Death Blossom
Death Blossom

Death Blossom

Super dark purple bearded iris against a white and gray countertopThe winter here was too mild for the bulbs, and the only iris that’s bothered to put in appearance is this little nihilist. With daylight and overhead lights and a little bit of flash, up close, you can tell she’s extremely dark purple, but under any other conditions, she reads as void black—which is all very cool and goth but also is not anything I ever put in the ground because the whole point of that little bed is to be bright and colorful when I look out the window, and this is the antithesis of that. Either somebody did a drive-by bulb transplant or this one spontaneously decided, “Life is despair. All my friends are dead. I’m dressing for the funeral. Bring me my Evanescence CDs.”

I’ve added “tighten all the screws in the ceiling fans” to my annual “as long as you have the ladder out to replace smoke detector batteries” preventative maintenance list, prompted by one of the screws in the bedroom fixture loosening so it was tapping at the glass lampshade like a woodpecker—in the dead of night, of course. It was too hot to turn off the fan and I wasn’t going to fetch a ladder at 2 a.m., climb up on it, and stare directly into burning lightbulbs for the time it took to tighten a dozen screws, so that was a rotten couple of hours I’d like to avoid henceforth.

I never want to live with another person again, but I admit I was lying there suffering nostalgia for all my tall exes who would be able to just reach over their heads and deal with the ping-ping-RATTLE-PING problem immediately by virtue of not being five-three. Someday when I get my Baba Yaga hut, everything will be me-sized and I too will know the thrill of not having to risk breaking my neck to change lightbulbs and access all the shelves in the kitchen. I might have a ladder available for unforeseen height emergencies, but its everyday function will be serving as a tiered rack for potted herbs out in the garden.

There’s a Chinese series called (in English) Martial Universe, which is only available to me dubbed in Spanish (as Universo Marcial), which doesn’t have even Spanish subtitles much less English, which is unfortunate because my Spanish is far from the effective-comprehension-at-normal-speaking-speed level. However, there’s a fair amount of “ancestral talisman” = “talismán ancestral” type of conversion involved, and “teen fights huge, scary opponents to pay for dad’s medicine” and “former magic student dresses cool now so she’s obviously evil” are recognizable tropes at a glance, so the 10% of the words I caught to that effect needed only to be confirmatory. 

I stumbled into the beginning of the maybe-fourth book in the fantasy romance series. (The middle three books take place during the same time period, so their order, particularly of 3 and 4, is still soft.) I was tinkering with a person’s physical appearance for the KotSQ revision, which led to an idea about makeup to fake that appearance, which led to thoughts of stage makeup, which made the initial idea about fake appearances seem like a good stage play, which seemed like a more interesting scenario in which to drop the heroine of Book Whatever and her companions when they [redacted] the hero than having them wait for a more private, sedate, boring moment, as in my original notes.

Which goes in the “proof” column of the old writing adage about first thoughts tending to be lazy and unimaginative. There is an “exceptions” column for lightning bolts of inspiration that seem divine in their effortless perfection, but the vast majority of the time, you have to go on a journey over the river (without a bridge) and through the woods (no path, absolutely swarming with rabid wildlife and ticks the size of your fist) in order to arrive at a more interesting thought.

Stories come to me in the form of dialogue (or what looks like it—I use the characters to tell me the story, and I put quotation marks around most of what “they” “say,” even though a great deal of that will be converted to narrative later). Because they’re just strangers trying to convey the gist of a story, there’s no full-blown cinematic experience, just the bare bones. The story at that point is just words about what happened, so the details of the surroundings are up for grabs. Which is a pain in the ass when I have to write it with nothing to go on, but it also gives me some freedom. Are they at the garden center? Are they at the haunted amusement park? Are they at the combination garden center/haunted amusement park? Unless there are scene-relevant props the characters MUST handle, I can put them anywhere that makes sense because the essence of the story is what happens to whom, and the surroundings are important only inasmuch as they enable what happens to take place to those characters. Like anything else, it’s a matter of picking the right tool for the job. Maybe you want a confrontation backstage while both the theater workers and the audience are distracted by the performance, but maybe you want to storm the stage instead and have that confrontation in front of an audience because the controlling character wants news of the event to spread. It depends what you want to happen. The stuff lying around is there to support the verbing and its effect on the characters, not the other way around.

It should probably be noted that there are people who will say, “If you can move your characters to a different setting and the scene isn’t ruined, you’re doing it wrong!” I mean, yeah, in the sense that if you move your fight scene from a carwash anywhere carwashes exist to Medieval France, you’re going to create some problems that need to be addressed. But unless the fight is about protecting a beloved vehicle’s finish from abrasive cleansing, you’re not beholden to that location just because you thought it first and already wrote the tide of battle turning when soap gets in somebody’s eyes. If the cause of the scene isn’t dependent on the location, you can (and I’d go so far as to say should) give some thought to whether another place, time of day, audience, weather conditions, or whatever would have a better payoff. Maybe that first idea holds up against the competition! But you can’t know for sure it’s the best you can do if you never test it.

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