Or: The Call to (talking about) Adventure
Sometimes the world is wacky and unexpected, as is its wont. Sometimes it’s even the good kind of wacky and not the oh for the love of blather what’s the new crisis? kind.
Which is to say: about a month ago, my friend D from high school reached out to ask if, hey, would I be interested in doing a tele-talk with some of her middle school class who was studying hero myths / hero’s journey paradigms? (why yes, Lucas was a fan of Campbell’s take on The Hero’s Journey. See, I didn’t just randomly throw in a cute SW toy pic for no reason. There was at least half a reason. Possibly a third of one. Look, I’m bad at math).
As part of the unit, D’s kids were writing their own hero stories. D knew my spec fic geeky ways from back in the ancient times, but she also knew I’d published some stories professionally, and she wondered if I might be interested in talking to her students about my writing process. After the epic battle of Captain TheyLikeMe and the Imp Postor Syndrome on the battlefield of my brain, I cracked my neck and said sign me up.
Since it’s no fun without a cliffhanger twist: I realized that, in order to talk about my process, I’d have to face the new level boss: what the heck is my process? The name of my previous blog notwithstanding, the fact is, my process is kind of all over the place. About the only thing that’s worked consistently is being willing to change everything else up when it stops working.
Write what you know and all that; I decided to start with right there, with that ultimate disclaimer and the only absolute I have when it comes to writing advice: there is no universal writing advice.
(Yes, I made sure to point out that throw the rules out the window if you don’t like them wasn’t the lesson they should be taking back to D’s classroom for general application to all learning. I’m not entirely free of sense, even if sometimes the needle dips low.)
The let’s-call-it-intentional theme wound up being all about mix and match. I think my favorite part was sharing the awesomesauce that came when I figure out that writing may need to end up with an order, but hell if you have to compose it with one. I got a kick out of realizing that, for me at least, stories are puzzles. When they’re done, you have a thing, and the thing is complete as a unit, but there’s no real rules for how to put that thing together. Maybe you do the border first, maybe you do the obvious “this is our clock face” part because it’s easy to see. Maybe you want to tackle the ridiculous stretch of nearly undifferentiated star field because you’re cranky or you want to reward yourself at the end with a quick finish. It doesn’t matter! You need all the pieces, but when you’re done, no one knows what the hell order you chose to get them all in place.
I also semi-succeeded in a Q&A session. At least, I’m assured that the level of participation I got was elevated for the age group. I think it helped that I was down to talk about whatever. When I asked about folks’ favorite stories and I not only didn’t balk when one student said “manga,” but actually asked which genre of manga was their favorite. That I was on board for the student whose favorite book was a classmate’s work in progress (as I, too, am a fan of the work of my bestie). And that, when one of the kids asked me if I’d seen “the Justice League movie,” I asked which one (it was a question where we were trying to define dystopia, and where I talked about what I thought the difference was between a dystopia and a post-apocalypse, so if you’re also asking which one, I suspect you can now guess).
This was apparently a thing the kids talked about with D after: that the author their teacher brought in liked manga and was cool with talking about super heroes. Which, if I have to be remembered for something, isn’t bad. Nor entirely off-brand.
In any event, the minds of the youth apparently were not driven to the dark side, and I survived the encounter, myself. And I even have, you know, half an idea about crazy things like how I write stories. Maybe.