Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour - How My Creative Process Works:

           A big thank you to Vivienne Mathews (author of The Mosque Hill Fortune: The Sons of Masguard Book 1) for asking me to get involved in this blog tour. My apologies again to Vivienne for taking so long to complete this post. You should definitely check out Vivienne’s books on her blog: http://www.viviennemathews.blogspot.com/ and possibly even purchase them on Amazon. ;)

1)     What am I working on?:

           The real question should be: “What am I not working on?” I am dabbling with so many children’s book projects that it’s easy to get distracted from my current main project: tentatively titled, The Monster and the Boy or The Boy and the Monster or something like that. It’s essentially a tale of a monster trying to eat a boy, and the boy having to figure out how to outsmart the monster into not eating him, but there’s a twist...

            Here’s where you can read the first draft of the book: http://mymadmonsters4me.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-boy-and-monster-cautionary-tale.html

An example of what the story looks like:

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?:

           The Boy and the Monster is not a traditional moral story, although it parodies those types of stories to some degree. Whereas traditional fairy tales and children’s stories many times try to preach a specific message, I am more fond of stories that can teach multiple messages (some of them not even intended by the author). I also enjoy stories that show a different point of view or a spin on traditional tales, like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, or stories that switch around traditional character roles, like in The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.

           The Monster and the Boy at first appears to be moral tale about what bad things will happen if a mischievous young boy doesn't say his prayers. In the end, however, both the monster and the boy end up learning lessons they may never forget. The story, then, is less about morals and more about the relationship between the two characters and what they learn from interacting with each other.

3)     Why do I write what I do?:

           I may not write what I know, but I at least write what I love. Monsters and robots are fun and all, but more importantly, monsters and robots are AWESOME. I loved monsters and robots as a kid, and it turns out I still love them. It doesn't hurt that plenty of kids love them as well - including and especially my nieces and nephews.

             I want to be involved in the same creative process that has been passed down throughout the ages - that of stimulating the imagination of children. I love helping kids learn and develop a love for reading, writing, and art, just like I did as a child by spending hours immersing myself with the imaginary worlds and characters of: Dr. Seuss, Bill Peet, Bill Watterson, Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and many many others. For a more extensive list of some of my favorite authors and artists, check the end of this post.*

P.S. As you can tell by the length of that list, I read a lot as a kid. As an adult, I may still be addicted to reading. :)

4)     How does your writing process work?:

The Monster and the Boy is based on a game my nephew and I used to play all the time, where I would dress in a dinosaur/dragon costume (that his mother made for me) and pretend that I was going to eat him. He would then protest and give me all the reasons why I shouldn't eat him. A story idea based on this game naturally followed.

What I love about the creative process is that every idea I get seems to spring from a different source. Sometimes I will just draw a bunch of characters in my sketchpad until I create one that I like, and then a backstory will pop into my head about that character. Sometimes I will be reading a news or sports or science article and an interesting word stands out to me. The word usually sounds like it would be a good name for a character. I’ll then imagine what that character might look like, or where he sounds like he might be from. The details for the story just build and build after that. The great thing I've discovered about the writing process is that one idea invariably leads to another. Sure, there may be times when you have to study out in your mind where the story is going next, but by experimenting you find that your own stories will surprise you. They will often go in directions you never intended - much to your amusement and delight:

One of the great things about writing, drawing, or just creating in general is that stories can come from the most random of places. Recently, I was at the supermarket and was waltzing down the produce aisle [ Just like in Veggie tales. :) ] and as I looked at the various shapes of the fruits and vegetables, I got a silly idea about a bunch of fruit and vegetable superheroes. It was Halloween time, so there were giant collections of pumpkins, squashes, and gourds of all shapes and sizes. The words, “the grandly grumpy gang of gorgeous gourds,” popped into my head, and I thought that would make an excellent start for a page about a group of vegetable characters. Looking at the other items in the fruit and vegetable stands just added to that spark of inspiration, and soon I had a great big collection of ideas for fruit and vegetable characters to use for a future story:

           In addition to the fun involved in the creative process, I have come to realize that after the initial idea comes the work. A good idea only goes to far without doing the work to bring it about. A spark can’t turn into a flame if you don’t fan it and continually add fuel to it. An art teacher of mine once told me that he planned everything out in advance before painting. By doing that, he said he was rarely surprised by anything that happened during the painting process. By contrast, a creative writing teacher of mine once told me that when I came to a mental block in a story, the best thing to ask myself was: “What if?” “What if the story goes this way? What if such-and-such character does that next? While I appreciate the point my art teacher was trying to get across about the importance of planning and preparation, I appreciate the advice of my creative writing teacher even more.

I find that using the “What if?” approach keeps the story organic - like a living breathing thing. In that way, creating a story is like forming a work of art out of clay - you continue to mold and work at the story until it looks or seems or feels right. That’s what keeps the fun in the process and keeps you creating and making decisions. You find that there are almost endless possibilities that your story can have and infinite paths that your characters can walk down. It’s up to you, then, to make the decision of what those characters will do and where they will go. That continual decision-making keeps a structure to the organic process, but you are ultimately the one who makes the final decisions. You are the artist. You are the writer. You are the creator. :)

Keep on creatin',

Mr. Reese

P.S. You can check out my current book, The A Is For AAAAAAHH!!! The Z Is For Zither..., on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1491249838/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk.


Vivienne Mathews said...

Haha, I absolutely adore the courageous carrot! Thank you for putting together this post, Mr. Reese - and for pointing out that writing what you LOVE is every bit as important as writing what you know. Sharing!

Johnathan Whiting said...

Thanks, Vivienne! :)