Imagine a sack full of notecards, each containing a single story fragment or idea that all link in some way to one original idea. Now imagine taking that sack full of notecards and shaking it loose in the wind. Imagine yourself chasing after the cards as they flutter down the street. Your task—to gather as many of them as possible before they blow away.
I wouldn’t call this my process for my contribution to the Triptych this time around, but at times it did feel that way. My mind scribbled dozens of its own notecards when first taking in the rousing, partly-finished music for A Dance with Death. My first impressions were of some kind of swashbuckling situation, swordplay, a duel, but between who exactly was still a little muddy. Perhaps a man of the law and a thief? Perhaps Death is like a thief from a certain perspective if Death is seen to “steal” lives. I dabbled around a bit with this until I saw the preview of the art Candice would be contributing. It was stunning and took the narrative concept introduced by Natalie and reshaped it in a way I had not at all conceived. I wasn’t prepared for it. Down the street the notecards fluttered with my original impressions as I watched, bemused.
I had a new set of questions turning the cogs in my brain. In Natalie’s music, I heard a fight, while in Candice’s image, I saw a dance. In the music, two forces were at odds with each other, while in the image, there seemed to be a duality between the two figures. Yin and yang, “dark” and “bright.”
I couldn’t fight the urge to reconcile these ideas in my story, though in the future, each of our contributions to one triptych may not correlate directly to one another in subject matter. What resulted was a creation myth focusing on two personified powers who began the cycle of life and death. (It’s funny to me in hindsight how these two characters align with certain ideas and words associated with “yin” and “yang,” which was never really intentional on my part. A reliable[?] Wikipedia source for the curious: Yin and yang.) In my story’s beginning, these two beings exist in a precious partnership that maintains the balance and distribution of life force in the world. But ultimately, as time goes on, the beings realize a fundamental difference in their beliefs that ultimately disintegrates their partnership. At the passionate height of their confrontation (inspired immensely by Natalie’s composition), the Dark Being inadvertently destroys the Light being, and in so doing destroys the bond the Dark Being had sought to preserve between them. The result—a world in which life, uncontrolled, outpaces death, and reincarnation exists, along with spirits, ghosts, and other supernatural beings.
It was an entirely different type of story for me as a writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed telling the tale once I’d finally gathered precisely the notecards I was looking for. This is again an experience that brings home to me what a great exercise it is to collaborate. Who’s to say I ever would have written anything like a creation myth if it hadn’t been for Natalie’s original musical idea and then the illustration from Candice inspired by it? One thing is certain: we’ll continue to generate fresh ideas in this ongoing collaborative exploration.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out our latest Triptych, look no further: A Dance with Death.
Also! On April 9th the Triptych Trio will be hanging out at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book festival in the United States. We hope to some day have our own booth there, but for now there’s more than a enough fun at the festival for an artist, composer, and writer. See you there, fellow bibliophiles!