Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bad Karma

Status Update: the beans are still plentiful from last week. The coffee is strong and dark, like I like my coffee. Wait, is that how you metaphor? I think that's right, right?

The story is outlined. I have a sufficiently absurd idea. It's about robots. I'm mulling over which voice to use with it, because I could make it absurd, dark, depressing or fairly silly, depending on which mood I'm in when I start writing the thing. This is all assuming I don't drop it and write something with magical crime-fighting ponies instead. It's a distinct possibility.

It's always interesting how the best ideas are sometimes the ones you have to approach sideways, doing your best de Niro impression. "Are you looking at me?" repeated ad nauseum until you get just the right approach. Sometimes you get most of the way through your treatment, look at the result and realize you went down the wrong path. Sometimes you get to the end, not really paying attention to what you did at all and then realize that, overall, you made the right choice and it's not at all one you would've consciously chosen.

I suppose that's what interests me about good musical covers. The best ones are the least faithful ones. For example, Soundgarden's Rusty Cage, done by Johnny Cash. The original, a classic grunge metal song from the early nineties, all flannel and hairspray and sweat and balls. Loud, brash and kicking over trash cans and getting drunk. Johnny Cash flips it on its head, turning it into a whiskey and nails song that smells like eight hundred miles of peregrination and railroad. It's the same song--just flipped--and it still works because it's a great song.

A great idea is like that. It's something you can pull back from, cock your head curiously at and then take it any number of different ways. It sits there in your head and every time you look at it, you see something different. I suspect many artists have one great idea at some seminal point in their career and they spend the rest of their lives chasing it, taking it apart, putting it back together.

Of course, sometimes an idea is just an idea. Most of mine tend to be one-offs, little pieces of what-if. Sometimes I just have some interesting characters I put into a box and shake to see if they'll get into a fight. When I write a story, I'm like an eight-year old with a magnifying glass and my ideas are ants. I'm glad they're fictional because I'd be in real karmic trouble eventually.

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