On Writing: Embracing Playfulness

My goal as a writer is to learn all I can and to be so accomplished and confident that I can write whatever and however I wish and be able to stand by it. Too many new writers think they don’t need to follow the rules, that they can set their own style, which is true up to a point, and that point is readability. What I want is confidence coupled with readability. Following the style others have set is not my way, but so far I haven’t found a distinct voice.

One way I am trying to find that voice is by embracing playfulness. When I’m trying to figure out where to go with a story or a scene, I brainstorm, stringing incongruities and absurdities together, the more ridiculous the better. Not only does it get my mental juices flowing, sometimes those ridiculous ideas are the perfect answer to the problem of what comes next.

Silliness has added some interesting twists to my books. My novel, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, is about a disease that wipes out most of the population of Colorado. About half way through the writing, I hit a wall. I tried brainstorming with a friend, and he had no interest whatsoever in my plight, so being silly, he said I should forget the book and write about zombies. I laughed at the suggestion, but the idea took hold. Since the disease was a rapidly mutating one, I had the disease go through a short spurt where the victims turned into zombies. Gave the book an interesting twist, mostly because even though the idea started out being silly, it ended up being spooky. Odd, that.

One thing I have not been able to silly my way out of is my habit of using too many pronouns. He did this. He did that. He went here. He went there. It’s the mark of an amateur, but more than that, I don’t like it. I should be able to come up with a better way of telling the story. And maybe someday I will.

Until then, all I can do is write, perfect the craft, and embrace playfulness.

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