Being Professionally Silly
My good friend Necia Phoenix made a very nice and heart-warming post about myself, which I’ve just finished reading. I probably would have been delightfully surprised later on today when she tells me about it, but unfortunately, I watch both my RSS feeds and my blog view aggregation like a caffeinated hawk.
Instead of just making a comment, I’ve decided to go ahead and waffle on in a blog post, because her post touches on quite a few things I’d like to talk about. Which feels awkward, sort of like those moments where you thank someone for thanking you.
One of my favourite parts of the post was this quote:
“His outlook is so refreshing in this age of dark, morbid negativity.”
This is something that I actually take great happiness in. I can’t remember who said it (but I have an inkering that I read it over on Shamus Young’s blog) but the general jist of their argument is that we, at the moment, are at a creative boom. Graphics are becoming more and more realistic, moving away from the plastic-looking models that were used only a decade or two ago. Budgets are getting higher, animation is becoming easier to do, and the Internet allows us to connect our creativity to even more people than ever before. In short, we’re at a stance where we could potentially create anything we’d like.
If you put this forward to me ten years ago, I’d get very excited at the possibilities. Games set in unknown frontiers. Movies pushing realism out of the window and making their own. Books crafting worlds that reside in the imagination.
This may seem normal to you, but look at it this way; these mediums are attempting to, in some way or another, be realistic. We have all these means of making worlds that are borderline impossible to exist anywhere, and we spend all our time making entertainment that emulates reality.
There is nothing wrong with this. The best way, after all, to get someone to relate to a creative piece of work is to set it in a world the viewer finds familiar. My point is that I, personally, find them…boring? Maybe too strong a word. I can still sit down, consume a realism-focused product, and say I had a good time with it. It’s just that, if there was a choice between the realistic piece and a fantastical piece, I’d pick the fantasy one.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Games, while being dominated by ‘hyper-realistic’ (nope, still don’t like that word) graphics and sound scapes, have found a niche with indie developers. You’ve heard of Minecraft already, but how about Antichamber? Or Perspective? Or even Little Inferno? They are all games I clicked with (especially Perspective, given how it’s free!) because instead of putting down the formula of real life and building on top of it, they cast it aside and say “let’s try something different”. I admire that much more.
Same with films. Wreck-It Ralph doesn’t watch like a tense drama or action-filled thriller; it emulates those moments you had as a kid in school, where you take every video game character you’ve ever seen and slap them in a fantasy world where they all walk past each other on the way to work. It takes the impossible — a world where all video game characters co-exist — and makes a story from it.
Needless to say, when I sit down to read a book, I find it hard to sit down and read a story without a fantasy or exploration element. I love stories that go into the weird unknown, whether it be in a high-fantasy world, a space-based colony, or in the familiar setting of modern day.
Given my love for the unrealistic, you can see why my stories are a bit absurd. But why are they also silly? Why do they also have a dash of humour in them?
To tell you the truth, I also don’t much click with dark settings, either. The world can be a ridiculously depressing place, with more reasons to feel rubbish about humans and the world as a whole than there is to feel good about it. If I wrote a depressing, dark piece, I wouldn’t feel like I’d be achieving much. I’d see my readers as people trapped in a quicksand of personal problems, coming to the piece with worries of work, relationships and social judgement. To write a dark piece would be to take a bucket of quicksand and throw it at their face.
I much prefer to write the absurd that is also funny. To take apart the weird patterns and morals that we uphold and inflate them until they’re larger than life. To put aside realism for a bit in order to bring light-hearted moments to the reader. When I do that, I feel that the people who laugh as they read it are, for a period of time, out of the nasty swirls and jagged edges of reality. That, for a bit, they have an excuse to be happy.
One of my top writing motivations — the stuff that seats me down and gets the words done — is the idea of someone writing to me, saying that my work brightened their otherwise crappy day. My sister recently revealed that she read Terry Pratchett in-between shifts in her demanding and sometimes cruel retail job, saying that it got her through the day. The thought clicked with me. I would like to be a writer who people can come to when they have a break-up, a car crash, or a nasty argument with their boss, and feel better afterwards. I’d like to become someone whose career is based around making people’s days, weeks or months.
Also, it’s an absolute riot to write, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
So thanks, Necia. I’m really happy you enjoy my work, and I hope I can continue bringing smiles from now on!