Thoughts on Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

Howdy, howdy!  I recently finished reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and thought I would share some of my feelings about it.  Let me start by explaining that it’s the first book I’ve really sat down and read in a long time.  I’ve started others, but nothing has held my attention beyond the first few pages lately (not that they were bad, I just haven’t been in a mood that’s good for reading).  So, I thought maybe a book of short stories by one of my favorite authors would get me back into a reading rhythm.  It worked and here we are.

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You have to admit it’s a pretty book.

If I’m being honest, I can’t think of a single Neil Gaiman book I’ve read that I don’t have mixed feelings about.  Norse Mythology is no exception.  Yet his stories hold a special place in my heart despite everything I question (or even hate) about them.  Why?  Usually because there’s something memorable about the worlds or because I can relate to the characters.  Not to mention that I simply enjoy his writing style, which is clear and simple and easy to get lost in.

But Norse Mythology is different, because this isn’t one of Gaiman’s worlds and these aren’t his characters.  These stories have been around for centuries.  This collection is just those stories written with his voice.   These are the tales of the gods of Asgard.  We start with a brief introduction to the main players, then get into the creation myth and work our way through a number of notable moments until we get all the way to Ragnarok.  These are tales many of us have heard before in one form or another.  It makes it really difficult for me to figure out if I liked the stories because I’m familiar with a lot of them already or because of the way Gaiman tells them.  I like to think it’s a little bit of both.

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If you read it, don’t go into these stories expecting the Marvel version.

As I mentioned, though, I had some mixed feelings about Norse Mythology.  While I loved the stories, I kept running across moments that I wanted to see better, rather than just being told about.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that this collection was written more in the vein of oral storytelling, which is vastly different from the written story in that it needs to be quick and easy to understand and entertaining, whereas you could spend ten pages of a written story describing a flower (you shouldn’t, but you could).  I get that, but one of the golden rules of writing is to show, not tell.  It’s really hard for me to ignore that rule.  There were just a few parts that I thought would’ve benefited from a little more action.

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Because Loki’s kids were awesome and got the short end of the stick.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Norse Mythology.  It’s definitely a book I would recommend to people, especially if they’re new to the mythology and want to get a quick, but fairly in depth introduction to it.  What about you?  If you’ve read the collection, feel free to share your thoughts here or on my social media pages!

The Most Common Writing Advice And Why I Disagree

Howdy, howdy!  I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween, and got tons of candy (whether you went trick or treating yourself or stole it from your kids/nieces/nephews/siblings/etc.).  Today, I want to ramble a little bit about some common writing advice that I really disagree with.  If you’re a writer, chances are that you’ve heard this statement at least once (and probably way more than that): write what you know.  On the surface, it sounds like common sense.  If you don’t know about something, how can you write about it?  But so many people take it too literally.

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No one wants to read about that, Calvin.  Unless the guy is transported into each show, then maybe.

 On the one hand, some people argue that the saying refers to emotions.  We’ve all experienced love and hate and happiness and anger, so our characters should too.  I agree with that reading of it to a point.  Characters need to express multiple emotions in order to be well-rounded.  My issue with this explanation is that we all experience and express our emotions differently, so our characters should too.  For instance, when I rage, I stew in my own thoughts and plot revenge.  I don’t really know what people who scream and cuss and break things are thinking or feeling.  Does that mean I should only write characters who stew?  No.  It just means that I have to work a little harder to understand and flesh out my characters who are screamers.

On the other hand, there are the people who think writing what they know means writing about things they’ve done or stuff that’s happened to them.  I actually started writing Garnets and Guardians because people kept telling me to write what I know.  I know about spending your childhood in and out of the hospital.  But honestly, that’s boring, so I threw in demons and references to different mythologies and a protagonist with a disease that’s fairly different from my own.  These are things that I knew little to nothing about.  Hell, my protagonist can walk.  I don’t even remember what walking feels like.  Does any of this mean I shouldn’t write about these things?  No.  It simply means I have to study up on them.  Writers enjoy research (supposedly).  It’s half the fun of writing.

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It’s kind of like that.

 I guess if I were to rewrite the quote, I’d probably go with something like “write what excites you.”  Not in a porny way, though.  What I mean is, if you’re super interested in writing about a guy who has to fight ice giants while climbing Mt. Everest, but you have no idea what mountain climbing entails, go out and learn about it.  Sure, once you learn about it, you know it, and thus the original quote applies, but it’s still up to you to study these things in the first place.  If it drives you to research something, it’s worth writing, even if you have zero experience with it.  So, write what you want.  Learn things.  Don’t limit yourself just because you’re inexperienced with something.

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Because Odin. And election day is soon.

 What’re your thoughts on “write what you know?”  Is there any common writing advice that you disagree with?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments or on my social media pages!