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Dare to be weird.
It’s a simple philosophy, really. Writing-wise, I’ve never been content with clichés, and I try to avoid sappy at all cost. I yearn to craft unique plots and make people see things in new ways—I dare to be weird. I was never able to put a name to my philosophy, though, until I read Going Bovine by Libba Bray.
In Going Bovine, the protagonist, Cameron, is diagnosed with mad cow disease and is told he has only a short time to live. All seems dismal until an angel appears and tells him to head to Disney World to find a cure. A madcap adventure soon unfolds, filled with dwarves, garden gnomes, jazz singers, and happiness cults.
A subject like this could go wrong in so many ways. It could have been too outlandish or irreverent. The main character could have come across as depressing or annoying. But none of this happened. Libba Bray was able to turn this bizarre plotline into a novel that virtually turns its own pages. As I read, the story had me in stitches one moment, and on the verge of tears the next. I was in awe of how Bray could bring so much humanity to such an eccentric story. No matter how zany the characters, their actions always came from a human place.
Libba Bray helped me to hone my “dare to be weird” philosophy. For two years in a row, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), during which people worldwide attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in November. Without Going Bovine, my novel for 2010’s NaNoWriMo never would have been written. It was about a powerless child born into a family of superheroes. I had never been particularly interested in superheroes, but I was intrigued by the idea of finding the humanity in these otherwise oddball human beings.
I enjoy writing because it is like having my own universe. At my computer screen, I am omnipotent. I tell my characters what to do and how to live. I can make them fall in love, get filthy rich, or die painfully.
Going Bovine broke down walls in this universe. My world became an open place where there was room for all of my thoughts. The book showed me that my writing doesn’t have to shy away from exploring uncharted territory. Often enough, that’s where the best stuff is found.
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