Writing Fiction for the First Time in Over a Decade, pt. 5

Something something opening here.

The Limits of Realism

How do you capture a real human being? This was one of the many things I spent most of the last night thinking about. This isn’t common for me. I usually sleep well, but for some reason I just couldn’t fall asleep. There’s two likely reasons: stress and just sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. I’m not kidding about the latter. People often have trouble sleeping if their circumstances change even a little bit. I could have moved over to the other side, but at the same time, I was in a very comfortable position and didn’t really want to move… so I just stayed there.

Now, this is boring, because life is boring. If we just drop in on a life of someone, whatever we see is likely going to be extremely boring. Does anyone even remember Boyhood anymore? It was a big deal back in 2014, but does anyone even talk about it anymore? Movies like Babadook, Paddington, Interstellar, Gone Girl, Whiplash, Ex Machina, Nightcrawler, Birdman, It Follows, What We Do in the Shadows and Inherent Vice are still things that have cultural relevancy (never mind all the franchise movies), but Boyhood… No.

I’m not even saying realism is in itself bad (I just wrote a piece praising Jeanne Dielman), but if you want to go too realistic, you just lose your way. I guess you just have to know what to do with your material. To me, the problem with Boyhood was that the main character (the boy) was just insufferable, whereas his parents and sister were much more likable and interesting, but were pushed to the side, because the point was to follow the boy, no matter what, because that was the project everyone assigned to. Sure, that kind of perseverance is admirable, but also, after the risk you’ve taken with the kid fell through, you have to cut your losses (although it probably made a lot of money – couldn’t bother to check).

However, if your book is just one peak after another and there is no time to breath between them, it will again be boring. Readers need to be able to have moments of relaxation as well.

Artistic Peaks

Obviously, this isn’t something I need to think about, because I haven’t really produced any art worth releasing. Despite that, this is something I have been thinkinga bout recently. So, someone brought this up: When a band goes on tour, there’s often friction between the band and the audience, because audience wants to hear the songs that made them love the band, while the band wants to play their more recent material, because that’s where they are musically at that moment.

So, why do good bands become… less good? I guess when you are aging, it becomes harder and harder to keep up with culture. So, it might be that the bands we consider good, just happened to do their thing and the culture just happened to coincide with that.

Ideas That Will Never Come to Fruition

I was playing a little bit of Civilization VI and I noticed that as Persia, I had a unit that has now survived from the very beginning of the game to 1950s (meaning almost 6000 years for those who are not familiar with the game). At one point they were immortals (the special unit for Persia), so they have really lived up to that name. Currently they are mechanized infantry, but because they carry the name I gave them early on, I know it is the same unit. Is there a story in that? Something that would actually make an interesting narrative? I find the idea compelling, but I have no idea what to do with it. The idea of a unit that has been almost continually in a war for thousands of years is interesting.

I guess you could put this into a fantasy context. Maybe we have a commander, who is obligated to get a blessing from their predecessors, who have no idea how war works in this particular period. You could also do this with several periods. Maybe the predecessors get mad when their instructions are not followed, even if they are stupid in the context.

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