Writers Blog Tour

Last week, the enormously talented scrivener and funny man John Hunter (http://www.theendisnigel.com/john/) invited me to take part in the Writers Blog Tour, wherein writers all around the globe answer the same four questions on their blogs, then pass on the baton to other writers to keep the chain going.

I don’t know where this all got started or how many writers have taken part, but it’s great fun to trace it back through scores of writers who've participated, as well as to think of all the writers who've still to join in the fun!

So without further ado, here are my answers to the Writers Blog Tour’s four big questions…

1. What am I working on?

Like most writers, I’m always working on a lot of different things at once. I always try to streamline my efforts, to focus on just one or two things, but it never quite works out!

My main project at the moment is a feature screenplay; I've written the first draft and I’m about start on the second draft. It’s a blend of science fiction and dark horror that thematically explores the depths of fear and guilt while our characters explore the depths of a maze buried beneath an alien city.

I’m also working on a show bible to accompany the TV pilot script I wrote over a year ago. This is a one hour drama based (loosely) on the Book of Revelation, but also draws from various myths and deities of non-Judeo/Christian religions.

And on a lighter note, in January I shot the pilot for my quirky comedy web series about an indie rock band, and we’re in the midst of the editing process now. I’m eagerly awaiting the next cut from the editor!

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

The pretentious answer is, any given writer can only write one way: their own. But where’s the fun in not giving specifics?

I write high-concept* ideas, but I always lean towards the human center of the story. A story is nothing without its characters – it’s through them that we understand the implications of whatever high-concept MacGuffin** is driving our story. I always try to create characters I can believe are true to life – real people with real motives and reactions – to play against the monsters and mazes of whatever crazy, nightmarish world I've put them in.

* High-concept narratives are typically characterized by an overarching "what if?" scenario that acts as a catalyst for the following events. Often, the most popular summer blockbuster movies are built on a high-concept idea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-concept

** A MacGuffin is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

3. Why do I write what I do?

A friend recently told me that I never write happy and inspirational stories. While that didn't come as a surprise to me (I've always been attracted to dark sci-fi and horror), it struck me that there are people out there who do write uplifting tales with happy endings. So why aren't I one of them?

There’s clearly something to darkness that I find appealing. My gut reaction is simply that it makes a story more interesting – the stakes are higher when you’re literally fighting for your life. Perhaps that makes it easier to write a story, as it takes real skill to make a reader care about overcoming a lesser obstacle to which not everybody can immediately relate. Everybody can relate to the need to keep breathing. But I think my attraction to dark stories runs a little deeper than just ease of storytelling.

It’s not the happiest moments of our lives that keep us awake at night. In those dark hours, we obsess over our fears and worries, our painful memories and missed opportunities. We stay awake because we want everything squared away and healed, and it bugs us that it’s not. It's like scab we can’t stop picking.

When we see characters in scenarios of heightened pain or fear, it fires up that part of our minds that picks at that scab in the middle of the night. In a selfish way, in allows us to process our own issues. I can’t square away my own bad memories, but I can heal a character’s – at least those characters who survive to the end of the story...

Speaking of not surviving, Death is an inevitable part of life, yet it’s something we fear deeply. Most people are able to ignore it – to assume it’ll come on some other, distant day. I've never been able to think that way – I don’t know why, but death haunts me every day. Perhaps, by exploring the gruesome and horrific deaths of my characters, I can examine death itself – to calculate pain, quantify its stages and nullify the fear. I play out the worst case scenario in the hopes that when my own death comes, at least it won’t be this bad.

4. How does my writing process work?

The short answer is, it depends on the project.

With screenplays, I’ll outline a lot before diving in (especially the middle 60 pages, which for some reason I find the most difficult part of a script). With short stories and novels, I can jump in with the smallest seed of an idea and let the story take me where it wants to go. With journalism, I’ll usually write hodgepodge paragraphs while I’m researching, and then piece it all together at the end like a patchwork quilt and iron it smooth with careful editing.

But there’s one thing that’s universal across regardless of the project: I’ll work on it every day. I like to focus on just one thing at a time – I try to avoid switching back and forth as my work suffers if my concentration is split between too many things. In order to keep everything consistent (the tone, the flow, the point of view, etc), I have to constantly be in touch with the story, working on it every day until it’s done. If I step away for too long, or switch to a different project, I lose the mindset and it can take me a while to get back in the zone.

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If you'd like to follow the Writers Blog Tour, John also nominated Laura Anne Anderson (http://landerson.co.uk/blog/) and James F. Wright (http://wordsthatfit.tumblr.com/) to post their answers this week.

Taking up the challenge next week are two writers who are considerably more talented and accomplished than myself: Mike Carey (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9018.Mike_Carey/blog) and Liz Williams (http://mevennen.livejournal.com/).

Mike Carey wrote Lucifer and Hellblazer for DC Vertigo comics, and currently writes The Unwritten. As M.R.Carey, he's also the author of The Girl With All the Gifts, and as Adam Blake he wrote two mainstream conspiracy thrillers. In between doing those things, he writes TV and movie screenplays, radio plays, game scripts and long, incoherent shopping lists.

Liz Williams is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in Glastonbury, England, where she is co-director of a witchcraft supply business. She is currently published by Bantam Spectra (US) and Tor Macmillan (UK), also Night Shade Press and appears regularly in Realms of Fantasy, Asimov's and other magazines. She is the secretary of the Milford SF Writers' Workshop, and also teaches creative writing and the history of Science Fiction. 

Be sure to check out their answers next Monday!