Elegy For Trilobite Blue
1582 words long
How Voice Becomes Backstory
Hey look! No word count increase. I was working on something else today, but as that something else is still in the brainstorming phases, it hasn't even got a line in the database, much less a title or a wordcount. Sorry. More tomorrow, maybe. I've also been fielding potential interviews for the work-for-hire project.
These Things Take Time.
But I have answered myself some questions about Selby's backstory. Yay, backstory! Got there in this weird sort of roundabout way: Realized that Selby sounded, thus far, an awful lot like Gwen in Right Off The Page, and both of them sound an awful lot like me. That is one depressing realization. I've been at this how long now, and I still haven't managed to come up with first person narratives that don't just sound like me writing an email? Ga-jeeez.
(Just between me and y'all, all my RPG characters sound a lot like me, too. Perhaps I should game more. Ah, well, Sunday's upcoming In Nomine session ought to result in a little more practice under ye olde belt.)
So I decided I'd have to work at giving Selby a distinctive not-me voice. I decided that Selby would be British. Ta-da! Seriously: when I started hearing her narrate with a hopefully-not-too-stereotypical British accent, she started using different words in my head, and before long she didn't sound so much like me as all that. Which is very good.
Something that's also very good is, now I have a little backstory. The story takes place in the U.S., ending up somewhere in the Arbuckle Mountain Range in Oklahoma. Which means that Selby had to have moved from England to the U.S. at some point. Why? Well, that has something to do with whatever dream she was chasing. Like what? OK, how about college? She thought she'd put her oddball psychic talents to work as an archeologist or paleontologist, so she'd go to some university or other known for having a good program and get herself degreed. Only she finds that her talent gives her problems. It's hard to work within a traditional degreed program when you're randomly getting hallucinations based on whatever fossil or artefact they've got you studying on. So she's doing badly. So she drops out to follow her boyfriend across the country, and then gets stranded by him in wherever the story takes place, and she finds a job at a museum whose curator isn't so worried about her lack of degree.
Yay! Backstory. So the renewal of the dream will be when she discovers an outlet for her interest in digging up and sleuthing out prehistorical thingies, one that doesn't get messed up by her occasional psychic discoveries. And what exactly is that? I ain't saying, 'cause that would be a spoiler. But it isn't at any Heirophant-lovin' University, I can tell you that much.
So. Onward and first-draft-ward.
Also? Changed the title. Why? It just sounded better, that's all. Plus I think I had the wrong word before. Dictionary.com isn't backing me up on this, but I think a threnody focuses on mourning the deceased ("we are sad that you are gone") while an elegy focuses on honoring the deceased ("we were glad to have had you"). So. Elegy it is.
Not Being On Speaking Terms With My Tarot Deck
As you may or may not know, I like to get my Tarot deck involved in my writing. Sometimes I'm determined to create new material, but I have no idea what to write about. Sometimes I'm just stuck on a story. In any case, I shuffle a few times, draw, and start babbling onto a blank page about what I see.
Typically I use the Vertigo Tarot. At times I'll cross-reference the Rider-Waite deck, which I keep in numeric order specifically for that reason, but it's Dave McKean's imagery that speaks to me much more than Pamela Colman-Smiths; and even if I get a little impatient with Rachel Pollack's interpretations from time to time, I find them more comfortably Jungian and modern than Waite's.
Which is all to explain why I got the impression that my Tarot deck was being singularly uncooperative the other day.
In the "Trilobite" story, Selby Oldham is a psychometrist. That's someone who gets psychic impressions from touching objects. You've probably seen a TV drama or read a book concerning a psychic working for the police, right? He or she touches the murder weapon and objects at the scene of the crime and gets flashes of how the killing occurred? Right. Well, Selby's like that, only less of the crime forensics and more stuff like paleontology and anthropology. Fossils and ancient artefacts.
She has, by the time of the story, lost hope in her dreams. She's living an eventless, unfulfilling life, working as a curator's assistant in a natural science museum. By the end of the story, she will have found inspiration to pursue her ambitions again. Only trouble was, I had no idea what her ambitions actually were.
So, hello Tarot! Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, "What are Selby's dreams?" shuffleshuffle, shuffle. And I drew...
The Heirophant. Reversed.
Again, recall, Vertigo Tarot. Which DC/Vertigo character did they choose for that particular Major Arcana card? That's right. Dream of the Endless. The Sandman. Morpheus His-Own-Self. And I drew him reversed.
That's right. In answer to "What dreams did Selby give up on?" I got, "She gave up on her dreams."
Imagine you asked your friend, "What plans do you have for Friday?" and your friend said, "Yeah, Friday..." and wandered off. That's about the impression I got.
And this ain't the first time it's said that kind of thing to me, either.
Of course, consulting the Rider-Waite's more traditional Heirophant (not to mention consulting a friend who actually supplements her paycheck by reading Tarot during the summertime) helped put things in perspective. "Oh, yes, tradition and passed-down wisdom and heirarchy and such. Maybe Selby was trying to climb a corporate ladder, or pursue a traditional education at a university, and it wasn't right for her for some reason." But still.
There was once a time when I stopped doing my freewriting exercises for a long time. When I started up again months later, and I used the Tarot deck as a prompt, shuffling just as thoroughly as ever, it gave me the same darn card it had given me all that time ago. Ten of Pentacles, it was: it shows a face with ten pentacle-coins stacked neatly atop his head; the tenth coin completely blocks his mouth. (I suppose one could read that the face is actually speaking the pentacle, but I see it stopping up his mouth and silencing him. Especially considering I drew it reversed.) It's a card I personally associate with the kind of writer's block that comes of too much intellectualizing and perfection-seeking.
"You know, that thing you were working on last year? Right. Well, you never quite finished dealing with that."
Yeah. I know. Smart-ass cards.
More On That Resolution Thing
- 1,389 wds. long
Hey-checkitout-lookover-here. Someone else made some resolutions for the coming year. And they're pretty good. A goodly helping of writerly resolutionnessage, right over there, along with a lovely dollop of total anal-retentive "We Love Outlines" structural organization. Man after my own heart, that.
Not that I can totally adopt any particular one of those resolutions, of course. Everyone's got different goals. But the important thing is to make one's own goals concrete, solid enough to throw numbers into it and wrap it up in an outline. I'd do the same at the moment, only it's late at night and I'm totally chicken. Were I well-rested and more gutsy at the moment, I'd probably say something like "1,000 words of fresh new prose or 2 hours of revision every day, 5 days a week, just like Carolyn See says to do; also, toss three old stories back in the slush this month and at least one new one next month. And then there's the two novels I'm editing...."
The problem with me when I'm gutsy is, I'm stupid. Who the hell can do all that crap on top of 15,000 contracted words of researched and interviewed nonfiction?
It's something to try for, sure. Just not something to beat myself over the head with.
I do know I can't do 3 critiques a week. More like one and a half, to take care of both Critters and my local writing class. But I can at least resolve to do that much. The nice thing about manuscript critiquing is, every manuscript I read puts me in mind of manuscripts of my own. Usually the sort that are languishing at the back of a drawer, or maybe a third of the way down the directory file listing when sorted by date in descending order. I should probably add "Putting Down Roots" to my list of stories that ought to go back into the slush, for instance. And "Somewhere Else Red And Green."
(Caution: Short story titles subject to change without notice.)
A new New Year's resolution for me: I shall be prolific. Primarily in my finishing of work and submitting of work, and secondarily in my beginning of new work, I shall be prolific. I shall totally be able to apply that adjective, "prolific," unto myself.
With a straight face, even.
The First Hour, Redux
Oh my Gods it's a book it has a lot of words in it and like a million things to keep straight like subplots and character development I mean look at the sheer freakin' mass of notes I'm taking and--
Yeah. And that's just the first few scenes. Er. Yikes?
In other news, "Trilobite" has a word count. With actual words in it. Go me.
Also, I am inches closer to having a new laptop. WAC called Comp Ren back and OK'd the buy-out. Only, they OK'd it based on the price of the Averatec 3250 I was eying the other day, not at the price of the actual laptop I'm replacing. That's a $300 difference, and rather obnoxious given that I've actually decided on the 3360 model which is, while still less expensive than the broken 5110H, $200 more expensive than the 3250. So Comp Ren has called WAC back, and I hope to hear from them by, oh..... spring.
Tracking the Wild Trilobite
- 0 wds. long
Mwahahaha. My web interface works now. It lives! It lives! Well, the manuscript addition and edit bits of it, anyway. Hence the as-yet-unwritten short story linked to this entry. Mwahahaha!
Disclaimer: Science fiction alert. Research needed. Title and setting of short story subject to change without notice. You have been warned.