Sunday, June 01, 2008

On Updating Dante

Here's what I find fun about this kind of writing.

I am fascinated and amused when I can weave in the details of Dante's life into the narrative, but that seems more like a gimmick. Also, given the few details we have, I've pretty much run through them all by chapter 6. (He was an apothecary, and I haven't mentioned that yet, but the main details are done with)

BUT, what I'm really interested in is stuff like this. He gets to the first group of people he's going to meet on his journey. That should correspond to the indecisive in the Inferno. In the Inferno, the indecisive are punished by being stung by wasps. Okay, so I have to think of a way to get wasps flying around in "real" life. Not too hard. At that point in my version of the story, Dante is being chased by an invading army (sent to exterminate the zombies and anyone else who gets in their way), so one of the flaming catapult projectiles they're lobbing in to destroy the town hits a big tree, ignites the tops branches and knocks some off, and sets off a wasps' nest that was there. Bizarre coincidence, sure, but not physically impossible (cf the stupid ant sequence in the new Indiana Jones).

Okay, so I've taken care of one physical detail to get what happens in the chapter to match up with the punishment in the original. But that's kind of just props or scenery, really, and is more like checking off details on a list than composing a story. So I have to think, how do I get these people to represent indecision? I thought you could have them bickering amongst themselves, but that seemed a little too slapstick at this point in the story. So I thought, wait, Dante usually only interacts with one or two sinners per circle, who are epitomes of the sin. So who's the greatest indecider of all time (who's not named in Inferno, but most commentators identify him as the one who "made the great refusal")? Well, Pontius Pilate, of course. But if I'm going to put a Pilate character in my story, I'm going to need a trial and a Christ character. And the trial's going to have to be outside, so the tree can get knocked down and the wasps can get out and attack everyone. So from that one detail - wasps - we have a whole scene (and a pretty good one, I think) of the trial and execution of an innocent built up around it.

That to me is the fun part of this kind of writing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely. When that happens to me, I call it 'the story writing itself' and when the story's writing itself, I know it's going to end up being some of my best work.

If you're only on the first circle of the Inferno, you're going to be damn near orgasmic when you finish writing the whole story!

8:53 AM  

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