Static

I’ve been having static trouble lately. Both kinds.

Type 1 Static: Sheer bloody inertia. Putting on clothes, brushing teeth, making coffee… too much effort. Nope. None of that. Going to sit perfectly still and play Farm Mania and watch Play School with the ninja until my brain liquefies.

Type 2 Static: Annoying fizz between ears that inhibits creative thought. Nothing shifts it – playing stimulating music, watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, hot showers, all the usual things? No, they will not be working now. Now all your creative neurons have collectively rolled onto their backs, making an irritating fizzing sound and refusing utterly to cooperate.

Type 1 is linked to depresssion and anxiety, and I’m following the prescribed steps to deal with it. But Type 2 Static is just… argh. I don’t even know what it is, sometimes it just happens and it’s the most irritating thing in the world because I can’t think and I can’t imagine anything and I get so very bored. I really don’t realize how much time I spend creating stories in my head – original, fan-fiction, silly songs, whatever – until I can’t do it and suddenly the walk to the train station or the shops is twice as long and so very, very dull because there’s nothing going on in my head and nothing going on outside my head and I get so bored.

I was having trouble with that yesterday – usually I enjoy pacing up and down at the station waiting for the train, listening to my music and creating a Tyrion and/or Zuko fanvid to Lion King 2‘s ‘One of Us’ in my head. Just for a random example.  But yesterday I couldn’t kick my imagination into gear at all, so I was getting bored and frustrated as I paced, and then this guy showed up to wait for the train too, and he was just… standing there. At the edge of the platform. Just standing, doing nothing.

I really, really wanted to ask him how he could stand it. I was moving around. I had my music. And I was still bored out of my skull because of the stupid static. And he was just standing there staring at the train track. I can’t do that even when I don’t have static!

I didn’t ask, of course, because it would be rude. And maybe he was just absorbed in the My Little Pony/ Gargoyles epic crossover he was writing in his head, I don’t know. Maybe he was reviewing football scores or composing a breakup speech. Who knows?

But he looked bored. And yet he was just standing there.

Does anyone else ever look up from their book or their game of solitaire or whatever on a train or in a food court or something and see people just sitting and think ‘aren’t you so bored? how can you stand it’? I do, all the time. I’d really like to know, actually, so if you do know, fill me in please!

Stupid static. I’m going to go make myself more coffee and see if it budges anything.

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The Mystery Of The Self-Doubting Writer

Well, it’s not all that mysterious. Writers are a notoriously neurotic bunch. We were once presumed to be interestingly malnourished, probably drunken creatures holed up in an attic with a typewriter, now we’re popularly supposed to be uninterestingly malnourished, probably anxiety-ridden creatures holed up at a desk with a computer.

I will poke my pale, timidly quivering nose out from behind my computer to concede that yes, I am in fact anxiety-riddled and prone to holing up, although I do it with my three year old, the TV and a supply of fruit and healthy crackers, so only for a given level of ‘holed up’. And that’s probably why I’ll never write a mystery, as much as I’d like to.

Whoa, there, Salmon, that’s quite the leap you made there. How are those two connected again? (I’m sure you were wondering.)

I love murder mysteries. I adore Hamish Macbeth, Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, Tom Barnaby, Phryne Fisher, Detective Inspector Frost, Monk, and that strange little man Columbo. I love the puzzle-solving and the clever little clues and (as mentioned in my last post) the way the main characters are relatively safe.

The tension of mysteries comes from a very different place than the tension in most other genres. It’s not peril to the major characters – although some of them go with the perpetually-in-danger-of-losing-job semi-tension – it’s the mystery itself. And some peril. A bit.

Mysteries have to be a bit clever. I don’t know how mystery-writers do it. Whenever I try, it seems so painfully obvious and all the clues stick out a mile. How can you tell if a clue is subtle enough when you know it’s supposed to be there? Beta readers may be the answer – get a fresh pair of eyes on the story and see what they pick up. But I get so frustrated at not being able to come up with anything even remotely clever that it never really gets to the point where I can show it to someone else.

So if you write mysteries, well, I salute you. You are braver and more devious than I.

There’s something about a Victorian murder.

I’m not sure exactly what it is – the contrast, maybe, between the prim manners requisite to polite society and the basic impoliteness of murder. Murdering someone really is about as inconsiderate as one can be. And there is a scope available to the clever criminal then that there isn’t now, when evidence is examined so much more minutely and DNA and fingerprints can tell against you.

I’ve always wanted to write murder mysteries – I enjoy reading them and trying to detect the clues to the murderer, which I almost never manage to do. But mystery by necessity requires a great deal of planning, which has never been, as Colon says, my meteor. I keep meaning to try it, but the magnitude of the task is daunting. And anything I can come up with always seems so obvious. Trying to give away only subtle clues is really difficult, at least for me – it always seems so obvious to me, since I know what’s going on behind it.

I like both novels and the recountings of real murders set around the Victorian era. Mind you, I like murders in any time and place – man, that sounds dodgy – but the Victorian ones, being on the very cusp of the changes to police methods and usage of evidence, are particularly interesting. Does anyone else have a favourite time period or place for murder?