Three Types of Inspiration and Which Ones I Avoid

7 08 2022
  1. Axe-Grinding: Something is rubbing my chaps or grinding my gears or generally making me angry. The nature of romance. That horrid politician. The state of society. Delusions of those who disagree with me. The problem with Axe-Grinding is that I never enjoy writing about things I hate. I rush through the writing and create characters without depth and a dissatisfying ending. There are writers who can Axe-Grind, and I wonder at their approach. Cory Doctorow writes about disagreeable politics and technology and he gets his points across. Gretchen Felker-Martin wrote about people who want her dead and somehow didn’t make it a screed. Dunno how they do it. When I’m writing something and I think, “Yeah! That’ll show those bastards!” I go have a nice lay-down.
  2. Inspired by Life/Catharsis: I realize things about my life, you know? Decades pass and disparate memories click together into a realization. Or new experiences cast a moment in a new light. Or a direct experience can be made into a character arc, if I tweak it a little. Editors have liked these stories, but writing them weighs on me. Writing is an escape from my unending self-scrutiny. I write about my personal life now only once in a while.
  3. The Image: An image strikes. An image clean of politics or regret. As I’ve noted in previous posts, my turn of mind ranges from absurdity to horror. A mummified Victorian meditating. An imp birthing from an eye socket. A sentient ribcage jumping along a suburban sidewalk. Yeah, they disturb me too. But I know by exploring an idea unrelated to my beliefs, that my 1) axe-grinding and 2) catharsis will release in a way relevant to whatever story emerges. Keep in mind: I subject what images and feeling that appear to scrutiny, maybe unreasonable, that they not remind me of anything other media. Some images do not work and I’ve learned to avoid or compartmentalize them they feel inspired by the surrealism I like to read sometimes.

Now I’m trying to use writing prompts so I can increase output. Using prompts feels odd. Prompts don’t resonate as deeply. Prompt writing seems more analytical, as I am using a different part of my brain. I’m concerned that I’ll lose whatever “ME” is in the writing, the “ME” that got past stories published.

In a related subject: there are respected authors who write about their religion or politics. One guy had deep conflicts with his deeply Catholic father, then had a near-death experience, and now expounds from an Opus Dei pre-Vatican II perspective. One woman is a loving parent and wife, and she knows she has depression and OCD, yet has become a Truther about Every Possible Subject.

How can one live without the awareness of trauma affecting outlook? How can they allow themselves to speak on deeply loaded subjects and reinforce delusions in others?

This is why I prefer writing from an Image. This forces me to create well-rounded characters in conflicts removed from Real Issues, while allowing for emotional exploration.

Continuing exploration in magick. Between this and self-hypnosis, I’ve been getting more comfortable in expressing myself.




OKAY, REVISIONS!

2 08 2022

I received critiques of the whole novel from Noble Fusion Eastern Court. I received critiques on the first few chapters from writers on the Online Writers Workshop, plus encouragement.

Writer and OWW organizer Judith Tarr wrote: “The bones of this chapter are solid. There are some vivid and memorable images, and the story moves rapidly forward. Olivia is a strong character; her motivations are clear. There’s no question about what she wants or how she intends to get it.”

Author Kate Tyte provided useful guidance: “I feel you could make some things clearer, simpler and more obvious. I was confused by the homunculous of Olivia’s lover, for example. You have good characters and conflict, but sometimes that gets a bit lost. Gretchen wants to be cured of cancer, and maybe to get back together with her boyfriend, and to get her life together. Olivia wants to find her lover, for magical purposes. The boyfriend wants to be famous. Can you focus on making those things the focus, and very clear, and not losing sight of them?”

I am incorporating these critiques into the chapters still to be posted on OWW. I’m sending updated drafts to my non-writer friends to get their advice.

Here are two AI renderings of key images in “Saints of Flesh”. The prompt on the second one was “cancer polyp jewelry”.

experimenting with chaos magic




“NOPE” Review and What Would I Would Have Done

22 07 2022

SPOILERS!

Peele’s movie has two stories brought together to make a theme. He swung for the fences with both stories, but having them together messed up the momentum of both. Their tension did explain the motives of characters in both (OJ explains Jean Jacket’s asserting its dominance, matching the chimp’s attack; while Jupe’s awe at bumping fists with the gore-covered chimp explaining Jupe’s later fascination with Jean Jacket). Peele used Tarrantino cinema style to create this Hollywood story, using graphic placards, time jumps, sudden slams to black, but the spine of this movie was weak. There was no impending doom like in “Inglorious Basterds” or “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”. The doom created impetus to keep watching while any digression was welcome relief to the presumed fates, those fates of course being twisted into the unexpected.

The cinematographer Antlers puzzled me. He was a foil for the protagonists, but his spiritual rumination seemed an attempt to add both humor and gravitas. Perhaps he was meant to harken to an earlier age, in that the video tech maybe represented the entertainment of today, and Antlers the passions of yesterday.

Maybe get rid of the video tech and have Antlers be more contemporary. One less character to juggle. Still have the surveillance gear and Antlers reverting to his antique film camera in the third act.

Let’s consider that Jupe’s encounter with the murderous chimp led to his wrong-headed trust of Jean Jacket. Let’s consider that Jupe had already brought horses for Jean Jacket to eat over several nights. Let’s consider that the second scene Jean Jacket has fed on screaming humans and their detritus plummeted onto the ranch to kill O Sr.

Maybe Jupe could have enticed some unhoused people to where Jean Jacket could eat? Jupe could have watched the chimp being trained and believed the monster could be tamed. So, finally, in the third act, Jupe could lose control and Jean Jacket could still eat everyone, and that event could have more impact.

Because this movie is filled with a lot of action, but aside from Brother and Sisters’ story arc of fidelity, there isn’t much here to care about. Forty people are eaten, as are a family of five, two additional supporting characters, several horses, and unseen other people, and frankly not much is made of it.





Summary of Ray Bradbury’s Tips For Writers

21 07 2022

Some years ago, I posted a sour assessment of “Zen and The Art of Writing”, a memoir by Ray Bradbury of his life and writing. He seemed to rest his success on his supportive upbringing and sunny disposition, neither of which I had a lot of while growing up. I have not revisited my post, but this summary makes a good case for ZatAoW as a good writing guide.

Have a look and I do recommend buying the book from your local bookseller.





Ian Fleming On Writing Thrillers, Writing For Fun, Writing For Money

14 07 2022

A pretty neat article! Wanna write streamlined action prose? Here it all is in one list.





Writers Groups Like My New Novel Darft (Draft)

12 07 2022

Yes it does say “darft”, I’m trying to generate some whimsy here.

Because things are going quite well. Everyone is following the sequence of events and understanding the cause/effect of the “magic system”. The darft tenses shift around and I have to fix that. The big reveal is shocking! The climactic resolution? It resolves five characters — five! — in one scene! And everyone is good with it! The characters are all likable and relatable!

The main characters are women. The women who are critiquing like the woman characters! I kept their motives as sex-free and guy-free as possible, and the critics really liked that.

What they seem to like: there is no villain, just people bumbling around making mistakes; the use of unusual settings like Ren Faires; taking risks with descriptions of emotions, getting as precise in their physical affects as possible; personal quirks that aren’t eccentric (showing reliable bias towards particular flavors, styles, tastes); keeping real-life branding and signifiers out of the story (I am reminded of a National Lampoon parody of Stephen King: “Pepsi!” he screamed in terror.)

This book is such a change from the previous book. “The Flesh Sutra” is a fix-up novel episodic, gothic, nudging on erotic (meter and rhyme accidental here, that was cheesy). “Saints of Flesh” is streamlined more like a novel with lots of ghastly stuff but literally no sex.

I’m still compiling reviews, but I dunno, maybe it’ll be off to agents/editors by the end of the summer?

I want to work on flash fiction for a while.





George Saunders “Thoughts On Endings”

7 07 2022

Ten thoughts on endings from George Saunders’s Substack. The last one is the best.





Sigilengine.com Lets Me Experiment With Magick/Hacking My Subconscious

1 07 2022

I’ve written about art and reality are a dialogue allowing the artist to change. I’ve written about how my writers group pushed me to change my protagonist from a tragic romanticist to a protagonist who is more proactive and hopeful. In time, hopefully, I will tell you how that helped me grow past obsessing about supposed deficiencies and actually working toward growing.

Chaos Magick had always appealed to me. It supported the conclusions of my pragmatic upbringing while emphasizing the importance of creativity. I have neither the faith nor the energy for complex ritual and Chaos lets you invent your own process.

I liken it to playing slight of hand with my neurosis. By doing something unusual, by taking a small risk relating tangentially to specific goals, any progress toward that goal helps me to think I have control. Which yes, I do have control over my life, but my neurosis does not believe that. This slight-of-hand makes me more confident to see opportunities more clearly.

My goals are relationship and writing-based. I went to sigilengine.com and followed the instructions. The resulting designs were drawn in sketch pads and adapted into cartoons. Then in accordance with the sigil process, I forget the original requests and pay attention to the cartoons.

Coloring the cartoons needed a liminal state, so I listened to the same song on repeat while drawing and coloring.

Have a look. I have only slight idea what these represent.





Just Sent Out Novel Draft To Beta Readers. Here’s What to Ask Them.

30 06 2022

I have a primary irl writers group, an online writers group, and interested friends reviewing my draft. The first concern would be: with som many points of view, wouldn’t I get overwhelmed by detailed critiques? Yes, however! Critiques are like product reviews. You have a look at them, gather their commonalities and adjust based on what lots of people need for the work to be better.

Even people who don’t like my genre can help! Heck, even people who didn’t like the book at all can help.

How? First, for those people who bailed on reading, ask “where in the plot did you lose interest?” Chances are they lost interest where an enthusiastic reader would: at exposition, or dialogue which held no benefit to the story, or at a stylistic darling which jarred the tone. They may bail out if the stakes aren’t clearly described, so like I always say, summarize the stakes before or at the 20% mark of the complete work.

That was for the non-genre readers. For readers already fluent in speculative fiction, what questions can you ask them?

  1. Does this draft remind you of any other existing work? A resemblance to existing books or media may be a good thing, in that you may not realize you wrote “Moby Dick In Space” (did not write that) and people like both Moby Dick and Space. Or it may be bad because It’s Been Done and This Ain’t Fresh. For that reason, if someone tells me one of my drafts reminds them of another work, I seriously consider abandoning the project. I am a snob and this being a snob has made my life difficult. But it forces me to come up with better ideas.
  2. Can you relate to the characters? Not “do you like the characters”, because like actual people, characters exist for their own benefit and on their own merits. Your friends annoy you sometimes, and That Guy can be admirable sometimes. Judge the characters on the clarity of expressiveness and motivations.
  3. Is The Science too easy? Whatever powers warp drives or werewolves needs to be inconvenient in proportion to the benefit.
  4. I aim for three sensory details per page. I forgot to check for that before I sent out the draft.
  5. The Clean Silhouette. Characters need to be easy to imagine. Not stereotypical, because that is LAAAAAAZZYYYY. But if you were to turn off the lights so that you could only see their outline, could you tell one character from another?
  6. The Gut Punch Image/Good Kill. In “The Flesh Sutra”, I had a man birth himself from the tumor in another man’a brain. In “Saints of Flesh”, I’m going after cosmic horror (which I did somewhat satisfying) and body horror (yeah, some good stuff). Both present strong images.

Do any of you have questions you ask your readers?





Portents? Am I Magicking Myself?

14 06 2022

I woke last week with a muscle cramp in my right shoulder spreading from my forearm to outside my shoulder blade. I tried to gut it out over two nights bad sleep. Then I was reminded of the deep tissue massage kiosk at The Mall. I paid $30 to be pummeled over a total 30 minutes. Felt better just in time for a day off so I could work on the revision that I realized I had been procrastinating.

Drank a cola at lunch and the pain came back almost as bad as before. At Panera, in front of my laptop, it did not subside.

I looked at my hand. I honestly became concerned. The ache spread so badly. Would this interfere with my day job? Would I even be able to type?

A realization quieted everything.

“Would I be able to type?”

I thought the pain may be something like how my body reacted when it was time to become Big Time Publisher and throw panic attacks at me.

Immediately, I opened my draft. I began fixing the first sentence of the chapters. And the ache ebbed away.

Then the pain came back. No easy answer here. No such luck.

I did a pass on the last three chapters for clarity. Now that I’m done, the pain is like an ice-cream headache centered on my shoulder.

I’m rather happy for this book.

Had a dream after seven this morning, maybe based on the ibuprofen kicking in. I dream often of enormous wooden structures, boarding houses the size of stadiums. Usually they are in need of repair. This morning the building was seemingly brand-new. I was part of a loose-knit theater group that had forgotten that today they were to perform.

The performers were a few former members of my comedy group and a variety of 30-ish people like those at my day job. The performance was supposed to be a multi-media comedy/drama of some critical importance. My first reflex was to head for the hills.

We pulled together and created this piece that mixed back-stage preparations of the show with the show’s performance, which is something I had wanted to do for decades. Dozens of 30-ishes leapt in with big trucks and lots of their own props to assemble spaces throughout this small area of this enormous victorian house. The set pieces include existing stairways, storage rooms, porches, rooms where one wall faced the outside. Props were automobiles, stage lights, tapestries, junk, all in the earth tones of the discarded. Audience wandered through all day.

At one point, though, I am not wearing clothes. A few 30-ish audience see my genitals. They giggle or show disdain at my performance faux pas. The performance had taken a hit by my blunder. What I remember is a 30ish telling me that one of our performers Dean Martin (that Dean Martin) took off his shirt and did a GG Allin punk-rock body thrash on the small wooden stage.

It was understood that overall the show had satisfied, in the way an ensemble piece satisfied; my own performance had not been good that evening, but it was the performance and its dialogue with the audience that had created a unique, satisfying moment. I awoke feeling that a portion of me had briefly reawakened; that bit of brain from being an impulsive kid at heedless play, something more basic than professional improvisation, or maybe a place without consciousness. The feeling opened a sunny, living part of me I had forgotten.

If I’m lucky, I have thirty years of life before me. If I can get back to that state of mind, I will count myself fortunate.








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