Lest it seem too much like self-congratulatory fawning over my own work, let me say this: I do not really think my last blog post was particularly great. I do think it was good, though I see some cracks, and clearly can see where someone might come across with a “bad” verdict. Still, I wanted to write a bit about what I meant by the whole thing, in spite of a distinct lack of comments on it (I honestly was expecting at least one or two).
To lead off: this story is decidedly fiction. It had a few elements to it that were inspired by real events, but for the most part it is fictitious. I wrote it while depressed, as that seems to be the only time remaining wherein I’m distinctly creative. I walled myself off and had Sigur Rós’s ( ) playing. Sigur Rós, like Massive Attack, has been a must-buy for me for years, all based on watching this haunting video at 4AM one night a long time ago.
I wasn’t really sure what I was planning on writing, at first. Actually, the first part I wrote was the bit in the third paragraph, at the well. As I was writing, I was taking periodic breaks to find quotes that were floating around in my head, and to either integrate them, use them as inspiration, or both. My initial search was for “The time has come to put away childish things.” It seems, based on my initial search, that I mashed up two quotes: one from Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter around the 11th stanza, and one from the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians 13:11. Interestingly, I chose neither of those quotes, but ones relating to the 3rd stanza and 1 Corinthians 13:2.
I knew I had heard the quote from Corinthians before, but it didn’t occur to me until later where it was: wedding ceremonies. Strangely, I thought of it and immediately jumped to how appropriate it would be at a funeral (strangely I say, because I’ve been to many wedding where they’ve used it). I’ve got a friend who says weddings and funerals are the same thing. Of course he’s being incredibly sardonic, but it has some grain of truth (for the more religious/spiritual among us): in a way, it’s an ending of one life, and a beginning of another (presuming the presence of an afterlife, as one listening to scripture might do). And of course, for the humanist in me, being faithful is all well and good, but living and dying without love is pretty damn terrible.
The third and fourth quotes were somewhat more deliberate, as I put them in after writing at least half of the story, rather than at the beginning like the first two. I had just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” vol. 5, “A Game of You,” and the quote about wishing came from there. From what I could tell, it actually is an old saying, and most of the time isn’t quite as vulgar, but I liked the vulgarity because it seemed more like you’d expect a phrase like that to come. The last quote I looked for specifically as something to do with silence, cause that’s where I wanted to go with the last portion of the story. After passing up a quote from Shusaku Endo’s “Silence” because it hammered too heavily on the Christian aesthetic for my tastes, I settled on a quote from John Cage in reference to his piece 4’33″, which felt better as it had to do with the nature of silence (his idea was actually built into the narrative), and isn’t just something from a work titled “Silence.”
I said I wanted to critique my work a bit, so I’ll get to that, but I also realized another reason I was doing this was for attribution. Footnotes in the text seemed like they’d be gaudy, and so I didn’t include them. However, in fear of people not searching for these quotes and realizing who the original authors were, I felt compelled to discuss it, at some length. At any rate, onward:
As I said, I wrote the third paragraph first. The first I wrote specifically after the inclusion of the Lewis Carroll reference, and honestly it feels a bit forced, like I was leading into the quote and never quite delivered. The idea was that the person who died was just dead, and all the moping was pointless cause they were crying over an empty vessel. Unfortunately, that could not have been more obscured by the text and I think that ultimately the atheistic, cynical, and nihilistic existentialism in the first paragraph really jars when set against the more spiritual context of the scripture quotation later. Although, the narrator’s opinion could be argued to be changing by the time he’s at the bus stop, hence going to the well in the first place.
The other part that’s consistently bothered or delighted me, depending on my mood at the time, is the change in tense. For the first half, it’s in present tense. The second half is in past tense, and takes place over a longer span of time. The change in tense itself doesn’t bother me insomuch as the fact that it felt backwards: the first half occurs historically first, so if anything is past tense, it should be that. However, I keep waffling. It’s all after-the-fact reasoning, though. The real truth is that I just had tense trouble (going back and forth with present and past) throughout and it was easiest to resolve it the way I did, although…
I mention in the last paragraph a scene that didn’t occur anywhere else, with the drifting off in the first bus ride. The whole first half could just be a memory, and like all memory it’s faulty and only the parts that are important to you at the time tend to surface. When the narrator was cynical, all he could remember was his cynicism and the cause of it. When he was hopeful, he remembered something more positive. And, as the entire thing was a memory, he was narrating it like he was there. In that respect, the verb tense issue could be resolved, and I can pat myself on the back for something so deep that I didn’t necessarily mean to do in the first place.
Speaking of tense: I changed “could make it” to “can make it” to sound more hopeful. I’m not sure if it didn’t just sound like I’d forgotten the way I started the sentence. Instead of saying “could” like it’s past tense and has been proven wrong, I say “can” to show it’s still going on, thus: so far, so good. Whatever. The final word problem I had was in the first paragraph again, “tinnitus.” It’s a chronic ear-ringing condition that runs in my family, and it’s maddening. But, more than that, it broke up the narrative because someone might go “what the hell is that?” That would be a dead stop in the story right there as they pulled up Wikipedia, and would be kind of terrible.
Speaking of Wikipedia, I wanted it to be a timeless sort of story, set anywhere, so I avoided mentioning technology as much as possible. I’m not sure what I could have done about the bus stop, it just seemed like the right location, but clearly that places it sometime since the turn of the last century or so, and as such reduces the “timeless” quality (and not nearly every place has bus stops). Ah well.
At any rate, like I said, it wasn’t my best work to date, but I like it. I originally intended to post a follow-up as a comment on the post, but as you can see from the length of this post, that wasn’t particularly feasible, as it’s longer than the story itself. Hopefully it’s given you more clarity as to what I was thinking, or that it’ll help me to write better in the future. I’d really like to know what people think of these things, so if you’re reading, please do comment (either here or on the original post). I’ve got to approve posts when you do it the first time, but you’re “trusted” after that.