Monday, September 8, 2014

Discovering Invention

    You can’t go for more than a few minutes these days without some scientist or another discovering a new species of extinct dinosaur off the coast of Hong Kong or a mutant order of vegetable/human hybrids sprouting like mushrooms from Sydney to Honolulu in weirdly original ways.

    It’s like the flora and fauna of the world took a lead from the Terracotta Army and thought hey, let’s make ourselves discoverable, while the dinosaurs (long dead, and petrified) carried on playing the long game.

    All of which makes me wonder — how much other stuff is lying heaped up at the bottom of the ocean or tucked away in some Himalayan hidey-hole?  Buried civilizations, missing links joined at the hip, fossilized alien spacecraft — who knows how many tantalizing seconds away we are from discovering the next unbelievable miracle?  Speaking personally, I’m still holding out for the cave where Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin are shacked up with Elvis and a bunch of Roswell nutzoids.

    The truth, as they say, is out there.

    Great — but what about the fiction?

    The problem with plotting and putting words into people’s mouths and generating those people in the first place is that it’s sometimes such hard work making everything up.

    As writers we get glimmers of scenes and snippets of dialogue, and unless we’re writing anything contemporary and devoid of fantasy or -fi, every single inspiration invites endless world building and justification.

    UNLESS we treat our fiction like the oddly musical amoeboid molecules lurking at the heart of every Terracotta soldier.

    Because maybe they’re in there, those crazy globules — pulsating away and humming to each other in C flat, just waiting for someone to trash a clay commando with a mallet.

    So if you’re stuck today, try presuming your next story or novel is already written, its punctuation marks clustered around words like globs of undiscovered amoeba in a Terracotta soldier (or, if you’d prefer, harmonizing the name of your favourite brand of anti-constipation suppository up the rectum of a petrified Anonymosaurus).

    Presume your fiction already exists — then don suitably IndianaJonesified exploration gear and quest for it, starting at the bottom of your garden.

    “Sometimes, invention is mere discovery.”  Marie Curie

Marie Curie never said that, of course — I just made it up.

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