• Joshua Blaylock

The Root of my Writing

Updated: Feb 12, 2020

To find the root of my writing, I guess I need to go back to when I was a kid. Like most kids, my brother and I played with toys. We built a persistent world in our play. Each toy was a character in this world, and the rare new toy was a new person who came into town.

We started working on an idea for a superhero world that we wanted to create, coming up with various heroes and their origins. Back then, I loved to draw, so I would draw pictures of their suits and various other elements. Of course, this was around the time that I started writing songs, and my primary dream was to be a rock star.

As an older teen, the rock star dream remained, but the idea of becoming a director started to surface. I thought of a single moment in a movie once which lead to a need for a story surrounding that moment. That lead to an epic backstory. Of course, at this time, these story ideas were all for movies. I still hadn’t really tried my hand at writing anything.

What I had begun, though, was developing my second, even richer than the first, universe, complete with a mythology and even its own language and alphabet.

Skip forward again to college, 22. The rock star dream had been realized a little and was fading quickly. The director hadn’t panned out because there were no great college options that I could see for a poor kid wanting to go into filmmaking. My enjoyment of programming since I was 12 (though I had little opportunity to actually program up to this point) lead to me choosing a programming degree.

The school I attended was about to start a video game degree, and I knew once again what I wanted to do with my life.

I started thinking of video game ideas and quickly moved back to the world I had created for that movie. It was a mythical world with a plot ripe for a video game.

Along with the dying dream of being a rock star came a need to find new outlets for my literary creativity. I began writing poetry, then some short stories that popped in my head. Finally, I decided it was time to write something more significant.

Various parts of this world’s mythology had already been decided, so it made sense to start there. I wrote a few chapters of that and moved on to another story then another, not finishing any of them, often stumped by the idea that I would need to have real interactions between characters or include some mundane details to properly advance the story.

Eventually, the hobby, which had never been a major focus to begin with, dwindled down to nearly nothing.

But, as seemed to be a common thread, eventually another hobby came along that brought inspiration. But this hobby became more than any of my previous endeavors.

After winning an award for my first board game design, I began to imagine a world that could connect various game design ideas I had built. I created another complex story that lead to the reason why, in one game your characters were being raided by enemies and in another you were supplying nectar to power a factory on a floating island. This led to the creation of 2 things – a new game where you were colonizing these floating islands and a story of how they got here in the first place.

This is the first literary undertaking that I’ve really taken this seriously, and I started reading quite heavily as I prepared to do this right. There are a number of elements of storytelling that I’ve struggled with. The primary one being how to fill in details that aren’t actually important to the story.

Trying to find a way to read faster and reading various stories led to an important lesson in writing – not important to the plot is not necessarily the same as not important to the story. Character building is important to people connecting with the characters and the world. Conversations can be used to push plot, build characters, tell backstories.

Telling the reader something straight is not as rewarding for the writer or the reader. Using context to tell a story, such as conversations or observations allows the reader to feel like they figured out what was going on rather than just being told. Like inception, they’ll believe it more, connect with it more this way.

It also often leads to inspiration. Instead of telling the reader, “There were very few animals on this planet,” I find a way to paint a picture of the idea. I lead them through a chase where they come across a group of 5 animals and are surprised because they had never seen this many animals in one place before.

We have a subplot. We’ve taken our characters somewhere new, somewhere they need to get back from. And later on in the story, our characters have a story they might want to tell, a way to build bonds between characters or segue into some other piece of information.

This discovery, along with the acceptance that I should let the story guide me whenever possible rather than the other way around, only pushing in a specific direction when I felt it was critical or I was in need of inspiration, has lead me to already having more than 10,000 words written on my current project.

I’ve also been taking small breaks to try my hand at other ideas, short stories with different concepts or more experimental ways of narrating.

I have a strong need to create, and that need always seems to find its way back to inspiring a need to build new worlds and tell new stories. I’m finally giving in and putting a real effort toward it. Maybe it will be nothing more in the end than me writing a few stories and a ton of short works and posts on a blog that nobody actually read. Maybe it will find its way to where my board game hobby is, with a publishing deal and a real potential for success. Time will tell, and as I continue to learn, I’ll be sure to share that knowledge with anyone who wants to listen.

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