And the monsters in the dark

The worst part is the nightmares, you know. I used to have a hard time functioning pretty much all of the time, but I’ve gotten to a place now where it’s only sleeping that bothers me. And just because of the nightmares.

The Torture Aspect Is Unpleasant

There’s this thing, where you do all the therapy shit, you know, and the recommended yoga falderal, and the processing stuff, and the freewriting stuff, and the talk sessions, and at the end of it, you wake up in the middle of the night with horrible nightmares because your subconscious starts to correlate repressed memory and integrate to do shadow dances and show you what your life was like before the therapy.

Because my mind, at least, has been doing contortions and flipping about in the land of denial, and I most of the time still think I had a pretty normal childhood. Ha ha.

Ha. Etc.

The good news, though, is that having actual experience with people trying to destroy your insides as their main goal in life means you have shit to write about. Like Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which is a pretty charming little piece. I don’t care for Ah, Wilderness! much, because there’s way too much sentimental shit thrown in on the part of the female characters. Especially that irritating maiden aunt.

O’Niell And His Fantasy Family

Have I told you that I have no patience with people who don’t just go out and lay hold of the relationships they want? I hate that, so much.

I knew a screwed up older woman a long time ago who literally spent her life making an elaborate show of how difficult it was to get a husband/boyfriend/suitable male attachment.

She Was Mean And Backstabby

She would talk constantly about what she was going to do about raising her children, and how she would run her household, but she never did a single thing to actually, I don’t know, learn how to be nice to people, or listen, or date.

Because dating is a skill that you can learn.

Speaking of Which

I’m really good at making people fall in love. It’s kind of like a superpower. I agree with Squire Allworthy about the immorality of jumbling people into permanent couplings on the grounds that they will be responsible for their behavior afterwards, so I’ve never meddled in marriage, but I have done a lot of casual hookup work (in the way of getting couples into dating, not sex shit, because that’s incredibly messy, yada yada).

I suppose I say this because my current form of night terrors make me think of my arousal superpowers.

Which Are Useful, In Theatre

You know how I stayed alive? It sounds pretty silly probably, but I am not dead right now because I learned how to flirt. I was a very attractive little kid. I figured out how to be charming, and no one ever quite could pin me down long enough to do conventional damage, in the blockbuster way. You know, being locked in the closet, or living on meager whatnot, or having secret incest crap going on between the edges of my life.

Though I Was Severely Malnourished, So

Even my violent handler thought I was adorable, and sort of endearing, and he didn’t mess up my face nearly as much as my parents wanted him to. He used me as a sort of wingman to cart around and lure in girls, because I was not an asshole, like he was.

And my relatives, the extended ones, many of whom are knee-deep in shit that I don’t ever want to know the details about, thought I was “taken.”

Which Violent Asshole To Hide Out With Makes A Big Difference

I don’t know if you know this, but a lot of predators, the emotional and soul-sucking evil kind, feed off of people who don’t seem okay inside. I watched my older cousins getting eaten up, and I read a lot (to gather source info on ways people get sucked into abusive scenarios), and I drew up sneaky plans and became the engrossing Victor Poole show.

There was a lot of benign drama.

And Free Flirting For Everyone!

Everyone, even my goddamned mother, thought I was having some sort of weird paternal bondy affair with my dad, but I was really just giving him relationship and career advice.

My life is ridiculous. Anyway, that part’s over now, and the only lasting horrible part, as far as I’m concerned, are the nightmares. Hopefully they’ll go away soon, too.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The parents in Harder Than Rocks are nothing like my parents, though the basement apartment that Samuel rents is somewhat similar to a place I lived in for half a year after I got away.

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Delmar, And Where He Comes From

So I’ve been working on a really cool fantasy series, complete with languages and all, for most of my life. The main guy is Delmar, and the girl’s name is Ajalia. I couldn’t figure out for the longest time what she really was, or where she came from, but I knew they both ended up together as young adults, and there was always a shadowy third figure, another man whose name I could never pin down.

Ajalia the Slave, Delmar the Inheritor, and Halez the Lost Prince

The whole story has always been a nebulous something-or-other, like a complete world that has existed at the edge of my consciousness ever since I started to try to write.

Luckily for me, it turns out that my training in theatre and classical rhetorical structuring opened up my access to my subconscious, and the world is now writable. I mean, I have written it, the first part.

Because Halez Has More Adventures With Them, After This Series

I self-pubbed the first section of the series last year? The year before? But as I said earlier somewhere on my blog, my editor (love you, Mr. Editor!), who is a genius, got upset at some emotional hiccups in another manuscript, and we had some very productive discussions about my shitty way of letting down my female characters.

Turns Out, I Repress My Females Once In A While

Anyway, Ajalia had the same problems that were showing up in this other book, so I pulled the entire series and am working on fixing up things now.

It’s so super exciting, because the framework is all there, and all I have left now is visual cleanup and repairing the structural damage to her characterization.

Sigh, etc.

Anyway, I promised to talk about Delmar, and where he comes from. He’s always been the clearest character, in my mind. Ajalia has powerful magic, but Delmar is more of the straightforward, innocent dude who learns that he really needs to stand up for himself and take up the mantle of protecting his people.

Delmar is a prince, of a sort, but without a kingdom, really. He’s the eldest child of a match between the disinherited crown prince of Talbos and the only daughter of Tree, the ruling dude over Slavithe.

Tree Is Called the Thief Lord, Because the Founder of Slavithe Stole Thousands of Slaves, and Became Their Lord

Slavithe is the original city, founded by a mass migration of runaway slaves, and shortly after Slavithe was established, the political shit hit the fan, and a lot of the ruling elite among them moved over a chain of black mountains and established a second city, Talbos.

Talbos and Slavithe depend on each other, as they’re mostly isolated from the rest of the continent, but both cities pretend the other doesn’t exist. They’re like uncomfortable symbiotic parties who trash talk each other at every opportunity, and feel superior and shit.

Talbos Is Much More Civilized and Formal

Delmar should technically be in line to inherit the ruling position over Slavithe, but he’s been scorned and rejected by his father all his life, because Delmar is good-looking and clever and popular, and so his mom and dad, being jealous, slimy, and unpleasant people, have half-starved him, and neglected him, and made him into a family clown. Delmar’s dressed badly, when Ajalia meets him, and his hair looks awful, and he truly believes that he’s too stupid to inherit.

Delmar has two younger brothers, and the second oldest brother, Wall (yes, that’s his name), is slated to take over Slavithe someday. Delmar, in the beginning, having swallowed the Kool-aid, and being a genial sort of person, thinks this is a natural and lovely outgrowth of his own stupidity.

Ajalia Gives Delmar A Haircut, Of Course

Ajalia shows up in the city, finds out who Delmar is, and gets to work on him. Delmar’s father isn’t too happy about this, and his mother . . . well, Delmar’s mother turns out to be a very powerful, dangerous sort of person, and Ajalia has to match wits with her.

But we’re talking about Delmar today. So on the one hand, he’s the eldest son in line for Slavithe, and on the other, he’s the firstborn child of the former crown prince of Talbos, and grandson to the current king (who is a very interesting person).

That King’s Name Is Fernos

Delmar’s father, the former crown prince, really wasn’t supposed to be trouncing around in Slavithe and seducing Tree’s daughter, and this led to Delmar’s father being banished from Talbos, and disinherited.

Luckily for Delmar, and for Ajalia’s sneaky plans for political takeover in both cities, the next in line for the Talbosian throne is a washout, and the king of Talbos proves amenable to persuasion on the topic of reinstating Delmar’s genetic right to the throne.

Because Delmar, When Cleaned Up And Given Moral Lectures, Is Awesome

There’s a long heritage of magic in Slavithe, and in Talbos, for both cities were founded by people who practiced nature worship and shaped the stone and earth. The peoples in both cities have faded in their knowledge of such powers, and most of the Slavithe priests can’t do magic at all anymore. The Talbos priests hide out in the black mountains, and many of them have been captured by the king of Talbos, who is doing shifty things about using magic in secret.

That’s all a very long and interesting story, but the pertinent part, for talking about Delmar, is that he is a joining point between the ancestral magic of both Talbos and Slavithe, and has a generational claim to the power of the prophet who founded Slavithe and the great leader who built Talbos.

The Original Thief Lord, and the Falcon Who Begged Magic From the Sky Spirits

Ajalia doesn’t believe magic is real, when she meets Delmar, but he uses his basic, rudimentary powers to save her life, and she wakes up to the reality of magic pretty soon after that.

My fantasy world is so cool.

Anyway, I have to go back to work now, but that’s a little bit about Delmar, who is eventually (SPOILERS!) the Lord of Slavithe, the reigning king of Talbos, and the prophesied Dead Falcon who ascends into the sky kingdom and restores balance between the spirit people and the land below.

SIGH

He also falls in love with Ajalia along the way, but that was sort of inevitable from day one, as her eyes are so intense.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and the third character in their group of adventurers is Philas, whose true name is Halez, the lost prince of the neighboring kingdom of Saroyan, across the sea.

 

Universal Theme

I went to a little library over the weekend. I used to sort of live part-time at libraries, but for a variety of not-very-interesting reasons, I hardly spend any time at all in such places anymore.

I Went To The Library

I saw a book about tortillas. It was one of those probably-charming, coming-of-age stories where a minority character (most likely a pre-teen) has a little arc and overcomes some sort of internal tantrum over the harsh realities of life, learning more about his/her cultural heritage along the way.

I’m sure it was an okay book, probably, but it looked really, really boring.

Bland, Inoffensive Hedging Material

Have you ever read that one, the book by what’s his name? Um, Thomas Hardy. That last book he wrote, the really horrible one that everyone pointed out was awful, and Hardy got offended and quit writing?arm

Hardy Enjoyed Exploiting Female Characters To Make A Point

I read his last book a long time ago. (Jude the Obscure, if you’re wondering.) It sucks, and the main female character and her children are used, literally, like sock puppets for Hardy to throw a public tantrum with. The characterizations are so blatantly shallow that the book is genuinely offensive on many levels..

I’m sort of glad Hardy stopped writing, because at the time I was chewing through the acceptable classics (the not-damaging ones), and his work was really boring. Mayor of Casterbridge is good, and Tess of the D’urbervilles is insightful, but God, Hardy refuses to let anything really nice happen to any of his characters, and it gets old really fast.

Because In Excellent Fiction, Some Characters Actually Think Forward And Avoid Disaster!

Anyway, back to my trip to the library. I often, in my later forays through the library shelves of various institutions, started to skim through shelves and look for anything, literally from any section, that made any active commentary on society or used universal themes.

I was constantly disappointed.

Safe, Boring, And Without Theme

Let’s talk for a minute about books that are worth writing.

(Yes, that’s right, Victor Poole is mounting ye olde soap box once again. My actors had this adorable “Oh, no. Here it comes!” face that they all wore when I climbed onto my soap box.)

I had a director a long time ago who understood universal theme. He was one of only two I’ve ever worked with who grasped the pertinence of using theme in his work.

Everyone Else Hedged, Lied, and Used Abstract Fluff To Hide Their Lack Of Significant Theme

Dear reader, I’m pretty sure, statistically, that you are not consistently using universal theme. This tortilla book I was speaking of did not touch on universal theme, though it chickened out and defrauded the innocence of childhood to scrape by on universal sentimentalism and that peculiar space adults go through mentally in their forties, when they start to regret not choosing anything significant to adhere to in their hearts.

Universal Theme:

Making a value comment on human social interaction and supporting your position with specific emotional examples.

Here, let’s cut straight to the chase. I’ll show you a typical sample of cowardly, non-theme-containing work, and then I’ll show you the same story with an internal framework of theme.

Examples

Terrible Writing (No Theme)

Diedre crossed the street and waited with impatience for the municipal bus to arrive. There was not a lot to do at the bus stop. Diedre was pregnant and didn’t want to be. Diedre stared at noisy birds on the telephone line.

She waited and waited, and then finally the red vehicle approached. The bus lumbered down the road towards her stop, looking like a lumbering crimson whale and emitting persistent bursts of smoke from the back exhaust. Diedre waited for the doors to open.

Diedre paid her fare and climbed to the second floor of the bus. She perched at the back left corner and stared at the shops as the bus pulled away. When she reached her destination at the abortion clinic, she disembarked, went straight past the doors of the clinic, and began the laborious process of walking home.

Good Writing (Theme)

Diedre’s heart made a thump-thump that seemed to echo through her abdomen. Not today, maybe, she thought, her throat full of the coming moment when she would have to go, have to speak to the doctor, have to face the inevitable, disturbing procedure. Diedre was with child, and hadn’t meant to be. She had to do something about the future, and didn’t want to make any decision at all.

The birds chirruped a pleasant rhythm on the telephone lines, and the bus, when it rumbled down to Diedre and heaved to a noisy stop, reminded her of a big red whale. Diedre imagined the crimson beast roaring and swallowing her up as she mounted the dirty metal steps and slid into the farthest seat in the back.

Maybe I’ll go in tomorrow to make the appointment, though, Diedre thought, and the idea brought her so much immediate relief that she slid to the front of the bus aisle and disembarked at the next stop.

Her hands in her pockets and her heart pounding a relentless, dizzying rhythm under her breastbone, she pictured the big red whale spitting her out, along with the bud of new life in her depths. I could escape like Jonah, Diedre told herself with a smile, and she began to think of running away instead of doing the other thing.

In Conclusion

I have a number of completed books I’m sitting on, because I had a sequence of interesting fights with my editor, and the manuscripts have some issues I can correct easily enough. Just takes time, and my life is (mundane, mundane, etc.) right now, so catching up on basic work is #complicated.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m currently inserting chapter breaks and pondering on the ethical conundrum of positioning commercially-viable razor hooks in the mental landscape of my fiction.

The Tiny Guide To Integrating Your Creative Soul

Is your energy scattered and frenetic? Here’s how to get a surge of creative potential throbbing through your body.

Your Natural Energy

I invented an energy form because all my actors were broken. Incidentally, this form works well for writing good fiction. I will now share the method with you.

Using your natural energy means hooking up the disparate parts of your energy mechanism, the parts of you that are set up to work as a natural, living animal, and channeling them into service of creating a fictional world.

Think of this as exercise for your soul, to make you bright, shining, and sexually attractive. My main shtick, as a theatre specialist, is making actors unbearably hot, as in, attractive and “zing”-y. I’m very good at that.

Good writing has a zing, and a body and soul that is aligned effectively creates more adaptive, fertile fiction, which opens the reader’s soul. That kind of shared openness leads, if the conditions are correct, to mental sex, which is where commercialism and profit come into play.

How To Do It

Your body, naturally, is an animal, and has chains of impulses that, if they’re connected, fill you with energy, bursting life, and vitality. If you’ve ever watched a cat walk around, or a really healthy animal of any kind, you’ve seen the power and flexibility in their shoulders and hips, the kind of easy, confident fluidity that runs in their muscles and shoots out through their eyes.

This is why show biz people say, “Don’t work with children or animals,” because little kids haven’t gotten deeply screwed over yet, physically, and so their eyes and muscles shine with power, just like animals’ do.

The good news is that your body already knows how to do this instinctively. You just have to plug in the main breakers for your impulse chains, and your body, as it releases civilized crap and old emotions, will embrace the method automatically.

Pelvis

The root of motion starts down in the pelvic cradle. Imagine, if you will, a champion jumping horse, like one of those slick creatures at the Equestrian Olympics, or a hunter type of horse. When the horse gathers itself at a fence to jump over, the body coils in and the wide, enormous pelvic cradle of the animal acts as a kind of powerful spring that launches the body up into the air.

Your pelvic cradle is the root of your motion. It’s probably closed up and tangled together right now, like a slinky, a toy metal slinky that got twisted up and caught against itself.

Imagine your pelvis is a box that is a little squished and crushed in. Open the sides to straighten and make the box a proper cube shape, and make the top and bottom level and parallel to the floor. The key is to be at square angles to the floor, and to avoid any tilt or internal collapse in the sides and floor of the pelvis. If you go and look at a well-muscled ballet dancer, you will see a very open, stable pair of hips and a strong, balanced pelvic floor.

Ribs

We want to have a stable, open pelvic cradle, and to let the surge of energy, the spring that naturally rests in your body to bounce up into your ribs and freely up through the rest of you.

Now we move on to your ribs. If your ribs are stiff and holding tension, you probably aren’t breathing very much, and if the muscles between your rib bones, your interstitial muscles, are hardened, which they probably are, your impulses are getting caught into a traffic jam at your floating ribs and not making it up through your body.

What we want is to soften and open the rib cage, from the very bottom of your floating ribs all the way up to your clavicle. We’ll do this the same way we worked on your pelvis, by imagining the rib cage as a box. This time the box is rectangular.

Again, we want to have stable, perpendicular sides and a level top and bottom that are parallel to the floor and matching up exactly to the box of our pelvic cradle.

Now that we’ve softened and aligned our ribs, our impulses are flooding straight from our pelvic cradle up to our ribs; now it’s time to open the channel into our face, to get that intriguing light and power pouring into our eyes.

Face

The face is the part of the impulse chain that makes you distinctive, and that adds a personal flair to your work. Actors learn to focus the majority of their energy into their facial muscles and their eyes, which is why movie stars look so incredibly distinct and individual. They carry a stamp, a proprietary branding of energy shaping and impulse style.

Your writing spark, your stamp of self in your personality and your eyes, is what will eventually make you unforgettable, but you have to free and loosen the impulse chain to trammel in an open river from your newly-stable pelvis, through your emotionally-softened ribs, and into your distinctive, one-of-a-kind face.

We’ll do this by opening the tunnel of our necks and imagining hot, molten power pouring up from the pelvis straight up through the actual bones and muscles of the ribs, and into the bone and muscle of your face.

And Getting To Work

Now that your body is full of energy and light, get to work as a writer, and your words will start to jump and spring a little, just like our champion jumping horse leaps over barriers. You’ll have hiccups, and your body will jolt and adjust over time, but if you embrace your natural impulse chain and let yourself settle into the form your body wants to take, your writing will get stronger, better, more distinctive, and much more flavorful to the reader.

In Conclusion

Utilizing the natural energy in your physical body will strengthen your writing and empower your style.

  • The pelvic cradle is a box of steel or hardwood: make it level, open, and square
  • The ribs are a rectangular box, more like strong cardboard that can give and bend: open the ribs, level and straighten your parallel lines at every side
  • Your face is the key to your zing, your personality and intriguing star power: open the channel of your energy and flood your facial muscles and bones with hot light from the root of energy down in your pelvic cradle

You’re reading Victor Poole, and one of my favorite villains is struggling with the temptation to pound people today, and is resisting the urge.

The Inside Essence of Science Fiction

What is science fiction, at its core? And are you writing it, really?

Science fiction is an intellectual exercise. You put up a perimeter and a complex, insoluble moral dilemma, and then see what you can do about rationalizing and justifying inhuman behavior.

Fantasy, by contrast, presumes the base, inevitable existence of inhuman behavior and negotiates the emotional fallout of such.

Science fiction starts out with a presumed blank slate of “people are decent” and then plays at corrupting them, usually because of Technology or Exposure to Aliens, and fantasy starts with “people are monstrous in their hearts” and then uses magic or character-driven heroism to ameliorate the overall social damage.

Science fiction is an individual journey, going into the character over time, and getting a tighter and more emotional focus on the dynamic character throughout the story.

Fantasy, by contrast, grows wider and more broad as the story goes on. Fantasy concerns itself with the impact of the individual on society as a whole, while science fiction concerns itself with the moral and intellectual maturation of the individual.

Are You Writing Science Fiction?

Just for fun, let’s see what happens if we take a scenario for a story and tweak it to become distinctly science fiction-esque.

The young man, desirous of adventure, leaves home and meets a dangerous, powerful new friend.

We take the dynamic of leaving home, which implies the abandonment of family, much farther, and turn the powerful friend into a more intellectually compelling transformation of the inner self of the young man. Ergo:

Science fiction:

The young man, desiring to leave his home, secretly sells his family to an alien race in exchange for a serum that transforms him into a powerful and dangerous fighter. The young man takes up his lifelong dream of becoming a bodyguard to celebrities. He discovers over time that the serum he bought from the aliens is transforming him into a kind of alien creature, and that if he can’t obtain another chemical to reverse the process in time he’ll be enslaved by the aliens, used as a household pet, and someday eaten.

Now, just for the sake of contrast, let’s see what happens if we take the same original scenario and apply a fantasy bent.

The young man, desirous of adventure, leaves home and meets a dangerous, powerful new friend.

Again, we take the leaving of home a bit farther, but this time we add in a pre-existing flavor of disaster and looming evil.

Fantasy:

The young man, outraged by the destruction of his family and homeland, dodges the universal draft for the evil army and seeks out a famous magician, who purchases the young man’s and gives him help and training. The young man spends years becoming a potent magic-wielder and sets out with a band of similarly-brooding companions to avenge his family and help his magical master wrest control of the continent from the ruling overlord.

Fantasy Grows Out, Science Fiction Tightens In

Over the course of a story, science fiction comes closer and deeper into the psyche and emotional development of the main character, while in fantasy, the main character integrates over time into a wider social circle, and often becomes a focal point to the world at large, or to a vast segment of the local population.

Science fiction is usually about internal, emotional development and psychological maturation of the self, while fantasy, by contrast, is generally about the healing, through the initial efforts of one individual and eventually through a much larger band of companions and then a wider group of cooperative beings, of society as a whole. Fantasy gets a wide, broad focus by the end of the story, and science fiction gets a tight, very personal focus by the end of the story.

Now, To the Point

 

Humans are emotional creatures, in their hearts, and so the exercise of writing science fiction is one of outside-in manipulation. Can you create an intellectually invigorating “wrong” scenario feel eventually “correct” to the reader, by dint of context and the continual internal development of the main character?

And does your focus grow gradually tighter and more introspective, in your main character’s development?

You’re reading Victor Poole. I got stuck behind a train for a few minutes last night on the road, and had a nice time watching the graffiti flash by. I’ve been forgetting to write 2018 all morning, but that sort of thing happens to me every January.

Does Your Writing Seem To Come From Inside A Cynic’s Heart?

 

If you have a hard time writing sincerely, here is a quick kick to the pants to get you out of the habit of cynicism.

When I produced theatre, a constant problem was that actors were used to being callous about love. Try producing a romance when the main characters keep sneering over the love speeches. Hint: It doesn’t work. The audience gets tired after about thirty seconds, and the play turns into a mean snark-fest about how idiotic love is.

Cynicism kills adventure.

The first problem, then, was to break down the actors and convince them to be sincere. This means exposing their hearts, which means you have to expose your heart, first. As a writer, you need to be able to consciously write with sincerity.

Story Time:

Once upon a time, in a far-off kingdom, I had a director who really thought he was a deep romantic. (Spoiler: he wasn’t.) His key to making the in-love characters work was to sit down with dolls (I’m serious) and block out the entire show before rehearsals. Now, this method does work if you have sense and discretion, but this director was an inveterate cynic, and so the technique only made rehearsals stiff and endless. He gave the actors detailed notes on how to move, and where, and gave impassioned speeches about prompt line delivery.

This behavior was supposed to make the love elements work. It didn’t, and they didn’t function, and the director’s rooted cynicism bled through the blocking, the rehearsals, and the final performances of the show. The audience could tell, and the show failed.

Don’t Let Cynicism Ruin Your Novel

If you’ve ever done any improvisational exercises at all, you’ve likely heard the Yes Rule, which, boiled down to the essentials, is this:

The Yes Rule: When any person on stage introduces an idea, every other person must say yes, either metaphorically or literally.

Example: Bad Improv! Wrong! No!

BETH. Here I am in the supermarket. The apples are on sale!

JOE. Oh, no! A tyrannosaurus rex is stomping through the ice cream aisle! Aiee!

BETH. I don’t see any dinosaurs here. We’re in a grocery store, for *&^#’s sake.

The scene is destroyed.

Fail! Bad, naughty Beth for breaking the Yes Rule and saying no.

Example: Yes! Right! Good!

BETH. Here I am, buying apples at the store. Oh, look! Overripe bananas!

JOE. Oh, gosh! A stegosaurus stampeding through the dairy aisle! Help! Run! Aaaugh!

BETH. No! Not dinosaurs again! Curse Professor Gumbly-Fish and his time travel vortex!

JOE. Hurry, Beth! Let’s fashion a rudimentary trebuchet from these carts and pineapples!

BETH. Okay! Take that, you naughty stegosaurus! Pew! Pew!

Etc., etc., and the rogue stegosaurus is defeated, carved into dino-steaks, and roasted over the rotisserie chicken island. Chaotic fun is had by all, and the improv scene succeeds.

But Victor Poole, That Scene Was Silly!

 

All you need to do in order to make your writing pure, strong, and free of cynicism, is to say yes continuously.

That doesn’t mean you can’t edit, but it does mean you need to maintain and preserve a chain of yes, yes, yes, throughout the body of the whole piece.

Now, let’s see how this applies to actual fiction.

Writing Sample

 

Bad Writing (Saying No):

Celia tore across the page in the book and put the edge of the thick vellum into the flame of a candle. The page took a long time to catch fire, but at last it burned with a reassuring permanence, and at last was reduced to a pile of destroyed ash on the thick wooden table.

Celia wished she had done something different with the book, now that the destruction was accomplished. She had wanted to keep the ugly spell, but couldn’t risk Lord Venerous ever getting hold of it.

Luckily, Celia had copied the dangerous magic onto a private notebook using invisible ink, and so she would be able to read over it again whenever she liked. She was sure that Lord Venerous, despite his personal history as a famous spy, would never think to check for the use of invisible inks.

I may as well destroy the whole book, then, Celia thought, and she went and tossed the whole thing into the fireplace, which was blazing hot and only a few feet away. She watched the unique and ancient book burn up and prodded at it a few times with a fire iron until the spine curled up and crumbled away.

Good Writing (Saying Yes, and incorporating the Yes Rule):

Celia studied the page, reading over the words again and again. She closed her eyes, her fingers on the thick vellum and her nose full of the distinctive smell of ancient binding, and reviewed the spell. She opened her eyes and checked each ingredient, and then went over it again.

She studied the spell for two hours, and when she could see every splotch of ink and aged mark in her mind, and had repeated the instructions word-for-word in her own mind three times without a mistake, she drew her spell-working knife and began to cut the page from the book.

She was extraordinarily careful, for Margen had warned her that Lord Venerous was after the book, solely for this spell, and Lord Venerous had been a famous spy and would likely check for missing pages.

Celia examined the sliced-away page and turned the book several times before cutting again with the sharp knife to get the last sliver of visible vellum cut out. She opened the book to the matching page and loosed the opposite half of vellum out from the sturdy stitches.

When she’d made no sure no mark at all remained in the ancient book, she carried both pages and every scrap of vellum that she’d cut to the blazing fireplace, and fed the pieces in until they were obliterated. Soon there was no trace that any reanimating spell had ever filled one page in the magical book, and Celia sighed and began to apply a careful layer of dust to the book, to make it match the others on the wooden desk.

In Conclusion

To root out cynicism from your work, make sure to:

  • always say yes, either metaphorically or literally
  • retreating from new topics is saying no
  • contradicting previous-introduced details destroys the feel of adventure
  • unconscious and rooted cynicism makes for lousy writing

Remember, cynicism rejects introduced topics or suggestive details, and embrasure builds on them.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and my children have been learning about dinos from that Dinosaur Train show. They say complex dinosaur names in the evenings that I do not recognize. I need to take down my Christmas tree pretty soon.

 

Following The Heat At The Core Of Your Plot Is Like Hunting An Elusive Creature

When you’re writing, it is like following a large and rare creature through the woods. You have to pay attention, and you have to make sure you don’t get lost and/or die by starving or being eaten by violent creatures. It also helps if you have any idea what you’re looking for.

The single biggest problem, across every level of story telling, is subject material. The reader is like a guest paying you, the author, for a hunting experience. They want to be shown a good time and they want to feel smart and excited.

Subject Material

Angela is a brilliant geneticist who turns out to have some surprises going on in her life. And she, of course, always has shit to say, but none of it is very worth listening to. How to make the boring Angela interesting? By stripping her secrets, one by one, in view of the reader.

Examples

Absolute Shit:

Angela dressed slowly, getting ready for her new day at work. Her blouse was light blue, and her slacks were eminently professional, and she put her black-rimmed glasses on her face with a very soft sigh, because she had to work on more of the graft design this afternoon and she would rather be sipping tea. Her shoes were black.

Excellent Hunting:

Angela studied her figure in the mirror as she adjusted her soft blue blouse. Feminine, but not in any way reproachable. She chewed on her lower lip and wondered if her boss had started to wonder yet.

“Mm,” Angela said, and she examined her backside. She was wearing silk underwear beneath her slacks, both layers sturdy enough to hide the shocking texture beneath. She was immensely looking forward to the inevitable reveal, for she had hidden all her back and ass cheeks in the sex tapes, which she was sure had been seen by her very handsome boss.

“Mm,” Angela said again, her mouth curving with satisfaction. She gave her black-rimmed glasses a little nudge up her surprisingly expensive nose and sauntered out of her tiny room, her kitten heels making little tap-tap clicks against the industrial gray flooring.

In Summary

When you follow exciting creatures, of which your plot is one, track spoor. That means you have to be picking up bits and pieces of what is coming next and following a live, moving animal. Wandering aimlessly around woods is not hunting.

Following a cold trail or walking through a lot of bushes where animals don’t live will not making for excellent plotting. Fixing your mind on the elusive creature of an excellent plot and tracking said creature with attention and close, hunter-like detail, will lead to an exciting experience for the reader. Plus, it’s fun to write good material.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and it smells like Christmas in my house. The grey cat, Rose, has inherited a very large cardboard box, and is at peace with the universe.