Man, I feel like such a flake sometimes.
Told a couple of people about my idea for satirical vampire fiction and now I’m thinking I probably won’t write it, because as was pointed out to me, there’s kind of an over-saturation of vampire media already. And yeah, I did kinda notice; and furthermore, other than for my own enjoyment, I really have nothing to contribute with a vampire story.
Not that writing things for one’s own amusement should be discouraged. But yeah, might be moving on from that idea.
I like the idea of werewolves, and what I do not like – at all – is how they’re constantly being pitted against vampires nowadays. Yes, when I was in my teen years and Underworld appeared on my radar, I experienced something of a conceptual orgasm, but it’s become so samey.
The other issue that I have with werewolves is, well, the whole ‘animal’ thing. And it’s kind of because, of all the animals you could anthropomorphose (I’m sure I’ve seen that used as a word somewhere) into, why would you pick a wolf?
I get it from a cultural and historical point of view, but in terms of pure mechanics, wolves are hardly the most dangerous animals around. Why not a tiger, or a bear? Perhaps I’m taking this too literally, because after all, if I’m complaining about wolves, why do I let bats off the hook? And I think this is the thing that puts me off the most: vampires, unless they are of the shape-shifting variety, are only thematically similar to bats, whereas werewolves – well, they’re werewolves; a vampire is not a ‘werebat’, it’s a vampire, and even if it can transform into a bat, while in vampire-form, it still retains all of its powers, everything that makes it a vampire, which is why so many of the modern variety eschew bat-form altogether. And yes, I know that werewolves and vampires were originally the same thing, but I’m talking about the archetypes from the horror genre, not folklore (which is kind of cooler). Ultimately, what we know of as werewolves are a little too literal to quite pique my interest.
What interests me far more is the idea of a character like the Big Bad Wolf, because he’s just a wolf – only he can talk. And crossdress. And do mean impersonations, to the point where he can actually fool people into thinking he’s not just human, but specific people, or at least naive pre-teen girls. There is nothing literal about this, nothing pseudo-scientific; he’s just a wolf that talks. That is far more up my alley.
And so, after a year or so, I have finally come back to my interest in writing a revision of Little Red Riding-Hood, and trying to dump every single Gothic trope I have ever learnt about into it. And that involves, of course, the Big Bad Wolf.
My Big Bad Wolf, however, is … I mean in terms of being a villain, he’s a bit of a Mary-Sue, and I’ll admit I’m guilty of a bit of idol-worship of this particular archetype – or more specifically, the version of it that I want it to be. And this is yet another instance where I feel rather flaky.
I showed the first couple of chapters to some friends, and yes, this was long before the ‘don’t show anybody the first draft’ resolution kicked in – but to be fair, I do actually think it’s useful to show a couple of chapters to other people, just to gague general reactions and see if you’re ‘onto something’. One piece of feedback that stayed with me was that the Big Bad Wolf seemed like he was going to be a unique subversion of the character, but then just turned back into a typical monster – and that’s true. And now I’m torn between loyalty to my own personal vision of the Big Bad Wolf – which to be perfectly fair is not very original – or taking this feedback on board, and doing something that, quite frankly, I don’t want to do.
And why should that be a dilemma? Why should I ever consider doing something that I don’t want to, when it comes to one of my stories?
Well … it’s to do with taste, mostly.
I’m pretty predictable when it comes to my ideas a lot of the time, and this version of the BBW is no exception. Therefore, hearing that I may have, however unwittingly, stumbled upon something original in his design is, well, flattering, but also frustrating, because it wasn’t my intention. And that brings up the always wonderful conflict of: ‘what should I want to do?’
Which is a dumb question; there is no ‘should’ when it comes to wanting things, only doing things, and only doing things that particularly affect other people at that. And I guess my main issue is that I want to take credit for this accident and turn it into something cool that people will approve of – and I have to take credit, because if I don’t then it’s not my idea, and if it’s not my idea then it’s somebody else’s creativity that I’m working into my own work, admitting that I can’t actually come up with anything better myself, which makes me feel really inferior and insecure about my own work and ideas, which makes me want to stick to my original, unoriginal idea just because it’s my idea and not somebody else’s so as to maintain a sense of control, not to mention self-esteem.
It’s these kinds of dilemmas that, if and when I spell them out to myself, seem really stupid – it’s not a big deal. I can write something unoriginal, and that’ll be fine; it’ll just be unoriginal. It doesn’t mean it won’t be good. Or I can explore this other idea and see if there is something along that path of enquiry that actually comes to mind without feeling like I’m resorting to taking instructions from other people because I’m a hack.
And after all, in the end, isn’t all storytelling just using other people’s work anyway? Well – yes and no. There’s a difference between stealing something outright and then taking somebody else’s work and putting a new twist on it, or using it for a new purpose, or in a new context. And then there’s feeling like you’re getting hand-outs, and honestly I feel horrible feeling so insecure about this, because it was good feedback and it was well-meant, but I guess I’m just incredibly touchy about my own ideas and what people say about them.
And it’s not that I feel like I don’t have a thick enough skin or whatever; that’s another issue entirely. This is to do with not feeling like my ideas are any good, and that things I’ve done unintentionally might end up being more enjoyable to an audience than the things I’m actually putting all of my efforts into trying to make work. This is to do with actually feeling like a phony (I don’t think I’ve ever written than word before) with nothing original or interesting to say.
So, the question I face is: what do I do as a writer when this kind of anxiety takes hold? Because this is hardly the first time it’s happened, and I haven’t come up with a solution yet, but hey, I’m older and wiser now, right? Surely there’s something I can think of.
… I guess I could just … write. And see what happens with it.
And so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to finish this draft of Tallulah, and then I’m going to finish my Little Red Riding-Hood revision as a reward/break, and see how it goes. I’ve got the feedback for the BBW swirling around in my mind, and I’ve still got my original idea, and it is quite possible that in the time between now and when I start writing it again I will have other influences to add to the cauldron as well.
Tallulah, by the way, I also discussed with a friend today, and it was rather helpful to get some outside perspective – not on the story so much as on the process of writing it, and getting a whole host of gender-related anxiety off my chest. For now, anyway. It tends to build up, kind of like the writer’s equivalent of plaque. So I guess that makes my friend a … toothbrush? I’ll go with a dentist, out of respect. Friends are not things, people.
It is alarming, though, at how relieving it was today to be writing a chapter that was not from Tallulah’s perspective, and even though it was that thing that I hate rather a lot – exposition – it was also telling a story, a backstory, and it was so relieving to not be trying desperately to make Tallulah interesting and realistic, which are not always even remotely related – and, once again, feeling like a flake for not seeming to being able to make up my mind with what I want to do with her, a conclusion drawn from re-reading some stuff and panicked assumptions about how other people are going to react to her. She needs focus. I guess she is the most important part of the story, so it makes sense that she’d take the longest to ‘get right’, because that’s what the story stands or falls on the strength of. I mean the idea behind her was so simple at first … but I’ve always known that trying to make her unexpected and interesting has always been incredibly hit-and-miss, something else that was clarified for me today thanks to socialising with other human beings. And hey, first draft; I kinda have to throw a lot of darts. Because Tallulah is so integral, she deserves the most attention, and consequently, the most mess.
So yeah. Possible werewolf fiction coming out of me. And I may still do the vampire thing, because who knows, maybe it’ll be the best thing ever. I also want to use minotaurs at some point, being a Taurus and everything, plus minotaurs just being cool in their own right. And do it originally. Somehow.
Work work work.