Category Archives: Writing

Science writing: To the point

If you’re going to write about science — get to the damn point. All I need is the highlights, the topics, the bullet points. And if there are pertinent details, make them brief and absent of flourish.

So many of the literary news outlets publish narrative science articles that I’m afraid it’s become an art. A pointless and irritating art.

Take this one for instance (don’t go here, don’t give them the courtesy):

7,800 words in that frickin’ thing. I don’t have the time or patience to burn thirty minutes slogging through some “writer’s” portrayal of science dudes’ childhoods: “When he was 11, his mother bought him a subscription to a medical encyclopedia series.” Fuck-me-Alex.

Get to the point and get out. It’s science — just the pertinent facts, ma’am. All the actual data required to deliver the concepts of brain tissue reanimation could have been provided in a tenth the words. But no, the writer had to turn it into a biography.

And this happens time and time again. 10,000 word diatribes about artificial intelligence and machine learning, or meandering missives on Neanderthal DNA in modern Homo Sapiens. It seems that every sexy scientific topic begs a “story.” Sorry, I don’t want window dressing on my low earth orbit launch technologies, or thermal depolymerization of ocean plastic…

I just want the concise, to-the-point facts about the advances or failures of the science and technology. Spare me backstories, please. If you have to, write a sweeping expose’ on some social or historical topic or event — leave the science for the fact writers.

 


Writer’s Log: 2055 Needs vs wants

Every story told comes down to the most basic of themes:

Characters attempting to fulfill wants and needs.

(My wife actually personified the difference between a want and a need when she related her eighth Christmas telling her parents: I want a record player, but I need a wagon.)

I went searching for inspiration along this line of thinking (story telling themes) and I happened to stumble upon a comment about Lord of the Rings. It’s not exactly related to this theme of character wants and needs but, it explains common plots so well that I wanted to share it:

Thomas Munch: “I think some of the best stories have a mix of all basic plots – Lord of the Rings is a good example:

  1. Overcoming the Monster (Kill Sauron, Saruman , Orcs etc.)
  2. Rags to Riches (Aragorn to King)
  3. Quest (Destroy Ring)
  4. Voyage and Return (Mount Doom and home again)
  5. Comedy (Hobbits dialogue)
  6. Tragedy (Dead of Boromir)
  7. Rebirth (The Rohan king, the transformation of Gollum)
  8. Mystery (Is Frodo’s ring the One?)
  9. Rebellion against the one (Fight against Sauron)”

REF: https://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/basic-plots.html

Considering each of those plot concepts, every one (perhaps excluding Comedy & Tragedy) exposes that simple tenet: Stories are about characters’ wants and needs.

As I continue my WIP: A Touch of Red (a post-apocalyptic tale of a fallout illness that changes people genetically,) I’m trying to imagine it in various plot lights. But as the quote above illustrates, many plot themes can be applied to stories. So, really, post-analysis of any story might expose the the fact that stories fit many plot concepts and that the focus should be on the character’s fulfillment path of their desires and their essential needs.

Force a character to need something out of their grasp, instill in them wants that conflict or divert them from fulfilling that need and fill the page describing the tension between them.

 


Writer’s Log: 2048 Disturbing Content

All of us can dream up some pretty ugly scenarios.

Depraved, disturbing, deranged. I’d wager you could come up with some horrific scenes with some downright criminal activity. Stuff you’d feel you could never put to paper. So, how is it that some authors can actually write that stuff and not be thought of as insane?

For my latest work in progress I’ve decided to abandon some of my social constraints and write of gawd-awful acts and heinous behavior. Immolation, horse stomping children, murdering a pregnant woman, soon the dismemberment of a “bad dude.”

Holy Hell Batman! That’s some nasty shit. Are you sure you want to have your name associated with such wickedness? Are you sure you want your editor/mother (78) to read of such unspeakable cruelty? What will she think of you now? Disturbed? Perverted?

Frankly, I don’t know. But, I figure if I can visualize it, then so can others, and if it fits the story, then so be it.

But, day-yam, that’s some corrupt sewage leaking out of my brain.

Have you written content you know others would find disturbing? Did their consternation and potential ostracization influence your writing?

 

 


Masturbating cockatiel

Enrique permanently dropped off his pet cockatiel, Perrico, a lovely male with an exceptional attitude.

I lived with Tom, my twenties’ mentor, in a house in Marin County. Enrique worked for Tom and, for the time being, so did I. Tom never married, owned a Cessna, mined California gold, hunted in Montana and lived to adventure. Life with Tom was a blast.

Meals were a crap-shoot with Tom. Often, I’d make a batch of popcorn over the gas stove — I got very good at its production, nary a kernel went unpopped. Perrico loved popcorn. The cockatiel would wait for an offering and hop down on the carpet to eat. Later, we’d find him inside the wide pot, pecking at the remains. He also loved to play.

Tom would carry him back to the far bedroom and toss him into the air. He’d fly around the house looking for me, finally landing on top of my head when I was located — often hiding to challenge him.

He’d rarely sing. No, that’s not true. He’d often sing but, only on special occasions — right after he finished masturbating on your thumb.

During the evenings, he spent little time in his cage, often just sitting around on top of us or things while we read our books. However, if you held him on your index finger, with his butt positioned over the knuckle of your thumb, he would begin the strangest dance. He’d start to rub his hidden dick on that bump. He rub and rub until, with an arched back, he’d cum. A tiny wet spot would materialize and he’d start to sing as if he were an opera star.

If you interrupted him, he’d become mighty cross and attempt to bite your hand and would squawk a raucous noise.

I left in autumn, headed back to school. In November that year, Tom opened the front door to go to work, having forgotten to cage Perrico the night before. The bird went for the bright light, flew up into the foggy morning and was never seen again.


I’ve fallen in love with your spirit

Let it be known that I’ve fallen in love with your spirit.

Not you specifically. You could be the proverbial “no one knows you’re a dog on the internet.” (Not that you’re ugly or that you lick your privates, or beg for treats at inopportune times.)

No, it’s not you, per se, for how can anyone truly know who you *are* on the net?

But rather, it’s you — that adventurous soul who dares to strike out, to pick up and move when the mood or necessity strikes you. It’s you and your familiar predilections and inferences that seem like memories. It’s you, whose universe circulates thirty degrees in front (or behind) my own. It’s you whose scant mention of the trivialities of life have made me think, yeah, that’s exactly how I’d interpret that.

The online world condemns and empowers us to love from afar. There are those folks who you’ve met online, have read about, dreamt about, or envisioned meeting, sipping coffee together as the sun crawls over the snow topped mountain. They’ve expressed themselves in such a way that you feel their yearning, their doubts and their failures. We ache that we can’t be there to comfort them, console them. And we, at times, fantasize about such spirits entering our own lives, consoling and pampering our forlorn selves.

Let it be known this love letter goes out to you. If you’ve ever hoped that your sentiment has found its niche on some relic strew shelf, nestled next to mine, know that the sharing of such moments are not phantasms of fallacy. For who is to say that connections made through the ether of net cannot transcend into the ether of cosmic connection.

I entered into this whimsical meandering with a singular contact in mind. Yet, as I explored the concept, it occurred to me that we all, most likely, have fallen in love (or perhaps love’s veneer, infatuation) with those whom we’ve encountered here in the mind’s most fertile playground.

I thought to question it. Coat my daydreams with remorse or shame. But why? Our lives are so narrow these days; mere pockets of duty and obligation peppered with the scant spice of spontaneous serendipity. If I’ve loved you in my mind’s eye, who’s to deny me my jubilation?

Only me.

Embrace your dreams, for tomorrow you may be dead.


I am so tense

What the hell does Past Simple / Past Perfect / Past Continuous even mean?

Oh, I’ve done the research, and *know* what their usage is. But what sucky names.

• Renny held the chicken to the block, waited for it to calm and swung the cleaver neatly removing its head.

To me I’d call this Past Present. As far as Renny is concerned, she’s in her own present tense. But to us, it’s in the past: Past Present.

• A pile of bodies lay next to Renny, but the last chicken ran frantic about the yard. She’d held it like the others; allowed it to calm and then whacked it hard with the butcher’s knife. The crow had distracted her though, and the knife, instead of slicing cleanly, had crushed its skull.

Here we start in the Past Present (again: Renny’s point of view) and then we slip into a time just before we observed Renny and her pile of bodies, a time I’d call Past Prior. That is, prior to the past we’re witnessing, the following happened: “She’d held it like the others;…” At this point we’ve double jumped back in time, the past’s past. Or Past Prior.

Past Present and Past Prior make way more sense to me than the Simple and Perfect nonsense the archaic English aficionados dreamed up.

The Past Continuous stuff? Eh, I rarely use it as it seems to need a bucket load of passive verb usage. “Renny was trying to cut off the chicken’s head.” “The bodies were piling up in the yard.” No thanks. They should call it Past Passive.

(‘Renny was trying’ and ‘bodies were piling’ are not “technically” passive. But the ‘was’ and ‘were’ trigger instant aversion in me. It seems I can’t easily tell true passive from this past continuous bollocks. So, I try to avoid them whenever I can. I’d rewrite those above with something like “The chicken moved as Renny chopped.” and “Renny tossed another body onto the growing pile.”)

Thoughts?

 


Writer’s Log: 2041 Two Points

No, this is not a basketball post.
(Yes, this is just two hours — subjective time — after my last Writer’s Log. And I really did spend the time on my writing.)

Point 1) The sense that I’ve progressed comes with the trepidation that I may regress.

Point 2) The just-plain-raw-excitement I feel when sitting down to continue writing this YAAS is just that, raw-excitement.

1) It’s a great feeling. I’ve dragged myself through the mud, the blood, and the beer and come out from under the barbed wire scared, but serviceable. The fact (a subjective concept bound by context and environment) exists that I have gotten better at this writing ability. Now, and oddly juxtaposed to my goal, I sense that said ability is not (or may not be) firmly entrenched within my psyche.

I fear that I might revert back to shitty writing.

And this specter of doubt looms like a carrion feeder above my desk. However,

2) I’ve got a robust concept framed. I know my skills have improved. And I’ve tied the entire story line into my GRAND TIME LINE. So, I feel like I can run with this YAAS for a good long time. Which sets me to titter when I place my ass on this seat (no back, just a stool really) and begin to tippy-tap out words that flesh out this next WIP.

Points One and Two are firmly in competition for supremacy.

Will I lose this ability and return to suck-writing. Or, will I convince myself that the Universe is absurd, that nothing really matters, and that it is how I interpret my own world that counts. And if the latter, then why am I writing this blog when I should be