For a long time, I took the advice to “write what you know” as my credo. The fiction I wrote was mostly events from my life, with feeble half-characters pasted over the faces of my friends. It was cathartic to write, dull to read, and embarrassing to look back on.
That changed a year ago, when I got caught up in the scifi TV show Firefly. The show lasted less than a season and, despite what its rabid fans will tell you, it’s not that good. The acting’s kind of mediocre and the dialogue occasionally stretched, but I LOVE it, as in hearts-in-my-eyes doodling-in-my-notebook learned-the-theme-song-on-guitar love it. I watch it over and over for the same reason I read books like Redwall and Lord of the Rings as a kid: it takes me to another universe, a place drawn out with such careful love that the atmosphere of the story bleeds even into my real life. In a totally not-nerdy way, I swear.
That’s what I want to do with my writing. I’m writing a scifi novel (still having a hard time admitting that to any of my serious literature-y friends), and one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process is the research that goes into creating that new world. I’ve been pulling inspiration from all over the place: Nepalese honey-hunters, turn-of-the-century Argentine brothels, Salt Lake City geology, Chinese yttrium mining. In that way, the scifi novel has become a new sort of autobiographical writing for me. Rather than writing about events that happened to me, I’m taking what I’m interested in, and blending those different passions into one coherent world and story.
Up until now, I have been storing all that information in my brain, but Professor McDaniel suggested that for my capstone process, I take one chapter of the story and illustrate the research-based scaffolding that went into writing that. That’s an idea with potential, but I need to spend a lot of time figuring out how exactly I’m going to present and organize all that in a cool way. Any suggestions from y’all would be much appreciated!