Really, It’s Okay, Cross the Streams
With much respect to Egon, I’m here to tell you it’s okay to do this from time to time. What do I mean? Did I fall and hit my head and suddenly decide to talk about Ghostbusters? No, I did not. If you’re looking for that, go elsewhere. I’m certain there are a million people who can quote line and verse much better than me. I’m here to talk about influences and inspiration and perspiration.
Today, I was tired. I stayed up way too late, and I got up terribly early–just a tad shy of my usual time. If I’m running the show, doing my own thing. Why? Well, as much fun as it is, sleep doesn’t keep the lights on. This is a gig. This is work. It’s not magic. I don’t wave a wand and create whatever it is I’m creating that day. I seem to be sliding into rant-like territory, so I’ll cool my jets and move on to influences. I think we just covered perspiration. Words need fingers need thoughts. Channel appropriately. Repeat as necessary. (Just don’t do it when the stars are just so, or it could be a bad day for all of us.)
Let’s move on to influences, we’ll do A Rose for Emily thing and have this out of place. It makes sense at the end. You should come out of this, going ahah. Or like the rope in An Occurrence at Owlcreek Bridge, you’ll want to snap my neck. Luckily, I’m over here, and you’re over there.
I’m in a horrid state of mind today. Mind you, I did not say a bad state of mind. Two entirely different things. Worlds, possibly galaxies, apart. I’m working on Echo of Dead Leaves, so I’m dealing with a lot of Mythos stuff. It’s a setting sourcebook for Charleston, SC, set in the 1920’s. I’ve done all my homework. I’ve read all the details of Charleston from its beginnings as Charles Towne, and up through the 20’s and just a tad beyond that. As much as I enjoy history, this is work, and it’s beyond the scope of the project, so I don’t care. Cthulhu folks care and crave detail, so I want to make sure the homework is properly applied. Like any history, there is a bunch of dry stuff, so I sort through that, and I jot down notes on the good stuff in one document, and I have another where I write down period information or words or slang warranting my interest and, thus, my attention. By the time I’m done. I have a lot of files. Lunar calendar for 1927 and 1928? Check. What’s where when? Absolutely. I got this map I spent months tracking down from the period. How? I read HPL’s travelogue compiled by S.T. Joshi and, after numerous calls to various historical groups in and around Charleston to no avail, I found the lovely Mary Jo (I’ve never met her, but her work is lovely) who found the specific map I needed. Why? Because I did my homework. All this information bounces around in my head, and gets distilled down, filtered, and the end result is something more entertaining and interesting than what I started with. It’s much like taking potatoes and making vodka. Who wants to drink potatoes on the rocks? Anyone? Didn’t think so.
Inspiration is the third element of this essay, though it probably falls first. What good is working all day on something tres’ lame? None. What good is having a bunch of history in your noodle if you apply it to something insubstantial? Didn’t know there would be a test at the end. Did you? So, you’re two for two. Inspiration is the catalyst to get things going. It’s the recipe to create something tasty. Ultimately, the writer as chef has to determine what ingredients to use or not use, and he basis his decisions based upon various things he’s scarfed down, created, or merely read about. Words do wonders for that. I get inspired by things all the time, but I have a Cerberus-class watchdog. Not just anything gets through (I hope). With Echo of Dead Leaves, the name came from something I saw scrawled out of sequential order on a bathroom wall. True story. I moved the words around in my mind, and fiddled with them just a bit, to come up with that gem.
What I wanted to accomplish (and still do, since I’m taking time out of my day to chat with you, dear reader), is to create a substantive work centered in and around Charleston. An entire campaign where the main thrust and impetus did not depend on global-spanning adventure. I want to keep it cozy and intimate. Like Lovecraft did. It’s far creepier to have to continue to hang around an area where you KNOW something weird went down, then doing an Elder Sign drive by on Cultists of the Sacred Seal (that can be fun too, but just not wineglass-tinking close). So, here I have this name and this place, now I needed to string together a story that didn’t look like Cthulhu-on-Parade. I have that sorted out, but oh what a knot to cut.
The inspirations for Echo of Dead Leaves are 12 Monkeys and The Da Vinci Code (the book, not the movie), but probably not how you think. Regardless what your theological bent may be, you have to respect the nifty way Dan Brown neatly tied together a lot of stuff. I dig it when a plan comes together, so I’m a sucker for well-plotted stuff. Now 12 Monkeys is the same way. Disparate elements coming together in a tidy bundle. Closure. There are thematic elements in both I really dig (which I cannot get into at present), and they have inspired me to come up with something which hangs together well and is a bit convuluted to boot. This is the most challenging thing I’ve worked on, and one of those challenges is to weave all these pieces together, but not leave the Keeper scratching his head. The order is sorted out, and now all I have to do is write the thing. Easy part. Right?
Until next time, I bid you adieu!