting, and I enjoyed hearing from everyone. :)

I'm currently trying to spin a little piece I posted here a while ago ('World Without End') into a longer story. I'm actually trying to play out my ideas about freewill and also some of my 'mystical' notions about natural forces into a coherent story arc, at the end of which I want to maroon my protagonists into another level of conflict.

It's fascinating and tiring, and also puzzling, because I'm finding that my story is demanding a more fantasy setting than an SF one. I'm trying to keep it clean though, by not resorting to anything I've read of in other fantasy. Odd, how a story can drag you into unexpected territory. Happily, the other story I'm working on is more SF.
 

Vodstok

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Knivesout, that is an interesting point. I got a slow start with writing in the beginning because i had a hard time dealing with my plot and idea of what i was writing evolving from what i had originally intended, while i was writing it.

Now i have learned that this is a good thing, i concede that the narritive flow is taking me where it needs to be for the story to be good, and dont lose any sleep over it.

Of course, when it causes you to rethink how/why you are writing the piece in the first place, it can get frustrating. It also doesnt help when you end up painting yourself into a corner. That is where the real test comes.

Of course, if you are a Hollywood script writer (ay least one of the many "talented" individuals they keep on hand to write things like "Tomb Raider" :rolleyes: ), you can change the entire feel, or just make something up in that case. Are the heroes trapped, with no way to escape from the crumbling rock over the lava pit? No problem, here is where we introduce the flying donkey that was referenced in one line at the very beginning of the picture.

Sorry, got a little cynical for a second.
 

Myla Starchild

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I hear what you're saying Knivesout - War Tiger's absolutely unrecogniseable from what it was when I started four years back! Which is good.


What I found was as I developed the characters, the plot developed withthem, especially when I made up someone new, until it became as complex as it is now (is that good? I can't tell.) And as I wrote, I wanted to come up with an original philosphy for the writing, so I started thinking more about the ideas of Light and Dark, and hopefully one day you'll all get to find out what my ideas are!
 

Hypes

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My current interests when it comes to writing are the theories concerning evolution, in particular. More specifically, my own perceptions and theories of our purpose in life and existence. This is my current project and is what I jope to portray through what I am writing.
These theories are probably the closest I will ever come to a personal religious belief, as they basically encompass my perceived purpose in life, the universe and everything. It is a belief I will admit was spurred on by both David Zindell through his Danlo books, and Buddhism.

Quite an odd pedigree of influence, I suppose, but it works and I find it surprisingly plausible.
But I digress.

My long lost and mostly forgotten point is that my novels and other work deal primarily with these questions.

Also, I have an interest, like a few of the other posters on this thread how individuals and cultures interact with "unknowns". Not aliens, per se, at least not in my current project, but mre along the lines of different venues of human development. I want to explore the fear and loathing which is so prevalent with ignorance. I want to investigate how this influences a person from his childhood and forward throughout his life and how this environment reflects on his attitude and general outlook.
I want a character that portrays and explores how it is to be utterly alone, I suppose.
 

littlemissattitude

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I said:
Not only do our resident aspirants want to write good stories, but they also want to philosophise in their work?

Sounds like good company. :D
Well, somebody's got to force people to think, don't they?:p ;)

Honestly, that is one of my goals in my writing. I mean, I love books that make me think - I just want to pass on the favor.:)
 

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

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Indeed. This madness must be stopped at once!!!


BTW, good to see someone else who has read Zindell - hardly anyone seems to have heard of him these days, and I think I can understand how his books can be a primary influence on you. They certainly expanded my mind when I read them.
 

Dead Riverdragon

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Hmm, I've tried reading Zindell's The Lightstone, but found it pretty vapid and the plot seemed to be crawling to nowhere. Having said that, the more I write the less patience I have for reading fiction, and I didn't get more than a third of the way through, if that. Does he have better stuff, or is this just a matter of the wrong horse for the wrong course?
 

polymorphikos

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Depends on your definition. The Broken God is very rich, and the plot's fairly interesting, but it depends on if you preffer character- over plot-driven books or not. Then again, have you ever read Staying On? It's like a sedate Tarantino film with old English people and fewer ninja assassins.
 

Hypes

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My main gripe with Zindell is his way of portraying Danlo. he comes across as a standard religious zealot who has "seen the light" and it really grates on my nerves. Luckily, Mallory Ringess, Bardo, Soli and the Timekeeper are all very rich and enjoyable characters.

Zindell has a flair of going overboard with flowery prose, and it does get a bit much at times. He did, however, manage a very good balance in Neverness, I reckon. You should give it a look, Dead Riverdragon.

As for his ideas - well, they're just brilliant. ;)
 

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