For Better Writing: Integrating The Disparate Parts of Self

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You are divided into several pieces; components of your overall being are often so different as to seem to come from separate beings. I knew an actor, for example, who had been horribly abused as a child. He had so repressed all expression of anger that he bottled all his annoyances and petty grievances up throughout the year and had one, almost-perfectly annual explosion at his underlings in the winter months. At all other times he was subdued, polite, and too careful of sharing how he felt.

That Actor Would Have Been Served By An Integration Of His Anger

It is not healthy to live apart from yourself, or to so compartmentalize your soul that you become some breed of Dr. Jekyll, who explodes ere long into a momentary Mr. Hyde.

When you write, and you have already begun to exist in a state of semi-permanent absence from your whole self, the work reflects your lack of unification.

You See This An Awful Lot With Sex

I’m about to make a sweeping overgeneralization, so if you’re easily offended, look away now. Many, if not all, people who exclusively write explicit sexual passages without making a living at it (amateur pornographers, if you will), have compartmentalized their natural sexual self from the rest of their souls, and they use the written word as a way to sooth and erase the barrier between their current and idealized selves. I am in no way speaking of romance, light sex, or professional erotica authors, which all require sufficient depersonalization of the self to preclude this division of self.

Victor, Sometimes I Think You’re Just Making Stuff Up!

Another area where this lack of unification is apt to appear is in the author’s inability to know his (or her) end goal. What I mean by this is, what does a happy ending look like? I do not mean the achievement of some end objective; no, I mean, the very happiest, best ending that could possibly be for each of the characters. Many, many authors shy away from the possibility of happiness because they, themselves, don’t know yet what they want, or what the evaluators are for their moral good, and so they unwittingly write a similar avoidance and ignorance into their novel, which is unfortunate because it creates a fog of unsureness in the mind of the reader.

Everyone, at bottom, must be good or bad.

Good Or Bad, Best Or Worst

When a human reads a story, he (or she) is looking for a personal derivative; he (or she) wants meaning. Am I like the good guy or the bad guy? Why? And what is a happy ending? And, in reference to that ending, how am I doing currently in my life right now?

People really do ask themselves these types of questions while they are reading. They may not always be aware that they are doing it, but they most certainly are judging and comparing themselves, their friends and acquaintances, and their living standards to what is portrayed in the book at all times.

We Want To Know How We’re Doing; Are We Winning?

Are we bad? Or are we good? How do we know? How can we find out for sure? We look at stories to give us context, and we apply the context within tales to our own circumstances, to find out where we measure on the scale of evil through transcendent good.

Great literature, the kind of stuff teachers throw at your face in schools, is the material that commentates openly and consistently on the measuring stick throughout the story.

So-called “escape” literature, better known as genre fiction, does not make overt value judgements, but the best samples of this style contains a wholistic moral universe, and vividly accurate examples of human nature in a range from corrupt to pure, good to bad, selfish to genuinely altruistic.

So What Does This Mean For Me, Victor Poole?

Well, I began by explaining that many people, perhaps even you, are currently living in a state of internal compartmentalization, and, by extension, your fiction suffers from a lack of intellectual cohesion.

Selfish people, for example, write characters badly, because they relate to other humans so awkwardly themselves that their dialogue and descriptions of the beings in their stories are halting, aggressive, and completely bare of nuance. Folks who don’t listen in real life listen even worse when they are the God of the narrative, and this creates ugly prose, and harsh characterizations and scenes.

For one more example, writers who do not exercise thoroughly in real life write terrible action sequences. Having very little muscle themselves, they have no real conception of the weight, binding nature, or fluidity of significant musculature, and this is reflected in the way they write physical action of any kind.

I could go on, for there are myriad samples of poor integration, and corresponding openings between delivery and intent in the resultant fiction, but for now we will look at an example of how such a lack of integration might appear in the flesh (or the pixel, as ’twere), and then I will impart to you a basic integration visualization.

Be Cautious Of Any Person Seeking To Integrate You; Humans Steal

Yes, I include myself in this group. Anyone who reaches into your energy management is getting something from you; be very wary, and excessively aware of what they are doing while they’re in your spirit, and of what they leave behind. Beware, or risk losing things, and becoming captive to forces you probably don’t understand.

I suppose I should cackle evilly right now, and tap my fingers together in the manner of a villain. But, to work.

Examples

Bad Writing (Analytical Thinking Absent):

Solace has never wanted so badly to run away, but her legs are pinned under a shelf, and she can’t move her lower half enough to get out. Her mind races. She wrestles the furniture, but it is lodged under one of the stones from the roof.

She hears another person crying out; she didn’t hear enough to know who it was. She grunts, and pulls harder. A tall shadow moves through heavy dust that is flying through the crushed room.

“Are you fine?” a man’s voice asked. Solace shivers; she does not know this person.

“No,” she gasps.

Good Writing (Integrated Thinking):

With a crash, the sky fell into the house, carrying with it half the roof and most of a tree from above the eaves. Her mother and father were crushed under a great stone, but Solace dove left, and she was merely pinned beneath an oak shelf, unharmed aside from bruises. She couldn’t move, and after she battered helplessly with a shard of rock at the shelf, she resigned herself to a lingering death.

She could hear a cry echoing sadly through the house; it was grandmother, she thought. Solace opened her mouth to call back, but the dust caught in her throat, and she choked and coughed, and when she got her breath back she found that her windpipe seemed to have closed up for good. She could not make a sound.

What Can You Do In Terms Of Integration?

As promised, the integration visualization: Imagine that inside of you is a sharp line of blue-black (like the color of a healthy black horse). Now picture the ground below you, and pretend for a moment that it is a sea of white light. You know, like the lava game you most likely played as a child, and the floor was burning orange? Except this time the floor will be bright white, and it will be water, not lava.

Noe imagine your whole body, starting at your feet, and then your ankles, sinking gradually into the sea of white beneath you. Let yourself fall slowly into the white water. As the water touches up against the blue-black line, see it burn up and disappear. The line can be anywhere; it might run up your middle, splitting you in half, or it may form a vigorous jig-jag maze. Your subconscious mind is tremendous at pinning down problems you aren’t fully aware of yet; whatever you picture the line doing in your body is exactly right.

Now, relax down into the water, imagining the shining, lapping fluid rising past your knees, and your hips, and up your back. Watch the blue-black line, wherever it may be, scrub entirely away in the touch of the white water. Let your shoulders and your arms go down into the water, and then your neck. Feel your jaw lap into the white ocean, and then your cheeks. Your eyes next, and your forehead. Finally, listen to the feelings in your body as your last bit of skull sinks down into the brilliant white water.

The blue-black line is now gone. Stand up out of the water, and draw a new black line all the way around the edge of your body. You know, as if you were a body being chalked around by the police at a crime scene. Just go ahead and trace your own black line all around the verge of your being. This is an outline that separates you from the world around you; your body longs for division of some kind, and if you give yourself this outside-inside line of separation, you can avoid reforming the original fragmentation of your inner self.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I’m working on an exciting new cover for the Ajalia books, and I made an embarrassing mistake yesterday. My cat is asleep at this very minute; she’s adorable.

Why Your Point Of View Needs A Subterranean Motive

Caleb NEW

This is a cover I’m designing for an update to my sci-fi thriller, My Name is Caleb; I am Dead. I got a great review for the book from Taylor Morrison, and I’m softening up towards commercialism in my cover designs. I wanted to fully embrace commercial appeal from day one, but I didn’t know how. I am approaching market viability one step at a time.

I didn’t realize that I’d neglected to update the interior of the book with Vellum, so that’s also in the works.

In Other News

The ‘a’ key on my laptop has worked loose, and refuses to adhere properly to the little hook parts underneath. I am training myself to type gently over the key so that it doesn’t pop off with every vigorous ‘a’ stroke.

Funnily enough, this quirk has made me grow fonder of my laptop. I have one of the MacBook Air laptops with the shredding power cords. I was patching it diligently with electrical tape, but my beloved spouse, observing the sticky and disintegrating cord, carried me forcibly to the Apple store and bought me a new one.

Now, Ulterior Motives For Point Of View

Your novel is necessarily written from one point of view or another; I tend to favor third person omniscient, but there are many kinds of point of view, and they are all good for achieving different effects. What we are talking about today is the message relayed by the style of point of view. What are you telling your readers, subtly, about the overall meaning of the story?

Every book relays a conglomerate of messages; the most long-lasting and impactful communication is that portrayed by the overall implications of the point of view. We’ll look now at some broad examples, to give you an idea of what I mean.

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is (mostly) written from a bemused, factual third-person omniscient point of view that gives the novel as a whole a sense of inevitable absurdity and reverence; the novel mourns for, judges, and prods acerbic fun at the characters.

Agatha Christie

Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, on the other hand, embraces a first person, past tense point of view, which turns out wonderfully in the final chapters when you find out the doctor’s been (spoiler, spoiler, spoiler). In this book, the subterranean message is one of deceit, danger, and false jollity. The book would lose much of its marvelously eerie, suspenseful quality without this point of view. The underlying message, that of the intensely personal and permanent nature of homicide, makes the scenes excessively memorable.

Victor Hugo

One more example is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you haven’t read the unabridged novel, you’ve missed most of the point of the book, which is a third person omniscient impassioned ode to the architecture of Paris. Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the emotionally impoverished Frollo are incidental to the main story, which is a very long and loving treatment of the city. This point of view creates a backdrop against which the characters move like miniatures picked out against an expansive landscape.

What Does Your Point Of View Say?

Books that have no second or third meaning, and that do not contain an overt message about life, art, and humanity, are books that do not last. The best and surest way to convey such a message is like this:

Examples:

Message: Life is hard, and people are corrupt inside.

Point of View: First person, present tense

I’m getting ahead of myself. I started to tell you about the day that I died. It was an afternoon, of course, broad daylight. Not at all the sort of scene you imagine, when you picture yourself dying suddenly. I always thought I would go in a car accident, if I died early. I hadn’t even found a girlfriend. It was incredibly ironic. I’d gotten away from my parents, I had a house that I almost owned, and I was current on my taxes. Plus, I’d just gotten a raise at work, and my boss liked me. I thought it was one of the best days of my life. Well, I wasn’t thinking right at that moment, this is the best day of my life, but I did have that feeling of something really great starting. I felt like I had been digging my way out of a deep hole, and I’d finally reached the surface and started to make some kind of genuine progress, and then Bam! Dead. Heart failure, or something. You don’t really find out, when you die like that, and are taken up right away. You don’t find out what it was that killed you. I suppose most people do some sort of hovering deal, you know, their soul hanging around over their corpse for a few days before they figure out that it’s time to move on. I would’ve found out what killed me, if that’d happened, because the ambulance would have come, and the people would have said to each other what killed me.

This is a passage from a book I’m writing about a young man who is enslaved by a goddess, and made to act as an undead guardian to humanity. This example is tricky, because it almost reads as first person past tense, but it is technically present tense, as Paul is speaking in the moment and telling the story.

I think I need to talk myself down from trickiness. I am apt to be too complex. In the meantime, here is another example:

Message: People are good inside, and honesty always pays off.

Point of View: Third person, past tense

Going inside the castle, she rummaged in the junk room until she located a putty knife. She took it out to the front steps and began scraping the wall until she hit smooth stone.

“Much better,” the princess said. The blackened goop peeled away in reams of thick, greasy sludge that dripped and seemed almost alive.

“No, no, please, oh please, no,” groaned the voice from the door. “Not my beautiful lovely sludge! I have been cultivating that sludge for decades, and now you mean to peel away my protective skin with a putty knife? What kind of a princess are you?”

“A cleaning princess,” she said, and got to work with the putty knife. After a few minutes she had cleared a sizable chunk on the wall, and she retrieved her rag, rinsed it clean, and scrubbed the stone. “That’s more like it,” she said, as she saw clean, bright white stone emerge.

And Now, For Contrast, A Terrible One

Before I jump into the bad example, remember that when you choose no message, your message is chosen for you by your psychological precedents. A message will be conveyed, whether or not you formulate one. Is it not better, particularly in the realm of art, to make a choice, and control the emotional outcome as far as you are able?

Bad Writing:

Message: I’m a super cool storyteller, and my readers love me!

Point of View: Psh! I don’t need a point of view! I’m a genius!

The house was dark; she held the phone against her chest, waiting until the time arrived. I knew he would come for me, even though there wasn’t any light to see by.

I’m outside the house, and there are no friends with me this time. I’m going to get that magical necklace she’s got. I don’t know where she got it from. It’ll be mine soon.

Her heart beats, and her knees shake. She doesn’t want to open her eyes.

I open the door. Then I realize I can’t, because it’s locked.

I hear the doorknob jiggle. My opening eyes take in the light from the desktop alarm, and the modem blinks. They aren’t afraid. Not like I am.

He goes to the window, and tries the casing.

Today’s Takeaway

The point of view that you choose inevitably creates a rhetorical framework, and determines the most lasting impression your story will leave on the reader. For example, in my very long and gradual fantasy series, the point of view is third omniscient, past tense, and the framework, the purpose of the novel and the overall message is about sex. Ajalia starts out as a severely-traumatized woman, and the whole impetus of the nine books, the through-line, is her sexual development. The moment she can get busy with Delmar, the story ends, because the point of the story is that sexual trauma is real, lasting, and possible to work through and heal from.

Well, Victor!

I’ve said this before, but I used to work every day with actors, and I found that every single one of them (yes, really) had severe energy blocks through the pelvic cradle. They could not bring their true selves onto the stage, and they could not mate. Their creative selves were almost completely obliterated. More to the point, they were incapable of love.

What Do You Mean, Incapable Of Love?

This problem fascinated me. I chose a female protagonist (Ajalia), because the damage in the women was incredibly worse than than in the men, and I framed the series as a practical exercise in releasing and integrating pelvic trauma. I gave Ajalia a perfect energy match (Delmar), and I went to work on their bodies.

The book unfolds slowly, and gently, because opening and integrating the pelvic cradle is delicate work, and it is dangerous. The characters heal, one piece at a time, and the series ends with a satisfying fade out on the wholly-integrated Delmar and Ajalia about to finally have sex.

The Ultimate Fade-To-Black

There’s a good deal of kissing, and even more talking, but the purpose, the sole motivating factor in the series, is real sex. By real sex, I mean sex in which both partners are whole, complete, and volitional in the practice.

The next time I produce a show, and I end up with three young women sitting forlornly in my living room and asking me to teach them how to date, I will be ready. And the next time I have a probably-gay actor following me around like an abandoned puppy, I shall have something more useful to offer him (because I cannot adopt the whole world, or my entire cast).

And Yes, Actors Have Tried To Move In With Me

The biggest obstacle in the past has been time; I can heal individuals, but the work often takes weeks, if not months, and everything moves like sludge because the subject has to understand what is happening in order to maintain the new energy forms after I’m out of the picture.

Because If Healing Doesn’t Last, It Does More Harm Than Good

Therefore, I wrote an extended analogy. If I meet an actor who is damaged, and longing for more, I can hand off a tidy pile of novels, and then have a ready lexicon for the eventual dialogue and individual work to follow.

This type of thinking may appear ludicrously long-term to some of you; I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t. I am satisfied with all of my preliminary trials of the novels; they appear to function as I intended them to. You, of course, are welcome to try them out yourself, but be warned that they are rather long, and will make a lot of anger and heat rise through your physical shell. Releasing old injuries often manifests as sudden rage, or as a fever.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Don’t buy Caleb until I’ve updated it, okay? And many thanks to Taylor, who took the time to read and review my science fiction novel!

Why You Repeatedly Embrace Failure (And How To Write About It)

big horse

Adequate fiction takes a fold of the human consciousness (yours, preferably), pulls it apart into pieces, and arranges it into a coherent line. Real life is chaotic; many things happen simultaneously, and unless you are a very clever worm, like I am, you will never adequately parse through the levels of concurrent emotional action that unfold through your personal story.

Remember How I Have An Imaginary PhD In Human Nature?

I am exceptionally good at tearing apart characters, and getting to the bottom of social interactions. It is why my dialogue is so fresh.

A Sample Of Fresh Dialogue:

“Are they all mine?” She saw that he knew what she meant. She could not see his eyes clearly, but she saw his jaw tighten.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“All six babies,” she said. “Are they all mine?”

He considered her. His eyes were blank.

“No,” he said.

“Have you done this before,” she asked, “to me?”

It took him a long time to respond.

When you write a story, and it comes from inside your body, you set yourself up to replicate the relational patterns from your true experience of life. This means early childhood. Most of us stop having any authentic emotional experiences after about the age of six, when we enter the natural development of the ego. Very few people integrate fully after this point, and some of us (not very many) never even get that far.

And Now, For A Word From Our Sponsor

If you’ve ever noticed how strangely funny and pathetic I seem, in my writing, it is because I am a dead person, functionally speaking. I ought to be physically dead as well; most specimens of my type are decimated early, and then reformed into facsimile humans. Slave-zombies, if you will. I was not successfully converted into a thrall, and am therefore a floating, autonomous nonentity. My ambition is to become real; according to the mythology of Yeshua, this manner of energy transference is theoretically possible. Yes, I am aware of how I sound. And if my experiments are successful, I will become a person and stop talking so much about energy and such esoteric things.

My current non-person status means that I cannot hang onto physical possessions; I also have extraordinarily porous boundaries (which makes me both an excellent listener and the best director I’ve ever seen). Yes, I know how that sounds. No, I’m not completely insane.

Your Temporary Framework, In Terms Of Your Soul, Is Based On Rejection And An Inability To Achieve Intimacy

All humans require a bedrock of acceptance and admiration to function in everyday life. I provide just such a foundation, but there is only one of me, and far too many (see, all) people steal and piss on resources, which makes me like an overeaten corner of the commons.

I can convert the people around me into extraneous engines, replicating my abilities, but the setup is expensive, time-wise, and I end up in the same place I started: overused, worn out, and eventually discarded. Avarice, you know, and short-term thinking.

Not Being Insane, I Am Trying Something New

I have been experimenting with different formats for my childishly generous nature, and have so far found no sustainable ways of improving life for everyone. There is only one of me, you know, and there are so many of all the rest of you.

I thought for years that I would eventually stumble upon another of my kind, but each almost-meeting of the minds turned eventually into yet another extortion of my invaluable whatever-ye-call’t.

I have determined that my spirit, having stalled in a state of infancy, requires further parenting, and have therefore been turning my inward eye towards myself.

An Experiment That Will, I Hope, Prove Fruitful

So I’ve taught myself to write books, and I am now painstakingly reconstructing the stalling points at the verge of my consciousness. I have been alternating between male and female protagonists, in order to balance the development of my adult persona. Harmony between the parts of self, and all that.

Throughout this process, I have been careful to preserve a sense of whole energy within my published works. There is a great deal of violence, perhaps more than someone like you can handle, and it is conveyed realistically, which will cause your own early traumas to erupt through your consciousness. Being a responsible and conscientious guide, I have provided secure frameworks and rebuilding analogies directly after each of these violent incidents, so that there is no danger of a negative outcome in your inner self.

Dostoyevsky Irresponsibly Disseminates Mental Plague, And Dickens Seeds Self-Loathing, The Cad

First part:

Ajalia wanted to escape, and there was no escape. She wanted to escape from the way that she lived, from the place that was her experience within her own skin. She wished that she could go home. A niggling doubt rose up in her mind at this thought. Did she mean the East, she asked herself, or did she mean the place she had come from? The East, she answered herself quickly. She did not want to go home.

Home meant the narrow, cluttered house, with the dirt in the corners, and the crooked, uneven floors. Home meant her little brother, and the endless, relentless, continuous series of days that did not change. Home meant trying to make her mother and father happy, trying to make them peaceful, trying to make them satisfied, and failing, and failing, and failing.

Ajalia closed her eyes, and tried to press the memory of the dark, shadowy closet in her childhood house out of her mind. She could not. The closet was dark, and it smelled of musty clothes, and everyone had known she was hiding there, but it was the only place with three walls and a door, where she could close herself in and pretend to be hiding.

Second part:

“Are you all right?” he asked. She could feel the whole world throbbing and spinning around her in crazy circles. She told herself that she was going to throw up, and she stumbled to her feet and went to the door. Ajalia’s eyes were covered over with sparks of light; she could only partly see. She heard Denai speaking behind her, but she didn’t hear the words. His voice made a soft murmur to the loud thunder of her heart, and the heavy bellows of her breath. She thought that she would be able to breathe, if she made it outside. The darkness was all around her, and within her. She was made of darkness now. She pictured herself as a creature of night, with darkness and the studded night sky all over her arms and her legs. I want to be dead, she thought, and she stumbled towards the dim moonlight that showed the entrance to the dragon temple.

Denai was following her; she still could not understand the words that he spoke. She wished that she had still the slim leather book; she had hidden it away in the forest, when Delmar had been unconscious. She had not wanted him to read anymore of the book, and she wanted to study it herself. She had thought that she would have settled her house by now, but things, she told herself wildly, kept happening. Stop happening, things, she shouted in her mind, and tried to laugh. She stumbled out into the moonlight, and half-fell down the steps. Denai put his hands on her arms, and guided her around the corner of the street.

Third part:

Ajalia reflected on the way that Delmar was looking at her now, as if he had a right to her. She remembered the way he had lied to her, and kept money from her. She remembered how he had hidden facts about the magic from her, and how he had tried to keep her from knowing about his grandfather in Talbos, and his father’s status as a slave. Delmar is bad for me, Ajalia thought, and she remembered her father. A recoiling disgust flung up against Ajalia’s throat, and she wanted to empty herself out in a heap, and burn herself away. I hate being me, Ajalia reflected, and she smiled.

“What are you doing?” Delmar asked suspiciously.

“Purging my father from my soul,” Ajalia said in Slavithe, without opening her eyes. “I am going to get rid of my father,” she said, “and then I won’t have any use for you.”

If You Try To Succeed, You Will Fail

Not to burst your bubble and be the ultimate shatterer of your dreams, but you are probably not dead, like me. If you are not dead, you cannot do what I do, because I’m moving through energy hell. Essentially. And that would kill you. It doesn’t kill me, because I’m already dead. See how that works?

You are, however, probably mired in a lot of confusion and stifled impulses. If you are a decent soul, you long for internal freedom, and the power to know yourself, and become what you secretly hope to be. To find yourself as, in the end.

Reading my books is hard, because the impulses are conveyed with accuracy. I also did not skip any steps from one stage of emotional development to the next. I wrote without giving you any help, for the most part. Particularly with Ajalia and her cohorts, I never stopped to explain things. If you are not able or willing to dig into the circumstances, and to be a novel-detective of sorts, some scenes will appear, at first glance, to be nonsensical. Harder Than Rocks is the easiest to read, followed by Intimate Death. Ajalia is hard; the depth of internalized action, and the intensity of the character transformation make for a journey that, if you lack empathy, will seem impossible.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. I’m a dead guy, kind of like Caleb, though I have never been eaten by monkeys. If Thursday keeps on being Thursday, it will never be Friday.

I’m Painting An Experiment

I’ve been letting my kids watch some old Bob Ross videos, and the layering techniques are getting to me. I’ve been held back for a long time with my art skills, because I’ve never had proper, shall we say, instruction or tutelage, in the matters of composition and proportion. I had one great painting teacher, but we broke off lessons after a bit because of personal complications, and I’ve never found an adequate source of teacherly inspiration since.

The Style At My College Displeased Me

I took one drawing class, years ago at school, and it was discouraging. The teacher was a young grad student, and he took more delight in praising the “unstudied brilliance” (my words) of clumsy newness than in conveying any real techniques to us. Pish, I said, and I went back to doing my own thing.

My problem, I think, has been that I had too much technical ability and too little practical knowledge of the overall process. It is possible, I think, to have too much of a good thing in terms of raw talent, when there is lack of structured form.

Like I Said Before, Genius Problems

So, in my waning years, I have been remedying this lack, and Bob Ross with his “no accidents” philosophy is helping me along.

The same idea holds true for fiction, I think. I wrote the beginning of a zombie novel some time ago (it’s on the queue), and after several thrilling pages of hunting and chasing, my main character pulled out a mysterious object and floated up into the sky with it.

I was not pleased. Where did she lay hold of this miraculous artifact? And why didn’t I know she had it? In a fit of pique, I set aside the book. However, as I pressed forward with other projects, the suddenly-appearing-plot-element persisted.

For Example, Monique Was Not In My Outline For Caleb

Patterns emerged. I had another novel with witches (this one), and I was sure, as I was working through the first draft, that I had created a multi-headed monstrosity of plot mess that would haunt me for months in the editing process. Alas, nearly every unexpected twist culminated in neatly cohesive symbolism and foreshadowing.

I Think You’re Vain, Victor!

Here’s a quirky factoid: I cannot remember my books, after I have written them. When I go back through the revision process, it is as though I am reading someone else’s work. I don’t hold any of my words in my own memory. This is both disastrous and wonderful; writing new material is occasionally petrifying, but revisions are actually pretty fun, because I get to read a new story. If I want to remember details from my own novels, I have to comb through individual paragraphs many times, and make lists.

Oh, Desdemon!

I’m a Shakespeare hobbyist, and I was working through the script of Othello late this evening, doing a little housekeeping. Goodness me, it’s been a while since I visited Othello. I get chills over that play. Othello always reminds me of that story about a traveling company of actors who performed Othello for a group of small-town cowboy types. One of the audience members became so incensed during Iago’s malevolent monologuing that he drew a six-shooter and murdered the poor actor.

People usually say pithy things about how the dead actor ought to feel flattered, seeing as his performance was so thrilling, but I find the story sobering.

Well, I’m going to go and sketch out the underpainting for a tree.

You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. I’m starting to think about Christmas music.

How To Align Your Head To Improve Your Writing Right Now

 

 

The way you sit and habitually arrange your muscles controls your breath; the way you breathe directly influences the amount of oxygen getting into your brain. How well your brain is working has a lot to do with the clarity of your thinking, the vividness of your sensory experience, and your ability to communicate clearly to the outside world–in this case, other people. Ergo, your breath (and with it, your particular habits of tension-holding) control the freedom of your writing mechanism. To open and free your writing ability, you must open your breathing.

Allowing The Sternum To Collapse Into Your Chest Restricts The Expansion Of Your Lungs

Try an experiment, for a moment: imagine that your hips are the walls of an oval tunnel running through your whole body. The shoulders are an important juncture in this channel. First, send your mind into your hips and pelvis, and see what the angle of your hip-tunnel is currently like. Some people tilt their hips forward, creating a sharp bend in their lower back, and some people (very few) tilt their hips back, making an unnatural angle in the lower abdomen. What you want is to have the walls of the oval tunnel, your hips, to be perpendicular to the level of the floor.

An Open Channel From Hips To Shoulders Frees The Muscles From Unnecessarily Supporting Your Body

So try for just a moment to un-tilt your pelvic cradle, and to align the oval walls of the tunnel in your hips perpendicular to the floor. When you have done this, you should feel some unfamiliar movement in your lower vertebrae, and perhaps some slight stretching in the outer muscles sheathing your upper thighs.

Next, Align The Ribs

The oval tunnel walls extend in as smooth a line as possible up from the hips through the ribs; send your awareness into the body, aligning the walls of your ribcage with the same perpendicular line you first made in your hips. Next, you are going to slightly lift your shoulders up and back, as if you were placing a final interlocking block on top of a tower. The shoulders also form part of the inner cavity, this oval-shaped tunnel we are building within your body. The outer walls of the shoulder-frame should be arranged just on top, and in line with, the ribs and the hips.

And Finally, Your Head

Your head is very, very heavy, what with all the brains and fluid you carry around up there, so it’s incredibly important that your skull and its accompanying contents are positioned easily over the center of the tunnel. Imagine, if you will, that your head is a ball, and the oval tunnel of your torso is a basket through which the ball must pass without touching against the sides.

You’re Doing It Right When You Feel A Rush Of Internal Heat

Your skeleton is designed to support the whole weight of your body, without assistance from your major muscle groups. Many, if not most of us, have been taught throughout our lives, either by stupid people or by forced constraint to perpetual sitting and slouching, to rely on our muscles to hold ourselves upright. This creates horrible tension through our whole bodies, and crushes much of our intended breath capacity. If you breathe shallowly, and in a cage of hard tension for a very long time, your mind is gradually starved of oxygen, and you stop thinking very clearly.

Breathing Better Now Improves Your Writing Immediately

Opening your body, learning to rely on the skeleton for weight-bearing, and aligning your head over the center of your shoulders, ribs, and hips, will, over time, do much to rectify this deplorable state of affairs. However, if you align your body right now, you will immediately experience a release of tension, and an influx of breath, which will improve your work right this very moment.

Blergh Writing:

Luther ran a finger along the blade of the enchanted sword.

“It is very lucky,” he intoned, his sky-blue eyes piercing through her like butter being sliced open with a hot knife, “that you brought me this weapon. It’s magical, and I think you wouldn’t have had the fortitude to handle it alone.”

“My father gave it to me,” she lied. She was a very good liar, having practiced often over her homework with the abbess of the priory.

“And what was your father?” Luther asked. A half smile passed through his skinny features.

“He got it as a present,” she said.

“Hm,” Luther replied. “I don’t believe you at all.”

“Well, it’s true.”

Better Writing:

The sword had a blue hilt, forged of the isolated rock of the gem quarries, and the blade ran out in a strong thrust from the tang. Scraps of black shadow adhered to each part of the old metal, as if ribbons of dark mold had grown up from the depths of the weapon.

She brought it in a hand-woven scabbard of green cloth. Her father had said it was a useless thing, this clasping of fabric, but Halka found it charming, and it had come with the blade. The guard of the old man’s estate was a bland old fool, and she talked her way past him in five minutes.

Halka, runaway and thief, presented the ancient blade to the old man in his study, and asked for a suitable reward. Luther, for that was the old man’s name, drew out the sword and examined the mottled blade.

“Where did you find this?” he asked, turning the blue hilt in the light from the open window.

“My father left it to me when he died,” Halka lied. Luther’s eyes traced slowly down the whole blade; he laid it down and turned his attention to the woven green scabbard.

“Your father was a valley troll?” Luther asked, amusement strong in his voice.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Sun salutation is kicking my butt right now (actually my shoulders, but hey). I would like to illustrate all of my books eventually.

Why Writing Classes Are A Waste Of Money (And What You Need Instead)

Writing classes are a waste of money (in general) because almost none (if any) of them address popularity, vicious criticism, or a broken motivation, which are the biggest obstacles to consistent writing. Close after those problems are a lack of good sense (see, blindness or dullness), lack of taste (no sense of proportion), and absence of grounding social integrity (a moral framework).

Wow, Victor! That Was Quite A List!

As in much of the performative industry, you are the product in writing, and any obstacles or shortcomings in your mind or spirit will show up in the fiction you create. I say this not to discourage you, but to illuminate what I see as a great lie in the hopeful-writers community: the idea that paying someone who has published to teach you about writing will make you good enough, polished enough, and competitive enough to win at the game, which mostly consists of people skills and marketing work.

Yes, That’s Right

I believe that people skills and marketing know-how (which consists not only of publicizing your work after it’s written, but writing towards a real market in the first place) have a lot more to do with writing success (as far as novel-writing goes) than snazzy paragraphs or engaging characters.

Heresy, Victor Poole! Now I Hate Your Guts, You Sellout!

Yeah, I know, I’m super cynical. By the way, I was eliminated from SPFBO, which I figured would happen, but at least my blogger said nice things about my book. (I have an “intriguing world,” for example.) I think people who downloaded The Slave from the East must still be reading it regularly, because my ranking has remained oddly high for the last several weeks. I was thinking of going wide, but my internet connection is currently less-than-speedy, and I’m not sure if I’ll go back into KU sometime.

So You Hate Writing Classes, Victor

Hate is a pretty strong word, but I wouldn’t spend my own money on them. I think writing classes can be a great way to connect with other people, and to learn baseline skills from really successful authors (by observing what they do, and emulating their attitudes towards writing), but I feel that people generally go into a writing class, and emerge afterwards, with either the same skills they went in with, or with lowered motivation.

Unless You Have A Great Teacher

None of what I’m saying applies one bit if a writing class has a great teacher who can connect authentically with the learners and give appropriate feedback that builds without creating obstructive discouragement. For example, I had one writing teacher (twice published) many years ago who listened to students, gave apt feedback, and just exhibited a generally helpful and connected attitude. A few months later I had another writing teacher who was frenetic, set unrealistically ambitious writing goals for the curriculum, and was more interested in showing off than in hearing or teaching students (I dropped out after a little while).

Unless You Find A Gifted Teacher, Youtube And Google Present Endless Info

Writing books is the best way to get better at writing books. Nothing prepares you for storytelling like actual storytelling, and there are rhythms and seasons in writing that you will never master unless you live them. I am not at all saying to publish what you write, until you’re writing well enough (which is a subjective matter, though I have a lot of opinions on the subject), but I am very much saying to write, write, write.

You Are Your Own Best Teacher

You are your source material, and you are both the teacher and the learner in the journey of your writerly self. No one in the world has access to you better than you do, and no one but you has that helpful feeling in your gut that directs your best efforts. Writing classes are, more often than not, nothing but a drain on your wallet. Give yourself the gift of an investment in yourself, and write part of your story today.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Mary is having fantastic adventures in the sequel to my alien novel. Stardew Valley has been a big thing in my house lately.

Why Cranky Old Characters Make The Best Sounding Boards

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Often in the world of my novel, I may find myself in need of a chatty Cathy character, a personage with whom my more illustrious characters can pass the time and discuss vital plot points. I may even find myself indulging in a spot of comedic relief with such elderly talkative Toms.

Like The Wild Old Man In Tom Jones

Okay, he isn’t totally wild, but there is a feral geezer in a cabin who takes in Tom and his pal for a brief respite from the elements. There is also the long-winded porter in Macbeth, the maiden aunt in Learned Ladies, and that adorable, if quixotic lady who knits beside the guillotine in Scarlet Pimpernel.

Elderly Characters Can Be Useful

Sometimes I need to talk about something interesting, and sometimes a main character needs a little nudge of wise perspective (or a distraction from the tragedy of their unfolding adventures). In these cases, consider the use of an aged body. “Old people are the greatest,” in the words of the Sponge, “they’re full of wisdom and experience!” Elderly characters are also given greater range on the cantankerous and whimsical fronts, and so can be entrusted with more naturally-implausible narrative tasks.

Like The Old Guy Wearing A Nightdress In Harry Potter

When I find myself at such a critical juncture, I say to myself, “Victor, what you need right now is a suitably aged personage to carry along the conversation.” And then I find a scrap of vivid energy, slap some clothes and a backstory on it, assign it a gender, and I am off, metaphorically, to the races.

Examples

No Old Man: 

Samuel walked down the sidewalk, thinking about the lady he’d met at the bus stop. He thought about whether she’d call as he unlocked his door, and he dwelt in his memory on the lurid shad of her hair, and the unnatural flaccidity of her cheeks as he stared at the bread and old ham in his miniature fridge. He wondered if he might meet that lady again, and imagined a flower-strewn wedding with cheap suits and fitted white gloves.

Cranky Old Man:

“I met someone,” Samuel said to the man who lived in the first room of the Tavern Motel.

“Mmphfft,” said the man who lived in the first room. His door was wide open, and he was sitting on the pink plush chair provided by the Motel for the use and enjoyment of its residents.

“She might be the one,” Samuel said meaningfully. He raised his eyebrows, and nodded solemnly.

“Go away,” said the man who lived in the first room. “You are disturbing my peace and quiet.”

“Then I’ll go and plan our wedding quietly by myself, shall I?” Samuel asked.

The man in the first room of the Tavern Motel glared out at the thin sunlight that streaked the shallow block of grass in front of the rooms, and did not answer.

Sometimes Old Characters Are Excellent Mouthpieces

When I find myself against a thorny narrative juncture, I often fall back on a personage of experience and whitened hair to serve as a sounding board of sorts to my plighted main character. Perhaps you may also find this device of some use in your narrative journeying.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Copernicus is a dead man (excessively old, though not in appearance) in this book. Some really competent optometrists would like my blog if they read it on their lunch breaks.