The Actress Who Would Make A Good Mouse

I worked with an older man a long time ago on a student project. The entire scenario was a mess; he wanted to produce a classical piece, had neither the chutzpah nor the balls to make the attempt, and reverted to a weird blend of neo-dadaism and theatrical posturing to avoid the question.

In plainer language, he really thought that he ought to play Hamlet, couldn’t talk anyone into using him for a real production, and so wrote a very strange half-experimental mish-mash of soap opera nonsense and called the main character Hamlet.

He played the main character.

Anyway, I dropped out of the project partway through for fairly obvious reasons (namely that he was a mess, the project was a mess, and it was a big visual accident waiting to happen), but the guy had the very rare ability to talk coherently about script construction, so I worked with him for a while on doctoring his (very strange) script.

I should explain, I was in the project at first as an actor. This guy was weird.

The reason I’m writing this now is that I’m thinking about something that happened in auditions and then callbacks for the project.

This guy wanted to use a redhead I knew as the Ophelia character. His reason for choosing her?

“You look like a little mouse, cowering into the corner.”

When being yelled at, she cowered in a way he liked, and he felt this was an appropriate flavor for Ophelia.

Yeah, he was an awful man, and I stopped talking to him after a little while, but the actress was flummoxed by his attitude.

This guy, like a lot of male and female directors I worked with over the years, observed female-presenting actors as mere props to be used in shows for the reactive emotions they could display.

Like being a mouse cowering, or having a good and dignified ‘classical’ face.

I pondered this phenomenon for some time, being in the very odd position of a bio-girl taught to act like a boy and present as a trans-male. My life was complicated. Anyway. I thought about this a lot, and I had grown adept, over the years, at mimicking and creating convincing reproductions of a variety of gendered behaviors.

Because of my background, I approached theatre production with an idea that I could use the leftover actors, the actors that no one else knew how to use or was willing to use.

I picked up the scraps and started to teach them things that I knew how to do.

Off-topic: Here’s a practice sketch for motion.

dressage

The reason I’m thinking about this today is that I’ve come, more and more over the years, to see writing as belonging to two general camps: 1. Writing produced by abusers and 2. Writing produced by good people.

Note: Many people who have been abused (and that’s everyone) reproduce abusive attitudes in their writing without at all meaning to; these people are not abusers, and the abuse floats within the writing and is easily fixed.

There are tells everywhere in a genuinely abusive person’s work. The way they strip volition or dignity from some characters while building up the import or abilities of others; the tone they take in describing locales or emotional events; and last but certainly not least, the attitude conveyed by the narrative tone when it comes to disaster.

I’m not going to talk about any of those things right now because reasons, but what I am going to talk about for two more seconds is how to discern whether you are, unwittingly or not, writing abuse into your novel.

Big question, right? Seems like a sweeping overgeneralization, yes? Probably bit off more than I can chew with the proposition, hm?

Well, here’s how to tell, and it’s super easy, and it takes about four seconds.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

See, that’s how long it would take to know if you’re writing abusive prose or not.

Curious?

Here you go, and once you know the procedure, it’s simple and straightforward.

First, you fix your mind on the main character. If you write omni-POV or something, focus your thoughts on the central crew whose thoughts the reader inhabits, or whose actions form the primary connection to the reader’s experience.

Once you have a good emotional hold on the feel of the character or characters, close your eyes and thrust the heat of your heart forward in time, towards the end goal.

Every story has an end goal. Every single one has a purpose, an emotional state that is the finishing picture of the words. Even something vague and fantastical, experimental and seemingly structurally formless, has a distinct and meditative emotional state as the clear end goal.

There is an emotional goal of communication you are attempting to achieve in the reader by writing down words.

If you learn to do this for yourself, you can also apply the trick to any story you pick up or absorb through any means; look for the ending, the panache of “I am complete!” within the progression of the words and doings of the main character or group of characters.

Once you have focused your mind on the main movers, and cast your heart-energy forward into the future, towards the ending and coalescence of the emotion conveyed within the work, ask yourself:

“Up or down?”

Is that eventual, tentative emotional conveyance moving your internal energy up and out, or is your energy moving down and in?

If your internal substructures of energy and soul move in and down, your body and mind are telling you to retreat, to hunker in and protect yourself from harm. If your energy moves out and up, expanding towards the verge of your skin and possibly even extending towards the outer world, beyond the boundary of your physical being, then your body and mind are saying, “Yes, I can grow, I can relax; I am safe.”

Now, that is the four-second test, and here is how you evaluate your results.

If you are looking into your own writing, at a particular story, and your energy moves down and inwards, you are flinching in preparation for kickback from potential readers because you know in your heart that you are deliberately hurting people, and you’re preparing for a fight.

If, when you look into your main characters and cast your heart forward to the emotional end, your energy moves up and outwards, you are sharing your true inner self with genuine, human desire for connection and communication.

I’ll give you half a guess which response indicates abusive writing, and the half-guess doesn’t count.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and today in my current novel, a former prostitute is facing demons with a murderer. There is chocolate involved, as well as doctored identification documents.

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There Is No Writing Advice Whatsoever In This Post

 

forse

My parents wanted me to be a boy. I wasn’t one, but they raised me as one. Consequently, I have a long and mostly annoying history of women treating me like a guy, and men treating me like an attractive boy-sidekick.

The strangest thing about my parents’ willful contortion of my gender was the way members of wider society accepted and encouraged whatever my parents wanted.

My mother seriously dressed me as if I had been a prepubescent boy child transitioning into cozy drag. That was how she dressed me my whole life, and there was a lot of micromanaging and control exerted by all members of my parental family over my appearance and clothing. I wasn’t allowed to have money or buy things for myself. I was literally a dress-up toy.

But as I was saying, the really weird part was how people at church or school just accepted this very not-normal thing my parents were doing to me from birth. I mean, I’m a very feminine girly-girl. My parents had to work very hard to keep me from looking like a glowing cheerleader type, which is what I look like naturally.

But again, the weird thing was how other people just went with it. Boys treated me like a garden-variety, less popular boy. Girls treated me like a useful built-in boy replacement. Adults treated me like a confused young male homosexual. It was just plain weird.

The funny part, though, that I was thinking about yesterday, is that when I performed in live Shakespeare productions in my earlier years, I was a girl pretending (under threats and pressure from my parents) to be a boy pretending to be a girl (to avoid actual interference from CPS) pretending to be a boy (in Shakespeare parlance) pretending to be a girl.

Because Shakespeare practice is for men to perform the female parts in drag. Often I played men, though, since I did a good job pulling off the adolescent boy shtick, so in those instances I was only a girl playing a boy playing a girl playing a boy.

I don’t know if you followed any of that, but it was fun to write down.

In my current series, I’ve got a couple of very straight guys who are in love with the same woman (an alien prisoner), and she wants both of them, so they’re having to learn to get along with each other. It’s cute because the two men and the girl are surrounded by a violent, dangerous gang headed up by a close-knit group of homosexuals, so all the old gangsters just assume from the get-go that the two men are gay. It’s adorable.

I have got no mental juice left for an example today. Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and there are birds singing outside my window right now. Also, I overheard a feral cat fight last night. There are no cats in any of my current novels, though I have a really awesome intelligent spy cat in one of my sci-fi development projects.

Take Advantage of Yourself: Organic Poetics and the Symmetry in Your Thoughts

Have you ever read a story where you get a sixth sense at the turn of the paragraph where you just know that the author is about to take a massive emotional dump on you and ruin your day?

I usually stop reading right at that point. Experience is a painful teacher, but it shows us that aggressors in language are unabashed in their desire to pluck up the stuffed eel-skin of writerly violence and toff us one on the back of the neck.

Of course, authors shouldn’t do this kind of sneak-up-behind-the-innocent-householder trick, but many of them do.

Don’t be one of those authors. Yes, this has to do with organic poets. Give me a sec.

So I was reading a story a little while ago and the author wrote an endearing scene, got us introduced to the main characters, and then . . . bam! FLASHBACK OF DOOM!!!

You know where this is going. The small child, home alone in the dark and hearing portentous rattles down the hallway. Ugh.

Dropping a horror-abuse flashback in an otherwise lighthearted opening is a jade’s trick. The poetics of the story are shattered, and it’s an inorganic, unnatural way to achieve a crummy, sour effect in the end.

So let’s back up for two seconds and talk about why organic poetics and parallelisms in your thought process are good for your writing.

Poetics, as a whole description of the quality of a piece of writing, has to do with the substantive theme and tone of the piece, in combination with the long-ranging metaphors and symbology, as well as classifying the style or approach of the plot.

Organic poetry means that a piece of writing has successfully encapsulated a consumable theme with accompanying symbols and extended metaphors that service the tone with which said theme is conveyed.

In plainer terms, it means your magic story feels magical and conveys interesting ideas about magic while including writing tweaks and niceties that add sophistication to the description of magic.

Everything matches.

Parallelism in your thoughts, or internal symmetry of the story, means that the ending grows naturally out of the opening, there is balance and pace in the unfolding of the plot, and all important events and characterizations have satisfying, believable arcs in the story.

Symmetry in story means overall harmony.

So with my duh-duhn-duh! false-advertising rom-com-turned-horror-flick story I told you about, there was no symmetry in the sequence of events and the poetics were unnatural and forced, as the symbology and tone of the language shifted inexplicably between paragraphs.

I don’t know about you; maybe you really like having the author blast you with a hose of cold water as you’re relaxing over a short novel over your afternoon cookies and warm milk, but I do not at all enjoy the sensation of hearing “Ha ha! I tricked you into starting my story and now you will have to finish it hopefully and consume my acidic hatred for all people as conveyed by my sadistic abuse story! Ha ha!”

I’m like, no. Bye.

And presumably you don’t want readers to have that kind of reaction, so let’s talk for two seconds about how to utilize the organic poetry and symmetry that your own brain produces (without even trying!).

You see, your brain, if you are not a genuinely crazy person with higher-level processing problems, wants to be balanced all the time, and your brain wants everything to match, make sense, and be cohesive (at least to you). Oddly, or comfortingly, your brain gives less than two hoots about whether or not you make sense to other people; your brain just wants to be all comfy and at rest inside your private domain of skullhood.

You can take advantage of that as a writer by being . . . TA DA! . . . yourself.

Let’s take for example this angry writer whose story I was reading (and abandoning shortly thereafter) some time ago. So the writer wanted to tell about really scary, portentous abuse. That was the heart of the story, the driving passion moving along the action of writing. You could feel that through the composition of the words, just as you can hear the pounding music in a film or the meaningful rhythm of footsteps coming along behind you in a threatening manner. The writer was writing solely for the purpose of banging the reader on the back of the head with some really scary, stick-in-your-brain situational awfulness.

Guess what, writer-person? There are genres for that, and readers who go looking for it. On purpose! So if, instead of concealing this vivid parcel of child terror within the folds of a fantasy-themed rom-com, the author had begun with what they really wanted to write about, there would have been no mismatch of theme or content, and the parallelism of intent, symbology, and syntax could have built into a very fine piece of horror fiction.

When you write what you think will sell instead of writing what you want to say, you break the organic poetry of your pre-existing brain harmony, and preclude the possibility of your internal (already intact) symmetry shaping the story for you.

Yes, I said shaping the story for you.

You see, when you embrace your mind as an individual and balanced piece of contradictory but completely stable poetry, your mind comes out to play and does most of the structuring for you.

So here’s what you do: Go into your body for a moment (yes, your body, not your mind), and find a kernel of heat, of wanting. Somewhere in your physical form is a desire to express some thought. Find one, focus your attention on it, and then allow the emotion within the kernel to expand throughout your physical form, to flood you, as it were, with color, heat, and particular emotion.

You just saturated yourself with theme. You gave your body a genre, so to speak. Now close your eyes, allow yourself to marinate in the sensation caused from releasing the very heart of that kernel, and let three words float up into your conscious mind.

Those three words, if you jot them down, will have a particular harmony, a jostling yet satisfying aura of fitting together, a symmetry, if you will.

Now, if you regularly practice this exercise while fixing your mind on a story idea, rather than a particular kernel of heat within your body, and you allow that fixed story idea to flood you, your mind and body will align to the feel and flavor of the core idea, and as you relax within the hot tub of emotional sensation caused by said meditation, your brain will compose for you, with no other effort on your part, matched metaphors, coherent themes, and tricky, enjoyable plot and character arcs that express the story idea with grace and considerable organic genius.

Try it. You might like it. And if you align your writing with the style you are already sneaking into your work (as with the writer from my anecdote who was sneaking horror into fluffy rom-com), your writing will become cleaner, more palatable to the readers who like that genre, and more naturally complex.

Plus, it’ll be more fun to write. Yay fun!

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, a bodyguard is having a private lesson from the hunter on some personal matters having to do with the courting of his sweetheart.

A Live Seed: Avoiding Burned-Out Plots

I knew a guy a long time ago who wanted to become a famous writer. (I promise, this has to do with plotting.)

So, This Guy

He discovered a playwright he really admired and did some research about the man’s methods. The playwright said something in an interview about how he’d learned to write strong dialogue by studying acting. Basically, the man had pursued an MFA in acting purely to improve his writing skills.

So this guy I knew found this out and became inflamed with an insta-desire to do the same thing.

Off He Went To Auditions!

Only problem was, he hated acting, had zero respect for the art form, thought the teachers in the local acting program were pretentious cranks, and went to try outs with all the passion of a chipmunk taking a bathroom break over the hood of a brand new Mercedes.

So his copycat plan didn’t work out, and he made cynical jokes about silly old acting teachers and went back to writing by himself.

He Became a Jaded Writer Against Whom the World Plotted! And it Wasn’t Fair!

When you start a new story, or you’re working on an old one, the question at the back of your mind is whether this is THE ONE.

You know, the story that keeps going to a satisfying finish, the story containing characters who turn out to be endearing and worth knowing, the story that builds your career and makes you look and sound like A Person Worth Talking About.

Which is what we’re all aiming for, mostly.

Here’s How To Tell

When you come up with a story idea, or a seed, which is what I’m going to call the base idea for a story, there is something inside the story that is giving you what you want.

For this writer guy, he wanted success and notoriety. His idea was to do what an already successful writer had done and follow the beaten path, as it were, to fame and fortune.

His seed idea was to become an actor.

Seeds For Plots

The seed idea for a story is usually an image or a feeling, either an iconic arrangement of people doing something, accomplishing something grand, or else a very specific emotion that you feel in your heart when you think of the story idea.

Some seed ideas do not bear fruit, not because the idea is flawed, but because the person having the idea (like that writer guy who wanted to become an actor to become a writer) pushes the seed into a blazing inferno of cynical jollity and mocks the life potential out of it.

Now, The Oven!

This is exactly analogous to putting some fertile seeds on a baking sheet, shoving them in a hot oven for several hours, and then taken them out and planting them all. You can water and fertilize the seeds for the rest of time, but not a single one of them is going to grow into a plant, let alone grow satisfying leaves or bear any fruit.

Story ideas are like seeds; if you burn them in the oven of cynical mockery, you destroy the ability of the idea to grow.

Authentic Sincerity Is Important

The guy I knew, this writer guy, he could have gotten what he wanted, even after he pissed off every acting teacher in the area. If he had looked within himself and said, “Huh, I have inadvertently destroyed my seed idea with my sarcastic, callous attitude,” he could have started over (by having the idea all over again), stripped away the cynicism and the jaded rudeness, and tried again.

Yes, he would have failed the second time, and probably the third, but by the time this writer guy had picked himself up for the umpteenth time, pried away his knee-jerk careless attitude, and gone humbly to an acting teacher or a local actor for help, someone would have listened. One or another of the people who could have trained him would have said to themselves, “Here is a determined young cucumber, even if he is immature and rude,” and he would have gotten an ally and made a little progress.

Your Story Seeds

When you have a story idea, a seed for a novel or any shorter piece of fiction, your immediate thought soon afterwards is whether or not the seed is fertile. “Is this the story?” you may ask yourself, and you won’t feel sure if it is until you finish writing the entire thing. Even after the story’s done, you might feel doubt about the longevity and worth of your chosen seed. “Should I have chosen a different seed to develop?” you might ask.

Anton Chekhov, according to repute, said that he could write a short story about anything. “Point at a cigar box on a table,” he said (or something like that), “and in half an hour I will have a tidy story about it.”

Chekhov, when it came to his particular specialty of crafting short stories, knew how to embrace a seed, thrust it into a very welcoming area of his mind and heart, and make a lovely plant out of it.

Here’s the Take-Away

You avoid burned-out plots by stripping the killing heat of cynicism and casual jadedness out of your heart and soul.

If you kill a seed and you want to make it grow anyway, you have to go backwards to the point where it was still living (and there is generally a fixed, specific point in the writing where your cynicism started to kill the idea), you cut and paste the dead parts to a private document for pruned garbage, and you nurture the seed from wherever it was living before.

This Is Satisfying Work, Because It’s A Recovery of Yourself and Validation of Your Original Intention

Sometimes that means starting a draft over after the first two sentences. Sometimes it means scrapping the last third of a completed novel and writing a new ending with more caution. Sometimes you look at a dead seed, a seed that you’ve baked to death in the caustic fires of your anger-oven, and you ask yourself if you want to start over with a fresh seed of the same story or if you’d rather change to a different seed entirely.

Seeds, plot ideas, are like the seeds for plants. There aren’t good seeds or bad seeds; there are seeds that can grow and seeds that literally cannot develop because they don’t have the ability to put down roots anymore.

Starting Over

The good news is that if you have a favorite story idea and it seems dead, dead, dead, you can go to the archives of your mind, to the moment you came up with the seed in the first place and got excited about it, and you can get a new seed, a replica of the now-dead one, and start over fresh.

You can’t bake your mind or your memory with cynicism, so you can always go to the seed-bank of your soul and get a fresh start.

And So

To avoid burned-out plots, first turn off the killing cynicism inside your own mind and heart. Start over as needed, or trace to the point of death and nurture the living seed back into a new route of growth.

People say things about how there are no new stories, and that’s not really true, because you’re new. You haven’t ever happened before, so your stories are fresh and original. No one else has known the people you’ve known or seen and felt exactly the things you’ve felt. You’re you. Seeds that you get excited about are worthwhile, and there’s an awesome story inside the seed waiting to be nurtured into success.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and currently I’m combing through an early draft of my science fiction project and adding more physical descriptions of my alien heroine.

Look At Me, I’m In A Good Mood!

I remembered today what it feels like to piss off strangers. I used to do that all the time on accident. Actually, there’s kind of this pattern I have, where I say what I really think and then people get defensive and start shooting daggers out of their eyes at me.

Too Much Sass?

Anyway, I’ve been working a lot and not talking to people as much, but then the other day I was doing something and commented to some folks my thoughts on art, and someone got super pissy and personal about it.

I found that amusing.

Story Time!

This one time, I arranged a very small, very amateur production of a play that we performed at a local library. They had a little room they could set up with chairs, so we did a few performances open to the public for free. The show was really, really low budget (like, we spent less than fifty bucks, probably), and everyone brought their own costumes and did their own props mostly, but it was a very, very funny play, and the actors did an amazing job being adorable and charming.

Everyone in the audiences that came to see it, as far as I could discern, loved the show except for this one girl.

The Plot Thickens!

You see, behind my back one of my guys had arranged for a theater critic to come by and write a review.

As soon as I found out about this (too late) I was like, “Oh, why? Why did you do this?” Because the show was for the actors, first, as an educational exercise, and for the public second, as a generous sharing of fun.

We did not arrange or perform the show in any way for critical review.

The Ugly Aftermath

Yeah, so the girl who came to review the show HATED everything about it with the passion of several large suns and wrote a scathing piece about how we had basically spat upon theatre tradition and misled the audience by making them laugh too much.

The idea, I think, that she had was that we were being irreverent by making people laugh at a comedy.

Yes, the piece was a comedy. Anyway, I was a little annoyed because my actors had worked really hard, and she was very personal and very rude in her individual reviews of their performances.

Basically Tore Them Down

So I did that thing that you’re really never supposed to do and I responded openly. I was personal and petty back, and I made myself look like an ass, but I got what I wanted, which was making the broken, ashamed look vanish from my actors’ eyes. They got the impression, correctly, that I had drawn off all the ire of our unpleasant public review, and they saw I was willing to sort of make a ridiculous rug out of myself to protect their egos. So they all felt better.

Anyway, I said some things about theatre, and about the critic’s obvious ignorance, and I looked, as I said, very ill-mannered. I also pissed off several people.

Folks Said The Whole Thing Was “Unfortunate”

I usually don’t make people angry on purpose, but I’m beginning to wonder if I have a sort of talent for it, and if I should make more of a practice out of learning to do it on purpose.

My tagline could be something like, “Poole, pissing people off . . . something something catchy.” Like “as usual,” or “in perpetuity,” or something.

People who work with any dedication on the first folio of Shakespeare tend to make other people mad. Mostly they piss people off who make an actual living by lecturing and twaddling about Shakespeare’s works (without knowing anything about staging or performing his actual pieces).

Mm, angry people. I find angry people amusing. I’ll have to think about this some more.

Examples

BAD WRITING:

Jasmine had no business going aboard a slink-op cruiser. She didn’t have permission, and she certainly didn’t have a good idea of what would occur if she pushed a few blue buttons.

The first button made a click, and the second button made the ship hover with a jolt. The third button, to Jasmine’s total delight, sent an array of police-grade missiles straight into the side of a nearby structure.

Jasmine took hold of the joystick and flew straight into the sky. She was soon out of sight, and the few people who survived the collapse of the building stumbled out into the street and started a war against the colony of alien settlers across the river.

GOOD WRITING:

The dentist told her to go straight home, but the buzz of painkillers made Jasmine feel loopy, courageous, and completely ready for adventure. She strolled along the wide avenue, glaring at the trees and grinning at anyone who caught her eye.

The ships on each side of the road seemed to smirk in a welcoming way to her, and under the haze of chemicals, she walked up to the friendliest one and patted the door, which opened. Jasmine’s smile became fixed. Her eyes gleamed with manic fury.

Jasmine had no business going aboard a slink-op cruiser, but the drugs urged her on. She didn’t have a license, and she certainly didn’t have any inkling of what she was doing when she sat down and pushed a few very interesting blue buttons.

The first button made a satisfying click, and the second blue button caused the slink-op cruiser to hover with a drunken jolt into the air. The third button, to Jasmine’s total delight, sent an array of police-grade missiles straight into the side of the deli where the cruiser had been left parked.

Jasmine stifled a giggle, took hold of the joystick, and rocketed with the slim vessel straight into the sky. She was soon out of sight in the clouds, and the few patrons of the deli who survived the explosions and the collapse of the building stumbled out into the street and organized a small militia to combat the sudden and unexpected attack, which they thought had been a carefully-planned and executed act of inflammatory violence by the colony of alien settlers across the river.

And So

I have no conclusion to draw from today’s ramblings. I am a person with naught useful to say about nothing at the moment.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, our romantic heroes have obtained a highly desirable pet.

I’m Looking For My Anger This Afternoon

So every few weeks I circle back into the drain of generalized depression. There’s a kind of person, I’ve found, and I’m one of them, who were kind of destroyed as young children and they (including me) have a hard time caring deeply about themselves.

It’s not that I don’t realize I ought to; I just can’t sometimes. The anger is out of reach. Instead of indignation I feel numb nonchalance. Also at these times I sort of stop breathing.

Finding The Anger Helps

I met a guy a long time ago who had been raised the same way I was. I sort of feel he ended up on the dark side, though, because he blatantly used his empathy skills to defraud people of intimacy and then twist them into casual knots over it. I use my people skills that I developed from being a public commodity to help broken people defend themselves.

He and I understood each other pretty well, but he did try to destroy me while denying that he’d even noticed I was there. He was sort of a jerk. His wife doesn’t like his way of cheating casually, in an emotional sense. His dirtiest trick, since I’m talking about him, was to work up underdeveloped homosexuals into unbearable crushes and then smear his heterosexuality in their faces. He was really rude about it.

He Was Almost A Professional Emotional Torturer

Um, the reason I’m talking about him at this moment is because I’ve been trying to decide if I ought to have done something about him. His mother had raised him as a kind of piece of tempting nymphrodisiac bait (I just made that word up) to attract social flattery and then experiment with gender. She did that; he was only partially aware of what was going on.

Anyway, that really has nothing to do with writing books, except it kind of does, since writing is an expression of emotional experience, couched in story.

Examples

BAD Writing:

The angry, aggressive person appeared at the door and came inside with an awful and threatening aura of terribleness. He was scary. The man kicked aside a chair and sat in it. His body made a comfortable sound thumping here in the seat.

There was a poor hungry little child underneath a particular piece of furniture in the room. Was it a table? Yes! It was a table!

The man called for his wife. What would happen next? The little kid waited with bated breath to learn what unpleasant talk would be in store that he would find out about as soon as his mom came into the room.

She did come into the room and she was far too pretty for a person who wasn’t particularly loving. She ought to have been sort of hideous, like a wart-ridden hag with no hair, but instead of being like that she was refined in appearance like a princess. Smelled good, too, aside from booze-musk.

She asked what the matter was, and her angry person elucidated the situation with the young person hiding under sticks of wood formed into a table.

They fought for a  minute and the boy ended up in bed. He did not have a nice rest and no one read him any kind of bedtime story, partially because his mom was drunk and his dad was uneducated and didn’t realize the good effects of reading on developing young brains.

GOOD Writing:

Marco shuffled through the door, knocking his head against the lintel and swearing softly. He glanced around the room and spotted a pair of very thin, bare legs extending from under the table. Marco grinned and pulled out a chair, sitting down at the table.

The pair of legs vanished under the table with a swift motion. Marco grinned and thrust his own legs out, impacting against a soft body.

“Barbara!” Marco bellowed. The little body under the table made a covert motion towards the opposite edge; Marco hooked his boot around the child’s hip to keep him in place.

A very beautiful drunk woman came into the dark room, her hair falling in waves over her eyes and her shoulders sloped at an angle. She had a tumbler of whiskey in one hand.

“What?” Barbara asked, tossing back her hair and sipping her drink.

“There’s a dirty animal under the table. What’s it doing there?” Marco asked, his face creased in a smile.

“Bed!” Barbara snapped. The small body under the table fought back uselessly against Marco’s trapping heel, though the child made no sound. Barbara let out an exaggerated sigh, stalked to the table, reached underneath with one hand, and dragged the boy out by his hair. She had to rip him away from his father’s heels, but the child came unstuck and scampered farther into the house.

“You should make the kid wash, Babs. He’s probably covered in shit again,” Marco said, leaning back in his chair.

“Then you wash him, dolt,” Barbara murmured, turning with a swivel of her shapely hips and sauntering back to her room.

And So

This example makes use of some backstory for one of my main characters from the series I’m working on right now. Oddly, I know that I’m angry because of past experience, but I couldn’t tell you why I’m mad, and I don’t feel enraged at all. Maybe the emotion will catch up to me tomorrow sometime.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and today in my current novel, the mysterious Kimoan is on the hunt for his lost biological son.

Cranks

Am I a crank or a realist? I generally see the best in people, but I sort of think that I shouldn’t, based on experience of a few rude goblins disguised as people.

For example, this afternoon I’m thinking about some writers I used to know several years ago. They hardly got any work done–and I don’t say this as a comment on their inherent worth as people, but as a factual statement about their visceral output of material. They didn’t write much, but they based their identities around being writers.

I suppose I should write that more like this:

Writers!

I don’t approve of the way they acted around other people. I don’t approve of the way they spoke about themselves, their work, or the writing of other people.

Am I a crank?

There was one kid who was working on a couple of short stories. He wanted to write screenplays, but he was busy with a day job (which I respect). He gave me a pile of stories to read once. We were talking about developing some tele-plays together, possibly. I ended up moving away shortly thereafter, but I have never forgotten one of this person’s short stories, which was about a group of kids tormenting each other and creating a secret ritual out of swearing and pulling apart dead animals.

The feeling in my heart at the end of the piece was, “Why?”

I had no answer to the question. Why? Why write about children destroying each other and mutilating the body of a small fuzzy creature? What was the point? I had no answer to the question, which led me to ask another question entirely:

And Here’s That Question:

What did this young man get out of writing the story?

That answer was easy and clear: He wrote to pass on abuse.

You see, you can package bad emotion into words and let it grow, then push it along in the stream of life and give the ugly feelings to someone else. It’s wrong, but you can do it.

Disguised As A Growing-Up Tale

The structure of the story was misleading, and the abuse was tucked in near the end, to maximize the potential impact of the reader continuing on to read the ending if they’d made it that far already.

I read another opening paragraph from a different writer’s crime novel this afternoon, and I got a swift headache because of the choppy, mis-mashed state of each sentence.

Every word was ill-chosen, jammed in beside other words that did not cooperate or form any poetic impact.

Why did this crime writer choose these words? And what did he get out of writing them with such a lack of coherent rhythm?

Chaos, Not Pleasing

I suppose what I really mean when I ask if I am a crank is that I am responding to human beings’ behavior as if they are choosing deliberately to be as they are.

I get the impression, in general, that the unwashed masses (and the washed ones, too) have entered an implicit agreement, en masse, to avoid responsibility for their committed acts in a sort of group-avoidance of emotional consequence. I do not approve of this state of affairs.

Here’s a sample of science fiction writing:

BAD WRITING:

Life with being inside the big place was just changed for her. She felt alive, but also lost. She tamed the interest always catching behind her features, though in her heart, things hopped, and her body felt changed in every way after she’d discovered how things really were. Mary felt so superior now!

Two other people on the main floor left, and returned before long. Nothing seemed to have been taking place at all, but something was going on, she was sure. I am not as important as I thought I might be, Mary reflected inside the confines of her private mind. Those monsters, not all human, distracted her thoughts continually and she shivered to think that she might at one point have been chosen to become one! The horror it would have been!

GOOD WRITING:

Life in the Museum was fundamentally changed for Mary. She no longer looked past the cyborgs. She was alive to the precariousness of her position, and did not distinguish herself from the other humans in any material way, but her eyes were no longer blank. She looked at things, and she was taken aback at what she saw happening in plain view.

She saw two women pulled out for testing in the first month. She had now, she realized, become so used to taking events in the Museum as a matter of course that it took her a full ten minutes after the second woman left to think through to the fact that these women were probably going to be impregnated in a secure room near the cyborg half of the building.

In conclusion

Remember that somewhere out there are a few cranks, and when they see your earnest and honest endeavors to write building, socially-constructive stories, they will be very proud of you for being a good egg, and may even send benevolent well-wishes through the ether of time and space. Or you’ll just feel really good about yourself for being better at storytelling than the rest of the bunch.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Vincento is about to preside over a war council.