Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Strange Tales


We're at a little shop which sells little handmade tote bags somewhere in Melbourne.

Shop Lady: Oh, you really have goods eyes for picking up beautiful stuff! You must be an artist.

Me: Hmmm ... thank you. I'm not an artist but I'm a writer-in-practice.

Shop Lady: Sorry, a what?

Me (instant regret of my stupidity and wish I had told her what I did in my part-time job instead): Writer-in-practice as in I practice writing stories.

Shop Lady: Ah, I got you. So what do you write about?

Me (suddenly have the great urge to go to the lady's room): Strange tales like ghost stories, a bit of fantasy and horror. Hmmm, how much is this bag? I can't seem to find the price tag.

Shop Lady: Like Stephen King ... good on you! So can I get your book at Borders?

Me (I knew it!): I'm still writing one! I don't think I need another bag anyway you have a good day!

I walk out of the shop and begin to compose below in my head.

It is interesting to notice that whenever I tell people I write strange tales, people look at me as if I'm speaking Latin. O.K., maybe it's my fault to come up with such bizarre name for my writings. But it is how I see it. I don't want to pigeonhole myself as a fantasy, horror or any genre writer. Now, don't get me wrong here. I have nothing against genre writing but huge respect to them all. In fact, when I first started out writing, I had this vision of myself writing one of those big, fat literary fiction say like War and Peace. I tried but it didn't work out for all sorts of reason. Then as usual, life took over, I got detoured and only came back to writing a few years ago. Odd things happened - every story I wrote since then had something dark and / or gory in it. What do you do with it? I'd say you follow it. It's no point to resist your natural impulse. If I have a bend to the dark side, I bend even further. (IMPORTANT: The dark bend only applies to storytelling. I'm a good person. No, more than that, I'm a beautiful, fantastic and magnificent person!)

Now the other thing about my strange tales as shown in above conversation is the Stephen King analogy. Just because my story has a bit of blood and gut and I'm a writer of horror. If you ever read Mr. King's book, his writings cover lots of genre like horror, suspense, mystery, thriller, fantasy, SF and even non-ficitions. That's why I describe my stories as strange tales. It is all because of the strange things within the stories. Also I'm still learning my craft and developing my writing. Who knows what I'll become? ..... Back to Mr. King - I don't particular like or dislike his writings. I see him as a master storyteller and I'm reading his books mainly for learning purposes.

Writing to me is always about The Story. No matter what happens, the story should always come first. When I sit down to begin a new story, I always say this to myself:

"I'm not here to impress. I'm here to tell the story as truthfully as I could."

(I guess this turns out into a rant ... sorry!)

(BTW, I have decided that I don't want to become anyone or anything. I'm perfectly happy the way I am!)


Anonymous said...

You are perfect just as you are! You have a unique voice that will continue to grow and develop. Bravo!

P.S Did you make that bracelet labeled "my precious?" Rutilated quartz is a wonderful healing gem of my favorites!

Hybrid J said...

Hi Caroline,

Good to see you again! Guess I'm just too comfortable in my own skin, hahaha! ;)

Didn't make the rutilated quartz bracelet myself, wish I could ... (I'm not good with my hands.) Glad the RQ is one of your favourite. They are simply divine and the one on the pix is one of my constant companions. I call them My Boys!

Thanks again for dropping by.

sophie said...

I understand your frustration at people trying to pin you down about 'what you write'. I write all kinds of stuff (short stories, non-fiction essays and short pieces, screenplays, radio plays... this list goes on) but no one seems happy with "all kinds of stuff" as an explanation. I'm sure there are some writers who sit down with a specific genre in mind, but most I know just write and whatever comes out comes out. It's only later that a genre is applied.

I guess people are just showing an interest and trying to understand, so I shouldn't complain too much, but I've really struggled with my answer to the "what do you write?" question.

sophie said...

PS. I like your description 'strange tales'. It's perfect really! If only people didn't have the marketing genres so firmly entrenched in their brains... then you might not find yourself having to explain it further all the time.

Hybrid J said...

Hi Sophie,

Thanks for the two comments. I always have a hunch that the genre thing is by and large a publisher's & markeing idea. It might be problematic to me, but it'll help general readers to quickly locate the books they want when they wander in a huge bookstore like Borders. Anyhow, I'll stick to my "strange tales" :)

Will hop over to your place (ie The Monday Project) later today to discuss your struggle about "what do you write?" question. Hope this is o.k. with you. ;)

kate said...

"I'm not here to impress. I'm here to tell the story as truthfully as I could."

i really like that idea :) im going to try and live by that a little bit more. i experience the same kinda of pigeonholing in the jewellery world. people asking "yeah but what is your thing" "what is it that you make?"

its frustrating that you seem to need to have a genre for people to be able to understand. oh well i guess this is part of being creative?

sophie said...

Hi Hybrid J,

Mine ideas usually come in a similar way. Or sometimes I'll hear someone on the street (or in a tram, when I lived in Melbourne -- for some reason trams were a huge source of inspiration for me) say something and wonder what their story is. So I make it up.

Then I sometimes just have random ideas that tend to start with "What if...?" and I write a story from there.

At the moment I seem to be writing quite a few 'strange tales' as well, which is unusual for me.

I guess what I meant was that I really struggle to answer people when they ask me that question.

But I'm glad I've sparked a conversation about motivation and inspiration! I'm always interested to find out where other people get their ideas from.

sophie said...

PS. I just re-read that post: "Mine ideas"... lol, sounds almost Shakespearean.

Hybrid J said...

Hi Kate,

Glad that you found my "not here to impress" useful to your creative life. I reckon the genre subject has become almost a universal label to all creative venture. It doesn't matter if you're a jeweller, painter, writer etc. people need that as a form of identification. I'm a believer that if you stick to your own thing, you'll be fine! :)

And welcome to the circle! Will write up a welcome post to you ...

Cheers and have a wonderful weekend!

Hybrid J said...

Hi Sophie,

Me too - I love the trams and the trians! They're terrific for observations and eavesdropping, hahaha! But what I love them most is their rocking motion, it sends me off to the world of imagination.

Thank you for starting the thread of ongoing conversations on motivation and inspiration. That's one of the reasons why I decided to start blogging: apart from having my own space to rant a bit, it's also about connecting with fellow creatives to share our experience and support each other.

I've got some ideas for posting from this conversation, so keep following ... :)

Cheers and have a wonderful weekend!

Hybrid J said...

PS. How about calling your writing Sophie's curious stories ... :)