Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dying flowers

After years of writing tepid, derivative poetry - which I still do, if less frequently - once upon a time I decided to begin a piece of fiction. That turned into one half-hearted attempt many, many aeons ago, back in 2003 or 2004. I'm sure I have the fragment of the paragraph around here somewhere. Something about a graveyard, probably because I had just finished the appendices in the Broadview Press edition of Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. In February of this year, I decided to begin again. With gusto. I'm now approaching 44,000 words. But it certainly hasn't turned out how I planned. That cliché aside, I remain surprised, in both good and bad ways, by what I've written so far.

I originally set out to create something Lovecraftian. No, not the Derleth/Lumley-inspired garbage populated with 752 arcane works and googly-oogly-eyed spawn from the oceans' depths or fungoid travellers from beyond the stars, everything couched in the purplest of prose, but a story with the veneer of something unsettled. I was quite firm in my goal. Strip a few layers of skin off of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and graft them onto the soon-to-be reanimated body of a half-assed whodunnit based in 19th century France. Yes, there is indeed one of those rarest of tomes, and there is (I hope) a somewhat spooky atmosphere, but it's not nearly as oppressive in the-whole-cosmos-is-against-me kind of way. It's vaguely drug addled, as if I've read Ligeia one too many times and, without the personal experience of ingesting opium, have gone and subconsciously aped the airs of that masterpiece. And to top it all off, there's a sizable undercurrent of love and romance. Er, what the bloody hell?

I read an excellent post the other day at Literacity about how writers, as other groups of humans, need to classify the world, and this is reflected in their created worlds, flush with the conventions of the genre the writer is working in. There was a whole other sub-riff about how genre itself is marketed to the detriment of the art, (blame the corporates, but blame the consumers too, those lazy fucks. Stop buying shit. If you have time to consume and accumulate things, you have time to explore your literary interests - unless you have none, which proves that this country is dumber than I previously thought) but since I have no delusions of publishing Dead Flowers, that's really not applicable to yours truly. "Write your own story, and worry about classifying it later." It appears that I have indeed done that, but my problem, if it can be labeled as such, is how and why did my story end up (is ending up - ain't done yet) the way that it did?

Structural problems abound. A few chapters flow on well and actually advance the plot, others ruminate in a dream-like state, signifying nothing but my desire to write some interesting prose. Dreams. That's not an overused plot device, of course not. Originality isn't my strength, that's for sure. But whither the romance? I wonder what the line is between the personal desires of the author finding their way onto the page and those skilled enough to detach the character(s) from his/herself. You should never have your characters speak for you, they say, the mysterious They. And I believe there's some truth to that. Even Randolph Carter and the unnamed narrator of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, though flush with autobiographical details, are different from Lovecraft the man, especially the 1930s edition. As Gabriel is different from me, I suppose, yet I cannot help but feel that he is a version of me, floating through a collage of styles that I myself would enjoy reading. There are even some passages that I find quite well written, regardless of genre. Offset of course by the tepid majority of the work. And Madeleine herself has the personality of a certain someone. I have unquestionably crossed that biographical line with Dead Flowers, but, for a first attempt, I'm willing to forgive myself this overt abuse of said line, yet I fear that this is all I'll ever be able to write. It was, and is, that way with my poetry, and I'm afraid it will be with my fiction. They (again, They) say to write what you know. That's what I do. Whether it's good or not is an entirely different question.


Anthony Cartouche said...

Bring it on. And welcome to the InterTubes.

E.V.E. said...

If I can guess from where your inspiration comes, I still wonder where you could fine a first name like Madeleine for her... :p

Randal Graves said...

What's more French than that? :D

E.V.E. said...

hum... Germaine could've been used. But how terrible this name sounds!!! I would never have talked to you again! ;)