Edit Your Writing For Clean Impulse-Development

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Editing For Clean Impulses

I cleaned off some emasculating incest energy, some spiritual possession shit, off one of my leading men during rehearsals for a show. He loved my guts ever after, and wanted to be best buds with manly kissing rights. He was a sweet and naive kiddo; he married soon after, and has not, I think, experimented with homosexuality since then. (If you were curious, I kept his greedy mitts off me, which he found infuriating.)

Editing Is Careful Work

Every time you write down any kind of thought, or description, or line of dialogue, your energy soaks into the writing, and imbues the phrases with a particular branding of emotion.

If your emotional packages build cleanly and organically, then the story flows, has excellent pace, and brings emotional satiety to the reader.

On The Other Hand . . .

If the impulse chains are broken, and the phrases are interrupted with wild, incoherent energy changes (which happens in most editing work, to be honest), the story becomes a mass of difficult-to-follow feel-nothing thoughts.

Was that paragraph confusing? Good.

The Editing Advice:

Now, how do you dig apart an organic energy chain? Take a piece of a clean draft, like so:

She had grown up near horses, when she had been a child in the far west, and though she had not been a horse trader herself, she was fond of the people who worked with horses. Horses reminded her of the time she had been free, before she had left her family, before she had been sold as a slave to the Eastern lands.

And Now, The Wrong Way

Now, here is some terrible editing that irretrievable disrupts the chain of impulses contained in that work:

The sweet child had grown up near many four-legged beasts. some of them horses, when she had been a little one in the farther west, beyond the oasis but not so far as the wilder places. Though she had never been closely associated with any horse trading families, or with those folk who bred and trained the riding and harness beasts used in those lands, she was still sentimental, and incredibly fond of anyone who worked with horses for their daily bread. Horses reminded her of the time she had been free, long, long ago, before she had left her poor family, and before she had been sold like a bundle of goods into the house of an Eastern merchant, to do his bidding and have no will of her own.

That was a shitty, painful piece of prose, wouldn’t you say? Unbearable.

And The Right Way

Now, by contrast, here is the same piece, edited with an eye to preserving the original impulse chain:

She had grown up near horses, when she had been a child in the far west, and though she had not been a horse trader herself, she was fond of the people who worked with horses. Horses reminded her of the time she had been free, before she had left her family, and before she had been sold as a slave to the Eastern lands.

If you look, there is only one word added. Of course, many paragraphs will need more adjustment than this, but for this particular chain of thoughts, one small correction is all that’s needed.

But Victor, My Writing Needs More!

What if your impulses are tangled before you started writing in the first place?

If you are like my wild stud-actor, the one who carried incest packages from his bitch mum, and who wanted to get in my pants more than anything in the world, you might be carrying impulse chains that scare you.

Victor, You’re Unbearably Conceited

Because, you see, when you were a tender thing, people touched your skin, and some of them were evil. The people were, I mean. When evil people hold a child’s hand, or tie their shoe, sometimes ugly energy soaks into the child’s skin. Children are incredibly absorbent, and are developmentally and psychologically designed to purge bad energy off their parents, in order to get grounding, rooted energy in their souls.

That’s Why Kids Love Unconditionally, At First

The part that’s important for today is that when you were a little kid, you picked up energy from people that was dangerous, and much of that energy is still tucked inside your aura.

So What Happens To That Energy?

When you write a genuine impulse chain, those dark energies loosen, and start to come free. You start, if you write what you really want to write, to chronicle frightening things.

In the process, the bad energy works free, and passes through your skin.

Yogis Call These Packages ‘Samskaras’

In an attempt to keep away from scary things, the vast majority of humans who write repress all their natural impulses, and write like frigid nuns.

And Now, The Editing Lesson

When you write, remember that you are, whether you try to or not, and whether you notice or not, writing down an unbroken chain of organic impulses, all in a row.

When you edit, remember that some of those impulses are foreign, evil, and genuinely frightening. If you edit them out, or away, or soften them, your work will suffer.

Many Of Them Don’t Come From You

If you try to heighten the effect of these foreign impulses, to make them seem more than they are, the work will suffer, and taste sour.

In Conclusion

Acceptance of the current state of affairs in your natural soul, and therefore, in your writing, is a good way to take a step towards cleaner work.

You’re reading Victor Poole. I’ve never written my little actor into a book. There is a whole lot of metaphorical coupling in this series, which I bet you are not patient enough to read. : P

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

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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.

Excerpt: Ethan The Cyborg Is Worked Over By A Faith Healer

 

“You can’t think of what to do, can you?” she asked.

“I’m just bothered by all these women,” Ethan complained.

“You mean they get in your way, and fluster your thinking,” Chasya said. He nodded. “And you are used to being alone,” she said.

“Yes,” he replied.

“And are you prepared to give up Mary forever?” Chasya asked.

“I don’t see what that has to do with all these people bothering me right now,” Ethan exclaimed.

“Women bothering you, not people. Female humans, rather like Mary, are they not?” Chasya asked.

“No, none of these people are like Mary at all,” Ethan said.

“But they bother you like she does,” Chasya prompted.

“I don’t have to give up Mary,” Ethan said.

“You have lent her out, though,” Chasya said. Ethan glanced at her, disquiet in his heart.

“No,” he said slowly.

“Yes,” Chasya said, imitating his tone. Ethan blushed dark red and put a final chip into the halo of electricity.

“No, I didn’t lend her out,” he said. “Which,” he added, “sounds incredibly barbaric, and I’m not like that.”

“But you did, didn’t you?” Chasya asked.

“No, she’s mine!” Ethan exclaimed. Chasya pondered on him for some time, her hands folded together in her lap and her eyes thoughtful.

“Do you lie to Mary like this?” she asked.

“I’m not lying,” Ethan said at once.

“You’ve been lying and lying to me since the others left,” Chasya said. “Your colors turn acid-green when you tell a lie.”

Ethan turned his shoulders away, as if he could shield his light from her vision by moving, and he felt his ears burn with shame.

“I’m not lying,” he said.

“Is that how you survived the aliens? By lying?” Chasya asked.

“They would have seen if I’d lied. I don’t lie to them,” Ethan said. Chasya’s eyes were fixed on the flaring colors in his chest and arms.

“That was a lie,” she said softly.

How Contractions Can Smooth Your Prose Into A Bright Vernacular Today

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Often, as I am writing, I find myself using slightly elevated language, because I get drawn into the pathos of the scene. Later, I return and make a smoother flow to my dialogue, to make sure it doesn’t sound overinflated.

Examples:

Stilted language:

“It is common knowledge in the stars that cyborgs sent to run the Human Museum were one step away from falling under the general extinction order. Your mind and body are of a low grade, only just passable for conversion. You are lucky you are alive,” the tall cyborg said in a dry, emotionless voice.

“That might be true for the others, but not for me,” the director snapped. “I am in charge here; I am different. My master wanted to keep me for something more important, I know he did. He was forced to let me go. You cannot deny they needed a clever man to run their little project here.”

“Then that is all that you are,” the tall cyborg said, “a man. You will never be a true cyborg.”

Smooth vernacular:

“It’s common knowledge in the stars that those sent to run the Human Museum were one step away from falling under the general extinction order. Your mind and body are of a low grade, only just passable for conversion. You’re lucky to be alive,” the tall cyborg said.

“That may be true for the others but not for me,” the director snapped. “I’m in charge here; I’m different. My master wanted to keep me for something more important, I know he did. The others forced him to let me go. You can’t deny they needed a clever man to run their little operation here.”

“That’s all you are,” the tall cyborg said, “a man. You will never be a true cyborg.”

Changing some of your words to contractions and loosening the formality of your language can add a soothing sense of rhythm to your prose, and strengthen your dialogue.

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You’re reading Victor Poole. My cat tried to attack a roll of paper towels the other day, and my cyborgs are marshaling their forces against the Ben-sa alien empire today. The rough study is from 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.