Cover Update

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 4.43.43 PM

I’m thinking about moving the eyes around on Tula-for; I haven’t seeded metal through his hands. Don’t know if I will.

This is a scene near the end of the book, when her soul starts to expand frighteningly.

Happy writing, anybody.

You’re reading Victor Poole; like a crank, I persist in finishing a series before publishing. If you love intentionally harsh writing and mind-numbing deliberation, you would love Ajalia. She has a knife; the girl in the picture above doesn’t get one for one-and-a-half books. May many of the Wednesday good things happen to you.

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The Utility Of Raw Gore In Fiction (With A Sample)

dragon mockup

When I did theatre, the directors, most of them, were fascinated with the idea of raw, shocking emotion. They wanted to abuse the audience, essentially, and force many bodies to feel unexpected (and unpleasant) things.

Because They Thought It Made Them Powerful

Good theatre, of course, is like great sex; two people (one of whom represents the actors, and the other the audience) come together and do interesting things to each other, and end by feeling cozy and close in their hearts.

Yep, Victor, You’re Weird

There’s a clear emotional exchange; just as in sex, theatre can turn ugly very fast, and physical brutality, aggressive sexuality, and general indecency of language are the usual methods employed by terrible directors and shitty producers.

‘Cause They’re Not Classy

On the other hand, raw intimacy (hand-holding, bodies wanting each other, but not quite touching, the promise of a kiss without the act), choreographed violence (vicious fights, sudden actions, and vivid physical motion), and authentic sharing (true language, however swear-y) are the opposite, very good side of this potential bad, and make for glorious, unforgettable theatre.

Now, For Gore In Fiction

To see how you are handling your violence, sex, and coarse language, it is important to first examine the reason for it being there.

I imagine you’ve seen films before where a lady is unnecessarily undressed, or a person hits another for no other reason than that the director thought it would make things pop more.

Because Empty Action Pads The Script (I’m Serious)

Shakespeare brought heads onstage, and severed limbs; he gored out eyes, and openly referenced incestuous rape and the dismemberment of women and children. One of his plays occurs almost entirely in a brothel, in fact, but you will find, in any worthwhile production of Shakespeare, that there is no immodesty in his language, or in his actions directed for the stage. (Embedded stage directions; it’s a long story.)

People Who Ruin Shakespeare Should Be Given Paper Cuts On Their Faces

People, shitty people (yeah, I’m looking at you, buster-oldy George) love to mangle Shakespeare, to add brazen fondling and breasts, and weirdly orgiastic violence that is not in any of the plays. They also like to add little scenes–to make the action more realistic, or more compelling to the modern viewer, they think.

All Of Which Sucks, Almost Always

Now, on to the subject of the day (or night, as the case may be): raw gore, and the manipulation of flesh in the service of whole fiction, is cathartic and pure, when it is handled with grace and modesty.

The Greeks, for all their blatant phallic pieces, had dignity and respect for suffering in many of their tragedies. The purpose of Oedipus putting out his eyes, and Jocasta hanging herself, is to bring the audience to a pitch of pity and existential terror.

The Bringing Of Emotional Climax Is The Function Of Fiction

And now, since the Greeks and Shakespeare do not always scratch the itch of contemporary genre fiction, here is some blood, and a bit of gentle violence.

A Sample, As Promised

Ethan the cyborg, having cut his metal down, is carving up a couple of his fellows, and stealing their alien inserts. Observe:

“What you are holding is a base insert,” Ethan said, grimacing as he began to wedge the other cyborg’s insert into his own thigh. Mary’s eyes widened, and her lips parted. He seemed to be working the insert in between his own muscles; the shape of his thigh moved in deeply unnatural ways as he worked. “I already have base inserts; I need the top pieces.”

“You put your top pieces into me,” Mary guessed.

“Not all of them, but some,” Ethan said with a smile.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” she demanded, watching him force the end of the insert deeper into his upper thigh.

“Not as much as you’d think. You get pretty numb, after the first four dissections,” he said. He made a small sound, like a tense man relaxing into a bath, and the insert folded neatly into the top of his thigh. Ethan sighed and pushed the bottom of the piece the rest of the way into the slit. Mary thought that it was like watching someone try to move a large piece of furniture through a narrow doorway; first the top made it in, and then the bottom was swiveled and forced into the opening.

“Are you all right?” she asked. She began to feel increasingly squeamish.

“I’m fine,” Ethan said. The insert went in with a strange click, and he extended his leg with a deep sigh.

“And now the next one?” Mary asked. Ethan’s restored leg looked oddly out of proportion to the rest of his reduced body. He began to cut open the second cyborg’s other leg, and Mary went to the first cyborg and stared down at his open eyes. “What about them?” she asked. The squelch of the knife in the second cyborg’s leg made a wet echo in the corridor.

“What about them?” Ethan asked. He put the knife in again, and then again.

“He’s still alive, isn’t he?”

“He’ll be dead soon,” Ethan said, as if commenting on the weather.

“But he’s a person,” Mary replied. She felt a hollow outrage, and she could not bring herself to do anything about it.

“They aren’t people, Mary. I keep telling you that. I’m not a person, either.”

“You’re a person,” she said angrily.

“Well,” Ethan amended, working his hand into the cyborg’s leg, and beginning to wrench the insert loose, “I wasn’t a person before I met you.”

“I think you’ve always been a person. And I don’t know what you mean by saying these men aren’t people. They’re alive.” Mary felt a hot flush of fear and anger on her neck; she felt powerless and irritated, and she didn’t know how to stop the bloody work and still get the old Ethan back. “Can’t we use the dead bodies of the other cyborgs?” she asked.

“No,” Ethan said.

“Why not?” she asked.

“I would have to prime the metal,” he said. His voice made a squeaking whine in the middle of the words; he had freed the top of the insert from the cyborg’s base now. Mary took the bottom piece, and Ethan pushed the top of the insert into his other thigh.

“That looks so painful,” she said. The two insert pieces she held were hot and slick in her hands; she found, quite suddenly, that she didn’t mind the blood, but she minded the heat.

“It’s very good to get my old shape back,” Ethan grunted, working the metal deeper under his muscles.

“What do you mean when you say you’d have to prime the metal?” Mary asked. The top of Ethan’s new insert locked into place, and he began to work over the bottom half.

“To prime the metal means exposing it to blood, and live pain,” he said. His voice still sounded tinny and strange.

“Why do you sound like that?” Mary asked. Ethan groaned, and forced the rest of the insert into place. He stood upright, and looked down at himself.

“That’s better,” he said. He sounded ready to laugh with giddiness. “I have deep machines running, to keep my inserts open,” he told her.

And So,

Interestingly, tasteful swearing, and modest use of nudity, violence, and raw language and action opens the reader’s heart, and makes them receptive to the story, and the characters. I am not in any way suggesting that you take your gore out; in fact, you probably need more of it, and the other things.

What I am saying, most emphatically, is that the gore must serve a core plot purpose, and be fully justified. Gratuitous violence, and all the rest, cheapen your work. If you need to cut someone’s head off, and prance around the page with the blood, make sure you’ve paid for the privilege of violence with narrative context.

Gore is a necessary part of deeply-cathartic fiction, but just as in deeply intimate bonding, respect for your partner (in this case, the reader) is paramount.

You’re reading Victor Poole. I have to rewrite almost the entirety of my cyborg sequel, because Vicard turned interesting, and developed unexpected backstory that I now get to incorporate through the threads of the previous parts. Reading my self-published fantasy series is almost guaranteed to make your editing-brain bleed; you’re welcome.

There’s A Delay For My Next Book

So The Second Queen was supposed to come out last month, but my editor, bless his heart, had an epiphany, and metaphorically flung the book across the room, and now we’re into thematic rewrites.

Plus, it turns out I forgot to write in some sex that should have been there the first time around.

Ah, experience, you great teacher, will you ever cease to pummel me between the eyes?

In other news, here’s a rough mock-up I’m working on for Ethan and Mary.

 

last cyborg final

You’re reading Victor Poole. Don’t worry, the sex will be worth the wait, and by the way, Philas wants everyone to know that he’s decided to be in love with Ajalia after all. I wonder how his wife will react to this news. Happy Wednesday, internet-kin.

Why You Leave Out Anchored Details When You Write (And How To Fix It)

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When you write, you often leave out the best parts. You don’t write about the most exquisite feelings, or the tenderest moments. Everything ought to be pat action and tight dialogue; all things should push the story forward. That’s the way you might feel, anyway, but what your reader wants the most is the deepest and strongest experience of the heart of the story, and that often includes happy feelings, exciting or startling sensations, and even scenes of tender friendship or love.

Victor Poole, You’re So Judgmental!

How do I know you are probably skipping the good parts in your writing? Well, I’ll tell you: I’m extrapolating from a combination of my own experience as a writer, my days of studying story-making in amateur theatre, and my personal findings as a reader of fiction.

So I’m pretty sure, like ninety-nine percent sure, that you’re skipping most of the good parts in your story.

Why Are These Soft, Squishy Bits Getting Skipped Over?

The super short answer is embarrassment and shame, but the longer, more complete answer is that everyone has, at some point in their life, been rejected or left out, or excluded in some painful manner, and this has taught each of us that sharing our truest and deepest selves with others is scary, bad, and sometimes dangerous.

Well, I Don’t Feel That Way, Victor!

Good for you! You rock on with your bad self! However, I shall continue, since not all of us are as lucky and/or resilient as you.

When you start to hide the squishy, human part of yourself in your writing (which is what skipping these deep parts is), the story suffers immeasurably. The characters become dry and unemotional, almost like rote-reading robots, and your prose becomes, shall we say, a tiny little itsy bit tedious at times.

You Can’t Call MY Prose Tedious, Victor! You Cad!

On the other hand, when you share your very favorite parts of the story with genuine excitement and generosity, the prose gets all filled up with good, edible chewiness, and your characters become real people, fully dimensional and memorable.

I Want Memorable Characters! Teach Me, Victor Poole!

The way you can tell if you’re skipping good parts in your writing is if you are bored. Honestly, there you go. If you aren’t excited by what you’re writing about, and eager to put it down, you are more than likely hiding the good parts of the story, possibly even from yourself.

Look! I just explained writer’s block!

No, Really

I’m actually serious; when you can’t write, or you don’t really wanna feel-like-it-right-now, you are probably hiding a really great part of the story from the reader, and writing around it, or over it, or through it.

Let’s take a break from the jibber-jabber and look at some examples:

Skipped good parts:

They sat next to the fire with their hands turned towards the warmth, and the touching that had almost happened two hours ago made them reluctant to speak.

He hadn’t meant to brush against her, and for her part, she found him far less attractive now that she knew he hadn’t lived away from his mother yet.

She started to make the food, and he roused himself and unpacked their bags. They were silent, quiet, and utterly without words for each other, and they slept on opposite sides of the fire that night.

With the good parts:

Thadeus and Jewly sat next to the fire with their palms towards the warmth.

“I thought you were going to kiss me earlier today,” she said. He looked at her sharply, and flushed.

“I wasn’t,” he said.

“I know, because you didn’t,” she said pointedly. His cheeks reddened further, and he scooted a little away from her. She moved closer to him, a frown of deep irritation creasing her mouth.

“Well, what are you getting closer to me for, if you hate me so much?” he demanded.

“I never said that,” she snapped, and eased closer. He glared at her suspiciously.

“I heard you say that you thought I was a lame excuse for a knight. I heard you say that,” Thadeus exclaimed.

“Living with your mother after you’ve been knighted is decidedly out of the spirit of adventure. Where are you supposed to take your true love, after you’ve gotten hold of her?” Jewly demanded. His face darkened; he frowned at her, and scooted closer; their legs pressed together.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well, what?” she replied.

“Aren’t you going to squeal, and go sit over there?” he asked harshly.

“Why would I squeal when you keep not trying to kiss me?” she asked, color mounting in her cheeks. Thadeus stared at her, his face undergoing a gradual revolution. He opened his mouth as if to speak again, and then closed it. She sniffed, and her breath shivered, as if she was concealing a heartfelt sigh.

His hand crept towards her knee; she eyed him, and he hesitated.

“Aren’t you going to run away and tell me how much you don’t want to kiss me?” he asked. His voice had turned husky.

“No,” she said.

“Do you want me to kiss you?” he asked.

And So,

In conclusion, when you are writing, watch out for lackadaisical lack of interest from you towards your story, and beware of writing around or away from the really good parts. Remember, if the reader would want to hear about it because it’s really intense, go ahead and write about it, even if it’s scary and/or too embarrassing.

You’re reading Victor Poole; my books are here, and I recommend starting with this one.

The headless horse is a study of this.

Why Your Characters Break Down When You Write, And What To Do About It

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Writing a novel is a lot like directing a play; your characters are like your actors, and the world-building and cultural development are like your set dressing and properties.

Directing Is Great

Something that not a lot of people realize when it comes to theatre is that a lot of acting is, in practice, deeply therapeutic. You are role-playing, and putting your own real emotions through the paces of the story. (I have opinions about what counts as “worthwhile” acting, so if you love externally-driven representational theatre, we are bitter enemies in real life.)

Mental Gymnastics

When you direct a play, and you are working with not the most highly-qualified professionals in the world, you end up landing in the role of therapeutic tour guide, or as house-mother to the emotional gymnastics of your actors. If you are wise, and an ethical director, you shape their process to fit the play and stay the hell away from their private lives.

Bad Directors Are Awful

I’ve had a lot of experience with crappy, soul-sucking directors, but I’ve also been lucky enough to work with a few really decent and principled directors.

Now, what does this have to do with fantasy and science fiction writing?

Yay, Victor’s Going To Talk About Writing!

Well, you may find, when you get into the groove of writing your story, that your characters start to lose control of themselves. Some of them want to kiss each other, and they aren’t supposed to. Some of them draw weapons and start lashing out at people, and some of them develop a sudden and unforeseen petty streak.

You start to find out that your characters, if you are writing good ones, have minds of their own. This can be upsetting, especially if you work from outlines, but you can turn it to your advantage and get great fiction out of the situation.

One

First, remember that people who act out are always working out early traumas, no exceptions. Somewhere inside their beautiful little soul is a hurt or abandoned or misunderstood child, and all you, as the author, need to do is coax out that hurt and do something about it.

Two

Second, let them break stuff. Yeah, sometimes it seems like you’re losing your book, because your fourth-important main character wants to burn down the city, and you need the city for the final battle in book three, but if it’s really important to the guy, give him some matches and see what happens.

Three

Third, know that artistic creation is mysterious, and if you cudgel the muse into obedience she is apt to break your head open with malapropos life circumstances. Because karma and poetic justice are things that seep into your life when you write a lot. Don’t tempt fate; honor the violent and unbidden urges of your characters and give yourself a seat on the train called, “What the crap is going to happen next?!”

Examples:

Bad Writing (characters forced to conform to an outline):

Gevad was not a bad man, when he had the time to think before he acted, but there were so many financially ignorant saps in Slavithe, and he loved having houses and servants so much that he could hardly keep himself from taking advantage of the poor and the recently-rich whenever he could.

Lasa he had picked up on a whim; he’d known her father, and dabbled in magic with her mother, back before witches were banned from the city, and he had a soft spot for the olden days. He hadn’t meant to seduce her when he first obtained the deed to her mother’s house, and ownership of her body. Her blue eyes were soft and appealing, and he found himself saying things to her about freedom, and hard work, and she had wormed her way into his arms before he thought to say, “Certainly not, young lady!”

He knew she expected him to free her out of love, but not once in his life had Gevad given up material advantage for sentimental reasons, and she was too weak-willed to force his hand.

Better Writing (characters allowed to do as they will):

“Later,” he told her, when she asked when they would marry. It was against the law to marry an owned woman, but Lasa cared nothing for rules, and she had spent her life bending them without significant consequence to her person.

“I told mother I wouldn’t bring her to the wedding,” she told him. Her long hair was over her shoulder, and her bright face was tilted to the side, like a colorful bird’s.

“Mmrsh,” Gevad mumbled. What he wanted to say was, “Your mother will be long-dead before I even think of marrying you, big-breasted one,” but he never said what he really thought to Lasa. She snuggled into his lap, and he sighed.

“You like having me, though,” she coaxed. “You’d feel lonely without me in the house.”

“I’d miss you from my bed, sure,” Gevad murmured.

“And from your life, silly,” Lasa chided. She gazed up at the ceiling, her eyes wide and innocent-seeming. “I want to wear green when we get married,” she mused.

“Later,” Gevad said again.

“Next week,” she said.

“I don’t know when. Things are very hard for my business right now,” he lied. Things had never been better; he was flush with cash, and more than twelve bond-servants had fallen into his hands in the last month.

“If I get you that little white house rented, would we be able to afford it?” Lasa asked. “I wish we could bring my mother’s things down from upstairs,” she added.

“Soon,” Gevad said.

“But if I sell that little house, or let it out, will you marry me then?” she demanded.

“I would think about it,” Gevad said. Lasa’s lips turned in a satisfied curve, and she kissed him soundly.

To Sum Up

When your characters stray from the script, they are probably working out early trauma, and you can let them break stuff. Creation is shrouded in mystery, and to preserve the peaceful order of your own everyday existence, the best course is to follow along in the wake of your characters’ authentic desires.

You’re reading Victor Poole; the picture is a study of this. My books are here, and Lasa/Gevad are featured in the first installment of the series.

Adding Intoxication And Arousal To Your Novel

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Look, guys, I’m talking about sex again! (This is a study I made of a whale. There are cute little silver fish, too; you can just see their fins and tails.)

That Time When I Worked In Theatre

So a long time ago, I started directing shows. Super small time, you haven’t heard of me, there’s very little evidence. But I was good. So good that old ladies and mid-level managers occasionally tried to throw free marketing at my face after they saw me work.

You Fool, Victor! Everyone Needs Free Marketing!

Yes, yes, I know, but I was working on something much more important than “big success right this very minute!”, and pushing growth without a foundation is really dumb, and a good way to destroy your long-term career.

I decided to think long-term very early in my life. But we aren’t talking about my childhood right now; we’re talking about sex. Ha ha! What a segue, am I right?

Shakespeare And The Sexy Bits

He had them everywhere, didn’t he? Shameless, but oh so effective. Here is Dick, the serial killer, worming his way into Lady Anne’s knickers:

ANNE. Thou was’t the cause, and most accurst effect.

RICHARD. Your beauty was the cause of that effect:
Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleepe,
To vndertake the death of all the world,
So I might liue one houre in your sweet bosome.

ANNE. If I thought that, I tell thee Homicide,
These Nailes should rent that beauty from my Cheekes.

RICHARD. These eyes could not endure y beauties wrack,
You should not blemish it, if I stood by;
As all the world is cheared by the Sunne,
So I by that: It is my day, my life.

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

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

Here we see Richard retreating while saying intimate things, right up until Anne rushes at him in anger. Then we see Richard step smoothly up into her face and get too close and too calm. This is a recipe for an insta-crush, which Anne immediately develops (and is understandably upset and confused by).

Predators, Honor, And Romance

People usually vilify Dick, seeing as he cuts short the lives of several people in this play, but Richard is an honorable man and uses his pure soul to attract Anne into loving him (she dies in misery because of him, but she is super-duper turned on anyhow).

How, might you ask, is Richard honorable? You know, seeing as he kills a whole bunch of innocents and then does his best to secure a little girl as a second wife.

The Devil In The Character

Shakespeare does something wonderful in his plays; he writes on occasion about honorable men who fall (or are led) into evil ways, and he marks their progress pretty studiously. For example, Claudius (Measure for Measure) is not a bad guy when he is imprisoned; he has gotten Juliet with child, but they entered into a common law marriage, which was an acceptable practice at the time. He turns into ugly places when he tries to pimp out his sister to save his life, but he is not quite a murderer.

Dickie, on the other hand, pushes and lies to get people to murder each other. He doesn’t, as far as I recall, shed blood by his own hand until the end of the play, which is when the darkness overtakes him and he becomes genuinely evil.

Darker And Darker

But, you may exclaim, you promised to talk about sex today, Victor! And now I will explain what growing towards evil and sexuality have to do with each other.

You see, romance–that genuine, fluttery, hot-flashing, touch-me-now feeling–springs from the exchange of internal energy between honorable beings.

What Do You Mean By Honor, Victor Poole?

When a man or a woman extorts intimacy from the body of another, romance dies, and the interaction becomes abusive and ugly. When, on the other hand, the exchange of internal self is autonomous and self-willed, romance abounds.

The more volitional the exchange of selves, the stronger the heat of sex. Now for some examples of what I mean (because intoxicating writing generally does well, commercially).

Examples

Bad Writing:

Valerie hung sheepishly behind the butcher’s; she heard someone coming, and held her breath. Old man Hans came around the corner. He laughed when he saw her, and winked; she ducked her head and studied her books.

“You’re following that young man again,” Hans said.

“Am not,” Valerie said.

“You’d better hurry and slide against him then,” the old man sneered, and he patted Valerie’s arm with his gnarled hand. She waited for the old man to go away, and then went and looked at the bridge.

Frank was standing on the crossing, one leg stretched forward and both arms on the stone balustrade. His dark hair fell in thick curls over his neck. A bouncy woman was just beside him, her hand laid on his arm.

“We’ll see about this,” Valerie growled. She put her shoulders back and stalked towards the pair.

Good Writing:

Valerie waited around the corner; she heard approaching footsteps, and held her breath. Old man Hans came into view; she ducked her head and pretended to arrange her books.

“Morning,” Hans said.

“Mm,” Valerie agreed. Her heart throbbed painfully in her chest. She waited for the old man to hobble away, and then crept to the edge of the wall and peered around the bricks.

Frank lounged on the bridge, one knee knocked forward and both arms stretched along the stone balustrade. His skin was like sun-kissed gold, and his dark hair fell in thick curls over his neck. Bridget O’Malley stood in front of him, her whole body hooked forward, as if she thought she would magnetize the young man into falling on top of her.

“Hussy,” Valerie said under her breath. She put a wide smile on her face and swung around the corner, her bundle of books slung carelessly under her arm as she approached the bridge.

Fledgling arousal and romance is best built up by scrupulous attention to the freedom of interaction between the soon-to-be-smooching characters. Extortion kills romance, (and is great, if carefully used, for thrillers and scary bits), and autonomous sharing of the inner self is what builds the anticipation.

You’re reading Victor Poole. There is a good bit of kissing in the last few books of this series. Here is the picture I used for my whale study.

How To Make Your Prose More Poetic And Profound

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

Deep Fiction, Only With Magic And Spaceships

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

He Could Have Influenced Society

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

A Dropt Love Letter

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

The Silliest Of Plays

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

But Then, Shakespeare Grasped The Importance Of Profundity

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

Portia’s Blathering (While Blushing)

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

And Now, For Fiction

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

Light-Minded Writing (Acerbic Commentary):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Profound Prose (Reflective, Respectful Commentary):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Twelve and change,” the shorter one replied.

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

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

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

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