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The Anatomy of Idea-Rot

Recently, I sat down to work on the novel-in-progress of mine, a book called The Girl in the Cupboard at the moment, and I came to it not with a feeling of excitement…but dread. I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t happy about it either. I also wasn’t surprised about the next thing that happened, which was that I thought up another big novelistic idea and became incredibly excited about it.

This happens constantly to me.

Fortunately, I’m getting smarter about it and I knew what to do: I made many pages of notes for this later idea, and then I put it away and went back to my notes for Girl in the Cupboard, but even as I did so, I knew that the dreaded IDEA ROT stage had happened, and if I wasn’t going to abandon the book…I was going to have to fight my way back from this point.

What is Idea Rot and more importantly, how does it happen? How can it be prevented?

The stages of Idea Rot are pretty simple.

1) I have the BIG IDEA. It is VERY EXCITING. MUCH THOUGHTS. SO STORY. WOW. VERY WRITE. I get very excited. I write a lot of notes, I start writing scenes for it and doing whatever bits of research are needed (Usually, my story ideas come out of my reading, so the research is frequently already done). I babble incessantly about the book. THIS IS THE BIG ONE YOU GUYS!

2) I start writing some pages of it.

3) Unfortunately, I am not a well-functioning writer these days. I don’t know why not. I think part of my brain fell out while I was chasing kids around, and it was that useful bit. The remaining bits aren’t all that useful. So the book is there, in early-stages of being written, but I don’t get to it. So I think about it, I tinker, I make notes.

4) Despite not being a well-functioning writer these days, I AM a working writer, and a decently busy one, when I can get the anxiety and crushing lack of self-confidence out of the gearworks and get the engine running. I try to write a lot of articles and book reviews, because being in the BookRiot world makes me a very very happy person, and I try to be as useful as possible.  I don’t do as much short fiction as I used to — non-functioning writer! — but I DO do some, and I try to work on that too.

5) The book is not getting written. 

6) The problem is, I BADLY WANT the book to be getting written, because I WANT TO WRITE A BOOK. And I think the idea is too damn good to let die! Plus, I want to do lots of books, and not being able to do ONE is kind of a killer to that plan. I admire and am intensely jealous of so many functioning artists. Big ones, like the people at Pixar, like Hayao Miyazaki and Guillermo del Toro, writers like J.K. Rowling and Joe Hill and many others…but also less internationally-known ones, like many of my friends on Twitter. Perhaps they don’t know how jealous I am of their work and their working habits…but I am.

7) I HAVE GOT to get this book written.

And thus, IDEA ROT has set in, encroaching around the edges like the first hint of green appear on the edges of a loaf of bread that’s been sitting around too long. Suddenly, a number of things happen at once. For ONE, the book idea has now been sitting around too long. For another, each time I sit down and maybe get to work on it, there is PRESSURE. I have GOT TO WORK on it, It has GOT TO MOVE, and it’s GOT TO GET FINISHED. Pressure like that isn’t the best way to work. Third, the dread has set in. I know when IDEA ROT is happening. I know it’ll be just a little bit before the final stage happens, as I mentioned above: I think up a new idea, and I get excited about it and want to abandon this old one, which has become like all the boxes chained to Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.

It’s a lot of boxes, because this has been happening for years and years now. I have a quite-long trail of unwritten novel ideas stretching out behind me. Some of them are still viable and I might come to them someday, in their time. Others have had their day in the sun and are outdated, dead ideas. They didn’t get turned into full drafts (some got hundreds of pages long) which means they weren’t even the best learning experiences. Those are the ones I regret.

So what’s the key to preventing Idea Rot? Well, it’s kind of a no-brainer: it’s just to write every day. That’s obvious advice. People tell you that all the time. But perhaps we don’t always say WHY it’s so vital.

1) It keeps the work moving, fresh, and occupied. An abandoned house feels different than an occupied house which is just temporarily empty. I’ve noted that in a couple short stories, and I believe it. It’s the same with stories. A piece of writing you don’t work on for a day is different in nature and feel than a story you wanna work on but aren’t getting anywhere near.

2) It CHEAPENS your writing. I actually think this is the most important benefit of writing every day, fiction or non-fiction: It cheapens a single day’s work, and that’s great. If you’re doing 2,000 words a day — or whatever your goal is for a successful work day — and you then have a crap day where you only do 500 words, or you the day’s writing falls flat…oh well. It’s no big thing. YESTERDAY was okay and TOMORROW’S okay and so a crap day is just submerged beneath the steady advance of work days. If you only write once in a while, then EVERY time you sit down to work has to produce AMAZING WORK and LOTS OF IT because there’s more pressure on it. That not only puts a crippling pressure on the work and on you (or at least, on me) but it takes all the fun out of it. 

3) It means you stay mentally engaged with the work. You aren’t just seeing the work as this big black obelisk in your mind which you occasionally glance at and think “I must work on this” with the reliability of touching a lucky object and chanting the same wish over and over. Instead, you’re engaged with the work. Every day, the work advances, or at least changes, and that means that for the rest of the day, you’re thinking about it a little differently than the day before. And knowing you’re going to be writing tomorrow means you can think about what you wanna do the next day. What happened today and what’ll happen tomorrow. That’s incredibly useful. 

When I go for a run, I’m not only aware of how my run’s going today, but how it’ll affect my run tomorrow, and what I want to do tomorrow. 11 Mile day? Fantastic! But tomorrow, I’m only gonna do three really strong miles…partially because I don’t want to risk injury, but mostly because I don’t want to get mentally worn out. That’s my plan. Of course, tomorrow might come along and I feel so superhuman that I go for another 11 mile run, and that’s terrific too. The ongoing thought process is the useful bit, not the decisions. They aren’t carved in stone.

So, being aware of Idea Rot and these problems, and offering the Write Every Day advice, which I clearly fail to follow, what am I going to do about it? 

Well, I’m not ditching the book. I’m trying to figure out how to get back into it, how to retrieve the sense of fun and exploration. Part of that has been examining my working methods and figuring out fun ways to change them. Something else is just getting into the book any way I can, and I’ve been doing it with deliberate messiness. While working on this blog post, I’ve always been scribbling a scene from the book in a notebook. I don’t know where it falls, or IF it falls anywhere in the book…but it’s got some of the book’s characters having a discussion and moving around a place. That’s good enough. It’s fiction, it’s these people, it’s informative to me, and it gets me in there. It’s badly written and it may never appear in the book, but who cares. That’s a different day’s problem.

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Writing From The Set Of A Terrible Movie, Apparently

It’s been densely foggy for pretty much all of the past three days around here. I quite like it. It’s really pretty, and while it does trap in the acrid exhaust smell closer to the businesses, here in my apartment complex it is currently trapping the smell of someone nearby frying bacon. 

It thinned a tiny bit earlier today (you could see the end of a street block) and then it thickened up more than it had been all week, until going outside felt like stepping into a terrible old horror movie where you could tell the budget had run out, so they were desperately hiding unfinished sets with as much fog as they could pump out. If I go running in the dark and the thick fog and I get killed by a monster, it probably serves me right.

Speaking of things serving people right, a man in England moved into a studio apartment on the ground floor of a refurbished monastery and discovered a trap door in his pretty wood floor which led down into an ancient and ruined dungeon. So he went exploring with a friend.  Neither he nor his friend were eaten or possessed by the Things With Long Arms and Clacky-Clacky Teeth which had been chained up down there centuries ago, but like me running in the fog, it would have served him right. He’s still living there, so we’re in the early days of this horror movie. I assume he’ll come out of bed one morning to find the trapdoor propped open and small, odd, muddy footprints leading across the floor…

Still plugging away at the book, but about to take a break and go write a bunch of articles for BookRiot, because my vast queue of articles I stacked there seems to have been expended. Fortunately, I have a whole bunch more to write. When I first started writing for them, I was so excited to be doing it and so terrified I would run out of things to say and have to stop that I covered pages with notes, trying to come up with as many articles and ideas as possible. I didn’t use much of it, since I eventually settled into whatever the hell it is you call what I write there. Now, I don’t worry too much about running out of ideas, although I do occasionally worry that I’ll devolve into kvetching about things and render myself irrelevant. Not quite yet, though. Er. I hope.)

Anyway, the novel is ticking along nicely. I’m not that far into it, but I like what’s happening…and best of all, amidst all the flailing of the last few pages, I’ve really come to understand Jenny, my main character. I know what’s wrong, I know what’s good, and I know what makes her tick, jump, and relax. After the opening rush of the book settles down, I can get to exploring her and her situation, and I’m looking forward to that. There are still a lot of things I don’t know, but I trust they’ll be there when I need ’em. It’s really nice to be writing fiction again. I don’t feel entirely useful if I’m not. (Usefulness and relevancy; the two things I worry about most, apparently.)

I want to talk about Pacific Rim, but that’ll have to wait, because I want to go eat something rather more. 

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

An oddment sort of day

I woke up this morning anticipating a very busy and chaotic morning. I had agreed to watch the son of a friend of mine. The boy’s just turned three, is both wonderful and also something of a force of nature (particularly when combined with my own three year old). I figured the morning would pass in ruckus and noise and I’d chase after them. (There are worse ways to spend the morning).

Instead, I wound up not watching him. And then Nathan wound up going off to live for the morning and part of the afternoon at the pet store, while his mom worked. Suddenly, I find myself with an empty house, some tea, and all sorts of writing to do. Unexpected, but there are worse things.

Last night, I wrote a thousand-plus words of the novel. They started out difficult, but by the end, the story was flowing and the language had settled down and I was having a blast. Those are actually the best days, because they teach you that it gets better if you just keep plugging away at it (just like you can learn that a run which starts with pain and lack of breath will turn out to be fun, once you hit your rhythm). I stopped last night, mid-sentence, knowing exactly what was happening next. Today, I’m itching to get back to it. Before I do, though, I’ve got an article to write.

Well, if we’re honest, I have a dozen articles to write…but I’m trying to pace myself. Instead of writing piles of articles each day, I’m trying to space them out a little more sanely and devote a little more time to the fiction. The novel right now, but some short stories, soon enough. I adore my non-fiction writing, but don’t feel I’m doing something useful and relevant if I’m not writing fiction. (The fact that I’m not sure anyone reads short stories anymore, and that they don’t seem to stay published for very long, doesn’t help that ephemeral feeling much, but what can you do).

My reading fixation, of late, has been Sherlock Holmes. Not just reading, of course. I keep re-watching and pouring through both the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch BBC epiodes, and also the Robert Downey Jr. movie (I don’t have the second one, but want to re-watch it). I’m not sure what this fixation is for, or about, or where it’s going…but I don’t worry about it. I just assume that somewhere in the back of my head, gears are turning and something is working itself out. 

Right now, I’m reading A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, which is due to be a movie starring Ian McKellen soon. I’m looking forward to the film all the more because the book is excellent. 

Enough chatter, and back to the book. I have shadowy monsters with too-long legs, moving unnaturally fast down a darkened street, coming after a woman who is stuck in a window. I guess I should go make something happen.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Ages, Genders, And Also Ages

Every now and then, a particularly clever piece of spam slips through G-mail’s impressive filters and lands in my inbox. This one is excellent.

 

We are a  specialized agency in (Global) Customer  Service  Research.
We are starting a big research project in the United States. We need
to recruit `Detect!ve-Sh0pper’ individual to join and work as a surveyor.

There is no charge to join us and this project takes place every month.
You will get $3OO per each assignment. Payment check/money order
will be a certain amount that you will be required to cash at your bank,
reducing your salary and have the rest used for evaluation.

Contact us with your personal INF0 if you interested_.
_________________________________________

=:= N.a.m.e-:
=:= PhysicalAddress-:
=:= Phones-:
=:= Sttate,City,Zip-:
=:= Ages-:
=:= Genders-:
=:= Ages-:
=:=CurrentJob

Your response would be greatly appreciated, Thank you.

 

 I’m done with this writing crap. I AM a Detect!ve-Shopper Individual from this day forward! 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Writing, Exercising, and other Autumnal Bits

It’s properly fall here now. I’m fascinated by how Autumn happens in the Pacific Northwest area. In Minnesota, there was a brief and beautiful fall which gave way quickly to bleak, gray days which hung around until the snow fell and the ice formed and it became winter.

Out here, though, the trees change to amazing colors, the air turns a bit sharp and cool…and it stays like this for ages. Because we don’t get the brutal snows, there were some trees that hung onto their fiery leaves well into January last year. Right now, the sun is out on a chilly day and the light is golden and beautiful. You wouldn’t expect long, Ray-Bradbury-like Autumn days in the Seattle area, but there they are.

I am a few scenes into the novel. It came with a title, The Girl in the Cupboard, but I was surprised to realize a title from a different project also fit, and so now it’s got two titles. The printed title page sitting next to me on the desk says The Girl in the Cupboard, or, Fugue.  I’ll pick one eventually, but I’m enjoying it right now. “OR” titles always felt like a proper classic literature thing. Moby Dick, or The Whale. That kind of business. 

To write it, I’ve occasionally been visiting the small college that’s a mile or so away from me. To get there, I shortcut through a local park, along a thin trail that winds through thick forest. It’s gorgeous and the path is lined with blackberry bushes. I ruin my dinner occasionally, because I pick and eat them on the way there, then pick and eat more on the way back. My favorite thing, though, is walking the path when it rains. Occasionally, I get tired of being wet and duck under a little cavern under some trees and remain perfectly dry as the rain comes down so thick, it beats itself into mist against the ground and fallen logs.

The other wonderful thing about this time of year is how much run it is to go running. I run at night, since it’s easier than trying to work it into the rest of a hectic day. This time of year, I wear a light running sweater when I go out. It’s completely dark and chilly and it’s just me and a lot of traffic (I run along the busiest street I can find. It focuses me. I don’t entirely know why). 

Last night, I went running and discovered my right leg really hurt. Rather than doing something sensible and going home, I instead figured I could run it out and headed off. It got worse instead of better, until I was two miles away from home and couldn’t support my weight. After sitting for a while on a bus stop bench, I admitted defeat and hobbled home. Today, my right leg is stiff and has the deep aching pain of an elbow that has been over-extended. No exercise tonight, alas. Hoping to be back out and running in a day or so.

I’ve fallen completely in love with Susanna’s Pacemaker and have been building fascinating schedules for myself. I’m currently on a randomized one which I hope will get me to November 1st and in vicinity of 50,000 words. On the lower word-count days, I’ll be able to do articles for BookRiot and stuff like laundry and the dishes. On higher word count days, I’ll just focus on that. (and I’ve already decided that if the day calls for 300 words and I feel like producing 1,000, I will, dammit.)

In addition the novel, I’m working slowly on a short story. It’s got a lot of variations to it, so I keep starting and stopping the writing as I try to figure out which ideas go in and which don’t. It’s a lot of fun, though. Right now, it’s all by hand in a notebook.

Right. Fresh pot of tea is made. Time to get back at it. 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Novel stuff and a Lord of the Rings idea

I have no novel progress to report, and that bugs me. I’ve been writing a lot, sure enough, in articles and a short story I’m fiddling with, but I’ve been so busy that nothing’s been added to the novel. What bugs me is, this is what frequently happens. I get started, and then stuff comes up and somehow I never proceed any further than the beginning, I make blog posts like this one about how I WANT to work on it, but haven’t gotten to it. Eventually, it slips away and I get busy with other stuff. Even further eventually, it slips off the “working on” pile and becomes a corpse.

I don’t want that to happen this time, so I’m trying to be aware of it. I’m a few articles ahead of myself at BookRiot, so I’m hoping that tonight I can focus my brain enough to sit down and work on the book. I want this one to happen, dammit. I have a feeling of being irrelevant as a writer until I start producing books. That may be an irrational and silly feeling, but there it is.

….

So recently, I’ve been watching Game of Thrones (which it turns out I love) and re-watching the Lord of the Rings extended editions, which I haven’t particularly seen in years and years now. It’s gotten me thinking about the Lord of the Rings novels. I read them exactly once, back when the Lord of the Rings movies were first coming out. I read them in vicinity of the Two Towers release, but I no longer remember precisely when in there. (god. That was 2002. I wasn’t even married yet. That was a lifetime ago.)

So I’ve been watching this stuff and thinking I should re-read the novels. It’s been a lifetime, as I said. And I thought it might be fun to read them, chapter by chapter, here on the blog. Maybe give it its own page. Once a week (or so) read a chapter, post my summary of it, my rambling thoughts and notes about it.

What’s more, it’d be fun to have people read it along with me. Significantly more fun than just reading it by myself. Isn’t this what the internet’s for? SO WE CAN ALL READ BOOKS TOGETHER?

It is. You don’t need to look it up. It’s for this, boobs, and cats.

So if that’s an interesting idea to you, lemme know, here or over on twitter. If it seems like fun to anyone besides me, then I’ll figure out a schedule. It’ll give us something fun to do over the winter. Hell, we could even read through The Silmarillion, a book I own an expensive copy of for the pictures alone and nothing else. I have never managed to read more than a handful of pages of that book.

Anyway, let me know.

HERE, HAVE A SONG

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

An avalanche of writery bits (Novel Update #2)

Working away on the novel. Done about four pages so far of handwritten material. I was intending to go maybe the entire first draft handwritten, but we’ll see if I need to shift or not. Handwriting is wonderful, but a problem I have is that it’s a lot slower and that can cause the writing (in this case, the novel) to get lost in the mix of other stuff, and I don’t want that to happen.

And boy is there a lot of other stuff.

I have got a whole pile of articles to write, plus in September I’m going to start doing a lot more book reviews (not piles of them, mind; that’s not really what BookRiot goes in for, it doesn’t seem…but I do plan to do a number of them each month, because I enjoy them a lot) plus here in August I’ve got two or three articles I want to get done and dusted before I forget all about them.

Plus, I just discovered a really nifty anthology from the always cool World Weaver Press about Fairy stories involving actual, definite fairies. What frequently happens is that I’ll read the type of story an anthology is looking for and in the process, get a story idea based on their theme. I love doing that. It was no different here. I’ve thought up a fairy story, and it involves Charles Dickens about whom I’ve read a staggering amount of biographical material, so I can pretend that my years of obsessing is actually research.

Some day I’ll explain the peculiar exhilaration and enjoyment of writing a historical figure about whom you know a whole bunch. But not tonight.

The novel proceeds interestingly. I thought the first scene would be kind of off-kilter and odd, but what I didn’t expect was an instant atmosphere of terror and menace. I figured that would turn up eventually, but two pages in? That was a surprise. I doubt it’ll last, because I couldn’t sustain a book with nothing but THAT for the whole of it. It’s just interesting how the scene dictated its own mood. I like when that happens.

Right. Time to work. 

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Half of Everything (Novel Update #1)

Image

Yesterday, went off to see Star Trek Into Darkness (or Star Trekkin To Darkness, depending on where you put your space) for a second time because it was at a 

nearby cheap seats theater, and because I really liked the film and can’t wait for it to appear in a buyable form. I think it’s really clever Star Trek, which is a relief, and I was surprised to find myself declaring it my favorite Star Trek movie of them all, apart from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which is probably unmovable at this point.

(At the concession stand, buying some popcorn, the nice girl behind the counter sold us Star Trek t-shirts, too. I hope they don’t keep offering T-shirts for films because I am a sucker for black t-shirts with things on ’em)

Anyway, it was good I’d already seen the film because it was kind of a wreck. First thirty minutes of the film, the theater lights were up. The sound was too loud (you would wince every time a high-pitched monster would scream) and the picture 

wasn’t fitted to the screen, so any captions you needed to read were only a bit there. And then it all went horribly wrong halfway through when the picture vanished…and stayed vanished. People grumbled and came and went. We collected our stuff to go and discovered that the theater bulb had exploded, so we got free tickets for a different show (which makes me happy, in that Pacific Rim is coming to the cheap seats quite soon. AND WILL THEY SELL ME A T-SHIRT WITH GIANT ROBOTS AND MONSTERS ON IT? I HOPE THEY WILL)

So we went to the local mall to walk…only to discover that the mall’s ongoing remodeling meant that — inexplicably — they had brought in cranes and bulldozers and physically demolished half the mall. That was a new one by me. So we walked half a mall after seeing half a movie.

I expected, when we went for dinner, that we would get halfway through our food and the restaurant would catch on fire or something, but the theme failed to continue.

“How’s the writing going?” Oh you know. It goes and it goes. Well, it doesn’t really. Very hard to carve writing space out of the day. Hard doesn’t equal impossible, though. I keep writing notes for this novel in my spare time — I’m calling it FUGUE right now, because it fits, but it’s not very descriptive or interesting so it may change.

 

I’m fascinated by the note-taking. I keep writing down situations I want to explore somewhere in the novel, and then they lead to more situations and ideas. If THIS 

happens, then THIS character would react THUSLY and this would change a later portion of the book LIKE SO…

THe book isn’t outlined or particularly plotted. It’s has a plot but mostly a lot of room to explore a couple of people and the world in which they move, which is all I wanted. I have no idea how long a book this is gonna be. I thought it would be pretty short, practically a long-novella, but the more I explore my notes the more I realize I have to unpack and talk about. The trick is how long I can sustain a very quiet narrative about two people mostly failing to interact overtly before it gets boring. 200,000 words of that would have worked for Proust, but Proust I am not. 

I have the first two long scenes full in my head. I know all about them. What happens right after that I actually have no idea, and I’m pleased that I’m not worrying about it at all. I just want to get these two scenes down clearly and then I’ll go from there.

And of course, it’s proving useful that I have BookRiot articles to write and books to read and maybe review. It’s useful to stop and wander off for a bit to kvetch in article form, then come back to the book. I like that a lot. 

Right. Off to scribble some notes and then maybe get this scene moving. 

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Dusting off the blog

Dusting off the blog

I never blog very much, and I always kind of regret it, because I love blogs.

A good blog is fantastic. Browsing a long and scrupulously updated blog is a pleasure, as you travel not only through the years of a person’s life, but also a recent time period. That’s terrific. So I read them and love them and then look guiltily at my own sadly neglected blog.

Why is mine so neglected? The problem, I guess, is that I have too many outlets for my thinkerings. Things that can become article-shaped do and go live on BookRiot, or somewhere. Things that are story shaped go into stories. Random rants on various topics that cross my fevered brain go onto twitter, where I would probably claim citizenship if I could.

So all of this is to offer a complicated preamble to “I want to use my blog more,” and the bit where I forget about it and FAIL to use my blog more.

I’m working on a novel.

I’m always nervous to even mention in it, in that I’m terrified I’ll jinx it and the whole project will collapse instantly. Mainly because I have so little novelistic confidence, I guess.

I’m not a natural novelist. The easy muscles I have for short stories and articles just don’t seem to exist for novels, and I dunno why. I suppose it’s just not what I’m naturally suited for. Just like I’m a happy long-distance runner, but am terrible at sprints and hate them.

Still, as much as I like reading blogs, I like reading the blogged process of a novel being written. It’s so much fun to reach the point in, say, Neil Gaiman’s blog where he’s writing the first bits of ANANSI BOYS, and then you go on reading through to him finishing the book, it being published, and so on. And since I’m working on this book right now and enjoying it enormously, I thought it light be fun to blog my way through it.

There’s also the practical, mercenary aspect of this which is that if I blog and talk about it, I’m hoping it’ll keep me working when I get discouraged, which is probably inevitable.

So. This is the plan. Next post, maybe I’ll usefully talk about the book? Or running? Or something? See, it’s already losing focus and going off the rails…

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

A Ten-Page Comic

So, this was a small project I started working on with a friend, almost two years ago, for an anthology that is now long-since passed. It was written while I was thinking about the revolutions that were happening in Egypt, at the time, an event that is ALSO now since passed. It’s only ten-pages long, and is me examining revolutions, superheroes, children, and other stuff. 

It’s only script, which may not be of an interest to anyone…but *I* like reading comic script and dammit, I’m kind of proud of what I did here. This was the first comic script where I felt like I did what I was trying to.  So here you are.

It never had a title, I’m afraid.

10 PAGE EGYPTIAN COMIC
(working title)

PAGE ONE

 

PANEL ONE: A shot of a simple, narrow bedroom, in which there is a thin bed with no sheets or pillow on it, a window with the blinds down, but open, the sunlight coming through in slices, and a handful of boxes stacked against one wall. There is one box open, in the foreground, and a boy is standing in front of it. He is upright, a bright red hijab falling unfolded in both hands.

 

CAPTION: Friday, January 28th, 2011

 

CAPTION: The revolution out in the streets of Cairo has led to a little war, right here in the Saqr home, and Darius takes advantage of it to grab his mother’s hijab.

 

PANEL TWO: a close shot of the hijab, tucked under one of Darius’ arms, against his skinny body, mostly folded again but still spilling and drooping around his arm. We can make out the details, the intricate weave on the fabric. More importantly, we also note that it is frayed, loose threads hanging off in spots. This is an old hijab.

 

CAPTION: he’s taken it twice, and both times his grandmother has yelled at him for going through the things she has kept for all of these years.

 

CAPTION: she has kept all the things her daughter left behind in Egypt, including Darius.

 

PANEL THREE: in this one, we are in a simple apartment living room. It is also narrow, like all of the house, and full of more furniture than could be of use. All tables and wall space is covered with photos in frames, family photos. Squashed in among all of the furniture, there is a comouter set up on a small table. It is a desktop PC with an older bulky CRT monitor.  There is a small television set, and angled in front of it is an old chair.

 

Sitting in the chair is an old man, Grandpa Saqr. He is short and squat, a round head on a round body. Balding, with a thick mustache, and bushy eyebrows. All is hair has faded to white except his eyebrows which remain as black as ever. He wears black slacks and a white button down shirt, and an olive green open vest over it, which barely fits. This is a man who was once muscular and worked hard at a job, but whose muscles have now turned to flab and whose clothes, no longer worn out, still seem like the pieces of a uniform.  he is staring listlessly at the tv, slouched low, remote dangling from one hand. Faintly grumpy, like a man enduring something.

 

what he is enduring is standing next to him. His wife is arguing with him, but it’s a one-sided argument, as you can tell from her body posture and his. With one hand she is gesturing toward that PC in the corner of the room, and is not yelling, but is clearly agitated. She is tall and thin, with a gaunt face, and she also has thick eyebrows. She wears a simple dress, cut to past her knee. One gets the sense that, like the house and her husband, she settled years ago and nothing much has changed.

 

CAPTION: brought on by events out in the city, this battle is new…

 

CAPTION:… but the war itself is old and worn-in. Comfortable.

 

PANEL FOUR: an outside shot. We are looking closely at the side of an old and dirty apartment building, of the type that has metal fire escapes up the side of the  building, the metal platforms and ladders-stairs winding up and down. In the center of the panel, on one fire escape, a window is pushed open and Darius is slipping out. One leg and his head out already. One arm bracing against the top of the open window, and the other on the bottom. This is not a big window. He’s holding the hijab in bottom hand. On the fire escape is a potted plant, a big pot with a very small plant in it.

 

CAPTION: no one notices him go out the kitchen window.

 

PANEL FIVE: this panel is just a small one, probably in the corner of panel four. A close shot of Darius, from about stomach level, angled upward. We can see he has draped the hijab around his shoulders, across his back, in classic blanket-cape-style. Across his neck, he is tying it.

 

CAPTION: Grandmother thinks he wants the hijab because it was his mothers, but he wants it because it’s the right size, and it’s red. As a cape should be.

 

PAGE TWO

 

PANEL ONE: A long panel across the top of the page, showing us a panoramic view of the top of the apartment building. It’s a flat roof area, a small two-foot-wall running around the edge. There are some potted plants up here, and a few trash bags here and there. It’s just generally unkempt, but not badly. There are  big air condition units, long rectangular things — the sorts that have two or three big fans blowing up out of them — and this is close to one edge of the building. Maybe two feet separate the air conditioning unit from the edge of the building.

 

In this panel, we see Darius just beginning to climb up onto the air conditioning unit. His red hajib-cape is fluttering to one side.

 

No dialog.

 

PANEL TWO: A shot of Darius, from about the waist-up. Standing on top of the air conditioning unit, with his arms planted squarely on his hips, he’s looking out across Cairo. The cape snaps back away from him in the wind. His messy hair is blown up and away from his face. He has a wide, contented smile on his face.

 

CAPTION: This is his favorite spot, right here. It’s not just because of the hot, dry wind snapping his cape, threatening to push him over.

 

CAPTION: Or the quiet and lack of arguments…

 

PANEL THREE: This shot is from behind Darius.  We are looking over his left shoulder, out at Cairo, which sprawls away past him. It’s a fairly tall apartment building. He’s in the same pose as before.

 

CAPTION: …it’s the view.

e

CAPTION: Up here, it’s not hard to feel like a super-hero.

 

PANEL FOUR: A frontal shot, again, pretty much the same as panel two. The difference is that now, it’s not Darius we’re seeing — scrawny kid with too much hair and a hajib knotted around his neck — it’s a super-hero. Tall and broad-shouldered, long cape flowing behind him.

 

CAPTION: In fact, it takes no effort at all.

 

PANEL FIVE: The edge of the building is just in view, but we’re looking up toward the sky now. Darius is no longer present. Up in the sky, distant but still recognizable to us, is the Adult Superhero, flying away.

 

CAPTION: In Al Tahrir Square, the crowd roars. Perhaps they roar for him.

 

PAGE THREE:

 

PANEL ONE: We are high up in the sky, with the Adult Superhero in view, swooping past us, arms extended, classic super-hero-in-flight posture. If his cape is at all visible, we can see that it still has the intricate design-work that was present on the hajib.

 

CAPTION: Darius’ grandfather is the one who gave him the comic books

 

CAPTION: They’re old and ragged. They were used, decades earlier, as ballasts on cargo ships  coming from the United States, grandfather says.

 

PANEL TWO: We are above Adult Super-hero, who is landing amidst a crowd. The crowd is huge. We may not be able to tell, but we’re in Al Tahrir square, where the massive crowds have gathered, spilling over into the streets. All are looking up at him. A huge circle is cleared as people get out of the way of him landing.

 

CAPTION: Grandmother disapproves of them, but Darius hides them, and she can do nothing.

 

PANEL THREE: All of the people in the crowd are clustered around Adult Superhero, pushing up close to him, touching him, cheering around him. He is smiling broadly at them all. He is taller than everyone by at least a foot.

 

PANEL FOUR: A close-up shot of Darius’s head and shoulders. We see his eyes are shut. The hajib still flaps out behind him, and his hair is still being blown by the wind. He has a satisfied smile on his face. It’s a good fantasy.

 

GRANDFATHER: Where are you, boy?

 

PANEL FIVE: A shot from back, closer to the fire escape. In one corner of the panel, we see just a hint of Grandfather Saqr, since we’re right by his shoulder. Darius is a little ways off, on the air conditioner. He has turned around, eyes open, probably looking a bit surprised.

 

DARIUS: I’m right here, grandfather.

 

PANEL SIX: A frontal shot of Grandfather Saqr, who has an amiable look on his face, and one hand tucked into his pants pocket. With the other hand, he is tapping one temple with his index finger.

 

GRANDFATHER: I meant up here. You were a million miles away, I think.

 

PAGE FOUR:

 

PANEL ONE: Grandfather Saqr leverages himself into a sitting position on the edge of the air conditioner, next to where Darius is standing. Classic old-man-leveraging posture, one hand on his knee, and one hand on the air conditioner, lowering himself. We can see Darius from about midriff down, but he’s still standing upright, so we can’t see his top half.

 

DARIUS: Nothing. Just stuff.

 

GRANDFATHER: What kind of stuff?

 

PANEL TWO: This is a long panel. Most of it is a shot of Adult Superhero lifting a car to throw at men who are firing guns at him. The bullets are bouncing off his chest. A handful of nearby civilians are looking on in amazement. (Strongly reminiscent of Action Comics #1 cover).

 

CAPTION (Darius): I kinda wish I could swoop down there, where all those people are. Like in comics.

 

CAPTION (Darius): Tear the doors off their hinges and walk into his office and arrest the bad guy.

 

CAPTION (Darius): I could just pick him up and fly to jail. Nothing could hurt me.

 

PANEL THREE: Similar to panel one. Darius is still standing up and only half-visible to us in the panel. Grandfather Saqr is huching over, a cigarette in one corner of his mouth, cupping it with his hands as he tries to light it against the wind.

 

GRANDFATHER: Hmn….

 

PANEL FOUR: Darius squats down, balancing on his toes, his arms resting on his knees. His hajib-cape is fluttering to the right, going behind his grandfather. He has his head tilted, looking at Grandfather Saqr. Grandfather has one hand tucking something into a pocket on his shirt, inside his vest. The cigarette is held between two fingers in his other hand, which rests on his knee. A little trail of smoke comes off it, and a little puff of smoke is just above his head.

DARIUS: You don’t think it sounds cool?

GRANDFATHER: How am I to know cool? It is a very fine idea, in comics. In real life, not so simple.

 

GRANDFATHER: That is your mother’s hajib.

 

PANEL FIVE: Now Darius sits down next to Grandfather Saqr. He is looking down at his hands, which are resting in his lap. Grandfather Saqr holds the cigarette pinched between two fingers and takes a puff.

 

DARIUS: Are you gonna tell?

GRANDFATHER: Hmn. I think she has enough things to be upset about without this too. Besides, it is either a cape, or sitting in a box being eaten by mice.

 

GRANDFATHER: And I think it is a fine cape.

 

PAGE FIVE:

 

PANEL ONE: A different angle of the two men sitting. Darius has his head tilted toward his grandfather, and is leaning quite close to him. His grandfather is blowing smoke. The wind blows not only Darius’ overly long hair around, but it fluffs up the wisps of his grandfather’s hair too.

 

DARIUS: What were you and her fighting about?

 

PANEL TWO: Inside the Saqr apartment, full of clutter and gloom and dust. In the foreground of the panel is the desktop computer’s shape, and we are looking overtop it, past it, to Grandma Saqr, who is standing a little ways back, clenched up and nervous. One arm across her midsection, the other arm braced against it, hand on her mouth, she is biting at her nails. Nervous and distraught.

 

CAPTION (Grandfather): When your tetta is upset, she fights. It is her way.

 

CAPTION (grandfather): Yesterday, all the internet went down. She tells me this, and the television agrees with her.

 

PANEL THREE: Inside the living room, Grandmother and Grandfather are fighting. Grandmother is clearly irate and yelling, furious at Grandfather (mostly, though, just upset and scared) and Grandfather appears less concerned and mostly defensive and put-upon. In the background, we can see the window that leads out onto the fire escape, which is open from Darius having slipped out.

 

CAPTION (grandfather): Grandmother says, if the internet is down, how will your mother talk to us?

 

CAPTION (grandfather): I say, well, she never does anyway, why will she start now?

CAPTION (grandfather): …this was a poor thing to say.

 

PANEL FOUR: Back on the roof, Darius and Grandfather Saqr sitting side by side. Grandfather is examining his cigarette, held pinched between two fingertips. Darius is leaning back, looking at an upward angle at the world around them.

 

GRANDFATHER: So it seems a good idea to come out here and have a smoke. Wait for her to calm down.

 

GRANDFATHER: …but do not tell her I am smoking a cigarette.

 

DARIUS: I won’t.

 

DARIUS: Grandfather?

 

PANEL FIVE: From inside of what is presumably a government building, we are looking toward the main entrance, a pair of large, metal double-doors. They have been crumpled and pried open by Adult Superhero, cheering civilians behind him.

 

CAPTION (Darius): How come they’re all just standing there? How come they don’t go get him?

 

PAGE SIX

 

PANEL ONE: Them sitting on the air conditioner again. Darius is looking at his Grandfather, who is gesturing as he talks, the cigarette hanging from one corner of his mouth.

GRANDFATHER: Because it would be violent, and so much of the time, violence only makes things worse.

 

DARIUS: Not in comics.

 

PANEL TWO: Grandfather Saqr has his hands extended, as if he is trying to sculpt his thoughts in the air in front of him, forming them into words.

 

GRANDFATHER: Even in comics. It is fantasy, like how they can fly, or shoot laser beams.

 

DARIUS: But it does work in comics! Burst through a wall and punch out the bad guy, then take him to the police. That always works!

 

PANEL THREE: Grandfather Saqr whacks Darius upside the back of the head, and Darius makes a face at the hard, but not painful blow.

 

No dialog.

 

PANEL FOUR: Darius rubs the back of his head, frowning. Grandfather Saqr bends over to one side, stubbing the remnant of his cigarette out on the ground.

 

GRANDFATHER: You understand?

 

DARIUS: No! That really hurt!

 

GRANDFATHER: Maybe violence does not always work, hm?

 

GRANDFATHER: Of course they could go in, throw punches, take away whomever they want. But that is what he would have done, and they do not wish to be like him.

 

PANEL FIVE: Grandfather Saqr gestures again. He is a man who speaks with his hands, cannot help but to do so. Darius again has his hands resting in his lap. They are clenched into fists, palms-upward, and he is looking not at his hands, but out and away from himself and Grandfather, out toward Al Tahrir Square, off in the distance.

 

GRANDFATHER: Besides, they must deal with the idea of the man. That is much harder to defeat than one man in an office with a title. The idea of a man can be so much bigger and more powerful. You understand?

 

PANEL SIX: Grandfather is still sitting there, looking about the same as the last panel. But next to him is not Darius, but Adult Superhero, sitting with his arms resting on his legs, his long cape flowing out behind him. He is much larger than Grandfather. He is looking down at his open hands.

 

DARIUS: Yeah…

 

PAGE SEVEN

 

PANEL ONE: A shot from behind, and just above Darius and Grandfather Saqr. We can see that Darius sits pretty straight, the great posture of the young and still-mostly-boneless, where Grandfather Saqr is hunched and rounded. Darius’ hajib-cape blows out and away from him a little, to the left, toward his grandfather’s back. Grandfather Saqr’s vest’s hem is also blowing a little as the wind gets under it, and it blows to the left too. Where the hajib is red and has a pattern woven into it, the vest is plain brown, drab, old. Nevertheless, they both blow to the side.

 

GRANDFATHER: I met him once, you know.

DARIUS: Huh?

 

GRANDFATHER: The president.

 

PANEL TWO: A shot from the side, very close to Grandfather’s Saqr’s face, so that he is not only in the foreground of the panel, on the right side, but his eyes are the main focus. He has a faraway look. Behind him, in the background, we can see Darius looking frontal toward us, facing his grandfather.

 

DARIUS: Really? When?

 

GRANDFATHER:  I have no head for time. I wore my best suit. The one I married in.

 

PANEL THREE: This is a wide panel, beneath the other two. Now we are sometime in the past, and because we are in memory, the world around us is a bit sketchy and hazy. A younger Grandfather Saqr stands in the middle of a line of other men. He has thick black hair, a thicker mustache, is a little more muscular in his stocky build. He wears a brown suit which looks a lot like the vest he’s wearing while sitting on the air conditioner. In his hands, he clutches a cap with two hands, as if at any moment, someone will take it away.

 

GRANDFATHER: Some ceremony. Some event. He would come down the line, shake our hands, say thank you, good of you to come, have a nice time, that sort of thing.

 

GRANDFATHER: I was very scared.

 

PANEL FOUR: Again in the present, Darius and Grandfather Saqr talking. Grandfather Saqr is leaning in close to Darius, as if confiding a secret.

 

GRANDFATHER: Would you like to know a strange thing?

DARIUS: What is it?

PANEL FIVE: Back in sketchy memory again. Two black-shaped bodyguards are standing beside the form of the President Of Egypt, who has stopped in front of Young Grandfather Saqr, and they are shaking hands. Grandfather Saqr is about five-foot-eleven-inches, and is thus about six inches TALLER than the President of Egypt.

 

GRANDFATHER: I was stunned to discover that I was taller than the President.

 

PRESIDENT: What?

GRANDFATHER: Nothing.

 

PANEL SIX: Back in the present, but this time it is the younger Grandfather Saqr, his hat still in hand, who is sitting on the air conditioner and leaning in toward Darius.

 

GRANDFATHER: I see the powerful and famous on the television, photo in the paper…I assume they are taller than me. Bigger than me.

 

DARIUS: Well sure.

 

GRANDFATHER:  I have met three famous people, and each time, it was a shock that they were human sized. Twice, I was taller. Each time, it felt like a mistake. It should have been —

 

PANEL SEVEN: A bigger panel, if there’s room, in which the BIG shape of the President is looming over a small, terrified, child-like Grandfather Saqr. Everything about the President is too big. Huge booming, roaring mouth. Fe-fi-fo-fum.

 

PRESIDENT: THANK YOU FOR COMING!!! ENJOY YOURSELF!!!

GRANDFATHER (tiny text): yes! yes!

 

PAGE EIGHT:

 

PANEL ONE: Back on the roof. We are a distance away from the air conditioner. It is Adult Superhero, who has stood up and walked forward, to the edge of the roof. He is looking out, toward us. In the background, standing front of the air conditioner, is Young Grandfather Saqr. He is looking a little upward.

 

DARIUS: We should be down there, shouldn’t we? With all the people, doing what we can, right?

 

DARIUS: How come you aren’t down there, grandpa?

 

PANEL TWO: Same angle. Darius is still Adult Superhero, looking out at the world. But behind him, by the air conditioner, Grandfather Saqr is just his old, normal self. Nothing young about him anymore. Now he’s looking a little downward.

 

GRANDFATHER: You are too young. And I am too old.

 

PANEL THREE: He is now Darius and not Adult Superhero and is turned away from the edge of the roof and toward Grandfather Saqr. A close-up shot on just Darius.

 

DARIUS: Maybe, but…David, the butcher, grandmother was talking to him on the phone, and he is down there. And he’s your age.

 

PANEL FOUR: At a side angle, so that we can see Darius on one side of the panel, facing Grandfather Saqr who is on the other side of the panel.

 

GRANDFATHER: David is fifteen years younger than I am.

 

DARIUS: He’s still old, though.

 

PANEL FIVE: Grandfather Saqr standing there, hands in his pockets, facing us, looking disgruntled.

 

GRANDFATHER: Hmph.

 

GRANDFATHER: Come. It’s time we went back inside. If matters become violent, we should be in.

 

PANEL SIX: Darius and Grandfather Saqr walking toward the fire escape, some distance away from us, their backs toward us. Grandfather Saqr has his arm draped across Darius’ shoulders. We can see that Darius is looking sideways and up at Grandfather Saqr.

 

DARIUS: I thought violence wouldn’t work?

GRANDFATHER: No. But it happens, sometimes. We will pray it doesn’t.

PAGE NINE

 

PANEL ONE: Grandfather Saqr is standing on the top platform of the fire escape, looking down at Darius, who is heading downward, but has paused to look up at Grandfather Saqr and at us. Darius looks very young, and a bit frightened.

 

DARIUS: If things do get violent…you won’t let anything happen to me. Right?

 

PANEL TWO: A side shot of Grandfather Saqr looking down at Darius. We can see his face, the reassuring smile and expression on it.

 

GRANDFATHER: Never. Not a single thing.

 

GRANDFATHER: Go on down now.

 

PANEL THREE: This is a frontal shot of Grandpa Saqr, who is for just a moment looking out at the city, his hands still tucked in his pockets, a small smile on his face. Tied around his neck with a simple knot is a bright red hajib, which is fluttering in the wind out from behind him.

 

GRANDFATHER: All is well, and all shall be well.

 

PANEL FOUR: A long panel, inside of the Saqr apartment. In the foreground, Darius is moving toward us, down the thin hall and toward his room. in his arms is clutched the red hajib, the knot still in one part of it. In the background, in the living room, his irate grandmother has her hand up and her mouth open, about to say something.

 

CAPTION: In Al Tahrir Square, the crowd roars…

 

PANEL FIVE: The same long panel, same shot, but now Darius is gone from the frame, in his room, and we see Grandfather Saqr has just leaned in and kissed Grandmother Saqr on the cheek. She looked surprised, but has at least closed her mouth and lowered her hand.

 

CAPTION: …but perhaps not for him.

 

PAGE TEN

 

PANEL ONE: A small shot, looking down at Darius, who is lying sprawled on his bed, looking up toward us, and the ceiling. He has his hands tucked behind his head. On his chest is his mother’s hajib, and on top of that is an old super-hero comic.

 

No dialog.

 

PANEL TWO: Adult Superhero is flying high up, near the clouds, over Cairo. He is looking down, and we are looking over his shoulder. Below, we can make out the shape of Al Tahrir Square.

 

CAPTION: Perhaps they roar for themselves, for the future.

 

CAPTION: They are taller than the man they are angry at, and, Darius thinks, he probably knows it.

 

PANEL THREE: A close up shot, from the chest-up, of Adult Superhero, who is looking to the left, out of frame, with a look of surprise and Heroic Determination on his face.

 

CAPTION: There is no need for super-heroes down there, and that’s fine.

 

CAPTION: He’ll defend them against other threats, in the meantime…

 

PANEL FOUR: A big panel, the rest of the page. We are no longer in Cairo, but are out toward the Pyramids and the Sphyinx. they are in the background. Erupting huge out of the sand is a gigantic monster made entirely out of stone, a big roaring, classic 1960’s sort of Jack Kirby monster.  Swooping in toward it, fists extended, is Adult Superhero

 

CAPTION: Darius may be unsure about revolutions, but knows exactly what to do with Boulder Behemoths, after all.

 

 

THE END.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Uncategorized