Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A system of concepts worked out in steel

Hm. I wanted to write a blog post about something, but now I’ve forgotten exactly what it was. So I’m gonna talk about motorcycles. I’m researching them right now for a scene in my new manuscript, Necropolis (which I am 12,000 words into and loving to death) so they’re on my mind.

There is something inherently cool about motorcycles. Obviously, this is an old and well-worn concept. All great rebels and bad boys ride motorcycles, as did the coolest teacher in my junior high, the one with the long hair who was missing his left pinky finger. It’s like an instant calling card, almost to the point of being a cliché.

And yet, I can’t help but love them.

Of course, I’ve never been on one myself. Heck, I can’t even ride a regular bike. I suppose I could ask my friend Aaron if he’d give me a ride on his, just to see how it feels, but I’m kind of an abject coward and I’m not sure I’d be able to see anything anyway.

Besides all that, my relationship with motorbikes is…strange. When I think about them, I get a lot of good images first: all the cool movies where they go zipping by in chase scenes, the fantasy of riding one across Europe in the spring, the awesome biker gang back home that devoted themselves to giving children the best damn ride ever away from their abusive homes. Good times, good people.

Then I remember the sign posted on a lamppost along my favorite walking route at my parents’ house, the one with the poem in memory of a biker who was run off the road because a car didn’t see him; or the one who rear-ended me on the freeway last summer and gave me a chronic and oddly specific fear of the very distinct sound a human body makes when slamming against a windshield. Still good people, but…not as good times.

I think a lot about personal symbols and how writers put them to use. Actually, it’s probably more analyzing than I aught to be doing, especially about my own work. But I can’t help it. It fascinates me.

This scene that I’m working on now, the introduction of a major character, needed to be on a motorcycle. And not just watching the motorcycle from afar; I tried that, and it didn’t work. No, this scene needed to be right there, on the bike, with the woman behind the wheel, charging right ahead with all the excitement, the good nature, the sadness and fear that I attach to those machines. Looking at it now, I realize that it’s perfect for her, all these things that my mind ties to motorbikes. Nobody else is ever going to pick up on it…but it means a lot to me.

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