clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fortress of Solitude

Today the mail brought my copy of The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. 

As I am a sort of mad scientist, this is delightful. I'm only a "sort" now though I am a classically trained mad scientist.

You think in collage there is no use for space plasma physics and statistical thermodynamics and you'd be wrong.

I have two notes in my pocket today. One: a reminder saying "you are on your own" and two: a critical assessment of a story that wasn't working.

It came to me this morning on the way into the shop what was missing and why I didn't find the tale suitable: the lack of emotion of a character whose unfaithful wife creates suicide doesn't correctly reflect the fact that there is emotion present.

Conflicted? Certainly. Oh, perhaps no remorse for the loss of the useless bag of flesh whose brains now occupy the upper half of their library rather that her demise has caused so much inconvenience and trouble. Far more trouble than the balance of the value he placed on her as a companion.

If a character and his unfaithful wife agree to remain together following the embarrassing revelation of the extent of her betrayal, and immediately following this arrangement of almost a resignation to the loss of illusion, a shitload of work is brought on by a clumsy suicide it still invokes powerful emotion.

The protagonist has to deal with her family. He has to arrange some sort of memorial. He has to deal with the inconvenient police interrogation which is the subject of the story. He has her bodily fluids damaging valuable first-edition books (many inscribed) he inherited from his father. He has the effects of a 20 gauge shotgun discharged inside a room and the damage to a ceiling. He has most of her blood which has soaked through the wood floor past the sub-floor into the lower level of the house.

Now, if you have a roommate whom you tolerate and you find their suicide results in this sort of calamity, you will not be very happy about inheriting the consequences of this selfish decision.  If it is murder, you feel a degree of violation (murder staged in your house) and the resulting disappointment over time and treasure dealing with the consequence.

Those emotions are vastly different than if you lose someone you actually love under similar circumstances. However, they are still emotions. My story has too few.

I have low hopes for a writing group I have proposed. Everyone has different needs and a writing group with prepared feedback involves a great deal of work and ... Well. When has effort shared on a voluntary or self-imposed basis worked out well in your life? Everyone has a slacker brother in Miami.

Off to revel in the mad scientist tales. I have a draft mad scientist story (daughter of MS, actually) so I am anxious to see how this selection of writers address the theme.

I hope you all read something fascinating this weekend.


Nigel G Mitchell said...

Sounds like you have a better story. And that sounds like a great book

jack welling said...

Thanks, Nigel.

Yes - I read today in _Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft_ a sentence that has stuck with me since early this morning...

Literature offers us feelings for which we do not have to pay.

Feelings. I have to have show these.