My interview with John Brown

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In which we talk about the creative process. John is the author of Servant of a Dark God. He also gives talks on the creative writing process. You can tell in his interviews, because he spends a good bit of time on the process, and his back-and-forth style of questioning make for interesting interviews, not just (hopefully) for the reader, but for the interviewee as well. That was certainly the case with my interview, and in fact, there was a very interesting tidbit that came out of this interview, namely a discussion about how limiting your options can actually force you to be more creative.

JOHN: The description of the world and your process for getting into the story is fascinating. From the article on your site it sounds like using images was a new technique for you. Is that correct? And if it is, was your process previously to have some other physical object of which you’d ask questions?

BRADLEY: Yes, using artwork as a starting point was a new technique for me. I had no idea if it was going to work or not. An interesting thing came up when I was doing it, though. One of the things I learned at a few of the workshops I’ve been to (Writers of the Future and Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp) was to create stories in very little time using a few unrelated things as starting points. One unanticipated result of having restrictions in some areas (such as the elements involved in the story) is that it opens your mind in other areas. You’re forced to become more creative in some ways because certain avenues have been closed to you. I think it was the same with the portraits I used to represent the characters.

Before that, in the previous three novels I’d written, I didn’t really have any specific brainstorming techniques. I would start with a premise and perhaps a loose idea of the characters and a mood, and I would go from there, trying to stay true to those things as the story evolved and grew. Although part of the problem with those early stories was that I was young in my craft, I also think my brainstorming wasn’t very efficient. I think, as I alluded to above, that there were too many possibilities. I had trouble narrowing the story down, and it led to stories that were ok, but nothing great. Too often they became a bit generic. Nothing really stood out.

So while the artwork I used is one of a great many possible brainstorming techniques, I like the idea of challenging yourself with restrictions in order to force the story to stretch and bend in unpredictable ways.

Read the whole interview on John's website.