Monday, April 25, 2011

Quill of the Condor

How do you write? In Moby Dick, Herman Melville calls for a "condor's quill" and "Vesuvias crater for an inkstand!" (428). I must confess that my brain is no longer programmed to work efficiently with pen and paper. My computer has become my condor's quill. I rely on my trusty mouse and keyboard (esp. the backspace key!) to give my thoughts the eloquence of form. And I can't leave out the visual-audio component. Sometimes I write with movies playing in the background. Current favorite? Tangled! Current music of choice: Mediaeval Baebes,"Erthe upon Erthe." is usually open in my tab bar. Sometimes I google artists' conceptions of creatures that I am trying to ink into being with words in my own stories. Thanks to the magic of multimodality, I am never alone as a writer unless I want to be. I wonder, fifty years from now, how will we write?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pluto's Demotion and the Intertextual Universe

The poet Muriel Rukeyser said, "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." In my research methods class, I also learned that according to some theorists, the universe is intertextual. I agree! Scientists have proven it with Pluto's demotion to a dwarf planet: Growing up, my perception of reality was bracketed by the concept of a nine-planet solar system. It's what my science book and teachers drummed into my thick skull. I remember piecing together nine-planet puzzles, seeing posters and marble kits that all included Pluto... Today? Not so much. I was recently mildly peeved to visit a science museum and find Pluto missing from the solar line up. Even the gift shop had obliterated Pluto. Granted, I'm happy that Ceres and Xena are part of the solar system club now, but the point is that a piece of my universe has dropped off its previously appointed pedestal, reshifting my reality.

Go Muriel. You were right.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Interview with a Character: Confessions of a Warmongering Wizard

Ever have a slippery character who just won't let you pin them to the page? Interview them into defnition with a rigorous Q&A session. I sometimes find it helpful to ask my characters questions and then try to formulate logical replies based on their psychology, sociology, and physiology (see my post on character PSP for a longer explanation).

Take your typical warmongering wizard:

Q. (Interviewer) So... did you always want to rule the local hamlets?

A. (WW): That was a recent development, actually. I was originally trained as a Palace Prestidigitator, but I couldn't take all the whining from the royal court: Whip me up a love potion for the next masquerade, gimme a dragon-slayer's sword, find me the perfect princess, glass slippers included, blah blah blah. That's when it hit me: No offence, but why serve mortals when they were so much better suited to serving me?

Q. Excellent point. Can you elaborate?

A. I don't mean to brag, but my staff could incinerate you in 1.5 seconds flat. The average mortal could barely manage to latch their sandal in that amount of time!

Q. Fa-fascinating, truly. Favorite banquet dish?

A. Hmm... I'd have to go with roasted swan with braised shallots, though my mother's mutton pie definitely comes in a close second.

Q. Favorite pet?

A. I had a Baltic Leviathan once. Poor girl, I had to get rid of her. Sweet Fang kept eating all my siblings. Besides, I'm terribly allergic to leviathan scales. Reverses all my spells when I sneeze. Oops. Shouldn't have said that. Don't take this personally, but I'm going to have to incinerate you. Privacy is worth a troll's ransom these days, you know.

Q. But I haven't asked you about your first love yet--

A. She was a witch. Smashing good one, too, until that hideous house fell on top of her. Most unfortunate. Now, would you please stop fidgeting and hold still? This will only take 1.5 seconds . . .

Interview terminated.

I don't use half the silly stuff generated by this exercise, but the rambling Q&A jam often helps me to get a better idea about my character's motivations.