The words hewn from my mind are forced into uncomfortable arrangements.
Sentences with broken backs and incomplete endings.
Things that dangle.
A worrisome focus on grammar and clean lines—syllabication truncated to succinctness.
When all I want to do is run through words like a child through a field of flowers.
Wild and untethered,
I would pluck the verbs that please me best and make of them a bouquet. Smell the deep earthiness of adjectives that bite the tongue when you speak them.
Crush the scented mint between lips full of prose.
Using adverbs sparingly so as not to overpower the taste.
And with great pleasure.
Carefully measuring synonyms by the spoonful.
But harnessing words is tricky business.
Bringing them through the slip stream of consciousness and pinning them to the page is not unlike stabbing a butterfly after the ether withers them.
Do they become inert things no longer filled with life?
Pretty facsimiles of something that once breathed?
If words are not my playthings, then what toys do I have left?
How to describe what lurks in the folds of my mind?
If I cannot use them with abandon, are they orphaned?
Are they lost forever in a void of never-has-been-ness?
A not-being that sucks my soul into a black abyss.
Am I then become wordless?
*I wouldn’t ordinarily have a footnote to my poetry. But I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t know what to call that little slice of word jumble at the top. I tried leaving it out and that felt wrong. I tried putting it in…even wronger. Is it a foreword? A prelude? A prequel? I’m not sure what to call it. So, I’m not calling it anything. It just is. And I hope that is enough.
I have been puttering around Chapter One of this year’s Nano project (Book 3 of a mostly-incomprehensible trilogy) because I have been dreading writing about the bad guy. Last night I took a stab at it. (I’m surprised my laptop isn’t bleeding.) But I find it really difficult to even want to write the parts of the book that involve conflict. No wonder Quentin Tarantino has so many guns and swords in his creations…there’s something about an antagonist that is so…so…antagonizing!
Stories resonate because of conflict. What would Star Wars be without Darth Vader? Who would breathe heavily into our ears and make us wish we had the light-up phallic symbol to battle our fathers with? (Uhh, that got kinda weird. Sorry ‘bout that.) What makes a perfectly rotten character so good?
My favorite villain of all time would be just about any character played by Alan Rickman. He just has such a flair for it. His best line ever, was when he played the Sheriff of Nottingham in the dreadful Robin Hood production starring Bull Durham. Following an incredibly vexing day, Nottingham stomps down the halls of the castle yelling: “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!” Even when he plays a good guy, like the bulbous-headed alien in Galaxy Quest, he gets to be the snarky sidekick who makes all the astute observations about the narcissistic Captain Nesmith played by Tim Allen. Don’t get me started on his bad boy, Severus Snape.* He could make a girl go all Slytherin! Uhh, where was I? Oh, right, building the perfect bad guy.
Everybody loves to hate the bad guy. They give the story depth and flavor. They get all the best lines—if not the girl. They are usually the more exciting character—heroes tend to be all alike in their sterling qualities. As a writer you have to examine the development of both halves of the equation: Is a valiant, brave, but predictable leading man bringing your book down? Bring on the sly, devious lothario to ripen up a flaccid plot. If he looks good in tight leather—bonus!
It is very hard to create a villain that isn’t a one-dimensional Snidely Whiplash standing over the girl tied to the railroad tracks**, twirling his mustachio and cackling “I’ve got you now, Dudly Do-Right! Mwa ha ha ha.” Everything I write seems to be a challenge to my desire to make an unredeemable villain who isn’t a cardboard cutout. When I have to write about the motivations or methods of my current villain, I am repelled delving into the monster I have created. Am I alone in this?
I leave it to you, the writer. How do you write a character that just won’t play nice? For now, I just ask myself one question: “What Would Snidely Do?”
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Hats off to J.K. Rowling that she managed to sneak a hero in dressed as a villain. Not many authors can carry that off! (Blatant appeal to vanity in hopes she won’t sue for my use of the above ‘Slytherin’ artwork.)