Is There A Knack To Writing (Steampunk)?

Credit to Cait, because I can’t art like she can.

Credit to Cait, because I can’t art like she can.

Well, actually I’m writing a novella*.

Academic work has been tough lately – getting on top of things. I was chatting to my boyfriend, whose weeks consist of 9-5s or similar days in work; whilst mine are few in contact, as I listed the things I have to do today (writing a blog post notwithstanding), I realised that I have so much yet to do as the term wears on.

So, before I go on, here’s a video of Hank Green giving tips on how to do all the things (If you’ve not watched How To Adult before, I highly recommend it).

Anyway, where were we? Ah, Steampunk. Much-talked-about topic if you search the internet. I don’t know how much it’s been talked about how to write steampunk, though. I’ve not searched. But Steampunk is the easiest genre for me to write when I need to write in the midst of academic work – I realised at the weekend that it’s what the inside of my brain looks like: shiny things, science, long frilly dresses, and magic.

But is it the easiest? A good example of judging the quality of prose is whether it can be smoothly performed or read aloud. At the Surrey Steampunk convivial last Sunday gone, I had the pleasure of listening to a steampunk short story and a snippet of a steampunk-esque biopic-esque play. What I noticed most was the wonderfully sprightly prose characteristic of steampunk.

It made my writing feel dangerously inadequate.

The problem (at least, I’ve found with WTCB) is that my first draft are needlessly florid. To deal with this, editing has concentrated on removing overwriting – but, with that, I’ve lost…something. Some shininess in steampunk written voice and style.

Do I have any tips from what I’ve learnt? Well, part of steampunk is that it’s each to their own – so, if you want to develop the satire or humour element of steampunk, you’ll be using a different tone of language to if you’re painting a work of elegant structures and grand societies in steampunk.

> There is different slang, different vocab, and different self-concept in the Victorian area. Part of the quirk (and hook) of steampunk is the oft-elaborate and dialogue.

> Antiquated whimsy. In the same vein of thought, steampunk has a certain element or pizazz to its specific genre that other genres won’t or don’t (need to) include.

> The world. Writing a fantasy world is no mean feat, certainly, but it at least has some kind of ready template of an expected map; writing a steampunk landscape is a combination of the rusty, oily mechanics and the lush, greenery better found in Tolkien.

> Following on from that, don’t be afraid to be inspired by what you see around you. Write what you know, and if that’s the soft colours of your garden or the colder colours of your bathroom or study or something completely out of the usual, then that’s the perfect inspiration for a realistic setting.

> The characters. Some steampunk (particularly if utilising satire or humour) applies stereotypes or types to characters: the wacky scientist, the aristocratic elder, the tough air pirate.

Of course, I would never advise of writing a stereotype, but they are a place to start. This allows readers who know steampunk and its umbrella/links to connect with the characters and types they know.

> There is still a story and plot in the glamour and soot. Despite what I’ve said, you cannot forfeit a good, well-woven plot for beautiful and elaborate or complex prose. Balance is crucial, and, yes – balance is difficult.

Of course, there are so many different ways to tackle writing steampunk, and, as we any genre, each writing has their own, personal tactics. Me? I’m going to be reading more Shakespeare, after finding that it conjures up images and characters bright to my imagination. I’m also going to be searching our more ethereal harp music like this sonatina. I don’t tend to write with music, but some draw for me.

The verdict? Steampunk, like every other genre of writing, is difficult. But don’t despair! There are ways of working on it! 😛

*Well, actually, since writing the first draft of this post, I’ve started writing another novel, as well.

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