Original fiction project – week of 2/15/2009

My original fiction has been mired in last week’s quandry, but in a good way. I did some research on various supernatural creatures that could be the inspiration for my own characters. And discovered, if the sources I read have any accuracy, that several well-known classes of “spirit beings” from various world legends have a lot of similarities to each other. For example, the Celtic Fae and the Middle Easter Djinn. Of course, they reflect the cultures they come from in many ways as well, but the similarities are interesting considering these cultures developed in relative isolation from each other.

I took notes on those similarities and started thinking about how to create a supernatural being that could be “the reality behind those legends” without overextending them to every.sort.of.spirit.creature.ever.imagined. My notes netted me 1156 words, and I wrote 110 fictional prose words, which were really just a short summary of those notes written as dialogue. Which gives me a total of 1266 words for the week. Not bad for a sickie on overtime.

One other thing came out of last week that is cool. I wrote about my difficulty feeling a connection to any of these myths and legends. They either come from cultures that are not my own heritage, or they come from my heritage but belong to distant lands I never lived in. I don’t feel naturally drawn to any of these creatures. And that disconnection is a symptom of a larger alienation that seems to be the curse of living in the modern Western/North American mainstream. We don’t have deep roots into the past, nor to a rich cultural heritage that hasn’t been homogenized and plasticized. We are adrift in so many ways.

And I realized I sort of want to write about that. That theme of disconnection. I think it’s been in the back of my mind for a couple years now, part of my vision of my supernatural characters. Specifically, I picture my own supernatural characters as being “humanized”–they have walked in human guise for so long, been cut off from the natural state of their own species, the natural home of their own species, where ever that is, that they themselves need to rediscover who they are. And the reader along with them. They have also been “modernized”–cut off from a past in which they, and the supernatural in general, were believed in and not alienated by the shield of skepticism that is part of modern life.

I think this is very much in the spirit of urban fantasy and part of what draws me to the genre in general–its attempt to “re-enchant” the modern world.

14 thoughts on “Original fiction project – week of 2/15/2009

  1. The modern mythos is religion, typically Judeo-Christianity. Angels are starting to become very popular in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. You can do pretty much anything with them, especially fallen ones.
    These aren’t cherubs who play harps. Oftentimes, they aren’t even servants of God. These are kick ass spiritual beings. Perhaps this is what you are looking for. They don’t have nearly the same religious connotation they once did.

  2. Part of my own disconnection is that I’m not religious. I am an agnostic, for better or worse, because I can’t embrace faith, and neither do I find atheism a provable position. It leaves you looking for magic and wonder and enchantment in other places. Borrowing from the mythology of religious traditions just isn’t going to “hit the spot” for me. Not only that, but gives that tradition more power than I want to give it.

  3. I wonder if looking into Jungian thought, especially the collective unconscious, would help you. Rather than look for a specific incarnation of the archetypes, look at them in a broader light. These ideas are planted deep within us. The archetypes are the psychic counterpart to instinct. If you want something that is more universal, look at the source.
    As far as I’m concerned, all religion/mythology is just the transient function’s way of making our world work. They are projections of the unconscious. If you want the source of that, look at the source. Magic, wonder and enchantment lie within each of us. We project it in order to give it form.
    That sounds like what you want to do, give something universal form. My advice is not to look at how others do this. Look inside yourself and see what is there.
    If you have trouble, write about that. Write about some character’s search to find the source of all mythology. What is driving her? Why is she having trouble? What does she find?

  4. I’m not looking for anything universal. I’m look for an Other that can conceivably have a basis in actual fact. And not because I want to believe it, but because I want to sell it as worthy of belief in a fictional context.

  5. “The theme of disconnection. ….
    Specifically I picture my own supernatural characters as being ‘humanized’ — they have walked in human guise for so long, been cut off from the natural state of their own specisi…the natural home of their own species, whereever that is, that they themselves need to rediscover who they are..And the reader along with them. They have also been ‘modernized’ – cut off from a past in which they, and the supernatural in general, were believed in and not alienated by the shield of skepticism that is part of modern life”
    Okay this reminds me of something I’ve read…have you by any chance read ‘American Gods by Neil Gaiman’??
    In American Gods – the supernatural entities or Gods are cut off from their native lands. They came across the seas with the immigrants and ended up having to set up shop on the new land. But some of their mojo has been lost. They’ve become human and the belief in them is disappearing. The gods featured are from Africa, Norse Legend, and the Vikings, amongst others. Gaiman did a lot of research in American Oral Folk Legend and Lore prior to writing the novel. And then did a sequel called Anasi Boys.
    I don’t think you want to write the same thing – of course.
    But, it may give you some guidance as to what to do – by checking out Neil Gaiman’s blog. He writes a great deal about his process. He did a similar thing with the Sandman comics – where the God of Dreams – “Dream” or The Sandman is cut off from his supernatural plain and placed in a cage, captured.
    I may have American Gods lying around somewhere – if I find it, I can send it to you along with those Angel Comics, assuming of course I can walk to the post office (which may take a while.)

  6. PS: Right there with you on the writing frustrations. You are doing better than I am. I had four days stuck in my apt, and did I work on my book??? Nooo! Except for two pages. Arrgh.
    Note to self less internet, more revising/ writing.

  7. If it makes you feel better, last weekend when I had all that time to write, I spent most of it sleeping because my cold medicine knocked me out flat.

  8. Well, to be absolutely honest? American Gods is one of those books I also hated. But I did manage to make it through (masochistic? possibly). I respect what Gaiman was attempting – which reminds me of what you are attempting. I’m not completely sure he succeeded. My difficulty with Neil Gaiman – is he creates central characters that either lack a personality or feel a bit like a cipher. He seems more interested in creating the universe – than the character – or into the plot than the character. I don’t know – can’t quite put my finger on what it was about American Gods that I despised. Except how odd it was that I didn’t like the book – considering it should have been right up my alley – ie. cultural anthropology major, with focus on myth, meaning and American Folklore.
    Anyhow – what I think you might consider doing is examining American Folklore Tradition – the stories people brought with them from abroad and see if you can do anything with that? Even maybe how the tradition has been Disnefied or changed. (There’s a comic series that has also tackled this idea of disconnection – entitled Fables. I didn’t enjoy it – by the way. And I think I gave my copy to someone ages ago. But it’s a similar idea.) I think the idea is interesting, but I have yet to find anyone who has tackled it in a way that I’ve enjoyed. (I found American Gods memorable, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.)

  9. What turned me off from American Gods is it was a Guy Book. It played to male sensibilities, which meant it had a lot of…I hate to use the over-used “misogynist”, but certainly sexist overtones to it. By which I mean, if you’re looking for interesting complex female characters instead of ciphers in female bodies, you’re going to be disappointed.
    When I say I want to have the disconnection theme in my story, it wouldn’t be the major theme, it would be part of the total reality of supernatural character’s world. Like the vampire stories you see/read where they have adjusted to the realities of modern life in order to get by, and yet at the same time, they have lost something because of it. Something they are perhaps not aware they’ve lost.

  10. Hee, you read my “look up misogynist” rant?
    I think sexist or chauvinistic are better terms. Although there may be a hint of “fear” in there as well – which leads to hate and misogyny. Most “hate” is fueled by fear and ignorance.
    To be fair to Gaiman – about 80% of American Folk Tales and Legends are unfortunately a bit on the sexist/ patriachrial/misogynist/chauvinist side of the fence. Was also true to a degree of the modern Welsh folk legends that I collected over there in the 80’s. Same is true about most urban folk narrative and urban horror legend – which most likely explains Supernatural and Dollhouse. Not to mention about 99% of the comic books and pulp sci-fi/mystery noir novels out there. Like it or not, we live in a sexist, chauvinistic, and patriachial society and have done so for over a thousand years.
    I don’t really know why this so…although I could certainly speculate. May well be that for a long period of time the oral storytellers were mostly men? I know when I collected in Wales, only about two or three women knew any stories, most of the story collectors were older and younger men – with jokes (some rather crude and yes, very misogynistic), etc. Also in urban folklore – often the victims are women or they are the demons.
    Sure you can find pro-female, anti-sexist stories…but they aren’t easy or numerous. Look at the Brother’s Grimm – which Disney grabbed, and Hans Christian Anderson – also fairly sexist.
    Again not sure why this is so any more than I understand why our society continues to be so sexist. But I’ve learned to live with it to a degree – much the same way I guess I live with other things I can’t change or control. Doesn’t mean I like it or don’t notice it. Just tolerating it, as one might a bunch of nasty bugs on an otherwise balmy summer day at the beach.

  11. Well, I don’t mean the mythological characters and stories. I mean Gaiman himself seems to be flippant and dismissive towards his female characters. Maybe that improves later in the book, but I didn’t have the patience for it.

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