"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Afternoon at the Fox & Ginko Leaf, Part 1 (Kit Zheng & Mallory Path)

kit chibiKIT ZHENG

Age: Still waiting to grow up…
Gender: Silly
Height: Five feet and change
Weight: Chubby
Hair: Black and unruuuly
Eyes: Sparkly!
Blood Type: O Positive. Or Neg. Or. O-Something.
Zodiac: Scorpio
Habitat: That sliver of forest squashed between the highways
Magic Powers: Love love gay erotica stare!






mal chibiMALLORY PATH

Age: Old enough for vinyl, too young for 8-tracks.
Gender: Queer.
Height: Not as much as I'd like.
Weight: More than I'd like.
Hair: Brown and sometimes curly.
Eyes: Brown and wide-open, even when I want to look away.
Blood Type: B negative.
Zodiac: Virgo the virgin  maiden   transgendered lovely.
Habitat: A Lyrical Bent.
Magic Powers: Love-burst gay osculation!



KIT:
So, Mal, whatcha working on?

MAL:
*laughs* This is going to be a roundabout answer, but I swear I'll get there! I was thinking this morning about the differences between being a novelist and being a short story writer, and one of the things that occurred to me is the focus.

KIT:
Focus! How do you mean?

MAL:
Well, when you asked what I'm working on, my brain almost shorted out because it didn't know which idea to tell you about first. I don't mean to imply that novelists don't have multiple ideas going on at once, but I wonder if you need a stronger focus to write longer stories without getting distracted.

Actually, you need a strong focus to finish anything, really. I guess the problem I'm having at the moment is that I have several ideas I'm excited about, but I haven't been able to pick a single one to work on first.

KIT:
*Laughing!* I have that problem sometimes.

MAL:
The newest idea I have was sparked by a call for submissions, which is rare for me. Usually I look at calls and see if I have anything that would fit, and then finish or edit it with an eye on the call specifics.

This particular call for submissions has to do with master-slave relations, which pushed a button for me and got me thinking. So now I have a vision of a world where those with privilege live in the protected cities, and those not born into privilege try to survive the wasteland.

KIT:
Ooh, that sounds cool.

MAL:
If you're not one of the privileged, the only way to get into the cities is to be chosen as a slave when the city masters hold their annual festival. The story I have in mind is about two young men, lifelong friends and casual lovers. It starts the night before the festival: one of the boys is trying for slave status, and the other doesn't want him to go. The boy hoping to become a slave is hoping to be chosen as a sex slave. Sex slaves are highly prized, though the way they're treated obviously varies from master to master. The two boys love each other, but I think they love their ideals just a little more. Security vs. freedom.

KIT:
*_* That's a theme that's always appealed to me.

MAL:
Yeah, me too! I remember in high school, one of the essay questions on a history exam was whether you'd rather be a serf or a freeman and why. And I kid you not, I was the only person in the class who chose freeman.

KIT:
Wow, really?

MAL:
Isn't that crazy?

KIT:
That seems counterintuitive, especially in this culture.

MAL:
Yes...though I think about America in the past eight years or so, and the steady erosion of freedoms in the name of security--and I wonder if those other kids from my class didn't start running the country. *wry grin*

KIT:
I think this goes back to security vs. ideals, and how fear for oneself/one's family can skew one over the other in the blink of an eye. I like fiction that can subtly weave in these sorts of themes without beating you over the head with them.

MAL:
I don't know if you were thinking of "Deconstruction" [note: coming this summer from MLR Press and Aspen Mountain Press] when you said that, but it does make me think about the relationship between Vic and Tomas.

KIT:
*grins* Ooh. I could see that. It's not a theme I deliberately worked in but yeah, it is one that runs through the story, now that you mention it.

MAL:
So subtle you didn't even know you were doing it!

KIT:
Sometimes after I've finished a story, I notice themes in it that I never consciously put in. Do you ever do that?

MAL:
Yeah. I took a break from writing after college, partly because I wasn't sure what my stories were about. I was feeling pressure to write Meaningful Stories with Deep Themes. When I started writing fiction again, it was for fun and my own enjoyment. I didn't have a theme in mind for individual stories or for my writing as a whole; I just had characters and stories I wanted to tell. It wasn't until the first story was finished and I was deeply into the second one that I noticed both stories were concerned, in different ways, with communication. How language fails us and how we make connections to each other when it does. Even though those story remain unpublished (and probably will never see light of day!), that theme lingers with me even when I'm not conscious of it.

KIT:
I love that you deal with that theme when the actual language of your stories is so rich and incredible and conscious. Deliberate. Do you ever consciously try to exploit that play--between your narrative, what is said, and what is said without narrating, and what is spoken in dialogue? I think even if you don't do it consciously you seem to.

MAL:
That's a really interesting question. I don't like to have a lot spelled out in the narrative, so I'm usually thinking about how much I need to say and how little I can get away with. This is where having others to read the works in progress is really useful!

When I'm writing--and this can be at any stage in the process, whether it's the planning (which I often think of as dreaming/daydreaming) or the actual commitment of words to paper or pixels--I become less aware of myself and more aware of my POV character. I don't think that I become that character, exactly, but there's a melding that takes place.

I tend to like as the POV character the one who knows the least about a situation, but that's not always the case. In "Handle With Care" [note: set for release on May 11th from eXcessica Publishing], for example, Mick is the one reading the situation--though it doesn't seem that way at first.

I'm not sure if I answered the question or just started navelgazing there!

KIT:
Oh, I think I wasn't clear either.

MAL:
No, you were clear...I just failed to answer. Let me try again: something I'm curious about is the degree to which writers do things deliberately vs. what comes out in the writing.

KIT:
Yes! I'm fascinated by how much is done consciously and how much subconsciously.

MAL:
I feel like I don't do very much consciously, at least not at first. Then sometimes I'll recognize something part-way through, when I'm rereading before starting to write another part. That's always exciting for me. That, "DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?" revelation.

When you're writing, how aware are you of what you're doing?

KIT:
Hm, a mix, I think. I do sometimes hold like a central idea in my mind as I write. Most of my stories start out with a scene, not a theme or idea. It's pursuing that scene that the rest becomes clearer. Often times, I don't "get it" until near the end, which can cause me no end of grief. But just as often, I've been subconsciously working towards that idea anyway, so it's not too much work to make the story clearer and more coherent.

MAL:
Is your starting point usually a scene towards the beginning or the ending?

KIT:
Beginning, usually. I tend to write linearly--I don't often plot out, so my stories grow out of the events that happen.

MAL:
Is it a strict chronology, or do you sometimes jump ahead and then need to figure out how the characters got from point C to point E?

KIT:
I've tried to jump ahead, but often if I write a scene ahead of time, by the time I "catch up" it no longer fits. Once in a while I can do it, but not that often. In terms of plotting I'm comfortable jumping around if the story calls for it, but writing-wise I have to write scene 1, then 2, then 3.

How about you?

MAL:
Like you, I usually start with a scene. Or not even a scene: an image or a piece of dialogue. If I get to wondering about that image or line, I know I have the beginnings of a story (though that doesn't guarantee it'll actually turn into a story). Somehow--and truly, it's a mystery to me how it happens--a scene develops. That scene could be anywhere in the story, so once I have it, I start thinking forward and backward in the imaginary timeline, looking at how we got there and where we go from there.

I definitely skip during the writing. The second scene I come up with is almost never adjacent to the first, so I know I'm going to start working seriously on a story when I have two scenes and I find myself wondering how they go together.

I have an envy of people who have a more linear fashion, the way you're describing for yourself.

KIT:
Ha! I envy people who can skip around.

MAL:
The grass is always greener, right? It's nerve-wracking sometimes, because the two scenes might be far, far apart and I worry they won't connect up.

KIT:
Sometimes the clearest "next scene" I have is not the one that needs to be written. So it's frustrating when by the time I hit that point the scene is no longer clear.

MAL:
Do you go ahead with it, or do you concentrate on the "next scene"?

KIT:
It goes back to if I skip ahead, it usually doesn't work by the time I get to it.

MAL:
Ah! Is it not clear because the intervening scene has changed things?

KIT:
*laugh* Yeah, that too. I see and hear stories in my head like movies.

MAL:
I was about to ask what you think the challenges are of writing linearly, and I guess that would be one of them--a later scene fading by the time you reach it. Is there anything else that strikes you?

KIT:
Well, if I get stuck, I really have to stop. If I keep forcing it, I can end up writing myself down the wrong path, then have to rip everything back later on. In one story, I ended up junking about half of what I'd written over a year.

MAL:
Oh no!

KIT:
Yeah.

MAL:
Did you give up or did you fix it?

KIT:
It's idling. It's one of my many unfinished novels. ;P

MAL:
I hear ya barkin', big dog (as my uncle says).

KIT:
XD I have a friend who says that and it always makes me laugh.


Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of Kit and Mal's conversation

7 comments:

  1. Wow, Kit and Mallory, great insight into the minds of writers. I find it fascinating how differently authors create, especially since my stories seems to dictate my process themselves!
    Can't wait to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great insight into your processes, guys!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Kiki and Tammylee. Glad it was interesting to people other than us. *rambles around in a circle*

    I really enjoyed finding out the similarities and differences in the way Mal and I process writing and reading. I am totally out to try reading a book non-linearly now ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Kiki and Tammylee! It's hard to know exactly how you're coming across when you're navelgazing, so it's good to hear you enjoyed the post. Hopefully the second half of the conversation will be just as interesting.

    Kiki--if you're up for it, I'd love to hear more about your stories dictating the process. One of the things that attracted me to this space you've created is the potential for an exchange of ideas among writers, which I hope can extend beyond the pair blogging on any given week to those reading. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I absolutely agree about the exchange of ideas, in fact I think one is forming for the blog!
    What I meant by stories dictating the process, is that each one seems to start in different points for me depending on the idea that generated it. For example, I have come up with an interesting character, researched and developed that character, and then just wrote to see what the character would get into. I have even had some surprise me. Have you ever written a scene and thought after, where did that come from?
    I have also come up with story lines, researched and developed them, and then wrote linearly through the story. Although, I have had stories where I skipped ahead because words or phrases were coming to me for a different scene. Then when things didn't write out as planned, had to play with the middle scenes to get them to work out.
    The hardest story idea for me to write is the one that comes from a concept. Sometimes, I have something I have researched, that I want to teach in the story. A moral woven through the fantasy and fiction. Here, I really struggle, as I am now with my WIP, to create a believable fantasy around the concept, while keeping the moral of the story intact.
    As I said when I began, an idea for the blog is forming to maybe have author pairs host and idea week where other authors can send in posts on the topic or comment and have the authors hosting respond. Something like that. I find it inspiring to learn how others create. It creates this positive energy that everyone can be touched by to create in their own way - if that makes sense!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I really like the new idea for the blog! I hope you decide to go ahead with it.

    Thanks for sharing a little about your writing process--or processes, I should say! Although different kinds of things give me that initial spark, I'm pretty sure my process once I have that spark follows the same path, regardless of the spark itself. I thought I was flexible with my non-linear approach, but your approach is something that hadn't even occurred to me. I'm very much looking forward to more discussion in future posts.

    Thanks again for setting this up!

    ReplyDelete

In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.