Nothing Much Today : )

Tim mashed his spell book into his bag and swung the strap over his arm. Stupid goblins, he thought as he stomped over the freshly-mown fields of daisies. Here he was, on vacation for the first time in three years, and all his plans were ruined because the goblin solstice happened to fall on this particular weekend.

Tim’s brother Horval would have told him that he really ought to check the magical-beings’ calendar for things like this, but Tim would have made an impatient noise and waved an irritated hand.

He’d come out here on purpose to collect daisies, which had to be fresh when preserved in the several magically-enhanced jars he’d brought for the purpose, and instead he found heaps and mounds of dried specimens. They’d obviously been chopped down last night, or sometime yesterday afternoon, and Tim could see from the withered stems that all usefulness was already faded from the flowers.

Clumsy, ugly goblins! Tim raged in his mind, and he stomped a little harder on the crushed flowers as he began the long trek home.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, I have finally introduced Christine. Someone important has a crush on Christine, so this is exciting.

Advertisements

Me, and Whatnot

So you may have noticed that I haven’t published a book for a while.

Yup.

I made a deal with myself that I would not embarrass myself unduly with performance energy that wasn’t at the reasonable place I could expect from myself. So I’ve been scrubbing up my writing skills gradually.

Also I really don’t want to be in a place where I’m working on books in a series and have only the first few published. I hate that. So I’m finishing some very, very long series all the way before publishing (and occasionally I make character choices partway through a series that require backwards renovations that wouldn’t be possible so much in an already-published book). So there’s that.

Anyway, for my own satisfaction, here are some of the projects I’m working on right now:

The biggest one is the series I keep writing little notes about at the bottom of my posts, about what’s happening in the novel(s) lately. That one is a science fiction bromance flick with a ton of steamy parts. It’s funny because I meant to write an adventure story with a few kisses sprinkled here and there, but after I’d composed the main characters, the, um, overall subterfuge turned hilariously sexy.

The main characters, you see, are in the power of some very cranky old men, and those cranky old men are all sort of obsessed with the one main character procreating so that they can have foster grandbabies to dandle about and coo over.

So there is sexual distraction to foil the deviousness of these old men while the main characters work on escaping their power.

I don’t know if that sounded overly complicated, but that is the very long and delectably steamy series I am building right now.

I have another book that I’m exceptionally fond of about a young man who dies–the book is essentially a zombie novel, but the zombies are shiny, healthy-looking people, and they eat emotions instead of flesh from regular humans, so that’s very interesting to work on.

The first part of that one (technically I would call it a paranormal book, I think) is finished, but I want to spend quite a lot of time fleshing out the narrative tone so that the reader can fully inhabit the main character’s internal journey as the plot unfolds. Right now for most of the book, the voice is focused more on the action and less on the reader’s reception of said action, so I want more padding as far as tone.

Then I’m working on that beast of a partial redraft, the dragon book.

Sigh.

My issue with the book is purely psychological. I’m making slow, steady progress, but it viscerally hurts to work on it because of some structural issues I accidentally put into the damaged areas (the original draft was the second? third? book I ever attempted to write, so there are some genuine weaknesses to be culled out in the second act).

However, the first part of the book is stellar, so I am pushing through. Carefully.

I have a bunch of other things on the back burner, currently. I’m focused on clearing the queue, as it were, and freeing up some space in my mind while building out the eventual bookshelf of finished things.

Slow, slow, slow, but the tortoise perseveres and all that.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Carrie the invalid is heading back into medical supervision for the second time in one afternoon.

Just A Sample Today

 

Horrible Writing:

Uller went across the sea and gathered up some really amazing flowers for a spell that the witch said would make him really happy, but it turned out the spell worked better than he’d imagined and he controlled all the things he’d wanted to master as well as some other things.

Uller was a very happy guy after the flowers turned out to be so awesome. Also, they had originally been planted by some people who wanted to imitate some other people over the sea, so the flowers were special.

Ullar kept the leaves and the petals of the flowers after the spell was over because he figured it would be a really great idea to find out how things were by looking at the dried-up fragments.

Better Writing:

Uller gripped the flowers in his fist, willing them to be what they were supposed to be, what the old woman had promised. The heads of the yellow blossoms drooped like crying birds and the stems had gone limp two days ago. He couldn’t have come any faster than he had; he couldn’t speed up time. Yet.

Uller strode up the sod path to the old woman’s hut and pounded on the door. Be home, he thought. He couldn’t command the bodies of those who worked magic. Not yet. But soon, if the flowers did what she’d promised, if they were what she’d said. Uller kicked the door in and peered inside.

“Hello?” he called.

You’re reading Victor Poole and in my current novel, an alien prince is having a fight with a security man.

The Actress Who Would Make A Good Mouse

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

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

He played the main character.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dressage

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

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

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

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

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

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

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

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

Curious?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Up or down?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Texture

Last night I was thinking about emotional texture underlying words. This is so easy to put in, and is analogous to emotional history work and secrets for an actor.

Richness And  Complexity

When you play a character on stage, the first thing you do to develop the role is say the lines out loud, and feel how they sound in your mouth.

As an author, the first draft is a similar experience, as you feel out how the actions go and see how they lay visually on the page when conveyed in words.

More Practice

(Here is a texture study of an octopus that I am working on. Source photos is here.)

octo

Once you’ve felt out the sounds of the action, or the lines of dialogue, you start to play pretend, and that’s where emotional texture comes in.

I was watching a film the other day and was noticing how the emotional texturing had been completely left out of the dialogue. The characters were speaking first-draft words, and the storied history of the implied exchange was missing, though the actors were doing a bang-up job of pushing a lot of emotional history work in despite the undeveloped writing.

Emotional Texture

Emotional texture is created by regular injections of

  1. Personalized, internally-processed sensory input. One particular character sees, hears, smells, feels, or touches something targeted and specific.
  2. That same character has a past-reflective reaction to the sensory experience.

Basically you’re creating an anchor in the deep past within the character and coating that anchor with present sensations. This makes layers within the emotional feel of the character and gives you texture, history, and depth.

Super easy.

Here’s what it looks like when you leave emotional texture out and then what it looks like if you put the texture in afterwards:

BAD Writing:

Damien shut down the simulator and went down the hallway to the murder room.

“How was it that time?” he asked through the speaker grid.

“Pretty good, I think. Let’s run it one more time with, um, the butane levels up another two percent. I feel like we can get a stronger burn effect over the clothes,” a woman’s voice replied.

“Sure thing. Tell me when you’re set in there,” Damien said. A moment passed.

“Go for it,” the woman said. Damien nodded and strolled back to the master desk to activate the fire jets once more.

GOOD Writing:

Damien shut down the simulator; the black grip of the handle made a soft impress against his palm, and the familiar shoot of excitement traveled down his spine as he thought of what the body would look like this time. He’d felt this way ever since his first experiments on the manikins, and the anticipation never dulled. Damien licked his lower lip and went down the hallway to the locked murder room.

“How’s it looking? Did we get the scorch marks?” Damien asked through the speaker grid. A faint crackle came from the other side where one of the women, Avery this time, was overseeing the facsimile corpse while wearing a protective suit.

“This is pretty good, I think,” Avery said through the speaker. “Before you come in I want to see how we do with a little more heat on the inside of the flame and less burn on the shell. Let’s run it one more time with, um, the butane levels up another two percent. I feel like we can get a stronger burn effect over the clothes with the charring we’re looking for.” Avery’s voice came through with a tinny vibration from the combination of the speaker on her suit and the grid in the wall.

“Sure thing. Tell me when you’re set in there,” Damien said. A moment passed. Damien felt the rush of air conditioning tickle against his face and imagined the sear and stink of burning plastic and formative synthetic flesh that would be filling the murder room right now. Avery would be turning the body, arranging the un-singed half of the corpse against the metallic torch the department was developing.

Another light crackle came at the mesh speaker.

“Go for it,” Avery said. Damien tapped his knuckles against the speaker grid and strolled back to the control desk to adjust the fuel settings and activate the fire jet once more.

And So

When writing, consider emotional texture, and see if you’re putting in the kind of emotionally-satisfying ribbing underneath the character interactions and dialogue that lends richness, clear history, and depth to your words.

Emotional texture requires present sensation combined with past-anchored reactions to the sensation. Easy peasy, and enjoyable to write, too.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and Ashley Kelly’s relatives are turning out to be epic heels and destroyers of happiness and childhood. Also, Catero has adopted another son, and the young man’s name is Esteban.

Vanity And Self-Importance in Performance

I made an interesting discovery when I was inventing performance for myself.

Victor Poole, You Are Unbearably Conceited

I’m not nearly as conceited as I will be in the future. I’m still undoing rug-style prostration that was hammered into me by several malicious jealous persons in my extreme youth.

Anyway, while I was inventing performance I discovered that actors and writers who were full of themselves–genuinely, unbearably conceited–did a lot better than humble people.

Victor Poole, Your Selection Bias Is Showing

Look, I’ll even be specific: there was one guy whose acting was shit and had decent hair; he was full of himself and got local parts constantly. Directors didn’t like using him at all, and tried to replace him often, but he made himself available as far as his schedule went, and maintained the glossy condition of his excellent hair, and he got roles anyway.

But directors hated using him, and as far as I can see from the distant high-rise of the Internet, he’s stalled out in his career now. He had early success and then hit the peak of how far his juvenile vanity could take him.

This guy was not nearly as self-conceited as he could have been, and he wasn’t full of himself enough to break into legitimate film.

Film Requires God-Like Self-Worship

I knew another woman who got a lot of work in the midwest, and had a bit of a reputation, but she was full of herself in exactly the wrong way. She had conceit, but it manifested in moral boldness. The woman had no morals whatsoever, but acted as if anything she personally did was hand-written by the prophets as Meant To Be, and so she did glide along with a verve and panache that saw her through rough spots pretty well.

She had more success than good-hair-guy, but couldn’t get any real work in film, either. She did regional stage stuff, and is still doing so, as far as I can tell. She doesn’t have any friends, though.

Another Example of Vanity

A third woman I knew, a script writer, had talent and no confidence whatsoever. She was a literal welcome mat, as far as her functional personality went, and though her writing sparkled and gave off iridescent gleams of eternity, she never found genuine production (by which I mean, successful fleshing-out of her work).

People latched on to her writing and used it for their own ends, but her personhood never attached to the final product at all. She was like a privately-owned mine of words, delved into and dug up when occasion required good writing.

And One More Writer, A Man

I knew another guy, a writer in his thirties, who had consistent productions of his works and a lot of friends and acquaintances. He was vain in a steam-roll kind of way; he would push over objections and assume that everyone would help him reach his goals.

He was emotionally tone deaf, mostly on purpose, and he has also stalled out at a semi-permanent plateau, as far as I can see, and is held back by the same pushiness he’s used to advance himself.

Dead Ends Everywhere; Victor Poole, You Are So Bleak!

Oh, I’m a realist. Now, what I learned as I watched people be vain in different ways was that what we think of, as a general group of writers approaching work, as a good attitude is more like Kool-aid for chumps.

Because we’re supposed to be simultaneously full of ourselves, of a kind of preternatural belief in our ability to Do Something Special, and also consistently humble and embracing of Any Useful Advice handed to us by others.

Vanity That Doesn’t Go Far Enough Won’t Take You Far, Either

I can practically guarantee that you are not properly vain, in a useful sense. You are overconfident and shallow, and you doubt yourself.

How do I know this? Because I’m full of myself. : ) But also because I know people, and a person like you, who is reading a blog like this, has built a foundation of incorrect and toxic vanity.

What you need is to become properly saturated with self-conceit, with a belief in your inherent superiority as a judge and observer of human nature.

Two More Samples

G.B. Shaw was full of toxic vanity.

Shakespeare was bursting with healthy self-conceit.

Underneath Shaw’s veneer of confidence was a fear, almost shatteringly vibrant, of being really a fool. Shaw’s terror of himself led to an acerbic self-commentary in all but one of his plays.

Shakespeare was genuinely confident, did not fear himself one bit, and wrote whole stories on purpose to excite and exploit the audience in order to reap a profit.

Be more like Shakespeare. Embrace conceit.

Examples

BAD WRITING: LACK OF DESCRIPTION

Ris was a mysterious centaur; he was not one of the Northern breed, and his coat was entirely too sleek. Eueen did not trust him, and she wished that her father had sent him off when he’d had first come calling. Ris teased her and the other children for the way their forelegs lifted high from years of ploughing.

“Ye’d walk so, and ye’d been raised proper in the land,” Eueen’s father said.

“Aye, so I would,” Ris had agreed good-humoredly.

“I wish he’d go away,” Eueen told her sister, Marren.

“I think he’s good-looking,” Marren said, shifting her hips and looking altogether too worldly for words.

“You’re too little for mating,” Eueen snapped.

“Nonsense. I heard that in the capital, mares as young as fifteen are put to brood,” Marren said.

“You heard that from Clovan, and she made it up. She said so to me,” Eueen said.

“Well, I think he’s handsome,” Marren said.

“Are you going to tell him so?” Eueen asked.

“Shh!” Marren hissed, looking swiftly at the open door of the barn.

GOOD WRITING: PERTINENT DESCRIPTION ADDED

Ris formed an uncomfortable addition to their household; he worked in the fields, and lived in a rough stone hut he had erected in the forest to the north, but he joined the family for meals, and Eueen’s father kept Ris back to talk politics over the fire more often than not. Eueen thought Ris was frightening and ugly; his heavy black sides and the wild tangle of his hair as it fell over the bare skin of his shoulders reminded her of the ghost stories her granddam used to tell over the evening fire.

Ris was a mysterious centaur; he was not one of the northern breed, and his ebony coat was entirely too sleek for their own piebald herd. Eueen did not trust him, and she wished that her father had sent him off when the black beast had first come calling. Ris teased her and the other children; he called them farm morsels, and laughed at the way they walked, their white-splashed forelegs lifted high from years of ploughing the deep furrows of the valley fields.

“You’d walk so, and you’d been raised proper in the land,” Eueen’s father said, the first time this occurred.

“Aye, so I would,” Ris had agreed good-humoredly, and his teasings had passed without comment ever since.

The bare flesh of his chest irritated Eueen, which was strange. Her father and her brother had bare torsos, too, and all the male centaurs she’d ever known, but Ris’ nakedness felt like a personal affront. Eueen was deeply grateful that her own skin was thoroughly covered with her white and copper hide. She didn’t know what she ever would have done, if she’d been one of the mares whose skin showed bare.

Eueen was notable for the way her hide extended straight up her neck, covering her cheeks with delicate hair and running up into the hair of her head. She was the only mare she’d ever seen with hide over her whole torso and her face and neck. Her own mother had a bare face, and both her sisters, and her sister Marren had delicate, fair skin all down her back and to the tip of her waist. Marren’s front was covered with a tawny chestnut, up to the turn of her shoulders.

Eueen had heard of women with bare skin all over their upper bodies, just like the men, but she’d never seen such a woman herself. All the mares she’d ever known had hide covering their fronts. Eueen’s own excessively modest hide pleased her enormously, now that the disturbance of Ris had presented itself.

“I wish he’d go away,” Eueen told her sister, Marren, over the husking one night.

“I think he’s good-looking,” Marren said, shifting her bright chestnut hips and looking altogether too worldly for words.

“You’re too little for mating,” Eueen snapped, her own cheeks growing hot under her hide.

“Nonsense. I heard that in the capital, mares as young as fifteen are put to brood,” Marren said, her eyebrows arched.

“You heard that from Clovan, and she made it up. She said so to me,” Eueen said. Marren’s face turned sour, and she swished her red-gold tail.

“Well, I think he’s handsome,” she said stubbornly.

“Are you going to tell him so?” Eueen asked.

“Shh!” Marren hissed, looking swiftly at the open door of the barn.

And So

Toxic vanity is bad and saturated self-conceit is good. Embrace your preternatural role as Commander-for-Life of your own perception, and take away from yourself all scraps of in-chargeness over anyone and anything out of your purview, and you are likely to find great success in your endeavors.

Remember, you are the ultimate authority on your experience, your emotions, and your thoughts and opinions.

You know nothing in a real sense about anyone else’s experiences, true opinions, or deep thoughts.

Stay inside your fence of self and you can’t go wrong. Plus, your writing improves. And eventually, if you really sink in and become God of your own deepest self, you can learn to exploit and excite the audience in order to reap benefits and make them happy at the same time. Richard Burbage might agree with me. Unfortunately he’s dead, so I can’t ask him. But he is the dude who got Shakespeare worked up enough to write the role of Hamlet, which literally encompasses half of the text of the play by the same name, so, you know, copy Mr. Burbage also. He was presumably saturated with delectable self-conceit. The good kind.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m writing about the reputation man of the Viridi Vitae right now. It’s sort of delightful. His murder team isn’t in town yet, and he’s recruited a couple of men from the local Vitae branch to come follow him around and look intimidating. They have already terrorized a local cab driver (an alien who is going to receive a very large tip), and are about to go interview Ashley Kelly’s former roommates. Mm, interrogations.

Rough Whale Study

whale2

I’m getting a bunch of rough sketching done. I used to be really studied and tight in my technique, and I’m working on loosening my style and bringing more movement and emotion into my work.

I want to start doing a lot more original composition, so I’m doing several fast studies every day to get used to composition and color choices. I used to do a lot of isolated drawings on blank backgrounds, so changing to thinking of whole landscapes is new for me.

In terms of writing, I’m focused on saying yes to unexpected impulses within my outlines. When a character develops in an unexpected direction, where I would usually say, “No, you vagrant! Stay on target!”, I am instead saying, metaphorically, “Why not? Play, wee imaginative person!”, and then finding out what comes of it.

I imagine this sort of loosey-goosey-ness is very good for me, what with all the heart-holding excitement it necessarily brings to the writing process. I need to clean the air filters in my house tomorrow. Ahem.

Examples

BAD Writing

Solomon had two hands wound over the special hilt of the magic weapon, which, having been enchanted to do so by the man with magic who’d had it a long time ago, glowed a gentle green color in the creepy dark of the monster’s place of residence.

Scales of destroyed little lizards and their white inside frames, sucked thoroughly of every bit of previously organic material, crunched with plenty of loud crunch under Solomon’s shoes.

A low growl came from the central portion of the large hole Solomon was standing in, which was so dark inside he couldn’t see the monster he’d come to seek tonight. Solomon’s heart filled with butterflies, and he held onto his hat.

“Ugog, come here and face me,” Solomon said, his voice splashing like a confident challenge over the general environs, which were dark and scary to Solomon. Solomon saw a pair of thin snaky limbs move out over the heaps of scales and lizard pieces.

“You came for a fight, and by George, I’ll surely win,” Ugog howled, his voice loud.

“Come here,” Solomon vociferated, moving in a spring and raising the length of his sword in both hands.

GOOD Writing

Solomon kept hold of the enchanted blade, which glowed iridescent green in the half-light of the monster’s den.

Scales of destroyed miniature dragons and their ivory bones, sucked dry of every particle of juice, crunched noisily under Solomon’s heavy boots.

A low growl emanated from the heart of the cavern, which was all in shadow. Solomon’s heart quaked, and he held forth the emerald sword.

“Ugog, come forth and face your doom,” Solomon said, his voice echoing like reverberating bells against the walls of the place. The growl grew, and from the faint light of moonlight far behind near the entrance, Solomon saw a pair of silver tentacles spin out over the heaps of scales and delicate bones.

“You came for death, and you shall have life instead, endless life, and I will mount your eyes within my face,” Ugog said, his voice like stones crushing against themselves.

“Show yourself, demon,” Solomon whispered, settling in a crouch and grasping the hilt of his sword in both hands.

I’m thinking about buying a few of the Blandings Castle books to absorb Wodehouse’s humor. Lately I’ve been reading about Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and it’s kinda late to be writing a blog post. But hey! It’s morning somewhere in the world!