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Week 12: Westworld and Writing

As the close of LitSoc’s incredible Michaelmas Term approaches, Sadbh Kellett takes a unique perspective on writing technique. Have a read before our final Literary Lock-in!

There are things one has to confront at certain points in their life, things of utmost importance: your occupation choice, how many children you want if any at all and whether you would walk into Westworld with a plan or just see how things play out. I mean, if you’re paying $40,000 a day it’s quite understandable if you enter with an organised plan of precisely how you’re going to win Teddy’s heart. It’s also equally acceptable to take a walk on the wild side, bump into Hector, play cowboy for a few weeks, see what happens.

Neither approach to the park is particularly wrong (at least, up until episode seven anyway). You can be a Logan or a William and still find a story worth jumping on board with whether you saw it coming or not. The important thing is knowing your own narrative, knowing what works for you, knowing what kind of person you are.

Makes sense right? No point paying $40,000 just to be bored sin goal if you’re a planner or restrained because you know the entire plot of the narrative you’ve taken.

Equally, there’s no point putting 4 bazillion hours into a work-in-progress doing a Logan when you’re a William or the other way round.

If you genuinely want to get the most out of your writing experience you ought to think about the kind of writer you want to be. Cowboys don’t leave the herd out so late after dark because they know how to do their job and take it seriously; so should you and just like there are different kinds of cowboys there are different kinds of writers.

So, I’ll ask, are you a panster or a planner, an architect or a gardener, a discovery writer or an outliner?

Me, I’m a forced bit of both I guess. I’m a gardener until I realise the book I’m writing is the first in a series and oh boy, I’m going to have to do a bit more than ‘a bit’ of planning - but I’ll do it after the first draft. I use my first draft to be a William, to stumble about with a dodgy compass, only ever a few steps ahead of myself until I meet a moment or character that BOOM unlocks ideas like bullet shrapnel or dynamite explosions. Of course, after many ideas lost to the canyon of a writerly mind, I’ve learned to write them all down.

It’s only when I’ve made it to the other side of my Westworld that I can see wholly what I’ve created, a mess, but a substantial mess of actual words and tangible plot lines, bits of foreshadowing, character arcs and subplots, with heart and a few good gun fights. From there, it’s a case of making the journey back, doing the repairs, being my own engineer, behaviour department and head of narrative.

It’s only when I’ve made it to the other side of my Westworld that I can see wholly what I’ve created, a mess, but a substantial mess of actual words and tangible plot lines, bits of foreshadowing, character arcs and subplots, with heart and a few good gun fights. From there, it’s a case of making the journey back, doing the repairs, being my own engineer, behaviour department and head of narrative.
Some will balk at this - that’s not how you play the game!

The planner: the Logan. The extreme planner: the Man in Black, will have different tools, ideas - they’ll have a working compass for one and plenty of research, character profiles, maps, detailed plotlines - they’re going to find El Lazo if they have to wait a few days before starting their story - they’re happy to stay put and research first, wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.

Alright, let’s cut to the chase; if you’re heading into your own Westworld over the break it’s worth knowing already who you are as a writer, because your Westworld isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about discovering potential, purpose, possibility and you don’t want to wave the white flag half way through because you’re not taking yourself seriously.

Take yourself seriously, give yourself a helping hand here, what you’re doing is hard enough without you limiting your own potential.

What kind of writer are you? How can you help that writer complete what they want to write? They’re things worth thinking about and there’s as much to be said about yourself as a writer as what Westworld has to say about writing and artists too.

So go ahead, write without limits.