The Quick And Easy Guide To Writing Human Nature

dragon clip

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

New Fantasy Book, Very Exciting, Coming Soon!

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

Now It Is 120k Words, And Quite Intoxicating

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

Victor Poole Is A Jealous Person!

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

And I’m Slowly Bulking My Arms

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

rose2

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

Here’s The Writing Part

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

To Write Human Nature, Drop The Fair And Nice Parts

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

Examples

Bad Writing:

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

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

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

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

Good Writing:

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

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

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

“Okay,” Berthold said again.

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

“Got it,” Berthold replied.

Writing Human Nature Requires Cynicism

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

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

The Obvious Way To Edit Your Novel That Almost Everyone Ignores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry Fielding Compares Novels To Children

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

Is Your Novel Prepared For The Gauntlet Of Public Opinion?

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

Victor, My Book Is Not A Kid!

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

Where Ya Goin’ With This, Victor?

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

Examples

Bad Writing (ill-mannered child):

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

Meh Writing (harmless lies):

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

Good Writing (well-behaved child):

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

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

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

Editing Is Hard Work That You Can Do

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

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

 

The Best Way To Approach Secrets So Your Novel Takes Delightful Twists

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I love reading Agatha Christie novels. She is so sneaky, and her bad guys never seem crazy until the last few pages. I am not remembering the title of the novel at the moment, but she wrote a book about a sculptor, and the character who was the murderer was a tremendous surprise (I used to have a trade paperback of this book, but I misplaced it in a move).

There Was A Pool Behind A Country House

That book was more artistic than her others. It was more nuanced. But back to the point of today.

I went to a high school production of Beauty and the Beast a long time ago. The costumes were pretty good, and the cast and director had worked out a neat switch with a double for the man playing the Beast, so that when the fog cleared away, the mask seemed to have been removed by magic, and the prince was revealed in all his handsome glory.

I Love Good Theatre Tricks

I remember sitting in the auditorium during that show, and thinking about secrets. The director and the cast, I heard afterwards, had gone to great lengths to keep the existence of the double Beast a secret from the families and friends of the performers. The mystery was preserved, and the audience was delighted. (As for how I learned about the switch, well, when you’re an actor, other actors tell you things. Because you’re part of the family, as it were.)

Keeping Secrets Pays Off

And now on to today’s example. It is very important to remember, when you are writing your novel, that your subconscious is capable of unveiling wonderful secrets, if you allow your conscious, driving mind to get out of the way.

Examples

Bad Writing (Thinking Brain):

Briel tapped the wire frame of her glasses against her chin as she gazed down into the observatory. Her uncle, Theodore, would come in a moment, and he would not know that she was hidden in the top shelf of the cabinets. Briel had a secret from her uncle; she was going to steal his recipe today, and sell it to the evil moneylender across the street, who wanted to start a rival business peddling marvelous inventions.

Good Writing (Intuitive Secrets): 

Briel chewed on the hem of her sleeve; she was tucked into the height of the belfry, and the doves pecked around her with placid trills. She held a white string in her hand, which trailed down the column and into the stove where her uncle’s latest invention simmered. She was waiting, waiting, for the creak of the door. Her heart seemed to thud in the roof of her mouth; the fabric between her teeth was rough against her tongue.

Hoard Your Secrets With Miserly Intuition

Keeping secrets requires writerly discipline, but the reader is rewarded by a thrill of emotion and excitement when the moment of revelatory locking-into-place finally unfolds. It is far better to follow the unraveling of plot folds that resonate with your gut than to make a scheduled, brainy dispensation of each secret.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Coren’s mother did something awful and secret to him that is revealed in this book. Your gynecologist might want you to read more books like this.

 

The Best Way To Write A Fantasy Series

water surface

I’ve been working on the Ajalia story for nineteen years. I just finished writing and editing the first part of the story a couple of months ago, and I’m working now on the second (and third) parts. What, you might ask, is the first part?

Graduated Levels Of Immersion

Well, the first part is Ajalia’s story. She is the heart of the beginning, and the core thread around whom everyone else revolves. She is, of necessity, the foundation, and had to be finished first.

A Genius Move

So Ajalia is written in a way that caused one of my beta readers to exclaim, “I don’t think this is a suitable story for fantasy!” Because, you see, there are none of those glorious frills, those diverting excursions into excessive detail, or fantastical costumes and inheritances, that are often a part of fantasy.

Why, you may ask, did I write such a plain story?

Toot Toot!

Ah, my dear stranger, the story is not plain. It is a work of genius, if I do say so myself. Ajalia, you see, is a unique person, and the narrative is written from so deep within her perspective that the story unfolds and mirrors her emotional experiences. It is a fine piece of work; you will be sucked so far into the experience she is going through that you forget it is happening. It is immersive performance at its finest.

The Next Part

There are other, very interesting, but necessarily tertiary characters in the world Ajalia inhabits. This is where the fun part comes in. Ajalia had to be written first, because she is the core of the story, and the heart of the world. Because Ajalia’s experiences are so immersive, and so particular to her perspective, many wonderful parts of the world and characters are necessarily left out.

Igag, Isacar, Mop, And Ocher

But now that she is written down, the whole of the universe around her is open, like a wondrous playground of cultures, individuals, and magical things. I have been developing the languages in and around Slavithe for many years, and the culture and traditions of the world as well. I am ready now to start playing.

What Do You Mean By Playing?

You know, all the fun parts of fantasy, the languages, and the poetry, and the arcane details of magical processes. Ajalia is an outsider to Slavithe, and was never privy to the magical secrets of her Eastern masters. She never believed in magic until her experiences forced her to admit that it was real. As the first stage is completely immersive, magic does not appear until the ending of the first novel, and does not become a major part of the story until the third book.

Gosh, Victor, No Magic? Pish!

Ah, but it pays off, my good stranger. Boy, does it ever pay off. By book six, the series is about as saturated in magic as can be. Now that I have finished the writing and editing work for stage one, I am entering the really fun part of working on the story of this world.

Writing From The Perspective Of Characters Who Already Know About Magic

Mmm. So satisfying. Granted, you can’t write like this unless you’re committed to the long haul. I, however, am. : )

You’re reading Victor Poole. Stage one begins here. Today is Thursday, and this is book six.

The Invisible People

green leaves

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

Leed, The Child-Spy

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

King Fernos Is A Piece Of Work

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

An Excerpt:

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

“What don’t I know?” Leed demanded.

“Things,” Ajalia said.

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

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

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

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

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

The Abuser

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

Leed Does Not Think Of Himself As A Person Who Counts

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

How Did Ajalia Get Him?

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

He Asks For A Knife

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

He Is Working With Philas When Ajalia Begins To Teach Him

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

Leed Doesn’t Want To Be A Bad Person

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

How Does Ajalia Teach Leed?

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

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

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

She Points Out The Dysfunction In His Thinking

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

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

How To Move Up The Levels Of Success

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If you type in two words expressing interest or curiosity about any profession having to do with creativity into your average search engine, you will immediately be confronted with a plethora of articles that tell you how easy it is! And how simple success is! And how you, too, can retire on a hobby!

Or whatever.

How Do You Become Successful When You’re Not Already?

Mostly, you will find the equivalent of snake-oil salesmen, but instead of literal oil, they are peddling hope.

Do you know why no one is honest about creativity? I’m not going to tell you right now, because you’re probably not interested in the answer, but I will tell you three stories about creativity that will illustrate my thoughts on the matter.

Some Examples

Thing One:

Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked dancing. She had the body and the training to be a professional, and her personality was magnetic. She went to a performing arts school, changed from dancing to acting (so she could spend more time with her alcoholic boyfriend), and, last I heard a few years ago, was paying for mediocre performance classes somewhere in not-LA California.

Thing Two:

Another time, there was a young man who could sing like an angel. He started out studying musical theatre (but the classes were crap), and then changed to an acting major. He graduated at the height of his class as a popular local actor, moved to New York with his wife, and shared a tiny apartment with another friend for a year while he attended auditions. He never landed so much as a tiny anything part, and went back to get a “practical” degree. Last I heard of him, he is living with his wife and two children about as far away from a performance hub as a body can get.

Thing Three:

Another young man did a little bit of professional work before college; he did the minimum to graduate from his BFA program, and then went straight into professional work, landing a great role in a touring show, and a few respectable credits Off-Broadway and in film. He is not by any stretch the most successful actor in the world, but he can call himself an actor, professionally.

Which Brings Us To Me

I started out about as low as it is possible to get, socially and professionally. I mean, I’m sorry, but my parents’ ambitions for me were, respectively, glorious suicide and closeted sex work. (No, seriously. My mother has a dream of weeping copiously over my open casket. Yes, she’s crazy. And yes, he’s evil. And no, I’ve never been stupid enough to cooperate. They tried starving me into submission, but it didn’t really work out for them; I’m tough.)

Laundromat Quarters

I remember the day that I stopped giving out markers of socioeconomic desperation; I went to the laundromat in the wrong part of town (because it’s the closest place to get quarters, when I need quarters), and it was immediately apparent to me that I no longer fit in.

I Moved Up A Success Level!

The people there were no longer my people; I stood out. I looked too middle-class, or whatever you want to call it when a body is comfortably dressed, has money in the bank, and drives a decent car without thinking about how much the insurance costs.

The Work Is Slow, Painful, And Totally Thankless

God, it’s hard to climb up from the bottom. My great hope is that someday police officers will not hate my guts (my theory is that officers, in the past, could read the pimp-ness from my dad and the addiction of my brother on my face, since both my father and that brother dumped on me a lot). I’m probably there already, but I can’t say for sure, because the officers aren’t attracted to my general malaise of miserable poverty anymore. Because it’s not there anymore.

You Will Suffer A Lot, Like Chris Pratt Has Suffered

As an aside, do you know why Chris Pratt is so popular? I mean, aside from his delightfully generous soul and good nature? People like me (and there are a lot of people like me) can identify with him, because he came from a place like us. He’s been like us, and so the hope he represents is genuine. He escaped the prison of non-selfhood, just as people like me hope to.

What?! You’re So Dramatic, Victor!

It is exceedingly difficult to talk about real creativity, because successful creativity is inextricably connected to economic support. If you don’t have a foundation of societal support (in that you belong to the put-together people), you just don’t get anywhere.

Woolf Agrees With Me, You Know!

And it isn’t that you can’t change success levels; it’s that it involves tearing your soul out and remaking it several times. Which feels like dying.

I must be leveling up this morning, because I feel about as awful as I have ever felt in my life. And, well, that’s really saying something.

What About My Journey, Victor Poole?

Being a generous and loving person myself, I have, in sympathy with the plight of those who, like me, are embroiled in economic and emotional poverty, created a pathway of metaphorical death. Both The Eastern Slave Series and My Name is Caleb; I am Dead were written for the express purpose of making a roadmap for someone like you.

If you feel trapped, and without hope of escape, my leveling-up fiction can help. Caleb was written as a novel; it will make you feel things, but is not uncomfortable to read. Ajalia, on the other hand, will make you feel very angry, because I wrote her in a way that deliberately tears your soul up by the roots, and puts it back in an orderly way. You will get fast results with Ajalia, and slow, but real results with Caleb.

You’re reading Victor Poole. My brothers are violent and angry people, like the carnivorous monsters in this book. Monday is an excellent day to resolve on creative soul-death.

The #1 Rule Of Writing

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As you may know if you read my blog, I went to acting school. I know, how decadent, right? One thing that puzzled me in my time as an acting student was the regularity with which Whitney got acting gigs. I was surrounded by eager and ambitious women who fought tooth and nail for the approximately three good female parts that came available each year (by “good part,” I mean in a respectable production, with costumes and a paying audience, and consisting of more than twenty lines of dialogue). Despite the overwhelming plentitude of women, Whitney always had parts. She flitted between community theatre productions, semi-professional gigs, and school projects like a saturated butterfly of small-time fame.

What Made Whitney Successful?

I knew several talented actors, both male and female, who could not get a part to save their life. Nobody in casting would touch them with a ten-foot pole. Meanwhile, here was Whitney, adding respectable roles to her resume every two months.

This Is Only Notable Because Of The Fifty Women Who Weren’t Getting Parts

The moment that this became intensely interesting to me was when I ended up in a class with Whitney, and I was able to observe, firsthand, her regular process. (Before you get all worried about me being cynical, please remember that I am speaking of her habitual patterns and not her native talent or potential.)

Whitney, It Turned Out, Wasn’t The Best Actor

Whitney was a shit actor. I remember watching her perform an audition song for the class (we had to work our material regularly in front of each other–because, you know, it was acting school). It was some seductive, happy-go-lucky party type song, where the character was meant to be exceedingly worldly and experienced. Right-o?

The Audition Song

Whitney performed the piece after the manner of a vestal nun wearing fifteen yards of stifling linen. The teacher of the class kept blinking hard, and hesitating, as if unsure of how to address this gap between sensibility and material.

So Where’s The Secret? Nepotism? Politics?

Why did Whitney keep getting all these juicy roles? And, lest you think I am basing my evaluation of her working habits purely on this un-sexy song, I shall add a short litany of her other offenses to actor-kind: Whitney was routinely late, poorly dressed, badly prepared, and got most of her material from those books you can find in the library called, “The Best Women’s Monologues Ever!” (which, if you aren’t from the acting world, are so over-performed by virtue of being easily accessible that they are generally anathema to decent folk in theatre). She was not sensitive to her partners in scenes, was not particularly good at memorizing her lines, and did not respond readily to direction.

What Does This Have To Do With Writing, Victor Poole?

So what is the #1 Most Important Thing in writing? The answer lies in the mystery of Whitney’s success. She was a terrible actor. She had mediocre habits, and lackluster sensibility. I studied Whitney, and the other actors like her, for several years. Why, I asked myself, did these people keep “winning” in theatre? At first, it didn’t seem to make sense to me.

The Turning Point For Me

It was not until I started to direct theatre that my mind expanded, and I learned the value of an actor like Whitney. It was as a small-time producer that I solved the mystery of the mediocre actor who succeeds.

Yes, And?

What does this have to do with writing?

There are writers who work rather like Whitney did. They write stories, and they either sell them directly to readers or to publishers. They have impressive publication credits, and some manner of fan base. They may or may not make a living at their work, but they are irrefutably writers, because people read the things that they write. They may not have stellar work habits, and their writing may be lacking in sensibility, or in erudition. Sometimes their editing is subpar, or their plots are predictable.

Those Scoundrelly Success Stories!

To people on the outside, writers like Whitney are maddening, like a gadfly that is permanently and obnoxiously attached to your brain, stinging you. “Why are they published already?” not-yet-successful-writers may wail in despair.

I could tell you what Whitney was doing in a word or two, but you would not understand. I will tell a short story instead.

The Allegory Of Flynn And John:

Once upon a time, there were two space cadets at the Academy of Super-Pilots of the Future. John was two years older than Flynn, and he (John) was determined to make a splash as the greatest space pilot of all time. He (John) wanted to have a wall full of awards and trophies; he wanted to be mentioned constantly in the news-bulletins of the Allied Galaxies. John had hardcore ambition, and he worked constantly at his lessons. You could see John, of a Sunday afternoon, hammering himself into exhaustion in the simulation cruisers, while his acquaintance, Flynn, was relaxing in the local booze-gardens.

Flynn had tumbled into the Academy almost by accident. He was not overly ambitious, and had no illusions about the mundanity of the work required of a space pilot. He read holo-comics more than his textbooks, and generally scraped through exams with just-above-passing marks. He only used the simulations when he was required to, and his free time was spent either drinking, sleeping, or staring lazily out the windows of the Academy’s deck and imagining great adventures in the farthest reaches of space.

John graduated with the highest honors, and was placed into an advanced pool of candidates for interviews with the Galactic Merchants alliance. John was sure he would be hired right away, and drive the biggest, most expensive cruisers in existence.

Flynn graduated at the bottom of his class, and started to read the Star Gazette circular while he worked part time in his uncle’s scrap shop, driving beaters in and out of the lot. Flynn applied to the jobs that had the pay he was looking for (just enough, and no more), and he soon got a contract to pilot freight cruisers between the moons of Cycadia.

John got three job offers from industrial corporations who wanted him to serve as a janitorial assistant in the piloting chambers. John was deeply offended; he had not gone through years of schooling to scrub air filters and wipe grunge from the buttons he should be controlling! John went home to stay with his parents while he waited for something better to turn up. His mother pointed out that the industrial companies paid well above living wages, and John, tipping his nose in well-trained disdain, applied for teaching jobs in the local flight school.

Meanwhile, Flynn fulfilled his contract for two years, and was asked by his supervisor to return as assistant pilot to one of the experimental ships the corporation was going to use to mine asteroids. Flynn agreed, and received a small pay raise. He joined the crew of the new ship, and set out for the farthest rim of the known universe.

John got a job as an assistant instructor in the community flight school, and told repetitive stories about his exploits as a hotshot pilot in the Academy. After a year and a half, he was recruited by a new company who wanted a qualified pilot on the team to make their loan application for a ship look more legitimate. John agreed, and spent another six months waiting for the details to be worked out.

Meanwhile, Flynn advanced from contract to contract, and became, after fifteen years of continuous work, the head of a prestigious firm in the Galactic Merchants alliance. He still spent his free time drinking and sleeping, and his shelf was dominated by glossy holo-comics (the expensive kind now).

John bounced from short-term gig to sketchy partnership, all the while turning down occasional bids for his piloting services from the lackluster construction and janitorial sectors. After many years, he applied for a position at the Academy of Super-Pilots of the Future, which had become a has-been school. John was once more among the scenes of his early exploits; he told himself that he had finally arrived. Instead of awards and news-bulletins, John adorned his walls with graduation certificates and photos of his students performing flight simulations.

I See Where You’re Going With This, Victor Poole!

Whitney, and actors like her, had a fundamental understanding of the drudgery, and the actual work of acting, that most actors around me missed. They understood their relationship to the directors and the audiences they performed for, and consequently, once they started working, they never stopped. Acting was, to them, a job, much as cleaning floors or frying noodles is a job for which one can be paid.

Those Poor, Sentimental Actors Who Failed

To the other actors, the ones who could not get roles, acting was a magical fairyland of praise, play, validation, and adventure. They did not understand the work of acting; they could not tell you what the exchange was that occurred between an actor and his audience.

What Kind Of Writer Are You Today?

If you do not understand the job you are required to do in an industry, it is unlikely that you will be hired, or that you will be able to find continual work. Many writers have a fundamental misunderstanding of the exchange occurring between the reader and themselves. They look at writing, and they see a magical fairyland of adventure, ego-stroking, and play. They do not think of writing as work, and they see this attitude within themselves as a mark of superiority. Writers who do not understand the fundamental work of writing have a very difficult time establishing a sustained audience of readers.

Are you, as you are today, a writer who is more like Flynn, or are you more like John?

You’re reading Victor Poole. My fantasy series is designed to make you really, really angry, and simultaneously enhance your ability to create. Copernicus is a man of golden light; he walks over a blue moon with the hero of this book.