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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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supernatural

So, with Novel Now Finished back at the editor…..

……I’m spending my time waiting for its return by bumbling around with the sequel.  So many changes have occurred within Novel Now Finished that a lot of the background I’d written has gone by the wayside and no longer seems pertinent.  Still, there are some things I’m able to recycle into the sequel, with a minor tweak here and there, and I’m curious to see where these bits will fit in.

“A writer writes, always.”
Billy Crystal,
Throw Momma From the Train (1987)

Some, as I’ve mentioned, are a part of the Narrator’s background and history.  A character that I’d had to excise from Novel Now Finished will be introduced here, a prospect I’m looking forward to, as he was rather charming and amusing. [1]  Then there’s the added question about why the Narrator displays such a lack of interest in some areas of her past, which could be developed into a significant sub-plot.

So far, I’ve got a basic story-line written out and an idea of what happens, but it’s the details that will get me every time.  Many of the questions raised in Novel Now Finished will either be answered (fully or in part) or re-directed; some of the answers may produce more questions for the Narrator to ponder.  I do know that a lot of it will center around the circumstances that led the Narrator to where she is at the start of Novel Now Finished.

And while that doesn’t seem like much, it’s actually a lot.

 

[1] It helps that he and the Narrator have great chemistry.

So, I’ve been working on my Novel in Progress…..

…….and I noticed an interesting connection it had with my saucy speakeasy story.  No, neither story features characters that show up in both tales, nor does the action take place in the same time frame or location.

However, that being said, this is what I’ve noticed.  It’s not the first time I’ve noticed at least one connection, but the others surprised me.

The Novel in Progress is a contemporary tale, with flashbacks to the 1920s via letters and experiences related by other characters.  The Narrator 1, due to circumstances dictated by the story, is a virgin.  I didn’t even realize that until I’d been writing the novel for a about a year and a half – it just never crossed my mind.  She is estranged from her parents and has no other family to speak of, as far as she knows.

And then, I wrote a few of scenes where she interacts with two very different men at different points in the story.  One expresses obvious interest in her, flirts with her, gives her his contact information (which she promptly gives away to another woman, despite her own cautious interest).

The second man is made a prisoner by the same people looking for the Narrator 1, which unites them in their own survival and freedom. There is a moment where both of them become aware of the other, but she blurts out “I’m not ready” and they both back away from it.

Interestingly, “I’m not ready” is the same thing said by the female Narrator 2 in my speakeasy story.  Only, the dynamics are little different, as this work in progress is following the erotica beats.  Where Novel in Progress is set in the Present, with only occasional flashbacks to the past, including the 1920s, the Saucy Speakeasy Story is fixed very firmly in that decade, from flappers to jazz music to bootleg whiskey.

Narrator 2 is about the same age (nearing 30) as the Narrator 1, but her life circumstances are in direct contrast.  She has three younger siblings, of whom she assumed care of when their parents died.  She had a fiancee who died in World War I and has had some sexual experiences that Narrator 1 did not.  She is not afraid of her own feelings or her desires and the man she meets in this saucy tale revels in her own autonomy.

I’ve been working on both stories for the last couple of years.  I ought to have noticed these similarities sooner, but I guess it’s one of those things that you only notice when you’re ready to see it.  The fact that the two Narrators are also so different and so tied to their time and place, I guess it’s not that hard to miss.

I’m amused that I’m writing about two very different women who are separated by almost one hundred years, five hundred miles and life experiences.

What are their similarities?  They are moving from one established role to another, one by chance, the other by choice.  They refuse to compromise themselves to achieve whatever goal they accept.  They’re smart and articulate and the men in their lives respect them.

Interesting.

So, it’s Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday…..

……..and he’s still sending chills up our spines with his haunting tales. His life was as strange and unhappy as his fiction and the circumstances surrounding his death is still a mystery. I’m not sure what his reaction would have been had he known that his work would live on the way it has, but I’d like to think he would be pleased. Morose, drunk and writing about walled up people, black cats and quoting ravens, but pleased.

Of all my favorite Poe stories and poems, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven rank high on my list of go-to re-reads. His prose is suffocating, relying heavily on descriptions of the senses (sight, sound, etc.). I feel anxious when reading his work, even though I know it’s only a story. I want to reach in and stop the Narrator from killing the old man in The Tell-Tale Heart. I want to prevent the tragedy in The Fall of the House of Usher and keep the Narrator in The Pit and the Pendulum from suffering at the hands of his captors. I’m having a bit of anxiety just writing this post and recalling my experiences in reading Poe.

If one can pick up a regional dialect by reading aloud the written word, then I suppose one could also pick up on the author’s emotional state at the time a particular story was written. Of all the contemporary authors in the horror and supernatural genre, Shirley Jackson comes closest to capturing that suffocating and claustrophobic element in her writing. At least, she does to me – I get agitated reading her stories in the same way I do when reading Poe’s.

In honor of his birthday, I pulled out my copy of his collected works and am planning to read some of my favorites. His influence can be felt in the works of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, HP Lovecraft, and many others.

If you haven’t read any of Edgar Allan Poe‘s stories, you’re missing out some excellent reading and an insight into another century.

Edgar Allan Poe (writer, adventurer, action figure) standing next to a collection of his work.
Edgar Allan Poe (writer, adventurer, action figure) standing next to his collected works.

 

 

So, I finally finished watching American Horror Story: Hotel…..

…….completing the entire series. Yes, I’m aware that I’m playing catch-up with the show, but that’s okay – better late than never.. For whatever reason (timing, show schedule, my schedule), I wasn’t able to watch any season through its entire run while it was on television. The first episode was usually as far as I got. Also, I was uncomfortable with a lot of the violence and some of the sexual content presented.

The only season I managed to watch every week while it aired was American Horror Story: Roanoke, due to changes in my own schedule that allowed for it. However, thanks to DVDs, I decided to give the show another chance. Setting aside my own discomfort that I’d mentioned above, I bought the first season, Murder House, and worked my through that up to season five, Hotel.

My reaction? Wow.

I became so engrossed with the characters and the stories, that I couldn’t watch just one episode and walk away from it. I finished the first season in one day (each season is about 12 episodes long) and then proceeded to do the same for each succeeding season. What drew me in was the show’s complexity and willingness to examine the dark and light of each character presented.

This is shown in the incredible writing, characters that are flawed and fully-realized people, locations and time settings that were not only fascinating, but seemed to be characters of their own. Each season resets itself in a different setting and decade, with different themes. Many of the same actors return as new characters, which keeps the show fresh. I especially loved the quality of the female characters that were written.

The women of American Horror Story are strong, intelligent, make no apologies for who they are, have no fucks to give and, in some cases, can learn from their mistakes. It has delivered a wide range of powerful female performances, as well as delving into the dark side of American history.

Of all the seasons presented so far, Coven, for me, was the best.

Jessica Lange as the Supreme plays for keeps, even as finds herself in a time loop, refused to curl up and accept her fate. I loved Kathy Bates as Delphine Lalaurie, a 19th century psychopath in Coven, who, through voodoo magic, finds herself immortal and fallen from high society to house maid. Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson round out the primary cast.

But most of all, I loved Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau, the 19th century voodoo priestess of New Orleans in Coven. The first time I saw Ms. Bassett in an acting role was when she played Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? Her presence has stayed with me ever since and I sought out more of her work. Her performances in Freak ShowHotel and Roanoke are powerful and human, but it was her role in Coven that resonated the most with me. She lived and breathed that role, making Marie Laveau a person not only to love, admire and respect, but to fear, as well.

So, if you haven’t watched American Horror Story, I suggest you try it out. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, it’s violent and pushes the boundaries in many respects. However, if you can put that aside, you are in for excellent story-telling, above par writing and some of the best actors ever assembled.

American Horror Story, seasons 1-5
American Horror Story, seasons 1-5

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