Many students and writing comrades have told me of their need for silence when they write. I’ve never been one for silence; my ears quickly become distracted by any noise, be it a plane overhead, some neighbor’s car door, the heater. This could just be due to the fact I’ve got a squirrel’s attention span.
Or, it could be due to the fact I’m a parent with kids who are always, ALWAYS noisy: cars crash, transformers explode, trains go off cliffs, animals eat each other–they are all of them dramatic, violent little buggers. If they’re quiet, then that just means they’re using stealth to accomplish something even more devious, like treating the oven dials as spaceship controls.
So quiet’s not exactly a writing option round these parts. I need to isolate my imagination’s internal senses with visuals and sounds.
It begins with snapshots, like slides on a projector. Just pictures at first, distant and untouchable, until more slides come, a photogenic click click click of a paperless book. The cassette player ka-chunks and music sneaks into the space, quiet and wary until it meets the beat of the slides and then maybe, if I time it just right, I can jump into the images like double-dutch and land, smack. I’m there. I’m in. And I can feel it all.
While Book 1 of Fallen Princeborn isn’t due for release until next year, I’m already hip-deep in Book 2. New world-building needs arose involving some minor characters, and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I couldn’t see their world. I’m just sitting in a blank room of silence, the projector shining this white rectangle of nuthin’.
And with the kids on spring break for two long, LONG weeks, the time to focus my search was not coming. I’d dust off one snapshot of just a character’s arm, or some sort of shadow-blob in the background. The next day I just get a bruise-ish color, but no shapes.
It was so infuriating I even vented to Bo about it. I need something that looks alive, I said.
No, not alive, just looking alive.
And in the water. A dark place, but they gotta see where they’re going.
(Oh yes, he’s furrowing his brow through this entire exchange.) “Dark, but…there’s light?”
“And that’s supposed to be here, like, on Earth?”
Hopeless, I thought. I’m stuck forever.
An hour later, after the boys have read about outer space and trucks, and Blondie learned what Roald Dahl’s Mathilda will do to anyone who rips up a library book, Bo emails me a search result of images. Take a look here. Notice where they come from? Comic books.
But in studying the Aquaman archive, I find my own shoulders hunching into a “meh” position. I don’t want to make yet another version of Atlantis.
Then two things happen at once: a happy accident, you could say.
First, I open a different file from Bo:
The blue. The cold darkness balanced with light. The living feel of the dome and rock…at last, a clear slide! In my mind’s projector I can finally sit on the bench, staring, waiting for the cassette player to come on, or another slide to click into place.
Oh, Imagination is shaking the box for the other slides. It’s crawling on hands and knees to search under benches and that sad excuse of a cart with rust on the bottom shelf and a cracked wheel.
Still not found. Not for three. Damn. Days.
On a borrowed computer, I find an album I haven’t listened to in ages:
As a kid, I only paid attention to the film when Captain Picard and all the good guys with the weird blue eyes rode on giant worms and blasted baddies into smithereens. The music was super dramatic with its drums, choir, guitar, orchestra. The first minute here should give you a sense of that (Ignore the second minute with the creepy kid):
Way, way back, in the corner of the storage room, Imagination digs up an old cassette tape. Something eerie. Distinctly awed. Cautious.
It was from Dune.
I start skimming the tracks, and by God, I find it.
Imagination turns up the volume. The slide deepens. I step forward, as cautious as the choir. The rhythm is slow, deceptive. Imagination nudges me into the minor harmonies and invisible currents. Will I tangle them, ruin their power? Will I fall, bloody the ground?
But it’s a risk worth taking, every time.