So I started a new high fantasy short story tonight. Copy/paste from twitter as intro:
@Merc_Rustad: 1500 new words on a new story w/ a trans* ace MC who's super good at metallurgy. Super excited abt this one. #amwriting #gywo2015
@Merc_Rustad: It also has positive sibling relationships, other trans & queer characters and everyone being cool w/ everyone else's gender & sexuality.
@Merc_Rustad: Also, you know, high fantasy and shiny stuff like living dams and gearwork dragons and airships. #amwriting #gywo2015
@Merc_Rustad: (I realized I was so exhausted with recent SF/F I was reading that had so much grim & oppression and I just want some positivity, y'know?)
Tagging off that last bit:
I'm all for drama and conflict and excitement and adventure and whatnot. What I'm not all for is the misogyny, the bigotry, the ever-present exhaustive cis/heteronormativity in SFF. I'm just so tired.
I had two separate stories I'd begun drafting last year. I thought both had good elements; they had plots; they had queer and trans protagonists; there was shiny worldbuilding stuff to play with.
They were both irreparably stuck and I could not finish writing them. And for months (months, sigh) I banged my head against the problem going, "But there's all these things I approve of, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?"
The problem, see, was that both stories also had an oppressive grimdark atmosphere and a reliance on violence towards protagonists and their companions/partners/friends as motivation and source of plot. People the protagonists cared about were brutalized to forward plot mechanics.
I didn't see it at first because this trope (often a female character being the victim) is so ingrained into our narratives, so omnipresent, that it sometimes gets taken for granted that it will show up, that you have to incorporate it for your tale to function. And because none of the victims, in these stories' cases, were women, it made it harder to pick out at first.
Well, for one thing, the necessity? Is bullshit.
And for another, I found it is actively painful for me to try and write this way.
Yes, I liked a lot about the stories--but the centralization on the brutality and loss was not okay with me. I do not want to write grimdark fantasy where the protags go through all this hardship only to find more grief and pain at the end, even if there is a set-up for future semi-positive resolution.
I quietly trunked both unfinished drafts and started over on a new thing, which took some of the shiny, and both protags, and dumped them in an entirely different plot.
The words flowed. The plot appeared. I'm suddenly really happy and excited about this new thing, and a lot of the reason is that while there is still lots of drama and action and conflict and sword fights, it is also positive. Protagonists don't have family or loved ones or partners or friends hurt / threatened / killed to forward the plot or motivate them. There are other motivations.
Of course there are stakes involved, and risks--everyone is essentially trying to stop angry sea monsters from bursting through a dam and chomping on a couple of cities. They can do that without the draining, grimdark tropes and narrative devices.
I can write this and not feel constantly depressed and sick about what I'm writing. It's very freeing; I'm glad I can finally see where the problem lies.
So yeah. I wrote 1,500 words of a shiny new thing (aiming for maybe 7.5k?), a story that is making me happy, and I want this trend to continue. I am going to write more optimistic, positive-themed fantasy. I think it's worth doing.