Time Management

What do you do when you have an idea for a story that you’re pretty sure right from the start is irredeemably bad?

I woke up this morning with such an idea.  I often wake up with ideas that I jot down – opening lines that go nowhere, titles that have no story attached, weird plots that make absolutely no sense five minutes later.  This isn’t always a bad thing.  And The came out of a non-sensical dream plot.  But sometimes I think it can be bad, and today I struggled with wasting my time on a story that I don’t think has any positive social or literary value.

The title is The Angel in the Walls, and the story is about a stereotypical, poorly-educated hick-child who hears voices.  He lives in an old church that (unbeknownst to him) has structural elements that pick up radio signals (a tired old trope if ever there was one).  He thinks ‘Angels’ are talking to him, telling him what God wants him to do and think, when really it’s neo-conservative pundits on the radio, a’la Glen Beck or Sarah Palin.  After seeking guidance from his elders, who either shut him down as an imaginitive child or tell him that obedience to God is absolute (apparently, nobody in my story has heard of schizophrenia, or the tired trope of metal structures and dentistry picking up radio signals), the kid takes daddy’s gun and, per Angelic instruction, goes off to shoot a local big-wig. 

So.  Like I said.  Irredeemable.  I’m embarrassed even writing that last paragraph.  It’s dismissive of the nuances of human experience and perspective (crazy, backhills hicks!  Crazy neo-cons!  Crazy everyone-who-doesn’t-think-like-me!).  It hits several tired tropes and does nothing new or interesting with them (I kilt him cuz the dawg tol’ me to!), and it exploits a recent, real-world tragedy without (again) offering any kind of enrichment, enlightenment, or new perspective.

What do you do when the Angels in the Walls talk to you and tell you to write a story like this?  You wake up and think it through, and realize that not everything that comes out of your dreaming brain is gold or can be turned into gold.  You bring out the guy with the broom and the white coveralls, and you tell him to sweep that junk down into the pit for the big purple Dune Worms to eat up and make into creativity compost  (that’s a whole other post, my purple-Dune-worm fear compost post).

Good.  I no longer feel conflicted about whether I should waste time pursuing that idea. Thank you, internets.

14 thoughts on “Time Management”

  1. deliverence

    I highly recommend, should you ever get what the kids refer to as free time, that you read or watch Deliverence. I’ve seen the commercial you speak of and while I recognize that it is playing on cultural cues based around masculine fear of anal rape, it also conjurs up a lot of other images for those familiar with the story. Not good images, mind you, but a broader spectrum than just fear of violation.

    That said, I recall when I used to live out in the wilds of Ohio and my feud with my Evil Brother-in-law was developing, that I could play the opening of dueling banjos on my old guitar and almost bring him to tears if my timing was right. Fond memories πŸ™‚

    Also, I think some of the fear of liminal spaces and transformation comes from not just the fear of transformation itself, but the fear of unknown transformation. When entering a liminal space, there is usually a set transformation that is expected to occur. You come out married at the wedding, you come out baptized at the baptisim, ect… And then there are the unexpected results which still rest in the back of the mind as possible like getting left at the altar or having something go wrong at the baptisim. However, I think the true nugget of terror there, may come from the possibility of the completely unexpected. The bride dies during the ceremony or the couple forms an alchemical hermaphroditic union at the ceremony. Even by describing the possible “out there” outcomes I’m sort of missing my own point. I think it’s that fear of the truly unknown result. That sort of lovecraftian dread of the things popping out from odd angles.

    At least that was the thought I had when we were first discussing this that night. I could just be off my rocker.

  2. I liked your line of thought


    While I am not sure how about the VOLVO SUV / Sublime connection, and did completely understand the Saturn/abject connection.
    Also found this funny and interesting to read.

  3. I am bringing a summery vegetarian side dish and my dancin’ self*.

    *though due to the reality of my dancin’ self getting paid to lead a dance class tonight, I will likely have to vacate the party for an hour or so in the middle…

  4. Ok, that’s it!! I am officially declaring that I shall beg you in the future to join forces with this mad patriot and do a 2-parter 4th of July thing. Tha last day we are Brit citizens! Oh my gosh do you realize how much in common you have with my Hubby?!?! He always says “God save the king” when we read the Declaration of Independence!!! hee hee hee he eheee!

    I shall be there – later due to dance class. And I shall bring the sanity (?) of a free people with a constitutional republic.

    And yes, now you know where BEE gets it.

    Much love!!

    Oh and I can bring my camera and we can show the Court of Winter dance if you like and I can figure out how to plug said camera into your TV.

  5. Well, foo.

    I just got caught up on el-jay and thus missed all this stuff.
    But! I hope the party was a good time!!

    By the by…

    ‘friended ya!

  6. Fantastic

    Such a pessimistic, dark and gothic style and atmosphere, such great dialogue, such an awesome idea, and the graveyard scene was pure genius.
    I’d give my left testicle to be able to write like this. Give me your blessing, oh Father of Gothic Fanfiction, so that I may do justice to my idea for a fanfic.
    This IS the famous Crow feel, which all fans know and love.
    Harry’s back, undead and madder than ever. Woe betide evil.

  7. I think sometimes ideas like that are worth development, just like sometimes it’s worth walking down a road that you think is a dead end, because sometimes, there’s an open garden path at the end, and you find your way through, and if not, then you know it’s a dead end and why.

    1. I agree that this is sometimes true. I think for me the issue is that I have a panic impulse that kicks in whenever I have a creative urge and _don’t_ take the time to evaluate whether it’s worthwhile to pursue at the moment. If you remember the scene from The Crow, where Eric Draven is injecting Fun-Boy with the heroin, and Fun-Boy cries out “You’re wasting it! You’re wasting it!”… that is _literally_ the image and voice that goes through my head at those times.

      It’s possible that eventually I will run into another thought or text or realization that can be combined with this one and jiggled through my teleidoplex to create something awesome and transcendent, but as the idea stands right now, it only hits one note, and poorly at that. But at least I got it down, so I can come back to it if inspiration _does_ strike. Or maybe someone else will see the idea and it will spark something for them.

      Heh. After all, ideas are cheap.

  8. When I come up with ideas that I rapidly realize are (or feel) trite, I try to examine how I can change them up. What if the voices tell him to do good? What if the voices are *real*, even though the walls do conduct radio waves too? What if the main character is a wealthy, well-educated privileged person? Etc.

    Sometimes (often!) the story ideas still aren’t worth pursuing. But sometimes I break out of lazy grooves.

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