Sometimes you have to start from the beginning, though you’ve been to the beginning so many times you have lost count. Or maybe, that’s what you tell yourself and you have never truly stripped everything down to the very beginning, to the bare bones.
Maybe you’ve only pretended to return to step one, but never actually allowed yourself a new start; and perhaps everything has changed so much, that you are not lost or blocked, but adhering to a kind-type that no longer exists.
What if you are using the operating system of your 18-year-old self?
Have I grown and adapted; or have I changed so completely that I am truly no longer the person I was (and have been believing I am) but someone entirely different?
Wouldn’t that kind of change (not transformation, not growth, but Different) be something that requires a complete restart? Not even an overhaul, rather a complete and final wipe… a factory reset?
More than likely, every single one of you reading this is a writer or has been a writer at some point. As such, it is likely that every single one of you has heard the advice: “show don’t tell.”
But here is my thought for today… showing is a photograph. Showing is a painting or a movie or another visual art form.
Writing, though, is for getting into the brain. In no other median can an idea or thought be represented so clearly, so absolutely. Sure, there are language barriers… the very idea of loss of meaning between writer and reader… but there is a pureness that is allowed in this form of communication that is not quite has well represented in the visual forms.
I have always loved taking photographs. There is a way that I can capture sunlight colored through a sprinkler’s rain that I cannot quite catch merely with words.
But I can tell you with my words what I was thinking when I took the photograph. I can tell you of the feeling of joy, a kind of heated pressure in my chest to see the sprinkler in the sun. I can tell you how I felt an anticipation for summer mixed with a little bit of wonder as my five-year-old ran through that freezing cold water.
I am able to describe how my contentment felt like a warm blanket of sunshine on my shoulders; and how during those moments I knelt on the wet grass, moisture seeping through the knees of my jeans, lightness permeated the air and happy floated by.
With the new Star Wars, there has been a lot of rehash about how Lucas used Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” when writing the original Star Wars, and how this new Star Wars has similar elements. Without going into spoilers and all the theories (and believe me there are enough theories to fill tombs upon tombs), I found myself contemplating something entirely different:
The Villain’s Journey.
Of course, this thought was sparked by Kylo Ren… and I too have thoughts on the arc of his story; my hope being that the writers will honor complexity over big budget… but I digress.
The villain’s journey.
I decided to look it up. I have extensive background in the Hero aspect. I wrote my master’s thesis, spent years reading and researching, etc. etc…
…but the villain; not so much, or not as a story arc itself, but only as a counterpart to the hero.
Googling it brought up interesting things; lots of comics, and fan sites for said comics but very little actual thought on the journey aspect. There is apparently one contributor that talks about the villain’s journey and that has made the rounds of different .edu sites, but the theory deals entirely with the journey from the point of power to the point of fall. In other words, the theory addresses the journey in counterpoint to the hero, something I already had some ideas on and have looked into for my own research.
What I want to know more about, think about, is the rise of the villain, not the fall.
There is a tendency in the last thirty years or so to look at villains as more complex than the destroyer of the world. Sometime in the 80s, during the height of the postmodern movement, “Watchmen” came out. This comic studied the role of “anti-hero,” a kind of individual that is supposed to be a hero, but the complexity of identity and person creates a hero that is not all good or bad, but somewhere in the gray.
This is not what I am talking about, necessarily, but the publishing of “Watchmen” was a first step towards a movement that started to look at villains as more than just a counter to the hero.
The backstory. Why and how did the villains become who they become?
I think of Loki as portrayed in the movies (not necessarily the comics or Norse mythology). Through the Thor movies, the viewer is given insights on his motivation, the reasons behind his turn, so by the time you see him in the second Thor movie, you sympathize with him.
There is backstory. But I want more than just a backstory.
The television show “Gotham” is one of the more thorough looks at the rise of a villain; in fact, it is the only work of any median I know of that approaches the villain’s journey in such a thorough way. There is Penguin, Riddler, and Cat-Woman, among others and you see them before they are anything, moving towards who they become (and who they are known for in the DC world).
The show is interesting and fun to watch, even if I am left flat on some of the characters, because the villain’s journey is an interesting one. Sure, there are the psychos, but even the psychos had a precipice, a series of something, that brought them to that point they become the bad guy.
I have not read G.R.R. Martin’s epic tale, but I’ve heard that villains are given more of a fleshed out back story, mostly because the story is so very massive. If I could get through the verbose that is his writing, I would try to read them; however, that is unlikely.
Are there others in literature that I am not thinking of? Seriously, I am having a terrible time thinking of literary villains that the reader is given not only backstory, but The Story. The Journey.
But, going back:
“The Force Awakes.”
It inspired me as I watched Kylo Ren at That Part I will not speak of. How? His movement to the darkside is sure not entirely based in his DNA. Though that does make me think of Star Wars I, II, III and the journey of Annakin and how that is kind of a study in the villain’s journey.
But. That movie. Blah.
And that leads me to my final thought in this meandering blog:
Writing a villain’s journey. How interesting. And exciting.
*mind clicks away in the way it does when something starts to move through it*
Do any of you, dear reads, have advice as to where to go to read villain stories… not the fall, not the hero catching the bad guy… but the rise? Any of you have thoughts on the villain’s journey in general?
Where does your creativity come from? What inspires you to write, dance, paint, or play music? What is that spark, and how does it come to be?
Last Sunday, I participated in a Shamanic journey. The facilitator — a wonderful woman with a light soul — explained that she cannot schedule these journeys on a regular basis because she has to wait until she, herself, is inspired to take the journey. Once undergoing the journey herself, she in turn schedules the same journey to facilitate for others.
Inspiration. Where does it come from?
Through my many years (past years) of writing, the overwhelming consensus of published writers offering their advice, is that inspiration is a myth; or rather, the need to be inspired before creating is a myth. Through hard work, due diligence, etc. etc. creativity will flow and there is no need for this slacker’s excuse of inspiration.
I get why published authors push the inspiration bullshit line. I really do. Most writers barely write because they are waiting for that divine moment, and that is a no good state of affairs. One must write if one wants to be a writer.
I wonder though.
Obviously, in my past I wrote even when inspiration was but a flicker. I am not talking about the non-fictional writing I did as a journalist (which is often times lacking any sort of anything resembling inspirational); rather, the fiction that I delved into and explored.
Between the time I graduated college and today, I have written six complete novels. I’ll also throw in the novel-length fanfiction I did back when HP fanfiction was The Thing To Do.
Seven then, seven complete novels.
Of those, I would say there were hints of inspiration in all of them. Even the romance book I wrote in an attempt to “f*cking get anything published for f*cks sake,” had a bit of inspiration to its story line.
I am not going to go in to the whole FAILING MISERABLY thing… but, it does make me wonder about the creative process and being inspired. There is writing and there is Writing… just as there is music, and then there is Music.
Is inspiration the defining line between the two?
Back to my Shamanic journey. For many, these journeys are powerful and can be life-altering. Me, myself, I always feel like what happens is 80 percent bullocks and 20 percent of something True. But that my is my logical self talking, and my logical self really dislikes anything mythical (though, adversely, understands the deep importance of Myth).
However, for many, these journeys are religious in context and in importance. Is it true and right that my facilitator waits until she is inspired… I think so, actually. But then, it makes me wonder if art (and as a consequence, the influence of art), should also be contingent on inspiration.
I don’t know, obviously, just a thought for today.