Skip to main content

In our sleep, guilt which cannot be shrugged off falls drop by drop like a runny nose that thwarts God's own Nasanex, until, in our exhaustion, comes the point where we schlep our carcass off the couch and finally get around to doing something that was due two weeks ago.

Sorry,  Aeschylus (and Bobby, and Dr. King, and everyone), but the point is I have finally finished providing responses to all seventy-three stories that arrived in my mailbox.  Wheh.  My apologies (again) to those who had to wait until this morning for the watery words that pass for wisdom on my part.  It has been... a long week.

This week: what you did that made it so hard on yourselves, how and who in your stories should die, and the great writing group meet and greet.

Why Do You Want To Work So Hard?
In my mailbox, I found detective stories, literary stories, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and mixtures of several of the above.  (No westerns.  As someone who loves a good horse opera, I have to wonder why no one was itchin' to pick up a shootin' iron.)  There were stories set in the past and the future, stories set in Chicago and in Spain and on the far side of Jupiter.  And most of them -- a surprising number of them -- were very good.

However, there were a few things that showed up so often, I felt like I ought to bring them up.  Why did you make things so damn hard on yourself?  Here, let me show you a little piece of a story.

One morning Mamzelle Aurélie stood upon her gallery, contemplating, with arms akimbo, a small band of very small children who, to all intents and purposes, might have fallen from the clouds, so unexpected and bewildering was their coming, and so unwelcome. They were the children of her nearest neighbor, Odile, who was not such a near neighbor, after all.

That's from "Regret" from Kate Chopin.  There are at least a couple of names in that first paragraph, and several unnamed children.  In the very next paragraph, all these kids get names, but that doesn't confuse the fact that this is Mamzelle Aurélie's story.  

Here's another piece.  

He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift--all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance.

That's from Ambrose Bierse's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."  The character in this story isn't even named, but we still have no doubt that it's his story.

These stories are both third person.  The camera stays firmly affixed to the shoulder of these main characters.  We don't see things that they can't see.  We don't know things that we don't know.  And we like it that way.  Here's one last snippet from Willa Cather.  

IT often happens that one or another of my friends stops before a red chalk drawing in my study and asks me where I ever found so lovely a creature. I have never told the story of that picture to any one, and the beautiful woman on the wall, until yesterday, in all these twenty years has spoken to no one but me. Yesterday a young painter, a countryman of mine, came to consult me on a matter of business, and upon seeing my drawing of Alexandra Ebbling, straightway forgot his errand. He examined the date upon the sketch and asked me, very earnestly, if I could tell him whether the lady were still living.

This time, there's absolutely no doubt where the story is centered.  It's on the character who is telling the story.

Yes, it is possible to write using an omniscient point of view that sees all, knows all, and goes anywhere.  But this is hard.  It's especially hard in a short story.  Writing a short story with an omniscient viewpoint is like trying to paint the details on a postage stamp while wearing boxing gloves.  It can be done, but it's something best left to someone who has already painted a lot of stamps.  Worse yet, a few stories were a bit in someone's head, a bit in another, and a bit who knows where.  This is not illuminating for the reader.  It's only confusing.

One other thing to note about all the snippets above.  What's the verb tense up there?  Mamzelle stood.  He closed his eyes.  A young painter came.  Past tense.  These stories are in past tense.  Yes, Cather dabbles a bit in more complex tenses before settling down, but believe me, the story is in past tense.

If past tense is good enough for these writers, why do so many folks insist on trying to do present tense, or some tangled pluperfect concoction?  Leave it alone.  

When you have won the Flannery O'Connor prize, then you can launch into that sliding POV, time-shifting story.  Of course, Flannery wouldn't have done it that way.  (I'm southern.  I have to love Flannery O'Connor.  There's  a law.)

In the meantime, I'd suggest that while you are trying to get your writing legs under you, stick to past tense and third person.  You will be in good company, as that's the formula for about three quarters of all the stories out there.  Besides, remember when I said that a story was about a character with a problem?  How can I follow along if I can't even figure out whose story this is?

You Only Hurt The Ones You Love
One of the other things noticeable in the stories I received was how many people died.  In seventy three stories, the entire population of the Earth was killed twice, and most of them were done in a third time.  A couple of families met grisly ends, children, parents, and lovers met with tragic accidents, and no less than a dozen named characters were murdered.

I don't think this indicates that we're a particularly violent bunch.  Stories are about problems, and death and mayhem make for pretty clear difficulties.  But there was one thing that distressed me in many stories -- the death of people we didn't know.

To see why that’s important I'd like to use two classics of the cinema: Alien, and Alien 3.

In Alien, exactly six characters die: Kane, Brett, Dallas, Ash, Parker, and Lambert.  That's in order of death, and yes, I did that from memory.  And you know what?  We care about every one of them.  We care because Brett is a smartass, and Lambert's a whiner, and Ash is a son of a bitch.  We care because we know these people.

Compare this to Alien 3, in which... I don't know.  Dozens?  Hundreds?  Of names, interchangeable characters are dismembered and shredded with much more attention to how they are killed than who they are. If you're going to kill someone, make sure we love them, or hate them, or feel something for them.  

Otherwise, they're not worth killing.  Okay, I know that every body in War and Peace is not named.  It only seems that way.

Writing Groups
And now, the moment you've been waiting for.  I asked those who were interested in being in a writing group to send me their IDs so I can mix and match folks by writing styles, areas of interest, etc.   However, what I didn't do was get permission to share your email addresses with each other, so I'll leave that to you.  

It was tempting to try and shove people together who were all at the same level, but since I'm hoping that there will be some degree of mentoring within the groups, I've mixed it up a bit.  Besides, some people asked to be in a group who had not written a story.  I've scattered those folks around.

I've lumped you together as "group A" etc., but do us both a favor.  Introduce yourselves in the comments and decide on a name for your group.

A
Kingubu
Sandhill Crane
DebtorsPrison
Lizpolaris
Onemadson
jabney
Hairylarry

B
jett
procrastinator john
cfk
MathGuyNTulsa
JanetT in MD
Circle
chun yang

C
lulu57
terrypinder
JEB
keirdubois
Inukjuak
SME in Seattle
cskendrick

I know I left some people out -- including some of those who wrote among the best storie submitted.  Sometimes I had a story, but not a screen name.  Sometimes I couldn't tell between an email address or general nickname and a kos name.  Please feel free to start a thread below to gather those folks together.

And for the one person whose kid wanted to interview me, I'm very sorry I haven't replied.  It really has been an extremely busy couple of weeks.  Pester me one last time.  I promise to respond.

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 11:39 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  And did I mention I was sorry? (28+ / 0-)

    Seventy hour week at work.  Two night school classes for which I owe no less than two term papers and three presentations.  A book that needs editing.  A novella that's overdue.

    I hate to even consider the number of typos above.

    How was your week?

  •  I live in Eire. Where do I send (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, barbwires

    my little piece of fluff?

    The essence of Liberalism is an attempt to secure a social order not based on irrational dogma. Bertrand Russell

    by Asinus Asinum Fricat on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 11:45:45 AM PST

  •  "group A" rallying point. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, barbwires, lizpolaris

    Howdy! :-)

    Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

    by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 11:55:51 AM PST

  •  Group A (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, lizpolaris

    How shall we go about this?  I'm fine with giving out my e-mail address.  To avoid us all putting up our e-mails all the A's can e-mail me if they want and I can send out one e-mail to everyone.  

  •  I'm not in a group yet (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, TiaRachel, lulu57, barbwires, kingubu

    Never got around to sending my name in. I'd like to join one but I'm a little unsure how much I'll be able to participate usefully, partly because I have trouble finishing anything. Often I have trouble getting past an initial idea or character sketch. I suppose I ought to just plunge in regardless or else I'll just wallow forever.

    humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

    by astraea on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 12:17:57 PM PST

    •  I'm mostly in the same boat. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xan, astraea, lulu57, barbwires

      And one of my reasons for joining in is to have other people to whom I feel accountable (has helped me defeat the "fuck-its" in the past).

      Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

      by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 12:21:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  your writing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Xan, kingubu

        what sort of genres do you (or would you like to) usually write in?

        humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

        by astraea on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 12:27:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's hard to answer, frankly. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Xan

          I'm all over the place. Perhaps the best clue is to look at who has inspired me: Roald Dahl (his adult fiction, not so much the kid's stories), Douglas Adams, Tom Robbins, John Kennedy Toole, Tristan Egolf, Wm, S. Burroughs,  Kurt Vonnegut, Fyodor Dostoevsky, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

          If you can come up with a category that encompasses that group, then, yeah, that's it. I tend to think of it as "fairy tales for grown-ups".

          I work mostly in short stores and screenplays, form-wise.

          How about you?

          Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

          by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 12:38:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  astraea (0+ / 0-)

      while i've done some writing in the past, the story i submitted to this was the first short story i've ever written.   I recommend jumping in.   Hopefully this will make me write a few more.

    •  hi astrae (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      astraea, cfk

      cfk nominated you to join group B, so why don't you jump in?

      click on my name and get my email from my profile, and then I'll email your address to the others in the group.

  •  Left Behind! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, onemadson, kingubu, cfk

    I am one of the un-grouped misfits. Anybody else in need of a writing group? I write speculative fiction and literary fiction. You can see a short example here - Devilstower used a couple of sections of my story in the last installment (it was the angels and elephants piece).

    I, too, believe in writer's groups. Unfortunately, I am new to Daily Kos, and am a complete imbicile when it comes to maneuvering around here. Any help would be humbly appreciated.

    KB

    •  not sure i can help (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Xan, cfk

      but i'd love to read the rest of that story about angels and elephants.

    •  Hi. I'm not in a group yet either (0+ / 0-)

      I write speculative fiction and urban sci-fi or fantasy. I'd love to join a group but didn't send my name in because I missed DT's post (been a busy week or so for me). Did send in a short story to him. I'm pretty much of an imbecile around here with dkos, still don't understand all the systems. I'd love to work with you. Your angels-and-elephants story sounds great!

  •  Terrypinder and Cskendrick, together again :) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, lulu57, kingubu

    This is getting to be a habit, yo. :)

    I feel like I am part of my own country again.

    by cskendrick on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:05:10 PM PST

    •  I think DT is trying to tell you... (0+ / 0-)

      ..."Write Buddy Pictures". :-)

      I'll leave it to him to contradict that with his actual criteria...

      Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

      by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:12:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You mean something like, say, Brokeback Mtn? :) (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lulu57, kingubu

        Or a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis script? :)

        I feel like I am part of my own country again.

        by cskendrick on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:14:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  La-La! Nice Lay-dy... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cskendrick

          Without giving specific examples, I was thinking something along the lines of two apparent opposites who are thrust together in a circumstance beyond their control and who eventually discover they are really more alike than different.

          You know, something that we've never seen before... ;-)

          Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

          by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:19:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I'm in with you, too :) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cskendrick, JEB

      Should we exchange e-mails? I don't mind posting mine here, since I rarely check the one in my profile. You and other Group C'ers can reach me at
      bhoward at sonic dot net. I could set up a Yahoo Group for us if anyone's interested, then we'd have a place (Files) to park our stories. Let me know!

      •  And I'm at a very confusing email... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lulu57

        cskendrick at h o tm a   i l dot com.

        I'm sure none of you would ever have guessed it. :)

        I feel like I am part of my own country again.

        by cskendrick on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:53:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Group C--missing Inukjuak & SME in Seattle (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cskendrick

          Hey. I managed to gather up e-mails for everyone except Inukjuak and SME in Seattle, so hopefully they'll see this and chime in.

          Where ought we to go from here? <---I don't normally talk like this, been reading British novels :)</p>

          •  I'm a C-lister too (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lulu57, JEB

            My contact email is on my profile.

            I have an English BA but it's in critical/analytical writing, so I need help with basic creative writing topics like dialogue and characterization. My story is a write-what-I-know piece with a ready plot outline, and I'm trying to tie together the characters plausibly at this point. And yes, one of them dies, and though I might give plenty of reasons for a reader to regret that, they may choose not to. And I still might use the present tense!  Muahahaha!!

            I vote for lulu's yahoo group. I won't be able to participate much more this weekend but I'll be happy to jump in Monday night. Thanks again to Devilstower for the playground.

      •  JEB checking in (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        astraea, lulu57

        if you don't have it you can reach me at eddie61 at hotmail.com.  

        Question, did everyone get feedback from Devilstower?  I didn't receive anything.

        Looking forward to the working/participating with everyone.

        Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government.

        by JEB on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 06:31:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hi JEB (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JEB

          I think Devilstower is still catching up on some stuff. Hopefully his response to you didn't get spam-filtered out or something.

          If it's okay with everyone, I'll send out a group e-mail tomorrow, and we can get started early in the week? I'm too tired tonight :)

          This is going to be fun and I'm really looking forward to it.

        •  I didn't get anything either. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lulu57, JEB

          I emailed him asking about it. I'm not sure if he hasn't sent them all out yet (in the diary it suggested he had ("those who had to wait until this morning for the watery words that pass for wisdom on my part") or if some were mis-delivered or what. I didn't see anything in my spam box either.

          It just sounds like there was just a technical glitch someplace--but where? Perhaps he didn't get some of our stories? Maybe he got off easy when "only" 73 stories managed to show up in his mailbox.

          humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

          by astraea on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 08:58:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I added Devilstower (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            astraea, lulu57, lizpolaris

            to my contacts so I don't think that it would have gone to junkmail or been zapped by my spam filter?  Perhaps I should email him and ask him to use Viagra in the subject line.  That way I'm sure it will get through!

            Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government.

            by JEB on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 09:18:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'm averse to killing people. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, cfk

    Especially in terms of using death as a plot device.

    I read Strangers in Paradise.  David died in the last episode.  The characters who loved David were predictably shaken by this event.  But that was just one little issue and the real time this issue covered was only a few hours.

    I'd have to flip back about six issues or more to find out when we learn David is dying.  No human killer takes his life.  No disease with wider implications, like AIDS, takes his life.  It's just some flaw in his body - an inoperable brain tumor he's known about for many months now.  When he's forced to tell them the truth, each of them in turn tries to help him, to save him.  The series spends time examining how various characters react to this news.

    Which is why, when David died this issue, I cried.  I cried because I knew him.  I cried because his friends were suffering.  

    Then I picked up a couple of the latest Batman comics.  The plot goes thusly: Batman sired a child with Talia once upon a time.  He finds out when she essentially dumps kid on him, who is now about ten years old and trained at an assassin.  The kid raises havoc for two issues.  We learn that he is amoral, obnoxious, self serving and ultimately, a pawn in his mother's (evil) plans.  At the end of the second issue, the kid is dead.  Did I care?  No.  The only person who cared that he died was the Batman and even he was more angry at Talia for deliberately sacrificing her own child.  Plot device. Plot device.  Plot device.  GAH!  It makes me want to smack around the writer first and then the editor.

    Here's a scene from the graphic novel adaptation of Neverwhere where someone dies:

    Hunter is dead, having first betrayed Richard and de Carabas, and then having helped to save them.  
    Richard looks down at her body...
    "But...we can't just leave her here."
    de Carabas: "We'll come back for her later, if we can.  And if we can't, well, then someone can do us all in a single cartload."
    It's a nice piece of exposition and perfectly in character.  Richard is concerned, de Carabas is pragmatic and ruthless.  We care about Hunter's death as much they do - some, but not too much.

    We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

    by Fabian on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:27:45 PM PST

    •  Trivial Death (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fabian

      Think of Harold and Maude.

      Harold trivializes life and his own mortality by faking suicide throughout the story but it isn't until he loves Maude and then loses her that he is really set free to start a joyful life. I cry like a baby every time I watch it.

      Anyway, kinda tangential, I know, but its the first thing that came to mind.

      Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

      by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:40:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bud Cort (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fabian, kingubu

        Did you see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? As I was walking out of the theater I realized the Bond Company Stooge was Bud Cort, the guy who played Harold. I hadn't seen him (or at least hadn't noticed him) in anything since H&M.

        humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

        by astraea on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 01:59:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep. *loved* Life Aquatic (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian

          I even bought the album of Sau Jorge's acoustic, Portuguese David Bowie covers.

          As for Bud Cort, he was in Altman's M*A*S*H, too. But, as I recall, he was in some kind of near-fatal accident (car?) that took him out of the business for years. Nice to see him getting work.

          Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

          by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:05:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I just love it when a story does it right. (0+ / 0-)

        And I loathe it when a writer does it wrong. Sometimes the format demands it.  Crime/Justice shows and Diagnosis: Murder and Murder, She Wrote whodunits demand unrealistic plots.

        Comic book history has its own hall of shame.  Wonder Woman's love interest, Steve Tevor, was killed AND brought back more than once.  Most people, usually women, who discovered Batman's secret identity ended up (tragically)dead or incurably mentally ill(once).

        Not every death is a one dimensional plot device - but it doesn't keep me from being suspicious.

        We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

        by Fabian on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:22:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep, totally. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian

          More often than not it seems that when one character dies its because 1) the writed couldn't figure out what to do with them next, or 2) they needed an excuse for another character to have some sort of reversal.

          Years ago, I worked on the script for a radio play (unfinished, shocker) where the Hero was trapped in a Kafkaesque world of TV and movie cliches and he navigated his way through by means of a multi-buttoned "plot device" that invoked various transitions. It was fun.

          Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. -- Martin Luther King

          by kingubu on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:35:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hysterical! (0+ / 0-)

            God, that would be so funny!

            One eye rolling moment in plot devices was when they had Batman/Bruce Wayne cured of his crippling spinal injury by the same woman whose mental trauma had wiped out her memory of his secret identity.  deus ex machina and hackneyed plot device!  A twofer.

            The plot that made me swear off the Batman comics was chock full of "I don't want to deal with this, so I'm getting rid of it.".  Robin had an honest to God civilian life, complete with an on again, off again girlfriend.  (They are only teenagers.)  She's got history - Dad's a two bit spandex villain, she's donned the spandex herself to fight criminals, starting with her dad.  Her mom's trying to deal with staying clean, staying employed and dealing with having a husband in prison or worse, being out of prison.  Robin even has a dad and a stepmom.  Fighting crime isn't easy when you are juggling all that and I adored those stories.  They were full of action, adventure and adolescent trauma and humor.

            Robin's dad was killed.  His mother had a mental breakdown and was sent off to an inpatient facility.  Coincidentally, dad had found out about his son playing Robin(and Wayne/Batman) shortly before this happened.  Robin's girlfriend was not just killed, but tortured and killed.  Her death was needless, the story would have worked if she had lived.  But, you know, she was in the way.  I was so pissed that stopped reading it right there.

            We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

            by Fabian on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:58:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, yes. (0+ / 0-)

              Only WOMEN have catastrophic mental breakdowns.  Isn't that nice, ladies?  An inconvenient female character doesn't get tragically killed off, she just loses her mind.  It's kind of a twofer plot device.  It both removes the character from the story line, yet lets her be used as a tie in at a convenient later time.  "Experimental drug causes mental patient to become a monster!  Can our hero find her before she is killed/kills someone/kills herself?"

              We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

              by Fabian on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 12:54:45 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  people falling down wells (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fabian, cfk, lizpolaris

          Didn't Mark Twain(?) write an essay about writing a story in which he got sick of one character, so he had the guy fall down a well, then another character became boring or difficult, so he had him fall down a well also, etc.

          humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

          by astraea on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:38:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  this is great, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Xan, astraea, kingubu

    I didn't know you were doing this.  I have never written fiction though I have always wanted to try.  I get stuck mostly at dialogue or maybe I just have zero talent.
    I am going to have to check out other diaries to see if you have given advice on how to get started.

    •  Heya TiP! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TeresaInPa, astraea

      I'm in the same category. Write reviews, rewrite news, etc., for a (semi) living but never able to get anywhere getting fiction actually on paper (okay, screen). Ideas out the wazoo...in fact I picked up a sentence somebody wrote in Vol. I of this here Writer's Workshop thing and had it all sketched out with characters 'n' all that shit in about 10 minutes.

      How much of it is now written? (Echoes of hollow laughter sound through the leafless forest).

      If they put together a cowardly chickenshit/missed the train at the first station group, count me in. I got one more week to work and then Solstice Holiday week off and swear I'm using that to buckle down and produce at least one actual piece all the way to the end. Which may come on p. 2, who knows. :)

      Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?

      by Xan on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:31:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a fifteen year writer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk

    who's okay, but I have an overactive critic tht criticizes what I write before it comes out. I attack my word order, and sometimes I feel like I'm worse than James Joyce. But, as forusing an omniscient point of view in our writing, that's about the only way I write. I always found it much harder to write first person. My only problem though is sometimes i sit down at the desk to write, I approach like a job, that and other things inexplicably make my fiction read like an essay. Quote:

    There was a small table beside her recliner, and he noticed that she had a large glass of water on it, which she picked up and drank heartily from. She must have gotten it earlier, when he was outside. He supposed this would help her voice, and help re-hydrate her, she suddenly seemed very fragile at the moment, but had seemed powerful and commanding earlier. He didn’t know what had happened to her, but felt that maybe it was the prospect of going back to things she didn’t want to remember that was weakening her. Pg. 58

    He considered for a second, staying downstairs and listening into their argument, so that he could possibly find out what he had done wrong and how to fix it. But, he trashed the idea, because it was too unpleasant. It would be better to listen to the old lady’s stories.
    So, taking some initiative he turned up the pace and climbed up the retractable ladder up into the attic three times as fast as the old lady.
    He couldn’t understand what his current hurry was, until now he hadn’t really wanted to go up into the small attic, which was how the old lady described it. In fact he had really wanted to stay down here and see if he could make things better if did so. But, now he wasn’t even thinking about staying down here more, it was as if the thought of doing so he suddenly despised now that he had thought it through.
    Once he got to the attic, she retracted the ladder to its former position, and he realized that she hadn’t been kidding when she had said that the room was cramped. The ceiling was barely five feet high, a tight squeeze for him, but obviously more than for her, as she was a foot shorter than he was.
    Pg. 55 both quotes came from the lost room, not the scifi mini series that just came out, but a horror experiment I started 2 yearsa ago, and quit a year ago at page 140 because I didn't like it all.

    See what I mean?

    Click New Louisiana : Southern Democrats Club on DFA

    by ArkDem14 on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:11:53 PM PST

    •  well, it is a beginning (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ArkDem14

      I have written reams of pages and thrown reams and kept a ream or two over the last years.  

      Keep writing your thoughts as you can use it for back story.  Good luck!  I am glad you are starting, now.  I will be able to say I knew you when.  :)

      "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

      by cfk on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 07:27:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just walked in on this (0+ / 0-)

    can someone explain it to me fully?

    Click New Louisiana : Southern Democrats Club on DFA

    by ArkDem14 on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:15:15 PM PST

    •  sure (0+ / 0-)

      3 weeks ago Devilstower posted about starting and online writing group.   He then challenged any and all to write a short story by the following thursday.   150 people said they would, 72 did.   DT read all the stories and gave everyone feedback.    He also offered to group people into online writing groups.   That is where we are now.

      •  oh, I'd like to send in a short story (0+ / 0-)

        what do I do?

        Click New Louisiana : Southern Democrats Club on DFA

        by ArkDem14 on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 02:43:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  i'm not sure (0+ / 0-)

          when devilstower started this he mentioned it being an ongoing thing.   However, i'm not sure if he is still accepting new stories.   Sounds like he had a bit of a busy week.   Perhaps you can e-mail him and get into a writing group.  His e-mail is in his profile.

          I just randomly stumbled upon his diary about this 3 weeks ago.  I don't think it was up very long.  

        •  he'll probably ask for more stories at.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk

          ...a later date.

          It was "homework" for the first writer's workshop.

          But, understandably, we can expect him to do it every week.  WAY too much time.

          I regret I didn't submit a story myself but it has been a crazy month so I hope I"ll get the opportunity later.

          If a democrat demands accountability in the Capital and no one covers it, does he make a sound?

          by DawnG on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 08:25:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  group B, anyone? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chun Yang, cfk

    Hello, my name isn't john, but I really am a procrastinator.

    Is anyone else from group B around? Let me know. I'd love to chat.

    I'm in a different time zone, by the way, seriously different. As in Japan. But I'm as American as Velveeta.

  •  group b member reporting... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk

    which is my writing problem. I seem to be on the dry side in need of some rip-roaring adjectives.

    Are we the murderous group? I killed off my victims with smoothing irons, how about you?

    •  pleased to meet you Chun Yang (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chun Yang, cfk

      Sorry, no murders here. Just dessicated psychological realism. And phone calls, lots of phone calls.

      Smoothing irons? Sounds like a nasty way to go but, pardon my ignorance, what exactly is a smoothing iron?

      BTW, I just sent the various members of group b an email, at least the members whose email addresses I could find.

    •  Hello Chun Yang (0+ / 0-)

      This is Circle checking in. I didn't kill anyone off in my story, but it did reflect on the loss of a young man in war.... in World War II, actually. It was set in Berlin in the 1980s when the wall was up and there were still ruins around.  No smoothing irons, no gore. More about emotions than action—the girl who loved him was old now and all alone in the world... she had lived through the bombing of Berlin, but never really recovered from the shocking experiences of her youth. As I mentioned in my general post, Devilstower quoted my opening line, which of course, made me very happy.

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 10:19:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  same! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      astraea

      Finally I can report in, if anyone sees this - it is only 4 days late...

      Inclement weather, as seen on TV.

      No one died in my story, not yet anyways - I didn't finish. In fact I didn't make it much beyond one paragraph. I am a very slow writer still - it's been years since I've sat down and really tried to write fiction. I forgot just how hard it is.

      If anyone sees this comment - how are we networking? Is there an email list I can subscribe to?

      "The power to dominate rests on the differential possession of knowledge" -Foucault

      by Jett on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 08:29:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  hi Jett (0+ / 0-)

        Welcome! I missed the initial grouping of groups, but was invited to join Group B, as was Justice Putnam.

        Chun Yang set up a Yahoo Group for us. I'll tell them over there that you're around. In the meantime, you can email Chun Yang (her address is here). I think she'll have to send you an email invitation to join the Yahoo Group (apparently that's how the Yahoo system works).

        humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

        by astraea on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 02:38:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  hi jett (0+ / 0-)

        i just sent you an email on gmail. i'll check back here in case you don't get the message.

  •  group C email list? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lulu57, JEB

    send me invite terry dot pinder at gmail dot com.

  •  smoothing irons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk

    In the days when electricity was uncommon, people used these metal things to iron clothes. Shaped like irons but no cord. They heated them on the stove and then ironed the clothes. They weigh about six to eight pounds each(I have held them.)and are a pretty effective weapon for beating someone to death.

    I'm American, too(native Texan, in fact)on East Coast time. My seven year old is from your side of the globe(eastern China).

    •  thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk

      That is what I imagined them to be. I've seem some in museums. Indeed a nasty way to go. I look forward to reading that story.

      •  Group B Sorry to be late again (0+ / 0-)

        What a day...sigh!

        Thanks, Devilstower. I don't know how you do it.

        Intro for my writing group...maybe we can grab on to astrae, too. :)

        I take comfort that Michener and some others started writing late in life, but I don't recommend you wait as I have done.

        I live in the thumb of Michigan and it is EST.  I am a bit of a night owl except when my grandbaby comes to play two days a week.

        If we could have a Yahoo group, it would be a good thing, but I don't know how to set up or moderate.

        I don't like to put my whole e mail addy on DKos so I will e mail john with my addy and real name and he may pass it on, if that is OK.

        I am interested in scif/fantasy writing but open to other things.  The story I wrote in a BIG hurry for Devilstower had a beginning, middle, and end, but that was about it. At 4200 words, it was the barest skeleton you can imagine.  

        I did like my characters, though.  I thought we might be asked to do some more assignments with our story such as trying a different view point character so I was ready to do that.

        I did take the suggestions DT sent me and start over again and have a good beginning, BUT...

        The main premise is lame, IMO.  I don't know if I want to stick with that or begin all over.

        If you click my initials, you will find my diaries from Bookflurries: Bookchat and you will see that I read so much that it may paralyze me because I can never be an Asimov or Cherryh.  :)

        But, I did write a 350+ page story two years ago and got a lot of good out of it.  It was awful, but it helped me learn.

        I am generally upbeat and helpful as a community person and a retired English teacher.  I would rather not edit grammar or punct., but I love to praise and encourage ideas.

        So...I will copy this and e mail it to john and also I am hotlisting this diary and I will check it every little bit for news of others.  

        Oh, I blew up a village, but it wasn't personal...it was plot...sorry.

        I don't know if you would really want my first draft...but we will see what develops.  

        I am happy to go forward from here with you all.

        "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

        by cfk on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 07:24:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  sheesh! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk

          smashing people with smoothing irons, blowing up villages, what a violent lot! my protagonist decides to break up with his girlfriend, sort of.

          or at least he will when i finish the story.

          i'm a procrastinator, what do you expect...

        •  Circle, Group B Reporting In (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk

          Hi, It's late, you're probably all off doing other things, but, I just figured out this was happening. I'm in Northern California and it's 9 pm.  My story got a bit of front page attention last week, my opening line was the first listed. Devilstower liked the way it placed the reader in time and space. It was about a woman as he said, "peeking" into her refrigerator. The woman was living in West Berlin before the wall came down and the story reflected on the losses of war, particularly the loss of love, connectivity, youth. She was a survivor of World War II. The boy she'd been engaged to marry was not. All these years later she was still alone. The story actually grew out of time spent in Berlin in 1984—how shocked I was by the ruins that still dotted the city, by the guards with guns. Devilstower made some interesting suggestions, and also gave me positive feedback. I'd like to do a little more work on it, but haven't gotten back to it as of yet.

          I write a lot. I taught Freshman Comp in community college for about ten years and then went back to school myself and got a PhD in Philosophy and Religion (Consciousness Studies, really). I've recently finished a novel which has been seen by one agent so far, who had the graciousness to handwrite a very kind rejection letter, inviting me to send more of my writing. I did some additional editing on the book after that rejection (she took the whole manuscript and I know she wanted to like it) and now I'm about ready to make another run at agents, trying to see if I can get it out there. The book is about the life of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, but it's set in the present as well as the past, uses dreams and is sort of a ghost story.

          I guess that's about all for now. I'm looking forward to working online with people, curious to see how that will compare to the person to person groups I've been in at other times.

          In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

          by Circle on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 09:35:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I would love to read your book, it sounds neat! (0+ / 0-)

            I was afraid to go to Berlin in 1972.  I was afraid they would use the dogs and find someone under the train carriage.  

            I was also afraid to go to Prague because of stories we were told of students who barely got out with help just as the Russian tanks destroyed the brief Dubcek "spring."

            I did still see ruins along the Rhine. Your short story sounds important, too.

            Thanks for telling us about yourself.  I am very, very glad to meet you. I am about to go to bed, but I am glad I stopped to check.

            "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

            by cfk on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 09:49:44 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, (0+ / 0-)

              Sounds like we have some common ground. Europe in 1972? That must have been a rich experience. I was there for almost a year in 1984 and have been back several times, most recently to England in 2004 to work on my book.  I really like to tie travel experience into writing. I find stories in the land somehow.  You taught English? In high school?  I'm a reader too, been  stuck in the 19th century for some years now, pretty classic stuff... really like Henry James. But I also like contemporary stuff, including science fiction... just like books. I haven't been on the book chat, I'll have to check it out. 350 pages sounds a lot more like a novel than a story... what did you write about?

              In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

              by Circle on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 10:04:36 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  oh, it was a fantasy type story that had (0+ / 0-)

                been worked on in my mind and on many reams of paper for twenty years.  It had too many characters and was disjointed, to say the least.  

                I haven't looked at it for several months. At one time, I was going to see if it was fixable or not. Life intervened as it so often does.  :)

                My husband and I traveled a lot BC...(before children). Then, when our youngest was nine, we took them out your way and up the coast and into the Canadian Rockies.  

                With the costs of raising three children, the trips stopped.  We planted the travel bug in them, though.

                "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

                by cfk on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 10:59:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  philosophy and religion (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cfk

            Wonderful subjects! My dad taught philosophy and comparative religion at a community college. I sat in on his classes when I was in high school and took a little more phil. in university.

            Nice to meet you. And your book on Mary Shelley sounds fascinating.

            humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

            by astraea on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 09:22:04 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  hello, group B (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk

          thanks for inviting me in.

          I'm in eastern PA. I teach classics and ancient history part-time.

          I'm still pretty inexperienced as a writer. I generally start something, get as far as a character or situation, but have trouble moving forward from there.

          I did manage to finish a story for Devilstower--probably one of about three things I've ever finished. I didn't much like the last paragraph. It seemed forced and a little too neat and tidy. Oh well. It can be fixed.

          humani nil a me alienum puto (I consider nothing human foreign to me) --Terence

          by astraea on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 09:20:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I just sent this e mail so I will repeat part (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            astraea

            when you e mail john and get on our list, you will get these.  :) He is probably sleeping.

            My post:

            I think that this group will be helpful to me by making me set goals and try to reach them.  I hope you will ask me to help with things that you are looking for from a group.

            My goals right now:

            1...reread my 350 page story and see if it can be fixed.  It was based on 24 years of thinking.

            2...read all of Swordsmith's diaries which I hotlisted for the future.

            3...decide if I will continue trying to fix the short story I did for DT in two days time or incorporate it into my big story.  (Finishing the short story would be good, I know, as a learning exercise).

            4...discover what you all would like me to do for you.  I do have a lot going on the 23-25 as you all must have.  Then, I will have some free time.  

            5...think about the two or three stories floating around in my mind.  Circle made me remember my eight weeks in Europe in 1972 when a lot of things happened that could be turned into fiction stories.  Truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.

            My thoughts...keep practicing writing.  Keep asking questions.  Writing keeps the brain alive and our stories are needed.  

            There are many good books on writing and you probably have your favorites:

            Gabrielle Lusser Rico advocates using circles to release creative thoughts in Writing the Natural Way and Pain and Possibility.

            The Weekend Novelist
            by Robert Ray

            The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

            A Handbook for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block

            A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves

            The Practical Stylist by Sheridan Baker which I had as a college freshman

            Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich

            Of course, the book I wanted to find the most and I thought I had put in a safe place is not to be found after hours of looking...sigh

            "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

            by cfk on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 09:33:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  john and chun Group B (0+ / 0-)

    I have emailed my post above to you so please watch your junk mail for it. Thanks!

    "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

    by cfk on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 07:40:02 PM PST

    •  hi cfk (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk

      I just sent an email to you and the others in the group for whom I have addresses.

      •  Hello John (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk

        Hope you got my email. I just sent it off, and thanks for yours, it actually alerted me to the diary. I might have missed it because I wasn't online this afternoon.  I didn't kill anyone off in my story either by the way... although it looks back, and as I said in my earlier post, the story is about loss, primarily the loss of young love. The boy she was engaged to marry went off to fight in World War II and never returned.... so I guess I'd have to acknowledge death as a theme or something, but the story itself is more about the emptiness that death created, not about recounting the war.

        In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

        by Circle on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 10:10:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Oh and... Japan (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk

        I was in Japan in 1969. I was a freshman in college. I was there for six months as an exchange student.  What are you doing there?

        In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

        by Circle on Sat Dec 16, 2006 at 10:12:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  hi Circle (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk

          thanks for checking in. I got your email. Your work sounds very impressive, and I look forward to reading it.

          I'm here in Japan on a one year fellowship doing research. Life has intervened in a major way over the last year, so I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing next year. For the time being I'm just trying to enjoy life and get some writing done.

  •  Group B (0+ / 0-)

    I will keep posting here as well as answering e mail in case jett and Math Guy stop by.

    I decided last night that I don't have to blow a village up, I can just worry about it happening. It is not set in stone. :)

    Actually, I wrote the story for DT in two days so it was not my finest moment.  What it did accomplish was to get my brain working.

    I think one good thing about a group that has already happened to me is to make me keep my promises to write.  I can set some goals and you will hold me responsible or at least I will feel that way as I report in to you.

    Knowing someone is keeping track of me and may be actually reading some parts of my story will keep me honest, I believe.

    I will answer Chun's e mail in a few minutes. :)

    "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

    by cfk on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 06:29:54 AM PST

  •  Anybody Need Justice? (0+ / 0-)

    Because I'm not in a group.

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude --Pablo Neruda

    by justiceputnam on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 09:36:49 PM PST

  •  GROUP B (0+ / 0-)

    I am SO SORRY to be so dilatory in my reply!!!  I won't bother with the litany of excuses.

    Intro...I'm a mathematician (what a surprise!) and have published an advanced textbook in mathematicial analysis. I'm working on another on stochastic processes (my daughter says "sarcastic processes") but have an itch to try fiction.

    My story was a very short SF time travel story.  I was weary of the "travel in time and change the world" stories so I wanted a story with a more personal and melancholy storyline.  I spent all of four hours on writing it (about 3000 words) so it wasn't great but -- according to our founder -- didn't totally stink either.

    Am I too late to still participate???  I haven't read the posts above...is there a list to which we can subsribe???

    Again, apologies...end of semester administrivia intervened...

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke

    by mathGuyNTulsa on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 05:44:57 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site