Ravens and Pinecones


They climbed the stairs of the high school stage and Dominic went to the microphone.  He blew in it.  It caused instant feedback that hurt everyone’s ears.  “Is this thing-” He was too close.  The audience covered their ears.  Too much feedback.  He backed up.  “-Is this thing on?”

            “We’re hearing you loud and clear Dominic,” said Larry Lemay.  Dominic pumped his head Larry’s way.

            “Ravens and Pinecones,” Dominic said leaning into the microphone.  He used a placid tone for the greeting to his piece.  He cleared his throat.  He stepped back from the microphone.  He rolled his shoulders back with his hands held out.  He stepped up to the microphone with a vacant expression.  His hands hovered over the microphone in an action similar to that which the backside of a magnet has on the backside of another magnet.  He then gripped the microphone in a fashion so intense it caused the veins in his arms to appear.  “I scream at pinecones.  Just to get a reaction.  Just to feel something.”  He released the microphone and backed away, as if the intensity of the moment overpowered him.  He measured the crowd.  He soaked in each set of eyes.  He stepped forward:

            “Death!  Ravens sipping from a puddle of what remains of the worst storm between God and man,” these words were issued in Dominic’s best seething whisper.  “Run Abner!  Run!  He would know.  He would run.  He would run through the snow of Armageddon’s winter as if it was buttered corn stuck to his face until the roaches and squirrels could lick it off his embittered corpse.”  He stepped back.  His face contorted to that of a funk groove delivered.  There was no reaction.  Eyes were wide in the audience, expressions were tightened with confusion, and others had expressions that could only be described as concern.  Dominic held the expression for another beat:

            “Infants roll through the fire end over end like tumbleweed through a desert.”  He dropped the whisper.  In its place, was a voice that sprang from his diaphragm.  “The proselytization of provocative plumbers. Junipers sucking on angel dust.”  Again, he gripped the microphone with intensity.  The microphone remained in its housing for another moment, and then he ripped it free: “FLOODS!  Canoes; Paddles; Houses half under water.  Naked Episcopalians bobbing in the water, like short, bespectled Jewish men searching for a seat in a theater.  A gestating embryo eats their twin and dances a victory dance on the acidic remnants of their chemical romance.  Birth!”  He then threw the microphone to the floor and sat next to Michalas.

            “That’s the shit I’m talking about,” Jarvis Sweeney said standing.  “I’m not going to have anything to do with this weird artsy crap.”  Jarvis turned on a heel and exited.  Seeing Jarvis leave like that created a silent tension.  Two others stood and worked their way past the legs in the aisle to follow Jarvis.

            “The hell did you do that for?” Michalas whispered to Dominic.

            “Some of the times,” Dominic replied, “you have to disembowel yourself, or you’ll never free up the space necessary for spiritual growth.”

            “No one knows what you’re talking about Dominic,” Michalas whispered, “you’re scaring them.”

            Dominic would’ve loved to provide Michalas with an immunity card.  He would’ve loved to explain it all to him, but when the zone hit Dominic he lived by the ‘No one gets out of here alive’ philosophy.

            Then it happened, two people stood and began a slow clap.  They stood almost simultaneously and began clapping.  Some others followed.  One of them had tears of appreciation in his eye.

            It was the complicated nihilism that people wanted to declare they appreciated with their applause, even if that nihilism was meaningless.  They loved the strident nature, the rhythm, the passion, and most importantly the idea that they understood.  If they didn’t understand, they wanted their neighbor to think they did.  If they didn’t understand, they wanted to think they did.  Nihilism, of this sort, was usually delivered by some half-wit who had done just enough research to make it seem like they knew what they were delivering.  Most listeners lose focus about halfway through any oration, and the substance is usually replaced by either passion or a strident nature.  Nihilism, of this sort, usually involves symbolism over substance, and if someone can deliver good symbolism in a rhythmic cadence, he can usually win over a crowd regardless what he says.  It’s usually gobbeldy gook that some teen wrote between reality shows, but people cheer him, because they want to be the only ones who get it.

            The true humor arrives when those people stand and cheer and cry a little, and they develop this little psychological ploy against the others that don’t get it.  It’s similar to the reactions reference comedians get.  Very few of the audience members understand every reference comedians make, but they laugh.  If the reference is delivered in an intelligent rhythm, and with a suitable cadence, people will laugh about anything.  ‘What do you mean you don’t get it?’ one friend asks another.  ‘What are you stupid?’  You can bet a bundle that that other friend will be laughing at the next reference.

            Dominic decided that if he did a reading of this sort again, he would include a mocking reference about Nicholas II with a reference that has nothing to do with the Russian Czar to see if people will laugh.  He kicked himself for not thinking of it sooner.

            “You’re going to get yours on the back end,” Michalas said when the clappers sat.  Dominic rolled his eyes.  Michalas was speaking about the karmic payment Dominic would receive for messing with the peoples’ heads.  It had been Dominic’s experience that no such karma exists.

Amos Lee


{Disclaimer: The name Amos Lee was arbitrarily chosen to conceal the true identity of the person in this character profile. I have chosen this name, because I do not know an individual that has this name. If there are any individuals that have this name, and they believe that I have damaged their reputation in any manner, please notify me by replying to this post.}

Amos Lee had a profound effect on my life, but my lasting memory of him was one of disappointment. If Amos Lee were nothing more than a quiet, unassuming man, my expectations might never have come into play, but when he went into story mode, he flipped a switch. The man could leave me breathless with anticipation. He created that expectation. He created the problem.

Amos Lee could spin a yarn as well as anyone I’ve ever met. Were any of his stories accurate portrayals of the life he led, I didn’t know at the time, and I didn’t care. Were any of his stories original? I found out later that they were not, but I didn’t care then, and I still don’t. As Mick Jagger once said, it’s the singer not the song.

Amos was an economist of words and delicate with his detail. He didn’t use typical words. He didn’t use big words. There were no flowery descriptions or exclamatory words in Amos’ stories, and the listener was never sure, how they arrived at the emotional reaction they did. His patterns and progressions were all foreign to those of us that expect patterns and typical progressions in stories, and that made his stories even more fascinating.

I was not seven-years-old when he sat me on his lap, and my attention span probably wasn’t what my peers was. I was probably ADD before ADD was cool. I was captivated by this man’s stories though. I don’t know if he was the master storyteller that I recall, or if I was the literary equivalent of a dehydrated man in the desert, dying to hear a quality story. Whatever the case was, his stories captivated me to the point that I could’ve sat on his knee for hours, listening to this man weave a tale. Amos Lee’s stories varied so much that he appeared to have a story for every occasion. He was magic to a young mind seeking knowledge, adventure, and excitement, and every story was better than the last. Then, as if he had been holding his best for last, Amos Lee told me the story of the Purple People Eaters.

The Purple People Eaters were horrifying to the young boy who sat on his lap and listened with wide-eyes. Amos loved that story. His eyes were on fire when he told it. When he told this particular story, he told it as if it was a page from his autobiography. When I would later learn that Amos Lee hadn’t accomplished much in life, I was stunned without realizing why. I now know that it was because the stories he told were so beautiful, precise, and invigorating. The Purple People story was the first story I could remember that left me panting for more, while wanting it to end quick and peaceful at the same time. This was the first time, that young person on his lap learned of the power and glory of a great story.

Those that love a great story drop the word captivating a lot, to the point of cliché, but when Amos Lee told the story of The Purple People Eaters, I was there with him, fighting these monsters. Amos was in his element. He displayed the patience of a gifted storyteller, but he also appeared to struggle with restraint, in the manner quality joke tellers struggle to restrain themselves from progressing to a juicy punch line too quick.

Amos only told the story one time, but by the middle of the story, the young boy on his lap had it memorized.

Amos couldn’t help himself when he got going. He sought reaction, but that wasn’t obvious to his listener. The listener simply thought they were getting reality punched into their heart. Amos would move through the horror of his story with the grace of an Olympic skater. He would punctuate and intone his stories with a mastery that the young boy wouldn’t see again until he was nearly a full-grown adult.

The young precocious person on his lap would ask questions, and Amos would stop and answer almost all of them, but he would refrain from answering those he deemed harmful to the pace and progression of his story. Amos would delve into his imaginary world, until it became too much for the young boy who sat on his lap, and to that reaction Amos grinned.

The grin wasn’t one of a mean-spirited nature, nor was it one of an old man having fun with a youngster. The grin informed the listener of Amos Lee’s passion for the story, but the grin also suggested he loved the young boy’s reaction. He smiled again, after a brief look of fear arose on his listener’s face, until it dawned on him that the story might be too much for a young mind unable to discern the fine line between fantasy and reality. He followed that second smile with a reassurance that The Purple People Eaters were make-believe, and that we had nothing to fear from them, and the young boy believed that as much as he believed the horrifying details of The Purple People Eaters.

The problem was that Amos could create such moments with little effort, and with little effort comes little restraint. The man could cause intense fear and inner peace in the space of a few sentences. He could leave a child dizzy with emotion in the stories he told and in the sympathy, he showed afterwards, but the eventual truth of Amos Lee would arrive when that young boy wanted to hear more than Amos Lee was able to deliver. Amos was old by the time this young boy entered his life. He was up in years, but he was far older than his years. He had spent too much time sitting by himself, sleeping, and in all other ways aging at a rate greater than an active man would. He enjoyed telling his stories, but he enjoyed sitting on his couch smoking a pipe, and sleeping, more.

At one point, the glorious stories reached a conclusion, and so did Amos Lee. Amos Lee  expected this young boy to climb off his knee and go play marbles. After hearing what he considered the greatest story ever told the young boy considered this request unreasonable. He wanted more. He wanted to spend the rest of the weekend, if not the rest of his life, listening to these stories.  

Amos was done though, and when the young boy argued with Amos Lee that he did not want this moment to end, Amos Lee’s wife would enter into the room to whisk the young boy off his grandfather’s knee to participate in whatever she could dream up to fulfill Amos Lee’s need. The young boy would argue with her, as she would play the role of the villain in this story. The young boy would tell her that he didn’t want to do whatever she had dreamed up to give Amos his space. He would tell her that he didn’t want it to end, and he would blame her for ending it. The young boy couldn’t get enough of these stories, but Amos could, and she knew it.

Amos Lee’s stories taught lessons without the condescension the young boy expected from adults telling such stories. Amos Lee also told the stories in a direct manner, without the customary, adult lesson voice, and he didn’t have the follow up lines one normally uses in lessons to display the idea that the storyteller knows something the listener doesn’t.

Amos Lee never patted this young boy on the head and told him that everything was going to be okay, but in Amos Lee’s company, everything was. This young man believed that if he had any questions about how the world worked, Amos Lee would be his go to man. The young boy was confused about the world, and he experienced some confusion with just about everyone he encountered. In the company of Amos Lee, however, everything seemed to make sense, and that which confused the young man seemed to lock into place.

I remember being quite precocious, but I might not have been as precocious as I remember, until I sat on the knee of Amos Lee, my grandfather. Amos Lee had an unusual talent for tapping into something that inspired thoughts in me that I never would have arrived at on my own. He also said some things that were plainly obvious, but something about the way he said them made me think I had never considered it before. He appeared to have answers to questions I hadn’t even thought of yet, and he could do it all in the space of three to four sentences. For the first time, at that early point in my life, it all started to make sense. The confusion that dominates young minds, moved away, if just for a second, like a cloud moving to reveal a bright Sun. It was my first experience with that form of euphoria, and I never wanted it to end, but Amos Lee wasn’t able to fulfill the expectations I had for him, or he didn’t want to fulfill them. I write the latter as a full-fledged adult that now knows the ways of childhood adoration, and the tiresome task of continuing to live up to it. I know that some of the times an adult cannot live up to the expectations a young child has for him, and I know that some of the times an adult just doesn’t want to do that.

“You can’t do that!” I wanted to say to Amos Lee. “You can’t just sit there in your chair, smoking a pipe. You’re too important.” I couldn’t tell him that, for doing so would’ve revealed to both of us what a disappointment he was to me. I couldn’t tell him what kind of man I thought he was when he wasn’t around, or what type of man I thought he could be. I had to just sit there and realize that I was the powerless little kid in our conversations. I was on his schedule, and I had to wait until he felt like indulging me.

I cried, as all children will, when I learned that my grandfather’s story was over, but there was something different about these tears. I couldn’t properly define the feelings of emptiness I had at that young age. I couldn’t understand why I thought all hope was lost, and I couldn’t understand why I was crying as hard as I was, but I do remember thinking that life would never be normal for me ever again. I remember this day that my mom pulled the car off to the side of the road to inform me of Amos Lee’s death as if it were a week ago.  

I wept with the basic idea that I would never be able to speak with him again, that I would never be able to mow the lawn with him again, and that I would never be able to spend another moment on his lap, listening to him weave a master tale. I also wept with the irrational belief that that my sole source of wisdom and reason was gone, and that my life would seem a little more random and chaotic in the aftermath. I cried with the notion that I would be left to my own devices without him, or that those that took the reins were novices by comparison. I also wept over the fact that Amos Lee would never have the opportunity to live up to the hype he had generated in the mind of one eager, perhaps precocious, young mind that Amos had never taken the time to live up to. I also learned another lesson: If you are going to generate hype in the mind of a young one, you should do your best to live up to it, as exhausting as that can be. 

Flash Fiction: Mainframe


Wikipedia defines Flash Fiction as a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. The word count varies, but I choose to think of it as anything below 300 words. I choose to think of flash fiction as a simple entertaining piece with no preface, no description, and no character development. I choose to think of flash fiction as one scene that makes you laugh. I now welcome you to the world of flash fiction.

Mainframe

“What I’m trying to tell you is,” continues Mark, “that this feeling that I’m getting it…it just ain’t right.”

“We all go through this at different points in our lives Mark,” says his older friend Lucas. “I wouldn’t stay up at night worrying about it.”

“I think I’m changing though.”

“We’re all changing my friend,” Lucas says. He can’t help but laugh at his friend’s earnest theatrics. “It’s called the cycle of life.”

“It’s not the cycle of life,” Mark said with exasperation, “you don’t understand.”

“I understand, my friend, it’s called midlife. Our lives and our bodies change as we get older. There are some who say that we change dramatically in ten year cycles. Are you the same person you were ten years ago?”

“No.”

“Of course not, when we reach the midlife stage things change on us. The same way our bodies change during puberty, and when these changes hit us we all think that it’s completely unique to us. It’s not though, and if you need me to help you through it, let me know.”

“All right then, let me show you what I’m talking about,” Mark said as he pulled out his johnson. He did it with a red face and a great deal of moaning.

“Good God man,” Lucas said shielding his eyes and turning away quickly, “what are we doing here?”

“No, look.”

“I don’t want to see-”

“LOOK!” Mark called out in a pained cry.

Lucas’ eyes popped wide when he saw what appeared to be an electromagnetic emission flowing from his friend’s penis. “Maybe you should get that looked at.”

Rules and Realities of Writing


I wanted to write an article on the world of writing the way I see it.  It’s negative in spots and cynical in others, but I hope this doesn’t deter anyone with the dream of accomplishing all that they want to accomplish in the world of writing.  The Leonardo da Vinci philosophy to answering a question was to ask them.  He would compose hundreds of questions to the answer he was trying to achieve, and he found that by asking himself the questions he arrived at better answers.  The key to the questions is to ask them objectively.  You cannot worry about hurting your feelings.  You cannot worry if these questions change the course of your answer one hundred and eight degrees.  The questions must be asked.

The first question that must be asked is how bad do you really want it?  Do you want to be published, do you want to achieve the completion of a story, and what are you willing to do to achieve it?  Are you the type of person who enjoys calling yourself a writer, are you someone who enjoys having another call you a writer, or are you someone who writes?

The publishing industry, or as I call them the rejection industry, will pound you.  They haven’t been mean to me, and I don’t think they’ll be mean to you, but what you’re trying to sell them just doesn’t sound like something you can sell.  ‘What the hell do you want?’ you will ask them in your head.  “And why are you hitting me?” your keyboard, wall and head will ask in unison as you work your way through the latest Writer’s Digest list of publishers that are looking for you.

Do you have the time?  Most people will tell you either I used to love writing, or I used to be a writer, but I don’t have the time anymore.  Do you remember the excuse T-shirts of the 90’s that would say: “Why I suck at bowling, why I can’t fish, or the reasons I’m bad at golf.”  I would say that one out of four people I run across on a daily basis tell me that they are a writer, used to be a writer, or wish they could be a writer.  If writers could laugh at themselves in the same manner as the golfing and bowling flunkies, the industry could make millions with ‘excuses why I am not a writer’ T-shirts.

When I was a young ‘un trying to find my way through teen trauma, I found music.  I listened to any piece of music I could find from my Mom’s Ray Coniff/Burt Bacharach/Glenn Campbell record collection to my Kiss/Van Halen/Rod Stewart cassette tape collection.  After awhile, music wasn’t cutting it anymore.  I still listened to music as often as I could in a day, but something was missing in my life.  In my twenties, I took a creative writing course in college, and I handed in some stuff that I thought was the greatest material written since Hemingway pulled the trigger.  It was pretty awful stuff, but the writing teacher said I showed some promise in paragraphs two and twelve.  I realized (thought) I had a gift.  I’ve always had a gift for observation and storytelling (lying), but I never saw an avenue for it, until that teacher told me I had some promise.  Ever since that day, I have been pecking away at various keyboards trying to make the dream come alive.

“I am not adept at punctuation and/or grammar in general.”  A caller to a radio show once informed Clive Barker.  She said that she enjoyed writing, but it was the mechanics of writing that prevented her from delving into it whole hog.  “Are you a proficient story teller?” Clive asked her.  “Do you enjoy telling stories, and do you entertain your friends with your tales?”  The woman said yes to all of the above.  “Well, you can learn the mechanics, and I encourage you to do so, but you cannot learn story telling.  The ability to tell a story is, largely, a gift.  Either you have it or you don’t.”

The next important question is: ‘Do you have an idea?’ Another important question is: ‘Is it a good idea.’  It’s not as easy as it seems, and some writers get so bogged down in the arena of idea that they end up not writing anything.  It may be a mistake for some, because they may not be writers, but others should just write.  One of the dumbest questions asked of established writers is: ‘where do your ideas come from?’  Very rarely do you hear a straight forward answer to this question.  I don’t know what the interviewer expects, but the answer is usually vague.  In my opinion, this is because an idea is borne from the activity of writing.  If you find yourself writing for hours on end day after day, you’ll find little ideas gestate into bigger ideas, and bigger ideas turn into large ideas.  To paraphrase Hemingway: “Your mind is like a muscle, and you have to work it out every day if you ever hope to hone it.”  There comes a point where you begin using that muscle so often that a little idea peaks out from beneath the covers and cries for you to hold her for a second.  It’s your job to pet her when she cries and scold her when she acts up.  She’s your baby, and you have to rear her to fruition.  The best way to see her reach adulthood is to be there for her.

I’ve heard people talk about writer’s block.  I don’t believe in writer’s block.  I think people who have writer’s block expect to write Crime and Punishment or War and Peace, and they’re frustrated when their story turns out to be ‘My day at the Supermarket.’   Writers write.  To my mind, if I want to be a writer, I will write anything and everything.  I will write something if it’s great, and I will write something if it sucks, and they do suck.  But, as Charlie Sheen once said, “You have to create a lot of manure to fertilize that one flower.”

When that eventual idea peaks it’s little head out at you, in the midst of writing, it may be important to trim the fat that got you there.   I believe it was Anton Chekov who said that every writer should take the first three pages of their manuscript and chuck them.  He said that it takes a writer about that long to get into a proper flow.  In the first few pages, you are laying the foundation for your eventual story, but it should only be a foundation for you to begin your work.  You shouldn’t burden the reader with this unnecessary fluff that helped you get over the hurdle of a beginning.

Are you Kerouac or Joyce?  These two authors insisted on a form of writing called stream of consciousness writing.  History has treated both of these authors with kindness, but they are the exceptions to the rule.  For the rest of us, a golden rule applies: Your words are not golden.  Delete the dumb words.  Take out the sentences and paragraphs that make no sense, or they bore the reader.  To paraphrase Andre Agassi: ‘Pace is everything’.

If in your quest to completion, you are able to go back and admit to yourself that you are not a man of golden words, then you will find yourself nearing the golden chalice.  If you can delete large chunks of your work, then you may be momentarily defeating the complimentary Golem that has been chasing you thus far.  I can’t delete large chunks.  I put too much work into it to just throw them away, but I have created an Extras file that I dump this material in.   Nothing is worse to a reader than when a narrator leads you to girl falling off the cliff, and then the narrator decides to put in three pages of fluff on his idea of the meaning of life.  Teasing is all right, but do not forget to make the minutiae in the middle interesting.  Remember pace is everything.  If your pace if purposefully plodding, then go with plodding, but remember the risk you’re running.

What is the goal?  If you want to enter the craft of writing to be a star that is chased by paparazzi, then you may want to re-think your plans.  John Irving called writing the loneliest profession of all.  He said the writer is usually locked in a room pounding out ideas with no one to talk to about it.  This is John Irving, one of the few men that could be called a literary rock star to my mind, and he said this a couple years ago.  He said this about eight to nine books into his profession.  Forget the paparazzi, forget even being noticed on the streets, and you can probably forget about readings that are specifically directed to you and your book(s).  This happens to a very few in the profession.  If you are one of the lucky ones, in this regard, I dare say that it won’t be because you were driven to stardom.  I think the Irvings and the Koontzs and the Kings were driven by one thing early on: the desire to tell a great story.

I think the desire to be a best seller is also not a good reason to get into the profession.  I think that’s a tad bit lofty.  I think that’s too far in the future.  That’s something that you can’t control.  Plus, this mentality may lead you to change chapter two and four, because you don’t think the people will like it.  You have to trust your judgment and entertain yourself.  If you’re not entertaining yourself, chances are no one else will be entertained either.

On that note, another question should be asked: ‘Do you have a specific take on life?’   A grade school teacher once informed me that an opinion piece I wrote was: “Too mealy mouthed.”  I told her I had no idea what that meant.  She said: “If you’re going to be wrong, be wrong with conviction.”  In writing a novel, one cannot put their finger to the wind on every plot variable, every twist, every line and piece of punctuation.  The writer needs to take charge of their novel and let their experiences dictate that which they enter into it.  How many people could’ve written Old Man and the Sea?  How many people could’ve written it the way it was written?  Hemingway’s experiences entered into it.  You are who you are based on your experiences.  You shouldn’t be afraid to let this enter into your fiction.  Only you can write this particular novel.

As a counter point to that point, can you distance yourself in the creation of a character?  Our family and friends all believe that they live the most fascinating lives on the planet.  How many times do they tell us that we should write a book about them?  In truth, their lives may not even be fascinating to us, but your life is probably not fascinating to us either.  This is where the stew comes into place.  Your job as a writer is to take your experiences and combine them with fascinating stories.  Does this mean that you embellish on your life?  Well, some of the best writers used to be some of the best liars in life.  They just learned to channel their embellishments to something productive.  Does this mean that your character has to do exactly what you would do in a given situation?  Yes and no.  You don’t want to stray too far from the core of who you are, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have your character do something that fascinates you.  Larry David, of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, states that the show Curb Your Enthusiasm is based upon experiences that have occurred in his life, except that Larry has the character on the show say things that he wishes he had said in that particular situation in his life.  In other words, you should write characters that occasionally do the things that tick you off the most.  You should have your characters do things that are immoral and spiteful.  At times, you should even have your main character do such things.  Some people avoid having their characters do stupid things.  Most men fear having female characters do stupid things, because females get offended easily when men stereotype them a certain way, but women do stupid things everyone does.  Most authors stridently avoid having their characters do stupid things, because these are images we have of heroes in one way or another.  If male characters have men do stupid things, it’s usually to promote the intelligence of the female counterpart, or it’s done to produce an effect that the character will eventually avenge.  I say that you should allow your characters to do stupid things because it’s funny, it adds definition, and it allows the reader to better identify with the character.

There are definitely guidelines, and there is a right way to do things and a wrong way of doing things, but the name of the game of fiction is that there are no rules.  Do what you do.  Let your freak flag fly.  Non-writers get bogged down in the detail.  They buy all the magazines on the best way to lead to conflict, the best way to get out of that conflict, the best way to provide character to your character, the best way to start, and the ten best ways to conclude a best-selling novel.  Take a look at some of the names of the people who have written these pieces, they know as little about writing a best-seller as you do, but more importantly they don’t know how to write your novel.  Some of the writers do have best-sellers on their resumes, but do they have a novel similar to yours?  Do they have the novel that you wish you would’ve written?  If that’s the case, follow their template.  I don’t know how far it will get you, but if you have confidence in the fact that they can lead you to the Promised Land better than your own intuition, then by all means fork over your seven dollars.  My point is this is your game.  This is going to be your book, and wouldn’t you rather succeed on your own?  I’m not saying that their advice is without merit, but don’t let yourself get bogged down in the detail.

The final question that must be asked is: ‘Should you just give up?’  This may seem antithetical to everything I’ve just written, but it is a vital component to writing fiction.  It involves the story that is going nowhere.  I don’t know how many stories you have going at once, or if you only have one, but there comes a crossroads in every story’s life.  You were inspired up until you reached point F of the process.  Now you’re stuck.  You can’t think of what to do at this point.  The non-writer will give up the craft entirely at this point, and maybe he should.  Maybe it’s too hard for him, or maybe he just wasn’t meant to be a writer in the first place.  It’s a very important crossroads for you.  If you have the temerity to push ahead, there are a few things that I’ve done to keep ‘it’ all shiny and honed.  First, you can just force your character through the keyhole, and see what happens.  This has never worked for me.  It has left me more muddled than I was when I hit the crossroads in the first place.  You can go back and edit what you’ve already done.  Editing helps you retrace the steps that led you to the crossroads, and it can help you remember all the characteristics of your story that led you to the crossroads.  On a number of occasions, I’ve added a tweak here, deleted an adjustment there, or scrapped the story entirely.  Again, it’s important when to know when to cut your losses.  Are you going to give up writing altogether, or is it just this particular story that isn’t going the places that you hoped it would?  It’s decision time for you and your story and your career.  The other thing you can do, if you’ve decided to keep writing, is paint fruit and flowers.  It used to drive me nuts when I would go through the catalogues of the famous painters and see all these beautiful works of art broken up by paintings of fruit and flowers.  It’s my contention that these artists couldn’t think of anything to paint for stretches of time, so they painted fruit and flowers.  They did this, I believe, to keep their skills fresh for a time when inspiration struck them.  You need to find your fruit and flowers.  Is it other meaningless stories, political blogs, blogging in general, or book and album reviews?  What is it you might enjoy writing about while that story remains at a crossroads?  Whatever it is, write it and keep the muscle honed.

Boring Writers


Writers of fiction are generally a boring lot.  They fall in love with their words so often that they forget to write about something interesting. They provide great detail about the snow outside, the clouds in the sky, and the angst ridden nature of the character, but at the end of the seventeen page description the main character ends up getting in the car.  Nothing happens. If the character gets into that car and does something interesting I am all for it, but most writers forget to give you a payoff.  Either that or they don’t have one, and all the beautiful language is meant to cover for that fact.