The Fastest And Easiest Way To Open Your Pelvic Cradle

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I developed my own performance philosophy, because it became apparent to me that no one had a functional one. I started to realize the dire state of this matter when I was reading original translations of Chekhov (not the playwright, the actor) and Stanislavsky (the actor/director). Chekhov and Stanislavsky worked together for a time until Chekhov threw a massive temper tantrum over semantics and branched off into his own performance technique.

Michael Chekhov Was Anton Chekhov’s Nephew

The “ah-ha!” moment for me came when I was comparing these two Russian methodologies (I had been studying Shakespeare performance methods, and some Dada-ist garbage alongside rhetorical analysis and third-generational Marxist bodies of work), and I realized that they–each of them, quite earnestly–were talking about exactly the same end goal, and trying to start a war over whether they should pummel actors with one set of words or another. They were literally fighting over which words they ought to use to describe the same end results.

Stanislavsky Was A Terrible Director

I spent about six years of my life studying actors as they rehearsed and performed in classrooms, tiny audition rooms, and on stages of all sorts. I acted myself, and I watched the dynamics that unfolded over several moderately-budgeted film projects. I was fascinated by the ever-increasing gap between functional performance (by which I mean, acting, storytelling, that resonated deeply with an audience) and spoken or practiced methodology.

Shakespeare Was Handled The Worst, By Far

No one knew what they were doing; the best performers were destroyed by horrible directing and teaching, and support materials were often designed to deliberately hobble the actors or build a wedge of hatred and fear between the performers and the audience.

Gosh, Victor, How Did You Learn Anything?

I met two, no, make that three, good directors over these years, and I compared them exhaustively to the many, many terrible, harmful, and utterly incompetent directors that proliferated around them. Also, remember, I was studying functional source material at the same time (excellent French plays, treatments on Alexander technique, and heavy doses of Graham, Balanchine, and newer American theatre phenomenons, among other things).

Dude, This Is Not An Acting Blog, You Dirty Cross-Pollinator!

All this to say, I found, as I read Michael Chekhov’s ardent haranguing, that no one had a coherent performance philosophy at all–and I will say here, no one had a performance philosophy that functioned. By which I mean, actually worked. And by that I mean that any performance philosophy that cannot be applied by a student actor and create sustainable, measurable results in audience reaction, popularity, and emotional connection as an ensemble and as an individual figure to the public, is only a pile of ego-stroking hot air.

So I Made My Own. Like A Mad Scientist.

I didn’t cackle while I developed it, though I did become personally magnetic, and was borderline stalked by several people of both genders who found a sudden and urgent need to cultivate my favor. When I had the bare bones of a performance philosophy, I started running trials. I tweaked things. I procured several dozen willing guinea pigs in the form of student and community theatre actors, and I applied my techniques to their bodies and personalities.

Enter The Blocked Pelvic Cradle

I found an interesting phenomenon as I tested; I could make very hot, emotionally-viable actors, but they all had the same energy blocks. Every single one of them were blocked through their foundational motion carriage. And here is where I came up against a significant problem; human beings, once blocked through the pelvic cradle, are like grievously-wounded wolves. They bite, metaphorically, because their energy source is cut off, and they are, after a manner of speaking, suffering a slow death of personality.

How Do I Find Out If My Pelvic Cradle Is Blocked, Victor?

Well, the bad news is that your pelvic cradle is probably blocked. The good news is that you can open the energy flow, and remove the obstructions, if you . . .

Duh Duh Duuuuuuh!

Yeah, I recognize this feeling. It’s the feeling I get when I’m about to show how to do something profound. Well, I’m trying something new today. I’m not going to tell you how to work through your energy blocks (I wrote some books for that). When you get tired of that dried-up numb feeling in your hip sockets, shoot me an email, and I’ll think about it.

You’re reading Victor Poole. I was raised to be invisible, and to serve the whims of all other people. I am undoing my early programming. Despite my unfortunate beginnings, my comprehensive performance philosophy, which is painstakingly illustrated via allegory in these nine books, works exceptionally well.

The Quick And Easy Guide To Writing Human Nature

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The frill is going to extend up along the side of the head, and the skin will have a silvery tint. I haven’t put in the dragon stone yet, either, but this is one of the beasts from The Second Queen, which I am editing right now.

New Fantasy Book, Very Exciting, Coming Soon!

I actually wrote the first half of this book almost four years ago, and then hit my goal of fifty thousand words and stopped. I wrote a little tag at the bottom of the last chapter; it read, “to be continued . . .”, which I felt was appropriately ominous.

Now It Is 120k Words, And Quite Intoxicating

I looked up one of my old acting rivals last night, just to make sure I’m not as behind as I sometimes feel I am (I’m not behind at all). There are only a couple of genuinely successful people (actors) from my school, and none from my age group. I check periodically, to make sure no one has rocketed to astronomic success before me.

Victor Poole Is A Jealous Person!

I have to start eating more fat. My body is partway through developing into adulthood, and I have the opposite problem of many people, where I have to make sure I eat enough food.

And I’m Slowly Bulking My Arms

Rose, the cat who haunts my house, has discovered the joys of having her undercoat brushed out (you’re welcome, Rose), and now she shadows me along the kitchen counter in the wee hours, mewling appealingly for attention.

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This is her before brushing. She is rather sleeker now.

Here’s The Writing Part

Poor writing explains relationships from a standpoint of fairness and equality; the narrative voice plays nice with the characters, and attempts to frame the story within an obviously idealistic world, where all the humans make an effort to get along and build each other up, aside from one or two bad apples who are misunderstood antagonists.

To Write Human Nature, Drop The Fair And Nice Parts

Excellent writing shows the inequality, both between individuals, and between established roles in society. Good writing, and writing that exposes human nature, comes from a framework of predatory abuse. The antagonist is generally a person who recognizes the cannibalistic nature of social exchange, and exploits it without apology or remorse. The protagonist is a genuine person who goes more than halfway to meet people in an exchange of goodwill and fellowship. The conflict in the story arises from the clash of the selfish against the disinterested human.

Examples

Bad Writing:

Berthold pushed back his hair, and squinted into the twilight. Shooting was running over schedule, and his wife would be disappointed that he was late for dinner again. So difficult, he thought, to balance the demands of an artistic career with a home life. Relationships were wonderful, though.

Greg fussed over the camera with Joel, and then waved for the sound guy to come over. They were working very hard to set up the next scene.

Berthold felt so lucky to be the star. He dug his feet into the black soil, and suppressed a contented sigh. I’m going to be famous, he told himself, and imagined the tamales that were swiftly going cold at home.

“Here we go,” Greg called, clapping his hands together. “This is it, Berthold. We’re all counting on you.”

Good Writing:

“We’re going to go over that part again,” Greg said, propping his script against his hip and staring shrewdly at Berthold. “Listen, I like what you’re doing, but I need it to feel more, um, fresh. Like you’re waking up into the world for the first time.”

“Okay,” Berthold said. He was thinking of the way his wife would be staring at her phone, waiting for a text. His was turned off, per production rules.

“Just, can you be more innocent about it? Like, pretend you’re a bird.” Greg reached out a hand, and mussed Berthold’s hair to the side. “Like a hungry bird.”

“Okay,” Berthold said again.

“And don’t do that, that smiley thing when you say ‘regret.’ Give me, like, a burst of orange there.”

“Got it,” Berthold replied.

Writing Human Nature Requires Cynicism

And remember, you have a unique perspective on a whole lot of things you’ve lived through. If you frame your experiences with a disillusioned and honest eye, your writing will improve a great deal. And also remember, people are only nice if they’re the protagonist, or if they’re selling something.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Look! I’m selling something! Thursday is the fourth day of the week, and The Dead Falcon is the fourth book in this series.

The Obvious Way To Edit Your Novel That Almost Everyone Ignores

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Put your novel into a free Createspace template, complete with chapters, page numbers, and margins. This will make it look like a “real” book. Think of the most detail-oriented but fair critical reader you’ve ever known personally, and go through your novel sentence by sentence with this critical reader present in your mind.

I Think Of My Editor, Who Is The Most Demanding Reader I’ve Ever Met

Think of how they would react to every word choice and punctuation mark. Do not change subjective elements of your novel; only alter things to satisfy the demands of your rigorous friend.

But Victor, If You Have An Editor, Why Are You Doing So Much Work?!

If this process sounds unbearable to you, you need to start looking for an editor who will do this work for you;  the good ones work for free for their friends, at greatly reduced prices for people they know and like, and will rightly charge you more than double your rent if they don’t know you at all.

Looking For An Editor Online Is Like Playing A Lottery Full Of Scamsters

If you’re a person who writes, and you have not yet obtained an agent, a book deal, or a respectable following of readers (don’t despair! These things take time!), you are probably looking at your finished products (stories, novels, essays) through the rose-tinted eyes of a loving and nurturing parent.

Henry Fielding Compares Novels To Children

Children of the brain, he calls them. Try an experiment with me for a moment. Imagine that your latest book is a five- or six-year-old child whom you are about to drop off for the first day of kindergarten (or private school, or neighborhood homeschool co-op).

Is Your Novel Prepared For The Gauntlet Of Public Opinion?

Look at your novel-child. Is it dressed appropriately? (This correlates to the cover design, interior formatting, and sales blurb.) Does it know how to use the bathroom, and have you taught it not to hit or steal? (This correlates to pacing, plot holes, and matters like grammatically-inconsistent style usage.) You may think I am stretching the metaphor too far, but if you examine the public presentation and manners of your writing, you will find a much keener awareness within yourself of what is there and what is lacking.

Victor, My Book Is Not A Kid!

I live next to a little girl who currently attends second grade. She has informed my little boy that she is really fifteen years old, and that she has a thriving rock-selling business that has garnered her gobs of money. These fibs are somewhat charming, but have not alarmed me as a parent. Another boy visits the neighborhood to see his grandparents, and he has proved so destructive and personally malicious that my children are no longer allowed out when he is around (he has a habit of luring younger children out of bounds, and teaching them to throw big rocks).

Where Ya Goin’ With This, Victor?

Let us imagine that our neighborhood boy and girl are novels, complete with their respective behaviors. Now, we will look at how these behaviors may correlate to writing, and how attentive editing, and a mind to the manners of your work, can result in perfectly appropriate prose.

Examples

Bad Writing (ill-mannered child):

Drav was the most heroic man in the whole world; in fact, even the monsters in the Wilkren hills feared him. Drav’s name was even a curse word for most of the elvish people, who had learned to hide in their tree homes whenever his shadow darkened the green grass of their province. Drav was taller than a horse, and his pet dragon, Blackwing, ate maidens whenever Drav wasn’t looking. The story of Drav’s greatest exploit starts in a wind-swept plain of the icy mountain, where he had gone to hunt baby ice-birds for their glorious wings. We join him now at the dead of sunset, crouching low over a hillock of snow and ice, glaring with steely nerves at a grouping of the creatures.

Meh Writing (harmless lies):

Drav hoisted his spear over his shoulder, and examined for the fifteenth time the tiny specks in the distance that he was sure were baby ice-birds. They never left their nest this late; he thought they may have been abandoned by their mother. Teeth flashed in his mind. He imagined a snow-tiger mawing hard on the graceful neck, blood staining both snow and feathers. Drav crept forward through the snow. He had promised to himself to obtain at least two fluffy corpses before the night was out, and they will scatter when he flings the weapon. His steps lay behind him, a mosaic pressed into the harsh ground of the unforgiving climate that threatened life here.

Good Writing (well-behaved child):

The ice-birds rolled in the loose snow; their glittering blue feathers sparkled like jeweled robes in the twilight. Drav hung behind a snowbank, his right arm steady and his eyes fixed on the bathing babies. The little ice-birds smashed their extravagant feathers into the powder before flaring their wings to each side, casting snow out in clouds around them.

Drav’s heart had slowed; his arm loosed the spear, which arced through the air and pierced straight through the heart of the largest bird.

As the others tumbled wildly into the air, their plumage throwing flashes of iridescent blue over the snow, Drav stepped over the ridge of snow and drew his throwing knife.

Editing Is Hard Work That You Can Do

Many people regard editing with a superstitious fervor, but it is a matter of manners and public discretion. If you have the sophistication and discernment required to guide a small child into behaving with appropriate decorum in a public place, you have the skills required to edit your novel. If you don’t know any persnickety, but fair, readers, find one and spend time talking over books with them until you can predict their complaints and their reactions. If all of this sounds impossibly difficult, resign yourself to spending a great deal of money. Remember, if you can spend the time and energy writing a wonderful novel, you can also expend the time and energy to learn to shape it into good form.

You’re reading Victor Poole. My editor loves this book. My imaginary dog, Fifu, wants you to buy and read this novel today.

 

The Invisible People

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Leed is a little boy; he was born in Talbos, and sold by his parents when he was five years old. The sale was managed by Leed’s uncle. Leed was planted as a child laborer in the quarries of Slavithe.

Leed, The Child-Spy

He was to live as a faux-Slavithe boy there, and to be gradually promoted into higher circles of ranking Slavithe households, and to serve as a spy under the direction of his uncle, who carried information to the network of government spies answering to the king in Talbos.

King Fernos Is A Piece Of Work

Leed’s nasty uncle, his father’s brother, lives as a robber on the road between the cities of Talbos and Slavithe; when Leed obeys Ajalia, instead of his sleazy uncle, his uncle beats him.

An Excerpt:

Ajalia vows to take revenge on the man. This is an excerpt from Into the East:

“What don’t I know?” Leed demanded.

“Things,” Ajalia said.

“That is also nonsense,” Leed told her sternly. “You are avoiding telling me things.”

“Yes, I am,” Ajalia said. Leed gave her a long and offended silence, and then he drew an important breath.

“You are being very dismissive, and rude,” Leed informed her. Ajalia nodded. “You are not allowed to nod, and agree with me!” Leed cried. “You have to fight back, and tell me that I’m wrong. You can’t admit that you’re being rude!”

“I’m being very dismissive, and exceedingly rude,” Ajalia said calmly. Leed stopped on the brightly-lit mountain, and stared at her. When he saw that Ajalia did not stop and come back to confer with him, his face reddened, and he chased after her.

“You are supposed to be nice to me,” Leed told her. Ajalia waited until Leed was just behind her, and then she turned without a word, and caught Leed under the arms. She threw him onto the ground, and caught him just before his face hit the rocks. Leed did not cry out, but his whole body stiffened, and his shoulders and arms spread reflexively. Ajalia felt the breath leave the boy’s body in a long gasp of fear.

The Abuser

Leed is afraid of his uncle, because his uncle is a violent and unprincipled man. Leed is also used to being invisible, in that he is expected to function without any care being taken of him as a person with thoughts and feelings of his own. Leed has never been treated, by anyone, like a child, and he has consequently grown into a functional, invisible entity.

Leed Does Not Think Of Himself As A Person Who Counts

In Western therapy, this phenomenon is called “the forgotten child,” but that is hardly a fulsome description of the experience of not existing.

How Did Ajalia Get Him?

Ajalia wrested ownership of Leed’s labor from a grafter, Gevad, early in the first book of the series; ever after, Leed becomes Ajalia’s right hand and trusted confidant, because she was used in the same way; Leed and Ajalia understand each other.

He Asks For A Knife

Leed, some way into their relationship, says that he wants to learn to defend himself. Ajalia, you see, carries a knife, and uses it when she feels it necessary. Leed lusts after the knife, and the safety he believes it represents.

He Is Working With Philas When Ajalia Begins To Teach Him

Leed has to learn the difference between people who care about him and people who hate him, and he has to become angry on his own behalf. In the beginning of the series, Leed is deep in the culture of his people; he feels obligated to his uncle, and fears the existential consequences of being bad. Because he has been taught that he is not really a person, Leed sees badness as synonymous with standing up for himself, or defending himself from the abuse of his captors.

Leed Doesn’t Want To Be A Bad Person

When Ajalia sees that Leed earnestly desires the self-possession that she has, she strikes a deal with him: she will teach him to defend himself, if he takes revenge on his uncle himself. Ajalia meant to hunt Leed’s uncle herself, but Leed accepts the bargain, and she goes to work.

How Does Ajalia Teach Leed?

She begins by attacking him, but never harming him. Leed, for a long time, is violently indignant. He sees that Ajalia is like him, in that she has also been conditioned to serve others as an invisible nonentity. According to Leed’s ingrained thinking, it is wrong, for either Ajalia or himself, to stand up against any kind of abuse.

He Has To Get Mad Before He Will See Himself As Worthy

Ajalia begins to throw Leed around, and to turn him upside down, always taking care to protect him from pain, but causing him great fear in the process. Leed gets angrier and angrier throughout this process; he accuses Ajalia of hating him, and of being evil. She turns his reasoning back on him, and asks if his uncle is equally evil for causing him physical injury. When she says this, Leed goes very quiet. He does not know how to reply, except to say, in essence, that “It is different with my uncle, somehow.”

She Points Out The Dysfunction In His Thinking

Ajalia presses the point. She takes Leed off guard, again and again, until finally, in the wild mountains between Talbos and Slavithe, Leed gets really angry. He starts to watch her, and to mistrust her. Once he has learned to protect himself physically, she goes to work on his mind, but if you want to hear more about that, you’ll have to read the book.

You’re reading Victor Poole. The passage above is from this book. Mop is another boy Ajalia takes on in The King of Talbos, but he is already perfectly capable of protecting himself.

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

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

What Do You Mean?

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

What Are You Writing, Then?

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

Oooh, Demons?

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

Writing What Way?

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

Are Your Books Full Of Bad Memories?

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

Are You Going To Tell Me How To Do It?

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

Fifteen Words Is Not A Lot, Victor

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

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

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

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

Is Your Pacing Slower Than You Think? (And Two Ways To Evaluate It)

There are a couple of ways we can look at pace:

  1. How fast events unfold, and
  2. The rhythm and flow of the words you write

William Shakespeare Was Great At Pacing

Let’s look at that wonderful piece of villainy, Richard III. This is the scene wherein our anti-hero, Dick, goes on a wooing rampage, and attempts to get the widow Anne into an agreeable state of mind. Remember, folks, that Dick of the crooked back and withered arm has recently murdered her husband.

ANNE. Blacke night ore-shade thy day, & death thy life.

RICHARD. Curse not thy selfe faire Creature,
Thou art both.

ANNE. I would I were, to be reueng’d on thee.

RICHARD. It is a quarrell most vnnaturall,
To be reueng’d on him that loueth thee.

ANNE. It is a quarrell iust and reasonable,
To be reueng’d on him that kill’d my Husband.

RICHARD. He that bereft the Lady of thy Husband,
Did it to helpe thee to a better Husband.

Let’s Break Down That Pace!

Granted, we are looking at the middle of this scene, but we’ll go ahead and look at what’s happening here. Richard has just chivalrously informed Anne that she is the sun of his life, and his motive of being. Anne comes straight back, turning his sun analogy to darkness, and wishing (not for the first time in this scene) for Richard to die.

Now, Here’s Where It Gets Interesting

Richard does what all clever anti-heroes do, and makes it personal. He turns Anne’s words against herself, and she falls right into his trap. “Don’t say mean things about yourself, babe! You’re the only thing that matters to me!” he exclaims. “Well, I wish I did matter to you!” she snaps back. “If I mattered to you, I’d make your life hell!”

She has here accepted the premise that liking Dickie would be great; she’s even said that she wants to matter to him. Mistake number one, widow Anne!

The Bunch-Backed Toad Sucks Her In

Now Richard gets all metaphysical, and moralizes on the faults of Anne’s character. “It’s so weird of you to try to hurt someone who loves you!” he exclaims. Anne again falls right into his trap, and mirrors his language. “It’s totally reasonable to want you dead, since you killed my husband!” she cries back.

What is the trap she’s falling into?

She’s allowing Richard to set the terms of the argument. She thinks that she’s winning, because she’s taking up every scrap he throws at her, and turning his words upside down and inside out. He says he loves her, and she comes back saying she hates him. Etc., etc. But the problem is that Richard, very quickly, begins to spin a web of intimacy, and Anne becomes so far extended in expressing hatred that she begins to form an emotional bond with the man.

The Climax

Let us look, swiftly, at the point at which Richard wins over the delicate female. At this point, he has knelt upon the ground, torn open his shirt, and thrust his sword into her hands. Anne is holding the weapon against Richard’s naked chest, and he monologues at her so fast and so hard that she finally drops the sword and agrees to marry him. (This is a mild simplification, for brevity’s sake.)

What Do We Learn About Pacing?

The biggest takeaway from this scene is that one character, and preferably several of them, want something super badly. And their desire (in Richard’s case, to claim the crown) drives them forward like a heavy steam engine, clattering remorselessly over the tracks of character motivation.

Negative And Positive Desire

Richard wants to build something; he wants a kingdom all to himself. Anne begins the scene wanting to be left alone. She expends her spleen on Richard throughout his harassment of her, but she never began the scene with any positive desire. She expresses herself quite violently, and in the spirit of revenge, but she does not want to make or unmake her husband’s murderer; she wants to be left alone.

Generally, the character with the most positive desire drives the pace (and usually gains their desire).

Today’s Example

If you have a character with a negative desire (I want to be left alone; I want to have a peaceful time; I want to be happy; I want things to change), you may be experiencing problems in pacing. A negative desire is a goal that is ephemeral and emotionally-based; it is a state of being that is longed for, rather than a concrete item or physical arrival (I want to be king, I want the one ring, I want a white horse, I want to live in a red house on top of a hill).

Bad Writing (Negative Driver, Poor Pace):

Maldorf watched the birds float over the sunlit bay. He had no desire to go home again. Lian would be there, and she would have brought her sewing with her. Absolutely absurd, he told himself, to sew by hand when there was a perfectly good seam-kiosk in the middle of downtown. Lian, he reflected with some angst, was preoccupied with her domestic skills, and paid no mind to the way technology had outpaced her old-fashioned tastes. I bet she still owns an iron, Maldorf reflected sourly, as he watched a large sea-bird dip into the ocean and rise again, water spinning brightly from its wings.

Good Writing (Positive Driver, Strong Pace):

Maldorf paced up and down the coast, his eyes dancing briefly over the birds that floated busily over the sunlit bay. He opened his palm, and read the numbers that scrolled over his skin in blue. Not time yet, he thought, and plopped down in the sand. He suppressed a sigh, his fingers twisting through the tangled hem of his pants. I should take them to the express seam-kiosk, he told himself, tugging fitfully at the loose threads. A beep flashed up on his neck, and he leapt to his feet, putting his hand to his ear.

“Is she gone?” he demanded.

And Now, Thing 2

I said at the beginning that there were two different ways to examine pace; first we looked at the drivers behind events, and saw that visceral, attainable goals lead to a stronger pace. The second way to think of pace is to examine the actual words used. The rhythm and flow of individual words placed end to end have an enormous impact on pace. Let us look at Richard’s speech from the very peak of the scene, when he is on the cusp of convincing Anne to marry him, or at any rate, to think of thinking about marrying him (which, to him, is the same thing as agreeing to marry him).

RICHARD. That was in thy rage:
Speake it againe, and euen with the word,
This hand, which for thy loue, did kill thy Loue,
Shall for thy loue, kill a farre truer Loue,
To both their deaths shalt thou be accessary.

This speech is masterful. The repetition of the word “love,” as well as the labyrinthine route of Dick’s logic leads Anne through a coherent path of guilt, shame, and obligation, and lands her directly at his proposal of marriage. Richard wins.

You can write this way, too. Allow your character to desire a concrete end, give them honesty and direct language, and immerse yourself in the nitty-gritty unfolding of their thought-patterns. Your pacing will improve as a result.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books, which have superb pacing, are here. Friday is a great day to read about Philas’s hangovers.

Should You Control Your Characters Or Follow Their Lead?

You may have experienced the startling phenomenon of your characters taking over the story, and saying or doing things that you had not planned on. When characters show initiative like this, is it better to let them do as they like? Or will your book be stronger if you keep your characters in line and obedient to the story you originally planned?

Characters Are Folds Of Your Subconscious

When you write what you really think and feel, your characters become peels, or isolated fragments of your inner self. Sometimes characters are created from repressed aspects of your personality. They are often, in fact, parts of yourself that your conscious mind feels the need to explore.

I Don’t Know, Victor; I Really Just Make Up My Characters

Everyone says that. Pardon my cynicism. I shall now explain my attitude. I have a degree in acting. (Economically useless, I know, but I like to think of it as a degree in human communication and behavioral pattern recognition.) It might not look great on paper, but I have people skills.

Victor, That Is A Lie! You Admitted On Yesterday’s Blog Post That You Needed Better People Skills!

Well, I did say something like that. Originally in that post, I had a snide little paragraph that, on reflection, I decided was rude. So I replaced it with, “Maybe I need better people skills.” But let’s be real here, I have phenomenal people skills. Anyway, let’s get back to your characters, and whether stronger fiction will result from your following their lead or manhandling them like a disciplinarian with a sturdy whip.

Now, where were we? Oh, yes. Acting school. In some ways, my program sucked (because many of the professors were failures as professional actors), but in other ways it was an invaluable resource, because I could study what NOT to do, and I could watch dozens of actors progress with varying degrees of success through a wide variety of material over the course of several consecutive years. The methodology of my program was very sound, though its application was often remarkably lacking, and I had access to good material and venues.

Anyway, the point is that I studied people as they created characters (do you get a sense of where I’m going with this now?) for years and years. I created characters myself, and I eventually began to teach others how to create characters. I have been writing creatively (as many of us have) since I was a small child, and my work with writing ran along concurrently with my acting work. Many, if not all, of the performance and creation skills I was mining from theatre had immediate and practical application to creative writing.

All of the problems typically encountered by an actor in the field are almost identical to problems faced by any fiction writer who is working with character-formation, and unless you are writing an autobiographical memoir, you are working in character-formation. (And even then, but hey, let’s keep going forward.)

Okay, So You Think I’m An Actor. I’m Not. Now Tell Me About Following My Characters’ Lead Already

The characters you create are inevitably formed from parts of your own organic energy. Unless you are God or an elevated and fully-enlightened being, there are things about you that you do not know.

There Are Things I Don’t Know About Myself? Like What?

Every time one of your characters unexpectedly says or does something (or clearly wants to) in your writing, your inner self is being revealed. Whatever aspect of your personhood that is enveloped in that particular character is attempting to extricate itself from obscurity and become a conscious aspect of your true self.

That Sounds Kind Of Deep

Gee, thanks! I try to be deep. Ha! Anyway, let’s look at an example of what I mean. I’m going to take a soldier from a fantasy example I wrote some weeks ago, and continue his adventure. I will give you one excerpt where I exert control over his actions, and one where I allow him to lead me. You can judge for yourself which piece of writing is stronger (my mind is made up, and my bias, I presume, is fairly obvious).

Here Are The Examples

Bad Writing (Controlled Characters):

Hornby was torn between a desire to help his fellow soldiers, and a terror of the ball of evil-looking magic that the old wizard carried. It was not supposed to be like this, Hornby thought, and the “it” in question was his assignment. He had been ordered to guard the old wizard two days ago, and he had been ill-prepared for the brazen manner in which the old man, Moriven, flaunted his authority over the people of Balinor.

Stupid old cuss, Hornby thought, but he held his breath as Moriven raised the pulsating orb, and flung it with a cry at the mangling bodies below.

A shimmer, like the reflection of sunlight on the surface of the sea, buzzed over the cliff-face. Hornby saw, too late, that the pair of slave-women had covered their eyes with their thick purple sleeves. He raised his own arm, but the blistering light reached his face, and his eyes burned in their sockets.

Hornby fell to his knees; a crackle of iridescent fire passed over his face, and he felt a pair of claw-like hands grasping him on either side of his head.

“Let go of me!” Hornby bellowed, struggling. A pair of powerful knees pinned him down to the ground; magical restraints closed, snapping and dancing with forceful sparks, over his arms, and Hornby found himself clasped hard against the stony breast of the mountain.

Hornby’s breath left him in a harsh rattle; he drew in new air, and the sound of his inhale crossed sharply over the silence that now blanketed the area. They’re all dead, he realized, and a shaft of horror blasted through his heart.

“My brother Gimrol was down there!” Hornby screamed. A pulse of orange light filled up his mind; he knew no more.

***

“Hand me the red stuff,” Moriven’s voice said over him. Hornby only gradually became aware of his surroundings; it was night, and the soft glow of a fire danced over the face of the hideous old wizard.

“You killed Gimrol,” Hornby rasped, and he lifted his arms, meaning to grasp the old man around the throat. Moriven chuckled, and daubed cool mud over Hornby’s eyes. Horby gasped, and jolted his head away from the thick, crusted fingers. “Stop touching me,” Hornby said hoarsely.

“He can see again; it worked,” Moriven said in a business-like tone. Hornby blinked away the stars that flecked his vision, and shook his head hard.

“What filth is this?” he demanded, meaning to reach up with his hand to wipe away the wet muck.

“You are bound, for your own safety,” the old wizard said. Moriven stood, and gestured to someone that Hornby could not see. “Tend to him, and tell him what he wants to know,” Moriven said, sounding positively jovial, and the old wizard hobbled out of Hornby’s line of sight.

“Where are you going? Where is he going?” Hornby demanded of the purple-robed slave that came near to his side.

“You have been touched by the orb of instant death,” the woman told him in a soft and measured tone. “You are very lucky to be here at all.”

“Where is my brother? Did you save my brother as well?” Hornby demanded. The woman met his eyes for a moment, and then looked into the darkness, as if waiting for some answer or direction.

“They are all dead, who were below the cliff,” the lady said.

Hornby’s breath left him in a rush. He had known, on the cliff, that there was no hope, but somehow, still, he had dreamed of it all being an awful nightmare.

“He can’t kill our own,” Hornby said. He looked to the side, but Moriven was out of sight. I will kill him, when I can stand, Hornby thought. The woman seemed to read his thought, because she laughed.

“Many men, mightier than you, have sought to destroy the great wizard,” she said. Her eyes were dancing with a clear light.

“My brother is dead because of him,” Hornby spat.

“Show him,” Morivan called from the darkness. Hornby twisted his head, and glared through the night, but he could see nothing.

“Show me what? What does he mean?” Hornby demanded. The slave woman nodded into the darkness, and raised up her palms.

“Close your eyes, and I will help you to see,” the lady said. Hornby stared at the dimly-lit slave with deep dislike.

“I do not want you to touch me,” he replied slowly.

“Show him,” Moriven commanded, in a high, cold voice. Hornby hissed, and glared at the lady.

“Is it safe?” he asked. What he meant was, will I be able to see, after? She nodded, and Hornby, stuffing away a large measure of suspicion, closed his eyes.

Good Writing (Characters Lead the Action):

Hornby watched in horror as the old magician laboriously raised his hands, and threw the pulsating black ball down on the fighting forms below the cliff. For a moment, nothing happened, but then a muffled bang, and the splatter of several hundred bodies bursting open filled the clear evening air with a sickening pitter-patter of blood and internal organs hitting the rocks.

Hornby’s brother, Jash, who had been a sentry of the Balinor outpost, was among the first to fall. His bright blue eyes turned momentarily up to the top of the cliff, and as his blond hair and shapely form exploded, Hornby screamed out, and flung himself down from the cliff.

One of the slaves who had supported the old wizard darted at Hornby, and wrapped her arms around his torso. The woman was stronger than she appeared; Horby wrestled her violently, and the white-bearded wizard glanced at their struggling bodies, and uttered a sharp curse.

Streams of white and gold light flung themselves against Hornby’s body, and he fell headlong to the ground atop the cliff. His arms and legs were bound tightly against his body, and a smooth wrap of magic filled up his mouth. Hornby struggled and spat against the magic, but it yielded easily to his mouth without causing him pain. The magic was like smooth butter, or creamy cheese. He could not make a sound, but he could breathe easily.

Hornby glared furiously at the woman who stood over him, watching him dispassionately.

“He appears to be upset,” the slave informed her master, who snorted.

“Carry him with us, Isbel,” the wizard told the purple-robed slave, and she bent at her waist, and hoisted Hornby easily over her shoulder. He attempted to fight against her hold, but his muscles grew quickly numb, and he felt his mind drifting wearily away from the darkening cliff top. I was not tired; I am not sleepy, he told himself furiously, but the darkness clung persistently to his mind, and he felt his eyes rolling up, and his jaw slackening.

***

Hornby woke in the deepest night. His limbs buzzed with a disquieting ache, but he no longer felt the width of stifling magic between his lips.

“You hurt me,” he said. He could see no one.

“I saved your life, you foolish man,” Isbel, the female slave, said. Hornby turned his head, and saw her sitting on a fire-colored boulder. He blinked, and lifted one hand to rub his eyes. His arm came partway up, and then stopped. Isbel saw his movement, and he thought he saw her smile. “You are bound, man-slave,” she said in her quaint accent.

“I am no slave,” Hornby spat. Isbel laughed in a low, throaty voice, and Hornby felt an automatic quiver of attraction in his gut. He felt a simultaneous disgust and desire for the exotic slave, whose hair was tied up in loops of gold, and whose fine brows arched disdainfully over her very keen eyes.

“You are war-chattel of my master, the great wizard Moriven,” she replied. She stood up and passed out of his line of vision. To his surprise, the boulder upon which she had sat, which had burned with a strangely orange-and-red glow, flashed out at once, and became an ordinary lump of granite.

“I belong to no one, slave,” Hornby called after her. He heard no answer, and, after craning his neck to see what he could from his present position, he began to struggle to rise.

He found that he was bound with short tethers of magic to a length of the stone ground. From what he could see, he was no longer anywhere near the cliffs where the battle had occurred, and where his little brother—ye gods, what was he going to relay to mother? Sorry mother, Hornby imagined himself saying, but I was assigned to guard a warlock, and I watched while he did a spell that exploded Jash into pieces of blood and softened intestine. Hornby grimaced bitterly, and examined his tethers. He could only see part of the magic. Where the tethers sank into the stone, it burned with the same strange glow that had illuminated Isbel’s boulder.

Hornby rotated his body, and began to test the strength of the tethers.

“You will yank out your arms before you release yourself from my bonds,” Moriven said. Hornby glared up through the darkness, but he could not see the white-bearded wizard.

“You killed my little brother,” Hornby spat. He could not contain the venom in his voice.

“Yes, it is most regrettable,” Moriven agreed. “I myself have had relatives in such battles. It is unfortunate. I am guessing you did not expect me to kill everyone.”

“I didn’t think you’d do magic that killed our side, too,” Hornby said. He felt hatred seething in the skin of his face; he wanted to stride to the old man, and hit him.

“Well,” Moriven said, clapping his hands together sharply. “To business. I need an apprentice, and I think you will serve well enough.”

Hornby blinked, and shook his head.

“I won’t be your apprentice, old man,” he said, with what he hoped was withering scorn.

What we find when we follow the characters’ lead is that we naturally steer clear of artificial situations, and a remarkable freshness enters the dynamic of the scenes and dialogues. Our characters become independent and volitional. A happy side effect is that the act of writing becomes a movement of discovery.

But I Like Writing To An Outline, Victor. If I Follow The Characters, I’ll Lose My Structure

A surprising thing happens when you use both an outline and volitional characters; magic storytelling happens. You see, in order for you to force a volitional character towards a predetermined outline, you have to motivate the character. For example, in My Name Is Caleb; I Am Dead, Caleb is instructed to do something that he really, really doesn’t want to do. My outline showed that he would eventually do it. So my challenge, as a writer, was to create a scenario around and inside of Caleb that would bring him, emotionally, to the point where he would be both capable and willing of the action that ultimately occurred in the outline.

You’re Being Too Vague; This Is Not Helpful

You’ll just have to read the book. It’s a very good book. I’m not going to spoil it for you. Back to our point, when you follow the volitional urges of your characters, you are, in essence, externalizing and incorporating repressed aspects of yourself into your core personhood, which is good for your branding, good for your readers (because the characters are naturally fresh and dynamic in this methodology), and good for your daily writing experience. Embrace the unfolding of your hidden self, and reap the rewards of dynamic, moving fiction in the process.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. Have a great afternoon.