STORMSDREAM JOURNAL
7 November, 2015
Block of Wood Editing

Okay, I've finished the first draft of Tourist Hunter, and it is a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would be. Seriously, when I first started, I figured I would be lucky to get fifty thousand words out of this turkey. Maybe, just maybe, it would be as long as Pyrrhic Kingdom, and that was if I was trying really hard. So, I don't know where the hundred thousand and change came from. I even spent the last couple of chapters asking myself why it wasn't over yet. Tourist Hunter had no business being so long even if it was just the first draft.

It's a comedy. Okay, I don't know if I can really go so far as to call it a comedy. I was going more for entertainingly amusing kind-of like String Finger Theatre since I cannot tell a joke to save me life. Seriously, I should not be allowed to deliberately be funny. I can only manage to amuse people by accident, which is why String Finger Theatre aimed for mildly amusing rather than make people laugh with a joke comedy. But, I digress.

Tourist Hunter is supposed to be humorously entertaining, and that's the kind-of thing that should be done in moderation, which means one-hundred thousand words is way over the top. This worries me far more than it should, but screw it. What am I going to do, right?

Which actually brings us around to the next stage in the evolution of a novel, the editing, and the thing about editing is you have to be prepared to be utterly ruthless. Those precious little babies of yours have to die. In fact, you never should have put your little darlings in there in the first place. Do not get hung up on words. Do not become enamored of your own language, turn of phrase, character, place or concept. It's all fodder for the chopping block, and it all needs to go.

I recently describe the first draft elsewhere as the block of wood that will be whittled down into the actual object by the editing process. By the time editing is done, there should be a rather impressive pile of wood shavings next to the intricately carved and shaped artwork. I rather like this analogy. Hopefully, it doesn't rank too high on the precious little darling scale and is actually useful.

The hardest part of the editing process is probably being able to look at that block of wood first draft objectively, and I can assure you that it is bloody hard. The best way I know to gain that ounce of objectivity is to take a break from the work, get some distance, and otherwise get some perspective. Basically, don't look at it for three to six months. Don't think about it. Try to forget that it exists.

Now, the chance of gaining six-month perspective is not good, and I really rather doubt I would be able to go that long. I'm aiming for three months. I've even set a countdown reminder. Three months is somewhere in January. I forget. Something like that. So, that's the minimum amount of time I need to more-or-less pretend that Tourist Hunter doesn't exist. We'll just see how well that goes.

So, thoughts on the first draft. Yeah, I don't know. I mean the original plan was for a comedy along the lines of String Finger Theatre, which could get really rather crazy, and Tourist Hunter just never managed that level of crazy. I just could never bring myself to go for those insane heights. Nobody gets tossed over a door. There are no hedgehogs sleeping in boxes, and nobody gets out of jams by telling the Beast that Forgot Time the time or giving Rumplestiltskin a box full of thousands of little boxes that will go flying every which-way when that box is eventually opened.

So, yeah, I don't know why not. I mean, String Finger Theatre really is the best distillation of my sense of humor. No clear idea why I couldn't bring myself to just go for it, which doesn't mean I don't have a theory. Now, I know this is going to sound stupid, but I think it has to do with the fact that Tourist Hunter is just text. There are no pictures. There's no visual reference. Everything is in the reader's head, and I just got hung up on that. The reader has to picture it, and the heights of crazy just require more from the reader. Everything just seems that much more improbable when you have to read it as opposed to when you are looking at it.

So, yeah, I don't know. Tourist Hunter exists in a more concrete reality simply by virtue of the fact that it exists purely in words. It's hard enough on the reader having to imagine this vaguely futuristic world, and there is an awful lot that the reader has to take on faith. Sure, the world looks a lot like the outside world, and there's a lot that kind-of sort-of sounds like extensions of things we've got know. But, it's a lot to take in. So, the more absurd the humor the harder it is for the reader to accept.

I don't know. That's my theory, and I'm sticking with it.

I'm not saying that a wholly written story couldn't be absolutely bat-shit insane. I'm just saying I couldn't bring myself to go there with this particular story. Sure, silly stuff happens. Absurd situations occur, but they're not the point. Tourist Hunter is about the characters and how they deal with the world around them. It's not about the jokes.

Also, Tourist Hunter is built around a rather dark and gritty core, and the less said about that the better.

23 November, 2015
The Fall & Redemption of Anakin Skywalker

So, yeah, the Tourist Hunter moratorium goes slowly with something resembling two months plus where I have to continue to pretend it doesn't exist, and as shouldn't be too hard to guess, this has left me at something of a loss as to what to do with myself. The plan to fill the interim was to dive headfirst back into music, and it was only after I took that leap into the musical deep end that I realized that the swimming pool was still filling with water. Just goes to show how much mental energy had gone into the writing of words. You reach the end, think okay, relax time, and the mind just goes cool, break time, done. And, you discover just how exhausted you were. Even just trying to think about music, sit at the piano, anything, is more taxing than you can possibly imagine.

It doesn't help that the writing of words and the composing of notes are surprisingly different disciplines in my head. Yeah, go figure, not like I planned it that way. They're like different tracks in my brain, and it is proving to be more than a little difficult to switch from one to the other. Probably doesn't help that I know in just a few short months I'll have to jump tracks back to the wholly word-based side to get some light editing via flamethrower done. In the meantime, everything just sounds like fifty shades of utter crap, and the first week involved the achievement of maybe half a measure over the course of an hour or two swirling around the conviction that I am a hack and a failure.

So, yeah, good times. Slow. Things have improved a bit. I've actually managed a good half-dozen measures at a stretch before the perverse forces of internal disapproval force me to stop. I'm also not trying very hard to produce anything good. It's a transitional phase, and I just need to get the mental gears to line up in the right order kind-of like a ten-speed chain clattering and falling off. I've got to slip that chain back on, pedal a few steps, watch the chain grind back off, and repeat. Yes, I'm aware I'm not trying very hard to make that analogy overly coherent.

Which just leaves me wondering what to do between jags at the piano, staring at music, and wondering why the hell everything sounds like I'm trying to strangle petulant songbirds with piano-wire. No, really, get a good half-dozen measures done. Stop. Forget those notes. Work on another half-dozen measures that have absolutely nothing to do with the first bunch. Stop. Okay, exhausted, but at least today was better than the day before. And, I have high hopes—delusions really—that in just a few short weeks I'll be producing something resembling music, again. Building up to vignettes and shit. Vignettes are cool. I love those things. Musical ephemera. Like gossamer silk or spun sugar. Touch it, and watch it disappear between your fingers.

Okay, I think I drifted off into the sunset a bit there. Just goes to show the level of exhaustion I've been talking about. The day-job's been depressing the past couple of weeks, more so than usual, but that's hardly worth mentioning. But, in the meantime, what to do with myself, right?

Thought something random to prattle on about in this here space might do the trick. I'll make only one reference to stasis being death for a website and all of that. Okay, done. Moving on.

I know I've mentioned the Evil Yoda theory once or twice, and I've realized that my previous references to Evil Yoda are not as coherent as I may have thought they were. I mean the idea is still fairly clear in my head, but I've simply not bothered to make it clear anywhere else. And, I'm not about to do so here.

We've been re-watching the Star Wars with the Rifftrax, of course, starting with episode one, and it reminded me I had completely missed the point of Revenge of the Sith. No, really, I saw that movie and thought that at least Anakin Skywalker had an interesting reason to turn to the dark side. Basically, it was because everyone had always told him he would go bad if he ever did anything wrong. No, really hear me out, and I know this has nothing to do with the actual movie.

I mean at some point after seeing the movie I read or heard an interview with George Lucas in which he said it was all about Anakin's emotional attachment to Padme and how he turned in hopes of keeping her safe or bringing her back to life or whatever. I saw the movie again at some point after that and realized the movie really was that simplistic. I had missed it. I had made up an entirely different reason in my head that simply had not been there, and my impression of what happened was so strong that it had completely over-ridden what I had actually seen.

So, yeah, here's the thing. Everyone had been telling Anakin since he was nine years old or whatever that he had to make sure he didn't turn to the dark side. Once you turned to the dark side, that was it. You were irredeemably bad, and it would become every single solitary Jedi's purpose in life to hunt you down and kill you on sight. They didn't even try to talk to horn-head dude in Phantom Menace. It was all, oh, look, dark side guy, let's kill him. And, I know that horn dude had pulled glow stick on Liam Neeson first, but what was to stop them from trying to talk to him later. Hey, dude, whoa, sorry about the misunderstanding on desert world. What was up with that anyway? Let's talk. No? Well, fuck you then. See, they didn't do that. Oh, look, Sith dude. Fuck him.

I blame Evil Yoda for this, but I said I wasn't going to focus on that part today.

So, yeah, Anakin had been told since the age of about nine that he had to watch out for the dark side. He couldn't do this. He couldn't do that. Constant vigilance was the word. One slip-up and you were worse than Hitler.

So, we're getting on. The war is dragging. It's affected everybody. People are doing things and making sacrifices that they're maybe not entirely proud of. You know, war and shit. So, Anakin's grown a bit jaded and disillusioned. He's got a girl on the side he's got to keep secret from everybody, which really just sucks. So, yeah, he's doubting things. He's starting to wonder just how perfect and wonderful are the Jedi. I mean, they're doing things. It's war, after all.

So, now, they're starting to talk about how maybe they don't need a Chancellor after all. Maybe the Jedi should control the senate until things get better or whatever, and Anakin is really starting to wonder about this. He wants law and order. He wants everything to make sense. After all, everyone's been telling him since he was nine just how wonderful the Jedi are, and yeah, that hasn't been working out.

So, they go to the Chancellor's office to arrest him or whatever, and Anakin doesn't understand why he can't be there. And just totally as an aside, leads to the one bit in the entire freaking movie where people actually fight with lightsabers. Seriously, Palpatine just cleaned up because he actually used his lightsaber like something that was super sharp and would basically kill you just by touching you. The Jedi were just waiving their glow sticks around like they always do, and I mean I'm sure they were convinced they were bound to hit something or other if they just kept flailing around. Palpatine, on the other hand, would just stand back, lunge, and the guy he's just skewered like a pig is dead. At least, Sam Jackson was smart enough to realize he had an actual lightsaber fight on his hands and started acting like it. That whole bit where the two of them were just very carefully facing each other with very few moves into each other's vicinity was awesome.

Additional aside, there are only two encounters in the whole freaking entire six-movie series were people fight like they're holding lightsabers. There's the scene I just mentioned in Revenge of the Sith, and there's the scene in the original Star Wars. I've never understood people being down on that scene. Oh, it's so boring. Oh, it's two old men. Bullshit! It's two people fighting with weapons where one touch means you're out of the fight and probably dead. I love the scene where Luke first notices them. Just look at how they're standing. Just watch what they do. The distance. The calculation. The flashes of motion as one tries to gain that slight momentary advantage, which means the other person is missing limbs or dead.

But, I digress.

Anakin tries to stop Sam Jackson from betraying his core principles and making a horrible mistake. Anakin is right. The bad guy needs to be brought to justice, and Sam Jackson is so hot he can't think straight. Jackson just wants to put the bad guy down. So, poor Anakin tries to stop him, and things get fucked up very fast.

Now, remember. Anakin's been told since the time he was nine years old that the dark side would forever dominate his destiny should he ever do something bad, and he's just done something rather bad. Palpatine then proceeds to take advantage of this moment. Hey, Yoda's been telling you that doing something bad meant you were bad, right? Congratulations, you're bad now.

So, yeah, that's it. Anakin becomes Darth Vadar because one mistake means every Jedi will now kill you on sight. Do something bad and you're now irredeemably bad. Everyone and everything in Anakin's whole life lead him to believe this.

By the way, this is how Luke saves him. Now, remember, Anakin believes that one bad action has made him irredeemably bad. Luke says something like I feel the good in you, and this blows Anakin's fucking mind. This had never occurred to him. Nobody had ever given any indication that it was possible to recover from a bad act. There's no penance. There's no remorse. There's no possibility of forgiveness. Bad is bad except his own son tells him that maybe everything isn't so absolutely horse-facedly horrible as he had always been lead to believe.

The simple fact that someone has introduced the concept of recovery from a bad act leads directly to Anakin saving his son from Palpatine. Yoda was wrong.

Yoda was the actual villain of the serious, but that's a rant for another day.

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