Daily Archives: November 23, 2016

Writing Journal: in which I ponder on stuff happening


I’m having serious insecurities about my writing lately.

I mean, I guess that sentence could be true for any writer at any time, ever, but it feels more so now, and I can’t really say why. I feel like the narrative I’m crafting is boggy and mired, like it’s trying to slog through a swamp replete with swarming, biting mosquitoes, noxious muck that sucks at your shoes, and probably a bunch of gators lurking just below the surface, waiting for you to come close enough to take a chomp at.

It’s slow going, is what I’m trying to say. Not the writing — that’s moving along just fine — but the story itself. I constantly fear that it’s lurking dangerously on the precipice of going down forever in the mire. And I’m not 100% sure what to attribute this feeling to, this spider-sense that something’s wrong. The writing doesn’t feel so terribly dissimilar from the writing in my first novel, where I felt like things clipped along fairly well.

I think — and who the hell knows, certainly not me — that I’m doing too much explaining. What I mean is, I feel like the current story is more centered on a single character than my previous stories, and it’s particularly centered on the way this character sees the world. That viewpoint is pretty cynical (go figure) and a bit self-doubty (you don’t say) and ultimately a bit nihilistic (shocker). All of which is fine, maybe, but I feel like I’m spending entirely too much time in between things happening dealing with my character’s reactions to the events, with his thoughts and fears and plans for what’s coming next, rather than, you know, just getting to the next thing.

Then I go and watch, oh, I don’t know, any TV show ever and it’s nothing but things happening at breakneck pace. Tonight it’s Penny Dreadful, for example, and in one episode, a character tracks down his childhood home and throttles the current landlord; another pair of characters turns another character evil and then all three bathe in the blood of a previous antagonist; another character enters a hypnotic state wherein she learns of a previous involvement with another character that we never knew about, and yet another character goes on a murdering rampage with yet another character he just met while still another character chases him across the desert of the Wild West. I mean, holy sharknado. That’s all in just one hour.

Now, yeah, I know, that’s TV, which is not a novel. TV is a flash-flame, table-side grill, while a novel is a slow-cooker. But still. There’s hardly time to breathe in between all that stuff happening, let alone time to reflect, react, or plan for the future.

So, then, I take a page from that particular book and pursue tonight’s writing with a mind toward action, action, action, and bang out 850 words without breaking a sweat. And it’s great! But it leaves me wondering: am I writing this particular novel all wrong? Am I living too much in the character’s (and, by extension, my own) head, at the expense of actually letting the story happen? Maybe the story needs more passages like the one tonight, more swathes of stuff happening with less thinking about the stuff on the part of one character or another.

But then, (dammit,) I circle back around, because aren’t the protagonist’s internal struggles just as important as the external ones that manifest as he’s robbing banks to equip his newfound secret lair with the help of his newly reprogrammed robot companion? (Oh, yeah, spoiler alert, I guess, kinda.) I mean, the current novel is sort of an anti-superhero story, so it needs a fair bit of rock ’em sock ’em action, but without that introspection weaved throughout, won’t it ring hollow?

Just another missive from I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing-island.

*ponders*

*steams*

*hops back on the hamster wheel*

 


Baby Elephant Walk, or Juxtaposition Makes the World Go ‘Round


 

I haven’t been doing a ton of reading lately, but I have been working my way through a Stephen King novel that I picked up off the bargain rack: Cell.

It’s not the sort of earth-shattering powerhouse that The Stand was, but it’s in a similar vein: post-apocalyptic survivalist us-vs-them quest to save the world.

I’m not going to write a full review or anything, but I just wanted to share something. In the novel, much of humanity is turned into, essentially, zombies by a mysterious transmission on their cell phones (get it? Cell? Social commentary, whee!). But as part of the mysterious transmission, the affected zombies develop this sort of hive-mind shared consciousness and begin to swarm and flock and generally do all kinds of freaky, unsettling stuff.

But one motif that sort of threads through the whole thing — and serves to defuse the abject terror of the situation — is that the phone-crazies huddle together at night to rest, reboot, and listen to some truly terrible music. One such piece of music is Baby Elephant Walk, by Henry Mancini. And, well, I just took it as granted that it was a ridiculous bit of fluff — with a name like Baby Elephant Walk how could it be anything but ponderous, playful, and harmless?

But I got to the end of the novel and it came up again, and I realized I needed to know what exactly the Baby Elephant Walk was all about. So I googled it, and now I know that I knew what it was all along.

Yeah. That’s basically the zombies’ theme in this post-apocalyptic horror-show novel. Fargoing fantastic.


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