Today's learnings - GENREHad a different venue for school today - Cornwall Park, in Auckland's suburb of Royal Oak. Took a while for the sun to really come out but it is nice to notice it's getting lighter earlier.
Today I was getting the same message from both barrels: Genre.
The Writing Experiment said there were really only three basic genres: realism, surrealism and satire.
Of course there were many other ways of classifying writing, but those ones were helpful for what I was learning. The exercise for today, writing a realistic character description, that is, something that we can relate to in the real world. Here's what I wrote:
His keen blue eyes surveyed the surface of the wood for any imperfections. Large hands, sandpapered rock hard, turned the object over, making sure that glue and nails had done their job. He stood up and stretched, realising he had been in an uncomfortable crouching position for some time. As he did, he caught his own reflection in the mirror. Where once had been sandy-coloured hair, the colour of stone began to show through.
As I type this out, I realise some areas I could tighten up on. That's one of the first things I learnt about writing, you can always say it better with less:
His keen blue eyes surveyed the surface of the wood for any- take out imperfections. Large hands, sandpapered rock hard, turned the object over, making sure that glue and nails had done their job. He stood up - take out and stretched, realising he had been in an uncomfortable crouching position for some time or, had been crouching uncomfortably for some time. As he did, he caught his own reflection in the mirror. Where once had been sandy-coloured hair, the colour of stone began to show through.So anyway, that's realistic, descriptive writing. The next challenge was to write it in a surreal way, where the impossible can happen. I'm surprised that I found this hard, particularly when I'm fond of the Goon Show, Monty Python and the Simpsons... here's what I came up with:
His keen blue eyes stared as the wood's pattern moved like that of a kaleidoscope. Surely wood didn't do that. Then the object began to turn itself, shifting in and out of shape, ensuring he saw all the mistakes he had made in its construction, its pattern now turning into a juvenile, accusing face.
That kind of gave me a psychological theme: this creation is the man's child. So for the satirical description - which, again, I found hard, without some definite theme - I used the same story but made the character shallower and more archetypical (the father who loves to lose himself in the workshop):
His eyes gazed on his most beloved child - a bookshelf. The workshop walls were lined with his previous favourites - children who had outgrown their novelty and, instead of leaving home and starting their own families, now silently gathered dust in the gloom. Their father stretched, glimpsed himself in the mirror, grinned, and reflected: "I'm a legend!"Like I said, no theme. But that's where this book is interesting: it aims to help you know where to start, even when you don't have an idea.
However, what I'm learning in Story - and I think just how I am as a person - is showing me that you need ideas, you need story. You need substance.
After going through the three basic genres, The Writing Experiment talked a bit about poetry. That was kind of cool, but the trouble with some of the modern stuff is it makes absolutely no sense except to its writer. That's fine as self-expression, if the writer simply wants to express themself to themself. But I believe art should communicate, and you need some common standard to do that.
Meanwhile, Story had a word or two about genres as well. Instead of looking at genres of writing, this looked at genres of story, and specifically movies.
There are a lot! As you'll no doubt see every time you go to the video store. And they're constantly evolving, changing to reflect society.
Key takeaways from this mornings Story readings:
- Your story should reflect the present, even if it's a historical or sci-fi drama. It needs to be relevant to the zeitgeist of the time.
- Figure out what genre your story will be in, and research that genre real good. Why? Because your readers or viewers will know it, and they'll know if you're unconsciously doing something that's been done before, and be bored with it.
- Your memory. What emotional experiences can you bring to this story so you can relate?
- Your imagination. Fill in the gaps where you can't relate. Write a day in the life of your protagonist.
- The Facts. Pretty important, but rightly in the third place on this list.