A room that passes for an office. There are bookshelves on one wall, a motley assortment of carvings, signed storyboards, and framed magazine covers on the free wall space. On the far wall is a medieval-style heraldic wall display of a cockatrice and a banner in bad Latin “Pullus non Est.” Horizontal files sit beneath the window , and on top of those a free-standing rack holding Japanese swords. The computer desk is on the wall nearest the door, facing away from the window. Beside that is a printer on a stand. It’s a bit dusty.
Enter the Muse. Her appearance keeps morphing from a classical Greek goddess to something resembling a biker chick with long black hair, silver nostril ring and tats covering both arms. She has a sword in one hand and a crossbow in the other, and appears to be “Vogueing.” The Writer is sitting at his desk, looking thoroughly confused.
WRITER: What are you doing?
MUSE: My job.
WRITER: Which is?
MUSE: To inspire you, of course. I am a personified ideal of the act of inspiration. How am I doing?
WRITER: Depends. If you’re trying to get my attention, it’s working. I just can’t figure out what it’s all for. So I’ll repeat—what are you doing?
MUSE: Posing for the eventual book cover. Most of those show an armed hottie in a ¾ turn rear view. How’s this?
WRITER: I refuse to answer on the grounds that you’re an imaginary personification of the ideal of inspiration, not a piece of meat.
MUSE: That’s sweet, but not very helpful. You should write an appropriate book for this kind of cover, you know.
WRITER: So I’ve been told.
MUSE: Which seems to be a sore point. You’re not taking this as a compliment, I see.
WRITER: Should I?
MUSE (scoffs): It’s perfectly good advice.
WRITER: What’s next? Sparkly vampires?
MUSE (sprouting fangs): That’s not bad. A vampire who hunts vampires—
WRITER: Been done. A lot.
MUSE(fangs receding): Oh.
WRITER: You do see the problem, don’t you?
MUSE: Yeah. If that’s the best I can come up with….
WRITER: Not your fault. I know you have my best interests in mind, but your heart’s just not in it.
MUSE: Therefore neither is yours. Pity. Those books are hot right now.
WRITER: I’m not against it in principle. I’m not even sure I have any, but then to write like that you don’t need principles. You need something I don’t have.
MUSE: I started to say “talent,” but that would have been mean.
WRITER (scoffs): Talent? Please…What did Mickey Spillane or Jacqueline Susann have that I don’t?
MUSE: Millions of readers?
WRITER: Aside from that.
MUSE: Vacation homes in Barbados?
WRITER: The word you’re groping for is “sincerity.”
MUSE: So you’re saying that you’re not sincere?
WRITER: When it comes to writing the sort of book that would fit the cover you’re posing for? Absolutely. Spillane wasn’t a very good writer, nor was Susann. But they were writing the stories they wanted to tell and doing it to the best of their abilities. That sort of thing will resonate with a reader, just as a better written work done by someone who doesn’t love what he’s doing will not. Readers get that, and you can’t fake it. At least, I can’t.
MUSE: Not even a little bit?
WRITER: Not even. I appreciate inspiration, but after the initial push your job is done and mine is just starting. Writing is hard work and the thing is, I’m naturally lazy. It’s true. I can’t make myself write something I’m not enjoying. Something I don’t believe in. That’s one talent I do lack.
MUSE: Now if you only lacked a talent for obscurity.
WRITER: I use what I got. Now give me something I can use.
MUSE (Transforming): How’s this?
WRITER: Better. Much better.
MUSE: One thing, though…
MUSE: I’m keeping the outfit.