Hydra Headed Problems in Writing

Helsingør, Herkules kæmper mod hydraen by ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN from FlickrHercules was a demi-god…I think. We’re going off of memory here because that’s more fun.

Anyway, Hercules was a demi-god with some rage issues. One day, for reasons I can’t remember, he killed his wife and kids.

This was bad.

He wanted to atone for this bad thing that he had done, or the gods demanded that he atone for it, and so he set off on his labors. The Labors of Hercules. They’re sort of famous in mythology.

He had to kill the lion of Numedia (we’re guessing at names too…but I know he had to kill a lion). He had to capture Cerberus. And he had to clean some stables.

Yes he had to clean some stables. They were the gigantic stables of some horse-crazy land with horse crap caked on three feet deep. Hercules had to divert an entire river just to clean the stables. Big stuff.

He also had to kill the Hydra. Who on earth made up this list of chores is beyond me. One day he’s cleaning stables and the next he’s killing a mythical creature. I guess it was sort of like a decathlon, testing as many different skills and pushing as many buttons as possible.

So anyway, the Hydra. The Hydra was a nine headed monster. That doesn’t sound too bad. I mean Hercules was able to clean that stable by diverting a river so we can assume that monsters are sort in his wheelhouse.

The only problem was that every time you managed to lop off one of the Hydra’s heads, two more would sprout up in its place.

This is a problem. In fact, this is such a common type of problem that it is now known as a hydra headed problem: knock one down and it only serves to introduce two more problems.

This is where I’m at with book three. It feels like I’ve been here for awhile. Every time I figure out a kink in this book it opens up two more ideas that I have to toy with and examine and decide where, or if, they belong.

I began with a fairly basic idea for the plot. The plot is no longer basic. I have story-lines that range from Bartleby’s life as a human to a serial killer causing unrest in the world of the testers to a coup in the Council to Gregor’s rise as leader of the zombies.

It’s possible that I can tie all of these together, most likely weeding a few out, and create a single cohesive book. But right now? Right now it just seems like every step forward I take results in two more paths I have to sniff out and examine. And it’s getting really annoying. I have no idea if this is progress. It feels more like a hamster wheel.

In order to defeat the Hydra, Hercules found a giant log and heated the end and after he sliced off one of the Hydra’s heads he cauterized the wound, cooking it shut by applying the glowing red end of the log to the open cut. No more Hydra heads.

It’s possible that I’m allowing myself too much exploration. It’s possible that it’s time to start cauterizing story lines, that once I figure out one bit I need to start ignoring the inevitable questions that crop up about what else that bit might be hiding.

Or it’s possible that you can beat a hydra by wearing it out, that eventually the stupid thing just runs out of heads.

With the holidays coming up and a massive disrupt to my work schedule bound to happen I’ll probably take that opportunity to step back and more properly assess what the hell I have on my hands right now.

Until then, I’m just glad I’m not cleaning stables.

Sin City Redux

Paris to the Pyramid by Justin in SD from FlickrThis weekend I’m off to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. This will mark my second trip to Vegas. Well, the second trip where I’m over the age of sixteen. When you’re a minor, a trip to Las Vegas involves wandering around in a lot of places where you’re not allowed to loiter.

As an adult, though? As an adult Las Vegas is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The comparison to Disney World is bandied about a lot and I do believe that comparison holds. It’s a destination designed entirely for fun.

Other cities are fun, and I’ve had fun in them, and I will visit them again and have fun…but they’re also cities. They have other things like factories or train yards or warehouses or ports or office complexes. Other things take place there. People live their lives there. And then fun spots crop up to provide those people entertainment.

With Las Vegas the entertainment side of things is the city. The games came first, then the city started growing. Then came shows and bars and cuisine and rides and attractions and fight nights and clubs. And, granted, I will most likely partake of absolutely none of those things outside of the gambling, but they’re there. They make up the backdrop. You walk by a window and some gigantic plasma screen with Wayne Newton’s face on it is gleaming down on you and behind him are signs and ads and marquis like a great sea of stimulation.

Again, will I go see Wayne Newton? No. But for some reason the fact that, if I wanted to, I could duck out and catch a show or grab a world class steak, adds to the excitement.

I live in New York and there are steaks here and I’m told there are shows here as well. But I never go to them. And if I’m out with friends, we all stick together for the most part and doing something completely off the wall is a rare occurrence. Acting off the wall is perfectly common, but it happens at the normal bars or in Duane Reade on the walk home. The night never detours suddenly into a concert.

My first trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago and I was excited but nervous too because it was my first time; I was the rookie of the group. I was expecting my friends to have certain routines down pat and to know the passages to fun and I would have to learn the ropes.

This time I get it. There are no routines. There are no set patterns. The entire city is the setting, not just a few hangouts. It’s nobody’s normal and that means that the rules are all up for grabs. Crazy is encouraged. Disappearing is perfectly natural. Texting after a six hour hiatus to explain that you’re in a pool somewhere makes perfect sense. And, oh, you can get to the pool by taking a moving walkway.

You don’t visit the city; you get set loose in it.

Because it’s Las Vegas.

Because it’s there for fun.

Obligatory Sandy Post

Path Station During Sandy

Anyone who knows me knows that I live in New York and grew up in New Jersey so obviously I’ve got Sandy on my mind this week. I don’t generally write about current events. I have a hard enough time keeping the imaginary people in my head straight, but, well…I mean you’ve seen the news.

My hometown was declared a disaster area and the beach where my family goes during summer was obliterated. Nobody was hurt and I think only my sister in Hoboken is still without power out of all the people I know, and she and her family are in high spirits. So, all in all, I tend to think that I dodged a large number of bullets.

Still, I’m stressed, preoccupied, and have a heavy weight on my heart. This has been a rough week. It started with the usual pre-storm jokes. Many hurricanes have come through here but they’ve dissipated or turned out to sea or done whatever it is that hurricanes do that makes them manifest mainly as day long rain storms. I’ve lived through many of these things along with the press’s non-stop coverage and hype. Everyone here has. Generally these storms are non-events for most of the area. So on Monday there was a “Here we go again” sort of vibe as friends texted around.

Lower East Side During SandyThen we all learned a lot more about hurricanes than I ever wanted to know. Like how the southwestern part is the rainy part but the northeastern part is where the winds blow into land and create massive tidal surges. Which is weird. It rained here on my street, but that was basically it. The winds were bad for people living up in higher floors from what I heard, but I honestly experienced nothing but drizzle. Odd that so much disaster came out of so much calm.

I saw some photos Monday night and went to bed very worried and woke up feeling worse. Information was hard to get, and spotty, reports were all over the place, but more and more photos came in and clearly my island and my home were underwater. It was mind boggling. Many of the photos in here have been around, I’m sure you’ve seen most of them, but they punctuate things in a way that my words can not.

The human mind does not accept changes this massive very easily.

Take this picture. This is taken at the end of one of the two bridges leading onto the island where I spent my summer vacations.

Mantoloking Bridge facing East

There is supposed to be land at the end of the bridge. That photo came around along with a few others and my brother and I picked apart how they were obviously photoshopped fakes. They were not. The sea breached an entire three or four block area and swept it away.

I mentioned at one point how the roads were now beaches in most places. A friend, who I had already sent this photo to, finally asked, “Are the roads really that sandy?”

Shore town after Sandy

The brain won’t process so much change.

So I find myself stunned and trying to adjust, but also relieved.

Everyone I love is safe and I know that we’ll do what we do. We’ll assess and pitch in and rebuild and improve what we can for next time.

It’s not always easy to think about, but it’s a volatile world. Please remember to build your life on a solid foundation.