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Posts Tagged ‘Heartwork’

Dark Foul Light Cover

In April of 1941, Geoffrey is a Liverpool painter still healing from wounds incurred from a recent German bombing raid, and haunted by the memory of one of the many who didn’t survive. Since then, the colors he uses seem dull and lifeless. In an effort to reclaim his former artistic drive, he takes a job refurbishing the ceiling mural of St. Luke’s Cathedral. But something is with him, always, and, high upon the scaffolding, he unwittingly straddles the veil between the living and the dead.

This is the blurb for a short story I wrote a while ago — approximately 5700 words — based on the lyrics of “Heartwork” by Carcass. You can read it here.

I guess the first thing I do is give a good, thorough reading of the lyrics. Early on, Carcass was known for their (Jeff Walker’s) fifty-cent forensic vocabulary, which absolutely worked with what they were doing, but as the albums unfolded, so did Walker’s scope. The fact is, if you look back — even all the way back to Reek of Putrifaction, you will find that Jeff Walker has a refreshing (in the world of grind core) grasp of language and how to use it for effect in a literary sense (though it becomes more apparent with Symphonies of Sickness and more refined as one moves up their discography).

What I like about the “Heartwork” lyrics is that they are both concrete, but ultimately indefinable. That’s not to say it’s vague – there are adjectives galore, which gives a very strong sensory experience of the words, but the fact is that the most concrete we’re going to get is “work of art,” and most nouns support that theme. But, it’s not specific in fact. Just extremely specific in feeling. I also appreciate the word play and the variance of phrasing, though not entirely, keeping some of it intact, within the repetition. It’s a great way to retain a recognizable song structure (with the reiteration of verses and choruses) while also shaking it up.

So, all in all, it’s not so specific that the story writes itself, or that your story is going to end up being just a heavily fleshed version of the song. Not a lot of room for creativity when that’s the case, though, I wouldn’t knock it. Sometimes the story of a song is interesting enough to fill it out and see what’s lying deeper within. Here, though, there’s a lot of room to move around. Explore the space.

In this post, you’ve got a link to the story to read in its entirety (which, I suggest before reading the rest of this post), a link to the video so you can have a listen, and a link to the lyrics (shit spelling notwithstanding). So, all I’m going to do now is just show you how I used the lyrics, just in terms of the words themselves.

Works of art, painted black

Magniloquent, bleeding dark

Monotonous palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

Food for thought, so prolific

In contrasting shades, forcely fed

Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

  • monotonous, contrasting shades

“All the color rushed from Geoffrey’s world, and in its place, a monotonous shade enveloped his hearing, his taste and smell, his sight, and even numbed his nerves so that the crumbled brick around him felt only a buzz beneath his hands.”

  • palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

“He watched them, then let his gaze trail up the bland buildings opposite his and to the grey sky—all seemed so drab, a tedious, lifeless palette, murky and grim.”

  • forcely fed

“He breathed deeply, feeding the air forcibly into his lungs, which seemed to contract further with every explosion, far and near.”

  • so choking

“He recalled the arch of broken cement overhead, what remained of the railroad bridge, pieces of stonework crumbling into his mouth. So close, too close. Choking.”

A Canvas to paint, to degenerate

Dark reflections – degeneration

A canvas to paint, to denigrate

Dark reflections, of dark foul light

  • A canvas to paint

“When he could carry his easel, canvas, and paint box to the docks with one hand on his cane, he sought to begin again.”

  • Dark reflections – degeneration

“Once he began on the ceiling above the altar, he was able to put most of the raid out of his mind, his eyes narrowing on the canvas above him, denigrated and degenerated with age. In the wet paint, he’d note the dark reflection of his own eyes looking back, creased and distorted with the shape of the dull smear.”

  • A canvas to paint, to denigrate

“Not an easel on the dock, not a denigrated canvas of faceless, failed portrait after portrait.”

  • Dark foul light

“Everything was there and everything was what it should have been, but the pieces, upon looking back through them, seemed fouled darkly, their hues corrupted, the light polluted.”

Also, here we have our title.

Profound, aesthetic beauty

Or shaded, sensory corruption

Perceptions, shattered, splintered, mirroring

In deft taints, diluted, tinted

Spelt out, in impaired color

Denigrating, going from paints to pain – not a pretty picture

  • Profound aesthetic beauty

“The grey light outside filtered through the massive stained-glass windows, each brilliant color diffusing profound beauty onto the pews and choral stalls.”

  • In deft taints, diluted, tinted

“He followed the lines, deftly respected the previous structure of the design, though the tint seemed tainted.”

  • Going to paints to pain

“He looked around himself, at the colorful glass figures posed in a variety of pious formations, the mural slithering between, pane to paint to pane.”

Works of heart, bleeding dark

Black, magniloquent art

Monotonous palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

Prolific food for thought

Contrasting, fed with force

Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

Works of heart

“It’s not the most creative work, granted,” Father Owen continued. “It can be better described as a work of the heart…”

…and…

“Geoffrey’s heart worked double, triple, his chest pounding, the brush that stuck to it vibrating with each pulse.”

Bleeding works of art

Seething works so dark

Searing words from the heart

  • Searing words

“…someone whistling—or was it a bomb dropping?—searing ever closer to impact.”

Also, not so literal, the “bleeding” is here, without using the word:

“He moved his head slowly, up and around, taking vague note of the protecting arch above him, then directing his gaze all the way over to his right side, where a woman in a red silk blouse and a tweed skirt lay buried from the ribs up beneath some heavy-looking fragments of the bridge.

Again, no particular thought came to him, only hazy notions of certain details. There was not a single run in her stockings. She was missing one shoe. The blouse she’d put on that morning had not been red.”

Also, the last line in the poem by Michelangelo:

In front my skin grows loose and long; behind

By bending it becomes more taut and straight;

Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:

Whence false and quaint, I know,

Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;

For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.

Come then, Giovanni, try

To succor my dead pictures and my fame;

Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

There was a lot to work with, so a lot of perfectly great words that could have worked anywhere, really, but I didn’t want to overdo it — I guess I didn’t want it to seem obvious or overbearing, but that seems silly now — as if the population at large is thoroughly versed in the lyrical content of any Carcass song, let alone this one in particular. I could have put it all in, but there it is.

Next Monday, I’ll talk about how the story itself came about. Cheers.

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Several years ago, I published two collections called Despumation (they’re actually still available: Here No. 1 & here’s No. 2). I was hoping to take it further, but I vastly overestimated the number of competent writers who also listen to extreme metal. The submissions were…bleak, and I don’t mean that in a metal way. It was rough, so I shut it down. Though I did not contribute to these, I did write one story (with the intention of writing more, enough for a separate collection of just my own stuff), which you can find here (along with a bunch of other great metal-based stories), or you can just read my story up on Wattpad.

It’s called “Dark Foul Light” and it’s based on Carcass’s song (not the whole album), “Heartwork.”

I got a message from a reader on Wattpad who read it because it ranked well with the #Carcass hashtag, and they liked it, but they found the story wasn’t what they were expecting. And, I get it — they’re absolutely right. Though, if you’re very familiar with the song, you’ll find the lyrics throughout, which is where I started when I developed the story altogether.

Anyway, it occurred to me that perhaps I could blog about that process. A lot of the submissions I got for Despumation were attempts at a fairly literal interpretation of relatively concrete lyrics, which, with pretty limited metal tropes, tend to end up being about the same sort of things — murder, violence, satan, etc. Very little variety. I get that it seems like a pretty obvious way to approach this kind of endeavor: concrete lyrics, concrete story ideas, literal story. But I found that if you open the song pool up to more abstract, conceptual lyrics, 1) you have much more to work with, and 2) the places you can go with it expands tremendously.

And you will definitely end up with stories that your average headbanger wasn’t expecting — and may not even like, which is a shame. But, as a writer and a metal fan, it’s deeply satisfying, and frankly, it’s a better story. Start with the lyrics as a foundation, and then do a little research about the band to find your setting, character names, etc. That then directs you to peripheral information that, while having nothing to do with the song per se, captures the culture the band was operating from, among other things. Another thing you can do, if it works, is use the structure of the song to set the pace. That’s a challenge.

There’s a lot you can do with it, other than simply find a song that already tells a rather direct story (which, in metal — as with any genre, I’m sure — tends to be fairly limited). Not that there’s anything wrong with using a song that really tells a story already — one can always expand on it. But, I find it less satisfying and it keeps you boxed in, in terms of creativity.

So, next Metal Monday, I’ll tell you how I came up with the story of “Dark Foul Light,” and from there, I’ll tell you how I’m currently devising a story based on Coroner’sDivine Step” from the Mental Vortex album. Yes, I’m back on the metal-based story wagon — working on that collection again.

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Dark Foul Light Cover

Just a couple of quick announcements;

First, I’ve got a three-part short story up on Wattpad this morning, Dark Foul Light:

In April of 1941, Geoffrey is a Liverpool painter still healing from wounds incurred from a recent German bombing raid, and haunted by the memory of one of the many who didn’t survive. Since then, the colors he uses seem dull and lifeless. In an effort to reclaim his former artistic drive, he takes a job refurbishing the ceiling mural of St. Luke’s Cathedral. But something is with him, always, and, high upon the scaffolding, he unwittingly straddles the veil between the living and the dead.

This story is based on the song “Heartwork” by Carcass. Fun Tip: Take a moment to to give the lyrics a quick read before dipping into this 5700-word story. This is a one-off!

FM9 (5.1)

Second, the first part of Florida Man’s Chapter Five is up. Florida Man is updated Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

1 Economy

 

And, finally, as of yesterday, Dread Confluence (short story collection) now has one full novelette up (in five parts): The Poison Spring.”

Dread Confluence is a chilling collection of tales — from the uncanny to the downright ghoulish — based in and around the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.*

The first tale begins in 1873, in the town of Economy, where the unsuspecting Paul Gaffey taps into the underground river for a community well…also tapping into something more ominous.

This gets updated 2-3 times a week and is currently planned for six stories total.

DC Cover

 

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