By Lisabet Sarai
This week's topic at the Grip is "Trivial Trivia". Michelle's commentary continues:
Here's your chance to share all of that useless trivia crowding out stories in your brain. It can be about sex, or not. It can be about writing, or not. Anything is game.
I have to admit that I'm stymied. I'm a concept sort of gal. I don't do trivia. Okay, probably I do have isolated, obscure facts rattling around in my brain, but in general that's not my cognitive style. I tend to focus on the fundamental principles of things, the important relationships, the critical skills. I figure I can always look up the details.
There is, of course, also the question of defining just what trivia means. "Trivial" implies unimportant. I could cite lots of rules and terminology in the area of grammar, for instance. Does the fact that counter factual sentences require the use of the subjunctive in the independent clause count as trivia? I don't think so. I write software for a living and can program in at least a dozen languages. Are the rules for using parentheses in C trivia? Hell, no! Use them wrong and your banking system may cheat depositors or your launch vehicle might crash.
In fact, it occurs to me that even the facts that most of us might agree were trivia are important to someone. The birth date of Queen Elizabeth the Second, for example (April 21, 1926) might be considered trivia, but I'll wager that Her Majesty doesn't view it that way. The proportion of egg yolk to oil when making mayonnaise (one yolk to a cup of oil) might seem like trivia to you, but certainly not to Julia Childs!
In any case, trivia are not in any sense my specialty. I almost always focus on the Big Picture. That's usually the way I write, as well. The majority of my stories begin with a premise - not a specific scene or character, but a notion about some situation that has dramatic narrative possibilities. What if someone had visions revealing future disasters, but couldn't control them? (Necessary Madness) What if a woman couldn't let go sexually with someone she cared about, only with strangers? (Incognito) What if you had lovers who had no physical bodies? (Bodies of Light) I start with the basic idea and then allow the other story details to develop.
This is probably one reason that I often write "to spec", that is, in response to particular calls for submission. I'm pretty good at taking a theme or topic and turning it into a premise. The only one of my books I can think of that violated this pattern is Exposure. I heard Stella's voice, the way Mike says he hears characters, telling me: "I strip for the fun of it. Don't let anyone tell you different." I had no idea where the story would go from there. I had to let Stella tell it. The book began as a short story that concluded with a double murder. I really could not have told you who was responsible or what was going on. I had to turn the story into a novel in order to find out.
I'm looking forward to reading what my fellow Grip folk have to say on this topic. Michelle is a biologist, so almost by definition she's going to have a raft of nifty facts at her fingertips. Garce is a bookish and slightly obsessive sort who accumulates arcane knowledge. As for Kathleen, Charlotte, and Mike - well, I can't even begin to predict what they'll come up with.
That's half the fun of participating in this wonderful blog. Which by the way I have now been doing since February 1, 2009 - more than two years!
I had to look that fact up, by the way.