Your Muse. Your Inspiration.
Can you control it? Or does it control you…like automatic-writing or something? Do your characters seem to “take over” the story, have things their own way? Practically channel themselves into your pen?
Sometimes it sure feels that way, for the good – and for the bad.
Do we even care where our Muses’ hail from – excuse me, from hence they hail? And I don’t mean from Greece. There are no toga-clad women dancing around in your head or perching their linen-backsides on your desk, whispering ‘you must include this…’
We have a choice. Obvious? and yet…
If there’s a real monster in your story, it is coming from YOU. I’m not talking about Villains or Shadows – of course they are evil; they are supposed to be. Very, richly evil. Conflicted in their little evil souls. Making us hate them, sometimes moving us to pity or empathy, then hating ourselves for it.
No, the monster of Darkness that I’m talking about is in us. The “Royal We” of storytelling, us writers.There’s a lot of dark matter in there. I fight it every time I sit down to write. Make choices. Shall this person rape, pillage, curse like a Hun? (in Hun-garian, ba-da-bing)
Shall they murder? Shall they use sex for power? Shall they be incestuous…no, I can’t say that has ever occurred to me in creating Evil in a story. Sure, it’s in the Dark World. It’s edgy for storytelling’s sake – just consider Game of Thrones. But is it really necessary to have two incestuous family situations, Mr. Martin? Two sets of siblings??
I think not. It was your choice, of course, but to what end? Shock? Perversion? You win that war, tho’ it may not be one to be proud of…
A wise person once wrote that ‘the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. A prophet can wait his turn in silence; he is not compelled to speak at once, for his spirit is subject to him. He can be silent if he wills it.’ 1
Yeah, that’s from the Bible – don’t turn me off yet – but isn’t it wise? And true? Not saying that writing is the same as prophecy, but don’t they share some of the same power – to speak into the world and influence it, either from-God, or outside of him?
So what are you possessed by, er, by what are you possessed? For we are all controlled by Something. As writers, we endeavor to reflect Good and Evil, Darkness and Light as we see it – as we’ve experienced it, observed it; we judge it and spew it forth to the waiting world.
We choose. Showing darkness isn’t all that much fun if you try to live in the Light…okay. I confess that it is fun sometimes, to go to that other place, but I don’t wanna live there.
As a writer, I must show Evil to show what Good is by comparison, by contrast: but I still have choices. Nothing really controls me, ultimately – hello, Free Will.
In me, in all of us.
My son recently begged me to watch Game of Thrones, HBO (Season 1 and part of 2), with him. We have so little in common these days, that I agreed – though I’d not bought the book after reading a sample on my Kindle. I didn’t like the tone, the coldness, the lack of hope. Dark Fantasy = yuck.
I need a little Hope in my stories. Some true Light. (Didn’t see either in GOT. )
But for my kid’s sake, I dove in. Oh, what joys! Not. The repeated nudity and violence towards women offended me. The weird sexual congress of various characters was gross, especially the stylistic choice to have one of the characters “explain things about the world” while the act was occurring.
Geez, really?? Is this a part of good storytelling? Or a mere gimmick to ensnare the masses. Sadly, ensnaring us masses is all too easy and cheap these days. (just see the way I inserted a photo of a story I didn’t even like to adorn my blog!)
Not only was I grossed-out by GOT – and whilst sharing it with my son – I was annoyed with the storytelling. I don’t need gimmicks, sexual or otherwise, thank you – just give me a good story. Mr. Martin has a decent story and didn’t need all that other junk cluttering it up. I mean, having two incestuous relationships? Really?? It was his choice, and choices come from…
I asked my son to fast-forward through the places with sexual stuff or nudity. He argued: “It’s not that bad! It’s part of the story, Mom!”
“Yes, it is bad – it’s like dumping garbage in your head and soul. I’d rather not have garbage, thanks. And I doubt it’s ‘part of the story’ either,” I-his-mother declared.
We made a deal: he would FF through ‘those parts’, then catch me up on what I missed that was truly a part of the story. So what did I miss? As it turned out…nothing. He couldn’t think of one thing to tell me that I’d missed, while missing the nudity or sexual-explaining-scenes. And he realized it – yahoo. I hope it taught him a little bit of something about what makes a Good Story. And to trust that, yes indeedy, if it’s not contributing to the STORY, it’s not needed.
If it also showed him something about morality, then double-yahoo.
As a writer, you can choose. We all do, every day. As writers, what do we want to say – and how to say it? How much Darkness is necessary to convey Evil?
I say: a little goes a long, long way.
Yet, don’t leave out the Hope – if you have it. After all, we can only give out of what we possess and understand. We are either of the Father of Light, or of the father of Lies.
Makes for good storytelling, yes?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.2