Beyond the Cloud of Negative Energy

Being a grown-up sucks.  Not only does it come with mortgages and gas bills, but, for me at least, it also comes with a much louder internal editor/critic. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate what my internal critic does for me.  My internal editor, for instance, is the calm, rational voice that reminds me that it is, in point of fact, not a good idea to start every short story with, “It was a dark and stormy night” even if I happen to think it’s funny.  (If you think I’m kidding, check out Wyrdsmith’s Saturday Morning Funnies, Volume 5.)  My internal critic has also noted that naming a character “Fleet Dreamfinder” is fairly mockworthy (see here.)  My internal editor also just pointed out that mockworthy is not actually a word, but if it were it should be hyphenated at the very least, but best two separate words.

Luckily, I can turn off my internal editor to a degree, but often wish I could return to the halcyon days when there was a toggle on/off switch in my brain.  I wrote a lot more when I could do that.  I wrote a lot faster.  I wrote a lot of crap.  But… I had a lot of fun. 

These days writing can be kind of a chore.  I’m always worrying about clichés and scientific reality (or at least possibility) and what readers are going to think of a name as lame as Fleet Dreamfinder. 

Luckily, for me, being a grown-up also means having children, or in my case, a child, singular (and what a singular child he is!).  My son Mason is getting to be old enough for me to truly re-live my childhood through him.  I just bought his first comic book subscription, and I’ve been able to completely turn off my internal critic as I read him the scenes in which the Fantastic Four travel to the far side of “a cloud of negative energy” and meet Ego, the Living Planet.  He’s four.  There will be time for discussions about how silly it is that the FF don’t wear space suits and that every alien they meet is not only humanoid, but also perfectly understandable to them.   For now we’re both happy just waiting on the pay off of The Thing’s inevitable question and answer litany: “Does anyone know what time it is? It’s clobberin’ time!” and the corny joke or clichéd moral at the end.  Because, when you’re four the joke isn’t actually corny, and the moral can’t be cliché because brand-new to you.  I think, too, that it’s still kind of a pleasant surprise for Mason every time The Thing says his trademarked battle cry. 

Writing science fiction and fantasy is such a strange balancing act, don’t you think?  To do it well we have to embrace that inner child’s sense of wonder — sometimes even pushing at the envelope of what’s believable — while also keeping our internal critic on enough to keep an eye well-trained on that line that crosses into… well, silliness, I suppose.  Obviously, everyone has a different place where that line falls, and some of us consciously chose to walk right up to it with intentional parodies and broad, comedic pastiches.  (I think, actually, the closer you get to the silliness line, the more skillful a writer you need to be and the more your internal critic has to be turned on and tuned in.  The reader has to know that you know that you’re telling a joke.) 

I don’t know where I was going with this, and that only proves that I’ve gotten a lot more skillful at turning off my internal editor these days.  My internal editor can be as stark raving lunatic as the Daily Bugle’s own J. Jonah Jameson and insist that I know the ending of any project before I even begin.  Those are the times when my internal critic is the most stifling – when I think I need to bring a certain level of professionalism to everything I do. 

Sometimes you’ve just got to play pretend, go off behind your cloud of negative energy and see what there is to find.  It can be pretty damn dorky. 

But sometimes it’s magic. 

Filed under For Novelists, learning to write, writing process. You can also use to trackback.

Author Information

Lyda Morehouse

Lyda Morehouse is the author of the science fiction AngeLINK series. She's won the Shamus and the Philip K. Dick Special Citation for Excellence (aka 2nd place). Her books have also been nominated for the Romantic Times Critics' Choice and preliminary Nebula ballot. She lives in the deep-freeze of Saint Paul, MN with her partner of twenty-odd years, their son, and lots and lots of cats (and fish!) Visit site.



Browse our archives: