Author Archives: Anonymole

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Writer’s Log: 2166 Story Essential

Story Essential means every word counts. Every word moves your tale forward. Nothing is included just because you like the way it sounds, the way it feels—its literary bells chiming in the chapel.

But here’s another way to look at this concept. It’s math, so brace yourself.

  • The average page contains 200-250 words. We’ll settle on 240 for convenience.
  • It takes the average person one minute to read one page.
  • That means every second your reader will have read four words (240 / 60 = 4).
  • Four words per second.
  • Ten seconds go by and your reader has read forty words.

Here’s the kicker: Those forty words, WERE THEY WORTH THOSE 10 SECONDS OF READER’S TIME?

A whole minute goes by—a page—two hundred and forty words. Was every one of those words necessary? Did you waste any of the readers time with filler, do-nothing description or extraneous dialog that has nothing to do with enticing the reader to read the next page?

Story Essential means winnowing your narrative until no extraneous words burn reading time.

A starving reader craves story sustenance. A bloated one dismisses it.

~~~

For my workshop, I’ve been focusing on ground level mechanics, the tactical aspects of writing. It’s been pointed out that there’s another aspect which bears mentioning that, although not mechanics, ties in with the burgeoning writer: what to write.

I’m not talking about subject matter, any prompt of your own device or source (http://writingexercises.co.uk/create-a-setting.php or https://blog.reedsy.com/plot-generator/) will do. Specifically, I’m referring to what you see and hear in your mind when you portray your story’s settings and characters.

I skim over this concept in the workshop’s Writer’s Wrules, but essentially, becoming scene “in tune”, early on when one is learning to write, may help avoid difficult to shake habits that expose a writer as a noob: Info dumping, excessive description, disingenuous dialog, exhaustive soliloquies, or rambling character speeches, etc.

Immersing one’s imagination in the scene and extracting the essential details, the emotive ques that personify the moment—that trick, learned early on, will enhance the quality of narrative and propel a writer’s work up the levels scale.


Writer’s Log: 2163 Workshop slides

Writers Unite!

Or, at least agree that we are never done perfecting our craft.

Here’s the PowerPoint that I’ll be using as fodder for my assault against my Writer’s Workshop class: GDoc Slides I’ll continue to tweak it in the coming two weeks, but if you read it and want to add or correct something, feel free.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Here’s the text from the slides
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Writer’s Workshop
Fiction Mechanics

Take-aways
• Writing is a skill
• • It can be learned.
• Your own author’s voice will come
• • Copy first, then strike out and stand your ground (ignore the critics).
• Thick skin
• • False praise vs scathing critique.
• Writing ruined reading
• • Analytical reading, “editor’s hat” will haunt your reading forever.
• Rules and how to apply them
• • Muscle memory, focus on a few at a time.

POV
• First Person
• – “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.”
• The Hunger Games
• The Handmaid’s Tale
• – Everywhere I go I end up in places like this. They cramp my style, or so Mickey tells me. But with my budget… Woodja look a that. Gottdamn smudged mirrors, filthy carpets, water stains on the ceiling like Matisse stood on a chair and slapped it with a coffee mop. Sometimes, not often, I find blood.

POV
• Second Person
• – “You put the lime in the coconut, you mix it all up.”
• Few novels are written this way, but it’s good for recipes.
• – You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.
• -— Bright Lights, Big City
POV
• Third Person
• – “He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year, coming home to a place he’d never been before.”
• Singular • Limited • Omniscient
• – Johnny keys the lock and throws the plastic diamond on the scared dresser. “Everywhere I go, I end up staying in joints like this.” He checks out the filthy mirror and the ceiling, stains like a map of the world. In the bathroom he scans the floor. “I ain’t used to it. But nowadays I don’t freak out—blood in the sink, in the tub, everywhere.”
Tense
• Present or Past
• Present
• – If the wind blows any harder, I’m going to have to find better shelter. A stick flies by like an arrow as I run to the overpass.
• Past
• – The wind blew harder than I could stand. I ran to the overpass and tucked up tight into the corner. There I crouched as the tornado plowed through the town.

Characters
• The Protagonist. Who is your story about?
• • Know them intimately. What do they want vs what do they need? What drives them? What secrets do they hold? Who or what is holding them back?
• The Antagonist. Who or what is your main character fighting against?
• Think “Hero’s Journey”. What is the end-game?
• Who else is part of the story?
• • They each need their own motivation, their sub-plots.

Dialog
• What are dialog tags?
• • Reduce tags – use only said, told and asked (past tense), say, tell, ask (present tense).
• Use action in place of tags
• • People act while speaking.
• Internal dialog format
• • Internal dialog, quoted, italicized or plain.
• Who’s speaking?
• • Keeping track of who said what?
• Use dialog to set the pace, instill tension vs calm
• • Rhythm, cadence, natural, varied.
Dialog example – fix this
Johnny walked through the door of Mickey’s pawnshop. “How’s biz, Mick?” he asked.
“You know how business is,” Mickey sneered.
Johnny thought, what’s up with him today? “I got them containers you asked for. Where do you want ’em?”
Mickey replied gruffly, “Just leave them under the card table in the back.”
Johnny walked into the back, placed the box of snap-lid containers under the table and returned carrying a ukulele. “I used to play one of these, back in the day,” he said brightly.
Mickey didn’t care what Johnny had done ‘back in the day.’ “Put that back,” he griped. “Can’t you see that it’s signed by Ben Harami?”
“Ben Harami?” Johnny wondered.
Mickey scoffed. “Harami and his Harem? How old are you anyway?”
“Why you always down on me, anyway?”
“Where were you last night?” Mickey drilled. “I had a thick envelope right here. This morning, I can’t find it.”

Dialog tags – do not use them
accused burst out corrected gloated maintained put in seethed teased bleated retaliated started acknowledged cackled coughed greeted marveled puzzled shot tempted blurted retorted stated added called countered grimaced mentioned quavered shouted tested boasted revealed stormed addressed cautioned cried groaned mimicked queried shrieked testified boomed roared stressed admitted challenged croaked growled moaned questioned shrilled thanked bragged sang stuttered advised chatted crowed grunted mocked quietly sighed theorized brayed sassed suggested affirmed chattered cursed grumbled motioned quipped simpered threatened breathed screamed surmised agreed cheered dared guessed mumbled quizzed slurred told broke in scoffed swear announced chided decided gulped murmured quoted smiled trilled bubbled scolded taunted
answered chimed in declared gurgled mused raged smirked urged bugged tauntingly lisped apologized chirped demanded gushed muttered ranted snapped uttered concurred exploded purred approved chittered demurred hinted nagged reasoned snarled volunteered confessed exulted argued choked denied hissed nodded reassured sneered vowed confided finished asked chortled described hollered noted recalled sneezed wailed confirmed fretted asserted chorused disagreed howled notified reckoned snickered warned congratulated gasped assured chuckled disclosed huffed objected recounted sniffed went on continued gawked avowed claimed divulged hummed observed reiterated sniffled wept contributed gently babbled clarified doubted hypothesized offered related snorted wheezed convinced gibed badgered clucked drawled imitated opined remarked spat spun whimpered cooed giggled barked coached dribbled implied ordered remembered speculated whined jeered pondered bawled coaxed echoed informed panted reminded spluttered whispered jested praised beamed commanded effused inquired perplexed repeated spoke wondered jibed prayed began commented encouraged insisted pestered replied sobbed worried joked proclaimed
begged complained ended interjected piped reported spluttered yawned lamented promised bellowed complimented exasperated interrupted pleaded requested squeaked yakked laughed proposed bet conceded exclaimed intoned pled resounded squealed yelled lectured protested bickered concluded explained instructed pointed out responded stammered yelped lied provoked

Active vs Passive
• Is, Was, and Were
• Passive
• – The ship was tossed about like a toy in a washtub.
• Active
• – The sea tossed the ship about like a toy in a washtub.
• Declarative (quasi-passive)
• – Jenny was counting the fence posts when a deer leapt over the wire and slammed into their car.
• – (better) As Jenny counted the fence posts, a deer leapt over the wire and slammed into their car.
• – It was a dark and stormy night. The trees were every color of the autumnal rainbow.

Showing vs Telling
• Explaining vs describing, and then there’s info dumps
• Telling
• – Ben stood high above everyone’s head. He wore a too-small brown jacket whose crawled halfway up his forearms. When he walked he dragged the toes of his shoes like to leave furrows in the carpet. His favorite drink was a tequila sunrise but, mixed up to look like the sun through forest-fire smoke.
• Showing
• – “There’s a lot of dust on top of your fridge,” Ben said. “Let me clean it for ya.” He stretched but his jacket bound his arms. He shrugged it off and wiped the top clean.
• – “Is that why you’re shoes are all skuffed on the front?” Sherrie said, watching him shuffle across the floor.
• – “I guess,” Ben replied, swirling his drink until the grenadine and OJ mixed to a pleasing mango color.
Showing vs Telling
• Adverbs, use sparingly
• – The porcupine walked slowly across the road.
• – Charles breathed heavily after his run up the staircase.
• – “I’ll never get a date by tomorrow night,” Mary said sadly.
• Theater of the Mind
• Don’t spoon feed your readers
• – The box, five feet by five, stenciled letters all around the outside and brown with splinters showing where the stevedores had banged it into the sides of the container, dripped a suspicious liquid from one corner.
• Invite the imagination
• – The damaged box, big enough to hold a dozen children, leaked a vile liquid.

Conflict
• Internal
• Angst within a character
• Character vs character
• Character vs environment
• Expand the tension, never let up
• Allusions to a dark past and premonitions of what’s to come.
• Wants vs Needs:
• What the protagonist wants is often antithesis to what he truly needs.
• – Harry Potter wants to destroy Voldemort. What he needs is friendship.
• – Luke Skywalker wants to be a pilot. What he needs is purpose and a family.
Structure
• In medias res.
• Nested story,
• • chapter,
• • • scene,
• • • • paragraph,
• • • • • sentence
• Hooks, hangers, foreshadowing, leave a reader with a sense of ennui, apprehension, unease. Never “wrap things up.”

Story Time
Storytelling:
• Sequential or Episodic
• Flashbacks to introduce backstory.
• Time accounting. Keep track! Nothing is more jarring that scenes and references out of place.
• Prologue & Epilogue

Your Writing Process
• Outline (planner)
• Wing-it (pantser)
• Session word counts
• Schedule
• Why novelists write fast, edit slow.

Story Essential
• If narrative does not:
• • move the story forward,
• • contribute to the plot or the character’s development,
• • enhance the setting, the sense of where
• • or ratchet up the tension…
• DELETE IT!

Writer’s Wrules
• Every time you write a “was” think: how else could I say this?
• For every quote, ask yourself: How did they say it? What was their attitude, stance, facial expression, position, activity?
• For every dialog there are emotions: Who is happy, sad, angry, despondent?
• For every passage there is a setting. What does it smell like? What does it sound like? What is the weather, the climate? What time is it? What season is it? What room or terrain are they in?
• Don’t tell or report. Show the reader what’s happening.
• Create strong, dynamic characters that will thrive in my topic.
• In what location and era will I set my characters in order to best unravel my story?
• Should my story mean something? Should it push for sociological, political, familial, ideological change? Should your story try to make a difference, have influence, change things for the better, somehow, through narrative?
• Eliminate your use of flag words: very, quite, always, suddenly, quickly, and all the tiny obvious verbs (get, got, do, did, put, walked, went, gone, run, ran, see, saw, crossed, turned).
• Consider deleting words like knew/realized/saw/heard which don’t add much to our prose. “She knew Springtime meant starvation along the river…”
More Writer’s Wrules
• Grammar & spelling must be exact.
• Active vs passive, active every time.
• Controlled use of dialog tags, use only said, told, asked.
• Describe don’t explain (or show, don’t tell, for most). Adverbs tend to tell, that’s why they’re frowned upon.
• Maintain proper POV, avoid head-hopping.
• Consistency of voice, both of the story and the characters.
• Story mechanics: time accounting, flashbacks, dreams, travel, world building consistency.
• Cycles of conflict, action, resolution, reflection…
• Character arc: hidden angst, emotion, motive, doubt, conflict, result.
• Plot design and tuning: allusion, foreshadowing, subplots, intra-themes.
• If you’re writing narrative, setting, backstory, or context, can the characters take on that job instead of the author?
• Make your characters work for a living because that’s who the readers want to hear from, not you.
• The author is done when the plot and structure is complete; it’s the characters who are now delivering the story.
• Get out of the way of the story. As much as possible, let the people talk, move, behave.
• Emotion drives the characters who drive the story. Feel these emotions, try not to control them or constrain them, let them come out in the characters’ words and behavior.
Writerly Topics
• Strategic:
Narrative type (novel, novella, short story, flashfiction), Genre, Theme, Story, Plot & sub plots, Characters & supporting characters, Setting, Structure/Scenes, POV, Tense, Device – suspension of disbelief, Style, Pace, Tone, Climax, Conclusion, Denouement
• Tactical:
Active vs Passive, Dialogue, Rhythm, Mood, Description (threes), Show vs tell
• Both:
Voice, Diction (colloquialisms), Hooks, Conflict, Foreshadowing, Red Herrings, MacGuffins


Dear Mudge, Monkey Face

MonkeyFacedEel

Monkey-faced eel – not really an eel, but tasty.

OK, Mudge, you claim ambivalence rather than kindness. But at least you’re a polite ambivalent. (And didn’t you recently claim kindness as a goal? Which you retracted, yes, but I think the label stuck.)

As to making a worthwhile point—on any topic—all opinions matter equally, which is, as we’ve determined, not at all. Yours, piled high and reeking, would at least provide philosophic nutrition to worms, weevils and woodlice.

You posted a set of nice lyrics; hard to imagine they weren’t part of some sonnet or modern Shakespearean knockoff. I would point out that simply by acknowledging your appreciation of such a touching piece, you expose a human side that, although you state such sentiment has bled away, I think not.

Our recent conclusion that intelligence correlates with misery garnered numerous counter arguments. Here’s my rebuttal: Although the tally of those miserable on either side of the IQ curve may be equal, the quality and variation of misery on the high side and, were the weight of grief totaled (intensity + complexity + recurrence), our side would tip the scale. (If that’s not a Pyrrhic victory I don’t know what is.)

On the subject of writing about the philosophy of existence, upon reflection I’d say my personal intent is therapy. Vaporous thought is one thing, but persisting one’s ruminations, for me, allows logic to overlay the mystical. I gain perspective this way. Not to mention that rereading such pontifications, later in life, often provides a chuckle or two.

Writing fiction used to be me dreaming on paper. These days, given my blooming narrative enlightenment, attempting to create something of beauty is now my goal. Although also therapeutic, writing is a challenge and when executed well, proof that my faculties are still somewhat intact. In highlight, there’s nothing like being in the *flow*, the slipstream—time fades away, I exist only in the moment, the story. That feeling comes all to rare, but when it does, it’s euphoric. You should try it sometime (grin).

I’ve convinced my “writing class” that they need to deliver 1000 narrative words by the 4th of February. One has complied and I’ve already waded into that one, red pen slashing.  As I edit, I’m reminded of my own neophyte writing those years ago.

“Boy, you sure are brutal.” My first contributor patted me on the shoulder. “But all your comments are spot on.” I’m surprised at how effortlessly I see what needs to be changed. But this is all ground-level stuff. The elevated techniques, levels two and three and beyond, that I’ve mentioned in the Writer’s Log, are much harder to communicate and learn. These core writer’s skills, when they’re missing, stick out like a blue tie at a Drumpf rally.

Time and practice. Starting out, such advice always appears short-sighted, “well, duh.” Only after actually putting in the long duration effort, and then measuring one’s progress by analyzing beginners, can one acknowledge that dogged regimen is the only way to excel—at anything. I started this writing endeavor at age 55. You, just turning a half-century, I wonder what skills you could amass were you to apply such a theory. (Is Vet-Tech still in your cards?)

Concrete ideas are always so much easier to discuss. Can you build a birdhouse from clear plexiglass? Should Lunists & Martians leverage lava tubes as habitat? Would artificial floating ocean islands, SeaSteading, be productive and useful or a waste of resources? It’s fine once in a while, but getting wrapped up in continuous existential conundrums, oy, let’s go fishing for monkey-faced eel or hunting for peyote or something, anything…

Yours,
‘Mole


Writer’s Log: 2158 Writer’s Workshop

In my desire to learn to write well, I’ve decided that I’ve reached a point where my limited skills can be shared. So, I announced that I will be offering a Writer’s Workshop at my place of work; a couple of hours, after 5:00 pm on a weeknight within our same building (so that people can leverage their commutes). Half a dozen folks have already signed up.

I’ve reviewed my various “Writer’s Log” posts here as well as the compendium of advice I’ve received from various others (all dumped into a big-ass GDocs file) and reduced my syllabus down to the following list you see below. This list is a teaser I printed on strips of paper to hand out. The actual syllabus is a slide-deck of this content with examples and illustrations.

I’d like to solicit opinions from the writers in this group as to what you’d care to teach a set of neophytes on the task of writing well. This specific list comes directly from my own stumbling blocks upon which I skinned my shins repeatedly.

WRITER’s WORKSHOP

POV
Point of View

TENSE
Past & present

DIALOG
People act while speaking

ACTIVE vs PASSIVE
Was & were

CONFLICT
Bad things happening to good people

STRUCTURE
Nested story, chapter, scene, paragraph, sentence

TIME
Sequential, episodic, flashbacks

PROCESS
How to write: Plan, wing-it, a blend

TOPICS
Genre, Theme, Story, Plot, Characters, Setting, POV, Tense, Dialogue, Scenes, Conflict, Pace, Active vs Passive, Narration, Description, Show vs tell, Protagonist, Antagonist, Tone, Mood, Style, Voice, Diction, Device, Allusions, Red Herrings, MacGuffins, Hooks, Climax, Conclusion, Denouement.

 

 


Dear Mudge, Peanut butter

Dear Mudge,

You, sir, are one of the most enigmatic personalities who swims in these semi-anonymous waters. The net is nothing if not strong opinions voiced with impunity, don’t you think?

I hear your appeal to elevate the word “tribe” to mean actual, honest-to-god, tribes of native humans collected together for survival and cohesion. I hereby relinquish my use of the term for specious purposes (and I have used it frequently over the years). However, as you attempt to convince us that your curmudgeonly ways permeate your actual life, I call foul. As evidence I call forth this very repository of hypocrisy and your comments forthwith. Not even Gandhi himself could be more polite and considerate when addressing some of the just-as-strong opinions voiced here against/about our correspondence.

You sir, are a nice guy.

Regarding your supposition that intellect begets misery I would wholeheartedly agree. I’ve mentioned this very concept within these pages. I went searching and found this: https://anonymole.com/2017/06/21/how-smart-are-we/ and, in fact, if you search for “unhappy” here you’ll find a set of posts that pertain to this discussion. Basically (and I do mean that in its purest form of the word) the smarter you are the greater capacity you have for [words that reflect misery]. And happiness is about as far as you can get from intelligence.

Okay, that’s enough overt hot-linking (TomBeingTom). (Does anybody actually click embedded links? I don’t.)

On to my chosen topic of the moment: Peanut butter.

Seriously. I have this fascination for the origins of food. Where the hell did peanuts first come into culinary usage? (South America/Peru). Sesame seeds? The Fertile Crescent (where they may have been the first oil-pressed crop). Pistachios? (Afghanistan, as are hazelnuts). Turkeys, Tomatoes, Turmeric, Tilapia, Tapioca, Thyme, Turnips…

hazelnuttree

Hazelnuts / filberts grown in Oregon and Afghanistan

We don’t often consider food provenance but I do. Italians and tomatoes and polenta, Irish and potatoes, Asia and their peppers, all of it barely 500 years old, all of it “stolen” native foods. While humans have obviously been cultivating and consuming these foods for millennia, we rarely consider how recent our spice, nut, fruit and veggie basket has filled out due to globalism. The point I’m slowly getting to here is that, although we love to share food-culture across the planet and, I suspect, eventually, Terran food will be a thing (as opposed to Lunar or Martian food), we refuse to admit our global humanity; the tribe (ahem) of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Music, dance, art, food — all of these things tend to unite us. Although, like yourself, I don’t really give a shit about humanity as a cosmic entity, I still like to contemplate grand problems and propose grandiose solutions; they’re like puzzles, intricate quandaries that beg for analysis, elucidation and answers.

And so, in our wretched profundity, embittered by our self administered flagellation, were you to envision a day where your contempt for mankind, as compelling as it might be, is tempered by something, some occurrence, some transformation that renders humanity tolerable—what might that event be? Clearly, sagacious beings before us have gazed upon mankind and hoped someday that our species could elevate itself above its petty differences and see the universe as a frontier only we, humanity can hope to explore. Do you see such a possibility, in some future epoch? A globally shared peanut butter sandwich?

Aw, hell. Fuck that. I’m just yanking your chain. I’m trying to see how many 9+ letter words I can get into a post in remembrance of your dead blogging site.

Oh, and ZorkerBorg? Yeah, fuck him. I despise that pissant, the lucky prick that he is.

Happy dead of winter,
‘Mole

[PS: You’ll notice that if you end a post on a Fuck You tone, few people are wont to comment. I did this intentionally as I wanted to see if both yours and mine both elicited the same disgust. It appears to be the case. I wager that if we end our next correspondences with rainbows and ribbons, we’ll get a different response.]

[PPS: For Mr. Van Helsing, “The Peanut Butter and banana sandwich, or peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich, sometimes referred to as an Elvis sandwich or simply the Elvis, consists of toasted bread slices with peanut butter, sliced or mashed banana, and sometimes bacon. Honey is seen in some variations of the sandwich.” Wikipedia]


Dear Mudge, Tribal Context

TribalContext

Dear Mudge,

Didn’t work a day in 2019? What did you call that work-a-day drudgery where you slogged, scene-by-scene, through that teencom “Fifteen” for Notes from the Avalon? If that wasn’t work, I’ve got a slew of yard “scenes” for you that need editing (mowing and pruning)…

I like your choice in calendars. I, for one, don’t use one. What future event do I have to look forward to that deserves a reminder or planning? Now, if I knew the date and time of my death, I’d gladly buy a stack of calendars (or just the one) to eagerly “X” off the days. I recall a time-management guru who once said, subtract your age from 80, multiple that by 52 and go buy that many marbles, placing them in a jar on your shelf. Every Saturday, take one out and throw it away. A sobering reminder of the passage of time.

In this letter I’d like to examine the concept of tribes and the context they provide.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that within this narrow context of our correspondence we’ve developed a tribe of sorts, surely between the two of us, but I’d expand the embrace and say there are numerous others who participate in this philosophical experiment—the examination of life’s puzzles and choices, being the focus. And within that focus, were recommendations voiced: movies, books, cartoons, art, etc. we’d be inclined to trust those recommendations. Trust the Tribe.

Other tribes that we might examine are satellite to this one but still important: one’s family, one’s work place, other’s whom you share thoughts of cuisine, travel, hobbies, and so forth. All tribal circles, if you will, that, within their own context, provide valuable guidance in choosing directions.

TomBeingTom, for instance, has his football/beer tribe, a group he trusts to recommend like-minded pursuits and suggestions: restaurants, team sports, BBQ recipes, cheese-dip… From them, he’s unlikely to accept advice on erudite non-fiction books regarding human evolution. He’s got other tribes for that.

In this way, the cultivation of numerous, individual tribal contexts seems like a crucial aspect to developing a working, enjoyable lifestyle. Different peeps for different needs and situations.

Ultimately, it would be nice to have a single context which provides for all one’s questions and accepts, in turn, one’s recommendations. In actuality, just the opposite seems to be the trend, factions of fractions, all with narrowly defined goals and stipulations.

Your tribe selection appears limited. Mine just as much. This tribe of folks here is a strangely time-dominate context, one my wife grudgingly bequeaths.

What are your thoughts on this concept? Additionally, what are your thoughts on how the media has used it to divide and conquer our sentiments and beliefs, and if you have notable tribes, currently or in the past, what might they be and how do you think they influence (have influenced) your life.

New year like the old year, only greyer and slower.

Your friend,
‘Mole

PS: Thanks to Audrey Driscoll for the prompt for this post: The “Why” of recommendations.

 


Dear Mudge, Complacency

Dear Mudge,

Does complacency equate to surrender?

In acquiescence do we relinquish a piece of ourselves to the other side? Is compromise a sign of weakness, or wisdom?

I hear your 2019 summer campaign to battle your own existential apathy, which you overwhelmingly won in the completion of your self-made challenge to document, as a sirens call to a muse I’ll never understand—the Canadian teen-com “Fifteen”, has afforded you some well earned, if unexpected, adulation from various members of the cast of that ignominious cavalcade of petulant pulchritude. Congratulations.

I mention your Quixotic pursuit as you, in contrast to my opening statement, most certainly did not give up in the throes of self-doubt and a certain bet against you (your $1000 remains a debt you may still collect provided you adhere to aforementioned stipulations).

And as I mention your triumph, I can’t help but consider our recent epistolary exchange and how we both appeared to have come to the conclusion that living at the “N’th” level was untenable. And that at least the N-1 level must be embraced in order to not dwell in a perpetual, self-induced living hell.

If what I’ve read on your NFTA blog is indication, I would applaud your expansion of N-1 and hope to read of your pursuits along that vein.

I did, however, begin this treatise with another point in mind regarding complacency. One I hope that, were you to once again take up the pen, you might apply in Ningun 2.0, which is, specifically, writers can never let their characters enjoy a drop of extended comfort.

Dorothy can never, truly, feel comfortable while she travels the lands of OZ. Luke may never enjoy perpetual peace. Frodo must forever endure an unrestful soul. Alice cannot be allowed to put her feet up and take a weekend off. Harry’s Christmas platitudes are mere lozenges dosed with laudanum designed to lure us into languid, lazy lassitude in preparation for the next heavy Hagrid-boot drop.

Briefly, we can never let our characters rest. Readers must feel compelled to turn the page to learn what calamity awaits our hero. Constant, relentless trepidation must permeate our writing. This technique dominates my thoughts as I continue writing on my next major novel effort.

In contrast, for our actual lives, I wish you nothing but placid, Avon waters serenity, dragonflies and water-skippers, ribbon ripples and pareidolian paradolian clouds drifting through your country-picnic days of 2020.

Best in the coming year,
‘Mole

DantesHell

That’s you and me at N-1