Tuesday 13 December 2011

Faith, discovery and all of that shit...

One of the things I love about writing and creating stories is the early stage, where an idea can go anywhere if you let it. And I do that by constantly asking questions about my characters and the story possibilities. I don't like to be too tied down to an idea at the beginning, but the idea has to be strong enough and formed enough for me to warrant asking questions about it. I create documents where I kind of brainstorm; I write stuff down about the story but I also write down anything that pops into my head about said idea. And so, in beginning to really try and flesh out a science fiction short script, I find that questions galore raise their heads. I literally write these questions down as I brainstorm and see where they lead me. A lot of them get scribbled out. But not all of them. In fact I probably spend too much time doing these questions but I find it invaluable - you never know what you're going to get. But not chocolates.

I don't know if it's the fact that I'm writing a science fiction story, but the particular idea I have is definitely raising lots of questions, not just about plot and character but about deeper ideas (I know, potential wankiness could ensue) that make me consider the ramifications of the story. Or, is this story saying something about me? I've always loved the genre deeply - sci-fi on TV in the 1970's forms a fair chunk of my earliest memories, thanks to my Dad - and while I love the surface, whizz bang of a lot of it, the genre acts to ask questions about ourselves in a way I don't think many other genres really do. Like a dealer on a corner, Star Wars and the original Star Trek were my gateway drugs to stuff like Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. But I still consider myself less literate than I ought to be.

One line of questioning has drawn me up a religious alleyway. I'm pretty much agnostic these days but raised Catholic (like Dara O'Briein says, just when you think you're out, they draw you back in!) and lots of questions linger, particularly about faith. Not just religious faith but lots of different kinds. Even just the concept of faith alone. And I find myself reluctant to push that too far as I feel that religion and questions regarding it can be very dicey territory. I don't want the idea in this script to be about religion so I have to find a way of drawing out the theme of faith in a more universal way. Right now in the world, I find too many people using ideas and questions about faith in order to push their own absolute ideas, be they religious or atheist; like I say, I'm agnostic and personally do not believe that anyone has the right to tell anyone else what to believe, unless it oppresses people, something I find on both sides of the modern religious arguments. In fact, to such a point that I have about as much contempt for hardcore atheists as I do for religious fundamentalists. Dogma is dogma.

And so I feel very anxious that I try and get this idea down on paper (and on screen, eventually) in a way that, while I hope it might encourage discussion, is told responsibly enough that it raises positive questions and doesn't fall prey to the twistings of certain ideas.

That's the thing I've discovered about writing and creating stories - everything matters and you have a responsibility as a writer and creator not just to the story but also to yourself and your ideas. If you have an idea and tell it the wrong way or write it in such a way that you lose sight of what made you write it in the first place then you do yourself a disservice as a person. Heavy shit. Is that the difference between a hack and a real writer? Not that I'd ever describe myself in the latter form, but the desire to stay true to an idea and my own feelings on a subject seems to be more and more important as I write more. A fear of audiences finding the wrong meaning (if there's such a thing) in my idea, or taking it too seriously.

All that wank about writing and discovery is true, it turns out. And to think this all came about from a daft idea about new stars in the night sky.

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