When I began my MONSTER MEDITATIONS naturally went back to classical mythology as source material and inspiration. I initially discovered Greek mythology in Jr. High. Miss Jakes was my teacher and she was a goddess — the head of the English department. She even looked like a half bird/half human creature, something that was carved in stone, but came to life at midnight.

She was also a very good teacher!

I disliked diagramming sentences, largely because it never made sense to me. Constructing sentences was never a problem, but dissecting existing examples seemed pointless. I made a deal with Miss Jakes. If all my sentences in the next assignment were perfect, she’d allow me to skip diagramming sentences for the rest of the year.

When I received an A on my next essay assignment she’d marked up one sentence was a “run on,” further noting that it was a marginal call, so she’d give me the benefit of the doubt. From that day on, I jumped on all the assignments she gave. If she offered alternative options — I took the harder one. This included choosing to read “The Odyssey” in poetry and writing my own version of the famous escape from the Cyclops’ cave from the point of view of an unhappy sheep. Peppering the text with the “rosy-fingered dawn” of the translation I’d just read.

Of all the wonderful, and monstrous, ideas in classical mythology, Metamorphosis grabbed my attention. Morphing from one incarnation, from one appearance, from one existence to another is amazing. It’s a perfectly normal and ordinary condition of a butterfly — from caterpillar crawling on a leaf to a winged creature taking flight. But metamorphosis can also be an unnatural, monstrous transformation.

Daphne fleeing Apollo is transformed into a tree. Given the sexual ardor of the Greek Gods, Daphne may have viewed her pursuer as a rapist — although I don’t remember it written that way. Perhaps she felt that she had the right — as we all do — to refuse the advances of a potential lover. Refusing a god was tricky. Maybe turning into a tree made sense?

In Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” Gregor wakes up to discover he’s a giant insect. Now THAT’S a monstrous transformation. The new werewolf greets his first full moon and feels itching on his hands and neck, fur is growing and canines descending, as he becomes a monster. Now THAT’S a metamorphosis.

Still my daydream is to morph into a full-time fiction writer. Right now, it feels like turning into a tree might be easier. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my freelance assignments — I do and I often learn things and meet people that inform my fiction. It’s just that there are only so many hours in the day and storytelling calls me!




  1. I could never diagram sentences either. I never understood much of what was taught in my English classes anyway. But I could write. My essays were what kept me on the higher classes even when I tried to drop into a lower class.

    All we have is the blank page. Keep filling that page.

    • Candy

      Ah yes… that BLANK PAGE! It looms.
      When I worked with my dad in our ad agency, he taught me about the terror of the blank page. Most of our clients were truly frightened of it. They didn’t know what they didn’t want until they saw it on the page. The writer, in this relationship, must be fearless and face the blank page (or empty screen) and fill it. Even if it’s the “wrong” words, it’s the starting place.

  2. I too love the idea of metamorphosis, but it doesn’t have to be physical! When a timid characters becomes a strong one, or a weak character becomes ‘bad’, you can call it a character arc, or you can call it metamorphosis. I like big words. 🙂

    • Candy

      Yes… yes… yes…
      An emotional or intellectual metamorphosis can be as dramatic as any physical transformation into a tree (or a wolf or even an insect).

      In all good stories, someone grows and changes. It may be subtle but it is a metamorphosis.

  3. Diagramming sentences is definitely a downer, but what a smart teacher to motivate you in such a way! I never cared much for diagramming until I took a linguistics class in college, but in that context, diagramming made more sense to me. It’s gone out of fashion to teach students much diagramming, but I often wonder how the shift away from so much grammar instruction will impact future writers? But it’s a hard call, since as Jon stated, he could write but could not diagram. The more tools we have at our disposal, the greater our metamorphosis can be 😉

    • Candy

      It’s funny some of the kids who were diagramming champs, were dull writers. It was mystifying to me and yet, as Miss Jakes discovered, diagramming was best as a carrot or stick ploy with me. I’m sure it would be much more interesting in the context of linguistics.

      The more friends I have from Europe and Latin America (the more multi-lingual people I meet) the more I wonder about their voices in different languages — the metamorphosis from one persona in German to the new persona in English, etc. All the tools, all the words, all the nuances…. adds up to better storytelling skills.