SPREY Log #13 – Genre Research

Exciting news, I finished reading Brian McDonald’s “Invisible Ink” and started reading the next book already. I will put “Invisible Ink” away for a couple of weeks and then read it again, just to make sure I haven’t missed the point. Then, I was very lucky as my kindle recommended K.M. Weiland’s “Writing your story’s theme” to me. Perfect, I told myself, reading another voice dealing with exactly what plagues me at the moment could be the best call now. And I found a treasure indeed.

First of all, according to Weiland what I have gone through and discovered througout my own past blog entries and writing sessions is true. Theme is indeed ethereal and you can actually craft a story without ever consciously dealing with any of it. You then just aren’t guaranteed a coherent theme will manifest through your instincts alone.

Weiland offers a more open view on theme than McDonald declaring theme a personal practise of each writer. She does for example not exclude single word themes or a preaching approach where you offer an answer to humanity’s biggest problems yourself from being acceptable themes. What I learn from this is that I can treat it like the discussion which art style is the best…none of them. I just have to find out where I fall on the spectrum of approaches and make the best of it. This of course in turn changes my search for SPREY’s theme. I don’t have to find that one statement that clutches the story climax and in turn is reflected through everything else in the story, although it would be good for structure’s sake.

Yesterday I figured out that current SPREY is a wild mix of themes. Weiland says if you can’t figure your theme out and are worried about the consistency of your story, you can always fall back on genre. At least that’s what I understood. It is probably not the most elegant way to do things, but if you at least do your genre right, you aren’t lost completely. After all, it wouldn’t be a genre if it’s archetypes and must have scenes weren’t tested. I took that to heart and put in an extra reading session yesterday, diving into the romance genre and slasher movies. I was surprised by what even a superficial look at both unveiled.

Genres are powerful tools indeed. A romance can be more than primarily dealing with a love relationship in your story. Actually, a classical romance can even work without a love interest. If you are interested in that genre and it’s history at all, look it up, you will not be disappointed. Looking into slashers was also pretty revealing. I have truly seen my share of them and never actually thought about the ritualistic nature and symbols in most of them. A virgin woman is protecting herself from a sometimes supernatural danger that has been killing her whole peer group. That’s like tossing an ancient Greek princess into a labyrinth to please that minotaur monster inside. Truly, some things never change. This time around the princess, rarely a prince, saves herself though. Here I’m baffled how I ever assumed SPREY had anything to do with the essence of slashers. I guess I just copied some of the aesthetics. On the other hand, they’re putting Rich on an altar to cut his heart out in the end. But he never was in a peer group that was killed off and left him alone to be tested. Also if anyone is a typical final girl it’s Willard, because he’s the only virgin I know of in the story. But Willard is also the one who returns to kill the monster. Decisions decisions. But at least I’m having a lot of new ideas to play with in my writing. I have no idea where this is going but I must write and test. I also hope I’m not being dishonest with myself here though. I don’t think the final girl protects “just” her virginity. This must go deeper.

See you next blogpost!

100 Days of SPREY – 08, 09

Whops! My week was so demanding that I unfortunately couldn‘t keep up with the blog like I would have liked to. Most importantly: all the comic work got done, the rest of the time was eaten up by commissions, a lot of reading and learning and on Wednesday my very first appearance as a guest on an art podcast! It was the Turaco Art Cast with comic artists Frank Salazar and Anna Raub. That was a pretty exciting and unique experience!

Unfortunately I paid for all the important work that got done with being quite exhausted in the second half of the week.

It is indeed a fine line between „Don‘t destroy yourself with crunch“ and „You do not need to feel good and comfortable all the time, otherwise you will never tackle any challenge outside of your personal comfort zone“…which you happen to need for growth.

I read „A short history of myth“ by Karen Armstrong this week and after a long break continued reading Robert Henri‘s „The Art Spirit“. Especially the latter one baffles me. How could I have spent my whole life drawing while apparently not knowing anything about art? Henri is like the well-meaning experienced art grandpa mentor I never had. He puts the reader aside and tells them what it‘s really all about without preaching. If you are inclined to do so, check out his book for yourself! At least for me it helped me to enjoy art in itself, whether by me or others, more again.

The books also made me attempt an experimental mindset shift. The myth book was a refreshing breeze that showed me how differently other cultures interpret and depict the human condition and our basic and most important struggles. The unfair and struggling nature of life comes to mind and how to deal with death and mortality for example. And after that book made my brain softer and more open to new ways, there came The Art Spirit. We artists really are in a great and ungrateful position at the same time. We get to experience and play with human emotion all the time, stories, uncovering secrets in the human psyche and in one way or the other influencing the people around us and helping to solve problems in a creative way. While many instructors seem to agree that the best art, writing and any other creative endeavor is done best in a state of selflessness, the artist has no chance to get there without meticulously exploring themselves and their own life and tastes first. That almost seems like a contradiction. Won‘t looking at and into yourself all the time make you an egoist on the canvas? Wouldn‘t you be tempted to paint self-indulgent pieces nobody else would even attempt to connect to? I‘d argue knowing yourself very very well gives you the freedom to reach out in the first place and maybe even forget yourself for a moment. Meeting other people who disagree with you or do the very same thing you do, but better, or people who just don‘t care about your work at all, won‘t shatter you anymore. You will even be readier to accept that they have an inner life as vivid as yours and that your art does not have to be part of that if they just don‘t connect with it.

There is another exciting thing that I found in the book and need to tell you about immediately. Henri argues that it would be an ideal state for an artist, if they created what is genuine and authentic to themselves and what they are here to create all the time and without compromises. That would be their way to live their life to it‘s fullest. And playfully engaging with that creation every day would be the thing that creates any form of success as byproduct. So…the success is not the goal, it happens on the side. Bold thesis, don‘t you think? But it might as well happen that the success never happens or at least not in the lifetime of the artist. If that is so, how should you know whether you are doing it right or not? Apparently outside validation is unreliable to see whether something is good or not. Almost in all times people have rejected new things only to turn around and claim them as new proven standard later, how things should always have been. But then worrying about money is just a reality of life, worrying about being connected to people and not ostracized. I guess we artists should not ignore that, as that would be ignoring reality, but we must be ready to sacrifice our comfort or tendency to seek it in order to rise above.

See you in the next blog entry!