SPREY Log #029 – Notes on Worldbuilding #002

I’ve talked to a different storyteller since my last note. I have realized, I couldn’t trick or convince myself of what isn’t there in SPREY. Wasn’t I talking about a romance with hidden fleshy bits under the coat? I should take that thought serious and cut some fat, a lot of fat, from SPREY.

Let’s think in a new and bold direction, right after Literature Note #005 has smacked my brain moments ago Instead of trying to be a city, instead of trying to be a theme, instead of trying to be a whole cast I should go and be Rich and Willard. Why don’t I let their relationship dictate SPREY? Instead of looking into various things superficially, let’s make this one thing right and find some good words for it.

What’s the conflict here? Rich and Willard are madly in love with each other and it’s a bad idea, even without any cannibal horror rockers or other external threats around. Rich is a convicted cybercriminal and Willard is an ambitious and idealistic cop, who doesn’t know this detail about his partner yet. It also doesn’t help that Rich has a lot of past trauma bottled up he never dealt with and is so scared of being hurt that he keeps making decisions that hurt him more.

Now what is the worst thing that could happen to them?

Imagine one day they’re making out in a back alley during Willard’s break. A new wanted poster comes in and it’s Rich. Now Rich has a lot of explaining to do, Willard’s world collapses faster than he can say, do or feel anything, but they have zero time to discuss it out. Willard has to make a decision really quickly…and decides to help Rich escape the city.

But then… and this then could be anything, it wouldn’t necessarily require the slashers even.

Stepping away from this text for a bit I realized that Willard can only be convinced to do anything that goes against his ideals if someone literally holds a gun to Rich’s head. And then whatever happens doesn’t come from Willard. At least at first. I have a lot of new food for thought. You can be sure, I will soon be back and try to solve this riddle again.

Literature Notes #005

My notes as a reader on:

Matthew B. Crawford – The World Beyond Your Head – Chapter 4

I must preface this with my general stance on philosophy and self-help books. You can find good ideas anywhere, just be aware everything is flawed. No book will ever take the burden of initially then repeatedly taking action, making corrections and overall living and learning from mistakes from you. No book will be the perfect guide for anybody. But who knows what you will discover for yourself from the book before you so give it a go!

I can’t tell whether Crawford’s book is moving me as much as it does because it resonates with me so well or because my defenses are weakened from morning sessions of reading Schumann’s book on writing. Today, starting and not yet finishing chapter 4, was a particularly fruitful reading session for me. I love reading about human perception as all my crafts depend on it. What arrived in my head today, not necessarily what was on the pages, is this:

As much as we would like to escape our body, nature, the material world itself, the limitations of our mind and imagination even, we are still anchored to this reality. We at least originate in it and are built for it. A consequence of this is that we have a taste for reality; we relate to it on a level that is deeper than we might like to admit. Art that captures it moves us. In our most primitive form we are a moving body and no matter how domesticated, our brain thinks like one. For example, we have the easiest time imagining our own body as the center for any measure of distance. Things are left or right or in the front or behind us.

For me as an artist this is thrilling news. My options how to show a world or any space really are melting. The most natural thing that there is is an ego perspective, we see like this every day. Next to it comes a „natural“ eye level and angles. What is a camera? What is a camera in essence if not an ego perspective view of something or someone looking onto a scene? I was looking at and constructing all my pictures wrong. This also seems like a huge help when visualizing things, starting out with oneself as the center of a imaginary place. I’m afraid I will need some time to cope with what I learned today and test the thesis thoroughly.

Literature Notes #004

My notes as a reader on:

Schumann(ed.) – „Grundlagen und Techniken der Schreibkunst“ – chapter on poetry

I am by far not done digesting, practising and reading up more on the previous chapters of this fantastic book. Yet I must keep reading, as the act of getting to know the craft of writing alone has opened so many new doors for me already.

I was a bit hesitant about the chapter on poetry. It seems so alien to anything that’s in my typical media diet. I have read and admired poetry before, school made me and in latest years I just came to appreciate the beauty of it just for itself, but that was it. Enjoying it from a distance. When I read about how to make, not just analyze, poetry from Schumann’s perspective today, the result was different than anything I had expected. Everything laid out reminded me of a programming language. Everything makes sense, but you will need some time and quite some practise to really memorize and understand the language ruleset you are given and the effects it will cause. I did not expect language to have such a mathematical level. Your recipient is a human being, not a machine, so you have more room for willful ambiguity and vagueness. But if you want to go to the extreme, you can break language down to the very noises you make and what you can say within a breath, utilizing language to it’s fullest like probably no other form of literature can.

I can see why it is absolutely worth it practising poetry, even if you have no aspirations to ever become a poet. I want to get to know both German and English that intimate, and possibly other languages later if I get to get to know them to a sensible level. We are using language every day utilizing only a fraction of what language can do. Imagine all the fun to be had just by knowing more about it!

Literature Notes #003

My notes as a reader on:

Works tied to their time

(a continuation from the last note)

I am starting to understand that I cannot escape being tied to a time, my time, as a reader but also as a writer. Not all readers from all cultures will understand my works, neither today nor in the future, even if I tried doing everything as bland, non-committing to a time and specific culture and easy to digest as possible. This is not an excuse to invent my own language that only I can understand as the other extreme though. As with many things in life there is a beautiful individual balance to be found in between. It is one of those questions a writer answers for their own work in the stage of preparation, and there is no universal answer for all works. I wonder where I fall on the spectrum as a creator and I guess I will find out over time and honig the craft.

Literature Notes #002

My notes as a reader on:

Failing to read a text

In order to learn a lot, I need to read a lot. And now that I have the keys on how to read and enjoy fiction, I am doing just that. I have picked up an exquisite collection of „50 great short stories“ edited by Milton Crane. If you start with no clue, you can start anywhere with any author really.

What I quickly found out is that there’s more to the much dreaded „language barrier“ that readers like me with English as a second language face. In fact, usually it is not the language itself; I find myself lacking the cultural and historical knowledge to follow and appreciate everything that I’m presented. I combat this by reading up on the authors and the times they lived in as well as the times they wrote about. Also, I should probably do that for German texts as well. I might think I know my own culture, but what if I don’t? After all, what I was taught in school does not reflect everything there is and everything there has been and it is up to me to learn more about it.

But research cannot fix everything. There are some works that I still fail to enjoy. And if I don’t enjoy them, my willingness to finish reading them suffers, too. I find myself refusing just like a child would refuse to finish eating a meal it does not like. Schumann from my writing craft handbook would probably say it is my duty to still push through as I am reading to learn, not to enjoy. But is this really the way? The least I can do is trying to understand what makes a work not palatable to me and avoid doing the same in my own works if I can.