Contrast

So…I feel like shit.  High fever, body aches, massive fatigue, ongoing cough…  The worst, however, is the shortness of breath.  I can’t freaking breathe, and it absolutely is killing me.

Wanna know how I’m dealing with it?

Not well.

Ahem.

I was sitting there on the couch, a few minutes ago, listening to music and accomplishing a whole lot of not much.  I honestly have been trying all day to put together a blog post worth writing — let alone reading! — and all day, I’ve failed.  I was sitting on the couch, then, and feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Music was blaring in my ears, a drink* was at my elbow, and the memory of just how many different ways I failed to write anything worthwhile today was echoing in my head.

*You’re not my doctor!  If I can’t drink myself silly during my own personal COVID nightmare, then I might as well skip this stupid virus!  Err…uhh…

As usually happens, it was a song that hit me, finally, and shook me out of my self-pitying torpor.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like shit.  I still hate the entire universe at this particular moment, but finally…

…but finally I have something to say.

The color of words.

Err…

Just how much booze is in that glass?! I hear you scream.

Not as much as you think.

Look, every writer has a different way of approaching the words.  As I’ve mentioned before, for me it is visually.  I’m a photographer outside of the words, and every time I envision a scene it is — pardon the unintended pun — in light of my experiences with a camera.  Much like the photos I take, my writing views the world in terms of contrast.

Every “good” picture I’ve ever taken has been a shot of contrast.  Contrast of color, of light and shadow, of material…

I have a picture I took once, of a flower — one single, struggling flower — in the train yard of Auschwitz.  That picture exemplifies, better than anything I’ve ever done, just how I view…well…the entire freaking universe.

A tiny, struggling bit hope — of love — surrounded by overwhelming pain and death.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

But what, I hear you cry, does that have to do with writing?

It means everything.

Look, every scene I write — every scene I read — has a color palette to it.  Just like a picture, or a movie, the colors and lighting of a written scene define it.  I’ve mentioned before the stories and writers I love:

The primary colors — the honest simplicity — of Eddings and Tolkien and Lewis…

The complex grays of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Dickens…

The dark, muted colors of Wolfe (#1) and Mann and Graves…

The almost painful brilliance of Twain and Wolfe (#2)…

Every single word is visual to me.  Certainly everything I write is run through the image processing part of my mind.  Every single scene I’ve ever so much as flirted with has a look and feel to it…and that look and feel is one of contrast.  I know I often describe my writing as dissonance, but it’s more than that…it’s contrast.

As you all know by now, I’m a movie buff.  Of the thousands of movies I’ve watched…

Of the millions of scenes I’ve watched…

Of the tens of millions of words I’ve read…

Of all that, do you know what it is that really sticks with me?

What sticks in the back of my mind as the ultimate dissonance — the ultimate contrast — for which I strive in my writing?

It’s an image, one single still, from an old(ish) movie:

No, really — if you haven’t yet watched it, screw your plans for tonight and go watch Empire of the Sun.  Every movie Spielberg has made has been great, but…this one…

Look, just watch the freaking movie, okay?