greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,

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Me and My Avatars

Yesterday was both an extraordinarily good writing day and a very confounding writing day. I did 1,674 words on "To One Who Has Lost Herself," bringing the current total word count for the story to 5,348. Once or twice I came so near to THE END that I could almost see it, but then the story would reveal some new wrinkle, some new bit of dialogue, and I'd realise that my sighting of THE END was only a mirage. In that way, it was a very frustrating day. Finally, about 5 p.m., too bleary to trust myself with so many nouns and verbs and adjectives, I called it a day, admitting defeat, admitting I'd not be finding the last sentence until today. This story (and, at this point, it isn't a vignette, but an actual short story) will go where it will. I can only follow. When it's ready, it'll make an ending for itself. I just hope it's ready today. As it is, the piece will go to at least 6,000 words. And I suppose I should say, in case I haven't said it already, my, what a different sort of story this is for me. I'm not sure just how to quantify these changes in my writing. A softening of voice, perhaps. An opening up. Not a "lightening up," but the prose is clearly less dense.

Oh, and even though all those hours of writing left me cross-eyed and foggy, I still managed to write a Wikipedia entry for the Argentinian ceratosaurian Genyodectes serus. Go figure.

My thanks to stardustgirl for hearing my poor antique heart's longing for the sound of clacking keys and pointing me towards Typewriter 2.10. Now the iBook has a voice not too dissimilar from the ancient Royal I grew up on (which had been my mother's before me). I loved that typewriter, despite the tangling ribbons and the jamming keys and the keys that sometimes punched straight through the paper. Sadly, the Royal fell prey to some part of my tumultuous twenties. I last saw it about 1987, I think. At any rate, I can now clack clack clack to my heart's content.

And speaking of changing prose, last night I was talking to Spooky about the ways that Daughter of Hounds is different from the novels and short stories that have come before. There is an undeniable difference, but I've been a little at a loss to explain to myself or anyone else the nature of that difference. Last night, I finally hit upon it. It's about avatars, sensu "An embodiment, as of a quality or concept; an archetype," et also sensu "A temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity." And, perhaps, as well, "The distillation of some aspect of myself." In all my novels, up to DoH, certain characters have functioned as my avatars. I'm not sure I was even aware of this on a conscious level until Peter Straub wrote his afterword to Tales of Pain and Wonder and declared Salmagundi Desvernine to be my avatar. And it's true. She was. But only for a particular part of myself, not the whole. Salmagundi was my longing, my nostalgia, my despair at the meaning and civilization which mankind cast aside in its race through the 20th Century.

I've had many other avatars. Deacon Silvey was my avatar, too. He has been that viciously self-destructive part of me which always means well, always intends to do the right thing, and yet which usually succumbs to the weaknesses and shortcomings of my personality. He's the hopeless fuck-up side of me. Spyder Baxter was the incarnation of my unsane mind and my unceasing fear of abandonment. Chance Matthews, she was the part of me which cannot escape a blind adherence to mechanistic rationalism, even when faced with its occassional shortcomings, and the part of me that would have remained a paleontologist even though the world decided to push in some other direction. Chance was also my regret and my mourning. Narcissa Snow was the alien in me, the outsider and inhuman which is neither this nor that nor the other, but which is ever seeking to take a side, which is to say that she is the avatar of my monstrosity. Even Gin Percel, way back there in The Five of Cups, she functioned as an avatar as well. She was my seemingly bottomless anger at and despite for the world around me and the circumstances of my life. Later, Dancy Flammarion became a more refined version of that same avatar. Niki Ky was the most vulnerable and strongest bits of me, and Daria Parker was all my stubbornness and perseverance and passion and the razor sharp corners of my self which will never soften. And, finally, Sadie Jasper has been, three times now, an evolving avatar who first appeared as the younger, headstrong, sulking goth bitch I was during those years in Athens, and then she was the resigned writer, writing for herself and herself alone, and the part of me that knows better than to lie down and die, even when the wolf has me by the throat, and then, finally, in Daughter of Hounds, she became...well, you'll see. I shall not spoil it.

In each case, the avatar has served as my route into and through the book, and they have also made of each book deeply personal artefacts. Now, I look at Daughter of Hounds and see that the only personal avatars I seem to have placed there are Sadie and Deacon, the old standbys, but only in supporting roles. They are never allowed to take center-stage. That space is reserved for Emmie Silvey and for Soldier and for the Daughter of the Four of Pentacles. Even Odd Willie Lothrop and Saben White and Esmeribetheda are more central to the novel than are Deacon and Sadie. And last night as I was talking through this with Spooky, I understood, at last, that DoH is the first time that I've taken a backseat to the story. And that this isn't a Bad Thing. It's merely my inevitable evolution as an artist. Finally, my psyche was strong enough to relax and tell a story, instead of putting myself through another round of public psychoanalysis via my fiction. Deacon and Sadie are there, and just a faint hint of Chance, and they are still my avatars, but they're watching from the wings, unable to directly act upon the course of the play. And this is my epiphany. And I feel somehow freer for having had it. Make of it what you will.

So...with that out the way, I should mention that echidnas and hedgehogs everywhere agree that Thursday, April 6th, 2006, is a stellar day to subscribe to Sirenia Digest. The way things are going, Issue #5 will feature close to or in excess of 10,000 words of new fiction. Do not deny the wisdom of spiny mammals. Subscribe today!
Tags: avatars, clack, selkies, sirenia, writing

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