Finding out

I was quite upset yesterday, still reeling a bit now. And then I learnt that Lauren Bacall died today, age 89. I was nowhere near as familiar with her work as with Robin Williams’, but looking at her body of work I feel confident in saying that she had an amazing run.

I’m still digesting just how much of an impact Robin Williams had on me, but one thing it’s brought to the fore for me is that I really, really want to keep momentum on my own work going, to get it done and put it out there, and to start really trusting myself to be able to do things. So here’s an updated bit of an old draft and some new things as well, parts of the creative process that you assume will only happen once but keep happening over and over again, making it seem like you never learn anything. But I prefer now to think of it as evidence that you never stop learning.

  • It took me so long (but I found out)

That I have a useless love-interest in my story.

And it only took me 2 years to find out.

This was last year in early December. It’s the ‘useless’ part that really shocked me, not the discovery of the existence of this sub-plot, although that would have been rather hilarious, and also very concerning.

It’s just so … utterly pointless and distracting.

A long time ago, I remarked to my sister while watching Spider-Man that superheroes should never have girlfriends, because all they do is get kidnapped and cause drama that distracts from the main action. Back then I wasn’t aware of how grossly sexist that sweeping statement was, not to mention ignorant of the systemic, ingrained misogyny of Hollywood, but while I certainly want more well-rounded female characters, I still don’t want more generic love-interests, of either gender.

Because they are really, really distracting.

And the painful thing is that with my generic love-interest, he’s not generic. He’s just utterly goddamn superfluous. And the only ways I can think of making him more involved in the story are super-generic or make him too important, and I don’t want to do any of that. It’s been a bit of an in-joke with me and some of my friends who know about this story how useless this character is, to the point where the in-joke has only come up like three times because he’s so freaking forgettable. Which, I admit, was kind of the point. I wanted to use his existence as a romantic sub-plot to do a little metacritique on how annoying these characters are in wider fiction. But while this appeals to that part of my mind that likes metacritique, in practise it’s just annoying to have to deal with as a reader, and turns the reading into a chore, wading through the swamp of sadness to get to the Southern Oracle (and also consequently utterly loses the subversive value it might otherwise have had). So add that to the list of things I find distracting and boring in this revision, though there is still the flipside of it providing a stark contrast to the stuff that does work. This is why allowing yourself to make mistakes is a good thing: you get to learn from them.

Turns out I actually came up with a plan for resolving it, as well as a bunch of ideas that constituted the beginnings of a plan that I wrote while reading through the story. The good and bad news is that this plan is not only incomplete, but also inconsistent with itself – but that’s totally fine. In fact I would have possibly gone completely insane if I discovered that a perfect solution to the problems I’ve been grappling with for the past 8 months was sitting in my Documents folder and I’d just never bothered to check. Though alternatively I might have been really happy that I had a plan ready to roll.

What I do have is a starting-point. I have a list of ideas that came to me while reading, the ideas I was afraid I’d not recorded as I read through this second time and nothing in the story leapt out at me screaming “I AM A GOOD IDEA EXPAND MY POTENTIAL”, much to my disappointment. The ideas I’ve discovered today – they’ll do. Some of them may do very well in fact. I just need to start making some decisions and stick to them going forward.

“Just” make decisions, eh …

Well it’s been almost three years now. It’s probably about time.

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