Tag Archives: January

Mythopoeia

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though “breathed through silver”

Philomythus to Misomythus
(myth-lover to myth-hater)
by J. R. R. Tolkien, to C. S. Lewis

You look at trees and label them just so,

(For trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);

You walk the earth and tread with solemn pace

One of the many minor globes of Space:

A star’s a star, some matter in a ball

Compelled to courses mathematical

Amid the regimented, cold, inane,

Where destined atoms are each moment slain.

 

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend

(And must), but only dimly apprehend,

Great processes march on, as Time unrolls

From dark beginnings to uncertain goals;

And as on page o’erwritten without clue,

With script and limning packed of various hue,

An endless multitude of forms appear,

Some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,

Each alien, except as kin from one

Remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.

God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,

Tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these

homuncular men, who walk upon the ground

With nerves that tingle, touched by light and sound.

The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,

Green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,

Thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,

Slime crawling up from mud to live and die,

These each are duly registered and print

The brain’s contortions with a separate dint.

 

Yet trees and not ‘trees’, until so named and seen –

And never were so named, till those had been

Who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,

Faint echo and dim picture of the world,

But neither record nor a photograph,

Being divination, judgement, and a laugh,

Response of those that felt astir within

By deep monition movements that were kin

To life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:

Free captives undermining shadowy bars,

Digging the foreknown from experience

And panning the vein of spirit out of sense.

Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves,

And looking backward they beheld the Elves

That wrought on cunning forges in the mind,

And light and dark on secret looms entwined.

 

He sees no stars who does not see them first

Of living silver made that sudden burst

To flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,

Whose very echo after-music long

Has since pursued. There is no firmament,

Only a void, unless a jeweled tent

Myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,

Unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

 

The heart of man is not compound of lies,

But draws some wisdom from the only Wise,

And still recalls him. Though now long estranged,

Man is not wholly lost, nor wholly changed.

Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,

And keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,

His world-dominion by creative act:

Not his to worship the great Artefact,

Man, sub-creator, the refracted light

Through whom is splintered from a single White

To many hues, and endlessly combined

In living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Though all the crannies of the world we filled

With elves and goblins, though we dared to build

Gods and their houses out of dark and light,

And sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right

(Used or misused). The right has not decayed.

We make still by the law in which we’re made.

 

Yes! ‘Wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat

Our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!

Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,

Or some things fair and others ugly deem?

All wishes are not idle, not in vain

Fulfilment we devise – for pain is pain,

Not for itself to be desired, but ill;

Or else to strive or to subdue the will

Alike were graceless; and of Evil this

Alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

 

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,

That quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;

That seek no parley, and in guarded room,

Though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom

Weave tissues gilded by the far-off day

Hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

 

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build

Their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,

And steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,

A rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

 

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme

Of things not found within record time.

It is not they that have forgot the Night,

Or bid us flee to organized delight,

In lotus-isles of economic bliss

Forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss

(And counterfeit at that, machine-produced,

Bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).

 

Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,

And those that hear them yet may yet beware.

They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,

And yet they would not in despair retreat,

But oft to victory have turned the lyre

And kindled hearts with legendary fire,

Illuminating Now and dark Hath-been

With light of suns as yet by no man seen.

 

I would that I might with the minstrels sing

And stir the unseen with a throbbing string.

I would be with the mariners of the deep

That cut their slender planks on mountains steep

And voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,

For some have passed beyond the fabled West.

I would with the beleaguered fools be told,

That keep an inner fastness where their gold,

Impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring

To mint in image blurred of distant king,

Or in fantastic banners weave the sheen

Heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

 

I will not walk with your progressive apes,

Erect and sapient. Before them gapes

The dark abyss to which their progress tends –

If by God’s mercy progress ever ends,

And does not ceaselessly revolve the same

Unfruitful course with changing of a name.

I will not treat your dusty path and flat,

Denoting this and that by this and that,

Your world immutable, wherein no part

The little maker has with maker’s art.

I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,

Nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

 

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray

From gazing upon everlasting Day

To see the day-illumined, and renew

From mirrored truth the likeness of the True.

Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see

That all is as it is, and yet made free:

Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,

Garden not gardener, children not their toys.

Evil it will not see, for evil lies

Not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,

Not in the source, but in malicious choice,

Not in sound, but in the tuneless voice.

In Paradise they look no more awry;

And though they make anew, they make no lie.

Be sure they still will make, not been dead,

And poets shall have flames upon their head,

And harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:

There each shall choose for ever from the All.

My reading

morning dew, by Jubilare, taken on a morning in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

Morning Dew, by Jubilare, taken in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

 

Advertisements

Unlikely Treasure

As a child, I had little stashes of treasure. Translucent plastic beads, water-snail and mussel shells found in the Harpeth River, glass marbles, a ring with a little blue-glass jewel my brother gave me, a goat skull found on my godmother’s farm, a teardrop-shaped prism that filled rooms with tiny shards of rainbow, dried reindeer lichen, cheap pot-metal ornaments painted gold and set with faceted rainbow-glass, a lop-eared rabbit-puppet named Hazel (cookie points to anyone who gets the reference), an army (I’m not kidding, if they were alive and feeling militant, they could overwhelm you) of plastic horses.

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=25338&picture=green-glass-marbles

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan
www.publicdomainpictures.net

All things that are nearly, or completely, worthless in a monetary sense. But I think most people will easily understand that they are anything but worthless to me, even today.

Along with these objects, I kept, and still keep, deeper and even more precious hoards. Memories, words, emotions, pictures of places, sounds, smells, anything and everything that has struck a certain note in me. It is a very specific note. I can feel it vibrate, and it is always the same, though the things that cause it are so utterly disparate that even I cannot see the connection. I only feel that there is a connection.

I hunt for something, constantly. The very fact that, having these treasure-troves already, I am still hunting, tells me that these things, while they touch what I am looking for, are not the thing itself. Smoke on the wind, pine sap, limestone boulders… almost, almost! But the moment passes as soon as I know it has come. I’ve tracked my quarry and won a glimpse, but it has disappeared, again, amidst the trees and all I have left are tracks.

I worry, sometimes, that these hoards are of the world, and perhaps, in a sense, they are. They, themselves, that is. But the chord they strike, that is of such power and purity that I cannot imagine it having its source anywhere but in God. Perhaps I, and all my fellow creatures, are in danger of mistaking the source of the want, for misunderstanding what we are hunting. I could spend my whole life believing that I am seeking the things that reflect the light, and find once I have them, the light is gone. But at the same time, if it were not for the reflections these things give me, what would I know of the light?

Maybe I am wrong. But it seems that if so, at least I am not alone in my error.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook copy of The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis. Something he says near the end, in Chapter 10, made me think of my strange dragon-hoard.

I’m not sure, yet, how this is going to work, but I feel the need to explore the passage and my reaction to it. I think it will take at least one more post. It may take several. We shall see.  In the mean time, here is the passage itself. I’ve whittled it down a little for brevity’s sake, but I recommend picking up a copy of the book and reading the whole chapter (or, for that matter, the whole book, it is very interesting).

Warning, Lewis speaks about Pantheism, below. From what I know of him from his writing, I think his words are not intended to insult, but simply reflect his view. After all, he introduces this chapter as nothing more than his personal speculation. Still, it is possible to take it as an attack on pantheistic religions. I am not a pantheist, I believe that Lewis’s words are probably correct, but I mean no insult to anyone in posting this. If your beliefs differ from mine, feel free to express them (politely, please) in the comments below.

You may think that there is another reason for our silence about heaven, namely that we do not, really, desire it. But that may be an illusion. What I am now going to say is an opinion of my own…

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words. But most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you’ve stood before some landscape which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life, and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw, but at the first words a gulf yawns between you and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him…

Are not all life-long friendships born at the moment when, at last, you meet another human being who has some inkling, but faint and uncertain even in the best, of that something which you were born desiring and which… year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for…?

You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it… echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest, if there ever came an echo that did not die away, but swelled into the sound itself, you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt, you would say “here, at last, is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want… While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him, and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.

The mold in which a key is made would be a strange thing if you had never seen a key, and the key, itself, a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is… a key to unlock one of the doors in the House with many mansions. For it is not “Humanity” in the abstract that is to be saved, but you… God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you, and you alone, because you were made for it…

It is from this point of view that we can understand Hell in its aspect of privation. All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else that it was within your reach, and you have lost it forever. This may seem a perilously private and subjective notion of the “Pearl of Great Price,” but it is not. The thing I am speaking of is not an experience. You have experienced only the want of it. The thing, itself, has never actually been embodied in any thought, or image, or emotion. Always it has summoned you out of yourself, and if you will not go out of yourself to follow it, if you sit down to brood on the desire and attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you.

The door into life generally opens behind us, and the only wisdom for one haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work. The Secret Fire goes out when you use the bellows. Bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, turn your back on it and attend to your duties, and then it will blaze…

Such is my opinion, and it may be erroneous. Perhaps this secret desire, also, is part of the old man, and must be crucified before the end, but this opinion has a curious trick of evading denial. The desire, much more the satisfaction, has always refused to be fully present in any experience. Whatever you try to identify with it turns out to be, not it, but something else, so that hardly any degree of crucifixion or transformation could go beyond what the desire, itself, leads us to anticipate. Again, if this opinion is not true, something better is. But “something better,” not “this” or “that” experience, but something beyond it, is almost the definition of the thing I am trying to describe.

The thing you long for summons you away from the self. Even the desire for the thing lives only if you abandon it. This is the ultimate law. The seed dies to live, the bread must be cast upon the waters, he that loses his soul will save it. But the life of the seed, the finding of the bread, the recovery of the soul are as real as the preliminary sacrifice. Hence it is truly said of heaven: “in heaven there is no ownership.” If any, there, took it upon him to call anything his own, he would, straight-way, be thrust out into Hell and become an evil spirit. But it is also said: “to him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone, a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that recieveth it.”

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which, even in eternity, remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.

Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another: the communion of the saints.

If all experienced God in the same way, and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church Triumphant would have no symphony. It would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note… Heaven is a “city” and a “body” because the blessed remain eternally different, a “society” because each has something to tell all the others: fresh and ever-fresh news of the “My God” whom each finds in Him whom all praise as “Our God.” For, doubtless, the continually successful, yet never complete, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others, and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations, is also among the ends for which the individual was created.

For union exists only between distincts, and perhaps from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things. Pantheism is is a creed not so so much false, as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created, He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him and achieve union instead of sameness. Thus He, also, cast his bread upon the waters. Even within the creation, we might say that inanimate matter, which has no will, is one with God in a sense in which men are not. But it is not God’s purpose that we should go back into that old identity… but that we should go on to the maximum distinctness, there to be reunited with Him in a higher fashion.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Note: this is a transcription from audio. I cannot vouch for the punctuation, spelling, or even the exact wording, but I have done the best I can under the circumstances.


Double Mind

Sometimes I wonder if the only difference between an author’s mind and someone with multiple personalities is awareness.

Of course, this won’t apply to all authors. There seem to be as many ways of writing as there are people who write, but I know at least a few others who have the same sort of relationship to characters as I do.

Yeah, I said “relationship,” and that really is the best description I can find, for my characters seem to occupy a niche in my mind, something that separates them from me and allows me to mentally engage with them.

For instance, I can enjoy a piece of music, and I am the one who is enjoying it. But sometimes I will sense a reaction to the music that I associate, not with myself, but with one of my characters. They stir, sometimes they even “claim” something, and forever after I will associate that thing with that character.

One example is that I cannot read or watch any form of vampire-related story without the running commentary of one of my particularly reactive characters. He finds Anne Rice humorous, he snarkily calls the Twilight brood “My-Little-Vampires” …which is, I think, rather unfair to the My-Little-Ponies of this world, he says True Blood makes him want to beat his head against a wall for the next fifty years, and he’s rather intrigued by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though he rolls his eyes at certain excessively Victorian passages. On the whole, he insists that vampires are monsters and is not a fan of humanizing them. Considering what vampires are like in his universe, and the fact that he, himself, is one, I can definitely see his point of view.

And yet, it isn’t really my point of view. I agree with him about some things, and disagree about others. That wouldn’t be so disconcerting if it were objective. If I were able to step back and think “this character would react to this thing in this way.” That would be character-building in the way most non-writers I know think it works (and that may be how it works for some lucky people).  But no. It’s a feeling, a sense that comes unbidden. I don’t think about it, I feel it, and the only thing that separates it from my own feeling is a conviction that it belongs to one of my characters.

No, please! Don’t call the men in white coats. I only do what the voices tell me to do on paper. Er, you know what I mean. I hope.

I think this process makes me a better writer. It certainly makes my life interesting.

Today, one of my character’s “discovered” a poem I’ve known since childhood. I like the poem. It means things to me, has a certain texture and light. But now I see it also through another set of eyes, and evermore I will associate it with her, and her feelings, as well.

She has a different relationship to roads than I do. She is always looking for the road home, a road into the past. Sadly, for her, all roads only lead into the future, and she knows it. But knowing something is impossible does not take the longing for it away.

In other words, to her, this poem carries with it a deeper poignancy, a kind of sadness I, as myself, would never quite find in it. Isn’t that one reason people read? To share experiences that they, as themselves, will never have? Perhaps, too, some of us write in order to walk, for a little while, in another’s boots and see the world through other eyes.

.

The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost

.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
 .
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
 .
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 .
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 .
I’m always interested to hear how other writers relate (or don’t relate) to this kind of interaction. So, please! Comment! And if anyone has questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.
 .
Apart from being generally talkative, sometimes my characters seem a bit authorcidal. More thoughts on influence and inspiration can be found here.
If you’re interested in fiction tidbits, or more thoughts on writing theory, prod the tabs up top. “Fiction” under “Words and Faces” is my stuff. “Writing” and “Writing Theory” have my musings about the craft itself.
 .
I know I’ve said, before, that I plan on adding new mask-pics to this blog. I promise that I still plan on doing so soon!
 .

Listen

First, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who. Sorry!

Second, a disclaimer. This post is not directed at anyone in particular. Given it’s nature, practically everyone I know might be able to think it is directed at them, but I promise, it is not. It is something that applies to me as much as to the rest of my species.

 

There are good kinds of silence: quieting the internal voices, seeking peace, beautiful natural stillness, not speaking poison.

This post is not about that kind of silence.

Let me get my bias out of the way. I was raised to see the benefit of open honesty. Not cruel honesty, for there is such a thing, but openness.

Not to speak about evil gives it power.

Not to denounce injustice is silent acquiescence.

Not to speak about experience deprives others of information and deprives the speaker of the chance to hear differing perspectives.

That is what I believe.

 

Sometimes I encounter people who resent the freedom of speech afforded to others. Either someone expresses opinions they do not like, and they take offense, or they simply despise the people who speak. And most (if not all) people do one or both of these sometimes.

It is helpful to remember this: If you want to speak your mind, protect the right of others to speak theirs. When that right is taken from someone, it can, and probably will, be taken from you. Tables turn, and the way you treat others may dictate how they treat you.*

 

Even if someone supports freedom of speech, though, there will still be times when they resent someone’s use of it. It may seem, to some, that I am just stating the obvious, but keep going. Obvious or not, we all seem to miss the point sometimes.

For all the commonalities in humanity, each experience is unique. We (people) like to categorize and simplify others, it is a survival technique, a way to make swift judgements, when necessary. And it is a technique that gets us into all kinds of trouble. It tricks us into thinking we know more about a person than we really do. We make assumptions.

Ignorance, prejudice, and xenophobia are bad. Assumptions both stem from and feed into these evils.

Some people, knowing from personal experience (or learning from others) the damage done by certain assumptions, are able to overcome those assumptions. But often these people, the ones who “know better,” propagate a different set of stereotypes.

For the sake of clarity, let’s say person A is seen by person B, and person B makes an ignorant or prejudiced assumption about person A. Then person C comes along and, seeing B’s judgement of A, C makes judgements about B.  This is the simple form. It could become a prejudice dodecahedron, with 12 people, each making assumptions about 11 others until we have something like 132 assumptions in play (I am bad at math, so don’t trust me on the numbers).

But let’s keep it simple. A <-prejudice- B <-prejudice- C

Of all the questions or soap-box speeches I could raise, I will stick to this one, for now:

What benefit will there be if A, B, or C remain silent and/or dismiss what the other says because of the assumptions they make?

Am I insane to think that the ONLY way people grow and learn and become less prejudiced is by making mistakes, making assumptions that are then challenged, and putting their feet firmly in their mouths and then being confronted? Should they be invalidated/dismissed/stereotyped because they make mistakes, or happen to disagree with you about something?

The thing that frustrates me most is that so many people agree with this in principle, but forget that it cuts both ways. They know that the groups they identify with, or sympathize with, are unfairly stereotyped by others, but forget the hard truth that the group or “attribute” that they love to hate is included.

Let me be clear: We are all guilty. If you think you aren’t, then you need to take a long, honest look at yourself and your biases.

It feels good to be “right.” It feels good to despise someone else, to pity them, or to hate them. It is painful, sometimes excruciating, to admit we are wrong, and to consider the value of someone we love to hate.

The hard truth is that we all harbor prejudice. Every last one of us. The trick is to be honest enough with ourselves to find it, and determined enough to fight it.

I’m making myself crazy writing this. The problem is ubiquitous, within me as well as without, an infernal game of whack-a-mole. It seems too massive to even be faced, especially as the current social climate is increasingly divisive. I have to focus smaller, to remember that every little bit helps. So, if you or I take anything away from this ramble, let it be this:

Humanity contains more variety than we can grasp. We never really know as much about a person as we like to think. And, finally, that people should speak. Ignorance and prejudice cannot be discovered, confronted, or defeated by silence.  Understanding cannot grow in the absence of information.

And speaking does no good if we are not willing to overcome our prejudices and listen.

 


* If you live in a country where freedom of speech is suppressed, or nonexistent, I hope policy, or practice, or both will soon change.


New years, nightsticks, and tropes

New years have never been a big thing for me. Time rolls on, and January 1st isn’t much different from December 31st. There was a funny moment where my housemate, having made other plans, discovered that, instead of spending New Year’s Eve with my family, I would be staying home, as I was sick. She felt bad, at first, saddened by the thought of me ringing in the New Year all alone.

I nearly laughed. Then I proceeded to explain that it was not nearly as sad as she feared. In fact, being sick, I had spent about a week not sleeping well, and I was hopeful that I would be able to get a decent night’s worth. I had a supper of wonderful Korean dumpling soup (forget chicken noodle) and went to bed at 8PM. I slept like a ten-ton boulder. It was wonderful!

I don’t know what it is about New Years Eve that fails to thrill me. I guess I get my fireworks fix on the 4th of July, I’m not much of a drinker, I don’t like champagne… maybe it is because my family never made much of it?

Or maybe it is that I am a cynic when it comes to “fresh starts.” I shouldn’t be, I know that landmarks help some people. But I can make a landmark any time I please. I can say “enough, I am changing this part of my life right now,” and the start of a new year, or the end of an old one, doesn’t seem to make a difference for me.

But something has been building over the Christmas season, for me, and it spilled out on the first day of 2015. It’s still going. That thing is inspiration. My muse has sunken it’s wicked, pointy teeth deep into my arm and shows no sign, at present, of letting go.

Ah, the double-edged sword of inspiration. It is a great feeling, it gets my sluggish work moving. But it also leaves me raw and open to those voices that plague most writers, the whispers of “your work is crap.”

So far, they are just whispers. I shut them out. Eventually, they will be shouts, and I will have to struggle through this, again. But until that time, manuscript-ho!

As sometimes happens, regardless of the state of my muse, I’ve been digging into TVtropes.org in search of answers to questions about the tropes contained within my own work. I like to be aware of such things, and to keep them in mind as I write. In digging, I have discovered something… interesting.

Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing is up for debate.

If you have spent any time on TVtropes, you know that tropes are ubiquitous. They are all around you, all the time, and not just in fiction. Chances are, you, yourself, embody some tropes, or are at least touched by them. In a round about way, this is why tropes exist in the first place.

I keep searching for the “main” tropes for my main characters. You know, their main defining characteristic? Their archetype? I find, instead, tropes that touch them, but constantly miss the mark. Either this means that I have done a good job in creating well-rounded characters, or that I have, instead, created characters that are so off the beaten path that, for most people, they aren’t relateable. …yes, for any non-writers reading, this is the sort of idiocy that keeps writers up at night.

I know there are a lot of characters out there who defy/subvert/invert/play with tropes. I’m not suggesting that I am creating anything ground-breaking, here. I am more interested in figuring out why, even before I had a good understanding of tropes, I created a cast of characters who largely defy them. Does it have to do with my hatred of firm categories? Or my need to defy expectations? Quite probably… but often, those things create tropes of their own. I will continue to ponder.

Also, on a sort of side-note, I recently found an answer to a question that came up two years ago in my writing. One of my characters picked up a nightstick as a favored weapon. He still hasn’t put it down, but I now know where, in the tortuous caverns of my subconscious, he found the thing. I recently re-watched Terminator I and II with my brother. It turns out that in the latter, one Sarah Connor, picks up a nightstick and runs with it. The image of her gripping the side-handle, the weapon tucked, at the ready, against her arm, was like a light-bulb going off in my brain. I don’t know about you other writers out there, but I absolutely love it when I discover these connections.

Enough pointless rambling and crazy linkage. I would love to hear what any of you think about your own writing processes and how you analyze (or if you even analyze) your characters and plot.

May 2015 be a good year, for all of us.


While I Ruminate

There are several posts brewing in my brain. A couple focus on my experiences writing and my opinions on writing theory, one on my current theological study, my thoughts on the recent Tolkien Fanfiction film, and perhaps one on recent personal experiences.

None of them are ready for perusal, and so I plan to share a few random things and then bore you with my plant-nerd ravings. It is winter, here, and the coldest we have had in some time. In short, it is the time when gardeners dream.

But for those who are indifferent to plants, I will leave that until the end and offer you a few new links in my sidebar.

The humorous: From the makers of that Wolverine Music Video I posted, I give you Glove and Boots! If you need something light and silly, filled with puppets, and made for nerds (especially those spawned in the 80’s, like me), then you will want to spend some time watching.

Art: In the last post, I also linked a post about Joel Cooper’s Origami masks, but I failed to link his blog. It is filled with astounding!

For Writers: I’ve had the link to this rabbit-hole on my sidebar for a while, but one of my upcoming posts will focus on the subject of tropes and cliches, so it is worth pointing out. This is a very useful post for writers, storytellers, and story-lovers everywhere, but I warn you, it is highly addictive. Another useful link for writers and curious minds, a blog by someone in my own profession of Government Information Librarianship, is the Writer’s Guide to Government Information.

For Linguaphiles:  My fellow word geeks, I offer a link to the Online Etymology Dictionary and the Phrase Finder, which has more than just phrases.

For history and story-telling geeks, like me, there is a website (one among many) with collections of American folklore and stories. It is further broken down into sub-categories, and yes, it includes all of America, not just the United States of.

Do you like critters? What about photography? At work, I keep my desktop cycling through beautiful images, and I get a lot of them here, at the National Wildlife Foundation. A bit of plant nerdiness… If you like animals and want to help them survive the constant changes in our landscapes, consider turning your yard into a certified wildlife habitat. If that is too much for you to bite off, then you can still do little things, like keeping a clean bird-bath, adding some native plants (which do a better job of supporting wildlife than exotics) to your garden, or building a brush pile, which supplies both food and shelter for many.

Plant and story nerd combine: This is a book on the Folklore of Plants.  Fascinating stuff, at least to me.

Now I start talking about plants and gardening.

My interest in gardening (late to develop, even though my mother is a brilliant gardener) was born out of my fascination with my local ecology and the native plants it rests on. Thus my current obsession with the cooperative blogs Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens and Beautiful Wildlife Garden is no surprise.

This is what has me daydreaming.

You may or may not know that, apart from roofs and pavement, a lawn is one of the most barren areas created in our developments. It’s close-woven, often exotic, and is shorn to where it offers little food and no shelter to anything.

Basically, more lawn = fewer animals, arthropods, and birds. It’s a sad equation.

I’m not saying we should eliminate all lawns and cropped fields. I like playing on a lawn as much as the next girl, and my dog does, too. However, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t use much of my lawn, and that unused part could easily be turned into something prettier and more useful to critters.

So, this summer, I am going to start the process of eliminating my front lawn.

In order to prevent my neighbors from having a conniption, I have to keep things under some control. I am going to build a path and be very mindful of what I plant where. Both for beauty and wildlife-value, I need a succession of blooms. I want some things that look nice in winter, too. It’s easier on birds and bugs if I don’t cut down my plants for the winter, so things that look particularly messy are probably not the best choices.

I want mostly native plants, because my birds and beasts and bugs are adapted to them, but I have my favorite non-natives as well. Daffodils, cultivated iris, crocus, a peony and even a non-native morning-glory (there are native varieties).

I want to attract birds of various kinds, including hummingbirds (which, by the way, eat insects), and cedar waxwings. Also, I want to provide not only adult food, but larval food for various butterflies, moths and bees. I’m the sort of person who also loves spiders, snakes, lizards and other creepy-crawlies, so the more the better.

To this end, I have some things already planted. A southern wax myrtle, black-eyed susans, butterfly weed, false indigogoldenrod, Mistflower, and native honeysuckle among others.

My list of plants to acquire is long. I want more kinds of milkweed, for butterflies, yarrow, and most of all, yaupon hollies.

Hopefully, in a few years, I will have many more critters to see and enjoy in my yard, the good, the bad and the ugly. Then, I will turn my furious attention to my back yard, where I hope to install a small pond and a bat-box.

One more thing. If what I am talking about is all Greek to you, maybe this post will give you a little idea: Vivian’s Meadow.

I will now stop tormenting you with my musings. I hope you found something interesting in this post. Peace be yours!


Five things

My delightfully contentious blogging friend, Sharon, recently posted 5 things that she had run across recently that she wanted to discuss with people: 5 things  that I’d like to talk about.  Shaking people up and making them think is an excellent action and very necessary to the growth and health of individuals and society. It’s hard work, thinking, and sometimes we have to have a fire lit under our toes to make us do it.

However, Sharon and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of topics from the love of God to issues of feminism (yes, I am a feminist. I promise it’s not a bad word if you understand what it means. Ask me!). I’m pretty sure she and I would come down on the same side of any of those discussions, and some of them involve listening to people or reading things that would only make me angry. Given what I said above, about thinking, I should probably put forth the effort.

The truth is, I am weary, physically and mentally. I feel a little guilty, that little voice in my head is calling me “coward,” but this time I am giving myself leeway. 2013 was a bit of a marathon for me. I need to recoup. I’ve barely been here for the month of December, and my friends on e-mail probably wonder if I have fallen into a sinkhole.

So, somewhat selfishly, I asked Sharon to share something different.

I feel that the best response to her kindness would be to post five things that have made me feel better over the past few weeks.

Wolverine the Musical

Ok, so, yes, I discovered this a while ago, but I still return to it when I need a good laugh. Glove and Boots!

Origami Masks by Joel Cooper

Mask inspired by ancient statuary, shaped from folded paper.  All I really have to say to this is ‘holy raving Jabberwoky.’ I love making masks, but artistry like this is beyond me. I love it!

http://mynewspress.com/new-tessellated-origami-masks-by-joel-cooper/

The American Chestnut

I am a plant-nerd, so I care about such things. Feel free to roll your eyes at me and move on.

In the early 1900’s, a blight from Asia was accidentally introduced to the U.S.A. Over the next 30 or so years, it all but obliterated what was then one of the dominant trees of our Eastern forests, the American Chestnut. I won’t bore you with details, but the result was catastrophic to humans and wildlife alike.

In 1983, the American Chestnut Society was formed. Since then they have worked with the few remaining American Chestnuts and the blight-resistant Chinese Chestnut, attempting to breed an American Chestnut tree that can survive the blight. Recent progress has opened the possibility of my seeing American Chestnuts growing in our woods in my lifetime.

In a world where many of my favorite native plants and animals are under serious threat, where exotic-invasives, pollution, and thoughtless development present seemingly insurmountable obstacles to my local ecosystems, the prospect of an actual victory is like a lantern in a cave. It makes me so happy I could cry.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Ender’s Game, its controversial author, and a very personal history, by Rany Jazayerli

This article is somewhat controversial, and very long, but thoughtful and worth the read. I discovered it through my brother and it made me think, but in an encouraging way, and I will tell you why.

There are a lot of issues wrapped up in this. How people change over time, how it is not wise to condemn everything a person says or has ever said because part of it goes against your own views or beliefs, that the most important part of anything said or written may lie in the interpretation rather than the intent, and that people are flawed. Jumping on the rage-button really is counter-productive. It circumvents thought.

But what I found encouraging is something of a rabbit-trail.  I am flawed. Yes, I know, everyone is, but I live with my flaws daily and sometimes they loom very large in my vision. This article reminded me of something that is, I think, important for writers to remember:

I and my work are two different things.

Maybe my flaws will manifest in my work. That does happen. Hopefully my strengths will,  too. But maybe, God willing, people who read my work will find things there, hopefully good things, that transcend me, my flaws, and even my strengths. Writing depends on the reading. There’s cause for fear. Fear of being misunderstood runs deep in me. But not all misunderstanding is bad, I guess. There is encouragement in that thought. ‘

 

Finally, I give you the singing light:

Sometimes we just get lucky and catch the light. I wish I had a better copy of this picture on hand. I may try and update it later.

Singing light


%d bloggers like this: