March 31, 2003

Just uploaded a review of Dai-Guard to Points of View.

(Wine Week continues today and tomorrow, as I finish up the entries I was going to post last week, but was too sick to post.)

While I was wrestling with Philo about the character designs, I was also wrestling with Murray.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about Murray here yet. Murray is the name of my Muse, the shy spirit who controls my creativity.

Like most Muses, Murray is a strange individual. I can’t order him around. He disappears whenever I’m tired or frustrated. He appears at the oddest times, and the only way I can make him appear is to lure him out with a pretty image or unique turn of phrase.

Ever since my day of double deja vu on the path, Murray had been dancing around Wine, contributing lots of ideas and characters and plot directions. However, he had never given me a spine.

And now I should explain the idea of spine. This is a term that I think Sydney Pollack (director of, among other films, Out of Africa) invented. The spine is the central theme of any work. It may not be explicitly stated, and it may be surprisingly subtle. For example, Out of Africa‘s spine is the concept of possession; everybody in that film’s trying to possess something or somebody. I think Raising Arizona has the same spine. The spine of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the insertion of modern mindsets in a medieval epic tale. The spine of Monty Python’s Life of Brian is organized religion’s misuse and confusion of Christ’s story.

So, I had all sorts of great material for Wine, but I never had a spine. I knew what the plot would be, but what would that plot be about?

I’m making it appear as though this was a clear thought process. I didn’t realize all this straightaway. Instead, I began writing, assuming that the spine would work itself out. But I couldn’t write more than a few pages’ worth of any part of Wine, and I struggled with that for months.

I had hit a brick wall with Wine. It was the first time it had happened to me. There were plenty of stories I hadn’t finished before, but that was due to laziness or getting bored with it. This was a story that I wanted to write, but couldn’t.

(I don’t think this was Writer’s Block, as I’ve read of people with real Writer’s Block, who would sit down in front of a typewriter or word processor or fresh piece of paper and be psychologically unable to put out a single word. That wasn’t my problem; I could always type out something about Wine. I just couldn’t write out the whole story.)

I even asked Saalon to write Wine, which he accepted but later decided he simply couldn’t write, as this wasn’t his sort of story. Even he struggled against this story.

After too many months of banging my head against this brick wall, I admitted defeat. I announced to Saalon and Philo that I was shelving Wine for awhile. I couldn’t go on pretending that I was going to write this.

A few days after I made that decision, I had an amazing experience. I went to church, and after the service, as I stood up, Sarah — the protagonist of Wine — walked past me. I blinked, and looked at her, and realized that it was a little girl of exactly the same age, race, face, and hair of the girl I’d thought up. And my mind was seized by an unmistakable impression: it was as though Sarah had turned towards me, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “It’s all right. You can shelve Wine. I’ll still be here when you get back.

I don’t normally have such strong impressions. But it was there, and it was undeniably firm.

So, I shelved Wine. I let Murray retreat into the woods and play with it.

Until recently.

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