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Dangerous Visions--Dark Inspirations

Posted on 2008.08.16 at 16:30

Recently, several people have asked what I suspect will become a common question, if I am fortunate enough to earn a readership--not where do you get your ideas, but where do your images come from? One of my big hurdles as a writer, has been the transition from an intensely visual style, to telling character-driven stories with intense visuals. It's the difference between presenting readers with a series of tableaus, and immersing them in a world with people they care about. The truth is, my stories almost always start with images. A rough breakdown of sources for stories would look something like this: 

Images lifted directly from dreams/nightmares                25%
Inspiration from paintings/art                                         25%
Inspiration from images in movies                                  10%
Ideas sparked by reading fiction                                    05%
Ideas inspired by news, non-fiction
and scientific articles:                                                  10%
Real world observations,
people watching, architectural, biological, etc.               15%
Conversations:                                                            10%

Crucifer began with my obsession with H.R. Giger’s masterpiece, Chidhergrun*, a horrifying and beautiful biomechanical crucifixion, with Christ raised up and transformed into a diseased, phallic serpent, and a black vinyl Mary-machine in ecstasy at his feet. The painting also alludes to a passage in the Bible (Numbers 21:6-9) where Moses raises a bronze serpent to save the Israelites, who have been stricken by fiery serpents in punishment for turning their backs on God. There’s a theme of sympathetic magic here, where disease cures disease, and salvation comes from staring into the face of death/evil. The passion story, coupled with this, inspired the central plot of Crucifer--where a drug-addicted, male prostitute (Peter) becomes a Messiah for a world of machines, specifically, a race of biomechanical entities.

Next, I asked myself, what type of world does Peter live in?  What sort of world would biomechs build if they took the Christian gospels literally? I poured over Giger’s work, and a second painting obsessed me--Spell II. It inspired the Cathedral of Bones**, the central motif in the last third of the book. I began to dream about these images, and had a series of nightmares, which I worked directly into the narrative. In another life, I was on the road to becoming a priest (obviously, the road not taken) and a series of intense, visionary dreams became my protagonist’s own.
St. Thomas Church, a central location in the first two acts of the book, is where I actually studied when preparing to become a priest. A wedding scene in Crucifer, between Peter and a crucifer/acolyte, was a real life experience pushed into the supernatural. Writing a novel is a synthesis, and Peter was a synthesis of four individuals, who collapsed when he suddenly took on a life of his own, but more on the genesis of my characters later.

If Crucifer finds publication, my dream would be to have Chidhergrun on the cover. I hope you find this dissection interesting, and would love to hear about your own writing process.

*Both Chidhergrun, Spell II and hundreds of other Giger images can easily be found with a simple Google image search, but I won’t link to them here because of copyright. You have to look at his Necronomicon retrospectives to truly appreciate their beauty. The gunmetal and dull, moonlit color schemes are lost in most web images. Chidhergrun is ruined by an awful yellow color shift, so do yourself a favor and look at the books.

**Here’s a link to sample chapters of Crucifer. And here is a direct link to the scene that introduces the Cathedral of Bones.

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