Thinking of You on Your Birthday
Posted by Dirck on 20 August, 2015
Since it’s the 125th birthday of a gentle professional author and amateur racist from Providence, I might as well do a little open thinking about writing, both his and my own.
I’ll let ego take the fore; what’s that story I hint at in the Progress Report? Well, it promises to be almost entirely uninteresting, but here it comes: A few months ago, I had an idea for a story and wrote it down. During my extended vacation, there came to me a mental image of how a story that fits that idea would start, and I nurtured that image until I had leisure to get it written down (for those without one, a school-age child when there’s no school is a magnificent preventative against sitting quietly and writing, so my vacation had almost no writing in it). “Decorations” followed thereafter. When I got the story finished, or as finished as it’s going to be until I pass it through the improving mills of third-party, semi-anonymous readers, I found that there was some dissatisfaction in me. I still quite liked the mental image that had come on me, and wondering if putting the whole thing into a format that would serve a visual medium would quiet my restless heart, I went through the screenplay effort mentioned on past Reports.
Success of a sort. I certainly think the exercise was worthwhile. At the workshop I attended at the end of May, our guide mentioned that it is useful to try handling the same story with different points of view. Usually, this is meant to be more internal to the story, moving from “I walked along the street, carefree, until a squelching sensation underfoot and a rank smell brought me up short” to “Halfway along the block, old Mr. Crun is pausing in his morning constitutional to briskly scrape one shoe on the edge of the curb, while shouting imprecations at the whole genus Canis.” What I did was a little more meta- than that, moving the point of view from reader to viewer, but the effect on writer I think was much the same. I saw the story from a new place, and I realized what my problem was. Success!
…of a sort, because the problem was this: I didn’t actually write the story that the idea described. That was the source of the dissatisfaction. Thank goodness it wasn’t a novel, eh? If you look at the few paltry things I’ve got in the Art Department here, you’ll get a good sense of the sort of thing I habitually do. I like the shiver of effect more than I do committing a satisfying arc. This is probably a result of my frequent indulgence in Lovecraft’s writing, and while I don’t think it’s wrong, it’s not always right. In the case of what I meant to write, I realized I shouldn’t be trying to hang out in Arkham or points along the Aylesbury Pike, but should rather be thinking more in terms of October Country. I get to begin again, with dials in my head adjusted properly– “Shocking Revelation” is turned down, “Sweet Melancholy” turned up a little past half-way. As much as I honour the Old Man, sometimes art lies in directions he tended to avoid.
All of which is a very long way of reiterating the importance of reading if one means to be a writer.