So I got back in touch with Chicago surrealist artist, Daina (her website) and she is still interested in doing art for Souls Unsure. I’ve been sending her bits of work and character descriptions (like my post regarding my hero, the ashen angel, Syth). In that vein, below is the work I did on another of my three main characters, Crow. Epics have muses…but they never really say anything. This muse talks back and is not always truthful. He’s summoned by a voodoo priestess (her description shall come forthwith…if “forthwith” means in a day or two). So here’s my little character analysis. Enjoy Daina (and whoever else is reading)…
A Muse Most Darkly
Crow is the muse, my voice, in the epic. He brings humor, sardonic and dark and dripping with gore. He’s here to keep things honest, even if he is not honest himself, keep things from getting to didactic, protect the poem from itself, with self depreciating humor. He keeps it sharp. He’s here because the voodoo priestess, Mama Nancy, summons him to tell a tale even as it happens…
Sit down silly boy. Cow is mercurial and protean, shifting like a blotch of spilled black ink over a bleached bone. He has no need for images. He’s a red eyed raven of a demon’s seeming, sitting on the bust of that pale bimbo what exploded out the sky god’s head. He’s a murder of crows waiting hungrily for a murder of you. So no images, son. They are already there, in the back your mind, where he prefers to perch and pluck shiny coins out of the dead waters.
*NOTE: Be sure to take epic poetic pains in describing other characters (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight goes on for stanzas describing the green knight’s clothing and weapons), but give no direct physical descriptions of Crow.
Not a Spirit
Crow is not a spirit, he is a symbol. He is all and nothing. He is the animal. He’s the trickster spirit of the Native Americans. He is the chthonic bird of dark omens. He is the humanoid, black feathered, death eating god worshiped by ancient cultures forgotten – The Hunger of the Skies. He is both ravens sitting on Odin’s shoulders – Mind and Memory. He is the white bird cursed black by Apollo. He is the first bird Noah sent out to find dry land (he got side tracked) and never mind that slut, the dove, who hogs all the glory. He is all these things and none of them. He is a symbol, an idea.
Hungry eyes? No…no, I said I’m hungry for eyes.
Crow loves carrion, especially eyes; he’s addicted to eyes. This hunger is one of his defining traits. Ravenous would not be too severe a descriptor. That puts an edge and suspense on everything. Even as he’s telling the story, he wants to eat everyone…he just happens to have the dignified etiquette to wait till a person’s dead. When Crow eats a creature’s eyes, he sees what they see. This is a nifty way to get exposition, change the Crow’s tone of voice, or go into first person interludes.
“When the sin lies bolder
I’ll pluck out thine eye”
-Alice in Chains, “Bleed the Freak”
Eyes of the Story
Crow’s eyes are the one’s that see the majority of the story. Even the priestess is telling what is relayed to her. Crow is her link to Sheol; her black plumed 2-way.
“If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows”
-Rev.Henry Ward Beecher
A beak cannot smile, but Crwo does it anyway (he’s rebellious like that). He is a dark, jaded creature, like Syth, but he does not mope about it. He’s the sardonic grin and wicked laugh to Syth’s perpetual frown and groans. Together they make both masks of a theatre macabre.
“And these ye shall have in detestation among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are a destetable thing; the great vulture, and the beareded vulture, and the osprey; and the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind…”
Bird’s Eye View
Crow, when you take away all the scary flesh eating stuff, is about seeing the universe from a strange perspective. There is a crazy wisdom to being able to see the absurdity in the most serious things – all granted by having the perspective of one who can shit on the heads of everyone below.
“Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother.”
-The Qur’an 5:31
“I am that I am,” says Crow, “I am the color of my feathers.” Crow is the color of his wings. He is the absence of light and the potential for all. He is composed of no substances but represents many. He is none of the things he stands for, and he is all of them. When God created the Heavens and the Earth – he had to start with basic black.
“A zealots stones may break my bones, but gods will never hurt me.”
I Stole the Sun
Crow is proud of the time he stole the sun (or at least conned the fat ass). He’ll tell you about it if you ask. “I gave it back,” he’ll tell you, cryptically. If you’re good, he’ll even tell you a secret. Crows are night birds. People only think they are day birds because crows don’t want you to know what they are up to at night…
“And dieing eyes consume me now
The voice inside screams out loud
I am focused on what I am after
The key to the next open chapter
Cause I found a way to steal the sun from the sky
Long live that day that I decided to fly from the inside”
–Shinedown, “Fly From the Inside”
In this epic poem with different voices, it’s important to get a fix on how each character sounds…
Crow loves words. He’s my excuse to be more clever or cutsie with the verbiage than I might normally be in this type of a work.
“What purpose do your words have Crow?”
“What more purpose do you need than words?”
Crow is the mouth of dark humor that most of the story flows from. His language can be quite manic and mischievously playful – he likes riddles and jokes.
“How come the Vatican has lightening rods?”
His language can also be cruel, he can laugh at the things that make other cry. Crow likes giving other characters little taglines with alliteration (like “Sweet Sister” and “Ashen Angel”).
Crow can spin strands of flowing poetry…but often breaks it with harsh discords and staccato bursts of single syllable words of a harsh sound. Think “kaw-kaw-kaw!” if it were language.
Most of all, Crow’s voice is shape shifting and chaotic. It can change to fit the situation or contrast it. It is another cheat on my part as a writer, giving me latitude in how I write the story and ensuring I never get stuck or bored.
Crow also makes all kinds of crazy, contradictory, Aesop-like mythical anecdotes about himself (“Did I ever tell you how I taught the Aztecs to eat their enemy’s eyes?”). One never knows if they are true.
Crow plays with language, turning nouns into adverbs and other such tricks (“Did I ever tell you how I taught Shakespeare to turn nouns into adverbs and other such tricks?”).
All the above adds up into me not having to worry about rhyme and meter. It’s a very free verse (cause I am balls at figuring out meter). But…I have an in character reason for this to be so (see…I’m cheating again…writers, conmen aren’t we all).
Tattered and jagged,
Rusty and mothe-eaten,
Yf ye take well therwith
It hath in it some pyth.”
-John Skelton, Collyn Clout (c1522)