08 April 2015

Ray Bradbury & writing prompts 44-63 (or 73)

This week I stumbled upon this article containing 12 pieces of writing advice from Ray Bradbury. I like all the advice there, but this one in particular caught my attention:

"List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and 'kill' the lat[t]er — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears."

It's a writing prompt! Or twenty. Or thirty, if you also list ten fears.

When I started thinking about listing things I love/hate, the obvious things occurred to me: chocolate, wine and writing/talking about writing would go under love, while things like spiders, kale and being woken up from a good dream would go under hate.

But then I tried to think about it more deeply. I love my autonomy and I fear losing it. I have a fear of discovering that I'm actually insane (though I hear that worrying about being crazy is a good indication that you're not - thank goodness!). I hate unfairness and the way some people justify cruelty toward other people. I hate it when people abuse animals.

Okay, so maybe my loves, hates and fears aren't original, but you have to admit that hating intolerance is on a different level from hating broccoli, right? If the point is to mine for rich story material, then it makes sense to me to approach the love/hate/fear prompt more like a character sketch of myself. Who am I and what makes me tick? What motivates me? (For what are the things we love, hate and fear if not motives?)

Ooh! Which reminds me. Last week I wrote about doing character interviews. Well what if we applied Bradbury's advice to the context of finding out more about our characters? "Tell me, [insert main character's name], what ten things do you love? Hate? Fear? Go deep." Could be good.

But back to what I think Bradbury's actual point was: In our writing we have the power to honor and preserve what we love about this life. We also have the power to expose and destroy what we hate. Or, if you want to get constructive about it, to examine why what we hate exists in the first place and invent alternatives. We have the opportunity to face our fears in unique and interesting ways. (Yes, you *could* let a tarantula crawl all over you in real life. Or you could write a story about a sympathetic tarantula. Just sayin'.)

The power to honor, preserve, expose, destroy, examine, invent and/or confront through our art is just one of the many reasons I think our job as writers is super awesome. We control worlds. *maniacal cackle*

On a side note, I post cool stuff like the article on Bradbury to my Facebook page all the time. If you're on the Book of Faces, come like my page so you don't miss out on similarly awesome writing-related content!

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