clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rattlesnake in the Mailbox

Photo at left from Clinton and Charles Robertson (snake from Texas, Robertsons from near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, U.K).

I'm from part of the world where life is harsh. It's a country you've heard of called Hobbs.

I knew a fellow who was a local troublemaker. He became a lot less so after someone cut the rattle off a snake and put it in his mailbox one fine June day.

I asked my uncle about it and got a very succinct lesson on the predator / prey relationship.

If you cannot stop it, you're going to have to endure it. 

I also learned a very important caveat: it's simpler to kill a wolf than to teach him not to eat the sheep.

I'm thinking of characters today and their desire for approval. There isn't enough to go around. They have to claw for the share of emotional gratification they desire. Some characters are gluttons and have no threshold of satisfaction. Some have simple needs but cannot see even these small rice bowls filled.

I want to see the claw marks of my characters striving for emotional gratification right there on the page.  I believe in literary fiction. I believe these are the sorts of motivations that should be visible to my reader even if the motivation is unrecognized by my characters.

I have some work to do to master this type of writing. I must master transgression for an emotional purpose.

Example [ corny illustrative example] :

My character wants the gratification of acknowledgement that he is the world's greatest evil overlord. He's an insecure overlord from the childhood issues with his overlord mother who would insinuate at breakfast that "he'd never be the ruler of the world. He sniveled too much."

He'll stop at nothing - nothing - to achieve his goal. The irony is that his machinations alienate the very individuals whose admiration would most contribute to his goal. He kills his rivals and thus is left to be measured as the pack leader not by the other wolves but by the sheep to whom any wolf is a representation of fear and repression. One wolf is as bad as another, as it were. No degree of "wolfness" to a sheep.  What do you expect? They are sheep.

His victory is Pyrrhic. He's left as the lone wolf subject to the subversive mockery of the victimized sheep who know that when he dies, there will never be another wolf.

There will however be plenty of contented sheep who grow old never knowing wolf-fear.

I'd give the sheep foot-and-mouth for good measure, but you get the point. I'd have to add a Plum to the story just for old friends. (Plum Island: a vacation hotspot for the mad scientists I love).

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