Muse and Writer Dialogues #13

Just so you know. This is the kind of thing that happens when I’ve got a piece of flash fiction due and the trigger word isn’t triggering anything:

 

 

 

Muse (Dressed as Biker Chick. No flowy robes or any of that crap):  Not Happy.

Writer: Are you ever? So where’s my inspiration for this story?

Muse (making obscene gesture): I got your inspiration right here. Step closer and I’ll emphasize it for ya.

Writer: See? That’s the problem. You’re supposed to be my Muse, and all you do is snap at me!

Muse: I do what helps you the most. This is helping.

Writer: No, it isn’t! I got nothing.

Muse: This is my fault…why?

Writer: What part of “Muse” do you not understand?

Muse: I should ask you that. Apparently, the answer would be “all of it.” Listen, chump—I’m not real. I’m a metaphorical device. I know it and you know it. I only exist as some whimsy in that twisted noggin of yours. I can’t give you what you don’t already have, m’kay? I may help you recognize the fact you already have…whatever it is you think you need. I may even help you focus on one specific over another. Past that, you’re on your own. Now, what was the word again?

Writer (sighing deeply): Yield.

Muse: In your dreams.

Writer (sighing even deeper): No, that’s the word.

Muse: And that’s a problem…why?

Writer: Haven’t you been listening to me? I got nothing.

Muse: You can’t lie to me, because I know better. You’re just afraid you’re going to put words down and everyone who reads it will think it’s terrible. The truth is, you could put down something random and then build on it.

Writer: You mean like, “Yield, varlet!” and then try to justify it?

Muse: Well, let’s not get crazy. You can do better than that. Word of warning, though: You start typing the lyrics to “Men of Harlech” and I’ll pound you.

Writer: Fine, but in my defense, it does have the word “yield” in it. As in never do it.

Muse: Stop stalling. You’re always like this, and frankly, you’re working my nerves. I’ve got other aspects, you know, beside “Biker Chick.” Should I introduce you?”

Writer: Ah…no, thanks. I’ve met a few already. I’ll be good.

Muse: Good is for second and third drafts. Just get started.

Writer: How about, “The last of the Ships of the Line was taking on water, its sails shredded. “

Muse: Who are you, Horatio Hornblower? Get serious.

Writer: I’m always serious. Especially when I’m not.

Muse: Don’t pull that zen crap on me now. Your bullshit doesn’t work.

Writer: Okay, fine, you win. You always win.

Muse: Sure, but it would be nice if you’d just realize that up front and save us both, meaning you, the aggravation. Now, get to work!

Writer: How about this: “Contrary to the myth, banshees have been known to laugh.”

Muse: I’m listening.

Writer: “However, they only laugh in very specific circumstances. This is what happens to someone who makes a banshee laugh.”

Muse: And?

Writer: And that’s 500 words.

Muse: You’re a bastard. You know that?

Present, With an Explanation

I’m late, by a whole day. It was almost two.

It couldn’t be avoided. We had to make a trip to Saratoga Springs yesterday because First Reader is getting stem cell treatment in her wonky knees. We figured we’d take a shot at rebuilding the knees almost from scratch rather than proceeding directly to the bionic route of joint replacement. We’ll see how it turns out, but the treatments require a trip to the clinic, about an hour and a half from here, plus treatment time so we didn’t get back to very late.

Today, had to make a trip to Utica to replace a piece of online equipment that was malfunctioning. Then make a return trip via the scenic route because our GPS doesn’t distinguish between “most direct” and “easiest.” Regardless, we got some lovely views of the Mohawk Valley from the surrounding hills. Reminded us just how beautiful the place we live is.

Anyway, more an explanation than an actual blog post. I will say the current project is showing signs of life, but I was wrong about it in one regard—I thought it was a novel. Now I’m convinced it’s going to be a novella, maybe in 30k range. I’ll know for sure in the next ten pages or so. Either way, whatever it is,  I’ll try to make it a good one.

 

A’ Mulching We Will Go

It’s spring. So there’s a lot of leaves around from last fall. Sort of like a letter from your old pal Autumn. Hi! Remember me? Thought I was gone, didn’t ya?  He takes after his brother, Winter.  Even when he’s gone, he’s not entirely gone.

So I bought a leaf mulcher. It’s basically a string trimmer turned on its back with a funnel to guide the leaves into the strings where they are chopped into, as the commercial says, “That’s some good mulch!” But honestly I don’t need the mulch. Neither one of us could be fairly called gardeners. We just like the leaves tended to rather than blowing around willy-nilly. At least mulch is good for the yard.

Rather like bits and pieces of old stories. I sometimes still refer to false starts, stories that went bad, snippets of notions and such “mulch.” Nothing’s really wasted. Maybe that false start was the right start, just the wrong story. Sometimes a bad story will finally tell you what it needs to make it good, or that snippet has a notion buried in it you weren’t ready to recognize at the time. Since half of writing is recognizing a good story when it shows itself, that’s a win. They’re all win.

Waste nothing.

 

Spring? Maybe. A Little.

Another day of sunshine, and another new Yamada story. This one’s a true flash, so I likely won’t be expanding it, unless I reconsider some of the backstory I had to gloss over to make my word limit. Actually, there’s quite a lot there, now that I think about it. And a new character whose presence is ripe for making trouble.

Okay, maybe I will, the more I think about it. Yamada’s new situation does present some story possibilities I hadn’t considered before. Or maybe I just missed the guys, I don’t know.

I also need to get back to Marta…and Jing and Mei Li and that exorcist guy. I have been remiss. I have been up to my eyeballs, actually, but I’ve finally realized that’s not going to change…ever. I just need to find ways to work with it.

The short stories I can fit around the novel project, but not another novel. One at a time is my limit, I’ve discovered. I’m making progress, it just doesn’t seem like it most of the time.

Lately, it sort of does.

The Unexpected, and a Confession

Apropos of last week, I finished the rough draft of the new Lord Yamada story yesterday. I am honestly surprised. I have to blame the Flash Fiction group, since I was looking at the trigger word for that week’s assignment and thought to myself…that’s a Yamada story.

No way.

Yes, way.

So first I wrote the flash, then went on to expand it to (to me) proper story length. It’s still short for a Yamada piece. Most of those were in the 5-7k range and many went to novelette, even excluding the actual novels. This one’s only about 3000 words. May get a little longer (or shorter) in the rewrite. We’ll see. If and when it’s published, I’ll be sure to let everyone who’s interested know. And even those who aren’t. Blogging is like that.

Now the confession, triggered by a twitter exchange I saw a few days ago. A writer I know was confessing to writing fan-fic when she was starting out. Several others chimed in to, sharing their confessions. Some were still writing it, long after they turned pro.

I found this all a bit fascinating, so herein is my confession: I have never written fan-fic.

For the one or two of you out there who don’t know what fan-fic is, it’s simply writing your own stories using someone else’s characters and set in their universe. Just for fun. Or because you think you could handle certain things better than they did.

But wait, Straw Man says. I know for a fact you’ve written stories featuring Beowulf, and Oedipus, Hera, and Eris, Goddess of Discord.  You didn’t invent them! Very true. And I will concede that, legendary or not, someone made them up at some point. Unless Eris or Hera takes offense at that categorization and I therefore humbly withdraw it. I don’t want either one mad at me. Regardless, in my mind there’s a very fine but definite distinction between writing a story based on legend and writing, say, a Harry Potter story. That distinction is the author.

That, to me, is the difference. Writing a story based on a legend and supplying my own slant on the story is being part of a conversation that we, as human beings, have been having with ourselves for a long time, and one that deserves to continue. Writing in a known author’s universe, otoh, is me playing in their sandbox, and I do not belong there. It’s not even about copyright, for the most part, since most fan-fic writers only publish in closed groups and aren’t trying to usurp the original author’s prerogative. Even in cases where the copyright has expired, I still can’t do it.

It’s not a moral position. I know other people don’t have this problem, and if you can do something interesting with a public domain work, go for it.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to, mind you. A few years ago someone was putting together a Fritz Leiber tribute anthology. At that point, Fafhrd and the Mouser were fair game, and  since Leiber was one of my favorite writers ever, I wanted in.

I couldn’t do it. I tried, but every word I put down on paper echoed in my head as the same word: wrong. And no matter what I told myself, or what I wrote, that word never changed.

I’ll always regret not having my work in that book. But I’ll never regret why.