Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rainbows and Glitter and Sehnsucht, Oh My!

Well, if my lament back in February about losing inspiration was a sort of inadvertent prayer, then somebody up there must not only like me, but also have quite a sense of humor. For it was literally the very next day that I received the initial spark of inspiration that led to the conception of "Rainbow", and while in the midst of excited pre-production for that novel, I suddenly and unexpectedly received another flash of inspiration, this one for the story erstwhile referred to as "V", which I then poured out in a month's time as the novella Angels Are Lonely on the Earth. And to top it all off, since finishing that work on Thursday, my inspiration for "Rainbow", which I hardly thought about during that entire month while busily writing another story, has returned with a vengeance. Like the old saying has it, when it rains, it pours!

One of the most humorous aspects of all this, to me, is that the initial spark that set off "Rainbow" was a line from the movie Hello, Dolly!, of all things (who would have thought?). I'll tell more about that at a later date.

This interruption and dislocation of one inspiration by another, only to have the first inspiration fully return once the interloper has passed, may seem a bit odd, but in hindsight it kind of makes sense. The story that became Angels had been developing since September, and in a way I think it was something that I needed to get out of my system first. I think I had to process a lot of dark stuff via the therapy of writing Angels, and I believe it was truly cathartic because since completing it I have been feeling pretty good about life.

Now that that storm has passed, however, the freshly washed air and rays of sunshine are giving more impetus than ever to the formation of "Rainbow" (apropos, eh?). It's really strange to me how that inspiration has not only so quickly and easily returned as though nothing ever happened, but feels stronger than ever, as if it has been newly energized.

I've already alluded to this before, but I find it interesting to compare and contrast the inspiration of "Rainbow" with that of Bluebird. My current inspiration is similar in that it feels very powerful, like a great storm is gathering and will soon be let loose, and in that it feels like something grand and wondrous and strange is haunting me and insisting that I give it concrete form and shape.

What is different is that the passion that fueled Bluebird was painful and tragic, though beautifully so (and was still every bit a real passion, with all the excitement that word suggests), while the new passion I am feeling is bright and expansive. In 2012, I felt more like Thomas Fairchild, the tragic (anti)hero and suffering poet, so I wrote The Bluebird of Happiness; in 2013, I feel more like Martin Lane, the outwardly plain but inwardly colorful artist who begins to see a clearer picture of his own identity and to express it more fully, so I am planning to write "Rainbow" (again, that is only a working title, as I have not yet decided on the novel's actual title).

In short, whereas Bluebird was a tragedy, "Rainbow" is more of a comedy. I don't mean that it is a humorous tale (though there will undoubtedly be much humor in it, as there was in Bluebird), but in the sense that opposes tragedy, i.e., a story with a happy ending. However, just as my tragedies are tempered by glimmers of hope and affirmation of life, this comedy will be tempered by sadness and longing. I tend to like my stories more gray than black and white.

And I think "Rainbow" will be very gray indeed because I do not intend to explain everything about who and what Martin Lane is. At the beginning, he will appear mysterious and difficult to know, but at the end, even after much has been revealed about him and his life, and mostly from his own first-person point of view, I think he will seem even more mysterious. This is because what is revealed about him will only add to the mystery and ambiguity and multidimensional, seemingly paradoxical complexity of Martin Lane. I hope that the end of the tale will leave readers regarding him with a sense of wonder ("who is this Martin Lane anyway?").

In some sense I feel that I fall in love with my major characters. I tend to use that phrase somewhat differently than most people use it. In common usage, to be "in love" with someone implies sexual attraction and at least the prospect of sexual relationship. I tend to use it in a more purely emotional and spiritual sense, something more along the lines of feeling tremendous passion and excitement inspired by a particular person, combined with a deep fascination with that person and a strong desire to know them. Some psychologists have theorized that such feelings have no necessary connection to sexuality or sexual orientation, a theory with which I tend to agree. This kind of passion is very much at the heart of both Bluebird and "Rainbow", both being stories that deal in large part with exploring the various ways in which people can feel emotionally passionate or even platonically romantic love toward each other apart from sexual expression, and how that passion can inspire artistic creativity.

So, in light of that, my current passion I can describe at least in part as feeling that I am "in love" with an imaginary young man named Martin Lane. Perhaps fiction authors are crazy in some sense because we imagine these vast and complex imaginary worlds and the wonderfully complex imaginary people that inhabit them and their often bizarrely complex imaginary lives, and we come to feel real feelings toward these imaginary people (it's sort of a truism that fiction writers often feel like their characters are their children). But we hope that our readers, too, are just crazy enough to believe these wild and vivid fantasies that we tell them, at least for a time, and to fall in love with our characters just as we have.

But more to the point, by falling in love with a person, imaginary or otherwise, we fall in love with life, and with the world. When my daughter was born I felt that I was in love. The world seemed rose-colored. There is much symbolism in my stories, some more obvious and some more subtle, and it is no coincidence that Martin Lane wears rose-colored glasses. As he says of himself in Bluebird, "I'm like crazily in love, with everyone and everything."

I have caught something of Martin's all-encompassing passion, and I hope that my readers will find it equally contagious. Because ultimately it's not really about Martin so much as he is about, and points us toward, the beauty and grandeur of life and of the world we live in; and even more it is about Martin pointing us, as many fictional characters do, toward the mirror, and seeing the beauty and nobility of ourselves.

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