Almost five years ago, I got an idea for a story, and it was the first story I ever legitimately finished. This story was called Dream Captive. I got this idea from a wildly vivid dream I had, and I wanted to make it perfect. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote the story some more. About a year later, I was foolish enough to think that it was good enough to sell, and I printed some copies through a self-publishing website and tried selling them. It wasn’t until later that I realized how stupid of an idea that was.
The story really wasn’t all that great and as I grew older I matured in my writing as well as my ideas. I kept changing the story, over and over and over, but no matter what I did I was never satisfied with it. I was in love with the idea of it – the world and characters I had created around it, but never the actual storyline. That’s what changed more often than anything else (though some characters had to change along with it, but most of them have always been there and been somewhat the same).
Recently, just during this NaNoWriMo, I attempted yet another iteration of the story, and it crashed and burned yet again. I gave up for the time being, telling myself that I was just going to set it aside for a while, until I could really figure out what I truly wanted to do with it. Then, soon after that, I had a vivid dream. It wasn’t anything that I could use for a story, mind you; it was the weird kind that makes no sense even when you’re in it. But when I woke up, I had this phrase stuck in my head, and it seemed to solve all my problems just like that.
“Screw your magical destiny bullcrap.” (actually it said something else, but I censored it.) As that phrase rang through my head, it seemed to resonate with my soul. Then another phrase appeared. “Screw reality.” And that’s when I realized what was wrong with my stories, why they never worked, and what I could do to change that.
These stories are all about dreams, and yet I was doing the exact same thing I criticized other stories for doing: I was making it less like a dream and more like just some sort of fantasy world. Sure, I had strange surreal elements within my story that other stories often leave out, but overall it was still closer to fantasy than surrealism. The other problem with it was that I was constraining myself by trying to appeal to a specific age group with it while ultimately knowing they probably wouldn’t like it due to the surreal elements that were in it.
I’m going to rectify this by throwing all preconceived notions of what a story should be like out the window. I’m going to go all out surrealism with it, I’m not going to censor any content because of a perceived age group it should be going toward. This is my story. Maybe no one else will like how I write it, but that’s not really the issue. This is the story that I’ve been trying to make right for so long. If nothing else “traditional” is working for it, then I should break out of tradition and just go all out on it to do whatever I want.
I don’t know when I’ll actually start writing these stories, or if I’ll be doing them all at once like I normally do. Being a surreal story, I may just end up doing what I’ve been doing with my other surreal story, Into Blue Dusk. I may just write it a little bit at a time, whenever I feel like doing it. But I don’t know yet, we’ll see about that.
I’d like to end this by saying something about writers and the expectations they put on themselves along with the expectations others put on them. Don’t worry about it. This is your art. This is your story. You need to do it the way you think it should be done, the way it needs to be done. Maybe it won’t be what other people describe as “normal”, but that doesn’t make it bad. Be different, be unique. Make your story something that people will talk about and remember; don’t just be another bland, forgettable book that gathers dust on a shelf.
Obviously not everyone is going to like it when you make something different, but artists are not out to please everyone. That’s impossible. So, if you want to please anyone at all, write a story that makes you happy. If you can touch the life of just one person with your story, even if that person is you, you’ve accomplished something.
So, I’m no longer going to conform to expectations. I think my stories will prosper from this decision. If not, I don’t know what I’ll do, but even so. I think this is good advice to remember. Reach for the stars, and grasp them in any way you can figure out how. Some people will disagree with you, and even fight you about it, but if you can just touch them for one moment, then it was all worth it.