Yes, I’m still stuck with Through Fire. These things are sent to try us. Actually the book is turning unholy complex and no, don’t worry about it, it’s not complex on the surface.
Lately I’ve been writing these short stories – and I think the same is happening to this book – where there is layer upon layer of build, done so subtly that until the end upends everything you thought you knew about the world and the people, you don’t realize it’s all there.
This is not on purpose. In fact, most of it seems to be coming from the deep subconscious and surprise me. Maybe it’s the direction in which my writing is going, in which case it’s worrisome, because I could starve this way. My normal rate for a short story is two hours but the last one took me three days of work.
Or perhaps it’s just because this – I don’t know what to call it. It’s not a technique because I’m not consciously building it. So what is it? A…frame of mind, would be the easiest way to put it.
Even those of you who are not writers might have gone through this in real life. In real life it’s usually traumatic and severing of all you were to the point people wonder if you had a change of personality.
I’ve observed it in people following the death of the person they live with: parent, child or spouse, all alike; after the birth of a child; after the loss of a child; after falling in love; after moving to another country or even another city; after accomplishing something or failing to accomplish something that they’ve been working for a long time.
If Tedd Roberts comes by, he might be able to explain this better but the way I always understood it is this “In reply to unbearable emotional and cognitive disjointing, the brain rewires itself.” Piaget used a form of this to explain how children become adollescents and adollescents adults. (There’s more than that, in his case, since he’s talking about a brain that’s changing anyway, but the rewiring occurs in response to extreme and unbearable pressures, I remember that.)
Some of these re-wirings take years and you don’t see it on the surface, not unless these are people you are in the habit of having long philosophical discussions with and sometimes not even then. But when they emerge, it’s like you’re talking to a whole new person. (Sometimes worse.)
This is because you’re talking to a whole new person. Their brain is not wired the way it was supposed to be, the way you knew.
This is one of the reasons, btw, that I am against psychological mollycoddling of young people. Yeah, okay, some people had genuinely horrible experiences that happened to THEM personally, not to someone else and they have PTSD (you don’t have PTSD on another’s behalf) and that means that you shouldn’t be cruel to them by bringing up things that will hurt them to no purpose. BUT what we’re seeing is people demanding accommodation for what I’d call “preemptive trauma.” People who demand someone be removed from a con because he MIGHT say something. Or people who demand you give them notice before mentioning small holes or spiders. People who call you a hater because you disagree on them in some fine point, like the person who branded me homophobic and transphobic when I said humans come in two differently wired brain forms (with a lot of variation and cross over, but basically two distinct forms) created by hormone baths in-utero and beyond our volition or our will.
We’ll take that last person as to why people shouldn’t be mollycoddled. Of course I was not implying the non-existence of homosexuals or trans people. In fact, when I was growing up the theory was that they’d got the “wrong” baths in utero. Now it is that certain trigger genes got flipped or not according to factors we don’t quite get, because it seems to be a complex of genes rather than a single one. Epigenetics. Don’t get my older son talking about it, he will talk for hours.
Anyway, what I mean by this, to bring it back to point, is that I think that last person has cognitive dissonance between her chosen narrative “Men and women’s brains are exactly alike” AND her acceptance of gay and transsexual people because after all if the difference is all in the plumbing, what’s the big fuss about? And it could be trained out of it, right? So, my post send her over the edge, and maybe at some point she’ll have an epistemological breakthrough and be a “whole other person” and maybe a better one (though there’s no guarantee of this.)
This is the only way I know of that people grow – unbearable pressure, forcing them to reexamine the way they’ve been doing things.
This ties into writing because writing is supposed to engineer a lot of these cathartic breaks.
I’ve said before it is stupid for a writer to think he or she works in language. The medium we actually work in is emotion.
And it seems to be the way writers grow, too. The inherent pressures between our subconscious trying to express itself through our sane and rational (shuddup you) brain, eventually causes a break: a break with old style, a break with who you were.
You can see this in almost every notable writer.
Early Terry Pratchett is not the same as medium Terry Pratchett and certainly not late Terry Pratchett. It’s all incremental and slow, but there is a break there. With Heinlein it’s more notable. Reading his work in order once I could (once I came to the US) I noticed the glimmers of “real Heinlein” around Double Star. That again evolved into Late Heinlein (and yes, I know ya’ll’s opinions. Don’t want them. Other than some odd linguistic sources I like Late Heinlein. Note I’m not saying I agree with a lot of it – don’t agree with a bunch of details in early, or middle, either – but that’s not required to admire someone or enjoy his/her writing.
There are mini ones of these, what I call the “learning to walk again” or “another step on the ladder” that are attributable to learning craft. You look back, everything you ever wrote seems like crap and you want to write it better now you know better.
The thing is that this feels more like a huge, seismic one. It’s not craft. In fact, it’s like I’m relearning the craft to express the new mind set. It’s more like I’m… in a different frame of mind.
My opinions didn’t change, or my sense of self, just the feeling of what I am and how to express it in writing.
I’ve already been told by Kate that Through Fire is full of deep-laid high-depth bombs. Of course, being Kate, she expressed this as “I hope you can tie it all at the end.”. That doesn’t worry me. I know I can. Or rather, if the short stories are any indication, it will tie itself.
It’s more the feeling that I’m learning the craft to express something that is coming from the deep subconscious and that won’t let me know what it is till I write it.
The d*mn centipede is learning to walk. Again.