It’s the journey.
That’s the place where things really happen for us.
Not that beginnings and endings aren’t important.
Beginnings set a stage, give us frame of reference, context … think Bilbo Baggins, there in Bag End, getting himself hustled into a trip he never intended to take.
Endings, of course, are where we finish, places we know we’re to go. The end of a journey, where we find ourselves, safe, together. Happy. Or not so much. Years after Bilbo’s departure, Sam Gamgee returns to Bag End after saying farewell to his beloved friend, kisses his wife, takes his child in his arms.
“Well, I’m home.”
Tells you everything you need to know.
When I first started this blog I was thinking to create a platform, a way to advertise and get word out something I am doing, something I think is marvelous. But that’s just me – no objective perspective. More and more this has become a discovery tool, speaking to me about where I am going, what I am doing. Influences, impressions tease themselves out, finding substance in the particular ideas that play about in my imagination,
Conversation works, too.
… Wherein caffeine, free-association and attention deficit disorder kick in and ruin the rest of the story.
It’s all good.
Conversation: We were talking about the Iliad, my daughter and I. She’s just finished the final chapter tonight.
“It ends oddly,” she remarks. “Funeral games. Nothing about the fall of Troy.”
“Yup,” I agree. “From our perspective, it would seem that way. Odd. But a perfectly reasonable closure from the perspective of the story. Homer’s audience wasn’t listening to the story for Troy’s fall because that isn’t what it’s about.”
“I know. Everything starts over a feud …”
“Yes. No. The feud is the spark. What this story is about is Achilles’ and his passion, his rage. It’s the journey that rage takes us on, the series of events it sets off and play out over the dramatic arc of the poem. We see the birth of that rage, watch it evolve, see it grow and touch everyone around Achilles, the kings and Captains of the Greek and Trojan armies, eventually even the Gods themselves. Through it we witness deaths of fine and noble men on both sides, see its madness betray love and hope. We experience the world set out of balance. And the rage doesn’t end with the return of the girl Chryses, the woman that sparked that rage, or with Achilles final revenge on Hector for Patroclus’ death. If anything, the fall of the city’s Prince throws the world all the more out of order. The restoration of balance comes only by Priam’s suppliance, and Achilles’ reawakening to his place amongst men, as a man, no longer an instrument of fate. Only then can there be order to the world.
“And through it all we live the adventure, stand beside the narrator and witness as the tale unfolds…”
Well, that’s kinda how the conversation went. Things tend to get polished up over time. It’s a writing thing, I think.
Never really sure.
“The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going. It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘DON’T THINK!’” ~Ray Bradbury
It’s the Journey
I always had this conception in my head that a “serious” writer knows what he or she is going to write. This perception was influenced by accounts and how-to-be-good-at-something self-help books I browsed on the shelves of bookstores before and after I finally got a wild hair and dived in. For the most part those books tend to mirror one another. I think, in the end, their value is primarily found in discussion of genre and type, and not so much the technique, the how-to of the technical end of plotting. Character development. Questions of whether a chapter should be part of the ebb and flow of plot, dependent upon subject or events to delineate from the chapter before and after, or should it be a short story, a unit unto itself, with a beginning, middle and end that advances the story while maintaing a unique (not sure that is the precise word I want here) separation from the overarching story’s plot.
And then there’s that whole thing about the soul that communicates the story, and the soul that reads it.
Upshot: I have no idea what a serious writer is. Oh, I know which books demonstrate serious/great writing, those we’re told are examples, and those we know innately, and so I have my own list of great writers, just like everyone else. But what I like doesn’t necessarily translate into wanting to echo what they’ve done or, more to the point, how they went about doing it.
I think, at the heart of things, it comes down to the story you want to tell, that thing that evolved out of the random imagining of your daydreams. A small kernel of an idea that, ultimately, might not have anything to do with where you eventually find yourself going. A mystery the builds in fits and starts, revealing itself in sudden – and sometimes seemingly magical – fashion.
Evolution. A wonderful, wonderful word, a functional description of how stories become themselves. You start with that random thought, that daydream, that idea. One day another idea comes to you, maybe another daydream-inspired fantasy or situation and you think, “hey, that other idea … I wonder …” and then things build,connect, sometimes in rushes, other times in fits and starts stretched out over months and years and, after a time, there’s this amorphous world taking shape in the landscape of your consciousness, a ghost of a place you are aware of, connected to, but absolutely vague on exactly what is going on, what it all means. And the stimuli continue to input.
And then, another day, someone asks you to write something. It has absolutely nothing to do with that place that lives in you (And it is a place, by now there is no doubt.). So you write, and what you write gets more complicated than you thought it would be. Well, not really. You’ve never done this before, so you had no idea. But you stick with it, making all the mistakes, and then working them out, some early, others down the line.
The story ends. Now what?
Write another …
What Did I Want?
“I wanted a Roc’s egg.
“I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a likey wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
“I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
“I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”
~Robert A. Heinlein (Glory Road)
If it makes you smile, write about it.
If it scares the crap out of you, write.
If it pisses you off, makes you laugh,
Makes you cry, sigh, want to die…
If love awakens, write
And if your heart breaks…
Oh, yeah, especially then.
But whatever you do …
Just so we’re clear (as we say in the intro to our sister site), Dark Puppy is not a semi-psycopathic canine demonstrating serious anger issues who dresses up like a flying rodent with the intent to strike terror in the hearts of evildoers.
Dark Puppy is our sister blog edited, more or less, by our resident Gang of Four where everything runs a little less sexy, ranges over a variety of subjects, and offers a different flavor of introspection.
Whereas The War for Evermore exists as an ongoing commentary on what we’re writing, the stuff influencing that writing, and the varying impressions derived as the process winds along its merry way, (as well as riffs on the aspects of popular culture that inform what’s being written) Dark Puppy takes a more cynical and pragmatic look at the world around us.
Not that there isn’t talk of things like writing or sci-fi or even an urgent bosom or two over there, but it’s done in relation to other things, like science, the state of the world, interesting people, that sort of thing. Occasionally you’ll find a piece there that we’ve put up here, ’cause it speaks to both blogs.
So if you find what we’re doing here interesting, check us out at Dark Puppy. And, yes, while two blogs, (one run by imaginary critters, no less) might seem a tad weird, it helps to remember the atmosphere here at Dartmouth Manor is a touch insane, and we happily wallow in that merry state …
“Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong—and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid, or evil, or it’s all been done before? Make good art.”
“… in the end, the rage of Achilles is stilled only in the bed of Penelope.”
~ Thomas Cahill, commenting on the narrative arc of Homer’s two great poems in Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea …
4000 years ago, under a bright canopy of stars, people gather on a hillside, or in a hollow, fires burning all around, creating dancing shadows that wild imaginations watch play out the telling of the story being shared by the bard, the dreamer of words. They hear of Achilles and Hector, Agamemnon and Odyseus, Priam and Ajax … Paris and Helen. And they all know this story, how it starts, know it well, who is in it, and what will happen to everyone within. They know the plot points, know the twists and turns of the story’s telling, have a innate understanding of style and character types. They all do. But they listen, entranced, dreaming, their imaginations filling in and fleshing out the details as the storyteller works his magic, weaves his mystery.
2500 years ago, Greeks, as a city, gather on a sculpted hillside, an architectural construct named for their God of Pleasure. They gather in the pre-dawn gloom to await and greet the rising sun and, with it, the start of a journey to far off and wondrous places and times, to listen to tales of great heroes, great and awful deeds, and greater ideas that will work themselves out on the stage below. Much, much later, after the high sun has disappeared behind the bulk of the Acropolis upon whose steep hillside they have gathered, the cycle of stories will end. They witness the characters brought to life before them, hear ideas and themes played out, watch as growing mysteries are revealed and witness fate unravel. All the while they sit, entranced, watching and living the journey.
And so it continues through the ages, this need to know. We want to share the journey, know it – there is an innate need for it in us.
We want the world of the journey to live in our imaginations. We want to know the characters who populate it, who breath life into the journey.
That’s what grabs you, their journey, the mystery you know awaits in some form unguessed at. They are the vehicle by which your journey through this world operates, the well you must go to in order to quench your thirst for more detail, more imagination. A world can be imagined, but it doesn’t exist – can’t live – without characters to populate it. Characters who live the story.
In another place I talk about the two types of hero, the modern version, a defender of ‘right’, defined by relationship(s) in varying degrees to the concepts of good, or reason, or sacrifice … and of the classical hero, a man or woman labeled so not by their morality, their dedication to proper causes, their selflessness, but instead by their journey. These heroes could be corrupt, cowardly, even evil, because what was of interest was not their striving for moral perfection. The ancient audiences didn’t hold such illusions – they knew all great men – just as all men – were flawed.
The writing of the journey is, of course, a journey itself. Just as the reader experiences it, so, too, does the writer. And that is what this blog is, though it may not have started that way, the journey, my adventure, my journey – my exploration of a war whose beginnings are vague, and whose end is as final an end as there can be … if it really is an end. Knowing the destination – the real adventure is finding the way there. As the reader, you see what I discover along the way, watch as I watch characters grow, come into their own, watch them as they love, hate, war, care. But the genesis of these things, not so much. That’s a different journey, a different discovery.
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