I recently started a writing group with some ladies from my church. I ended up, including myself, with six writers who are interested in attending on a regular basis. Four out of those six writers are developing characters in fantasy setting, be it swords and sorcery or urban. The other two are doing memoir type writing – one, the very real story of her husband’s stroke, the other a fictional “life” story pulling from her own adventures. At our next meeting I hope to have a poet present.
The question is, can these unique and different writers share stories we can all relate to? Can we talk about voice, setting, description, movement, and dialogue without losing the poet or the life story writer?
I think we can. In fact, I’m pretty determined to keep our miss-matched group together, and so are the other writers. Why? Why don’t I just have one meeting with the fantasy writers, since that’s what I write, and let the others go do their own thing with their own group? Cause we are going to be better writers when we are fed by other genres.
A steady diet of sugar and coffee, while yummy, isn’t good for me. In the same vein, a steady diet of fantasy will make me ingrown and under-developed. I can write much better fantasy if I let my influences be non-fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction and classic literature. My writing is fuller and more flushed out when I watch movies, visit friends, tell stories and explore my town. My writing is better when I people watch be it literally or….literally.
I hope with my writing group I can find a way to talk about “voice” without leaving behind any of my fellow writers. More than that, I hope I can encourage the fantasy writers to be more real, less campy, and the real writers to be more fantastical. I hope I can have the right word to say when a fellow writer is feeling down and encouraged. I hope that when I’m feeling down and encouraged, my fellow writers can lift me up.
Since I have several young writers, a couple of middle-aged writers, and one long time writer, I think it is very important to expose ourselves to other worlds and other minds. Does this mean that at times those of us who write fantasy have to make sure we don’t dominate the conversation with how much we love our fictional characters? Yes. Does it mean that sometime the non-fiction writers have to step into the function of reader instead of writer? Yes. But therein lies the beauty. We all have to sacrifice for each other. We have to step outside of our comfort zone for the sake of the woman on the other side of the table. Serving those around us is a much better act than focusing on what I want to focus on.
I don’t often read other fantasy writers. I even more rarely read other urban fantasy writers. I find that it doesn’t challenge me as a writer. I’m not encouraged to stretch. I’m often encouraged to settle or even be lazy. It often doesn’t even challenge me as a reader. I learn nothing, gain nothing, and usually walk away disappointed. There are exceptions to this. I love a good Larry Corriea story, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. All are excellent spinners of a good yarn. But when I read outside my own writing zone, when I read Band of Brothers, With the Old Breed, Brave Men, Gentle Heroes, The Thirteenth Tale and Manhunter, my own heroes take on a depth and richness comparable to a rich stout or a smooth cigar. Their pain becomes more intense, and thus their joy and salvation more real. My warriors have a ring of truth to them cause I have studied warriors. My police officers step away from the cardboard cutouts endemic to the non-combatant and take on the crisp outline of real men who uphold the law. My women are less nagging, and stronger, braver and supportive. Reading other genres holds me accountable. Reading other genres keeps me sharp and fresh.
Diversity is important. When we all try to be the same, live the same, have the same stuff, life gets pretty darn boring. I don’t think we all need to be equal cause if we are, there is nowhere for us to grow. If we aren’t different there is no way to change. I hope the six to seven women sitting at my table once a month can reflect this.
Musical Muse: Mumford and Sons. You know, it’s funny, I’m pretty strongly a heavy metal girl, but I can’t seem to get enough Mumford and Sons. I get in my car to run errands, visit friends, or help my parents or siblings with every intention of jamming to some Metallica or Five Finger Death Punch. The first few strains of Mumford plays before I can switch albums and I’m screwed. All I want to do is listen to Mumford. I love the sad struggle in their music. I love the reality of their music, but most of all I love the salvation in it.