I've never been a fan of any famous writer. Never. I've got to the point of being a fan of some writers' books, but that's it. I've never been a fan of the writers' their selves. Just like when I was a die-hard fan of Harry Potter serial back then. Vigorously, I tried to memorize all of the spells and their functions Harry learned. I began to imagine what if I actually had a magic power too. Had I became delusional, it couldn't be helped.
Then, here it came, the day when I read Supernova: Ksatria, Puteri, dan Bintang Jatuh for the first time. It was the book I borrowed from a close friend when I was in junior high school. Supernova #1 was still in its old cover, the first edition published in 2001 by TrueDee Books. Yeah, the one with a funny, amusing, unique introduction written by the publisher. Solarcell was the very first attracting word from the book I memorized till now. Gilaa, ini penulis, fiksi dicampur sains! Gilaa, ini novel atau buku referensi kuliah?! Footnote kurang banyak! Si penulis ini seorang profesor? Eh, ternyata tidak. Seorang lulusan HI Unpad yang telah menjadi artis sebelum menerbitkan Supernova. How could? How could Dee write a best-seller book since she didn't have experience as a professional writer before?
A unique fiction always captures my heart. In that way, Dee could make her Supernova serial became one serial that I always looks forward to it. So, when Bentang Pustaka announced a challenge to write a review of Supernova #5: Gelombang, I accepted the challenge straightaway. Why? Hey, I'm insane if I didn't take this challenge to win an opportunity to meet and learn about writing directly from the master!
So, here I am. It is 8 A.M., March 15, 2015. This day will be engraved in my mind forever. Wiryowidagdo Ballroom of The Sunan Hotel Solo makes perfect crime scene for these 20 best reviewers of Gelombang (I was selected, thanks to my review), who are craving and being champed at the bit, rob Dee’s experiences in writing. I am among the others who are the fans (some are die-hard ones) of Dee, while I am not. I am just a fan of Supernova. In fact, some of them participated the review competition just to be able to take a photo with Dee, or just have her sign on their books.
Just at the moment when Dee is entering the room, and she stands on the mini stage, she removes her high heels and replaced them with sandals. How cute that she is being herself in front of their fans. Then, the first session is began directly, at 9.30 A.M. (though on the poster, it should be started at 8.00, but Dee has just landed at almost 9.00). Once the Mbak-mbak MC begins the session, many fingers are pointing the ceiling.
Do you know why Dee wanted to write on the first place? At first, she just wanted to share. She says that since in junior high school, she was a very dedicated diarist.
“Saya menyimpan buku-buku diary saya dalam sebuah peti. Setiap menulis diary, saya dulu membayangkan bagaimana jika suatu saat ada bencana menimpa Indonesia hingga rata dengan tanah, dan ada seorang explorer menemukan peti berisi diary saya. Berkat diary itu, orang-orang yang membacanya akan tahu kisah hidup seorang bocah perempuan bernama Dewi Lestari....”
Quite amusing, right? The way she tells us is very amusing too. From only a will to share, write itself has grown up to become a matter of perseverance.
|Picture source here, edited by me.|
Finally, writing is about a routinized activity. This is her answer for my question, “what if the routine makes our writing be flat?”
Silly me! The one which is routinized is the writing activity, not the writing itself. You don’t constantly write about same topic day after day, right?
Then, what made Dee write Supernova?
It was just simply because she was eager to read some books which fused science with fiction and spiritualism. And back then, there was barely that kind of book written by Indonesian author. So that, she made that kind of book herself. How to begin writing? First, don’t exaggerate too much! “I wanna write a novel with a very impressively cool idea! But, it would be too difficult for me!” Stop thinking like that! Let’s just think about the things you love; “what kind of book you wanna read?” If you can’t find any books in bookstores that meet your wish, then why don’t you write it yourself? An artist should create market; not follow it.
Early in her carrier as a writer, actually Dee didn’t know much about techniques. She just mostly used her intuition to build her story (Supernova KPBJ, Akar, and Petir). So, she didn’t have a vision of how much pages she would and should write. But, as she learned more and more, she realized that techniques also have an important role.
Generally, a novel consists of these three stages:
Controlling those three stages doesn’t enough to make a great novel. You must create a unique main character, too, like the ones Dee created in Supernova, i.e. Bodhi, Elektra, Zarah, and Alfa. Fortunately, munificiently, Dee shares her receipt in creating strong, unique, and lovable main characters.
That simple equation (let's just call it the equation of character) has created the character of Elektra, a girl with an ordinary-near-unlucky life, an extremely lazy person. But, Dee added an extraordinary ability, to become a healer using electricity! Splash! In a jiffy, I have fallen into this character.
JUST CREATE A CHARACTER WHO BECOMES A VICTIM OF REACTION, AND VOILA! YOU’VE CREATED A BORING AND WEAK CHARACTER!
The main character should drive the plot with her/his actions, NOT THE CONTRARY!
The equation above also works on creating a creative story!
And remember that a creative work is a collaborative work between the author and the story realm itself. It means, there’s a dialog between them! The story has its own soul which we can’t fully restrain; we just can give it “corridors”. A creative story also needs an almost-real description about, e.g. setting and character. Let’s use our five senses to describe the small details (but not all details, of course), like the mood of a place, ambience, how the air smells, what the colour of the soil is. While writing Madre, Dee had just realized that the strongest sense to describe something is olfactory one. For example, you maybe forget the parfume’s label that your boyfriend usually uses, but you could remember its smell. This kind of fiction, which can describe its elements as real as a real life, is called VERISIMILITUDE.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE RESEARCH IN WRITING FICTION?
Firstly, the research usually can be divided into four sorts, i.e. from books, cyber research, interview, and visiting location. If we can’t visit the location directly, we can interview people who have been there. By inserting the facts we know from research into our story, it’ll become a verisimilitude. As the designer of our story, we must know all the parts that we create and write, including their validities. To do that, we must be a good observer. “Writer’s camera never sleep,” says Dee. We capture all of our surrounding we meet everyday and store it in our bank data. When we need it, we can browse it easily. Sometimes, Dee use this method to create some characters. Her camera captures a unique person who can move her to make him/her as the real version of her character. Not all parts are the same, but we can process our observation with some imaginative parts. This method also useful to help create sharp visualization of character description.
Dee’s answers are very communicative, practical, to the point, and enlightening. She’s quite humorous and a humble famous writer. She greet all of us as her friends, not either her fans or her students. She is willing to share her receipts in creating unique stories without hiding the significant parts. And, her last message is....
KILL YOUR DARLING! Be a cruel executioner for your own writing! Be dauntless to revise it, even if you have to rewritten it in a whole! Don’t consider a (some) part(s) as sacred one(s), because it could be the sacred one is the main cause of your writing getting stuck.
And, let’s befriend with deadline! It’ll make you keep writing till the end, and repel all reason that drag our feet.
Until the end of this coaching clinic, it seems that I have become her fan a little bit.