Dysfunctional Families Are Wonderful Fodder For Fantasy

Today I’m thinking about Delmar’s uncles in Talbos.

Uncle Thorn, Uncle Elan, and Uncle Fallor

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about uncles lately, without at all meaning to. Apparently that’s a theme in my current work. Delmar’s got, um, three . . . four uncles. One of them is a leechy hanger-on married to his aunt, so hardly counts as far listing out a family tree.

Delmar’s youngest uncle is the worst, but the two in the middle are quite nice. One of them, the man in the middle, is in charge of the city guards, and the older one is in the awkward position of handling power without having any right to it.

The Fourth Uncle Is The Kind Of Guy Everyone Ignores

The thing I love about dysfunctional families is how quickly everything changes when one person lays hold of a new romantic partner.

Fresh blood, emotionally speaking, disturbs the dynamic between all the older predators, and the younger, weaker people jostle to see how many scraps they can collect for themselves.

Power, Control, and Status

Have you ever watched a herd of horses assimilate a new member? There’s a lot of biting, and squealing, and chasing of the new horse into corners to be beat up and cowed. Ha ha! Horses being cowed. That’s funny.

The same kind of procedure happens in an unhealthy family (and let’s face it, a lot of families are run on poor authority and corruption). A new body shows up, connected to an existing member, and the head honchoes start to sniff around and pick fights, testing the waters to see how much they can get away with.

Delmar goes to see his uncles in Talbos, and he brings Ajalia with him. Chaos ensues.

Examples

Clumsy Construction (Bad Writing):

“Do you think your grandfather will come to see you?” Ajalia asked.

“No,” Delmar said. “He will send my uncle.”

“Who is your uncle?” she asked. “The one who manages the guard?”

“Yes,” Delmar said. He gestured with his chin to the entrance that lay ahead of them. “That is him now. His name is Elan. He is my father’s youngest brother. I do not think he will like you.” Delmar clammed up now, because Elan was drawing near.

Ajalia saw that Delmar’s uncle was near him in age; Elan wore a trimmed brown beard, and had eyes that were reminiscent of Simon’s hard dark eyes. Delmar’s blue eyes, Ajalia thought, had come from somewhere else in the family, since he resembled neither his father nor his mother. Coren, Ajalia thought, had looked rather like Simon, like Elan did.

Elan strode through the courtyard towards Delmar. He spared a glance for Ajalia, who was partially out of view behind the horse, and then turned his full attention to Delmar.

“What do you want, Delmar?” Elan asked sharply. Ajalia saw that Delmar’s uncle put little store in Delmar’s new position; she looked at Delmar out of the corner of her eye, and saw that Delmar was not embarrassed by his uncle’s rudeness.

“I’ve come to negotiate a renewed succession with the king,” Delmar said. Ajalia was quite impressed; she had thought, ever since Delmar had frozen up during the confrontation with the guards, that Delmar would be a mute accompaniment to her negotiation, but she saw now that Delmar was going to take the lead on the matter. She hoped that he was prepared for how ugly things would turn, if Elan did not like what was said. She began, very quietly, to gather up long veins of magic in her hands.

Elegant Construction (Good Writing):

“Will king Fernos agree to see you right away?” Ajalia asked. She was standing just to the right of the black horse, her hands folded and her best slave-face in her eyes. She looked exotic, expensive, and very discreet, even with her clothes wet through from the rain.

Delmar, astride the horse, glanced down at her with a smile, his hair and fine clothes still damp from the recently-ended downpour.

“No, my grandfather doesn’t see me officially. Now that I’ve come for an actual audience like this, he’ll put me off as much as he can. I imagine he’ll send one of my uncles, to see how much of a mess I am.”

“Your poor uncles,” Ajalia said softly. Delmar laughed and shifted in the saddle. Ajalia’s black horse made a heaving sigh that jostled Delmar. “You’re sitting well,” Ajalia murmured in the old Slavithe tongue.

“Thank you, darling,” Delmar replied in the ancient tongue, his mouth twisting in a grin and his reddish-gold stubble making an alluring shadow over his jaw. “Oh, here he comes,” Delmar said, switching back to regular Slavithe and nodding towards a young man stalking with clear impatience through the farther arch of the courtyard. “That is Elan, third son of the king, and master of the guard. He’s probably going to hate you,” Delmar whispered.

“Thank you,” Ajalia said, and she sank into foreign-slave mode entirely, her expression smoothing into a pleasant, docile kind of readiness. She saw Elan glance irritably at her as he drew near the enormous black horse and exquisitely attired rider.

In Conclusion

Embrace dysfunction in the families of fantasy environs. Humor and drama lie therein, and however awful bad families are in reality, they make wonderful fodder for fiction. Exploit them. (Bwa ha ha, etc.)

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m in the midst of stylistic rewrites. Come back soon for more novels. Like, a lot of them. Cough, cough.

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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 Truth About Story Parameters

Do you follow through on the parameters promised in the overall setup of your story? And does the reader feel they got what they were promised in your opening?

Parameters of the Premise

Every story has an overall structure, a promise of what may happen that either is or isn’t followed through on by the end.

Some plots are so formulaic as to be reducible to a sentence or only just a phrase: romance, murder mystery, etc. Many other stories create individual promises in the opening that are then expounded on throughout the rest of the work.

For Example

There’s that age-old story about the young man setting out in the wide world to make his fortune. He may or may not leave a sweetheart at home, and may be tackling piracy or some more honest method of industry as his approach, but the promise in the story opening is that something will happen throughout the book in connection to the young man’s efforts.

The reader, in short, expects the story to have to do mostly with whether or not the young man succeeds.

Breaking a Premise in the Middle is Ill-Advised

If our tale of the earnest young man transitions, in the middle, to a story about how the forest elves are battling encroaching parasitic beetles, and we lose sight of our hero entirely as we follow their ecological saga, the story has failed. The reader was lied to, for the framing of the plot started out with one picture and went on to illustrate another image entirely.

The Truth About Story Parameters

Staying on topic is paramount, when it comes to following through. What this means, for your actual writing, is that every sentence you write needs to tie back in a clear and logical fashion to the original premise given to the reader.

Fantastical sagas concerning irrelevant backstory, side quests and charming tertiary characters, if they do not reaffirm and highlight some vital aspect of the main parameters, really ought to go.

Examples

Right now I’m working on a series about gangsters and their attached lovers. One of my characters is after a very specific outcome, and so each bit of information given throughout the books has to build and illuminate how his work is going. With each new scene, and each revealed piece of backstory, the reader wants to know, and my job is to tell the reader, if Character A is getting closer or farther away, if his goals are growing clearer or inching out of reach.

Bad Writing:

Bartho the whore was an ethical slut, who never slept with anyone without their paying him in full first. Bartho believed that he was reinforcing decent behavior on the part of his clients, and felt morally superior to all other whores by being exacting in his accounting of his time and energy.

Bartho, in truth, was on a personal quest to improve conditions for all paid sluts everywhere, and he felt firmly in the right when he turned poorly-behaved clients in to the local mob bosses for whatever slights he could dig up in their pasts.

Good Writing:

To be honest, the above example was such a complete waste of time and story effort that it simply wouldn’t come into the novel at all. Therefore, there is no good example of how to handle Bartho, because Bartho, in the parameters established by my opening, has nothing to give the reader in terms of following through.

In Conclusion

Following through on the parameters of the premise allow for easy editing, as in: I am writing about a hunt. Therefore: How are my men doing on their hunt, how does each new piece of information change or affect the status and success or failure of their hunt?

Anything not dealing directly with illuminating or building the importance and impending finish of the premise has no valid place in the rest of the story.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Happy first day of 2018!

Are You Building A Bridge To Your Readers?

Is there a disconnect between your intention and the reader’s understanding? If so, here are a couple of approaches to bridge the gap and make clarity sure.

Back in the old days, when I taught acting, I developed a reputation for lecturing actors about gender and sexual presentation in theatre. Most of my actors were adorable messes of gender confusion, which is perfect for normal life and disastrous for live stage performance.

One time, I had a meeting with several of my actors and one young woman (brown hair, moderately tall, svelte), said something to the tune of, “Oh, no! Now Victor Poole is going to make me feel guilty for not wearing high heels and makeup all the time!”

A Disconnect Between Writer and Reader

This female actor was hearing something that I wasn’t saying, and, being a diligent person, I took note and adjusted my phrasing to suit her mind.

Yesterday I read a scene to my editor, and I’d phrased one sentence in a way that led him to completely visually misinterpret the remainder of the scene. We had a laugh over the misunderstanding and I added two more sentences, which made my original intention completely clear.

When You’re Writing, Make A Bridge to the Reader

  1. Readers are coming from a different planet, most of the time.
  2. Luckily, their planet is connectible with your planet if you build a bridge.
  3. Only 1% of readers will bother to build a bridge to you, so you have to take responsibility for making the bridge to them

You Are the Builder of the Bridge

Here are some easy tricks to help you successfully connect your writing to the understanding of the reader, with as few hiccups as possible.

A bridge has some method of support that holds it up. A bridge also has a foot-path upon which the reader crosses over. The supports are underpinning writing qualities, and the foot-path is the plot.

Here are some of the heavy-duty methods that support a bridge between the intent of your writing and the received understanding of the reader:

  • described visceral, sensory input (sight, hearing, smell, etc.)
  • realistic physical mammalian response common to human beings
  • psychology
  • universal emotional experience

One You Have Supports in Place, the Rest of the Bridge is Story

It’s possible to have functional supports, but no plot, and it’s possible and common to have a plot, or a foot-path of a bridge, without the necessary supports to make it walkable.

My earlier snafu with my editor was due to some missing visual description; once I added in a couple of clarifying sentences, we were off to the races again.

You need both supports for the bridge (sensory description to allow the reader to ground their mind, emotional scenarios that resonate with the reader’s lived experience, etc., etc.) and you need a plot, or a surface upon which the reader can cross over from their mental world into theirs.

In Conclusion

If you are finding that your readers aren’t always hearing what you’re saying, look at your material with the analogy of a bridge in your mind, and separate the parts of your writing into two general camps:

  1. Supports to the story, which, again, are things like: sensory descriptions, usage of proven psychology, emotionally evocative scenarios, etc.
  2. Plot, or story, which is the actual foot-path upon which the reader crosses from their mental planet into yours

If you remember that you are ultimately responsible for building and maintaining a useable and attractive bridge, and you keep in mind the two very different and totally necessary parts of said bridge, you will be able to share a marvelous common experience with the reader, and both of you will be deeply satisfied by the experience of  sharing and understanding your work.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, poor John, the fabulous handsome man of yore, is having his heart broken on a stairwell in his adopted son’s building this morning. I pity John, who has been ill-used, and is due for a happy ending. I intend to give John an overwhelmingly happy ending.

The Simple Shortcut To Achieve A Strong Working Session

If you struggle to rock into a consistent rhythm while writing amidst inevitable distractions, here are two steps to cut through to solid work, no matter what the world is doing around you.

How many times do you picture yourself getting your shit together, sitting down in a peaceful spot, playing your favorite working music, and pounding out a solid session of really great prose?

And how many times does that imagined experience translate into reality? If your life is anything like mine, mundanity and irritating obligation do a lot to intrude and destroy your peaceful work habits, and that’s not even including whatever psychological barriers you may be wrestling with at any time.

For example, I’m working on a gangster stairwell scene right now, and owing to the fact that it was really late when I did the first draft and had a slight case of brain sludge, I accidentally flopped the power between the two gang leaders’ personalities and have to start over on the scene today.

Overwhelm, Noise, Demanding Humans, and Money Problems Can Destroy Your Work Session

I used to have pretty rigid conditions for how I wanted to write, and when. Spoiler alert: I got very little writing done at that time in my life. After that, I got a strong dose of reality and hello-I’m-failing, eventually got my shit together, and started to experiment, by which I mean I started to write through everything.

I started to write through money problems, and handle distracting humans while I was tapping little bits at a time. I started to stay up absurdly late or to get up very early, to catch quiet.

I started to train myself to write with a constant, concentration-shattering veneer of noise going on.

I’ve said before on this blog (I don’t remember if that post made the last ye-olde-purge-scythe roll-through, so you might not be able to read it now), that I often write novels while playing Spongebob Squarepants episodes on half of my screen.

Embrace The Right Kind of Chaos

The first time I was ever in a large dance performance, I remember being backstage when the leading ballerina darted into the wings and started to desperately strip off all her clothes. Two or three useful persons descended like rabid hyenas and helped her shuffle manically into her next gossamer tutu.

Not having observed a true down-to-skin costume change involving pointe shoes ever before in my life, I was somewhat startled by her total lack of concern with modesty (which is saying something, because I’ve been doing costume-heavy drama with period garters and stockings for a while, and have assisted a fellow actor with a quick-lingerie change for weeks at a time before).

Having Children Made Me A Much Better Writer

Have you ever gotten yourself set up to write, to have a really great work session, and found that it just–is too quiet? That there’s too much space and attention available for your work and you’re a little set adrift by the way in which you can concentrate?

This is why I started using Spongebob. Well, I didn’t set out to use Spongebob; what happened was that I had to entertain my toddlers while I was working, so I learned how to split my screen and play Bob the Builder or Sesame Street while I typed as quickly as I could.

And It Turns Out . . .

It turns out that a moderate level of controllable distraction does a lot to settle my mind. I started to experiment with pacing and music types, and Spongebob Squarepants has exactly the right pace and auditory combination to keep my prose flowing.

The First Part of the Shortcut:

Find a distraction that works for you. This might be ugly music (I’m serious; the agitation of something that drives you crazy usually helps you type a little faster), or it might be Youtube videos of people wrapping gifts (because apparently, that’s a thing).

The point of this first part is to establish a base-level, white noise distraction that you begin to establish and associate with working. You control the distraction, and you condition your mind to think you’d better be writing while it’s going on.

The distraction works better if you kind of enjoy it, or find it soothing on some level, but don’t do anything that’s going to make you fall asleep. The distraction needs to be an agitating thing.

Part Two of the Shortcut:

Over time, you can teach yourself to associate chaos with deep productivity.

Life, unless you are super special and lucky, is never going to slow down in terms of emotional and psychological intensity. Something is going to be a problem, always, and obstacles are always going to present themselves, whether they are crushing bills, very loud neighbors, or persistent feelings of inferiority or failure.

Part two of the shortcut is to gradually train yourself to control your poison, to get in charge of something that seems to stop you from working.

And then you use that thing (in my example, Spongebob Squarepants), to get a lot more work done.

Most Problems Come Down To Control

If you are having a hard time, and I don’t care if it’s a tiny hard time or a soul-shattering “I cannot do this right now” hard time, much of your resistance to knocking out a solid session of writing comes down to your feeling, deep in your heart, that you are not really in control.

So, in the two-part shortcut, you take back control.

If you’re anything like I was, or like most of the writers I’ve known throughout my life, you’ve been stalling and/or throwing strike-type resistance to combat the out-of-control feelings in your heart.

Having a strike or putting work off gets zero words written.

Our goal here is to write words, and more words, and even more words so that we can learn and grow and become the best writer ever in the history of language. Or to finish a spanking good novel.

In Conclusion

If you’re having a hard time getting regular, strong work sessions out of your available writing time, try this two-part shortcut to settle down and get right to work.

  1. Find a distraction that works for you.
  2. Teach yourself to associate your chosen, deliberate chaos with deep productivity.

Take back control over your process, your exposure to irritating distractions, and your writing time by first

  • acknowledging that there will always be distractions or obstacles
  • accepting that you can’t make all the physical or emotional or psychological barriers go away
  • actively choosing an acceptable, hopefully-pleasant distraction to subject yourself to
  • getting right down to work with a more peaceful and much more productive heart.

You’re reading Victor Poole. It’s not nearly as cold outside as it was forecasted to be, which I’m sort of glad about. My Christmas tree is getting a tiny bit wilty, which I think is adorable.

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.

 

The Grey Cat Analogy To Fix Your Flow

You may, if you are anything like me, have experienced that disconcerting moment when someone is reading your story, or your book, or your what-have-you, and they run across a part that they clearly don’t get. At all.

A Disconnect

It’s usually a part that you like, because fate is like that, and you might feel sort of like the person who has reacted in such an incongruous manner is an idiot. You may even want to tell them so. Loudly.

Because You’re Mad

However. Here we come up against the golden rule of performance, which is that whatever the audience sees is a valid interpretation (unless they’re drunk or on drugs, or otherwise incapable of perceiving a generally accepted reality through the normal methods).

Presumably, you are not thrusting your writing into the hands of crazy people. Most likely, the people you are giving your good stuff to are friends or near relations, even. In such a circumstance, what is to be done?

Aside From Shouting

You could, of course, become a writing hermit and never speak to the person again. That works, but it doesn’t usually make your prose flow better.

Grey Cat Hiccups

People, readers, get lost from the internal action of your story when you haven’t provided enough information for them to inhabit and understand the characters.

For example:

There is a tidy grey cat who lives in my house. She is mostly nice, except for the moments when she gets a wild urge up her ass and starts thrashing around like a crazed hamster outrunning death himself. Those times, she’s sort of irritating.

Because She Claws The Furniture

If, however, I put myself into the tiny grey body of said cat, and imagine myself living in the house, and having no furred friends or consistent prey to socialize with, I start to sympathize with her occasion bouts of hair-raising insanity. If I imagine myself really as the little cat, I almost look with fondness on her escapades, with an air of, “Oh, yes, that thing you need to do so you don’t claw my face off in boredom.” (And yes, she has toys, and attention.)

Victor, You’re Getting Off Topic Again!

No, I’m not. Your reader is me, and the writing is my grey cat. Your writing, if you’re like me, often goes on a slippery, wild goose-chase, and you’re inhabiting the vehicle of the story, and you don’t notice.

Because of authorial excitement, or inspiration

Your readers notice, very much, and they stare at the crazy, incoherent jumble of words that approximate claw marks and breathless yowls, and they say: “What the hell happened to the nice story I was reading?”

And you get mad, because why aren’t they following? Gosh! It’s almost like they’re being dense on purpose!

However, the problem is in a lack of a strong meeting place; in essence, you have a problem with flow.

Fix Flow Fast

Look at that silly alliteration. My boy has been telling me lately that bicycle and popsicle alliterate. I correct him constantly, but he’s confused about rhymes. Anyway.

Here’s That Fix:

To fix your flow, you need to learn how to inhabit the detached, coffee-sipping mindset of your reader. If you can do that, you will yourself become mildly irritated, if not downright outraged, at the grey-cat shenanigans that pop up in your prose when you go off on a sudden chase of emotional passion over some trick of words or characterization.

Then you can apply some editorial catnip and get things calmed down again, and keep your reader friends, too.

Today is Wednesday, and I’m Victor Poole, and I’m too busy to write you a sample today. Ajalia says hello, but Mary’s taking up most of my attention on editing fixes. Cheers.