I believe in the value of all stories. As writers, I think we should study all kinds of stories, and all forms of expression. We should study all genres, but beyond that, we should study plays, movies, and musicals. Even some well thought-out video games can be well worth studying.
I don’t think a well-written story can ever be a waste of time. A writer should always be open to new ideas and knowledge from the world around them, and almost anything can be studying for a writer. We can watch a movie and pay attention to how they develop characters, study the dialogue. We can go see a musical to see how they tell a story with music. We can play a video game and revel in the beautiful–or ugly–worlds set out before us. All of these mediums have something to teach us as a writer, and if one truly catches our fancy, all of these can lead you down a new writing path.
There is also value in going out into the world around you. That is how you experience stories-you do new things, take on new adventures. Often, these new adventures are where the best stories come from. New people always have at least one interesting story to tell you, too, if you just listen. Not all of these stories will be the inspiration for one of yours, but they will add to your knowledge base. Make an effort to remember the people you meet, and remember in particular the things that make them unique. Those are the things from which you can build your own characters, and many times, story comes from character.
Experience everything, but don’t neglect your own stories. When you’re deep in research for your next book, or you’ve been spending a lot of time immersed in other people’s stories, do small writing exercises with your characters to keep yourself sharp. I picked up a book from the library, and I’ve read a chapter every day this week. I’ve also hung out with friends and played a game called Dragon Age–which has a fascinating world–for many hours. I’ve read pages and pages of history online to research my next few short stories. And I’ve edited two short stories to keep myself sharp.
When I finish this post, I’m going to play a bit more of my game. It’s a long game, so I usually dedicate an hour or two to it. And when I’m done there, I’m going to come back to my computer and start doing some writing exercises, working on building characters. I’ve been working with most of the characters from Moonshadow’s Guardian for years now, but there’s always more to learn about them.
There are lots of interesting stories in the world around us. I’d like to share with you a couple of my favourites:
~What’s Eating Gilbert Grape This is a movie starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo Decaprio. Leonardo Decaprio plays Johnny Depp’s little brother. He has the mentality of a five or six year old. Johnny’s usually the one that has to take care of him, and the movie is about his struggle. It’s a great movie that really touched my heart.
~The Sound of Music I’m sure you’re all aware of this musical, about the Von Trapp family. It’s a really well written story with great music. I’ve seen the movie hundreds of times, but it was still magical when my grandmother and I went to see the real musical. I’ll never forget it.
~Dragon Age The game that I’m playing right now, Dragon Age is a something-something–something RPG with a really well built world. Your goal is to end the Blight and save the kingdom, but you also have to take a traitor off the throne and help choose a king in the Dwarven city. You can make a lot of choices in this game, starting with what race and class you are–which leads to one of six different beginnings-and continuing with whether you help people or not. You can even be rude to people throughout the game. It’s a game with a lot of replay value–I’m currently on my third replay.
~Princess Bride I sincerely hope you’ve already seen this movie, but if you haven’t, it’s the funniest tale of a princess and a pirate I’ve ever seen. There’s a book, too, which is a much longer and more detailed version of the movie. Much of the dialogue in the movie is taken directly from the book, and the spirit of the book is excellently followed. Somebody told me that the author was the dude who made the movie, but I’m not sure about that.
~Weaveworld Just because I had to include a book. This one is by a guy named Clive Barker, who I’m told usually writes really gruesome horror. This is pretty gruesome fantasy about a world that’s been woven into a carpet, which must be kept out of the wrong hands. An idea of the wrong hands is Immacolata, a woman who’s walking around with the ghosts of her dead sisters at the beginning of the book. She strangled them herself in the womb. She also hates the people in the carpet, and therefore must be kept away from them.
All of these stories should entertain you–Weaveworld, I must warn you, is a long book–for at least the weekend. And I’ve been working on some writing exercises for Monday.
What are some of your favourite stories?