Clichés in Fantasy Storytelling: Prophecies

Clichéd storytelling, man. It freaks me out.

It reoccurs in many films and books throughout many cultures around the world and we’re usually quite satisfied with the final product.

Specifically I’m speaking about any kind of prophecies that are placed in the film in order to actually make the story a story. Yes, there are films and books whose stories rely entirely upon a prophecy. Without the prophecy there would be no need for a story and as such no way for the masses to consume. Prophecies are a big part of fantasy stories. One is almost to expect them to appear in one way or another in the story as they seem like common practice for the genre.

Some of these clichéd points are done either really well or really awful. Or they’re hidden well enough that when one considers how the rest of the story is portrayed, the cliché is forgiveable.

In my eyes, writing in a prophecy is no different than writing a deus ex machina for the ending of the story. The only difference is that a prophecy gives the writer the rest of the story to set up the crap-shoot of an ending to make the prophecy make sense. In contrast, the deus ex machina will simply resolve it by some bizarre fashion (or groan-worthy moment).

I think of it like writing during NaNoWriMo: if someone decides to make a story for the month, they plug away at it and when they don’t know how to end it, the deus ex comes in and saves the story.

Alternatively, if someone doesn’t really know how to end their story properly because they “just need to write X amount of words,” putting a prophecy in at the beginning makes the ending fall into place easier.

But it’s strange. We’ve all shook our heads to clichéd storytelling at one time or another, yet we let some stories get away with it more than others. For example, films like The Fifth Element and Lord of the Rings (we’ll go with the film version for LotR simply to make it easier) both use cliché storytelling models and we’re (well, I am) mostly okay with it.

The Fifth Element is self-aware and tongue-in-cheek regarding its central prophecy (that a Fifth Element will save the world), and it is established at the beginning of the movie. The story itself is a wild one, filled with nods to other science-fiction films and stories, while kind of really making the prophecy the central point of the movie – it became fun and was purposefully clichéd.

If your prophecy includes Chris Tucker, I'm instantly hooked.
If your prophecy includes Chris Tucker, I’m instantly hooked.

While one easily argue that The Fifth Element is rather trite with its story, it still reeks of fan-service to its audience that (in my opinion) out-weighs the stories short-comings regarding the cliché of prophecies.

In the Lord of the Rings film, it is established early on that the sword that cut off Sauron’s finger which bore the ring is needed to quell Sauron’s forces. Only Aragorn, if he fulfills the prophecy of returning to the throne by wielding the sword, can he help defeat Sauron’s evil.

This cliché feels a bit more laxed as there are multiple stories happening within the film, so as a viewer, it is not the central story to the movie. It’s a bit of a passable cliché solely because it’s not involving a main character – or at least one that hasn’t become a main character yet from the storytelling and audience’s perspective.

Then we have The Matrix. One character, Morpheus, passes the prophecy onto our main character, Neo. Then the viewer is dragged along for another two movies as the prophecy is continually shoved into our face with more philosophy than action (I should take this time to say I actually enjoyed the Matrix trilogy. However, I have to be critical for reasons of this discussion). The prophecy, from the beginning, becomes the heart of the movie and in-turn, is all the movie is trying to resolve – Neo fulfilling his destiny/ancient prophecy told by the elders.

“If I’m the Chosen One, does that mean I get to keep this spoon?”

Now that I’ve ripped on three major films regarding this topic, let me redirect the focus to something a bit more constructive.

Let’s look at Star Wars and how these films deal with prophecies.

A long time ago in a prophecy far, far away. . .

Starting in order of appearance, we have the Original Trilogy (OT) – episodes IV: A New Hope, V: The Empire Strikes Back, and VI: Return of the Jedi – which do not really deal with prophecies much at all. Then we have the Prequel films – episodes I: The Phantom Menace, II: Attack of the Clones, and III: Revenge of the Sith – which is all about the prophecy of “the Chosen One” (to clarify, I’m not referring to this chosen one).

That’s not to say that there are not prophecy-like instances in the OT.

What I would like to try and show here (and is essentially my thesis) is that the way in which Star Wars presented prophecies is what I think, one of the better ways to tell a story involving prophecies.

Now let’s drive right in and talk this one out.

Within the OT, we have the traditional fantasy story of a young hero out to save a princess and fight the forces of evil. Within that fantasy is the all-powerful Force: a mystical power that binds everything together and can be used for good or evil. As the story moves on into episodes V and VI, it unfolds to finding out that the villain is the hero’s father (spoiler) and that it is up to the hero to save him and defeat evil once and for all.

“Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up my stolen dank mix tapes.”

That is a very bare-bones summary of the OT, but I think it works when trying to discuss prophecies. There was a mention about an “ancient religion” by Admiral Motti in A New Hope, and villain Darth Vader does proclaim, “Luke it is your destiny,” in The Empire Strikes Back when it came to trying to convince Luke to join him.

But that was really all that stood out regarding prophecies. The OT films did not rely on prophecies to make the story work and rarely alluded to them as well. There is mention of the Force in all three of the OT films, but it is not tied to a prophecy at all. The Force just “is.” Most people agree that the OT films are the best ones because of acting, action, effects, and so on. However, they may not be aware of it – but it could be because of the lack of clichéd prophecies within the fantasy world too.

But let’s look at the prequels.

“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this. . . boy [Anakin]?” asks Mace Windu in The Phantom Menance.

In Revenge of the Sith:
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Is he [Anakin] not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?”
Mace Windu: “So the prophecy says.”
Yoda: “A prophecy that misread could have been.”

“You [Anakin] were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness!” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Revenge of the Sith

The very vague prophecy is implied in little bits in the prequel films but is never fully explored or explained. We know that the prophecy revolves around Anakin Skywalker who will eventually become Darth Vader and kill his master, Emperor Palpatine. We know this because the OT came out thirty years before the prequels did. Anything that happened in the prequels was not really a surprise at all.

Can you see what I’m getting at here?

In the prequel films, we’re told that a young boy, Anakin Skywalker, may be the one to bring balance to the Force. The audience already knows that the prophecy gets fulfilled with Darth Vader, so the prophecy comes to no surprise.

Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace even takes the “mystical” out of the Force by putting science into the Force – and as such – into the prophecy. By describing midi-chlorians and how Anakin has the most of them out of any known Force-user grounds the prophecy to something more tangible rather than speculation. Anakin is the Chosen One because, damn it, he has the most midi-chlorians! That, and because the audience knows he becomes Darth Vader!

It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! I mean, I think I heard that somewhere. I, uh, I'm sure that's what it said!
“It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! I mean, I think I heard that somewhere. I, uh, I’m sure that’s what it said!”

What the prequels do WELL regarding the prophecy cliché is not try to let it become the story. While in The Matrix, there was the story of Neo being the Chosen One. In Star Wars we’re not forced to watch the path of Anakin become the Chosen One because we already know what happens and that he is the Chosen One. In a way, the prophecy is spoiled for the viewer before the prophecy is even brought up in the movie. He still has to bring balance to the Force? Well we knew all the Jedi were going to die and already know that Vader kills Palpatine. The viewer knows how the prophecy is fulfilled already.

The prophecy in the Star Wars prequel films are used as a plot device – a catalyst, if anything – to show the audience the story of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader – not the story of Anakin Skywalker doing thing-X and something-Y to fulfill a prophecy to conclude the story. The prophecy, first mentioned in Episode I, is used to kick-start the story of Anakin for two more films. But the prophecy is not central or really that important to the rest of the story. The prophecy is in the background being unimportant as the rest of the movies move on. The audience is reminded in little bits, such as with the quotes I’ve posted above about the prophecy, but that’s about it. No one is concerned about the prophecy because the movie isn’t concerned with it. The prophecy and even its origin is not explored any further or delved into any deeper than what it is at face value to the audience. And you know, it works.

While I could see an argument how the prophecy in the Star Wars prequels is kind of like a deus ex machina at the BEGINNING of the movie, it still is not the primary focus of the prequel films, and as such, Star Wars as a whole.

Whoopty doo!! What does it all mean, Basil?!

If the Star Wars prequels did anything right, it was how it handled prophecies within a fantasy world. Midi-chlorians aside, the prequels put the prophecy on the back burner and focused on the characters and actions within the film – the prophecy only being mentioned to remind the viewer that there was a reason why Qui-Gon Jinn died.

But how can a writer get away with clichéd storytelling when they want to write about fantasy or prophecies in general?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and I think I have a decent answer thanks to the Star Wars prequels. While one can go through great pains to avoid cliché prophecies, I’ve considered that holding off to explain a prophecy may be best until the world is built around it first.

Promo poster for The Phantom Menace. Spoiler Alert: Anakin becomes Darth Vader. But we already knew that, didn't we? It was not because of some prophecy in the storytelling.
Promo poster for The Phantom Menace. Spoiler Alert: Anakin becomes Darth Vader. But we already knew that, didn’t we? It was not because of some prophecy in the storytelling.

Look at it this way: I feel the prophecy worked in the Star Wars prequels because we already had three established films with the OT. When the prophecy is first mentioned in the prequels, the audience is generally fine with it as they understand the world and what’s to come with the character the prophecy is alluding to.

While I’m not saying one should spoil the ending of their story at the beginning solely to let a prophecy flow nicely and not feel clichéd, as a writer or author, you can keep that tool in mind to craft something much more genuine and unique. It would be something where it requires a lot of planning, but as a result, one would have a more fulfilled fantasy world with a rich and diverse setting and a deeper understanding to why there is a prophecy and how it is believable, rather than adding in a prophecy solely to get a character from Point A to Point B.

Establishing a prophecy at the beginning of a story simply to let the character go through the motions of fulfilling it makes for a clichéd – and boring – story. However, to establish a prophecy within the world without overtly telling the audience about it is key to a good writer and good storytelling.

Hulk smash prophecies

Here’s another case: I’ve recently re-read Greg Pak’s run on The Incredible Hulk with the story Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. Long story short, the Hulk is sent to another planet called Sakarr and is enslaved to fight in a gladiatorial arena. After a few victories, the peasants of the planet begin to see how strong he is and how he could be Sakarrson – the one to free the people of Sakaar. At the same time, the ruler of the planet and host to the gladiator arena, the Red King, has already been considered to be the Sakarrson by the people of Sakarr.

So the Hulk – and the reader – is forced into a story and onto a planet where a prophecy was already established before any of them got there. The Hulk is learning of the prophecy along with the reader. It feels natural because the prophecy has already been fulfilled – in this case by the Red King.

PSA: Surf boards are not adequate shields.
PSA: Surf boards are not adequate shields.

While the prophecy is established early on within the story like that in The Matrix or Lord of the Rings, it comes along as a natural occurrence because it is not forced upon the reader by an obvious means.

Writing Fantasy is hard

When it comes to writing about prophecies, it certainly requires some major thinking and reworking of a story in order to avoid the cliché and come up with something that is engaging for audiences.

However, I feel like it should be said again: cliché storytelling is not bad at all. It’s quite common and works a lot of the times such as with the examples of The Fifth Element and Lord of the Rings. What stings is that within fantasy realm, the cliché can be overused. As the term cliché implies, it’s a failure of originality. Once one sees enough prophecy clichés, it becomes a bit tiresome.

When a prophecy does not fall under a cliché, there is excitement and zest that comes with the story that can be felt by the reader – and more importantly – the writer.

Admittedly, I’m critical about these sorts of things. I partly blame watching nearly every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but also the fact that I’m an author myself really strikes a nerve.

Once upon a time I wrote something without using clichés. The Distomos is not one of them.
Once upon a time I wrote something without using clichés. The Distomos is not one of them.

While my book, The Distomos, avoids using prophecies like the plague, it is still a challenge to create a world that is unique and engaging for the reader to enjoy. On one hand, it’s part of the job as being a writer. On the other, it’s part of the challenge I want to give myself when creating something for the masses. I did not want to create another clone of what other people have read or seen before. I wanted to create something different and cool for readers.

But I know even I fell into some clichés while writing my story. Sometimes they are unavoidable. But like The Fifth Element or Lord of the Rings, it’s important to have something engaging for the audiences. Not only will they enjoy the story more, but it may also help them not notice the little missteps or care to critique them (See: me regarding The Fifth Element).

But am I on the right track with these ideas? Am I being too critical on The Matrix and not enough on Star Wars? What are your thoughts on clichés in fantasy? Forgiveable or dangerous? Sound off below and let me know what you think!

If not, grab a cup a tea and start writing!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

The Format Wars

A short while ago in a novel pretty darn close to home. . .

The Format Wars
Episode I
My Novel

It is a period of civil war. Curved quotations (“ ”),
striking from my word processor, have won their
first victory against my novel.

During the writing, straight quotations (" ")
sporadically appeared, creating a difficult
editing process. Teamed with inconsistent
hyphen lengths (- en dash) (— em dash), when
sentences are broken up, editing difficulty ensues.

Pursued by a drive to make things perfect,
UncannyDerek races to format the book
aboard his computer, custodian of the
novel, that can finally be published to
restore semblance in his life. . . .

Format Wars

But Really

I originally had wrote my novel in one font. While changing fonts while editing, I somehow overlooked how the quotation marks and apostrophes. Apparently not all of the quotation marks and apostrophes change when you “Select All” and change the font. It’s quite a bugger. So I’m going through my novel line-by-line AGAIN to make sure it’s all consistent.

When you self-publish, there’s no one to fix these issues for you. You have to do them yourself. I’ve spent most of my day going through my book to change them over, but my eyes can only take so much!

Another thing I foolishly missed was the dashes, or hyphens, while writing. There are two different types of them (as shown in my opening scrawl). I have to make sure they’re consistent too.

Ah, the little things to focus on before the book hits the printer.

Let my folly be a lesson for you all!

And for the record, I’m using curved quotation marks for my novel and so should you.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Where is It?

I’m sure many of you are asking yourselves, “Damn it, Derek. When are you going to give us information about your book?”

The answer is: very, very soon.

I have a bit more finalizing to do with creating promotional material for the novel in order to present it.

I’ve knew with self-publishing that I would have to create a lot of hype. Most importantly, I want to do it right. There’s a lot of stylistic ideas for the promotion of the book which I have to still get all sorted out, such as copyrighting and what-not. It’s not really complicated as it is so much time-consuming. I definitely will have something up before the Christmas holiday.

Novel

Speaking of copyrighting, I’ve been learning quite a bit about that, as well as getting a proper ISBN for my book. They’re actually surprisingly easy to get done.

Being in Canada, the process is fairly straight-forward and relatively inexpensive to do. Fortunately, these are all costs I’ve expected to absorb while creating my book so they do not necessarily come as a surprise. It’s more the “cheapness” of their price that is the surprise.

In fact, they’re so straight-forward, I may as well show you the websites for them. (They are both Canadian-based sites as I’m Canadian and this is how I roll).

For ISBN’s, check out the Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS).

For copyrights for a novel, see the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Both sites require standard information to get started. Outside of that, it’s just a matter of actually publishing the book.

But like I said, there will be more on that later.

In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter for my ridiculous ramblings.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

Onwards & Upwards! To Self-Publishing!

It hath been decided!

For the quite some time, I’ve been butting heads on whether or not to find a publisher or self-publish.
Rocket Science
I’ll admit though, it wasn’t as fun as watching Blitzwing and Astrotrain getting their heads butted together.

After some careful deliberation, I have decided to self-publish! It was a difficult decision to make. Let me write out my thought processes for both.

Why See a Publisher?

I obviously didn’t go this route. So why DID I consider it?

There were a few reasons why I personally thought to go this route. First and foremost, I knew it would give me the biggest distribution. Getting picked up by a publisher would obviously mean better sales and a mass market. It also would give me some pretty hefty credentials for future projects (which I will have) down the road.

Secondly, it’s good for the ego. Sure, that sounds selfish and greedy, but to be officially published by someone would be amazing. I definitely had a-many dreams about meeting with publishers and discussing my book in great length. It made me excited.

As weird as this one sounds: I wanted to get a rejection letter. I enjoy critical analysis of my work. While I know a rejection letter would not go into any detail at all, I personally take rejection as a sign of having to do better – which is something that motivates me. Albeit, I know it de-motivates others. But that’s how I work!

While I’m still not confident with royalties on self-publishing, I know a lot of the hassle and finances would be covered by the publisher. They want to make money, too. Seeing a publisher would take the financial strain off.

Why Stay Away From a Publisher?

I was still reluctant to see a publisher for a few reasons as well. The biggest reason was creative control. For example: I have an idea for my book cover which I know they won’t adhere to. However, it’s my novel, not theirs. It’s my artistic ideas. While this is arguably quite nit-picky for a first-time author, it’s still a big deal for my overall idea.

Money also isn’t everything. While I like the idea of making money from my novel, it’s not my ultimate goal. It’s not even a real desire. My desire is to write. Money comes second. While I know it’s not financially viable to continue a path of self-publishing (under the assumption my books suck and sales slump to zero forever and ever), money isn’t my driving force here. A publisher thinks otherwise, and that’s totally okay, but not what I want. I desire to write a novel. Sure, if my first novel did well and they’d pay me to write a second, that’d be great. But it’s not what I’d want. Let me be me.

My other big reason to stay away was just reading about trying to submit a book. Looking into many different publishers, some require a literary agent, while others require a book to meet certain criteria. For example, one publisher wants to publish science-fiction, but did not want religious overtones. Another was willing to publish fantasy and horror, but refused to take upon zombies books unless they were unique. While my book doesn’t include zombies, it does include religious overtones. Certain publishers want to market a book based on their image – which is totally fine – I just don’t have to send my book there. Other publishers I considered actually had their submissions closed until they decided to reopen again (seriously). However, if I were to send a copy of my manuscript in only to find out it’s “too religious” by their standards, or that their “not accepting submissions at this time,” then I’m out the money from getting my book printed, plus postage. (I figured it’d average around $60 per publisher submission).

Reading about it all made me feel as dizzy as Starscream after Gears spun him around for a bit.

Gears Spin

Why Self-Publish?

In case I hadn’t said it enough, I’m big on creative control. With self-publishing, I get to control everything about my novel. From how the cover looks, to the price. It’s pretty freeing.

I can also get published faster. Most publishers were asking for at least three months to review the book. It’d take still another few months for it to get published after that. With self-publishing, the road can be paved right away and I can get started.

Challenges are fun. I really enjoy them, even if they’re super-stressful and nerve-racking as publishing a first novel. Especially if they’re financially stressful. I just enjoy being stressed I suppose? I’m a sick man.

But it’s also quite self-fulfilling. Being able to publish all on my own is quite an accomplishment. I accept all of the responsibility on whether the book succeeds or not. It’s exciting and strengthening. I hate asking for help, so I feel being able to do this on my own is what I need to do.

And I’m not in it for the money. I have to stress that again. Why? Because realistically, I won’t break even. At least I don’t expect to. I’d be surprised if I did. So that poses the question again: why self-publish?

The answer: because I want to do this for me.

Shockwave Dance

And maybe Shockwave.

While my reasons for self-publishing may not be the “best” reasons in the world, they’re the best reasons for me.

Keep on Space Truckin’!

NaNoWriMo – Good or Bad?

It’s November and everyone is jumping on the NaNo bandwagon. Thousands of people from around the world get synced-up online on November 1st and start writing the first of 50,000 words to become an author!

But before we start, here’s a full disclosure: I totally did my own NaNoWriMo in January of 2012 (as I couldn’t partake in November). Later, I did something similar when writing my current novel. I did a Thirty-Day Challenge, where I didn’t force myself to have a word count. Instead, I would spend a part of the day to plan and organize my novel.

So what’s up here? I did NaNoWriMo (kinda) then I didn’t. So what?

Let me BLOW YOUR MIND

After getting over 54,000 words during my “JaNoWriMo,” and eventually reaching over 70,000 words a few months later, I SCRAPPED THE BOOK. Why? Because it was garbage, that’s why!

I can remember reading it over and just hating everything I had done. All of the characterization, plotting, the pacing, descriptions – oh, god, it was terrible. I still have a copy of it (unfinished) just to remind me how bad it was.

The problem with NaNoWriMo, which a buddy of mine, author Sean Munger, touches upon on his blog, is that it promotes bad habits. It promotes vomiting out word count over actual quality. While it may make a book, it doesn’t make a good one.

It stinks!

So when I did my Thirty-Day Challenge (which was for a different story), I took my knowledge from my JaNoWriMo and applied it to my busy lifestyle. I simply dedicated time to creating the project, rather than actually writing it. I would spend an hour or so getting 1,000 words of characterization down, rather than the novel itself. And I didn’t write every day (nor give myself a word count like 1,000 words a day for when I did). It made for a dramatic improvement to my story-telling and my skills of writing, pacing, and oh-so much more!

So NaNoWriMo is Bad?

There’s a silver lining to it all. I found that NaNoWriMo certainly didn’t make a good book, didn’t promote good writing, and didn’t promote good writing habits. What it DID do was get me to write and learn from my experiences. There’s a lot more to writing than just plugging yourself down and firing off words to reach a numerical goal.

I learned a lot about how to characterize and plot. My NaNo-Novel was a pale comparison to the newest one I wrote. The pacing in my newest novel is exciting and pulls the reader in – because I planned for it to do that.

Even if you plan out your novel before NaNoWriMo, you’d be surprised how many little things you will miss. Even with plotting out my novel like how I did, I had to go back multiple times and make sure things remained consistent and flowed together. NaNoWriMo doesn’t really give you time to pause or reflect. You’re just supposed to punch in a word count and call it a day. Coherent writing is important, but it’s not reflected in NaNoWriMo.

But as I said, NaNoWriMo got me writing. That’s important because it helps you hone your craft. You learn little tricks and the proper way to create sentences (And yes, I know this blog is littered with errors. Pot, meet Kettle).

The way I look at it is NaNoWriMo is the biggest Creative Writing Class you’ll take all year. It’s great writing practice, but terrible if you’re looking for quality.

And for all that is good in the world: if you do partake in NaNoWriMo, do NOT give your novel to publishers! You’re congesting them with a bunch of sub-par books! Stop it!

Thanks!

That’s my take on it. But have you participated in NaNoWriMo? What kind of learning experience was it for you? Did you go anywhere with it? Do my opinions sound ridiculous? Sound off below!

Editing: Done!

My last post was from March, eh?

There’s a good reason for that, too! It was laziness!

Anyway, where was I?

I left off with DoneMoWriMo? What the hell does that even mean? Ah, the things I do for SEO. I also see that it’s NaNoWriMo and I’m already done. Did I win?

As for my absence, I’ve stated before somewhere on this blog, that I work a job that is highly seasonal. The peer editing all came back to me around July/August, but I was still super busy at work. Job and life stuff aside, I didn’t really start editing until the beginning of October. I digress.

I’m now done editing and I have to find a publisher. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m still open to self-publishing. I’m uncertain which route to take as I’m pulled in both directions from friends about what I should do.

My gut says to find a publisher. I’m pretty old fashioned. I actually still take a horse and carriage to work and light my apartment with candles while trusting the newspaper for the most up-to-date news. However, I understand creative rights and all that hooplah through self-publishing may outweigh going through a publisher. But I also understand not all publishers are like that.

But I’m also kind of excited about receiving my first rejection letter. And maybe my second one.

I’ll probably be crying by the third letter. Or reading them like this:

Oh boy. What am I getting myself into?

In the meantime:

. . .

More later.

Poetry Overlords Mk III

This’ll probably be the last bout of words spewed out of my fingertips on this subject. I feel the discussion and philosophy could go on for ages. If you want to continue the discussion, leave a message here or follow me on the Twitter machine. Let’s recap:

The TL;DR from the first two blogs:
Poetry Overlords: Reading poetry out loud is a lot like performing music.
Poetry Overlords Mk II: Music is more universally accepted than poetry because of rules imposed on language.

And Now!

What else am I going to babble on about? A recent study by a McGill University neuroscientist suggests there’s a group of people out there who have the inability to enjoy music.

As I’ve stated previously, unlike poetry, I feel music is a universal language. However, as shown above, there are some people who are not moved by this universal language. It’s interesting to me because music is a great way to express oneself to someone who may struggle to understand what is being said.

For example, if I told you something positive and happy in Russian and you didn’t speak Russian, you would not understand me.

If I played something in a major scale, no matter what culture or background you have, you would feel the positive energy exerted from the music.

Unless you have an inability to.

You’re Not Making Sense

Well I’m trying, damn it!

With both poetry and music also considered forms of art, it can be understandable when someone does not “get” something. Not everyone would “get” classical music or “get” country music. However, one could still feel something from music. Whether or not you “get” classical music, you still get an grand, epic feeling when hearing Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Even with the music being written in the late 1800’s, it still feels grand and current. It does not feel dated.

Poetry, however, has a different hurdle when trying to feel it. Choosing particular words can make your work sound dated. Using a different language makes it non-universal. Sure, using cacophonous words or alliteration can help try and evoke some sort of audible sympathy for the listener. But if the message is not understood, then is that not a problem?

The Half-Assed Conclusion

As you can tell, there’s a lot of discussion to be had with these ideas. Performing poetry should just be as important as having the right words and language in the poem itself. The main problem I’m finding is that not everyone will “get” it because it is not properly understood.

Going back to the first blog on this subject, I had to explain why I was reading and performing Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.” Will there ever be a time where I would not have to explain myself?

So I’m left to ask: where does poetry stand in the world of language? Will it never be truly understood?

Or am I just wasting my time on this?