Still struggling on the fiction front. I don’t want to post any old work, since most of it is sub par in my opinion, plus incomplete, but I did have a breakthrough earlier in the week. If I can at least pull a chapter out of it I might be able to bring about the rebirth of an old story of mine. Wait til then.
Until that point I’ve decided to post this piece. I don’t remember the details of what I wrote luckily, but I do remember this being very personal at the time. It also was the piece I decided to name this blog after. Hopefully you enjoy.
The Dark Forest
Books are wonderful mediums for traveling, they take us places and show us ideas and inspirations that we can’t or won’t experience within our own lives. They have a magic, best explained to me by Stephen King, that transports you through time, space, and imagination into worlds of the author’s design and unlike films or games, there are no budgetary or artistic limits.
Personally, I find great inspiration from these books. Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files is my go-to example. He suffers so much and yet keeps fighting; he’s been beaten, scarred, stabbed, shot, burned, even killed and never stopped struggling against dark forces that threatened innocent people. There is another aspect of Harry’s determination though, that truly put his strength of will into perspective for me. Midway through one of the early novels, probably number three or four, Harry is knocked unconscious during a dangerous situation, I honestly can’t remember what was happening, and we are transported into his mind. Harry is sitting in a chair at a table, the floor is concrete and light comes down like a spotlight on the scene, leaving the rest as impenetrable darkness. It reminds me of a noir interrogation, where the suspect seems alone in a warehouse. Harry really isn’t sitting in the chair though; he’s slumped over almost in defeat. His face is haggard, his hair wild and unkempt, a two day shadow of a beard barely concealing bruises. His duster is covered in grit and dirt, fraying at the hem. He’s tired. Tired of fighting losing battles, tired of barely making enough money for electricity and dollar menu dinners, tired of sleepless nights haunted by people he couldn’t save. Then out of the shadows steps his dark side. He looks just like Harry, but where Harry is haggard, he is sharp. He’s clean shaven, hair neatly combed and not a follicle out of place. He’s wearing a pressed, black suit, immaculately cut. This is a man in control of his world, who eats at fine restaurants and gets whatever he wants, when he wants it. Not through some childish greed or opulent wealth, but through pure power and presence. This is who Harry would be, if he stepped off the path, if he turned towards black magic, and at this point in the series we know this isn’t hyperbole. Magic is done through “The Will and The Word” but the word is simply a focusing device. Controlling energy through willpower is the core of all magic, and how you use it or where you get it is the key difference between the acceptable and the unacceptable. With this much emphasis on the mind and the will, we know this isn’t a phantasm, this is a force of evil inside Harry’s head, a knowledge that if he gave in and took the easy way, the selfish way, instead of fighting for others he could have everything he desires. Harry says no, he refers to himself like a steel plate, beaten and bent out of shape, but not rusted, not broken.
It’s a powerful lesson for me to keep in mind, but I suspect it was an even more powerful lesson for the author, Jim Butcher. This is what I couldn’t grasp before, what I can barely carve into language now. Books are powerful journeys, rife with lessons, but writing, when unleashed, is more powerful still. I have a belief, a hope, and a terror, about writing, specifically about fiction writing where the whole world is the author’s creation. It’s a terror because of what it does mean; it’s a hope because of what it could mean. Whatever you write has to come from inside, therefore; however improbable or horrific, there is a part of you that is capable of or wants to act upon it. Even typing that gives me chills, makes me ashamed. Every act of villainy, every act of violence, all of it. There is a part of me that is capable of that, and I’ve written and plan to write some truly horrific things.
There is a character I’m planning, I haven’t written her yet, but I will. She is a “queen bee” sort of character, I’m debating setting the story in a school, and she runs the place with an iron fist. She’ll drag “friends” to the boiler room, and beat them bloody for “disobeying” her because she “made them who they are.” She’s going to make a deal for more power, with a demonic character I think will be a main force for darkness in many of my books. This power will change her into something more monstrous, a wendigo-esque creature that feasts on human flesh. Another character will begin to suspect, so she’ll ambush her in the bathroom. The “queen bee” will easily overpower her, taunt her with the recent deaths in her family, and rip out her throat with bestial fangs. It serves many purposes within the story, it will show the degradation of that villain, weaken a character who was shaping up to be a dangerous force by removing her voice, spur other characters into action, but I look at it, and I see the erotic tones in the scene, how intimately close they are, with her teeth and lips buried in the other girl’s throat. I see the blood, the violence, the mind-set that opposing their will means you deserve that violence, because you are less than them. That all came from me, from some section of my mind and soul, and this is only a mild example. I’ve already written worse than this in my years.
This is the truest and hardest traveling. Recognizing and exploring those deep dark places within yourself, knowing with absolute certainty that you have a monster inside of you, but not knowing how well it is chained, how strong the prison walls are that contain it. Other people have recognized it too. I’ve had women read certain short stories, and then I’ve noticed them giving me long, hard glares. Like they’re demanding to know what is wrong with me, what kind of sick, depraved person I really am. It would be nice to have an answer for them, but I don’t. My only solution is to keep writing, keep plumbing the depths and hoping to come to an end, a limit. There is hope though, a small glimmering possibility. I’ve written heroes as well. Selfless people, strong people, righteous people. They tend to be a bit flat to me, shaping a robust, interesting character is hard work, but it’s there. I like to think I’m like that as well, that my good side is there too, but it is hard to be selfless. To know that you should stop and help someone on the side of the road, but you’re running late for class and you don’t know anything about cars anyway. That you should confront those men who are referring to women on a scale of how they think they would be in bed, and making jokes about how some of them would be fine if they would just put a bag over their head to hide their face, but they won’t listen, you shouldn’t get into a brawl over it, they would hospitalize your wimpy self, and honestly, haven’t you seen and heard enough fights, do you really need to go and start even more of them. Isn’t it easier not to do anything, like you always have?
I feel like it’s an example of Newton’s First Law of Motion: “Objects at rest stay at rest.” It is hard to break out of that state, it takes tremendous energy, but the mind and all its habits have such a mass that moving them in a different direction begins to feel like rolling Sisyphus’ boulder up the mountain. There is a similar inertia in my writing, I keep getting stuck, I keep putting it off. I am afraid of the journey and where it might lead me. It is something I can conquer though. It is so much less than changing the entirety of myself, though the writing is connected to myself. So perhaps the best way to change yourself is to write, to get that small part of “I” to move, to exert a pressure on the rest and hopefully drag the rest behind it. Once that’s done it should be much easier, after all: “Objects in Motion stay in Motion.”