Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's Like Summoning a Demon



What is like summoning a demon?

Why, writing, of course. 

Bear with me here. This isn't going to be a post about inner demons or psychological torment or anything like that. I just accidentally came up with a writing metaphor the other day, and you know how I love writing metaphors. And I thought it was fun, so I'm going to share. WHETHER YOU WANT ME TO OR NOT.

Writing a novel is like summoning a demon. You (the sorcerer), in attempting to call it forth, must bend it to your will and force it to take physical form. It exists in another plane of being, where it is a creature of boundless energy, a being of pure light or maybe pure darkness, lightning or fire or will. Maybe it shapeshifts as fluidly as dreams, maybe it fills the entire sky with its magnificence and creatures drop to their knees to worship it. In its true form, in its plane of origin, it is a thing of extraordinary power, not constricted or restricted by the bounds of corporeality. 

But to live here, to come here and do your bidding, it has to have a body. Lungs, a mouth, eyes, hands. Legs. All the bits, in all the right places. It will hate this. It will resist. The thing you are turning it into is ... clumsy. It pinches, it can't fly. It no longer fills the entire sky with its crackling lightning. Why would it want to come here and be your slave, when before it was an ethereal being of terrible power and beauty?

That's the book, of course. Its plane of origin is your mind, and in summoning it to the page it can feel like this, like you are flattening it into a two-dimensional thing that just loses so much of the beauty you dreamt into it to begin with. No matter. Make it this promise: you will improve it. You will render it into the most beautiful and compelling and fascinating book that you have it in you to create, and then you will take a deep breathe and make it even more beautiful and compelling and fascinating, until both it and you are satisfied. And then you'll order a pizza.

Summoning demons makes you hungry!

Now, back to my demon, who is partly translated into flesh and still partly a sky-filling god in the realm of my head. Onward! 


Oh, and this:

"The only way [the book can be written] is to set the unbook – the gilt-framed portrait of the book – right there on the altar and sacrifice it, truly sacrifice it. Only then may the book, the real life flawed finite book, slowly, sentence by carnal sentence, appear."  -- Bonnie Friedman


13 comments:

kimliggett said...

I really needed this today.
Much love and thanks-
Kim Liggett

Cynthia said...

Thanks!
I needed it too-funny I am writing a story that involves a demon being summoned.
I'm going to take this as a sign and a good natured kick in the seat of my pants. I'm off to go turn Freedom on and get something done today

Melanie Conklin said...

Love it!

Bridget said...

I needed this today, I'm stuck on the opening scene.

In my mind it's a being of hope and madness, covered in tears and rose petals (why can I never seem to put these awesome descriptions into my work?). In the real world I can't get beyond those opening pages and the characters feels flat.

Laine said...

Laini Taylor, I totally love you! All of your writing posts are wonderful, and thank you so much for Not for Robots. And for Society 6...:-)

Well. Back to the demon(s). They are ganging up on me...

Charley Robson said...

New favourite writing analogy. Hands-down.

Now I think I'd better go and feed my demon before it chews through my bedpost. It's a hungry wee critter!

Kaye M. said...

So very true. I didn't even think of it that way! And thank you so much for Not for Robots; I've turned my second draft into an exploratory draft, and it seems like the first victim of my machete has been that self-doubting voice (for now, until it returns as a zombie).

crissy said...

Can you please write a novel about writing novels? My God, you can turn a post about the writing process into a fantasy of its own that has me in complete awe!

- D. said...

Laini, have you been practising telepathy again, BECAUSE THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL!

I've always said I was a monster-tamer (my blog profile reads: "Hi! I'm Diyana, plot-wrestler and monster-tamer extraordinaire") -- because, YES, yes to everything!

The yet-to-be-born novel, or the "unbook" closest to my heart is the most unwieldiest of beings, but also, the most magnificent (aren't they always?). In its original plane of existence, it is a creature of terrible beauty -- colossal as a bank of clouds, as bright as two suns, and it weaves: life, dreams, comedy, tragedy, terrible disasters and beautiful triumphs, all into its tapestry. It is gentle, but unyielding, the way a mountain will not bend to the wind.

But I WANT it. Aren't humans greedy creatures? I coax it, trick it, and when it's close, I shackle it and attempt to wrestle it into a dimension too uncouth and unrefined for it, where I am the self-proclaimed master of a domain I have no real mastery over.

It resists -- of course it does, and at this point it is all arms and tentacles, a Kraken swallowing a sinking ship, filling the skies with its rage (all rolling thunders and the angry angry frostbiting chill).

I feel guilty and desperately overwhelmed. This task is too big for me. And I feel like I am the demon. I'm the bad guy! It is not convinced that I can improve it and render it as close to its original being -- and frankly speaking, neither am I.

Obviously, it's been a tough day at work for me (Jerk Brain being a Jerk). How do you handle tough days at work? (...I'm going to read Not for Robots, because HEY! Inspiration!)

Melanie said...

Spot-on as usual, Laini. Thanks for this post (bookmarked already!). I really needed it to remind myself not to lose faith when what is in my head doesn't match what is coming from my fingertips.

SarahWT said...

Fantastic metaphor for writing!! :) Makes me enjoy the process more today.

Gabrielle du Vent said...

I'm a writer and a musician; and for me, it's not so much as summoning a demon, but rather building a sandcastle. Your brain is a sandbox - depending on your imagination and your depth of thought, the sandbox can be a sand field, or even sand plane - and you are creating a sandcastle. You bring in things from outside the plane, such as shells, pearls, beads, twigs to decorate and build the castle; but you have to be very careful, for the buttresses are fragile, the window-holes can fall down, the roof might cave in. Each step is a careful, tip-toeing process, adding a pearl here, a bead there, flowers on top. And once you are done with your sandcastle, you check and check again for improvements and fixes.

Releasing a book is putting the sandcastle on the showcase. But in truth, writing a thesis or a paper is just the same thing.

I agree; it's a very careful, dangerous process. But what can I say? I like playing in the sand "field" in my head.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Latin Fan of yours an I've been trying to write the beginning of a story I've had in my mind for a while. I think this is the best writing metaphor someone could create and it's also a really wise advise. Thank for it Laini, and work with your demons. Lina.
Ps: I wrote a poem about the problems of Karou and Akiva and I would love if you could read it.

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