Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Worth of a Word

I'm a writer. My medium is words. But I've had other artistic interests, namely photography. To excel at either takes so much practice I had to pick one, and writing won. But in this, my hundredth blog post, I'm going back to photography.

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

I now give you a three thousand word story about myself:

Get it? Probably not. Don't even try. Because when it really comes down to it, there's a reason books are full of words.

Words can convey more information, emotion, sensation, and meaning simultaneously than any other single medium. A picture might be worth a thousand words of visual description, but it has no other senses. Looking at those photos, you might feel the breeze at your back on a mountain top, but will you hear the eagles just out of the frame? You won't smell the liquid pouring from the bottle and know what it is. You won't feel what I felt or have any idea what would make an environmentally-minded neat-freak throw a glass bottle to shatter on the rocks below.

They're evocative, even interesting. But the story's not there in the pictures. Without the words, they're only images.

And—sometimes—a word is worth a thousand pictures.

(And if you're interested, the photos were shot with a completely mechanical Fujica SLR on real black and white film. Yes, I'm sort of bragging. I didn't develop it myself, though. And I tried scanning the prints, but wasn't happy with the image quality until I scanned the negatives. And lo and behold, there was a lot of detail in the negatives that hadn't made it to the print, especially on the second one.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ten Years

Sunday marked our tenth wedding anniversary. What can I say about that? My siblings and their spouses were all impressed that we'd been married for so long. Only my oldest sister has been married longer. (I'm the third of seven children.) My younger brother got married earlier in the year. He and his wife are about ten years younger than us.

They're so young.

What does that make me?

Wise, I'm sure. It's funny, but Ammii and I went to the same high school and never met. I was a senior when she was a sophomore. I was in band, and spent a lot of time hanging around the band room. She was in orchestra and spent a lot of time right next door in the orchestra room. I think I remember seeing her in the halls or at her locker, but I never knew her name, never said a word that I recall.

For her part, Ammii remembers being annoyed by a group of saxophonists practicing Sabre Dance in the hall before school. Like we thought we were so cool. I was part of that group. She swore she'd never marry a saxophonist.

What if someone had taken me by the shoulders and pointed me in her direction? What if they'd said, "There's the girl you're going to fall in love with and marry"? (And how does one punctuate a sentence like that?) Would I have been impressed?

Four years later when we really met, I was very impressed. I remember walking into her parents' house, shaking her hand. She was my sister's friend by then. They were going caroling to a nursing home in early December and invited me to come. Ammii had a crush on another guy in the group and did her best to stay near him.

And I stayed near her. I loved her laugh. The way her wrists moved as she played the guitar. The curve of her voice, the line of her jaw, the nervous confidence. I don't know if I ever registered that she was nervous because she was trying to impress that other guy. All I know is that I never felt more at ease around anyone. It's hard for me to be myself around strangers, but Ann Marie didn't feel like a stranger.

That other guy—the one she liked—never worried me in the slightest. That was the most amazing effect she had on me. Normally, if there was any hint at all that a girl liked someone else, I wouldn't bother trying. Normally, I was terrified and tongue-tied. But she brought out the best in me and then she fell in love with it. She never had a chance. Nor did I.

Ten years is a good start.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I call it "The Unlimiter"

I'm still alive and have returned from an epic two-week road trip with my family. I have also replaced the starter in my other car, but I only mention that because I'm so proud I actually did it.

So, I'm starting work on a new novel. Except that it's not really new. I've gone back to the original concept for my second novel (called at various times Charism, The Qualia of Magic, The Sense, and In Memory) and am working on constructing a new story around the same characters and premise. This stirs up a lot of mixed feelings for me.

Mostly, what makes me think I can pull something better from my original idea?

I know what to ask. I know whose story it is. I got the other story I wanted to tell out of my system in a different novel, Drivers.

And now everyone has clear and compelling motivations. Let's see if I can sum them up:

Brian makes superheroes. Occasionally a supervillain. He removes the natural limits from the talents that people already have.

For example, Esha was born with a gift for empathy. With Brian's unique sort of help, she can now read and control other people's emotions. She can make you feel whatever she wants you to feel. This really helps in her summer job as a fundraiser for a local non-profit.

But Esha doesn't believe Brian has anything to do with her success. To prove it to her, he removes the limits from another fundraiser, Peter, who has a gift for speaking.

Then Brian meets Leah, a girl he knew in middle school but hasn't seen for years. He unknowingly removed the limits from her memory, and now she blames him for ruining her life. But Esha's new ability to manipulate emotions also allows her to undo what Brian did, reigning in Leah's memory to something more manageable.

In other words, she can unmake Brian's superheroes.

And that's a good thing, because Peter's abusing his new power. When his fundraising tactics turn dirty, he frames Esha and discredits the whole organization. Then he sets his sights on local government.

No one can win an argument against Peter—except Esha. And she's not about to let him get away with what he did to her.

Leah recognizes what's happening to Peter and Esha. They're losing control of their talents and their mental health. The best thing for everyone is for Esha to undo Peter's unlimiting and then try to undo her own.

The problem is that Peter's too dangerous for Esha to go near him. He knows she's the only thing standing between him and eventual world domination, and he'd just as soon see her dead.

Brian can only watch as Peter gets scarier and Esha changes into someone else.

The solution seems clear. Brian must accept responsibility and eliminate Peter—even if that means spending life in prison and eternity in hell.

The only other way is too risky. Leah would have to risk insanity and Esha would have to risk dying. What would Brian risk? Living with himself if it all went wrong, knowing he'd be more at fault than ever as Peter took over the world, Esha was buried, and Leah got locked away.

For Brian, that's far worse than death or prison, and probably worse than hell.

So that's the story. If you happen to know of a song that sort of fits with this plot, please tell me what it is! I'm having a hard time making a playlist.