Just Some Dialogue

Like most people who have done small-time Shakespeare production, I have done Midsummer Night’s Dream (more than once).

One time I was talking to the actor I’d chosen to play Flute (the mechanical with the beard coming in), and he was saying that he was surprised I’d picked him, since he was about twice as large as any of my other male actors.

I told him I thought it would look a lot more interesting and have a greater emotional impact to have Thisbe played by a really manly guy, and there was this really strange look on his face.

He started to glow, actually, and I got the impression no one had ever told him he was masculine before, which was weird, because he was.

Also, his Thisbe was inspired. He got into a great falsetto, wore a very loose, bright blonde wig, and died with verve. My Pyramus was equally awesome at dying.

Anyway.

Terrible Dialogue:

Rory slammed his fist on the table!

“Ye gads! This spaceship is a wreck that is likely, more than I’d like to say, to fall into little bits of metal and then where will we all be?!” Rory expostulated, spit flinging from his mouth.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Brunella soothed, patting his arm just like an older sister should. Rory immediately calmed down.

“You’re right. After all, what other choice do we have?” Rory asked, his voice climbing and his eyes sparkling with tears as he thought of their poor, imprisoned parents languishing and awaiting rescue.

“Don’t worry, little brother. We will make it through and be a whole family again,” Brunella said, her own eyes getting steely and determined as she fixed a glare on the middle distance.

“Let’s at least try to fix the landing gear, then,” Rory said, standing up and marching towards the tool box.

“That’s such a good idea. I don’t know why I didn’t think of fixing the landing gear,” his sister said.

Slightly Better Dialogue:

“I’m not stealing another ship,” Rory said, glancing with irritation at his sister, who glared at him with her hands on her hips.

“What other choice do we have? This bucket is going to disintegrate in the middle of our next jump,” Brunella said.

“I’m not doing it. I don’t care that much about mom or dad. They’ll have to get out themselves,” Rory said.

“Out. Get off my ship. I’ll fix it myself,” Brunella said, pushing at Rory and driving him towards the exit.

“You don’t know how to do the internal drives, Brunie,” Rory exclaimed, letting her move him along.

“I’ll figure it out! Or I’ll find another thief!” Brunella said. Rory spun and pinned her against the wall.

“Bruni, they left us. They aren’t waiting. If you get there, they won’t even come with you. Come on,” Rory said. Brunella avoided his eyes. “You know they aren’t waiting, Brunie, come on,” Rory said.

“Get out,” Brunella said.

“Give up on the stupid quest thing, Brunie, and I’ll fix the landing gear,” Rory said.

“That won’t keep the ship together,” Brunella said.

“No, but if the outside looks all right we can sell it and find a scrapper,” Rory said. Brunella started to smile.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Nancy Sharpson just passed her trial and got added to the team.

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Just A Sample Today

 

Horrible Writing:

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

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

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

Better Writing:

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

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

“Hello?” he called.

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

The Best Actors Quit

Every supremely talented individual I have ever seen act in live performance has stopped. Like, all of them.

I was reading a story by an author that reminded me a lot of this type of blisteringly-talented actor. The writer was talented, almost too talented. Vivid characters, plausible scenarios, brilliant engagement of the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

All good performance.

I was unsurprised to find the story unfinished. You know, building to a clear arc and then ending too suddenly.

It was the unfinished aspect, in combination with the lack of continued work, that reminded me of all the best actors I’ve ever known.

Now, there are actors who act, and they’re always, in my experience, middling to average when it comes to native ability.

Maybe I have to back up and talk about what I mean by that, by native ability, but I’ll do my best to summarize quickly. I mean the ability to open your soul to another’s view; the desire to share and the inner wealth to make a sharing mutually satisfactory.

Acting is like spiritual dialogue; you open your soul, your heart, and most of your physical body to the audience, and if you’re a decent actor and you’re protected by a good director, the audience is able to open their hearts back. Satisfying internal conversations are a result.

Now, there are some really excellent actors out there, and none of them, in my personal experience, actually make it professionally, or even continue to perform in a regular sense. They get into production; they go to law school; they become normal, private people.

Why?

And does it matter?

It matters to me because (drumroll) I haven’t stopped acting yet. I’ve thought about it, because the pressures are unreasonable and completely out of proportion to the payoff of acting, but I haven’t stopped yet. I haven’t dropped off the planet in a metaphorical sense.

But why do the best actors stop?

Here’s something that I think good writers can think about. The best actors stop acting because:

1. They don’t realize they’re good.

2. They won’t let themselves enjoy any of the ego-stroking payoff of being eye-candy for strangers, and,

3. They lack perspective on the long-term effects of performance on their internal spiritual vehicle.

I think all three qualifiers apply equally well to writers.

Tons of the very best writers, the most rich internally, the most detailed and competent at their native craft, write for a while and then gradually drop off the planet. They forget that:

1. They are good at it, or they don’t realize HOW good they actually are at it (they lack perspective).

2. They deny themselves, out of a misguided stoicism, any private, personal conceit over the pleasure their writing brings to other human beings. And,

3. They close their eyes and their minds to the long-term picture of a seasoned writer and the dried-up husk that happens to a person who used to write and stopped after a while.

Have you ever acted and then stopped for a few years and taken it up again? I haven’t. I wouldn’t dare, because the difference would be too depressing, but the principles apply across disciplines, and I have stopped dancing for a length of years.

My gosh, the day when you realize your hamstrings don’t like you anymore, and you have to warm them back up from the very beginning to get your splits back in order.

*shudder*

The same is true for acting. The best actors I’ve known give up acting after they don’t get anything personal out of the practice, and after they stop feeling any real payoff in terms of social currency, and then later on they become emotionally unresponsive, in terms of performative juice-creation. Their vehicle of pretend gets creaky. Their internal actor version of splits get tight and non-split-like.

Writers are the same. Writing original prose stretches out your mind in a way that nothing else does.

It isn’t so much what happens when you write each individual sentence so much as the cumulative effect of hundreds and thousands of original prose sentences composed over days and weeks and months and years that season your soul, open your vehicle, and make you a more profound person.

Don’t be like the best actors. Be average. The average people usually get more satisfaction out of every success and each novel sensation. Obviously the best actors stop being actors, and therefore cease to be the best, but beware of phenomenal ability. Embrace medium.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the hunter’s probationary project is on the hunt for a female sample between the ages of twenty-four and fifty.

The Poet’s Guide To Acting Fame

So I was talking to this guy once a long time ago, a very, very small time poet who had very few original ideas and mostly subsisted off teaching classes to beginners, making fun of more talented writers, and stealing ideas before rebuffing them slightly to cast them in his own feeble poetic light.

He was pretty much a nonentity and a negative mean person, but he had a clever, artistic wife, and he’d been riding on her coattails for a very long time.

Anyway, so I’m talking to this guy once, and he wants to talk about how I’ll get famous (I’m talented, and this is a conversation that frequently comes up in my life). I don’t care much if he twaddles over things, because chit chat, meh, and then he trots out this gradual gem-string of zingers for how I need to claw my way into fame and fortune as an actor.

Ready?

It’s a doozy. Maybe you should sit down, if you aren’t already.

This worn, older poet looks at me with some seriousness and a hint of playful excitement in his eyes and he says, in effect, “So you’re following all the leading stage actors in London, of course!”

And I just stared at him.

And then I gave him a weak smile and he plowed on.

His idea, you see, was that I, as a very young actor in the US, should be climbing my way into Broadway and LA film success simultaneously by reading little pamphlets put out by some esoteric fan following for notable stage actors in London.

And then I should be reading descriptions of performances given by these UK actors and forming my every nuance as a performer on short, effusive descriptions of whatever they were doing.

Um.

I knew another man, the same age as this tiny-fame poet, and this other man was a twisted up actor who shoulda-coulda made it and never did because of bad luck. He moved the wrong direction, took the wrong parts, and didn’t have the wisdom to undo his abusive programming as a child. He had acting chops, but he didn’t turn them on on purpose, and he couldn’t figure out how to stop being a servant boy to aggressive nobodies (because of said childhood programming).

This poet and this failed actor remind me of each other. They both married women who were more competent as social networkers than they were, and they both circled fairly endlessly, in a conversational way, about what was going to happen in their lives as soon as the universe cleaned up its act and gave them their proper due for being unrecognized genius folk.

Anyway, later on the poet tried really hard to break up my marriage, which is a topic for some other day, and soon after, ironically, his house almost burned down. It was funny to me because I’d been observing him flit about and attempt to take down other people’s lives for a few months, and then one day, and over the course of about a week, fifteen different devastating disasters clobbered him right in the face. I think he kept his teaching job and his marriage, but everything else in his life was destroyed completely.

I have never forgotten the look in his eyes, previous to the disasters, as of a self-satisfied rat terrier lecturing the farmyard cat as he proudly showed me his own pamphlet originating from some esoteric fan society in London and detailing a few actors’ performances there.

Strangest acting advice I’ve ever heard in my life (and I’ve heard some weird stuff).

The other guy, the not-succeeded actor dude, just kept going, and will keep going until he’s dead, most probably, avoiding major disasters but spinning his wheels as far as fame or movement in his life towards his goals. He’s not willing to burn his life down to get farther, and he’s not horrible enough to other humans to draw the eye of fated disaster.

That’s all for now. I, once again, have no internal juices for a writing example, but in my current novel, the gangster and the prostitute both agreed that the new forms of interplanetary identification turned out very well. And the chocolates were enjoyed by one character.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, Gregory is fighting off the homicidal fury of his former co-worker.

The Actress Who Would Make A Good Mouse

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

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

He played the main character.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dressage

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

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

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

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

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

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

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

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

Curious?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Up or down?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Is No Writing Advice Whatsoever In This Post

 

forse

My parents wanted me to be a boy. I wasn’t one, but they raised me as one. Consequently, I have a long and mostly annoying history of women treating me like a guy, and men treating me like an attractive boy-sidekick.

The strangest thing about my parents’ willful contortion of my gender was the way members of wider society accepted and encouraged whatever my parents wanted.

My mother seriously dressed me as if I had been a prepubescent boy child transitioning into cozy drag. That was how she dressed me my whole life, and there was a lot of micromanaging and control exerted by all members of my parental family over my appearance and clothing. I wasn’t allowed to have money or buy things for myself. I was literally a dress-up toy.

But as I was saying, the really weird part was how people at church or school just accepted this very not-normal thing my parents were doing to me from birth. I mean, I’m a very feminine girly-girl. My parents had to work very hard to keep me from looking like a glowing cheerleader type, which is what I look like naturally.

But again, the weird thing was how other people just went with it. Boys treated me like a garden-variety, less popular boy. Girls treated me like a useful built-in boy replacement. Adults treated me like a confused young male homosexual. It was just plain weird.

The funny part, though, that I was thinking about yesterday, is that when I performed in live Shakespeare productions in my earlier years, I was a girl pretending (under threats and pressure from my parents) to be a boy pretending to be a girl (to avoid actual interference from CPS) pretending to be a boy (in Shakespeare parlance) pretending to be a girl.

Because Shakespeare practice is for men to perform the female parts in drag. Often I played men, though, since I did a good job pulling off the adolescent boy shtick, so in those instances I was only a girl playing a boy playing a girl playing a boy.

I don’t know if you followed any of that, but it was fun to write down.

In my current series, I’ve got a couple of very straight guys who are in love with the same woman (an alien prisoner), and she wants both of them, so they’re having to learn to get along with each other. It’s cute because the two men and the girl are surrounded by a violent, dangerous gang headed up by a close-knit group of homosexuals, so all the old gangsters just assume from the get-go that the two men are gay. It’s adorable.

I have got no mental juice left for an example today. Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and there are birds singing outside my window right now. Also, I overheard a feral cat fight last night. There are no cats in any of my current novels, though I have a really awesome intelligent spy cat in one of my sci-fi development projects.

Take Advantage of Yourself: Organic Poetics and the Symmetry in Your Thoughts

Have you ever read a story where you get a sixth sense at the turn of the paragraph where you just know that the author is about to take a massive emotional dump on you and ruin your day?

I usually stop reading right at that point. Experience is a painful teacher, but it shows us that aggressors in language are unabashed in their desire to pluck up the stuffed eel-skin of writerly violence and toff us one on the back of the neck.

Of course, authors shouldn’t do this kind of sneak-up-behind-the-innocent-householder trick, but many of them do.

Don’t be one of those authors. Yes, this has to do with organic poets. Give me a sec.

So I was reading a story a little while ago and the author wrote an endearing scene, got us introduced to the main characters, and then . . . bam! FLASHBACK OF DOOM!!!

You know where this is going. The small child, home alone in the dark and hearing portentous rattles down the hallway. Ugh.

Dropping a horror-abuse flashback in an otherwise lighthearted opening is a jade’s trick. The poetics of the story are shattered, and it’s an inorganic, unnatural way to achieve a crummy, sour effect in the end.

So let’s back up for two seconds and talk about why organic poetics and parallelisms in your thought process are good for your writing.

Poetics, as a whole description of the quality of a piece of writing, has to do with the substantive theme and tone of the piece, in combination with the long-ranging metaphors and symbology, as well as classifying the style or approach of the plot.

Organic poetry means that a piece of writing has successfully encapsulated a consumable theme with accompanying symbols and extended metaphors that service the tone with which said theme is conveyed.

In plainer terms, it means your magic story feels magical and conveys interesting ideas about magic while including writing tweaks and niceties that add sophistication to the description of magic.

Everything matches.

Parallelism in your thoughts, or internal symmetry of the story, means that the ending grows naturally out of the opening, there is balance and pace in the unfolding of the plot, and all important events and characterizations have satisfying, believable arcs in the story.

Symmetry in story means overall harmony.

So with my duh-duhn-duh! false-advertising rom-com-turned-horror-flick story I told you about, there was no symmetry in the sequence of events and the poetics were unnatural and forced, as the symbology and tone of the language shifted inexplicably between paragraphs.

I don’t know about you; maybe you really like having the author blast you with a hose of cold water as you’re relaxing over a short novel over your afternoon cookies and warm milk, but I do not at all enjoy the sensation of hearing “Ha ha! I tricked you into starting my story and now you will have to finish it hopefully and consume my acidic hatred for all people as conveyed by my sadistic abuse story! Ha ha!”

I’m like, no. Bye.

And presumably you don’t want readers to have that kind of reaction, so let’s talk for two seconds about how to utilize the organic poetry and symmetry that your own brain produces (without even trying!).

You see, your brain, if you are not a genuinely crazy person with higher-level processing problems, wants to be balanced all the time, and your brain wants everything to match, make sense, and be cohesive (at least to you). Oddly, or comfortingly, your brain gives less than two hoots about whether or not you make sense to other people; your brain just wants to be all comfy and at rest inside your private domain of skullhood.

You can take advantage of that as a writer by being . . . TA DA! . . . yourself.

Let’s take for example this angry writer whose story I was reading (and abandoning shortly thereafter) some time ago. So the writer wanted to tell about really scary, portentous abuse. That was the heart of the story, the driving passion moving along the action of writing. You could feel that through the composition of the words, just as you can hear the pounding music in a film or the meaningful rhythm of footsteps coming along behind you in a threatening manner. The writer was writing solely for the purpose of banging the reader on the back of the head with some really scary, stick-in-your-brain situational awfulness.

Guess what, writer-person? There are genres for that, and readers who go looking for it. On purpose! So if, instead of concealing this vivid parcel of child terror within the folds of a fantasy-themed rom-com, the author had begun with what they really wanted to write about, there would have been no mismatch of theme or content, and the parallelism of intent, symbology, and syntax could have built into a very fine piece of horror fiction.

When you write what you think will sell instead of writing what you want to say, you break the organic poetry of your pre-existing brain harmony, and preclude the possibility of your internal (already intact) symmetry shaping the story for you.

Yes, I said shaping the story for you.

You see, when you embrace your mind as an individual and balanced piece of contradictory but completely stable poetry, your mind comes out to play and does most of the structuring for you.

So here’s what you do: Go into your body for a moment (yes, your body, not your mind), and find a kernel of heat, of wanting. Somewhere in your physical form is a desire to express some thought. Find one, focus your attention on it, and then allow the emotion within the kernel to expand throughout your physical form, to flood you, as it were, with color, heat, and particular emotion.

You just saturated yourself with theme. You gave your body a genre, so to speak. Now close your eyes, allow yourself to marinate in the sensation caused from releasing the very heart of that kernel, and let three words float up into your conscious mind.

Those three words, if you jot them down, will have a particular harmony, a jostling yet satisfying aura of fitting together, a symmetry, if you will.

Now, if you regularly practice this exercise while fixing your mind on a story idea, rather than a particular kernel of heat within your body, and you allow that fixed story idea to flood you, your mind and body will align to the feel and flavor of the core idea, and as you relax within the hot tub of emotional sensation caused by said meditation, your brain will compose for you, with no other effort on your part, matched metaphors, coherent themes, and tricky, enjoyable plot and character arcs that express the story idea with grace and considerable organic genius.

Try it. You might like it. And if you align your writing with the style you are already sneaking into your work (as with the writer from my anecdote who was sneaking horror into fluffy rom-com), your writing will become cleaner, more palatable to the readers who like that genre, and more naturally complex.

Plus, it’ll be more fun to write. Yay fun!

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, a bodyguard is having a private lesson from the hunter on some personal matters having to do with the courting of his sweetheart.