Trying to write colourfullyPosted: July 16, 2013
When I was writing my first terrible manuscript — set in the beginnings of the Aligare world — I showed it to people. Because I was proud of my work and I wanted praise, of course. But also because I had heard critique was a good thing to get.
One scene in particular was set near the Great Barrier, the dome of casting essence that shields the land from the deadly Cold. The characters had seen plenty of casting but never like this, never an amalgamation of all casting elements. This Barrier was clearly a work of the gods. It was a semi-transparent wall that seemed evenly golden from a distance, but up close it shone with flecks of every colour.
It was just one detail of the world I was trying to paint. But it was far from the first time my characters had used or seen magic. They brought it glowing forth from their hands and shining out of gemstones on plenty of occasions. And one of the people reading this Great Barrier scene — an acquaintance who just liked my fanfiction and was curious about my original work — made a comment that struck me. She said this fantasy world sounded like a beautiful place, with all the colourful magic.
That’s definitely part of what I like about fantasy. It’s easier to make colour just spring out of nowhere when you’ve got whimsical powers and environments to work with. But the “beautiful place” comment resounded with me so much because it was about a specific fixture of my invented world. Not some random pretty castle or waterfall, but a vital part of the proto-Aligare world and its mechanics. It sounded beautiful. Like human readers might enjoy visiting this place and imagining the sights.
I’m sure every writer has a mental gallery of feedback made on their work. And it’s easy for negative comments to fill up that gallery. If we hear ninety-nine comments of, “It’s kind of interesting,” and one comment of, “It’s terrible; never write again”, there’s no question which one will stick in the human mind more firmly. I’m just grateful that one of my early gallery comments was so simply positive. Maybe that casual acquaintance was just fishing for something nice to say, or maybe she really thought my world would be a great place to visit; I can’t know that. But I saw a lot of meaning in what she said. Colourful can literally refer to visible spectrums of light, or it can refer to the variety and interest in the world around us. I’ve always tried to be colourful in my writing. I don’t want to blend into everything “normal”.
And while I developed the Aligare world and got lots of discouraging comments, it was nice to have that positive comment to fall back on. Every time someone said, “No adult will ever read this”, I was able to think in response, “Hmm, well, someone already has. And they thought it was colourful.” I guess you could say it’s the compliment I’ve based my goals on.
- Flashback post: How I used light and dark magic in the Aligare world (heidicvlach.com)
- The structure of Aligare homes (heidicvlach.com)
- Chimera creatures in mythology: why are they so familiar? (heidicvlach.com)