Thursday, May 20, 2010

understanding the graveyard shift

I hesitate to make comments on my stories, but I feel like this one deserves it. I'll start with a disclaimer. I am in no way promoting nihilism or any other worldview in any of my stories. That's not that the point. That in mind, I feel I should make the point abundantly clear.

In every one of my stories, I've tried to experiment with different elements. By elements, I refer to terms such as plot, metaphor, character, setting, imagery... etc.

For instance, 'Monarch' was about the fusion of metaphor and character development. I used the metaphor of the monarch butterfly to enable an exploration of the protagonist's dark mind and the evolution henceforth. The metaphor evolves as the character does, thus making the metaphor itself a character.

'The Bureaucrat' has a lot of different elements going for it. It would take me a whole article to go through it all, but the main focus was on using imagery and a flat character to develop a very round character. By using vivid imagery, we not only get a picture of Blythe's life, but we also get to feel what he feels. The Bureaucrat himself is less about the actual man and more about what he reads to Blythe, which develops Blythe without him actually performing any real-time actions. Notice that nothing is really in Blythe's control, yet all development occurs internally. I could probably go on forever with this one, but I think you get the idea of what I was trying to accomplish.

'Heresy' is about using pacing and wordiness to develop an unseen and unknown character. It's mostly about the pacing itself to build the emotion of the character's situation, but I tried my best to use the pacing to make you care about a character you really know nothing about besides that he's writing about a false religion and is about to be burned at the stake.

I wrote 'Time and Regret' a long time ago and I don't remember specifically playing with elements like I do now. The story came to me naturally, but I see that I worked hard on narrative, diction, and syntax, which are fine, but they aren't really the same sort of elements I work with now. Not to say it isn't a good story, it's actually my favorite of the ones I've written thus far.

Finally, 'The Graveyard Shift' is an experiment with setting, imagery, and character. Note that the protagonist (if he can be called that) does not change or develop at all, there is no solid conclusion, and nothing is really accomplished, yet we get clear insight into just who this detective is and how he thinks. The setting sets the stage for it all being morbid and the images present help give more pictures of the setting and how the character relates to it. This is actually something I do a lot in my novels, I use the background as a trigger for character exploration.

Now, in my novels and 'The Graveyard Shift', it's not about learning what the character thinks, but it's about how the character thinks. There's nothing complex about simply knowing, for instance, that John likes Jane. We don't know why and we get little insight into how this might progress. If details are added, such as Jane having nice eyes, yet John is timid and could never bring himself to telling her, then conflict is added and we get a bit of a reason why John likes Jane.

I've always feared that someone would try to object to what I am writing or assume I'm trying to project some kind of worldview. I am not. My point is that I'm making interesting narrative revolving around interesting characters. I am only the middle-man between myself and my uncontrollable imagination. Either way, what you take out of my stories is your own business.

Thanks for reading!
--WA Ross

1 comment:

  1. improvement:
    I think you could be more concise.

    One example, on 6th paragraph your write "You're just going to die anyway" and on the 7th you write "Is there really a meaning to it all" which intuitively express the exact same thing. So by the 9th paragraph I felt I was reading the same paragraph over and over.


    I love the idea of making explicit to yourself the different elements and playing around with that - ill definitely copy you here!

    I also loved the statue metaphor with the whole thing of the statue crying.

    Even though I thought it could be more concise I liked the path the story took from introduction to conclusion.

    * * *

    few things about world view:

    I don't think there's anything wrong with projecting a worldview - even if its not your world view. A person has to be very narrow-minded to take offense when someone presents a deferring world view. Besides... it is more interesting for an artwork to break paradigms than to comply with them.

    And then there's another thing about art in general where the ultimate conclusion of the artwork is mainly a by-product of each viewer's personal interpretation.

    If there is no room whatsoever for personal interpretation then it might not be art you're witnessing but some other form of communication.

    I personally very much enjoyed your conclusion.