Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Friday, June 25, 2010

Monet's Cathedral Within Us

Above is the Rouen Cathedral painted by Claude Monet. Below is the same cathedral... also by Monet.

Series of paintings were not unusual for painters. In fact, this was not even the first series of paintings that Monet did. What was unusual was the number of paintings. He painted more than thirty paintings of the cathedral. He, in fact, rented a place across from the cathedral. For two years, Monet painted and painted the same subject. He was fascinated by the play of light across the cathedral. He painted it at different times of day and in different weather. He painted and painted and painted.

What I find interesting about this series of paintings is:

1. It is of a man-made object. As writers, we're telling a story that has already been told. If you think otherwise, you're lying to yourself. All the stories have been told in one form or another. At the heart of a story are core motifs that repeat and repeat and repeat. There are not a million stories out there... not really. There are several stories with some changes. I remember reading a post by a person who insisted they had something that had never been done. Never. They were shocked when this wasn't greeted with excitement but more amusement at their naiveté. It's been done. It's been done well. It's been done differently, but it's been done. Now, you can try to bang your head against the originality obstacle, but this will produce crap. There is a reason that the stories have been told. They're honest and real and the story is in the journey. So, sometimes, as writers, we can choose to find the beauty in something that was created by others... in stories that exist and breathe.

2. None of the paintings are alike nor facsimiles of the original. For a more significant sampling of the complete series: The Rouen Cathedral Series. None seem like a forgery of the other. As artists, it isn't enough to be accurate. We must put the readers there. They must see what we see. If it's the fog of a cold morning obscuring our vision... then that is what must be. No one goes to the galleries to see the blueprints for the Rouen Cathedral Series. It's quite possible that some of the paintings are not *gasp* accurate. Art can be in the details, but it's mostly in the vision.

3. I wonder which one, if any, felt the best. Was there a "right" one for Monet? Was there secretly one that captured what he felt in his heart? Is that even possible? He spent two years working on this. Painting the same image over and over... and yet... not. As writers, we're often faced with POV questions when beginning a story. Whose story is it? Should it be in first person or third person? Should I write it in past or present tense? I've come across two recent "series" where the book was written from more than one POV. I'm thinking of Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" and "Midnight Sun" and then Julia Quinn's "Mr. Cavendish, I Presume" and "The Lost Duke of Wyndham." I know in Julia Quinn's situation, the books were written at the same time and they were intended to be published. I'm curious if she felt like one was "better" than the other.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I just realized I need to rework the beginning of the WIP I'm working on, the Sentinel's Run. Unlike Monet, I can see that I haven't got the light right. I realized I need to rework the voice of both characters. While it'll retain many of the original characteristics and features, it's going to be a heavy makeover most likely. I'm trying to psyche myself up for this. Unfortunately, as previously noted, I have restless brain syndrome. I don't like to approach the same subject a second time. I can't tolerate repetition. It's the right thing to do, but it's not the easy thing to do. I believe the predominant thought in my head was "Damn! Really?" followed by a groan.

Above is a photo of the cathedral. It's beautiful... like our core stories. In its own right, it's a work of art. It's beautiful. It was crafted by Masters. We are not improving on a story. If we are merely retelling it. Sometimes the difference between a work of art and a nice painting is getting the light "just right."

So, it's back to work for some of us. Le sigh.

Oh... I'm still on vacation and my grandparents are here. Ta!

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