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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Writing is Like a Six-foot Otter - a guest post by Amy Laurens

So, I just heard about this on Twitter yesterday, courtesy of @GoogleFacts. Sorry for those of you that have already observed my squee-king over the matter. But seriously!! SIX! FOOT! OTTERS! That hunt in PACKS! How is this not the most awesome thing in the world?!?!

*ahem* Sorry. I’ll try to keep the Squee set to Stun.

So, there are otters that grow up to six foot long, and they hunt in packs, and they live in only three places in the world. They are, for all other intents and purposes (sooo tempting to pun on porpoises), the same as other otters.

This, believe it or not, has an analogy to writing. And if it didn’t before, I’m going to shoe-horn one in, so buckle up, hold on, and be prepared.

See, when you’re writing, and when you’re reading, it’s pretty normal to have lots of ideas. Just ask Liana – she gets eaten by the Plot Bunnies at least once a week. Often it can be a way to distract yourself from hard work – brains don’t tend to like hard work, on the whole, and are pretty good at tossing shiny in your way to sabotage you. And you thought your brain was a) under your control and b) your friend. HA. A plethora of ideas is also just plain symptomatic of a creative mind, so you know: lots of ideas, all good.

But when you’re actually trying to do something with these ideas, it can be problematic. I often have students ask me whether the idea they have for a story is good, and how to even tell in the first place. Sure, you can have a lot of ideas, but most of them are (you buckled in? this one’s bumpy…) just regular old otters. They have four legs and a tail and the requisite teeth, and they survive pretty well all by themselves, and they do the job they’re meant to do. They are entirely otterly. Utterly ottery. Otterly ottery.


But! Some of them are not just otters; they are Otters. They are the quintessence of otter; they are six-foot tall and hunt in packs, and they are the kind of idea that don’t just have legs and teeth, but hunger and the ability to quench it. These are the kinds of ideas that attack you when you’re down, that sink their teeth into you and won’t let go. Sometimes they glide into your mind with all the ease and fluency of a giant otter evading a piranha in the Amazon; sometimes they lollop awkwardly across dry ground, all feet and looping back and hilarious strangeness. A good idea isn’t necessarily an easy idea, after all.

What makes a good idea? They have four feet – exactly like every other idea. They have teeth and a tail – exactly like every other idea. But unlike every other idea, they’re quirky as hell and when they latch onto you, they just won’t – let – go.

So you see? Writing is exactly like giant, 6-foot otters. Just a lot drier. And with less fur.
The lack of fishy breath is a bonus too.

If you enjoyed this otterly random post, you’ll probably also enjoy the bizarreness of Amy’s new release, To Dust and Other Stories, out tomorrow! To find out more, head to www.amylaurens.com/books/to-dust - and don’t forget to sign up for the free bookmarks that come with a QR code that lets you download the e-version for FREE!

Containing four previously-published and three brand-new short stories, To Dust is a YA anthology of urban and contemporary fantasy.

To Dust  (click for bonus material)
The Maliche are devouring Imber’s world, and the only tool she has to stop them is a magic box. Shame the only ones who can work the magic are the terrifying fae in their forest home…

Anna is a Raiser, able to raise from the dead anyone she doesn’t know. So what can she do when her best friend murders her boyfriend? Everyday Weirdness, 5 July 2010.

Not Fantasy
Beth knows that the fairy world exists; her best friends are a pink tortoise and a talking pen, after all. Her creativ

e writing professor strongly disagrees – perhaps too strongly, Beth thinks, when strange cracks start appearing in his office.

Shoe  (click for bonus material)
Would you take home the pair-less shoe? AlienSkin Magazine, December 2009.

The Chaos Shark
When Ellie finds a strange-looking shark trapped in a tide pool, she realises the legends about Chaos sharks might be true. If not, her whole family is about to die…

The Wasporcist
Everyone thinks she’s mad when she complains about the noise – but Lily knows the buzzing in her ears is more than her imagination. Time to call the Wasporcist…

Sea Foam and Blood (click for bonus material)
Terminally-ill Adelaide finds an unexpected cure in the Pegasus myth come to life. Moon Drenched Fables, June 2009 (Best in Issue).

1 comment:

  1. Hehe, I loved this! Yeah, I get lots of ideas lately, but I pass most of them along. Gotta wait for those really big otters!