Writing Angels

I had a good day writing–1k words, my best day in almost a month.  It felt great to flip over to that next page and keep writing, knowing that it was going to be the end of the train ride, not my train of thought, that stopped me.  I thought my next scene as I walked home from the Metro.  Then the chaos of the kids at home drove it all from my mind, to be rescued at a later date.

TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT
Guess which one is the Angel of Death.  Hint: he looks like Christopher Walken from The Prophecy.

The scene wrote so easily because I was writing about the characters encountering an angel.  I have a lot of strong feelings about angels in print and cinema, some of it contradictory.  I despise theologically inept movies but I am a total sucker for angel movies even when they are incoherent.  When the movie has a little theological gravitas to it, like The Prophecy or The Devil’s Advocate or Constantine, I’m a lovestruck fanboy.   This is how I know Legion is one of the worst movies ever made–I hate it.  On the small screen there is the show Supernatural, which has a lot of lousy angel ideas but which somehow managed to nail Death in some of his earlier appearances.  Sadly they couldn’t keep it up.

In print I’ve always been fond of the idea, which I first saw in Madeleine L’Engle in childhood, that angels are terrifying.  The first thing they say, as she points out in one of her books, is “Be not afraid.”  Of course this is purely Scriptural, whether it be the bizarre figures of prophetic visions or the fiery army visible only to Elijah or Elisha.  Angels are boss–that’s planted deep in my psyche.

The best print description I’ve ever seen though is in Tim Powers’ Declare, which Brandon put me onto a few years back (that guy has serious taste in books).  I couldn’t do it justice without quoting every scene they are in, but I’ve never seen anyone nail the idea that angels are pure intelligences before.  And for low-brow, I think Butcher’s Dresden Files also catch the right ideas on angels.

My angel scene takes place while the group works at a crematory to mark time and pay the bills while their SUV is repaired so they can travel on.  In that alt-future, there’s a serious need for border towns and havens to dispose of corpses lest the bring…trouble.  I had fun doing some research into how modern cremation works and tinkering with it to get the feel for how we would do neo-ancient cremation (bonfires).  I may/may not try tossing a turkey carcass or some butcher’s bones into a campfire to do some field testing.

I am pretty happy with my (super) rough draft about the magic of cremation and the temptation to worship fire.  At the first cremation ceremony, most unexpectedly, they encounter an angel that no one else can see (actually only one of them does; the Tim Powers connection is played heavily there).  I have a long way to go before I’d share that scene, but I have been giving though to putting one or two chapters of the book on the blog.  I think the crematory chapters are a good candidate–they don’t spoil much story, they represent some of the things I want to do thematically and artistically in the book, and they have some innate cool factor (I hope).

I’m more willing to share my imperfect work than in ages passed.  If I can get the dumb things written, and then hit with the magic fairy edit wand just once, I think I’ll put them up.  Look for them in the next few weeks…?

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