Wizard’s First Rule and What It Taught Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about philosophy lately. One of my favorite fantasy novels, the Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, has philosophy in abundance. Lately, I’ve been pondering the Wizard’s First Rule: People are stupid. They will believe anything if they want to believe it or they are afraid of it.

I found that very true. I am only smart enough to know I stupid I really am. I do stupid things every day. Everybody does. It’s part of being human. By embracing our humanity, we forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make, and then are able to move on.

But I also found a deeper meaning in the matter of morality. Our culture values potential: the great potential that everyone can access or express through hard work and perseverance. That’s the potential to be good. But no one talks about the potential of evil. We may protest and swear that we aren’t the bad guy. But because we’re human, because we’re stupid, because we make mistakes, we are not walking a path but a tightrope of morality. Any one of us can make a choice that hurts others or hurts ourselves. And because doing evil is easy, making choices that mistreat or harm other people makes it easy to rely on those choices to confront problems in the future. It all builds up like a snowball. Before you know it, you’ve crossed the line of morality. We become the bad guys.

Living with the Wizard’s First Rule requires us to be constantly aware of this weakness. We must embrace our moral vulnerability and live on, doing the best we can to live the life we want to live. Not that it’s easy. Temptations are everywhere. But that’s all right. It’s part of being human. We have to take the good with the bad. That’s what a life of reading fantasy books has taught me (supported, of course, by the education of life). That’s what I try to write about.

Riding The Bronco

A story is like riding a bucking bronco. You can control it, but at some point, it’s going to go where it wants to go. As Robert Jordan said of his (originally planned six-book series) “The tale grew in the telling.”

Some might say an author has great skills because he/she knows how to handle the story. Again, I believe that the idea only goes so far. Creativity, by definition, is spontaneous, wild, random. So the writer is linked with the reader, in that they’re both enjoying the ride.

But the writer must beware. If there’s too little control, then the story gets out of hand. The characters don’t fit their roles. Events have no consequence. The writer builds a fantasy that makes sense only to him, forcing the readers into confusion, until they have enough and drop the book.

Stories deserve to be read and written, and authors will debate how crucial a role creativity and technique play in writing the story. But make no mistake. Once you touch pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) sooner or later it’s going to throw you off. The trick is figuring out how to hang on.

If you figure it out, be sure to let me know.

Forgetting

An author’s worst enemy is forgetfulness. I can’t tell you how many times I came upon a great idea and didn’t write it down in time. A great idea can unify the storyline, can provide an ending that represents all the hard work you’ve put into the story and bring it to a level of satisfaction that every writer — no, every artist — can spend lifetimes hoping to achieve.

That happened to me recently. I have to work backward with the scraps of memory I have left to compose a satisfying narrative, but I know that whatever I cobble together will be inferior to the original idea that came to me.

So the lesson of this post is: wherever you go, put it in writing if you think you’ll going to forget it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a notebook or a notecard. Keep it by your side at all times. Trust me. You don’t want to find something worthwhile and forget it the next day.

Songs and How They Incorporate In Writing

Music can be an integral factor in writing different book scenarios. When I want high-velocity battle scenes, I like to put on movie trailer music. Soothing ocean sounds help to emphasize the emotional vulnerability of characters who have just discovered a new piece of their past.

Battle music — check out a band called Audiomachine.

Emotional Heart-to-Heart talk – the Venerable Forest theme in the Star Ocean II video game.

Writing is all about being in the right mindset. Sometimes music can help add layers to a scene by guiding an author into a proper mindset. Next time you’re at iTunes or Youtube, read the bio of the band of some music tracks. Find out the frame of mind the artist was in when he wrote the song. What he felt at the time of recording the song can help you identify the song, and identifying the song can help you find the proper mindset in writing a scenario.

Remember: writing is not just about the words. It’s about using the senses to construct the scene. For me, jump-starting the imagination with sounds helps me be a better writer. Maybe it’ll be the same with you.

A Glorious Day

I’ve been meeting a group of local writers (the Ink Well group) for the past few months. They’re honest people trying to hone their skills, as am I. The frustrating part is that very few are fantasy readers (the genre I specialize in). So sometimes they get confused about the number of characters in a chapter (that’s equal parts of my needing to improve my skills). But yesterday, they all liked my piece. It’s a great feeling. So hooray for me, and thanks to the Ink Well group of writers for giving me honest critiques.

No Second Chances

A fellow author once said that you must make sure that your book is ready to be published before you published. Once a thing is published, you can never go back on it. If you make a mistake with your writing, your story, and if it’s not 100% of what you thought it would be, that book stays with you.

My book wasn’t ready to be published. I had no one else to tell me my flaws as a writer. I just assumed it was going to be great, that everyone would get it. But it wasn’t. My characters and their backstories didn’t make sense. I didn’t think it through because I was the only criticism available.

I had a back-up plan. A kind of loophole. My book was published in segments. What is out there is not the full manuscript. I could still look for publishing avenues. But just as I was recently told, there aren’t a lot of publishers looking to create a semi-published piece of writing. That’s my fault. I can’t tell the story I want to tell because I rushed through it. To all you writers out there, be careful of your writing. Get an outside opinion. Just because your writing makes sense to you doesn’t mean it will make sense to others. If you don’t, then you’ll end up like me: a story that doesn’t represent the true essence of what it’s your heart and soul.

That’s all the wisdom I can give today. Good luck.

Today’s Talk

It has been said that a huge part of writing is to know when to give out information and when to leave it out. You want to intrigue the reader enough that he’s interested in continuing reading.

However, this is a risk. Too little information can leave the reader confused, disappointed and uninterested. This is where the risk comes in: using literary techniques like red herrings (leading the characters towards an incorrect trail) can captivate or confuse. It’s the cross every writer/author must bear, and its the honing of this skill that takes decades, even lifetimes to master (if it can be mastered; there is always more to learn).

I am still learning, so be patient. If you have an author in your life, be patient. Help him/her. Encourage him/her. At the end of the day, encouragement is what counts.

Thank you for your time.