Monthly Archives: January 2013

Authorcide

Just a tidbit for today. I think my characters are trying to kill me.

Last night, no less than five character and plot points resolved themselves in my head. While I was driving.

My fellow authors might know the “grab your notebook” impulse that took hold of me, but I was good! No writing while driving. I kept my hands on the wheel. On a good day, my brain has a hard time holding onto three ideas for more than a few minutes. I reduced the thoughts to their essentials and repeated them to myself.

When I reached my destination, the first thing I did was open my notebook and pen. By that time I only remembered four of the points.

In the wee hours of this morning I woke to a tornado warning. In the distance, I could faintly hear the sirens. I dragged my quilt into the closet and sat with my dog. Asher, my gray cat, was cool and calm, so I wasn’t greatly concerned.

And there, in the closet, in the middle of a tornado warning with wind and rain driving against the house, I remembered the fifth point.

Maybe I am too blasé about tornadoes. I left my refuge and got my notebook.


Sympathy

You can blame my muse, or BeKindRewrite for this. Both have a share in it. This is just a sketch related to some brainstorming I have been doing on a story of mine. It won’t be in the story, I don’t think. Not in this form, anyway. This is the first draft, with a few revisions made as I wrote it. Input would be very welcome.
The prompt I took from BeKind’s Inspiration Monday was “This is how it starts.”
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This is how it starts. 
 
Sympathy for the Devil. 
 
I never expected it from him. Should I? We had our differences, but never one this deep. 
 
If I could just believe him a victim it’d be a comfort. If I knew he was manipulated, controlled, deceived, then I’d know what to do.
 
But I’ve been watchin him. The change was gradual, but obvious. If only I’d known what it meant. We coulda talked. He needed the voice of Reason. He needed somethin to stop the corruption.
 
Would he’ve listened? Would he have listened to me. How long’s it been since our last heart-to-heart?
 
He let the monster out of its cage. I want t doubt it, but I can’t. Did I know he’d become capable of that? God have mercy, did I know? If I did, what should I’ave done?
 
Even if I stopped the action, I couldn’t stop the intent. His heart’s lost.
 
We hunted monsters together. Now he’s one of the monsters. My brother’s become the Devil. If I have sympathy for him, where’ll this end?
 
 
This is how it starts.
 
Sympathy for the Devil.
 
Only the Good God knows where it’ll end.
 
I wonder if I’ve crossed it yet; that point of no return.
 
They say the road to perdition’s an easy one. If so, it ain’t the road I’m on. Nothin about this’s easy. In a way, that’s a comfort.
 
Not much comfort, though. I don’t think I ever hated him more’n when I opened that cell door. But I thought of him on the gallows.
 
He has his share to answer for, but they’ll make him pay for someone else.
 
So here I am, holdin the broken law in my hand and wonderin what that makes me. God, have mercy. What right’ve I got to break the law? To decide I’m right and t’hell with the rest?
 
All this for a man I can’t stand; ’cause I’m arrogant enough to think I know better’n the court. I guess that makes me weak, but it feels like a struggle I won.
 
I don’t know, anymore. The cage’s open and man or monster, he’s loose. Guess I’ll know soon how badly I’ve sinned, or if God’s smilin t’spite everything.
 
I just hope my brother can forgive me.  
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Ay, madam, it is common.

I am not alone in this.

I have heard other writers express the same feelings time and again. Many writers battle these extremes.

Sometimes we feel our work is good, even great. Then we are either overcome with fear that it is trash, or we “know” it is trash.

I am at the low ebb of this, and have been for a few weeks. It is disheartening even though I know, in my mind, that it is a cycle. My heart knows nothing of the kind. I am never satisfied with my work, but this is something darker than dissatisfaction.

My muse is active enough. The little monster is happily chewing away at my surroundings and then latching onto me with its sharp little teeth until I write out the results of its feasting. I can only hope those results aren’t shit.

But how does one know? There are great writers, both from the past and the present. There is also a lot of mediocrity, and this has increased as the dissemination of information has proliferated. Yikes, that was verbose. I had a point in there somewhere… oh, yes. Some of those mediocre writers, at least, must have believed that their work was great.

If they could not fairly evaluate their own work, how can I?

Oh mother, I owe you so much for raising me on good literature, but it is a double-edged sword. I know greatness. I have stared at pages, retracing words again and again in wonder.  In order to even put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, I had to tell myself that it was enough to write, that I did not have to compare myself to Wodehouse, Solzhenitsyn, Austen or Shakespeare.

That sufficed when I wrote only for myself and for those who were curious to look over my shoulder. The creation of something to be let loose on the world requires more, doesn’t it?  The last thing I want to do is unleash more mediocrity.

There is pride tangled up in this as well. I don’t want to be mediocre.

Then again, perhaps the greats were in doubt, as well. Does anyone really know, truthfully, whether their creations are worth reading? The helplessness is depressing. Do I have to spit out what I can and trust humanity to sort out the rest?

…Yes. Perhaps I do. The only other option is to bury it.

In reply to that option, I will quote Tycho, from Penny Arcade. He is talking about reactions to offensive materials, but the same principle applies, I think, to mediocrity:

The answer is always more art; the corollary to that is the answer is never less art.  If you start to think that less art is the answer, start over.  That’s not the side you want to be on.  The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work.  The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring.  That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you.  When you believe that, really believe it, the devil dances in hell.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.

A visualization of my muse. Watch your fingers.


Not Another Princess Movie: Why BRAVE Matters

I was very surprised and pleased by the Pixar film Brave. This article elegantly expresses why. How many good, fleshed-out mother-daughter narratives do we see?

Strange Figures

(Posted this at zekefilm.org earlier today.  Thought I’d share it with you all, too.)

I didn’t see Brave on many best-of-the-year lists, but it made mine. I’ve been watching children’s movies as a parent for over twenty years and Brave was not only one my favorite films this year, but I thought it was an important film; a movie that matters.

I have young daughters and like most little girls, they like princess movies. We’ve seen our share of Disney princess merchandise pass through the house, and I confess that the youngest daughter even got a Disney princess poster for Christmas last week. We’re also Pixar fans here, and it was exciting news when Pixar announced that it was releasing a film with a female lead – a first! This didn’t just grab our attention, but was heavily anticipated by feminist film critics who were thinking that after 17 years…

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