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Gaiman's "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Claves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire"

10 January 2023

Fiction Writing First Assignment: Write a Six Word Autobiography, a One-Sentence Memoir, and an analysis of Neil Giaman’s “Forbidden Brides”

Six-Word Autobiography:

Command milspouse loses mind, finds purpose.

What I never mentioned in my intro discussion post was, really, anything about my life. I’m 42. My husband is a USAF command pilot. We have two teens. In over twenty years, we’ve never lived anywhere longer than three years. Moving as frequently as we do might’ve contributed to my psychic/mental/emotional/existential breakdown in 2018 that ultimately led to my self-rediscovery through creative writing.

One-Sentence Memoir:

Since the sedan was, at one point, wedged diagonally in Plaza Santa Catalina between la Mezquita’s outer wall, an Airbnb, and startled alfresco diners at Bar Santos, we were lucky the only evidence was a one-inch scratch on the left rearview mirror—and the rental car agency never charged for damages.

Analysis Instruction:

Using the Five Elements of Fiction worksheet, choose one element of fiction and map Gaiman's use of it "Forbidden Brides." Then create a new thread and explain how this adds meaning to or shapes the story.

Element Analysis: On Gaiman’s Theme Theme

Ok so I’m going to play with this worksheet at little bit and sort of bend the meaning of “Theme” to suit my own purposes. I wager, for plot, most will identify the inciting incident (talk of “guying convention”) and the turning point (questioning realism, leaning into “escapism”).

What I found most fascinating about “Theme” in this story was Gaiman’s play on themes – a reversal of reality where Gothic is real and (our standard) reality is fantastic “escapism.” It practically made me bark—made me cackle. And of course it did. Because Gaiman. Through his use of themes (Gothic, realism, escapism, fantasy) Gaiman imposes a lesson about blind adherence to theme (and expectation), about forcing ourselves into rigid writing boxes for no good reason and thus impeding our creative vision.

How does he accomplish this? He accomplishes it by making all his Gothic (realistic) excerpts about Amelia over-the-top tropey, oversaturated with clichés like bone and haunted forests and damsels and ravens and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night and even swordfights—to the point of giving me a toothache. These sections were difficult to read because the writer was clearly trying too hard. His constipated “guying literary convention” made me cringe.

Then, in turn, when he finally gives in and writes a single brief anecdote about Amelia and her vapid husband George, it’s just so good. The writing never jars and unfolds before the reader like a silk ribbon, effortlessly.

Gaiman’s is the same message I’ve received from all fronts the past few days: write like nobody will read it. Write like you write, and don’t worry so much what others will think of it.

I do have to say, in the end, that I find it a tad unfair how Gaiman is like, “I should’ve listened to my gut when I was a young writer”—well, Gaiman, of course they want to publish this story now (in 2003). You’re already a famous writer, now. I believe Mary Karr said the same. She sent one essay to a major lit rag when she first started writing and it was rejected; she sent it again once she’d made a name for herself—no edits, mind you—and the rag published it. So it’s a tad disingenuous to say, “Oh, if I’d only not hidden it away.” Maybe Gaiman needed to be a big name before anyone would publish this story. We can’t know.

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