How To Make Your Prose More Poetic And Profound

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When you’re writing serious fiction in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, it’s vital to keep an edge of importance in your tone, even if you’re writing comedy. A key element of both genres is a sense of reverence, and of marvelling at the profound.

Deep Fiction, Only With Magic And Spaceships

A British author who had a smashing success, far beyond what he expected for one of his works (he had several, of varying levels of greatness), later in his life said that he wished he had said something meaningful within the breakaway work. He had made it fluffy, and almost absurdly inconsequential. Once the work did well, he wished he had put more thought into its lasting message.

He Could Have Influenced Society

Shakespeare did this all the time; he snuck nuggets of what he thought and believed about pretty much anything and everything into every corner of his plays, and anyone who really wants to have a fight with me about authorial intent can go jump in a lake.

A Dropt Love Letter

JULIA. And yet I would I had ore-look’d the Letter;
It were a shame to call her backe againe,
And pray her to a fault, for which I chid her.
What ‘foole is she, that knowes I am a Maid,
And would not force the letter to my view?
Since Maides, in modesty, say no, to that,
Which they would haue the profferer construe, I.
Fie, fie: how way-ward is this foolish loue;
That (like a testie Babe) will scratch the Nurse,
And presently, all humbled kisse the Rod?
How churlishly, I chid Lucetta hence,
When willingly, I would haue had her here?
How angerly I taught my brow to frowne,
When inward ioy enforc’d my heart to smile?
My pennance is, to call Lucetta backe
And aske remission, for my folly past.
What hoe: Lucetta.

The Silliest Of Plays

Two Gentlemen of Verona is a frothy, rubbery thing; it flops around and bends willy-nilly, but the underlying narrative structure is strong. For example, there’s that scene at the end when Valentine, in a fit of brotherly affection, attempts to gift his girlfriend Silvia to Protheus; this looks ridiculous on stage if it’s performed wrong, because Protheus just finished up trying to assault her. When you examine the light-hearted nature of the tone, the act becomes a sardonic commentary upon the frantic follies of youth and inexperience. You know, like a Simpsons episode.

But Then, Shakespeare Grasped The Importance Of Profundity

There are many scenes in Shakepseare’s plays where a heroine blusters breathlessly through a seeming-contradictory litany of “yes, I like him, but no! I don’t!” speeches. Since we just looked at Romeo and Juliet the other day, I will call up the spectre of that perfect woman, Portia, as an example of another variation on the above speech, delivered by Julia, this time rendered in the profound and poetic tone adopted by the Bard shortly after he wrote Two Gentlemen.

Portia’s Blathering (While Blushing)

PORTIA. I pray you tarrie, pause a day or two
Before you hazard, for in choosing wrong
I loose your companie; therefore forbeare a while,
There’s something tels me (but it is not loue)
I would not loose you, and you know your selfe,
Hate counsailes not in such a quallitie;
But least you should not vnderstand me well,
And yet a maiden hath no tongue, but thought,
I would detaine you here some month or two
Before you venture for me. I could teach you
How to choose right, but then I am forsworne,
So will I neuer be, so may you misse me,
But if you doe, youle make me wish a sinne,
That I had beene forsworne: Beshrow your eyes,
They haue ore-lookt me and deuided me,
One halfe of me is yours, the other halfe yours,
Mine owne I would say: but of mine then yours,
And so all yours; O these naughtie times
Puts bars betweene the owners and their rights.
And so though yours, not yours (proue it so)
Let Fortune goe to hell for it, not I.
I speake too long, but ’tis to peize the time,
To ich it, and to draw it out in length,
To stay you from election.

And Now, For Fiction

How, you may wonder, can I apply the difference between light-minded cynicism and profound poetics to my science fiction novel? Observe:

Light-Minded Writing (Acerbic Commentary):

Juhi, her snot-dried upper lip stiff with daring, took up the bowl of jingling change and skipped lightly away; behind her, the greasy barkeeper yelled in an alien tongue that sounded like fighting cats.

“Pxxthe! Cght rfopwe!” he masticated. A sprinkling of ruffians in the eatery looked at him, bored and uninterested. “I’ll pay you if you catch that whore!” he screamed in a different language, for he had command of several manners of speech.

Two heavily made-up tarts who carried vicious weapons perked up at these words and shuffled promptly out the door, their artificial hips swinging behind them. The painted ladies caught Juhi at the edge of a neon alleyway.

“Give it back,” the taller lady vociferated, one of her eyelashes bouncing loose.

“I’ll give you so much more money! Just let me go!” Juhi pleaded, her narrow chest rising and falling.

The shorter lady grabbed the bowl of out of Juhi’s hands with her painted and glued nails, and kicked at her with a ludicrously-tall plastic heel.

“How much money is there in that bowl?” the taller female asked the other one.

“Twelve whole bits and change,” the shorter one sneered, her purplish cheeks lopsided.

“I can show you where he keeps all his business funds, and help you steal it all!” Juhi cried in obvious despair.

“Get lost, wdrxth,” the tall woman said, using the word for dead dog, and she wobbled towards the bar with her friend.

Profound Prose (Reflective, Respectful Commentary):

Juhi waited until the greasy man turned his back; she lifted the tip-bowl and tore away. Behind her, the over-short barkeeper heard the jingle. He turned and cried out in an alien tongue.

“Pxxthe! Cght rfopwe!” he cried, his throat tearing over the awkward sounds of his native tongue. Several patrons of the eatery looked around at him, blank incomprehension in their eyes. “I’ll pay you if you catch that thief!” he shrieked in a more common tongue.

At these words, two rough-looking women with spears in their hands and wicked guns strapped to their wide hips sprang up and crossed towards the door. They split up on the street, and cornered Juhi at the edge of a neon alleyway.

“Give it back,” the taller woman demanded. Her face was coated with exquisite makeup, and her false lashes caught the wind and fluttered up.

“I’ll split it with you if you let me go,” Juhi said, painting hard. She inched along the wall, and the tall woman planted a platinum, steel-toed high heel against the building to block her way.

The shorter woman caught the money deftly out of Juhi’s grasp, her manicured nails clicking against the metal bowl.

“How much?” the taller female asked her companion.

“Twelve and change,” the shorter one replied.

“He keeps a vault in the back, and I know the code,” Juhi said, her face pinching with desperation.

“Get lost, you wdrxth,” the tall woman said, taking her leg down. The short woman jumped slightly forward; Juhi scrambled down the street with a cry, and the two ladies watched her run and then turned back towards the bar.

And so we see, when we approach genre fiction with an eye to sobriety, profundity, and elegance of tone, our work is elevated from a sour mockery of characters (which often comes across as bad writing) to a poetic ode to the faults in our humanity.

You’re reading Victor Poole; my books are here. The sketch above is a study of this photograph.

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Splitting Natural Wholes To Create Magnetic Pairs

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Writing romance is easy when you begin with a whole energy, split it in two, and create of each part a character who naturally longs to reunite with their other half. (The drawing is a study of someone’s horse sculpture.)

Begin With A Whole, Balanced

You start with one being, a complete circle, and fracture it. For example, let’s begin with the perfect matching pair shown in Romeo and Juliet.

From The Balcony:

JULIET. I will not faile, ’tis twenty yeares till then,
I haue forgot why I did call thee backe.

ROMEO. Let me stand here till thou remember it.

JULIET. I shall forget, to haue thee still stand there,
Remembring how I Loue thy company.

ROMEO. And Ile still stay, to haue thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.

And Then, With The Pieces

As soon as you’ve beaten your natural whole into parts, you separate them and begin the story. This creates built-in romance, because the base-line impulse of a fractured energy is to reunite with its other parts.

Aside:

Fractured parts reunited creates a comedy; fractured parts sundered makes a tragedy. Romeo and Juliet is both a comedy (first half) and a tragedy (last half), because the two parts are joined and then parted.

Tension And Conflict Abound

If you ever stopped to reflect on the fecund possibilities for dramatic tension in lovers separated by trial and torment, you may have noticed an existential element to the longings experienced by both parts of the pairing. This occurs because a part of a whole, when isolated, begins to reflect on the meaning of life, and to wonder if existence, alone, is tenable.

After The Street-Fight:

JULIET. Take vp those Cordes, poore ropes you are beguil’d,
Both you and I for Romeo is exild:
He made you for a high-way to my bed,
But I a Maid, die Maiden widowed.
Come Cord, come Nurse, Ile to my wedding bed,
And death not Romeo, take my Maiden head.

And Now, For Our Purposes

How, might you ask, can I apply the principle of the split organic whole to my science fiction? Observe:

Two Distinct Personalities; No Romance:

Halbert and his girlfriend Xusa had been separated for many months in the starry byways; when they met at last on the deck of the luxury cruiser Hal-po-cxthe for their ten-year anniversary, neither could shake the feeling that this was as good as life could possibly get.

Xusa had a shining Ximosa in her hand, Halbert wore his thinnest tie, and the two of them watched the waltzing clockwork bears with peace in their hearts and love in their minds.

In the back of Halbert’s pocket was tucked an invisible Ring of Bonding; he had hidden it there in the morning, and he had yet to work up the courage to pull it out and press the Visibility switch. His throat was dry, and he ordered a SunSchotch to brace for the great moment.

Split Halves Of One Whole; Romance:

Halbert waited at the entrance to the concourse of the plaza, his fingers gripped around the invisible ring. He would give it to her, and she would be his; he had rehearsed this moment in his mind every moment since they had parted four years ago.

Xusa, for her part, had spent fifteen hours ransacking the Yeclian market for the jacket she now wore slung around her shoulders, and her knees were shaking so badly she had switched her hover-heels for plain flat shoes.

He won’t recognize me, she thought for the millionth time as she entered the wide stairs to the plaza. She felt so faint and hurried that she nearly walked out, but the thought of his shining bald head, and the glint that she knew would be in his eye, gave her courage, and she stared at the flagstones and walked in a straight line to the empty fountain.

And, In Conclusion

If you take a natural whole, fragment it, and assign the parts to lovers, your work will have a magnetic impulse that fires the blood and imagination of your reader.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The sculpture I drew can be found here. Editing on my novel is going spectacularly well.

Alternating Rhythm In Sentence Length And Introducing Variety In Punctuation

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To make your prose flow easily, build crescendos and rhythmic transitions into your sentences and paragraphs. (This is a picture I drew yesterday.)

Clarence’s Rhythm:

Ah Keeper, Keeper, I haue done these things
(That now giue euidence against my Soule)

Musical Rhythm Is Easy

You can do this with word size, consonant choice, phrasing, and sentence length.  Let us look at the musical composition below: Clarence begins with a soft train of vowels. “Ah, ee, ee, I, ee, ee” is followed by a parenthetical aside of a fat “Ow! Oh!,” and then finished up with a rising “A, ee, ow! K! T! E!”

Vowels Are The Soft Filling Of Words

As soon as Clarence has offered this opening salvo, he embarks into a long, vowel-stretched appeal to God and the keeper’s mercy, accompanied by the lighter consonant sounds, “th, v, g, d, ss, and n.”

See The Speech Below

When we follow Bill’s example, and arrange our internal sounds with the keeping of the scene, our sentence length and phrasing add immeasurably to the build and emotional impact of the scene.

Here Is Clarence, After His Nightmare:

Ah Keeper, Keeper, I haue done these things
(That now giue euidence against my Soule)
For Edwards sake, and see how he requits mee.
O God! if my deepe prayres cannot appease thee,
But thou wilt be aueng’d on my misdeeds,
Yet execute thy wrath in me alone:
O spare my guiltlesse Wife, and my poore children.

And Now, With Fantasy

How, might you ask, can I apply these entrancing vowel and colon tricks to my own prose? Well, let us look first at a disastrous example of non-built chaos that I whipped up with a look of pained disdain on my features:

Bad Rhythm:

The dragon, how he had crutched his eager way wandering into the arching light-bulb brilliance canyonways, was ill-forgotten. His bills extend and his arm-frills opened long they were sails in the crushed air pieces dazzling in rock walls and carrying dust probably.

His nostrils cup open and snorted, while vivid eyes are moving death in his heart from there to his teeth. Yellowed.

And now, order and musicality enacted upon said chaos:

Strong Rhythm:

White wings clenched like spans of marble, he clung to the canyon walls in the light of the sun. The shadow he cast, unearthly black, ran from end to end of the canyon floor and kissed against the tips of his claws. The dragon opened his jaw and roared, frills snapping wide at his neck and sides.

The wind swept through the canyon in an answering howl, filling his leathern skin like sails; dust expanded from his flared nostrils and hissed through his yellow fangs.

In Conclusion

Writing with rhythm and variety in your sentences requires an attention to the length of your phrasing, an eye for vowels, and a willingness to embrace joining forms of punctuation. And remember, when in doubt, go and read some original-folio Hamlet; nothing like Bard-prose whips your creative vehicle into tune like freestyle Elizabethan patter.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The image above is a study of a photo from here. My cyborg sequel is nearing completion.

You’re Not Getting Nearly Enough Out Of Your Existing Characters (And This Is Why)

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Guys, Pinterest has some great resources for studying anatomy. I’m working on shoulders and hands right now. I’m like a has-been that never fully was. Oh well. Anyway, today I want to talk about how to dredge more juice out of your characters.

An odd thing happens when you have a familiar character about whom you write; you both know them well enough to feel cozy writing them, and frustratingly distant enough to be unable to force them to do what you need them to do in the story. (Kinda like when you’re the boss, and your underlings are stubbornly and slipperily evasive, instead of tractable and easy to command.)

I’ve heard people talk fondly about stubborn characters before; to me, they are nuts asking to be smashed open with a hammer. See, below:

An Uncracked Fellow:

Vince aligned the sights along the barrel of his ZQ-Bombast rifle (limited edition chrome) and waited for the fallow-parling to stand up from its nest. He fired, and the alien shrieked and crumpled out of sight. Vince slung the rifle over his shoulder and hoisted himself up the trunk of the F-aklen tree, which had oddly-curved rocks embedded in the bark.

He reached the nest and glared down at the bleeding parling; it was a female, and half her left shoulder was blown open. Vince dug for a bend-chip in his belt and knelt over the crying parling. She beat at him with her right palm, but her limbs were weak, and he pinned her and slid the chip into the opening under her skull. Her cries morphed slowly into words.

“Foolish ugly man-child,” she complained, “and after the season, you’ll be hunted by my brothers! They will strip out your lungs and use them as toys for our bargels!”

“That’s as may be, but I want your bones,” Vince said. She breathed in sharply, and her body grew still. Vince smiled at her, and pink tears sprung into her eyes.

“Mama!” she shrilled, her voice echoing through the copse with a ringing jangle.

“They can’t understand you anymore, darling,” Vince said. He pulled a leather belt out of his bag, and bound up the parling’s shoulder until the skin pinched white.

“No, no!” she screamed. “You must not take my wings.”

“Only your arm, lovey,” Vince soothed. “It’s hardly anything you’ll miss.”

“Mama, save me!” she howled, as he pinned her neck under his knee and unfolded his lapse-saw.

What An Unsavory, Uncracked Nut!

Here we see Vince wrecking mayhem on a winged lady on the planet Vhuar, and he seems quite a villain (from the perspective of the parling).

Now, if we tell Vince to let the lady go, he will laugh in our teeth and take her leg just to show that he cannot be controlled.

My Word, Victor, You’re Violent!

I won’t crack him in this scene; this would necessitate the addition of a third character.

We shall take him in a later scene, after he has obtained his ill-gained parling bones and is in the process of selling them on the Obloogo black market. We find Vince meeting with a new character, Hole.

Hole shall serve as our metaphorical hammer, and I shall bring him down resoundingly upon the unsuspecting Vince. See, below:

Vince, Smashed Into Docility:

Vince threw the black bag onto the table; the delicate objects within made a musical jangle.

“How many?” said a deep voice from the shadows.

“Five pieces,” Vince said. His eyes combed through the darkness; he could not see Hole, but he knew the ugly man was there.

“What kind?”

“Three arms, one leg, and a whole tail extension,” Vince said. He folded his arms; his Perso-fin pistol made a snug bump against his left hip. “All female, and pure through,” he said.

“They’ve been asking for the male bones particularly,” Hole said, coming into the light and lifting the bag. “Harder to fetch in the males,” he added, glancing up with a smile.

“I’ve no interest in killing,” Vince said.

“But at maiming, you excel,” Hole mused. He lifted an exquisite golden bone from the bag. “How did you clean them?” he asked.

“Trade secret,” Vince said at once. Hole fixed him with a beady eye, and snorted.

“I told Crikey you’d come in soon,” the hideous man said, as if offering a pleasantry. Vince’s shoulders drew together, and his palm twisted towards his gun. “It won’t work in here, my friend,” Hole remarked. He nodded at the pistol, which was disguised as a utilitarian flashlight. “These are wonderful, all of them. I’ll take the lot, and in exchange, I won’t kill you for Crikey,” Hole said. Vince launched himself forward, and smashed against a translucent force field. “Oh, these are new,” Hole said with a smile. He pointed at the ceiling, where a hint of green illuminated the boundaries of a square. “Thank you for the bones,” he added, dropping the delicate pieces back into the bag.

“He’ll kill me!” Vince shouted. His eyes had gone wild, and a peculiar, animal-like fear was in his whole body. Hole paused over the table, and took in the vivid terror in Vince.

“Yes, I think you’re right. But I’ve been promised a great deal of work out of you first,” Hole replied. “Rumor has it, Crikey is going to train you as a retrieval hound, and send you out hunting.”

“Hole!” Vince shrieked, throwing himself at the invisible barrier. It held like iron beneath his blows, and Hole chuckled as he turned away.

“I’m sure you’ll look very handsome as a hybrid,” the ugly man called.

Ha! Now He Is In Nutty Fragments

The key to breaking down a recalcitrant character is to force him (or her) up against the most formative, purely-instinctual fears in his physical being. Once your man (or woman, or thing) is in emotional shambles, you can build a great story around them, and use them without any holding back or irritating unwillingness on their part.

May you have much luck in your own smashing endeavors!

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. I’m about to fry some homemade burgers, with cheese and pickles on top.

How To Get More Out Of Your Metaphors

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Metaphors are a powerful vehicle for sensory work and imagery in story-telling; particularly when working on science fiction, metaphors often make all the difference between an exciting read and a boring sludge.

For Example:

Interesting Story, But No Metaphor:

My sisters were horrible people. I sold them into the hands of the conquerors using the anonymous tip kiosk, and they have made me very rich. I’ve seen images of their children; my sisters, of course, don’t talk to me, but the Ilyemni are big on social media, and I have followed both of their mistresses there.

My oldest sister has four alien children now. She is pictured with the youngest on her master’s home profile, and I can tell they’ve had her surgically altered, to put extra space in her ribs and womb. I think they will plant seedlings for joined twins in her next, human twins. I’ve heard of the aliens doing such things on the news. I hope my sister dies when the babies are born.

And Now, With Metaphors:

My older sisters were a pestilent infection in my life; they tried to erase me, to make me into their mindless plaything. When I was old enough to register, I sold both my sisters into the hands of the fish-like conquerors. You have to be blood-related to offer human slaves on the live market; the pinprick of blood in the sealed registration kiosk drained my sisters’ poison from my veins.

One woman sold for reproductive work brings a high payout; two fertile humans made me very rich. The papers say you feel guilt; this was not the case with me. Every ounce of gold I use makes thick balm flow in my spirit. I’ve seen images of my two sisters’ monstrous children; my sisters, of course, can’t talk to me, as their tongues are gone and their eyes branded, but the Ilyemni masters are big on social media, and I have followed both of my sisters’ mistresses there.

My oldest sister has four alien babies now. She is pictured with the youngest creature on her master’s home profile, and I can see by the ballooning in her skin that they’ve had her surgically altered, to put extra space in her ribs and womb. I think they will plant seedlings for joined twins in her next, human twins. I’ve heard of the aliens growing exotic playthings in their slaves, after they’ve obtained the desired number of their own children. I hope my sister dies when the babies are born.

What Have I Learned Today?

Sprinkling metaphors through your prose can add impactful imagery, strong sensory grounding, and detailed interest to a story. As an added bonus, writing metaphors is fun.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books have a lot of metaphors. Rose is napping on my feet (and purring).

Petty Relationships

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I always feel as if I’m behind, and trying unsuccessfully to catch up. Sometimes I resign myself to the fate of the ever-behind, and sometimes I try to convince myself that all is humming peacefully along. I suppose the evaluatory criteria are so subjective as to be ultimately meaningless.

Today I’d like to talk about the petty relationships that can contribute to great characterization.

Rules For Petty Relationships

  1. The relationship must subsist on a mostly-unconscious emotional exchange.
  2. One half of the partnership has to be poor.
  3. A romantic interest must form conflict between the two halves.
  4. The relationship must be comprised of the same gender/orientation.

An Experiment

First, I’ll write a plain and unadorned pair-bond between two characters. I will then add, one by one, the qualifiers above, and you can judge for yourself the alteration in the resultant prose.

Plain Pair-Bond (Incorporating by Default Rule 4):

Otso and Benm carried their sticks over the mountain and searched for blue and green stones along the way. Benm claimed to have learned the secret of shaping the rocks, which he said were called mountain teeth, into razor points.

“We’ll affix them to our rods, and then we’ll be able to fight the groundlings in the caves below the lake,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ll find any of those stones,” Otso said doubtfully. He enjoyed carrying his stick, which he scraped in the failing light of the evenings until it was smooth and bright.

Plus Rule 1 (Addition of an Emotional Exchange):

“See if you can find any blue rocks,” Benm said. He walked far ahead of Otso, the two long sticks balanced over his shoulders. “I’ll make us spear tips out of them, if we can get any.”

“We’re not going to find blue rocks out here,” Otso called. He looked down anyway, and watched carefully over the mountainside as he rode their sickly pack mule.

“My grandfather taught me how to sharpen the rocks. Green ones would be all right, too,” Benm said. He rolled the wooden rods against his neck and studied Otso. “He called them mountain teeth.”

“All the rocks here are gray,” Otso called. Benm sniffed, and looked out over the expanse of mist below them.

“If we have spears, we’ll be able to fight and have adventures down there,” he said.

“You don’t know how to fight,” Otso mumbled under his breath. He kept his eyes fixed on the passing ground, which was uniformly gray and dull.

And Now, Rule 2! (One is Poor):

“See if you can find any blue rocks,” Benm said. He walked far ahead of Otso, the two long sticks balanced over his shoulders, his fitted jacket snug around his waist. “I’ll make us spear tips out of them, if we can get any.”

“We’re not going to find blue rocks out here,” Otso called, his own ragged cloak wrapped close against his body. He looked down anyway, and watched carefully over the mountainside as he rode the sickly pack mule. He kept his bare feet snug against her warm and fuzzy sides.

“My grandfather taught me how to sharpen the rocks. Green ones would be all right, too,” Benm said. He rolled the wooden rods against his neck and turned to face his friend. Benm’s supple leather boots made regular crunches on the slate as he paced backwards up the slope and studied Otso. “My grandfather called the stones mountain teeth.”

“All the rocks here are gray,” Otso called. He pulled his threadbare cloak more closely around his arms, and hugged his legs against the mule. Benm sniffed, and tuned to look out over the expanse of mist below them.

“If we build spears, we’ll be able to fight and have adventures down there,” he said.

“We don’t know how to fight,” Otso mumbled under his breath. He kept his eyes fixed on the passing ground, which was uniformly gray and dull. No hint of blue or green showed between the shattered stone. Otso tightened his grip on the coarse reins, and stared up at the mountain.

Throw in Rule 3, a Romantic Competition:

“See if you can find any blue rocks,” Benm said. He walked far ahead of Otso, the two long sticks balanced over his shoulders, his fitted jacket snug around his waist. “I’ll make us spear tips out of them, if we can get any. Marli would like that. She likes weapons.” Benm stretched his arms, and rolled his shoulders. Otso’s ears burned red at the mention of the tavern-maid.

“We’re not going to find blue rocks out here,” Otso called, his own ragged cloak wrapped close against his body. Marli had noticed his bad clothes, he was sure. If he found rare stones, Otso thought, he could sell or trade them for a better cloak, and shoes. He looked down and watched carefully over the mountainside as he rode the sickly pack mule. He kept his bare feet snug against her warm and fuzzy sides.

“My grandfather taught me how to sharpen the rocks. Tell me if you see a green one,” Benm said. He pretended to strike an enemy in the air, and let out an extravagant sigh. He rolled the wooden rods against his neck and turned to face his friend, his supple leather boots making regular crunches on the slate as he paced backwards on the slope. “My grandfather called the stones mountain teeth. I bet Marli would find that interesting.”

“All the rocks here are gray,” Otso called. He thought Marli would find colored stone fascinating, but he wasn’t going to say so to Benm. He pulled his threadbare cloak more closely around his arms, and hugged his legs against the mule. Marli likes me better, he told himself. Ahead on the slope, Benm sniffed, and tuned to look out over the expanse of mist below them.

“If we build spears, we’ll be able to fight and have adventures down there,” he said. Otso was sure Benm was thinking of how Marli would react to tales of their battles.

“We don’t know how to fight,” Otso mumbled under his breath, but he was thinking of Marli’s brown eyes, and the way her cheeks flushed when she was excited. He kept his eyes fixed on the passing ground, which was uniformly gray and dull. No hint of blue or green showed between the shattered stone. Otso sighed; he tightened his grip on the coarse reins, and stared up at the mountain peak.

I Would Call That A Resounding Success

Well, I wrote the damn thing, and I didn’t expect it to turn out that well. Let this be a lesson to me, then. I would like to add here that I think I write rather well. No qualifiers.

A Recap

Great characterizations are often founded on fundamentally petty relationships. The rules (that I just made up) for constructing such a pair-bond are as follows:

  • The relationship must subsist on a mostly-unconscious emotional exchange.
  • One half of the partnership has to be poor.
  • A romantic interest must form conflict between the two halves.
  • The relationship must be comprised of the same gender/orientation

May your own relationally-joined characters find a satisfying base of transferred emotion, economic disparity, and competitive love.

You’re reading Victor Poole. My books are here. I have a lot of editing to get through this week.

For Better Writing: Integrating The Disparate Parts of Self

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You are divided into several pieces; components of your overall being are often so different as to seem to come from separate beings. I knew an actor, for example, who had been horribly abused as a child. He had so repressed all expression of anger that he bottled all his annoyances and petty grievances up throughout the year and had one, almost-perfectly annual explosion at his underlings in the winter months. At all other times he was subdued, polite, and too careful of sharing how he felt.

That Actor Would Have Been Served By An Integration Of His Anger

It is not healthy to live apart from yourself, or to so compartmentalize your soul that you become some breed of Dr. Jekyll, who explodes ere long into a momentary Mr. Hyde.

When you write, and you have already begun to exist in a state of semi-permanent absence from your whole self, the work reflects your lack of unification.

You See This An Awful Lot With Sex

I’m about to make a sweeping overgeneralization, so if you’re easily offended, look away now. Many, if not all, people who exclusively write explicit sexual passages without making a living at it (amateur pornographers, if you will), have compartmentalized their natural sexual self from the rest of their souls, and they use the written word as a way to sooth and erase the barrier between their current and idealized selves. I am in no way speaking of romance, light sex, or professional erotica authors, which all require sufficient depersonalization of the self to preclude this division of self.

Victor, Sometimes I Think You’re Just Making Stuff Up!

Another area where this lack of unification is apt to appear is in the author’s inability to know his (or her) end goal. What I mean by this is, what does a happy ending look like? I do not mean the achievement of some end objective; no, I mean, the very happiest, best ending that could possibly be for each of the characters. Many, many authors shy away from the possibility of happiness because they, themselves, don’t know yet what they want, or what the evaluators are for their moral good, and so they unwittingly write a similar avoidance and ignorance into their novel, which is unfortunate because it creates a fog of unsureness in the mind of the reader.

Everyone, at bottom, must be good or bad.

Good Or Bad, Best Or Worst

When a human reads a story, he (or she) is looking for a personal derivative; he (or she) wants meaning. Am I like the good guy or the bad guy? Why? And what is a happy ending? And, in reference to that ending, how am I doing currently in my life right now?

People really do ask themselves these types of questions while they are reading. They may not always be aware that they are doing it, but they most certainly are judging and comparing themselves, their friends and acquaintances, and their living standards to what is portrayed in the book at all times.

We Want To Know How We’re Doing; Are We Winning?

Are we bad? Or are we good? How do we know? How can we find out for sure? We look at stories to give us context, and we apply the context within tales to our own circumstances, to find out where we measure on the scale of evil through transcendent good.

Great literature, the kind of stuff teachers throw at your face in schools, is the material that commentates openly and consistently on the measuring stick throughout the story.

So-called “escape” literature, better known as genre fiction, does not make overt value judgements, but the best samples of this style contains a wholistic moral universe, and vividly accurate examples of human nature in a range from corrupt to pure, good to bad, selfish to genuinely altruistic.

So What Does This Mean For Me, Victor Poole?

Well, I began by explaining that many people, perhaps even you, are currently living in a state of internal compartmentalization, and, by extension, your fiction suffers from a lack of intellectual cohesion.

Selfish people, for example, write characters badly, because they relate to other humans so awkwardly themselves that their dialogue and descriptions of the beings in their stories are halting, aggressive, and completely bare of nuance. Folks who don’t listen in real life listen even worse when they are the God of the narrative, and this creates ugly prose, and harsh characterizations and scenes.

For one more example, writers who do not exercise thoroughly in real life write terrible action sequences. Having very little muscle themselves, they have no real conception of the weight, binding nature, or fluidity of significant musculature, and this is reflected in the way they write physical action of any kind.

I could go on, for there are myriad samples of poor integration, and corresponding openings between delivery and intent in the resultant fiction, but for now we will look at an example of how such a lack of integration might appear in the flesh (or the pixel, as ’twere), and then I will impart to you a basic integration visualization.

Be Cautious Of Any Person Seeking To Integrate You; Humans Steal

Yes, I include myself in this group. Anyone who reaches into your energy management is getting something from you; be very wary, and excessively aware of what they are doing while they’re in your spirit, and of what they leave behind. Beware, or risk losing things, and becoming captive to forces you probably don’t understand.

I suppose I should cackle evilly right now, and tap my fingers together in the manner of a villain. But, to work.

Examples

Bad Writing (Analytical Thinking Absent):

Solace has never wanted so badly to run away, but her legs are pinned under a shelf, and she can’t move her lower half enough to get out. Her mind races. She wrestles the furniture, but it is lodged under one of the stones from the roof.

She hears another person crying out; she didn’t hear enough to know who it was. She grunts, and pulls harder. A tall shadow moves through heavy dust that is flying through the crushed room.

“Are you fine?” a man’s voice asked. Solace shivers; she does not know this person.

“No,” she gasps.

Good Writing (Integrated Thinking):

With a crash, the sky fell into the house, carrying with it half the roof and most of a tree from above the eaves. Her mother and father were crushed under a great stone, but Solace dove left, and she was merely pinned beneath an oak shelf, unharmed aside from bruises. She couldn’t move, and after she battered helplessly with a shard of rock at the shelf, she resigned herself to a lingering death.

She could hear a cry echoing sadly through the house; it was grandmother, she thought. Solace opened her mouth to call back, but the dust caught in her throat, and she choked and coughed, and when she got her breath back she found that her windpipe seemed to have closed up for good. She could not make a sound.

What Can You Do In Terms Of Integration?

As promised, the integration visualization: Imagine that inside of you is a sharp line of blue-black (like the color of a healthy black horse). Now picture the ground below you, and pretend for a moment that it is a sea of white light. You know, like the lava game you most likely played as a child, and the floor was burning orange? Except this time the floor will be bright white, and it will be water, not lava.

Noe imagine your whole body, starting at your feet, and then your ankles, sinking gradually into the sea of white beneath you. Let yourself fall slowly into the white water. As the water touches up against the blue-black line, see it burn up and disappear. The line can be anywhere; it might run up your middle, splitting you in half, or it may form a vigorous jig-jag maze. Your subconscious mind is tremendous at pinning down problems you aren’t fully aware of yet; whatever you picture the line doing in your body is exactly right.

Now, relax down into the water, imagining the shining, lapping fluid rising past your knees, and your hips, and up your back. Watch the blue-black line, wherever it may be, scrub entirely away in the touch of the white water. Let your shoulders and your arms go down into the water, and then your neck. Feel your jaw lap into the white ocean, and then your cheeks. Your eyes next, and your forehead. Finally, listen to the feelings in your body as your last bit of skull sinks down into the brilliant white water.

The blue-black line is now gone. Stand up out of the water, and draw a new black line all the way around the edge of your body. You know, as if you were a body being chalked around by the police at a crime scene. Just go ahead and trace your own black line all around the verge of your being. This is an outline that separates you from the world around you; your body longs for division of some kind, and if you give yourself this outside-inside line of separation, you can avoid reforming the original fragmentation of your inner self.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I’m working on an exciting new cover for the Ajalia books, and I made an embarrassing mistake yesterday. My cat is asleep at this very minute; she’s adorable.