Why I Write

Something a little different today. I’m gonna ramble for a bit about myself, about why I write. Not just why I actually write, but also why I write the way I do. Is it good, bad? Who knows? People seem to dig it. Anyway, let’s get to it!

Why do I write?

I originally got into storytelling because when I would read a book, or watch a movie or TV show, I would get particularly invested. I’m probably one of the greatest audience members you could ever have; I approach a lot of things very objectively, often look past things that others would be put off by, and, like I said, I can get really invested in content. I’ll fall in love with characters for their personalities and motivations, and be happy when a character is vindicated or a villain gets their just desserts. I love books, movies, video games, and TV because I love stories. It’s this love that found me so deeply embedded in RPGs like Final Fantasy.

Terra pulled me into a rabbit hole I’m still tumbling through

However, that “love of the story” was sometimes at odds with my increasingly hyperactive imagination. I would get so invested in these characters and their motivations to a point where I would sometimes go “Oh man, it woulda been so funny/cool if they had said/done this”. As I became more and more engrossed in the finer details of the stories I loved, my imagination started to run with “What if this small detail was what they were focused on?”, or “How would this kind of character have reacted to different situations in a similar setting?”. By that point I started drawing a lot more, filling up notebooks with comics full of my favorite super heroes or cartoon characters. At the time, drawing comics was more stimulating to me, I guess because I’m a very visual person, but that didn’t stop me from creating my own stories that those comics followed.

Over time, I stopped focusing solely on the things I grew up with like Ghostbusters, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Ball Z, and started forming my own stuff, however derivative it may have started out. As I grew up, I began to embrace my own concepts tighter, and I always found myself coming back to them. People often say “Create something that you would like to consume, and you have at least one guaranteed consumer”, and I think that’s as true as every goddamn arrow Legolas ever loosed (seriously, did he ever miss even one shot?).

Legolas Being a Boss

Roll for Balance che-aw screw it

Whenever something lost my interest halfway through, oftentimes the initial concepts would stay with me, because they were what piqued that interest in the first place. So I began to make up my own little What Ifs based on those concepts, and oftentimes my ideas would take the concept in a completely different direction from the original, which ultimately would leave me satisfied; with the story I had created and pretty much told to myself.

After a while, I turned to writing more, because despite my love of visuals, I felt I could get more of the story down by using words, and the fact that I found so many merits to writing, things that I couldn’t convey through simple pictures. So my notebooks became filled with scribbles for world-building and narrative, and artwork was delegated to concept artwork to help me visualize my characters or scenes. Or covers. I love me some cover art. As I began to fall in love with being all poetic and symbolic at times, it was clear I was probably gonna stick with writing things down. I have regrets about choosing writing as my primary creative medium, but I’ll get to those in a moment.First things first, let’s move on to the how…

How I write

I am an odd case, I think. When I really got into writing, my aim was to get out exactly how I was seeing things in my head, which was essentially like a projector projecting film right onto my gray matter. What I saw in my head was so interesting, so cool, so perfectly executed, complete with beautiful angles and well-timed cuts. That gif up there of Legolas being a boss? That is pretty much exactly how I would see a scene in my head to then write out. I would attempt to get the reader to envision everything from a specific angle or perspective.

I’ve often been told that I write in a very cinematic way, but mostly one of the best ways that was described was that I literally write and pace a story as if it’s playing out on a screen, and I think I quite agree with that. I grew up watching movies of all kinds, so undoubtedly some of that organic experience stuck with and influenced me. Since I always wrote stuff in such a way that was visually pleasing to me, it makes sense that it also carried with it similar elements to film as well. Another thing that I was told is that I have a “monochromatic” writing style. I tend to not talk about color until its important or will give a stark, defining feature to something. It’s almost as if everything is constructed in a plain space before splashes of color appear as a scene progresses. I always found this sorta fun, because whenever I got to thinking about cover art, I also thought rather minimally: pure white backgrounds that helped a character and their colors stand out.

Take On Me

Sorta like Take on Me, but with decidedly less mullets

Similarly, I began to realize (quite recently, admittedly) that the same applied to other aspects of the senses as well. I can tell you that a character sliced a zombie’s arm off, and I can let your memories fill in what that might sound like. That’s sometimes alright, sometimes it’s fun to let the reader interpret something, but if I want a specific sound to be heard, I have to tell you. I have to tell you the arm was sliced off with a “wet snap”. It’s another thing that’s similar to film that I also love – foley. Foley is the addition of artificial, man-made noise to get a specific sound effect. I love it! When I really started thinking about it,

What I regret

There are a few things I do regret about choosing writing as my creative medium, chief among them is that it’s difficult to convey physical comedy, which is something I really love. It’s pretty much head-to-head with my love of action sequences, which all comes down to loving choreography and how it plays into the intended emotions you’re trying to get the audience to feel. It’s slightly easier to write an action sequence, but even then it’s hard to convey those same kind of “fast cuts” used to intensify the action. At least, it’s hard to keep intensity-inducing brevity while attempting to remain descriptive enough so the reader can easily visualize what you want them to see. Physical comedy, on the other hand, is much more difficult, because all comedy relies on timing, and if your timing is bad, your joke can fall flat. Timing is slightly difficult to keep in a medium that relies nigh-solely on the reader’s comprehension and reading speed.

I loved that scene above in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and it’s a perfect example of the things I love about physical comedy that are just hard to convey, like the exact pose a character takes (like when Peter throws his hands up to splash coffee backwards). Other times it really is the timing in which something happens, or even the positioning of characters in relation to a camera angle that makes a scene humorous. Sadly, it’s just something that I worry can never be properly conveyed like I see it in my head.

Another thing is that despite getting you to hear whatever sound I want you to hear, it’s still difficult to get out exactly what might be in my head, and I also can’t make a scene more intense or humorous when timed properly to a specific score. One of my favorite things is the use of the record scratch to stop music when the tone of a scene changes, and of course that’s not something I can do.

Oh well! Them’s the breaks, right?

What I learned

Like many things, you learn a lot by actually doing something as much as you do learning to do it. I, myself, also learn and understand a lot easier once I start doing it, things make more sense when I see them operate. As I became a story creator as much as I was a story consumer, I started to see the more intricate parts of storytelling in general. I began to see the elements behind what made me invested in certain characters or stories, deeper than what I actually see. The brainstorming that goes into it can sometimes be vast, and having worked in retail selling products for nearly a decade, I started to see the more psychological, almost marketing-like side to creating content. As much as my writing was about making things I would like, there was still my desire to make things entertaining for others, thinking about what they would like. I’ve found learning the inner workings of this stuff to be every bit as fun as telling the story.

I’ve also come to learn that a lot can change between concept and page. Sometimes you’ll think of something that seems fine at the time, but come back it later and just shake your head wildly while holding down the Backspace key. Chances are high that you’ll come up with a lot of things in the course of writing that won’t ever become anything bigger than a note you jotted down. Many things also change as more ideas are added to the core concept

However, another thing that I learned over the course of writing this very blarg post was something that I’ll definitely be working on, out of respect for what I want to do in life, and for any potential audience. I’ve always looked at characters based on their merits and personality, and not their gender or race. Especially gender, as I’ve always felt the character’s gender had very little relevance to their character unless there was a specific biological reason for it (like a character being pregnant). When it came to race, however, I was a bit more thoughtless. I tended to think of characters as blank, mannequin-like things that I filled in with characteristics and descriptors, but even with giving them genders, I still oftentimes “defaulted” to a white skin color without thinking about it.

Inkthinker‘s “Blanks” aren’t necessarily white, but they sure know their martial arts

This in and of itself is not something I find to be particularly bad, it’s just how I design characters. What I do, however, take issue with is how when I write and describe characters, I still default to whiteness. I don’t quite know how it got past me for so long, but I just noticed it recently, where when I describe a character who happens to be some race equatable to Caucasian, I just don’t bother mentioning their skin color. Yet when it comes to any Person of Color (as is the buzzword these days), I go out of my way to describe that skin color, or the shape of their eyes, or something that denotes them as being of a different race – being something different than white, which when writing I feel I don’t need to bother establishing, as if it’s just a given. That is something I want to, and will, change in the future. It’s not my intention to whitewash my stories, nor to imply through my writing what I find to be any kind of standard.

———————–

Well, that’s enough of me blabbering. I do hope I’ve given some sort of insight into what has inspired me, and how I hope to challenge myself in the future.

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About jbsargent

Writer. Artist. All around charming lad.

Posted on July 18, 2014, in What's New?. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It’s always fascinating to read how others fell into the world of writing and even more fascinating when I see that I’m inspired by the very same things. Final Fantasy, Dragonball Z, gaming in general? All these things are the very reasons I started to write because I wanted to live in those worlds and what better way than to write myself into them!

    Well onward you must go brother!

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