Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

A number of you out there in Readerland are writers, and I thought I might share a notion which came to me along with a new plot idea.

There is a long-standing piece of advice given to writers which states: write what you know. I would like to make a rebuttal.

Of the various writings I have produced, very few have been a case of ‘writing what I know’. Indeed, the vast majority have been on subject matter I very much do not know. This approach has benefits for both the casual-storyteller writer and the nitpicky-fact-checker writer.

For instance, a casual storyteller writing what he or she doesn’t know does not have to have his or her creativity constrained by what is and therefore can perhaps better imagine what could be or could have been. A fact checker, on the other hand, will not be relying on any preconceived notions regarding what they think they know and can be sure of turning in a well-researched manuscript.

I won’t deny that writing what you know has been an excellent tool for some authors; nobody would dispute that Khaled Hosseini is writing what he knows, and doing it extremely well. However, I would also be willing to bet that Yann Martel has never been adrift on a boat with only a 500-pound tiger for company – and Life Of Pi is nevertheless a remarkable work of fiction. Similarly, some of the best science fiction and fantasy writing has come from imaginations so far-fetched as to defy any notion of writing what one knows.

Having said all that, there is one area in which writing what one knows is sound advice for all, and that is character development and interaction; unless one is writing robots, aliens, vampires or other non-humans, a thorough understanding of human nature is essential to a well-rounded character.

So here’s my tip for the writers out there. Pick something that interests you, but which you know very little about it, and make it the centerpiece of a new story. I think you’ll find it a worthwhile exercise.

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Occasionally a television show comes along which just seems to stand head and shoulders above everything else – a shining beacon in a sea of dreck.

Right now, it’s Dollhouse that has so captivated my attention.

We are two episodes away from the season (and likely series) finale, and the first of those episodes screens tonight. 

The Friday-night timeslot has done the show no favors. Friday night is where shows go to die, and even a show with the cult following of Firefly had to buckle under the sheer force of “I’d rather go out and get drunk”.

Nevertheless, Dollhouse is a show with a phenomenal premise, one which could conceivably stay fresh long after most other shows would start to smell funny. For those uninitiated, the Dollhouse is an extremely secret organization in which people whose personalities have been removed can be imprinted with any traits, talents or skills necessary to fulfill the request of the Dollhouse’s clientele. Cue plenty of sex and violence, of course, but also some extremely well-executed mystery/crime/comedy moments; naturally, when the characters themselves are blank slates, almost anything can happen if the actors are good enough… and they are.

Under the surface, though, something is not quite as it should be; dolls (‘actives’) begin to remember past imprints, to show behavioral glitches. Add to this the dual threats of a Mulder-like agent doggedly investigating every lead on the Dollhouse, and the escaped former active known as Alpha.

It’s way better than I’m making it sound here. That’s because Joss Whedon is at least at the level of Advanced God, and I’m just, y’know, me.

The straight-up ratings numbers don’t look that good. The Live+SD and Live+7 numbers are somewhat healthier, though, indicating an appeal to certain demographics to which advertising is often targeted. Will that be enough to save the show? The meta-drama is still unfolding, but most people seem to believe that it’ll require that Fox make an astounding leap of Faith.

Hope is not completely lost. But it is fading.

This show going off the air so soon would be an absolute travesty given its potential.

If you had been watching but had given up on it, do me a favor and watch the trailer for tonight’s ep – perhaps you can rekindle your interest:

If you’re not going to be watching TV at 9:00 tonight but don’t mind leaving the TV on for an hour, tune it to FOX. If the show does get a second season, you will have my eternal gratitude.

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