Once upon a time, not particularly long ago in the bigger scheme of things, I started a WordPress blog named Phil’s Misadventures in Fiction. It happened because I had an idea for a story, which would eventually (still very tentatively) end up named Joshua’s Nightmares. In moments of pride, I would insist on calling it my web site and not my blog. I would post frequently, and then I would drop off of the planet because of other obligations. And then I would do absurd things like force myself to keep active while binge-writing a novel in under three months. I even shelled out some money so my WordPress could be listed as misadventuresinfiction.com (a fact that will never fail to make me smile for some reason).
Why misadventures, though? Why not adventures? Quests? Journeys, even? This is something I failed to consider, largely choosing misadventures because it felt right. It had that little bit of silly humor to it, and Misadventures in Fiction just sort of rolls off the tongue (or, perhaps, it awkwardly clunks off of the tongue). The title happened, it stuck, and I grew to love it as time marched along, as any creator often does (while spending much time in self-loathing for other things).
Today brought a curious revelation about this title choice, and I thought it merited sharing. I think I may have found the why of “why misadventures”, and that little bit of self-discovery makes me very happy indeed.
Quests, journeys, adventures, and so on all bring forth mental images of a hero going forth and accomplishing good. They include struggles, but ultimately have a good outcome for the hero in question. That’s the important bit. The hero typically wins out, and everyone runs the risk of learning some valuable lesson through this victory. Personal growth occurs, experience points lead to leveling up, and everybody ends up a little better than when they started (save for any villains along the way, who typically end up a good deal more dead). I go on plenty of adventures, and quests and journeys, but it doesn’t feel right for my writing. It doesn’t taste as good as misadventures does.
Misadventures not only accept the possibility of failure. They run up to failure like an old friend, giving it a warm embrace while stealing its wallet in the process. They’re the sort of thing that set off to save the princess and slay the dragon, and sometimes inadvertently kill the princess and send the dragon on an all-expenses paid cruise. Misadventures offer valuable learning experiences, too, and it’s the process of picking up and dusting off after a misadventure, filled with shenanigans and dumbassery most wonderful, that really made me fall in love with this concept.
The writing process is one that doesn’t just accept the possibility of failures and rejections. It takes those things and says, “This is what you will likely experience on many, many occasions, and you’re going to be an infinitely better person if you harness the energy from those rejections and turn it around into something great”. I am exceedingly good at failure, like many other people, and I’ve grown, over the past couple years, to embrace the possibility that I might just have to go back to the drawing board. That progress can be undone not only by others, but by the author who started out loving what they were doing only to end up not as thrilled. The misadventure of starting a short story, making it ten pages in, and then deleting the whole damn thing because I fell completely out of love with what I did to a concept I was certain would be great with this diction and that tone. And then it didn’t turn out that way, and with one very quick Ctrl + A combination and a backspace, plus a decisive save to prevent the possibility of backpedalling, I’ve accepted that incarnation of a short story to have been its own misadventure.
Misadventures remind me of college, and learning as I screw up. Embracing the certainty I’m not the best out there, and that I’m meandering along the same path many writers have before, and after, me.
I embrace the idea that much of my work will turn out to be folly, and that some of my enthusiasm is misplaced. There may be days when I look at that and feel it as defeat, and others when it’s another great drinking story about how I wrote a horrible, shitty story about knights who weren’t very good at being noble, or a dragon whose greatest weapon is politeness (and suddenly I want to write the latter example just because).
These are my misadventures in fiction, because I’m setting out to create something amazing. I might end up slaying a few princesses and rescuing a few dragons along the way, and I’m completely okay with that so long as I can keep writing.