Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Fifth Dragons of Creative Writing, The Dragon of Putrefaction, Part Three of Seven

courtesy of clone_trooper at deviantart.com
Descending into Darkness

*****

The sky flared and twisted like screaming flames. I saw it in the congealing reflections ripping across a teenager’s sunglasses. She was maybe thirteen, and her shoulders glistened like caramel glaze. A green hand flashed in a yellow metal box across the street; I heard the sudden electric crack of a chrome pistol bouncing high off the pavement.
Shrunken-head eyes stared at me from a black car streaked with angry light as the passenger window moved up like a closing spaceship door and sealed them behind reflected darkness. Heat shivers wriggled above the searing concrete and rippled the air; I closed my eyes, hoping the entire city of Detroit would just disappear.
excerpted from "Concrete Abrasions," by Ferrel D. Moore


*****


They were both from Montreal. When he spoke, he sounded like he'd been places and done things. His gestures were elegant and cultured, fingers pulling away at the threads of ideas and intense brown eyes that knew the meaning of taking what wasn't his.

When he said, "But that is, of course, only a metaphor," she brushed his wrist with the back of her hand. He seemed not to notice.


I thought about that for a while. I thought about her for a while. He wasn't going to live long if I had anything to say about it.
excerpted from "The Dark Visitor," by Ferrel D. Moore


*****

Mystic Rose is right. The Dragon of Putrefaction does sound horrid. And it is a horrid experience to meet the Dragon of Putrefaction. But without confronting the Dragon of Putrefaction, there is no way to meet the beautiful Dragon of Fermentation, which Dragon represents, in her own beautiful way, the birth (or rebirth, if you will) of a new writer.


When writers first begin to achieve success and because recognized as "real writers," not those who stay at home hoping they will, someday, see their name in print, they begin to move away from the creative mindsets that finally brought them success. They begin not wanting to make mistakes, and thus they begin the fine art of dowsing their own creative spark. We begin to try and "fit in" as writers, and the quality of our work becomes more acceptable and less volatile. We develope a more "mature" voice- less edgy, less "in your face," and more reassuring to the social culture all around us.

*****


“I don’t know what I’d wish for if I had the choice,” said Mary. “For you to have a functioning brain or a functioning penis or one day a week for both. Where’s you mind, Edgar? Where’s your testosterone? We don’t always have to go where they take us.”
“But they could put us out,” whimpered Edgar. “Where would we go then? I don’t have a car; I don’t have a house anymore. Maybe I do. I don’t think so. It was on Maple Street. Have you ever seen my house? God, I love to work in the back yard. Annie can’t do much gardening anymore.”


He leaned toward her, smiled a row of stumpy teeth and whispered, “Her back’s bad.”

“Annie’s been dead for a long time,” said Mary.

Edgar began to cry.

Mary looked away.
excerpted from "Death's Door," by Ferrel D. Moore

*****

If you study the lessons from the first four Dragons of Creative Writing, you will have a measure of success as a writer. Perhaps you will achieve the blessing/curse of being published. This is when writers takes stock of themselves in a serious way. We see the chance of success as possible but so very far away, but we see the chance of public failure as growing closer with each chapter or verse we write.


So, we begin to play it safe. The Imp of the Perverse has become our literary agent.

Suddenly, we are ever more conscious of other's opinions. How will our work be judged? What kind of reviews will our work garner? Do we have a theme in our work? If not, it and we could be judged as not "literary" enough. Are we not economical enough? Then we write purple prose. The judges, after all, are always qualified to judge our work and find it wanting. A critic may bemoan our lack of tension or- God forbid- an unclear character arc because no story can really be any good without the author prostrating themselves before these golden rules, can they? Certainly not. That would be like living in the Matrix without first having watched the movie to show us how to behave in that fictional construct.

At these moments, we have doused our creative sparks with fear and buried them in the muck and slag of egotistical sensitivities. Our writing begins to develop a certain "odor of commonality" about it. Like good soldiers in the Army of Writing Zombies, we lumber forward as though alive, yet writing without zest. We are more afraid of wounds to our ego than we are of falling down while running with exhuberance. We have traded away our spark of Creative Heart to put on the uniform of Peer Review.

We become good students and only face foward. We become respectable writers and stay between the lines.

*****


Havier clicked his tongue.

“Mary,” he said, “you are so hot blooded. You should have been born Latin. And at your age… I am so proud of you. But do the two of you use protection? You should ask me to bring some in for you. They have them in colors now, did you know that? Hey, Edgar? What do you say to that? You are a man. Such things are not your responsibility, but you must sometimes think for two.”
excerpted from "Death's Door," by Ferrel D. Moore


Mary’s stomach roiled when she saw Havier lean toward Edgar and place one palm on each of the armrests of his wheelchair. Mary noticed Havier’s muscles flex as he squeezed the armrests, and she was certain Edgar did as well.

“You must have something special for this woman to find you so attractive. What’s your secret?” asked Havier.

Edgar stared up at Havier and Mary felt like crying. She watched Edgar blink his eyes and take a small gulp of air to fortify himself the way years ago he would have taken a shot of whiskey. She looked at Havier’s hands as they slipped down to adjust Edgar’s gown.

“My, my,” he said. “What you got down there Edgar? You hiding some special equipment?”


*****


In our writings, our readers- and critics- expect to see a glimpse into our souls, and, as writers with a little success under our belt, we want to clean up a little bit before that photo shoot.



Hence the need to hide our raw insights and uncomfortable observations beneath the Putrefaction known as Conformance. It is a black and murky thing for a writer to slip a leash around their own neck and then heel to the side of Convention. Somewhere below that ugly darkness float the scattered points of creativity that made that person into a writer in the first place.


But if we don't succeed in our confrontation, if we don't dive into the decomposing darkness our selves brought about by our initial succeses, then we will not be able to break the surface again with our lost creative sparks held tight in our fists like captured fireflies. We will never be able to look about that inky mess and gaze on the radiant beauty of the Dragon of Fermentation as she rises up from the dark and into the night sky. To writers, achieving that moment gives the right to release our handful of re-captured creative fireflies and send them skyward with her as she rises toward the constellations.

20 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Hey, I've met the dragon of fermintation a few times. Man can he pour a brew.

I never quite thought of how some writers really do play it safe once they get a bit of a name. That explains quite a lot to me, though.

Natasha Fondren said...

Now that I'm older, I can listen to my recordings when I was younger and hear that I had NO voice on the piano. I wish someone had told me that was important, but in conservatory, so much emphasis is placed on getting everything right.

Now I really like to break rules. :-)

Rick said...

Remember how in chess when you get a little material up, suddenly you feel like you've got to watch out or you'll lose? That's kind of what it's like in writing, I think. We play better when we concentrate on playing our best game, not when we focus on not losing.

Rick said...

Well hello, Natasha. It is the same in music, too, isn't it? And it's odd that the intruse and effect of "rules"- in all creative forms, have exactly the opposite effect to what they're intended to have.

Alexandra Garland said...

Hi Rick,
My first visit and what a treat! Love the excerpts; they certainly make the reader hungry for more! I shall return to read more,
Thanks!!
-Alex

Rick said...

Hi Alexandra. What a lovely name and thank you so much for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the excerpts and look forward to seeing you again.

Demon Hunter said...

Rick,
I have notice that some writers do play it safe after they've hit it big. It's certainly something to think about... :-)

Rick said...

It's a good problem to have, isn't it, Demon Hunter? We still have work to do, and after you're famous, I know you still won't play it safe!

laughingwolf said...

i find some play it too safe = boring... and refuse to buy their books again!

no spark, no sale... to my mind

Rick said...

Like that comment, laughingwolf. I just had dinner with my brother, who is a very talented artist. We were talking about playing it safe in writing, how it was artists "played it safe."

"Easy," he said. "They go to work doing greeting cards."

JR's Thumbprints said...

Timely lessons here. I just complimented someone on their flash-fiction piece, and in return, he got defensive and verbally attacked me. You're absolutely correct about the fickleness of most writers starting out.

Rick said...

Wow, JR. After you complimented that person, they attacked you? That's worse than fickle, that's just plain ungrateful!

Lana Gramlich said...

Rick...Please do keep me in mind when your book is published. Considering how things have been going since I recently said "I QUIT!" I suspect I'll be up for the challenge in the near future. Heck, I haven't been able to stop painting even now, anyway!

Leigh Russell said...

Difficult to control the creative urge. I wonder if success leads to contentment which calms the creative energy? Perhaps I'm reverting to the old debate - is creativity inspiration or craft?

Thank you for following my blog, Rick, and for all your comments there. I feel a bit remiss, visiting your blog so rarely. It's a very cool blog but I'm just very busy right now with the national promotional tour for my new book. I've also been invited to blog regularly for my local newspaper plus I'm blogging every Thursday on www.thecurzongroup.blogspot.com. My first post there was called 'Men in shorts' and I'm posting there again next Thursday, 16th July. Please drop in and visit me there if you can. I'll still be keeping up my own blog leighrussell.blogspot.com so please keep following me there. I hope you're going to read Cut Short - I'd love to know what you think of it.

Rick said...

Hi Lana. I absolutely will keep you front and center in my thoughts when I have this work finished and ready for publication. Thanks so much for stopping by again!

Rick said...

Hello Leigh! Glad to see you again, and so happy that you're successfully pursuing your promotions. I wish you every bit of good luck. Also, I'll devote a whole posting in the future to reviewing "Cut Short," plus I'll most certainly visit your new blogs!

See you then.

Barbara Martin said...

Writers and people in general tend to live their lives 'safe', Rick. They fit a mold as they have been trained from their childhood. To do otherwise is to set yourself apart. There seems to be no room for independent thinkers, but to progress in one's writing this step must be taken with courage. I'm game.

Rick said...

A teacher of mine once asked me to take a week and map where I went every single day for two weeks. He wanted me to draw my travels on a photocopied map, one page per day for that time interval. At the end of that period, we gathered them all up and laid them end-to-end- we had to use the floor. What I saw shocked me.

Back then, I never went much of anywhere. Aside from little variations, it followed the same path everyday!

"Wow," I told him. "This is depressing. Thanks for pointing out that I live and breathe in a series of interconnected ruts. I'm as predictable as water running downhill."

"Good example," he said. "Like water, Rick, we tend to wear grooves in our lives and stay in them. The thing is, most people see themselves as not having much choice."

"Because of circumstances, some people don't," I agreed.

"But the mind," he said, tapping his forehead, "needs to get out and run around."

L.A. Mitchell said...

I think I really needed to read this today. I'm struggling with my next move: fitting in or breaking away.

Thanks, Rick :)

Rick said...

You're welcome, L.A.

Somehow I don't see you as someone who will ever settle for long!