EmptyInside (thelastbandito) wrote,
EmptyInside
thelastbandito

Painting with Words

Lately I've been doing a lot more work and critical thinking on creative writing processes. The main impetus behind this is the new creative writing position I have at my job now, coming up with web-comic ideas and scripts for a new website for them. But, writing, or more generally story telling, is something that I've always been somewhat interested in for a long time. I've always sort of enjoyed the thought of creating some sort of image or idea in someone's head, by just telling them words. It's never really been a direct and obvious driving force of my life, but has had a more subtle kind of undertow like invisible but irresistible pull on me.

For instance, when I was in the 7th grade, my english class was given an assignment to write a short story, about anything that we wanted, as long as it was 3 pages long. Most of my classmates chose to write generally one of three things: Autobiographical stories about experiences that had happened to them, pure fictional/fantasy stories about unicorns and princes saving princesses, or movie fiction that parodied/imitated the plots from recently released movies.

I, being the weird kid that I was, chose to write about a suicidal mosquito. The story was three pages describing this mosquito who was depressed that his entire purpose in life was to suck blood from humans and other animals, and had decided that the only reasonable option for a parasite such as himself, was to kill himself rather than continue to feed off the rest of the world. The catch was that over the course of attempting to die multiple times, he was thwarted by humanities increasingly sophisticated technology. He tried to get into a pesticide factory, but only ended up getting enough fumes to make him sick before the ventilation system removed him from the danger zone. He tried to get hit by a car on the freeway, but cars had become more and more streamlined and aerodynamic that he just got whisked out of the way instead of splattered on a windshield. There was also a part having to do with a faulty bug zapper, but I cannot remember the specific details on it, suffice to say he met with failure there as well though.

Eventually, he got so fed up with humanities technology thwarting his efforts to off himself that he rationalized his parasitical nature. He told himself that he had tried and failed to do the right thing, and that obviously humanity wanted its blood to be sucked because they just wouldn't let him die. I ended up being the only kid in the class who was selected to read his story in front of the class, and answer questions about it. I'm not sure if the teacher thought this would be a good idea because I had a creative story, and wanted to see if I could help spread that creative thought to the other students, but to me it just seemed a good method to cement my position as the weird kid in class. I mean who writes about suicidal mosquitoes in 7th grade English?

The next real attempt I made at a short story was in the 10th grade. Entirely unprompted by anything other than I suddenly had access to a computer at the time, and the word processing program allowed me to actually write stuff quickly and efficiently. I'd tried using a typewriter multiple times in the past, but the thing was just clunky, and I'd often get distracted by trying to make the thing jam by pressing twenty keys at a time or something. In any case, now that I couldn't just mash my hands onto the keyboard and amuse myself for minutes at a time pulling apart the knotted machinery that resulted, I actually got to write something.

The story that resulted was pretty basic, and I think it was also a formulaic plot derived from something I'd seen or been influenced by earlier in my life, I believe it might have been an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the crew gets caught in a time loop. At the time I was writing however, I wasn't really looking for originality. I just wanted to be writing something.

The story followed a medieval adventurer who had obtained the location of a fabulous treasure guarded by multiple traps and monsters in a dungeon. The setting was pretty heavily influenced by my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons and other roleplaying games at the time. The twist was that the adventurer had traveled to seek the help of a powerful wizard to obtain this treasure. The wizard was a kooky wizard-like sort who wasn't so much interested in the value of the treasure but something more arcane and mysterious. He agreed to help so long as the adventurer 'got it perfect.' And the adventurer being the dumb rough handed person who thought little and acted much, agreed readily, and off they went.

We followed them through narrow corridors, perilous chasms, exciting fights, and some not so puzzling puzzles, and eventually they succeeded through his brawn and the wizards intellect. Packing away the treasure the adventurer almost succeeds in taking it all except for the curious notation that a single piece of gold is left behind through some small bit of odd chance. In the end, the loaded adventurer and crafty wizard escape the dungeon with their massive load of spoils, only to have the wizard turn to the adventurer and tell him that the game was incredibly interesting this time around, and that the adventurer always surprised him each time with some new trick, but alas, he had not yet succeeded in getting it 'just perfect', because once more that single gold piece had eluded his grasp, and we were then left with the conclusion of the story being a simple repetition of the opening line. Leaving the audience to grasp that the wizard has some ability to reverse time for the adventurer, causing him to repeat the same course of events over and over, until in the wizards view, he gets it perfect. It wasn't a particularly hidden plot twist, I mean I flat out named the short story, and the wizard Repete (french for repeat or repeated).

In any case, neither of those stories ever really made any significant headway towards anything other than small musings that I'd had at the time. Anomalous manifestations of my subconscious desire to tell a story, because I've always had so many stories to tell. The only thing that's ever really prevented me from doing so, is the fact that I have to write them down. I've always fantasized about just having the ability to imprint the images in my mind onto a piece of paper so I could just give it to someone to explain what I'm thinking. Which reminds me of another story that I wrote when I was in the 11th or 12th grade.

It was something of a science fiction story, but not exceptional science fiction, there was only a small portion of technology that was different from the present, and it wasn't really that far fetched of a technological advance. Essentially, a neuro-scientist had cobbled together a machine that allowed for people to paint with their brainwaves at some point in the stories past, and it was now a common place thing. In fact it was so common that there were now university courses that taught classes based solely on artwork that had been created with these machines.

The story began with a pretty basic direct description of the technology and how it worked, couched as a university professor explaining the process to a batch of new students. To cover the description, essentially the user would slap electrodes onto their noggin, and begin to focus specifically on a single thought or idea. Ultimately, the best 'paintings' of this type could only be done by people of masterful focus, because if the user lost their focus in the middle of their thought (something that would happen exceedingly often if you can imagine), the painting algorithm would suddenly change the palette or composition with the new and distinct thought.

For instance, if you can imagine that the artist is sitting in a semi-isolated darkened room, and focused solely on the thought of rainfall, and the program is painting this swirling sweeping landscape of blue and grey, and all of the sudden their stomach rumbles and they're like 'oh, I'm hungry' and the rainfall scape is suddenly marred by a violent hash of reds and oranges as they have a flitting thought of a delicious spicy burrito or something to eat. So it goes, that to create any real significant masterpieces of size and note, the artist of this medium has to be an exceptionally focused and single-minded individual, able to block out any extraneous thoughts and focus for long periods of time. In the framework of the story, the most talented users of the technology can only barely focus beyond an hour or so, and the largest paintings of this size (measured in file size) are only a few megabytes (granted, I wrote this years ago, when megabytes were a meaningfully big measurement of storage, and even a single gigabyte was a massive almost incomprehensible amount of storage).

After the first few paragraphs explaining the technology, the story switched focus to the real main character, who was a friend of this professor, and an artist of the aforementioned technology. A starving one at that, as he had no equipment of his own, and actually borrowed time on the University's computers when he could get it. It is established that the artist is not an exceptional artist, but definitely has some talent and is pretty often used by the professor to provide multiple text-book examples and class discussion pieces for the students. Something which the artist takes with a fair bit of umbrage, but a slight bit of appreciation.

Additionally, after having established the main technological framework, the story advances towards its actual plot, which is soon revealed that the artist has come into the professor's classroom during one of his lectures one rainy late winter/early spring night, and after some banter with students/professor/artist eventually resolves to get some time with the equipment. During later private discussion with the professor, the artist is asked about a recent break-up that caused the artist to go missing for the last month. The artist reminisces with the professor for a few pages about the feelings of loss and despair, and the love that he felt, and the breaking of his heart, and how he was holed up in his apartment for the last month pining away, but had finally moved through that point, and was a man of purpose now, and had something in his mind that he wanted to get painted and it couldn't really wait much longer. The professor made his understanding clear, and helped to get the artist set up with the machine, and told him he'd be back in the morning to see his new creations and hoped they'd be exceptional, but it was late, and lock up after your done, etc.

The next scene is the professor storming into the computer room with a printout in his hand, flabbergasted at the piece that was sent to his university email that night after he left, containing a picture of indescribable intricacy, beauty, color, and most importantly size. The picture was measured in gigabytes, so completely huge and detailed at every resolution that the professor was simply boggled that it had been done. Multiple people had created pieces such as this in the past, but to examination it was easy to tell the signs where the piece had been spliced together from multiple other similar compositions. Signs which were absent from this new piece that the artist had created last night. It was a completely astonishing piece of never before done work, and that professor was going on about how the artist was a genius and how did he achieve this, and on and on. And then the story kind of pans back to reveal the truth behind the amazing painting, as the professor enters the equipment room, and sees the artist still sitting there, peaceful, as if asleep, and the computer set for auto-email on completion of work, sending out the picture to a list of friends and family and other artists as an attachment, the subject being the title of the piece, named only "True Love". On top of the computer, an empty bottle of pain relievers, and a small empty flask of vodka.

Anyways, this notes getting kind of long at the moment, so I'll try to wrap it up now. Basically, as I said at the beginning, writing, or more accurately storytelling, has always kind of been something that I've wanted to do, but never really, fully got into it. I've dabbled in it, as I've shown, but these days I'm getting more and more to the heart of it, I believe. I've always had these stories, or images, or ideas that I wanted to express, and I've never really been able to do so in a good way. I've just kind of fumbled along most of my life with half assed short stories, or a couple of courses in college before I dropped out. Lately thought, I'm getting more and more serious about it, especially since it's part of my work now. I'm reading a lot more on creative writing processes, and the pure aspects of story telling. By no means do I think I'll be a great writer or something, but I still have stories in my head that I want to share with the world, so I figure I might as well try to do that the best that I can.

Maybe I'll share some other stories in another note soon.
-P

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