Author Archives: Anonymole

About Anonymole

Do you like grubs?

Dear Mudge, A mindful youth

Hi Mudge,

How’s your vet-tech pursuit coming along? Save any hamsters or poodles yet? My son and his girlfriend have an African hedgehog as a pet they named “Kitty” (what?). Strange creature. Didn’t the Red Queen play croquet using hedgehogs as balls? Will you be specializing in a subset of species? Curious minds…

I see you’re back at your quantum existential possibility questions. As I mentioned in comments, I prefer simplicity. What’s the most likely scenario as to what we are, why we’re here, is my existence part of a larger whole or a singular occurrence where my so called consciousness manifests all that I see around me? In my mind the simplest answer applies: we’re animated bags of chemicals being the result of emergent behavior stemming from both the vast chaos and fundamental atomic rules that govern the cosmos; that is, happy/traumatic accidents. But, such an answer seems a let down, so humanity contrives more complicated scenarios that provide an elevated basis for existence. Bah! DNA and its core raison d’etre—that of persistence—emerged from chaos, the result being us.

NoPhonesAllowed

This morning I awoke thinking of her. But after she melted away from my subconscious I considered my formative years and how different they were from those of today’s youth. In this letter I’m talking about portable technology. At age 10, I walked out the door, on a warm summer’s morning and didn’t return until hunger or darkness insisted, a pocketknife and a bicycle my only accoutrements. Even up into my 20’s a set of keys, a pocketknife, and a wallet was all I carried. The only technology available at that time being a radio in a car or truck. During those years I was engaged with the world. It filled my senses. And if the world proved dull, my own mind entertained me. I’m certain my best thinking time was had riding a motorcycle hellbent along meandering coastal roads.

Will today’s youth lament that which they never had?

All their thinking is done for them—in the cloud, by strangers.

I consider that society won’t truly know what happens to folks, constantly plugged in, until the ’00’s generation is in their 40’s. Those children, raised with an “i”… in their hands, their eyes and ears immersed in virtual worlds, what will have become of their minds by age forty? Is there any way back from this conversion to a digital consciousness?

I only use a phone as an occasional information tool and annoying alarm system: “Honey, are you coming home yet?” But my kids, I’m certain they would become inconsolably distraught at the loss of their phones. I suspect they would survive, but they enjoyed their early years sans-technology, catching lizards, picking berries, beach combing and whatnot—no insidious technology around.

When the CME finally strikes triggering the End of Electricity, what of the ’00’s who know nothing but the net? Will they descend into catatonic digital-detox?

What endearing youthful stories do you have that personify who you’ve become today?

Your friend,
‘Mole

 

 


Dear Mudge, Life Beyond the Oosik

Dear Mudge,

For the most part, we all have work-a-day minds. Hearing of yours, at the outset of your endeavor, engendered fellowship, and was therefore not tedious.

The enthusiasm of your associates at your big step back into the grind hallmarks either their alleviating concern for your well-being, or selfish intent due to you sharing the agony of their daily slog. I know what you’d say, but I’d wager on the former.

Per “The lie we live to live” (— Anonymole), survival in this day and age, I believe, is just a string of diversions. If you get stuck on one, so be it. Else you blunder ’till the next one. Fortunately, the offering is exhaustive. And if blogs, books, or Amazon’s cornucopia of distractions doesn’t meet your needs, the world has infinite room for new ones.

I recall some Inuit classmates of mine, when I went to UA Fairbanks, who owned oosiks, scrimshawed until they resembled tubular cities. Such things were often massive and painfully long. One fellow, Jack Derenoff, half Russian, half “Eskimo”, owned many. I doubt collecting baculums remained a lifelong passion.

oosik

Teaching? Just another diversion. Our brains are much too big (those here, reading these words at least), for our own good. Idle or active pastimes are a must. Codifying and organizing the writing process, though looked on with derision by some, allows me some pleasure. Another distraction of mine is, as I’ve often mentioned here, collecting evidence for life/no life in the Universe. I wandered upon this video. I share it as I found the production top-notch.

Pondering such things, as philosophers are wont to do, does give perspective on the pointlessness of existence. Have other beings of the Cosmos examined the Absurd Universe? If they exist, which I doubt, then perhaps they have. And their realization of the quandary may be our answer to Fermi’s Paradox.

Ever wondering,
‘Mole


Writer’s Log: 2170 Workshop Review

My Writing Workshop was a success.

Two hours, the first one with me power-driving through the strategic and tactical slides. Then an hour of presenting some of the participant’s work and walking through edits I’d made.

No one wanted to go home despite the late hour. Writers, sheesh. They don’t know when to quit.

I solicited some feedback and here was a comprehensive reply:

“Honestly, was very interesting and easy for me to follow. I left the meeting feeling a little burned out because I felt like I learned quite a few really very useful and interesting things. Your expertise on the subject matter was apparent. To me one of the most important aspects was you listed a number of meaningful calls to action to improve our work.

I left the meeting feeling encouraged by the fact that if I work at it, I will continue to improve. providing the calls to action is a really important part of that. It will be important to maintain the progression I think. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was your first time leading a instruction and critique session.

Perhaps something that could add value is to find specific examples of some of the areas of improvement within the our work and talk through some of the edits that you suggest. Of course that would be easier if people didn’t submit 20 minutes before the session started haha.

Overall, very educational, and encouraging. Will look forward to participating in the future.”

Although I didn’t record it (sorry Goldie, George) I’m pretty sure it happened.

Another:

“I thought the workshop was excellent. I appreciated that you tackled the basics. I like the idea of moving on to higher level information, but i think it would be great to do more of a deep dive on some of the basics like dialogue and scenes before we move into strategy. It was nice that you gave feedback to everyone. Maybe next time we could also do a deep dive on one person’s work and have a discussion about it? This might help people to start thinking critically. “

Initially, my nervousness showed. But after I moved through the Takeaways slide, I got into explaining my ideas on each of the big pieces. I noticed that, rather that read the slides, I ignored them, and spoke around the material, providing a parallel take on the bullet points I’d provided. I personally hate when speakers just read the frickin’ slides. (The folks get to access the presentation at their leisure.)

I did use the material I’d created for the basic skills—the tactical. Reading a sentence and assessing why it either works or doesn’t (given all the factors that make up a good sentence: dialog-tags, active/passive, show-v-tell, adverbs, story essential) helps drive home what ‘writing well’ truly means. To me, internalizing these sentence tactics is both the hardest yet critical aspect to good writing. You can have the most fantastical plot, the strongest characters, and the greatest setting, but without having mastered the basics, your story will suck.


Apocalyptic Scenario 8.a

“You’re doing it again.”

I’d been staring at Leo’s hands, their wrinkled backs, as he worked the numbers. Dozens of printed negatives lay scattered across the sandalwood table, the stars reversed to black, fuzzy dots. We’d been at it for hours, photographing the night sky, focusing on one narrow quadrant of the cosmos high above the island of Kauai.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “Have you figured its diameter?”

“I need one more image printed. The one at three-oh-seven.” Leo maintained that being an astrophysicist had little to do with observing celestial bodies and more to do with grinding out the math.

I tapped the laptop’s keys, printed and slipped the fresh page next to the others. “Stuffy in here,” I said as I levered out the awnings that let the sweet smell of the Nā Pali Coast drift in. Our observation shack, high above the Waimea Canyon, remained in the sunrise shadow of the mountains, but the glow at the horizon promised another lovely day.

Continued here…


Dear Mudge, How to learn?

Hey ‘Mudge,

Busy times. I suspect we’ve both had our hands full. Me, exhausted from learning a new software platform (Microsoft D365) and you, starting a new career with a whole universe of knowledge to master.

I hope there’s time, here and there, for you to share your experiences. Does such a grand adventure deserve its own venue? (Of course, you’re always welcome here.)

Regarding these latest endeavors, I’ve taken pause to reconsider the process of learning. I say ‘reconsider’ as I’ve (and perhaps we’ve) examined the aspects of changing one’s mind here in these posts. And learning, to me, is the epitome of “changing your mind.”

How do you learn? I mean you, specifically. Have you considered it in abstract form? Learning something new, both mentally and physically, seems straightforward. Take the new material, read it. Read it again. Discuss it. Use it in practice, bit by bit until it sticks. The same for physical skills: condition your body, muscle by muscle, motion by motion, until you no longer have to think to move—you just flow.

Muscle memory.

My pastime endeavor, learning to write well, is more problematic. Not only do I have to learn new skills, I also have to unlearn old ones. Break bad habits and replace them with good ones.

And so, as I’m wont to do, I analyze the process and communicate my findings here.

  • The most permanent lessons learned are those that caused pain. This is one of the reasons why, by the end of our lives, most of our memories are of traumatic incidents. Happy memories? Wiped away by age. Painful memories? Burned into our minds by our innate need to survive.
  • Holistic lessons are useless. “Be the ball.” “Be who you want to become.” “Fake it ’till you make it.” How? How does one specifically accomplish such things? Details. I need finite details to apply, in repetition, to alter my behavior, that is, change my mind.
    Sweeping statements provide no guidance. They only serve to obfuscate the process.
  • The mind’s storage ability must be taken into account: short term vs long term memory. Painful memories becomes permanent due to the fact that we dwell on the situation of the trauma. How did this happen? Can I prevent it in the future?
    Skillful memories become permanent through repetition. We must transfer our short term instruction into long term knowledge through practice.
    But such abilities must be discrete, singularly identifiable such that one can consider them in reflection. And, by reflecting upon them, commit them to permanent memory.
  • So, how can we learn a vast, complex skill like “writing well” or “vet-tech”? We must deconstruct the whole into its learnable components, pieces small enough to be practiced and mastered individually.

It is with such analysis that I am assembling this writer’s workshop. And indeed, how I continue to apply myself to this 10,000 hour, 1 million words endeavor.

I’m anxious to hear of your progress,
‘Mole

HardWork


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
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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