Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISTP: How I write

Charity over at funkymbtifiction has been exploring the writing processes each the different personality types uses.  This blog was originally a writing blog, though it's mostly switched to movies. Since I've been kind of burnt out on movie review blogging lately (hence the large gaps between post, sorry about that), I thought I might start sharing more about the writing side of my life here.  This seemed a good place to start.

My sister and I recently became fascinated with the personality types defined by the Meyers Briggs tests, particularly when we found they helped explain why we did things a certain way, and why some of our family members with occasionally inexplicable behavior did what they did.  Learning about the cognitive functions associated with each helped make sense of things and helped us learn to change how we communicate sometimes.  

I am an ISTP.  It took me a little bit to figure this out, (even though it was really obvious in retrospect), and it was the funkymbtifiction site, and her comparisons of how the personality types work that helped clarify things.  She also does an incredible job typing fictional characters and providing reasons for choosing that type.  Some famous fictional ISTP characters are Indiana Jones, James Bond, Aragorn...  (Indy was my nickname for years, and I still get called that by my sister sometimes.) 

But anyway, on to writing.  How do I, as an ISTP, write?

First:  reasons I write.  I have always written stories to escape, to do in fiction all the exciting things I wasn’t allowed to do in real life.  In high school, I wanted to be a submarine captain more than anything.  Even applied to Annapolis.  Only to find out women weren’t allowed to be on submarines at that time.  There went my sub captain career dreams.  So, I wrote stories about submarines instead.  My favorite author, and the most influential writer on my own writing, is Alistair MacLean.  His characters had the skills I wanted and they got to do everything I wish I could do in real life.  If he could write exciting thrilling stories about spies and make a living, then so could I.  If I couldn't becomes James Bond in real life, then I could write stories about spies.  I’ve been writing stories to entertain since the fifth grade.  I’ve been daydreaming forever.

Writing habits:  I don’t know if it’s laziness or if I’d just usually rather be outside hiking or doing something, but I have had to build discipline habits for writing regularly.  I’ve been pretty successful at this over the years.  Deadlines are my best friend.  I am most productive right before a story is due, and I haven’t yet missed a deadline.  I also do really well at Nanowrimo because it’s such a rush.  I’ve successfully completed seven nanos, though I haven’t done it for a few years because my needs are different now than they used to be.  Nano itself, I found, is not hard to complete, but I’m at a point in my writing career where my first draft needs to be on track and usable from the get-go.  If I don’t have a project that I understand well enough to keep on track for the full 50,000 words in one month, then I would end up wasting my time.  Time is way too precious to throw away on reaching the necessary word count just because.

I am both plotter and pantser.  I have to know certain things before I can begin a story (characters, character needs, setting, the ending, at least a couple carrot scenes) and I will plot things out in rough terms.  Too much plotting in advance and then I’ve already lived the story and have no great need to write it.  At the same time, as I get ready to write each day, I tend to think through/plot out the scene I’m writing that day.  A scene isn’t a scene unless something changes by the end of it, so this is just my own personal double-check to make sure I know what the scene is supposed to accomplish, and what the twist is in that scene before I begin, otherwise, I’m not ready to write that scene yet and I need to do some more thinking.  But, there’s still much room for surprises, and I have yet to write a book where the characters didn’t surprise me with unexpected actions or reactions.  The plot will often surprise me, but usually the development is something I’ve subconsciously set up and just haven’t realized until I get there.  I almost always have to know how the book ends, and that ending rarely changes on me through the course of writing the book.  That ending is usually the reason I'm writing the book in the first place, to get to that special point.

I’m a very visual writer.  The story I want to tell unspools like a movie in my head, complete with camera angles, cuts, etc.  I’ve read stories back that I wrote years ago, and I still see the scenes with the original “camera” angles.  My writing is usually described by others as visual, as well.  At the same time, I usually have to be able to get inside the head of the character’s point of view I’m writing.  I have to feel what they’re feeling in order to tell the story the way I want to be able to tell it.  Capturing the emotions is extremely important to me.  I was quite verbose in my youth, but my writing these days is concise and as tight as I can make it.  I have learned to say more with less words.

I have only written fanfic for two television shows, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Combat!.  I write fanfic to give myself more episodes of my favorite show.  Brand new adventures.  I have ZERO desire to explore parts of existing episodes, fill in holes, or answer questions episodes left unanswered.  I really don’t care to explore what a character might have been thinking in Z episode when he made that horribly wrong decision.  I don’t like reading those type of fanfics either because they mess with my concept of the original episode.  Once an ep (or movie) is shown, that’s it.  That’s how it goes.  Why would you want to change or add to it or fill in gaps?  I don’t understand this need.

I do not deal well with symbolism and am a literal reader and writer.  Do not make me guess what happens at the end of a story or I will get pissed off.  I was very good in English and literature class, except when I was asked to analyze the meaning of something.  Oh man, torture.  1) I don’t care!  2) I have a very hard time thinking about a story in those terms.  I can give you plot analyses, character analyses (looking at character motivation is much easier than symbolism/theme), but story as metaphor or things like that... I’m outta there.

I do not like to write or read or watch mysteries, either, mostly because they encourage a reader to guess and figure out the mystery with the protagonist, and I don’t want to guess or figure out anything.  Suspense is fine, mystery is not.  I want action and excitement, not whodunnits.  My goal as a writer is to provide escape to the reader, to take them on a wild adventure with people they care about, and to keep them up until two in the morning to find out what happens. 

These days, I mostly write fantasy (short stories, novellas, and novels), although due to commitments to various anthology series, I’ve written a surprising amount of horror short stories.  I’m not actually a fan of horror, so I’m not quite sure how that happened!  My fantasy stories tend to be dark, suspenseful, heroic, and violent.  I have no problems hurting or killing off even my most beloved characters.  I suffer no pangs of guilt about making my characters’ lives as miserable as the plot requires.  Rather the opposite, I’m afraid.  No character is safe.  However, mayhem and destruction must serve the story the same way romance does, or anything other part of the plot.  I do have quite a few themes that matter personally to me, and I tend to revisit those in my stories.

I also have no problem with criticism, and I need my beta readers really to tear my stories apart.  I do not take critiques of my stories personally.  I don’t feel like my baby is being attacked.  I won't cry myself to sleep.  Everything can be improved, but I can’t fix my story if no one points out that glaring logic gap in chapter 12.  If that means I have to rewrite all subsequent chapters, I am soooooo fine with that!  If the ending doesn’t work, tell me!  I can just rethink and make it better.  Nothing is more annoying than a beta reader unwilling to be honest and give it to me straight because they’re afraid of hurting my feelings.  Dude, my feelings can’t be hurt that way.  They can be hurt in plenty of other ways, but not when someone’s trying to give me info to make something better.  (I finally have the best beta reader ever, so this isn’t a problem anymore, but it used to be before I met her!)

(very similar to my first typewriter)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

We have a winner!

Of the least favorite movie category, that is.  Or a loser, depending on how you look at it.  I just got back from seeing Interstellar, and boy, those are three hours I am never ever getting back.  This if officially my least favorite movie of the year, probably the last decade, and it might end up as my least favorite movie of all time.

Spoilers follow... you have been warned.

Let's mention the good stuff -- alien planets!  They are very cool and those waterworld/ice landscapes are amazing and awesome.  They are, in fact, what got me to see the movie in the first place.  Too bad there's not much more to them than what they show in the trailer.  I could have saved myself those three hours.  The only other good thing was Matt Damon's short section. When he was there, there was movement, there was action, there was something halfway entertaining!

And that's it.  The rest sucked.  I'm a big fan of long movies.  Bring on Lawrence of Arabia, and The Lord of the Rings marathons, and all those other epics I love.  This one was interminable.  Ponderous, weighty... it's one of those films that likes to linger over things it considers important, cuz you know, we in the audience might be stupid and not pick up on Important Things.  It dragged, it lingered, it wallowed in its self-importantness, it would not end. 

I don't even mind predictable plots.  Predictable can be nice and comforting, and when done right, very satisfying.  But those movies tend to know they're predictable, and have a much faster pace, and so it isn't an issue.  This one has the pace of an inch worm and seems to think it's not predictable, and so things like Murph's poltergeist (really? Is there anybody in the audience who did not know this would be her father sending cryptic messages back to her? really? (and also, why can no EVER EVER EVER send back a non-cryptic message?)) gets emphasized unnaturally.  Anne Hathaway's character picking which planet to go to based on love rather than on facts, which you just know is going to end up being the right decision, cuz this movie has a Message.  The minute they mention there's a black hole by a couple of the planets, you just know we're going into it, and the black hole segments were even lamer than I could have imagined.

Cuz really, did no one see The Black Hole back in the late 70's?  I remember seeing that sucker in the theater, and my whole family came out going whaaaaat? when it ended.  Time has not improved black hole movies.  Seriously, they rank right up there with the "it was all a dream" movies on the scale of stupidity.  The Black Hole was a silly cheese fest with robots and a John Barry theme I can still sing today after never seeing the movie again after that theater viewing.  Interstellar was a pompous cheese fest with robots and the worst (and loudest) Hans Zimmer score I've ever suffered through.  Yes, I know.  I am not a Hans Zimmer fan.  Quite the opposite.  His name has actually kept me from going to see certain movies in the theater in the past.  And this film has only reinforced those opinions... when the king of repetition gives me a score like this, it's just plain painful.

And that's the problem.  For me, this movie was just plain painful to sit through.  I didn't like the characters, except for Matt Damon's character, and I'm guessing he was supposed to be insane despite seeming rational?  Cuz dude, he could have just said, "Yay!  You rescued me!  Let's get outta here!  My robot went glitchy and recorded bad info and this place really sucks!  Can we leave now?"  And we all would have happily left his planet and that would have been that.  But no.  He'd flipped his wig at some point.  Which, like I said, still provided the only interesting part of the movie.

But the rest of it... it isn't a happy movie, it isn't a sad one.  It isn't scary, it isn't humorous.  It isn't tense.  It isn't exciting.  It really isn't anything at all but three hours of unbelievable boredom.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to come away with.  I was hoping for a fun, exciting adventure in space.  I sure didn't get it.