Writing together – are two heads better than one?

We have been writing together for some time now but only recently started to figure out what that means to us. Here is a little Q&A about writing together.

1. Why do you write together? 

Andy: For us, reading is a passion shared so to put our heads together and come up with ideas makes sense. 

Frida: Stories are something that we both enjoy. We have a similar outlook on life and we like to build stories around us. It felt natural to also write together.

2. How did we start?

Andy:  Soon after we met we started to write improvised text that became short stories. After that we decided to make something of it and hence the Burning Squid

Frida: We came up with a lot of elements for Adventures of Wilhelmina and one day I said we should write a children’s book around it.

3. Where did the name The Burning Squid come from? 

Frida: Andy used to call me a hamster squid and his nickname is Burnsy. Combine two to The Burning Squid and you get a pretty rad name for a bar. 

Andy: We started to build Cyd and Cordelia’s story around that bar and the name became part of us. So we didn’t have to think twice what we would call our project. 

4. Pros and cons of writing together?

Andy: Pros are that we pool our thoughts and ideas together and come up with something we may not have thought about individually. Cons are that sometimes our opinions differ and we can not always agree to one certain point but we can find compromises.

Frida: Pros are definitely the two heads together. When you can mirror your ideas and talk about them from the very beginning. Cons are our different backgrounds in writing. I have been writing and studying creative writing for years and sometimes I tend to take more of a teacher role when we work together. Though sometimes that is a pro too because Andy is a diamond in the rough and helps me to be less critical in the process and have more fun with it.

5. How writing together works for us in practice?

Andy: We write our ideas on our own to begin with and share them to edit as we see fit. We also write together on a joint file  so we can see the changes live as well. At times we video chat and share our ideas while writing.

Frida: We talk a lot. We come up with ideas and sometimes the ideas are very organic. We can start from a silly joke and end up with something we can use in one of our stories. 

We write Chronicles of Salaboa in English but Adventures of Wilhelmina in Finnish. Andy doesn’t yet speak or write Finnish. So it means a lot of translating back and forth and trying to get everything right in the final version. First we designed the plot and characters. Then we framed the chapters and now both are writing our own parts. I translate my parts roughly to Andy so he can comment and we can talk about all the details and translate his texts to the final form in Finnish. It may seem a lot of work but actually writing like this has given us a chance to make polished finished text much faster during the process. 

6. What does the other bring to the table?

Andy: Frida brings a lot of her experience as a published writer to help me with how stories are structured and how they are laid out to make my writing more crisp and focused. Her style of writing and the stories she writes are very close to the stories I enjoy.

Frida: Andy is a wizard of plotting. I tend to be way too analytical sometimes to actually see outside of the box. So Andy definitely helps me with that. Andy also has more knowledge of genres, I tend to be way more limited what comes to mixing and playing with the genres.

7. Do we have any difference in writing styles?

Andy: Personally I always write the story as if I lived in the present (even though it’s a pain for Frida). It may not be the way it is usually done but I like to think I am portraying the characters of the story, living through them and the actions they take to shape the tale. 

Frida: Andy is definitely a present tense writer. Past tense feels more natural to me, especially for longer texts. Because we write with two languages but only have one language together for now, it is sometimes hard to explain something or translate something the way it should be. But we are both learning. Translating text back and forth between English and Finnish also helps to see what is not expressed strong enough or what seems loose in the context. 

8. Do you have individual projects?

Andy: I don’t have any solid plans for an individual project, but I have dabbled in my spare time on some short stories or ideas I like to put across some time in the future.

Frida: I write a lot. Besides The Burning Squid projects I am officially writing one novel for adults. But to be honest I have three novels on the table, one play and some poems. I like to have more than one project going on at once to be able to switch between them when I get stuck or bored. More about my other project can be found on my blog perjantaipainos.com.

9. What are our plans for the future?

Andy: Well we have two projects now, ‘The Adventures of Wilhelmina’ and ‘The Chronicles of Salaboa’. Once we get these done and hopefully published we have talked about maybe doing gaming projects around our story worlds and of course we will come up with new ideas as well.

Frida: I hope The Burning Squid will find its form and become a publishing house and an interactive story platform. I hope someday this is what we will do for a living. 

Picture StockSnap Pixabay

Hope lives in dystopia

I’ve always liked dystopias. Partly because I like sci-fi and horror, and dark future fiction often has features of both. Most of all, however, I am fascinated by the hope that lives in every dystopia.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines dystopia as a very bad and unfair society or a future society after something terrible has happened.

Heroes are born in dystopia

Dystopia is the opposite of a utopia, an ideal perfect society. However, it is not always so black and white. Sometimes in fiction utopia may be just a cover for a totalitarian society or a dystopia could be an impulse for better tomorrow. Dystopia as an environment motivates people to become heroes.

If you think of The Burning Squid stories, Syd (from the Chronicles of Salaboa) would be a typical dystopian hero. Syd’s world is under a threat and even he is not the most heroic type of a character; he acts on that threat and tries to save the world.

In dark futures, I am drawn by hope. When the story world is gloomy and its social structures are cruel to the people a lot of opportunities open up for the story. Hope creates rebellion and gives the people courage to act.

Future fiction creates a framework for future action

I participated in a seminar about imaginary cities. It was held by a research network called KULTVA at the University of Turku. Among other things, we were discussing future cities in literature and films. What lies behind the visions of the future and what the imaginary futures tell about us and our time.

There was also discussion about how fictive futures could be used, for example, in urban planning or when we try to solve possible future problems. Literature researcher Lieven Ameel‘s (PhD) also spoke of hope and activity. Fiction can create a framework for future action and through it we can research the impact of personal choices in a complex world.

According to Ameel, through fiction we can safely deal with different conceptions of the future. Because dystopia does not actually describe society, but how the humans see the society, the activity generated by dystopia can be positive.

What fascinates about the dystopias?

Few years ago the grim science fiction was more popular than ever. But what will happen next? In a world of climate crisis, the corona pandemic, the rise of the extreme right, and political contradictions, it would be logical to want to escape more into pink dreams and funny moments.

But perhaps what draws us to dystopias is that they are even worse than our own reality. Perhaps real life feels more tolerable after you immerse yourself in even darker worlds for a moment. Or maybe we all just love the idea of an ordinary person’s possibilities to make a difference. Maybe we need dystopias to find that person inside of us.

Picture: Carroll MacDonald, Pixabay

You can read this article in Finnish from The Friday Press blog.