Yesterday I talked about of a dark renaissance, which has now prompted me to share some of the things I’ve picked up during my few years of writing fiction, specifically things that I haven’t noticed other writers touch on. Like when dealing with any other advice, take my tips as a grain of salt and remember: there’s always an exception to the rule.
Don’t forget about your narrator
Doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, a novel or a blog, your narrator is key to making everything work. The narrator is the voice of your writing and how that voice is manipulated will determine how the audience appreciates it.
A blog post regarding, say, feminism can go many different ways depending on the voice of the narrator (i.e. you). Imagine writing a post that speaks just to guys, or your friends, or anonymous schmucks on reddit. Conversely, imagine writing that same post but with the knowledge that your mother is going to read it. Hopefully, you’d keep the same content, but alter the words. Maybe you’d avoid using the word “feminazi” and go with the term “radical feminist”. You’d put away the verbal brass knuckles and opt for a softer touch. Altering your narrator alters the voice, the tone, and even the concepts. Learn to manipulate it in different ways. While it’s good to have one particular execution down, make sure that you can diversify your writing.
This is more important in fiction, where the narrator actually tells the story. Most people think that writing in first person is easier because you’re stuck in the mind of that one character. You can telegraph their thoughts with ease and the whole world is viewed through that one lens. However, I disagree that it’s easy. Writing a story entirely in the mind of a character means you have to portray the character’s perspective and thoughts consistently. Can you describe the scene of a funeral in the mind of a thirteen year old boy, with thirteen year old boy thoughts and thirteen year old understanding? How about doing it in the mind of an android instead? While it seems easy at first glance to execute first person narration, it’s actually pretty hard beneath the surface. The nuances of perspective can, and will, trip you up.
And it doesn’t become any easier in third person. Now you have to juggle different points of view through a voice that is outside the story looking in. The shallowest form of this narrator simply describes what is going on as if they’re narrating a movie to a blind person. This technique always fails because it is boring. What’s missing is the understanding that the narrator is just as part of the story as any character. The narrator, even in third person, can add in a quip or a joke or a particular perspective. Learning to give characterization to a narrator that isn’t even part of the story allows that narrator to become a storyteller, rather than just a voiceover, and storytellers keep people reading. The most extreme example of this (that I could find) is from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five:
“Billy looked inside the latrine. The wailing was coming from in there. The place was crammed with Americans who had taken their pants down. The welcome feast had made them as sick as volcanoes. The buckets were full or had been kicked over. An American near Billy wailed that he had excreted everything but his brains. Moments later he said, “There they go, there they go.” He meant his brains. That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.”
That is a famous line for a reason.
Understand the mechanics of prose
Prose is like music. It has a rhythm. It has a melody. It can beat like a drum from word to word, sentence to sentence, or it can flow up and down, swimming around itself to create lofty sentences which take the reader on a journey between each stop. Or not.
For example, take a sentence which describes a man picking up a gun and his hands are shaking.
1: Hands shaking, he picked up the gun.
2: With shaking hands, he picked up the gun.
3: He picked up the gun with shaking hands.
4: His hands were shaking as he picked up the gun.
5: As he picked up the gun, his hands shook.
6: He picked up the gun, and his hands shook.
7: He picked up the gun. His hands were shaking.
Each sentence says the exact same thing, but it conveys different emotional tones, and some are more effective than others (7 is my favorite, even though it’s technically two sentences, but 2 and 4 work well by my personal assessment). Think of each sentence structure as a key made for a certain lock (lock = tone). Some keys work in different locks. Finding the perfect fit requires experience. But keep in mind that no sentence exists in a vacuum. The previous and following sentences will also determine how effective any particular sentence is. Add in a few different elements, actions, events, narration, point of view; master the percussion as well as the ebb and flow of the tones; juggle them all together, and you’ll have your piece.
Writing is not so different than composing music. To be a composer, you have to learn to manipulate the nuances of each note and tempo, bringing them together to complete the song. Writing relies on this just as much. Learn to manipulate words to entice the audience and you’ll succeed as a writer.
Find your voice
After so many years of studying and practice, a composer of music eventually comes to their own unique style of composition. Similarly, you as a writer should find your particular style of writing. Maybe you go for quick, jerking sentences. Maybe you hold back and give a light touch to your prose. Either way, the key is to find your particular style. While it’s okay to get inspiration from other writers, don’t try to copy their style exactly. No composer in their right mind would try to out Beethoven the Beethoven, but they do take the original works and expand on them with a personal twist. Have a favorite writer? Good. Take their style and let it be the soil to grow your own, but don’t try to be the next one in succession.
Have high standards for your writing
This is a big one that few writing tips ever seem to touch on. In the course of writing, you’re going to put down a lot of sentences on paper (or in Microsoft Word). That means you’re going to get tired of tweaking each one, and you’re going to feel the inclination to be lazy. Don’t.
Some writers think they can get away with some shitty sentences (or even shitty chapters) because the other bits are good. Some writers even think that merely functional is adequate. These guys make for mediocre writers because somewhere along the line they lost a personal standard to hold their writing to. If you want to be a good writer, you have to develop a pretty high bar and force yourself to meet it, not just for every chapter but for every sentence. If something doesn’t work or doesn’t work all that well, don’t just ignore it and move on because it’s hard; actually make it work.
Go outside, because anything can be your inspiration
A seemingly insignificant experience can end up causing the inspiration for an entire story. Maybe it’s a particular scene in a movie or TV show. Maybe it’s a song which takes your mind through an epic scene. Maybe it’s a moment in time that conveys a greater experience. Whether it’s driving a forklift for the first time or seeing a bar fight, each experience adds to your creative collection. There are times where these experiences make no impact, and other times the most seemingly insignificant thing can trigger the creative spark. It is up to you to seek out these things, whatever they are.
Of all writing tips, this one is probably best suited for those in the manosphere. We are part of the underground for a reason. At the same time, we are constantly striving to be better men in body and mind, and leaving our comfort zones. The beneficial byproduct of those endeavors is the worldly experience needed to foster an arsenal of creative ideas. If you’re a man who strives to expand his horizons, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re a new keyboard jockey: get out and do something.
In any case, no matter if it’s writing, painting, drawing, composing or any other artistic pursuit that I fail to mention, at least get out and attempt it. The manosphere needs a few more bards.