Being fearless

I was tempted to not write this down, but I’m afraid my future deliberations don’t make much sense if I omit this.

I struggle with identity. I don’t have enough of it or at least I don’t understand enough of my own inner workings to make something of me. My art and storytelling suffers from this, too. But today I have actually learned something that might help me to get ahead.

There is another reason why I don’t like rereading books or repetitions of any kind. Everything is emotional labor, coping with it, and when the work is too good and moves me too much, that causes a lot of emotion, especially pain. I would like to avoid this. I have a hard time enjoying new things, as I can’t know how much pain they will cause me. And I surely don’t like returning to things I’ve worked through already to relive the pain or possibly have some new one. This also explains why I like to stick to „safe“ genres like horror and action. Those usually do not challenge you emotionally. And of course, if everything is pain, there’s also a big need for comfort, such as food.

I haven’t seen it like this before but this is totally what it is. Also, it is not only about literature, everything promises pain. But I can’t not live to avoid the pain. Also, if I avoid emotion altogether, I am cutting myself off from the very thing I’m supposed to work with and create for others. I can even trace back when I decided to not feel to one single day in elementary school when an older boy intimidated me for fun on the school yard and made me drop my lunch sandwich on the concrete. I decided I’m going to be strong and not feel anymore. Understandable why a child would come to such a conclusion, but not the healthiest way to deal with problems in the long run. And my emotional development might be stunted since then. The social development was stunted too but caught up by now, for the other one I hope I still have time to get it right. Am I still mad about it? No. Nothing compares to the horrors of being a child and becoming aware of not being and not being treated as a „full“ human being.

When I’m at my best, I’m fearless. This doesn’t mean I don’t experience fear, but that I confront it. I’m not Kandinsky, so my art doesn’t have an abstract conceptual mission (yet). But how about this one: Read my art as me tackling what I’m afraid of most, because this is what I promise myself to tackle. I have some emotional development to make. This doesn’t contradict my rule about my art being made with love and coming from love. I love myself, so I want myself to heal and improve. I want to be brave, courageous, in my native language: mutig.

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.

SPREY Log #0028 – Notes on Worldbuilding #001

Notes like these hopefully help me to flesh SPREY out more and get it to a story structure that works – to arrive at a comic that works. SPREY had a huge problem in it’s structure from the start, but only now do I have the toolkit as a storyteller to actually see it and find remedies.

General

SPREY takes place in a dark, dirty, urban dog eat dog world. The technology level is high and deeply informed and inspired by the 70ies and 80ies of the 20th century, but the technology is not equally accessible to everyone. We are also not in a full-out cyberpunk dystopia. First, I do not wish to compete with or copy the many great works that exist in the core of this genre already. Second, I do not wish to feast on the stereotypes and clichées that come with the popularity of cyberpunk. It seems bad enough that one of my protagonists is a hacker. Third, I am writing a romance that just takes on a fancy coat and has some fleshy bits on chains dangling from it, with a chilling grace hidden deep under that garment. My romance does not deal with all the questions cyberpunk is asking, nor has it sci-fi at it’s core. I rather need modernity to contrast the primal „evil“ that we are going to encounter. I need the uncaring mass society, the logistics of a failing metropolis, the promised future that never was and another generation waking up to the promise being empty…to let my characters realize that was not the worst thing that could happen to them, not at all. But they are not condemned to just sit and suffer from what they got either.

My lovers find meaning in each other in a meaningless world. Do I say, love conquers all? I don’t think so. Striving and fighting for a love relationship just seems equally primal to hunting, gathering and coping with death, enthropy and the shadow every human has. So everything has it’s place under the coat of SPREY for a mythical story.

But my work is not done here. To truly get the core of SPREY right we must dive deeper into what „evil“ actually is. So far, on the outer layers of the world, ignorance and apathy seem to rule, which is not the same as evil.

Corvus Returns

…and so did a lot of older works. I’m tackling things differently this year. As many other creators do, I have a universe in my head. I do not feel the need to shine a light on any and every single pebble, any and every interesting thing that ever happened there or once might happen. Still, if I want any painting, any short story, any comic out of the source of my stories AND the quality shall be more than a lucky hit or miss, there is a lot of work ahead of me.

I’m taking the time to make one or a couple of lists with older works of mine. Many are what I would consider „dead“ but some I can practise storytelling with, everything in the service of SPREY. The goal is the same as last year, write down a functioning, complete version of SPREY, from start to finish, then draw it out as a comic. The middle part is still a bit too nebulous. But I think my chances of finishing are good this year. I still have a lot of writing and some resulting growing to do though to get there.

Corvus seems like good material to practise structure.

The old story went like this:

Corvus is on the verge of being expelled from the mage academy for bad grades. He is tricked into stealing a secret book on necromancy for one of the professors, then has to stop said professor. A lot of people get hurt or killed before the professor’s rampage is over and Corvus has to live with that guilt, although he was able to stop the professor in the end. A superficial love interest for Corvus exists, their story just isn’t that terribly important for the plot except for a magic McGuffin given to him by the love interest that helps Corvus survive a deadly blow by the professor, when the professor betrays everyone after receiving the book.

The new story that emerged after some exposure to the Schumann writing craft book is this:

Due to a mixture of personal shortcomings, bad luck and academy politics Corvus has just been expelled from the mage academy for bad grades. His magic powers are taken from him permanently. Before he even has time to cope with it, he learns that a group of fellow student mages manipulated him and other people for their own entertainment and is now setting their eyes to new targets of harassment. Corvus takes a job as a gardener to be allowed to stay on the premise and starts working in the shadows to protect the new targets and bring the group down. While Corvus has a positive impact on the lives of many, despite having less tools to do so as a gardener, he is a nuisance to few but powerful political actors at the academy and is pushed out as a troublemaker in the end. He is not winning against the group or the academy. And Corvus is definitely not winning against life, as health problems caused by him forcefully losing his magic powers are increasingly catching up with him. His life after his time at the academy might be very short.

The side arc love story exists, but has quite changed, too: This time around Corvus has a love affair with a freshly arrived foreign lecturer. The lecturer is target of the boldest bet of the student group yet. They want to know whether they can drive even a lecturer into suicide through a buerocratic loop of death and social isolation. While Corvus helps the man to get over the very rocky start at the academy, he must watch how his beloved lecturer slowly transforms into a member of the academy establishment that wants him gone.

The lecturer wakes up to what has happened in the end, immediately quits his position and rushes to make amends to Corvus. Other people are waking up and leaving, too, which forces the academy to change.

I don’t know about you, but as a reader I’d be more interested in the second iteration than in the first one. Now that I’m rereading the text I am still worried that the scope is too big still. How many good deeds to how many people can Corvus really do before he’s out? The middle part does hold some uncertainty here, but not as much as my current version of SPREY. I am at least convinced my structure will dictate enough so that I don’t swim in endless possibilities.