The Superannuated Guide To Originality For Writers Who Recycle

 

There is a lot to be said for stealing; Shakespeare did it, and artists and singers make most of their material from scraps they take and alter beyond recognition. Cue the outcry on how all the really good people live in a cave and only make things that are totally un-influenced by any other human ever!

Oh Sweet Summer Child, Welcome To The Hive-Mind

Once you really begin to work in a consistent capacity, ideas become, well, more obviously delineated. You become aware of the way characters, plot turns, and emotional discoveries are generally similar, and your choices become more informed.

I Have No Idea What You’re Blithering About, Victor Poole

When you have the time, sit down with about twenty Wodehouse novels. Read them all. Then come back and tell me all about the young man who begins a new job, the elderly man henpecked by his wife/sister/aunt, and the obnoxious child who smokes on the sly.

P.G. Wodehouse Wrote Original Stories About Boys’ Schools

If you go backwards, past the comic novels and the adventures of Blandings Castle (and, of course, Wooster and Jeeves), you will encounter a wonderful world of boarding school novels that are both original and easily neglected.

But Original Is Better, You Fool!

I could walk you through a list of Shakespeare thefts, but for the sake of brevity, I will get to the point, which is this:

Originality often lies in exposing previously-obscured folds in common experiences.

Examples

Meh Writing:

Nana had no cheese in the fridge, but she had a five-gallon bucket of mint ice cream in the freezer, and she hoarded it carefully for her grandchildren. She did not eat much herself, Nana, and Pops preferred things that way. He was gradually starving her down, and when she lost her mind, he helped her up and down the steps with a cozy smile on his face.

Nana’s insanity made life very easy for Pops; the family was sympathetic to the helpless old couple, and he could set Nana up in front of the television for hours while he tinkered over his crossword.

He made her sit with him, while he worked, because she had started to dream dangerous dreams, and sometimes she thought she was in someone else’s home. He never had anything to say to her anymore, now that she was not sure of who he was, or of her surroundings.

Sparkly Writing:

Nana’s blue-white hair bobbed, and her yellowed teeth glistened as she stared out the living-room window. She was not supposed to be in this room; it was the company room, and had sat empty for years now, ever since Garret, the last one, had moved in with his wife. Garret had hidden his pills under that edge of that carpet, right before he had been taken in for evaluation. Nana could not remember if that was before or after he had moved out, though she knew that Garret’s wife had been shouting and red-faced for a long time after that.

Nana padded cautiously over the thick carpet, and laid her hand over the rim of the couch, where she had sat with her first baby daughter, or her second. She couldn’t remember. Maybe she had sat here with both.

A door slammed far away in the house, and Nana padded swiftly, with the cunning of a spider, into the hall, and to her room. She would be in her bed like an obedient doll when Pops came in.

Where’s My Superannuated Guide, Victor?!

Realize that execution and grounded perspective bring originality. Peel back the curtain on genuine pain, and realize that people are generally aware of what they are doing (even if they say they aren’t). Ignore all advice, guides (superannuated or otherwise), rules, and embrace failure, because that’s where most of the good writing happens. And lastly, realize that your unique inner world is the most original and sustainable source you can draw from.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. If it wasn’t a Friday, it would be some other day, but every day is a good day to pick up My Name Is Caleb; I Am Dead.

Cover Upgrades! Huzzah! (And The Best Review Ever!)

Slave from the East all covers

My books can be purchased through links here. Now they are beautiful on the inside AND the outside. Your personal trainer says that reading The Slave from the East will motivate you to work out better on Thursdays.

(And I just got my first 2-star review! Which I’m actually pretty happy about, because it is intentionally a book that under-wows until the last four installments. Ha ha! I am so full of myself, and I love it. Happy Thursday, internet-dwellers! I’m winning at life!)

Should You Work Really Hard Or Coast When You Write?

A lot of people (okay, almost all of them) believe that writing is really, really difficult. When you go looking for inspiration, or encouragement, the ranks of writers, amateurs, and in-between professionals shout out a pretty unanimous chorus of “It’s SOOOO hard, you have no idea!” Then they add in, snidely, I am sorry to say, that you will probably not succeed, and that you better be writing because you love it, and not because you want to get anywhere as an author.

Ahem.

I shall now mount up on my soapbox (which is made out of wood, and painted with block red letters: Freshie’s Wholesome Soap: Gets Anything Clean!) and speak in a motivating manner to you, kindly internet stranger.

Isn’t Writing Really Hard?

Writing is easy. Performance is hard. Building a competent, grounded world-view, and a functional set of internalized morals, is time-consuming and usually painful. But writing, the actual act of sitting down and telling a story, or outlining and then following your plan, is remarkably easy. This, I think, is why there is so much angst and confusion among writers who try and fail to succeed.

Yeah, Well What Do You Know, Victor?

I actually know a lot. I’m probably the most competent energy analyzer you’ll ever encounter (I know, that sounds like a made-up title to make me sound interesting, doesn’t it?). But for the sake of (brief) argument, I’ll list out some of my qualifications. Eh, on second thought, I’ll just tell you what I was going to tell you. (If you care, trawl back through my blog history; you’ll get an accurate picture that way.)

You’re A Weasel, Victor Poole!

Squeak, squeak (or whatever noises weasels make). Oh, I went and saw the new King Arthur movie; it was really good. If you like epic fantasy, get thy backside to a theatre and see it on the big screen; the elephants are magnificent.

Tell Me About How Writing Is Easy

I know, I just love to hear myself talk. Back to writing! Most people don’t understand the transaction between a writer and a reader, and consequently, when the writer takes up the pen, metaphorically speaking, and composes a piece for sale, he or she often fails entirely to hit the mark. It is generally a failed effort precisely because of a larger issue, like a lack of consistent moral framing, or a blocked personal energy carriage (such as a capped pelvic cradle, or an infected energy mask behind the face). These problems are not acknowledged as real in mainstream society, and so the would-be author applies him or herself diligently, and repeatedly comes up against failure.

Actually, I’ve Seen That Happen, Too

It is a fairly ubiquitous experience, the seeing of the would-be artist flailing forever in apparent mediocrity. Talent cannot compensate for dysfunctional performance, and passion and hard work will never replace the value of a coherent value system. All the writers, save a very few, are looking in the wrong direction, and they feed within each other the belief in “the death of art,” or the “decline of the modern reader,” or even of “the way e-books have jaded all readers forever because there are too many books!”

But All Of Those Things Are Happening

No, they aren’t, but it would take me months of delving through your particular energy-carriage to convince you of this fact, or to change your flow.

Now I’m Offended! I’ll Leave Your Blog!

Cool beans, fellow internet-being, cool beans. But remember that soon, soon I will be validated, because my own flow structure will be completed, and I will conquer, as it were, the English-speaking world. (You know, until I start working with translators.)

You’re So Cocky! I Can’t Stand It!

Go to a writing advice forum, or a critique site. Or go to any internet space, or any physical book on publishing or writing from a library, and read for a bit. If you look very carefully, you will find one percent of successful writers (as in, writers who make a living from making words) who openly admit that they work very little on their writing. You will find these same one percent writers openly admitting to lying about working harder, and you will hear a seemingly-endless barrage of advice from successful writers all saying the same types of things:

  • It’s really hard
  • Almost no one “makes it”
  • You’ll never make money
  • Do it for love
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Are They All Lying?

It’s okay, they have to lie. Actors do this, too. When they’re young and naive, successful actors tell the truth, but they swiftly learn that to be honest in a performing career is very foolish. Telling the truth generally gets you yelled at, harassed, and shunned by other workers in the art world.

Aren’t You Telling The Truth, Victor?

When you approach your writing, think carefully. Are you focusing on the areas of your work that are weak, or are you running in circles around low-impact craft-improving zones? Because if it’s the latter, you’re not going to see as much progress as you’re hoping for.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books will be live and beautified in the next few days, so wait to buy them. Scientists say that reading Intimate Death on Wednesday is good for your psychological health.

Should You Click On This Blog Post?

Intimate blood v.2

I wrote this book. It’s a novella, really.

I was having a crisis about my fantasy novel (I know, I get emotional when I’m being creative), so I took a short break and wrote this very fluffy piece of murder and revenge.

It’s completely different to anything I’ve written before, so I’m, ah, nervous about releasing it. If I psych myself up enough in the next few days, I’ll put it up for sale on the Kindle store.

But I think the cover looks pretty decent.

And here’s a fiction example, because I like you.

Bad Writing (Don’t Read This! It’s Really, Really Bad!):

My head ached, and the fancy light was so hard for me to bear without complaining. I wished I could have stayed unconscious for this part, because it was really uncomfortable, and I didn’t like it at all. My knees shook, and I observed what there was to see before everything went shadowed.

Her light never was there for long enough of a time for me to really enjoy the glow or see where it was coming from. The air was dusty, like I was breathing in the burst bag of a vacuum.

I was in a really big space, like a box, except it was a building, or it had been before everything had gotten explody and shardy. There were a lot of dead bodies around me, and their arms and legs stuck out from the carnage. Another bomb soared in a big arc over my head.

Then I felt sad, because I realized I was dying again, and I didn’t want to do this right now.

Good Writing:

I was not dead for long this time. The reanimating power surged from my kneecaps. Stupid place to keep her magic, I know, but I didn’t bring myself back to life. The lights around me flickered and spun through the heavy shards of glass and dust that fell, like crashing snowflakes, through the air.

I was in an industrial plant, and the workers, like me, had all died in the attack. I didn’t see what it was this time. The bombs were coming thicker these days, and it wasn’t as interesting to me to classify them as it had been in the beginning. I walked through the carnage of bodies, and the limbs that protruded from the ash and sand were like vicious thorns fallen from grotesque plants.

The whistle of a second missile arced through the air towards my face. I barely had time to grimace in annoyance before my body was blasted in the explosion.

As I died, the throbbing light in my mind blew away the shadows of the night; I knew I was going into the presence of my mistress.

The above is a bit from a story about Paul, who is a very interesting man. I’m working on the piece for a Scribophile contest.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which are about to be updated, so don’t buy them yet, are here. Today is Tuesday, and I just purchased Vellum.

 

People Say You Should Write What You Know. Is It True?

Don’t write what you know. Write towards what you need to find out. This will both fuel your desire to write, and imbue your storytelling with urgency, meaning, and passion.

What Do You Mean?

Writing what you know, in my case, would involve me writing a lot of really boring, dark fiction where nothing ever happens and there is a lot of whining. I don’t want to write this kind of material, because I am already living my reality.

What Are You Writing, Then?

I want to have a great deal of money. I want to have power over my life, and I want to stop being haunted by demons that I don’t understand.

Oooh, Demons?

Unless you are perfectly balanced, content, and happy in every relationship in your life, you probably are a little like me–or I’m like you. Unbalanced, and sometimes miserable (I’m getting less so all the time, because of writing this way.)

Writing What Way?

Towards what you need to know. Here is an example: I am very tired, almost all of the time, and I have a hard time falling asleep. After much study and meditation, I have come to the conclusion that I have several repressed traumas that are haunting me. Bad memories, if you will. Everyone has them. Very few people deal with them. I am dealing with mine, slowly, with writing.

Are Your Books Full Of Bad Memories?

No, they are whole stories. I do a lot of free-writing aside from my fiction work. Working through my bad memories with what amounts to journaling is allowing me to process my lived experience and continue to write strong, impactful fiction.

Are You Going To Tell Me How To Do It?

Inside of you is an amorphous cloud of pain that is driving a lot of your emotional life, and thereby controlling many of your actions. To write stronger fiction, take a few minutes, like, say, eleven, and write down anything that comes to mind when you place your consciousness into this painful area of your soul. After you have done this, go to your work-in-progress, and jot down a few words–fifteen words would do.

Fifteen Words Is Not A Lot, Victor

I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but what we are doing is priming the pump, as it were, of your natural creative capacity. When you successfully link your repressed bad memories into a fiction format, your body will become able to dream consciously–you will, essentially, be writing stories that transform bad feelings into deeply symbolic and coherent stories.

Don’t Write What You Know; Write Towards What You Need To Know

If this idea sounds interesting to you, know that my fantasy series is a cleverly-disguised creativity course that will transform the way you think about your pain. Start at book one, and feel your pain and anger surge to the surface. But if I were you, I’d wait to pick up my books for a least a week, because I’m buying Vellum today, and the covers are getting a major face-lift as soon as my files are upgraded.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which are about to be updated (so don’t buy them today) are here. Monday is the day when Ajalia often dyes her hair, and straightens it, so that she can maintain her status as look-alike to her master, Kedar.

One Skill That Will Hike Your Stakes Through The Stratosphere

Do you know how to break things? Like, really, devastate and obliterate a thing until whatever the thing is wishes that it had never existed in the first place? Learn that skill, and your dramatic scenes will take on a pitch and intensity that will awe your readers and make you seem deep, like them ol’ timey Russians. (You know, Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, and the depressing folk from that era.)

Why Would I Want To Write Like A Russian?

Not a contemporary Russian, friend. We’re talking classic-tome territory here. The first thing on your journey to literary depth is death and pragmatism.

Wait, You Haven’t Told Me Why I Want To Write Like A Russian Yet

Well, you don’t want to write like a Russian, per say. You want to write like yourself, but with more intensity. See what I mean? And there is nothing in the world like a touch of nihilistic Russian philosophy to add pathos and meaning to your fiction.

Okay Victor, Sure. Whatever You Say

Yep, yep. So, death first (or last, as we might say). It is important to realize that the old Russian greats meant things. If they were petty, they had well-thought-out reasons for being petty. If they were depressed, they were REALLY depressed. And if they had deep thoughts about death, they stuck to those meditations like champs.

You’re Losing Me, Victor

I know, I know, Russian melancholia is an acquired taste. But it impresses other people, so we’re going to talk about it. Let’s look at an example here.

Bad Writing (American shallow):

Balerie drew long pink eyebrows on her face, and pulled a powder of blue fish scales out of her bag. She patted the scales down over her cheeks, and checked her reflection carefully. It was not as good as she could have done with a full set and two hours, but she thought it would do.

A knock sounded on her chamber door, and she stuffed away the things, and straightened her flimsy gown.

Good Writing (old-fashioned Russian depth):

Balerie’s hand shook as she gripped the worn pink eyebrow pencil, which she had stolen from her aunt’s things. A mixture of terror and excitement wrangled through her insides, and she tried to steady her breath. She smoothed the pink lines over her eyes, and dug in her bag for the remnants of crushed blue scales.

She patted the last of the sparkling powder on her cheeks as a heavy knock sounded at the door. Ye gods, I hope I look better than last time, she thought, as she tucked away her things, and smoothed her paper-thin gown.

What Is This Skill You Promised Me?

One skill that will raise your stakes through the stratosphere: Everything must be deliberate. Intellectually lazy people find this approach exhausting, but a dead Russian author would not pick up a plot line without thinking twelve directions through it first; how can anything go wrong, and should the character give up and live in a corner until they die of starvation? This sounds facetious, but is actually a fairly accurate description of the way this style of fiction is written.

Nothing is casual; nothing is light-hearted. Every item, every sound, every word becomes a possible portent of death, chaos, and bitter misery.

When your character(s) are hovering on the edge of unmanageable despair, everything becomes high-stakes.

Well, That Was Depressing

I know, right? Makes for good fiction, though.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which are awesome, are here. Ajalia is a spunky lass; check her out.

On Saturated Prose, Pretentious Verbiage, And Clean Execution

Tell us what’s going to happen right away, so we can watch your execution. Revealing your purpose in the story can feel counterintuitive; you might feel afraid that you’ll give too much away, or that you’ll destroy the reader’s interest in the plot. But readers are often more perceptive than you think, and they are usually reading a book for reasons that are murky to you.

Why Do They Read?

People read books for tons of different reasons, but I can practically guarantee that their reasons do not in any way align with your reasons for writing.

Oh, Yeah? How Do You Know That?

I went to a performing arts school, and I spent a big chunk of my life watching amateur performers attempt to connect with an audience. I started teaching performance, and I was able to create a stable, consistent emotional bond between the performers and the audience. I see writing as a form of emotional performance, and I believe that the principles of sharing the self hold true in this written medium, as well as in the live performance model.

Great, So Acting Again

Yes, acting is a public sharing of the self with strangers. This is what writing stories is, and in writing, as in theatre, you are concealed, as the actor is, behind a world and characters that are not reflective of your true self.

Why Would I Give Everything Away Right At The Start?

Let’s look at an example to prove my point. I will write the opening of a story where the plot is hidden, and then I will write an alternative opening, and give away what is going to happen. You can see for yourself which is more impactful as a piece of writing.

Bad Writing:

Eueen thundered over the open plain, her bow gripped in her hand, and her tail whipping behind her in the speed of her flight. Her hooves cut sharp divots in the earth, and showers of thick soil cascaded like brown clouds in her wake.

The distant mountains were shrouded in a grey mist, and the sun broke through the thick layers of vapor like an overarching eye of bloody red ire. She stared at the foothills as she ran, and her jaw was set in a hard line.

Good Writing:

The young centaur who set out to murder the king of the seven lands carried nothing with her but a bow and a pair of homemade arrows. She left in the dawn, before her family had come out from the hovels they built of straw each spring.

The sound of her galloping flight over the open plains was heard only by the little birds that flung up, like blown leaves, out of the grass as she ran towards the enchanted palace in the grey mountains.

There We Are

If you create an expectation in the beginning, the reader is able to engage in your storytelling. The reader will watch the plot unfold, to see how you execute the promise of adventure.

This isn’t always the most effective way to begin your story, but it is a strong hook, and can create a heavy pull and investment in the reader’s mind.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are over here. Seven witches come to attack Ajalia in The Magic War, which has very little to do with the fact that today is Thursday.