Thoughts From the Kitchen – (#3 Ten-Thousand Voices)

I once heard a story from a musician, in which he was telling a story he heard through a musician buddy, about another musician that likely neither of them knew (assuming the subject of the story is real at all).

In this story, the front man of a popular band was looking over the crowd which gathered for that night’s show.  He was exhausted from months on the road, bitter to the state of the music industry, and overall weary of singing the same songs time and again.  Yet, when he called upon his stage persona, he did so with enthusiasm and purpose. When he presented himself to the thousands of people before him, jumping and hollering along with the words he sang, he did not let his bitterness influence his performance, and for quite a simple reason:

He believed in the message of his song, and every single one of the ten-thousand voices in that sea of faces were singing for a different reason.  A unique and personal reason.

I like this story, because it acknowledges how we internalize narratives and meanings independently from one another.  Even if the overall narrative leaves little to the realm of subjectivity, the experiences we bring to the table will be rife with our own specific purposes and struggles.

“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.”

The sole identifying emotional word in that famous Journey intro is ‘lonely.’  If you fulfill the ‘small town girl’ aspect and feel lonely, this automatically applies to you.  Yet, you could be a small town girl, and be lonely for a completely different reason from the first person who identifies with the track.  Even more, you don’t need to identify as anything, and can simply appreciate the somber tone of the song on the mere grounds of acknowledging that yes, the world is lonely.  So on, ad infinitum, until near-most everyone has a different purpose for lifting their voices in harmony.

Writers have a similar power (yet, entirely different, as music is it’s own beast).  When we write, it’s in the ultimate hope of submerging the head-space of the reader into our world, our rhythm, our timeline.  If we are successful, especially in characterization, then we create a similar effect to the singer on the stage.

Think of your favorite character. The reason they’re your favorite is likely different from why they’re someone else’s favorite. Even if your surface-level reasons are the same, the nuance and personal element behind them can vary infinitely.

This is why we we sing, write, and create. Because art is the only thing capable of this, this relationship between expression and perception.

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Thoughts From the Kitchen – (#2 My War Against the Beginning)

I used to think the beginning of stories were the easiest parts to write.  Lo, ’tis not.

The more I develop my knowledge in the minefield of writing, the more I am convinced the original conception of a story might be the most difficult, especially in the case of fabricating entirely new universes and/or timelines.  It’s all so front-heavy.  The balancing game between when to exposit and navigating exactly how much is insidious.  What’s more, at the same time, creating this framework is one of the most invigorating parts of the whole process.  The contradiction isn’t discouraging, though whether it’s daunting or not is hardly a question.  I am madly daunted by the act of creation.

We are in Quarter 2 of the year, and I’m well on my way to reaching my writing goals. (Wait, did I forget to make a post about my writing goals? Whoops.) But hey, I’m a fully functional and cognizant human being with a head on my shoulders only half filled with brick, so I’m able to recognize a decent chunk of the patterns which pass me by.  Try to pick up the trend:

  1. “Write an installment for the Puppet Kitchen at least once a week.” (25%) (About to 37.5% baby. Word up.)
  2. Write two short stories (0%)
  3. Read at least one short story each week. (37.5%)
  4. Write 10,000 words of long-form (0%)
  5. Read at least two full books. (100%)
  6. Determine new outlining system/method. (100%)
  7. Build coherent image reference gallery. (100%)
  8. Finish the “Trope Project” (50%)

There’s two goals in there with zero percent accounted for, and would you look at that, they both tie back to writing the beginnings of new stories.  Wow.  Thematic relevance.

Now, I’ve always sucked at writing short stories, so I’m honestly not bothered by that so much. In fact, I’ve got more going on in that department than the long-form.  I’m a-brewing a nasty little romp tentatively titled “The Priestess” which will count for 50% of that goal, I just haven’t filled in any of the percentiles because, well, I don’t know how far along I am in the projected 3,000 word process.  Hard to say.

The subject which frays my edges a little more violently is that long-form catastrophe. My progress has been somewhere between horrifyingly abysmal and you should just quit and die, but I’m buoyed by the knowledge that, at least, I haven’t been entirely stagnant. The outlining aspiration did give me decent reason to step back a bit before plunging into a new cosmic, supernatural urban-fantasy landscape. But you see, I’ve since figured out my new outlining format, and still the world-forming pen stays idle.  Oh, it’s not that I haven’t done any worldbuilding, either.  I’ve taken care of all that silliness and more.  No, I just can’t seem to actually write the damn thing.

Sort of.  I technically have three chapters. But this story surpasses all of my earlier endeavors in just about every regard, including the quantity of nuts and bolts. I have a pretty healthy understanding when it comes to the first draft and how it’s pretty sufficiently doomed to be a dumpster fire, regardless of who you are (unless you’re Stephen King, who I’m convinced has better first drafts than most people have final manuscripts). But I can’t seem to grasp the foundation of the story.  There’s such an abundance of available detail, and I know I have to key in on only a small handful of the most relevant information and characters, else risk death by a thousand cuts and an early grave.

But choosing those details and doing them well, while maintaining the extracurricular world which must be at least vaguely consistent around the events of the early narrative, is harder than it’s ever been in my life. In a way, I feel as though this is a good thing. My plotting, characterization, world-building, and general ideation are all objectively better than say, when I was crafting “Doubting Puppet,” my last true plunge into long-form.  But I’m not quite good enough to wrap myself around the story.

It’s like I’ve been training to overcome a wall of my own construction.  I wanted something to test myself, so I formed a wall which would loom, clad in ornate platinum or polished marble.  Something which could tower and stretch a great shadow.  I even figured out how I’d climb it.  Running start, one or two vertical steps skyward on shoes made to grip, deep breath to focus and reach.  I grab the lip of the wall!

But I can’t crest the edge. My arms are so tired from building the blasted thing, I can’t so much as lift my own body-weight enough to steal enough leverage to gracelessly yank myself over the top.

That’s where I am.  I have the wall, a tapestry of stones alchemically chosen to be unlike any wall I’d seen before.  A wall which captures my voice, with a tonal and environmental aesthetic which performs beautifully and has never been done in the scope of my knowledge, yet isn’t contrived or steering too close to the anime curse of prioritizing a unique premise over a functional one.  It plays to my strengths in its emotional narrative, character social webs, mode of conflict, and low-key moral agendas.

It’s a beautiful wall.

Which I can’t seem to climb.

Not yet, anyways. I do hope to turn the tide soon, once I shrug off this inky black creature on my shoulders with the upside-down smile I like to call procrastination.

For the moment, I take solace in that I’m not simply twiddling my thumbs.  I’m definitely enabling myself to divorce the responsibilities of certain goals from my daily schedule, but the distractions are wearing thin. Here’s hoping that when I finally become lucid enough to kick myself in the tail and just buckle down, that lucidity will come with something I haven’t felt in a long time and sorely miss: my inherent and volcanic indignance to be better.

So here’s to cracking open the crude, molten shell which has swallowed my fighting spirit, and resurrecting something worthwhile for the sake of writing a story which might, I pray, eventually evolve into something bigger than myself.

Time to write.

Thoughts From the Kitchen (#1 – Organized Chaos)

05/30/16

Returning from the dead, I’ve got a handful of fun new features I’m presenting on the site for your benefit and my ever-turbulent sanity.

Firstly and least important, I updated the background.  This means nothing, really.  I just never do it, so I felt it was significant enough to mention.  The new background is a wallpaper of the city of Cloudbank from popular, indie video game “Transistor.”

Next up to the plate, the site name.  The url is unchanged of course, but the blog itself goes by “The Puppet Kitchen” now, in accordance with my long-standing spree of being quite overdramatic.  I do love my fanfare.  The name is appropriate in more ways than can be adequately captured here, so please be content just knowing that I put a good chunk of soul and time into its formation.  It’d been tumbling around the upstairs for a while, so it feels good to finally put it out there.

I’m launching a slightly more formal version of my usual updates, handsomely titled “Thoughts From the Kitchen.”  You know, that thing you’re reading right now.  These function largely the same as before, but with a few caveats.  They are more organized and deliberate now.  Each installment will possess my musings and feelings, but with a newfound direction or theme lacking in my old updates.  What’s more, I’ll be revealing upkeep on projects and ending each update with a personal challenge to myself.

Another series of posts will be called “The Puppet Masters” in which I share words and advice from other writers or a source from a related industry.  Basically anything that I find useful for facilitating growth in prose or storytelling.  To follow this advice, I will be giving a personal response to the material.

And of course, there will be actual stories and exercises of my own design.  I’ve been keeping a running word count of all my writing this year which I’ll be updating every once in a while.

Those are my new features.  So with all the enthusiasm of one who has stayed up all night for his day job (ha…all night…day job), I thank you and bid thee adieu.

Challenge – Since I tried and failed a 30 Day writing challenge before, I’m going to attempt that again.  However, I am going to make the prompts, as I did not fancy any of the ones I’d been doing.  Expect my list to be have an overly dramatic name.  Can’t break the running theme, now.