(Note: this has opinions of one person generalizing to the entirety of the field of writing, so salt to taste.)
“In a dismal bog where a city sleeps, where only the crows speak the truth, a soul returns to find the body it was wrought from.”
“Instead of going nuclear, World War 2 was punctuated with accelerated biological warfare.”
“The CEO was put into a coma using the company’s newest robot assistant product and only five people could have done it, but who?”
“Its a romance but the Frog Prince accidentally turns their true love into a likewise magical frog, but she’s cool with it.”
These are great, interesting ideas, but the last one is most likely to be written by me. It does something that I feel most defines me as a writing. It focuses on a character.
I love characters. I’m helplessly dependent on focusing on building a character first, and then thrusting them against a world. This may not seem like much of a revelation, but so many writers have so many billions of ways they go about their work. All stories must have world building, characters, plot, and ambiance (and if you consult other “essentials of writing” there are a billion other must-haves), but not all authors start from the same source.
I gravitate towards characters, because ultimately, that’s what I like most about what I read. In a lot of ways, being so focused on characters makes my life much easier. In a lot more ways, I am super jealous of other types of writers. (I think every writer is secretly or, as is my case, not-so-secretly jealous of every other writer for something. Each writer does something, or many things that another writer wishes they could do as well. This, in my opinion, is a truism. Anyone who thinks they aren’t jealous of another writer is likely not looking hard enough, or isn’t actually as good as they think.)
World-building focused writers tend to be locked into a fantasy or sci-fi setting, because there’s not as much world building necessary in a realistic modern setting (that isn’t to slight those that world build in that very setting, it can and does happen! And historical fiction is so intrinsically tied to world-building “correctly”! I am not trying to start a fight!) World building takes so much time, and I tend to build organically, as the story needs, rather than lay out four hundred pages of rules, maps, and acceptable deviations from science-as-it-exists-today. I don’t have the patience for it, but the worlds out there are so rich and full and lived in that I am constantly in wonder of their ability track it all.
Plot writers can often exist in any world, at any time, but they have to focus so much on getting the reader from the beginning of the story to the end, believably and entertainingly. I actually (and I am not an expert in writing – like I say in my About page, I am an engineer by trade) kind of classify both thrillers and romance in this same very “writer focus” class. Both of them are tied to building to the big reveal, and the plot is formed by throwing the obstacles in the way. I understand how to plot, but I am not confident in my ability to twist and wind in that serpentine circle that brings the reader to the huge reveal that allows them to finally take that breath they’ve been holding since page 1.
Ambiance writers exist in all worlds, but are masters of the subtle. A creeping sense of unease, the flow from despair to a small triumph, they build a world not of objects and history but of emotions. Horror does this, when done well, but so do most surrealism stories. Ambiance, in my mind, is the ultimate refinement of style, where the reader doesn’t need to understand the plot, the character’s choices, or the world, but still be compelled to see where the author takes them. Ephemeral, and very much a trained skill, its also hardest to condense, materialize or describe to a reader or another writer. I’ve yet to see a plot/story outline contain an “ambiance” section for each scene, because its something only the skilled author can materialize into a world.
I am a character writer. Of course, I want to master all of the above. But… But when I write, all of the above are always centered around that core lens of a character. I care primarily about worlds when I have characters worth rooting for, good or bad. I struggle to see a plot unfold without knowing who the central figure navigating it is. Ambiance is set by the resident characters, who set that tone by their reactions.
I want you to meet someone, find out their struggles, and then hope as hard as they do for their success. I want my Frog Princess to hop into the spotlight, much to the surprise of everyone, and then we will see what else follows.
I want you to see the stories I write, period, which is why I am still here, writing this blog.
Have a good day and sincerely yours,