Misha Burnett on Small Worlds [Part 6]

[There is about a week left on the Small Worlds Kickstarter! Be sure to back it now; if you’ve already backed it, convince your friends and family that they need to back this exciting new Anthology! Don’t forget that we’re also offering a discount on audiobooks of Endless Summer and An Atlas of Bad Roads!]

How do you think your own life and experiences have influenced your writing?

I paint what I see.

When I first started writing I tried to emulate the writers I admired. That’s a natural step in the process of learning the craft. I would advise anyone who wants to write to start by imitating the masters, just as art students do. (Or used to, anyway. I don’t know if they still teach art that way.)

But that’s just for learning technique. One’s voice, the nigh-indefinable something that gives humanity to words on paper, has to come from within.

I’m not sure how to describe the process of discovering your own voice except to say that it’s when you start to realize what the old masters got wrong. This sounds more arrogant than I want, but I haven’t been able to improve on the wording.

It comes when you are familiar enough with the tropes and beats of fiction that you can integrate them into your own experiences. You start to see both fiction and reality stereoscopically. When you read you think, “Yeah, but if that happened in the real world….” In your daily life you think, “If this happened in a story…”

Your voice is the point where that double vision becomes focused into one three dimensional image. And that image is different for all of us because it is based on what we know to be true from direct experience.

For me, it’s the nuts and bolts, the hardware of reality that I see most clearly. I am able to look at the Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions with the eye of a blue collar worker. I ask uncomfortable questions like “Where do starships dump the sewage tanks when they are in hyperspace?”.

Often the answers I come up with resolve themselves into stories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s