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Hello, writers. I'm about to try posting pictures in a diary for the first time, and it may be an utter flop. I won't know till after I've finished writing the diary, so if it doesn't work, the diary is going to read pretty sillily. Sorry about that. Another leap of faith. Writers live on 'em.

Anyway. Right now I'm trying to decide which of four or five story ideas to write next. Of course, what always happens when I sit down with a story idea and try to write it is that I immediately discover that it's not as much of an idea as I thought it was. That is, I imagined a character. And a situation. And a couple of other characters. But that's it. It's not a story yet. It's not even a complete idea for a story. It's more of an idea for an idea.

So I think. And think. And I don't know if you've ever noticed it, but thinking is sort of difficult. I have several different activities that I use to trick myself into thinking about a story.

The first is walking. Right now that's difficult because of the weather and a bum ankle. So walking's out. (Too bad. If I hadn't hadn't spent hours and days walking in a nearby forest, I never would've written Jinx.)

The second is bubble charts. We've talked about these before, but just in case anyone doesn't know what they are, I'm going to try to upload a pic.

bubble chart

Hope that worked. This is just one bubble chart: questions-my-planning-has-raised-so-far. I do one on each character, several on each of the main characters, several on the setting... roughly 100 of these things in the course of writing a novel, some before the initial draft and some after.

My third planning thing is drawing. When I suggest this to people, they sometimes say “But I can't draw.” Well, if these uploads work, you'll see that I can't either. But that's not the point. Dammit, Jim, you're a writer, not an artist. (Unless you're both.) Draw stick figures if you want. Nobody'll know.

Anyway, if this works, the first pic is just to get an idea of the characters and setting that I imagine opening one of the stories I'm working on. The chair's important to the story, that's why it's front and center:

characters and chair

The contrast didn't come out very well on that one but hopefully you can sort of see it.

This next one is just a character. I haven't done the face very well, I have a lot of trouble with faces. But the fists are very much part of who the character is, as is the hair and the bare feet:


This last is from a different story. This pic is the kind I have most trouble with. The girl's legs are all wrong for the perspective. But I try not to worry about that stuff. The point is to show the characters in their setting, and looking with some trepidation (given that their eyes are just dots) toward... something.


Anyway, I've mentioned drawing often enough that I thought I should show you what I meant by it, and give you some idea of how you might be able to use this sort of doodling activity if you don't already.

These are just a few different ways of sneaking up on your story. (Only one of them involves actual words.) There are other wordless ways that might work for you... playing the piano, swimming, just sitting and watching the world pass by.

Tonight's challenge:
Write a dialogue between the characters in any of my pictures and

1. each other


2. an external character


Try to limit yourself to 100 words. (Oh, and try not to beat up my characters too badly. I might need 'em later. Thanks.)


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Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry. As you can see, the images (19+ / 0-)

    did not post. I tried everything, including, as a last resort, following the directions, but couldn't get them to load into the diary. So they're links instead.

    At least the links seem to work.

    -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

    by SensibleShoes on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 04:07:00 PM PST

    •  close enough, for a wordsmith ;-) (8+ / 0-)

      My own process is a bit organic. While I've yet to write any novels or even extended stories, I've had enough fun working up some of the diaries I've posted here and a few other projects to have some idea of how it works for me. I usually start out with an overall idea, which means a starting point, middle stuff, and some kind of conclusion.

      With that rough framework, I let it stew for a while. I find parts of my brain will chew away on it without any conscious effort from me until some kind of critical mass is reached. In extreme cases I've woken up and found my brain has been working away at it all night long. There's always something going on in the background, which makes coping with meatspace a little too interesting at times.

      At some point when the planets align just so, I'll start turning it into words, and keep hammering away at it till it's about where I want it. If I'm really being smart about it, I'll 'finish' it and let it sit for a bit - then get back to it when I can take a fresher look at it, and polish it up a bit more. One of these days I'll have to take the critical step and see if I can get paid for all this, though I get a fair amount of pleasure just from putting words together.

      The way my mind works is a bit like combining holographs with fractal geometry; a piece of a holograph will still give you the entire picture, and like a fractal, the closer you look, the more detail you find… And like anything else, practice makes a huge difference. I once read the one thing that makes world class musicians world class, is that they are playing all the time. Yo Yo Ma supposedly keeps a cello in every room in his house so he can just sit down and start playing where ever he is.

      As to sketching, your advice on that reminds me of something from Rocketship Galileo (R.A.H.). At some point one of the adult characters said to the brave young lads something like, you can't really see something until you draw it.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 05:36:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Hey look," sez little kid in 'chair' drawing, (8+ / 0-)

    "there's some reformation people dancing in the back of the armchair!'

    "Cool," sez shorthair t-shirt&jeanz person, "Even with this lamp on, you can still see them.  Shh, let's listen what they're saying."

    "BRB," sez longhair flower-on-sweatshirt person,"I'm gonna go cancel the cable subscription, save us a 'bundle'. Who needs tv when you have historical armchair."

    "But what if they jack up the price on internet service?" little kid asks anxiously.

    "No worries, I'll tell'em we're switching everything over to the competitor, they'll give me a great rate on just the internet connection."

    And they did.

    The end.

  •  Hey Sensible shoes, can I try to help you learn (9+ / 0-)

    how to post pix?

    You have to load them up in one of the approved of photosites. I use Photoshop which is free.  Once you've done that you just copy the HTML code box they provide and paste it into your post or comment.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 05:45:30 PM PST

    •  Thank you! I've got 'em on Photobucket. (7+ / 0-)

      I did a right click on the pix to get the photo url.

      Then on the diary, I went to the place where I wanted to insert the photo and clicked "link".

      I went down to the link box, pasted in the photo url, and checked the box for "image".

      Some html code appeared in the diary. But then when I went to "preview", there was nothing there at all.

      I went back and forth for about an hour, and then I was out of time so just posted the hypertext links instead.

      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 05:50:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  did you draw them with mouse or something? (4+ / 0-)

        or on paper & scanned them in?  just curious...

      •  When you have the picture displayed in (6+ / 0-)

        photobucket there should be a box in the lower right hand part of the screen, with four lines of options.

        I always choose the one that says "copy HTML code."

        Then I paste that directly in the post or comment.  I don't try to use that photo url thingy.  Just paste the HTML code in that third box direclty in the text box.

        Then if you need to resize it you can add width="400" up to a max of around  649 I think.  And, I sometimes use the align="right" or left and width of 300 to put a photo on half the screen with text on the other.

        The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by HoundDog on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:20:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A problem I ran into (5+ / 0-)

          was that it wouldn't let me copy the html code. When I click on the box in order to scroll along the lenght of the code and copy it, it's like there's no box there. I can't see or reach the whole code.

          I don't know if that was a problem with my browser interface, or what. Since I couldn't copy the html code, I did the right-click and just tried to paste the url into dkos's "link image" box instead. You think that was where the trouble occurred?

          I wonder if I tried some other hosting site if I might have better luck with the html code.

          -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

          by SensibleShoes on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:31:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've used the Photobucket website for years with (4+ / 0-)

            no problems.

            There should be a first column label tag that allows you to copy the whole HTML string even if you can not see it.

            Yes, I think that's where the trouble is starting. I don't think just clicking on the picture will work.

            If you have a PC you can right click just before a photo in someone else's post and then select "Sourcecode" to see the correct HTML code to put around the URL location.

            But, you should be able to get that code in one of two ways. Either clicking on the "Copy HTML" button, or positioning the cursor in the leftmost part of the following box with the code, and then depressing your left mouse button and sliding it to the right, while still holding the mouse button down, and then selecting copy or "control C." That should copy the HTML code all the way across the box even if you can not see it.

            Do you by any chance have a browser security add on that prevents sites from running scripts? I believe you need Java scripts activated to correctly use the Photobucket site.

            I installed a Firefox browser recommended by Cotterperson, which prevents Photobucket from working unless I temporarily allow it to run scripts.  

            I hope this helps.  There is a helpdesk around here someplace that if usually pretty helpful.


            The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

            by HoundDog on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:21:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Draw On! (12+ / 0-)

    I've been noodling a huge project, with dozens of characters set on dozens of worlds. Completely paralyzing.

    Then the other day I realized that it's not the scope I find so scary, but the fact that I didn't have any story.


    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:02:22 PM PST

  •  Doodling (9+ / 0-)

    As a cartoonist, I highly approve of doodling.

    Earlier on in my Cat-Men from Mars webcomic, I had a vague idea about introducing an astronomer character to deliver some important plot information.  I didn't really know who he was or what he would be like; I just needed someone to provide an info dump.

    At the same time, I was worrying that my comic was awfully... well... white.  Partly because the source material I'm using for inspiration, Pulp adventure from the '30s, was also mostly about white characters; and partly because I'm pretty whitebread myself.  I wanted to add some diversity to my cast.

    While doodling some faces in my sketchbook, I came up with this young black man in coke-bottle glasses and a bow-tie and I realized I had my astronomer.  His whole personality just sort of came out of that image:  young, bright and idealistic; his family had worked their way into the middle class and he was the first of his family to go to college; he was taught that education and hard work are the keys to gaining racial equality.  Experience has shown him that it isn't that easy, but hasn't entirely lost his idealism and he has a lot of determination.

    Originally, I intended to have the saboteur at the space station kill the astronomer, but I decided I liked Willie too much.  He survived a murderous attack by the saboteur and I brought him back for a later scene to help Ginger when she is lost on the Moon.

    For the most part, I tend to use a one step at a time approach to plotting, building each scene off the previous one.  I have a general idea of where I want things to go... usually.  But sometimes the actual steps take me someplace else.

    Dark Redemption is kind of that way.  When I started it, I didn't have a plot in mind; it just sort of grew, alternating between having characters interact with each other and following Raymond Chandler's dictum about the Man With a Gun.  Which has caused problems.  Once I finally decided what the antagonist's Master Plan was, I realized that I had previously written bits that were inconsistent with it.  I still need to work out some of those inconsistencies.

    In fact, one of the things I've tried is something like your Bubble Chart:  I made up a list of questions I need to answer and a series of possible answers with thoughts on how each one might affect the rest of the plot.  I don't have it all worked out yet, but it has helped.

    And speaking of Dark Redemption, here is this week's teaser:  

    Strephon sighed as he lowered himself into the warm, soothing water of his bathtub. Had he a mortal pair of lungs and upper respiratory system he would probably had developed pneumonia by now. As it was, his ancient legs ached and made him doubly grateful for the blessed warmth of the tub.

    Some of the steam from the tub wafted away from the tub and began to curl into a recognizable shape. Strephon frowned. "Devon?"

    The mist resolved itself into a human shape. "I hope this isn't a bad time," Devon said.

    "Do you mind? Can't a man expect a bit of privacy in his own bath?"

    Devon rolled his eyes cielingward. Then he made a theatrical show of covering his eyes and turning his back to Strephon. "There. Are you happy now?"

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:08:59 PM PST

    •  Those are great! Do you draw on the computer (8+ / 0-)

      or on paper?

      What is the man with the gun dictum?

      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:19:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Laying it Out (3+ / 0-)

        I've made out these "forms" pre-marked to my proportions that I use for roughing out my layouts.  Sometimes I script out the dialogue for each page first and design the layout to fit; often the dialogue and the layout sort of evolve together.

        I then draw out the art on paper and ink it with technical markers.  I scan the art into my computer and do the greytones and insert the dialogue with PhotoShop.

        Because my ancient version of PhotoShop doesn't have any good tools for creating word balloons, I draw them freehand at the inking stage and hope I leave myself enough room for my dialogue.  It helps to write the dialogue out on the page at the pencilling stage, but sometimes I wind up having to edit in order to fit the balloons.

        I think Dashiell Hammett was the one who said that "When things begin to flag, have a man walk into the room with a gun."  SF writer A.E. van Vogt had a similar principle:  he liked to say that he tried to introduce "Something New" every 700 words to keep the reader surprised.

        Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

        by quarkstomper on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 02:24:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think I have a dark side (8+ / 0-)

    that seems to want to get out and play. Oh dear! That is a bit unexpected. (I am actually super nice and sweet. Honest.)

    “Not all history is gone and done Charlotte. Some people linger.” Robert pointed to the chair with it’s two embroidered figures. “These two are imprisoned here for a reason.”

    “Robert, the girl is still so young. Do you have to tell her these gruesome stories?” Lizzie threw a disgusted look at the chair then her husband.

    “Not my fault Lizzie. I would have gladly waited until, oh, never to tell her. But she is going to be Curator here. Her powers are already manifesting.” Robert knelt next to his daughter and pointed at the chair. “These were two very bad people. Long, long ago, this man betrayed his country. Because of him over 2,000 men suffered horribly.”

    “Daddy that’s scary. But what’s it got to do with me?” Charlotte reached over to grab her mother’s hand.

    “They want to get out Charlotte. They want to walk among the living again. We can’t let that happen. Someday, you’ll be a Curator.” Robert took his daughter’s other hand and squeezed it lightly to reassure the girl. “But for now, you just need to learn The Rules.”

    And I seem to want to write about the 18th century. Good Lord!

    On the bright side, I am nearest to 100 words ever in a challenge.  (I have no idea why I thought of the Lorings from your pic, but I did. Must be an after affect of a too long winter.)

    •  I love the way you (7+ / 0-)

      throw in these strong fantasy tropes with everything prompt. Are you working on a fantasy?


      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:37:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought I was (8+ / 0-)

        But another story is muscling it's way in and taking over. It borders on horror/fantasy/alternate world.  It goes back to non-serious comments I made on this group about a necromancer.  Well, there are a lot of ways to write about that... (hehehe)

        The Lorings were an infamous couple in American Revolutionary history. (Awesomely juicy stuff that nobody knows about because the Revolution is such a wooden story, as taught.)

        Joshua Loring, Jr. was a wealthy man who basically lost everything to the Patriot cause. He fled to Boston sometime in 1774 and promptly leased his young wife to be mistress to Gen. Howe, military commander of the British occupiers. (Seriously, The General lands and about a week later, he is inseparable from the comely Mrs. L.)

        Joshua got a payoff as "commissary general to the prisoners" captured during the war. He is blamed for about 2,000 American deaths that occurred on the prison ships. Nasty, nasty piece of work, that one.

        If ever there was a figure who should have a cursed tale spun about him, it's Joshua and his wife. And the 2,000 wronged men who want him in hell.

        Damn, I think I have a wicked dark side. Who knew?

        •  dynamite stuff! (8+ / 0-)

          THAT is what makes history fascinating to read! not the cleaned up simplistic good-guys-vs-bad-guys stuff.

          thnx 4 link!

          •  seriously, what a description (7+ / 0-)
            "This Loring is a monster!...There is not his like in human shape: He  exhibits a smiling countenance, seems to wear a phiz of humanity, but has been instrumentally capable of the most consummate acts of wickedness…(clothed with the authority of a Howe) murdering premeditatedly (in cold blood) near or quite 2000 helpless prisoners…(at N.York). He is the most mean-spirited, cowardly, deceitful and destructive animal in God’s creation." ibid to link above
            And a "wicked cool" character in an age full of wicked characters.

            My deepest apologies for all these adverbs. The 18th century was wordy.

            •  yeah, (6+ / 0-)

              although those kind of actions/choices/behaviors weren't all that unusual at least in western history as i recall bits and pieces of it.  lots of upper class mistress stuff with spouse's full complaisance.  mistresses who developed an awful lot of influence and control in politics and finance, some a lot of intellectual stature as well.  of course, more got written about them than about the ones who were just used and discarded.

              •  Oh, history is full of these tales. (4+ / 0-)

                They really do lend spice to the story. Too bad they can't be taught in school, because they are so much fun to read.

                I am something far less than a world traveler.  How do other countries handle these types of scandalous tales?

                The thing about Loring is that he traded his wife for the right to torture his countrymen.  Oh, ick. Just ick.

                •  but for all we know, it was her idea. (4+ / 0-)

                  Howe may have been her target.  possibly loring was a total inept. but she's married to him. how to improve their situation? attach to someone with power.  and maybe howe is better in the sack.  highly placed people who bought their positions (in one form of 'coin' or another) were often extraordinarily inept, and "gentlemen" being pretty much the only legally &/or financially accepted (i.e., having to literally purchase the 'job') officers and topdogs, ordinary people routinely died as a result.

                  whatever else may be said about mel gibson, the Patriot is actually an extremely good film in terms of the horrendously good portrait of power relations in the british military, and how destructive it was in every respect.

                  this diary by arkdem14 portrays a similar corrosion.

                  i guess my point being, the fact that a wife becomes someone's mistress doesn't always mean she's been forced against her will, and the description of her personality at the link kind of suggests that she had her own irons in the fire.  it IS still ick, if so, 'tho in a different way: she & her husband both would have known anything he was in charge of go badly but since only ordinary people/prisoners would suffer, why should they care?

                  of course, you could also be completely right, that she was traded by her husband to howe for that lucrative position and she simply made the best of what she had no control over.

                  •  Both. They had plenty of motivation (3+ / 0-)

                    I love your take on history.  I could not agree more with what you are saying. So many of the turncoats of that era had mixed motives and a lot of marital swapping instances were both desired and lucrative for both parties.

                    There has been a wonderful avalanche of scholarship recently on the 18th century. The Am Rev has been opened up so that it can be seen as a human event with flawed humans as principal and minor actors. The Patriot side were not angels. They had their own bad behavior. A Loring might have been a monster, but he had cause for revenge. That monster was home grown. (Herein hangs a tale)

                    Another useless fact: Boston, as a port town, was full of sailors and brothels during the AmRev. (Brit soldier diaries are full of comments on this.) funny thing is that ole Beantown was world famous, for a port town, as having a particular Yankee way of efficiently running those business.
                    That is funny, insightful and a cool way of looking at people and hypocrisy in that era.

                    •  And of course "turncoats" & divorce/marriage (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      RiveroftheWest, TayTay

                      were utterly different from now.

                      for one thing, most people of English origin living in the American colonies at that time considered themselves English and even in initial battles saw the situation as fighting to keep the same rights for themselves as English citizens overseas as were enjoyed by English citizens in England. They wanted to not be ruled differently was all. (Our bill of rights didn't come out of nowhere, far to the contrary.) The earliest 'patriots' were widely regarded as as traitors to England, and a 'turncoat' was someone who had vowed allegiance to one cause and then changed/turned his coat/uniform allegiance to the opposite side, especially if doing so secretly for espionage purposes; not someone who simply continued to want to be an equal English citizen and not even someone who wanted to be an equally venal and profiteering English citizen.

                      Colonization had always been about commerce for raw materials cheap and materials that weren't found anywhere else in the world, and families/civil settlements were just the long-known recognition (since greco/roman and earlier empire/colony times) that skills and activities needed for creating and holding successful mercantile colonies were most civilian skills not provideable by military units & officers assigned to enforce overseas land control (be it control by British, Dutch, French, Portuguese etc). Civilians and the 'gentleman'-class of military officers (gentleman = younger sons of titled families, not well-behaved people as we understand the term now) demanded to have their families and servants and other "comforts" with them, in addition to the earnings of conquest (, none of which 'comforts' were illegal at the time.

                      Marriage then as now was mostly about arranging property for personal and familial security (e.g., a large factor in the drive for legal recognition of same-sex marriage is to secure spousal social security rights and job-benefit rights including military, etc, --which are financial property-- and rights of lawful action on behalf of spouse and children ~ in countries where a solid social safety net and universal healthcare are standard, common-law marriages are more ...common... especially countries where religious marriages make divorce & remarriage difficult).

                      But persons of titled families back then might be unable to get a divorce (dissolution of marriage contract with severely complex division of property & 'ownership' of children & children's rights of inheritance) unless it was granted by parliamentary bill of divorcement (House of Lords acting as a court of law similar to the ancient power of british monarchs to approve or nonapprove or declare invalid marriages/proposed marriages by/among noble houses.) Marriage contracts were literal contracts among all propertied persons (i.e., including yeoman, middle-classes, etc, spelling out what properties each party brought to the marriage, which of them was to be dowry, which to be dower, which to be inheritable only by the male line, which to be accessible to the wife, which to be controlled by the wife or even outright owned by her separate from her husband, how subsequent inherited or personally-generated property by husband or wife was to be accessible to which and controlled by whom and owned by whom, what were the inheritance provisions for a spouse and children when one of the spouses dies, etc.  

                      Among noble houses and their cadets and their 'fitzes' (children-of-the-left-hand/wrong side of the blanket) and among the non-noble ambitious seeking titles & powers who possessed some form of leverage (sometimes beauty, sometimes cleverness including in bed), formal and informal (including extra-legal) positions of influence upon more powerful persons, and positions in relation to more powerful persons by which gain from the relationship, were realistically considered potential value in deciding whom to marry.

                      Disentangling all that by a divorce (if even possible financially & legally to disentangle) simply for emotional reasons (including being physically abused) was really not imaginable until VERY recently. Articles such as the one about the Lorings in saying that the Mrs apparently liked the Mr enough to have some children with him after the end of the Howe relationship are being absurd from the viewpoint of those times: a woman in the situation and era of Mrs Loring who did have 1 or more children, preferably male, was protecting her own future survival literally, because if she had no children she usually stood to lose having somewhere to live and income for food, clothing, etc, because if her husband chose to abandon her she had little recourse or means of survival; and if he predeceased her with other relatives of his still alive then those relatives of preceding generation and male relatives of her late husband's generation and younger generally had extensive inheritance rights that could easily impoverish her, including taking all property she had generated during the marriage and virtually all she had "brought to" the marriage. Even having a daughter was better than no children, because daughters were generally provided for in their parents' marriage contracts (the dower and dowry clauses for example, hence the word dowager has less to do with age than with property rights), daughters being useful for marrying off to other families with whom marital/property/business alliance looked mutually advantageous, which of course required the daughters to be bringing property in order for her to be of interest to the family of the "intended."

                      So, a widow who'd had any children at all during marriage was in a safer position. Note, that is "during" and does not mean the children were fathered by her husband, who might easily acknowledge-as-his-own any children fathered 'thru his wife affaires sooner than admit the children weren't his, if only because the marriage contract may have spelled out entitlements to him predicated upon his wife actually having children -- e.g., property from grandparents devolving directly to grandchildren-- which would be clauses protective to the wife, in effect, and because having children to give in marriage was potentially of contract value, so he was extremely unlikely to repudiate them, hence the saying, "never comment on a likeness" of one man's acknowledged children to the likeness of some other man, it just doesn't do anyone any good.

                      Again, so she was generally in considerable control of, even if not ownership of, all property resulting from having been married, in administering it for the benefit of the unmarried minor children (and for benefit to herself, fair pay for the job of widowed mother, even if technically there were male trustees doing the administering) and for married children for whom inheritance documents specified age of inheritance regardless of when marrying, and the inheritance documents were generally predetermined by the previous marriage documents & other legal forces of documents from the generation before and before.  As long as her children lived, (and sometimes even if they died but had given her grandchildren) the widow was reasonably safe, unless the children hated her and had legal power to dispossess her.

                      The humor and satire which Jane Austen and other writers of the era bring to stories of romance and seeking-for-marriage were written within a context of fully understanding the complexities of property as the means for survival. The idea of earning a living by fair-paid labor did not exist yet. The idea of "saving up for old age" was inaccessible to most people because banks and retirement plans in the modern sense did not exist and the best and often only investment for most was to buy real estate (some people these days will say the same) in order to have an income at least from rents of farmlands and buildings.  The mentions in Pride&Prejudice, Sense&Sensiblity, etc, of fearing to lose their home and income when the father of the family would die is not trivial, but actual. It only appears to be lightly taken from our viewpoint, our assumption that humor means no worries and that liking and affection and passion are all that figures in whom we marry; in their day, a marriage which both gave some security for one's parents & siblings as well as for the family created by the marriage AND involved affection was a sensationally exciting idea differing from the chivalric romances of preceding novelists.

                      The adoption by the christian/catholic church of the idea of sacred priestess orders and converting that idea into religious communities of women was one of the extremely few protections for women that existed, acceptance often requiring endowment of the abbey with whatever property the woman or widow legally had a right to bring - often not enough to live on in secular life even if independent life were possible for her, but in combination with the existing property held in common by the order it could be valuable enough to ensure her food, clothing, shelter & companionship for the rest of her life, and the only arena in which she might rise as a result of her own abilities ('tho rank of birth-family tended to have a major influence upon who could become the real authority/power in the community and the order). The dissolution of abbeys (Downtown Abbey indicating the place was probably originally an actual Abbey whose property was gifted to a 'deserving' person by a monarch) by Henry8 and his confiscating of the wealth and property of those abbeys put thousands of women literally into the street to walk it hooking or die, which was justified by the claim that those nuns were promiscuous and licentious anyway.  By the time of Jane Austen, one out of roughly every 8 women in the british isles was a prostitute and another 1 out of that 8 was in service to someone of property and her entire life conduct and determination of daily activities utterly subject to the whims & judgement of that propertied person with little or no recourse to law; by the end of the victorian era the numbers were 1 in 6 and 1 in 6.

                      So we need to be very careful how we interpret what people do ---and what we think they felt or thought--- in any era, culture, or circumstance different from our own.

                      It's all still extremely fascinating and enlightening, of course, and goes a long way toward explaining why (why meaning "from what cause" &/or "toward what purpose) empires routinely sank billions of dollars-worth of wealth and millions of lives held essentially slave to military service in standing armies for reinforcing tribute-taking & colonization & wars of multiple decades against their neighbors, brothers, and cousins, let alone wars against people they found expedient (profitable) to regard as inferior because not of their own culture. At a certain level of 'western' society, we are actually not as far from those times/values as we might think.

                      thanks for great conversation!

                      •  Absolutely fascinating comment -- (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        TayTay, mettle fatigue

                        it could have been a diary unto itself! In any case it is well worth reading; thank you!

                      •  Ok, at some point we need to talk offline (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        mettle fatigue, RiveroftheWest

                        And I so wish I had picked a better link.

                        Recent scholarship has peered into these issues as they related to America and how US law saw marriage, women, property and inheritance. I have to find my link to 3 rdcent books on "infamous" women, including Peggy Shippen (might be Shippin), who was Benedict Arnold's eventual wife.

                        (I am apart from my research materials and on a cell phone on the moment. You open a world of topics on British and US views.  Love it. )

                        I am fascinated by the whole subject of women with or married to or paramours of "spies. "  check out the controversy on Margaret Kemble Gage or the infamous traitor Benjamin Church's amour.

                        I wish I had picked a better link on the Lorings. I generally stay away from anything with the female perjoratives like "whore" in them for obvious reasons.  

                        Thank you for this. Great stuff.

                        •  you're very kind. (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          TayTay, RiveroftheWest

                          i can't read longform nonfiction anymore so i appreciate the material wherever someone brings them here.  actually i can't speak much outloud either - i get kind of aphasic, 'tho oddly when my fingers do the work that's much less a problem.

                          don't worry about the Loring link - it was such a great example of the kind of thinking any era is prone to use about previous ones.  whenever looking at history, that needs to be recalled constantly, so i think it did an excellent service.

                          and gave me an basis to contribute, so, y'know... heh ;)

                          most high-achieving women are infamous at some time, their own or others or both. i love the "uppity women" book series.  it's kids'-level but i get such a kick out of it.  

                          i looked up margaret kemble gage, "Peggy" Shippen (even wikipedia heads her article with the diminutive, and omits her married name) and benjamin church in wikipedia.  An interesting bit about shippen that pertains to one of my points:

                          Arnold purchased Mount Pleasant, a manor home...for his bride, and specifically deeded the property to Peggy and that of their future children.[3] The couple did not live at Mount Pleasant; instead Arnold rented it out for income property.
                          the tradition of a diamond engagement ring comes, basically, from the propertied-class custom of the affianced husband giving a property gift to the affianced wife, in respect for her material security, and dates back very anciently.   sadly, diamond rings are not worth squat these days.  diamonds are not rare nor particularly precious.   emeralds, on the other hand...

                          wikipedia quotes geo washington reporting of letters carried by "a woman who was kept by [Benjamin] Church" which means she could either have been his lover whose living expenses he paid, or a salaried servant, a bond servant (indentured) or a slave, because the verb for having all/any of them was "keep", just as for owning/operating a wheeled passenger vehicle at the time was "keeping a carriage".  her being literate is what most suggests she may have been near of his class, but unless he was wealthy enough to pay the costs of her separate household (and there's no clarity of his wealth or lack), she may not have been his lover except coincidental to her other tasks as some form of servant to him.  

                          these articles are mostly written from an assumption of independence-mindedness that isn't entirely accurate, which the "Assessment" section in the Church article hints at the error of in saying

                          It is worth noting that Church shared this information when Americans were not yet fixed on independence.
                          we're so jingoistically conditioned to think of our founding families as "americans" that even in wikipedia articles by historians (amateur or whatever) the presumption of patriotism-vs-traitors creeps in even without basis.  it's difficult to think/write outside the reflexive box.

                          talk to you again/next time, or looking forward to reading what you send next,
                          thnx again

        •  That could be a good story. (6+ / 0-)

          I never knew about it, and I'm a colonial history buff. You should write it.

          -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

          by SensibleShoes on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:05:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Trapped in the furniture (7+ / 0-)

      That's even worse than being trapped in the appliances.

      I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

      by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:38:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Something like... (11+ / 0-)
    Once there was a chair...
    "I don't care what anyone says. It's not the same," said Elaine with a pensive half-smile. "I still remember sitting in front of this chair while Mrs. Pemberton used to read us stories here in the library, and it was magic!"

    "I know what you mean. She might have smelled a bit of cigarettes, and always wore those sensible shoes, but somehow it didn't matter." Jason had a little smile of his own. "Remember how we used to hope we'd get called to turn the pages for her?"

    "What happened to her?" Rosalyn asked. "Was she bad?"

    "No - you were too young to remember," Elaine said. "Mom would bring you here with us when you were just a baby. You'd always go right to sleep after the story started."

    "Yeah, they had a party for her the day she retired. We had cake and everything. I think she moved to Florida, just before they burned all the books," Jason frowned.

    "Books burn?" Rosalyn asked, sounding confused.

    Elaine smiled. "Yes, they used to be made out of paper and stuff. You could hold them in your hand, look in them anywhere you wanted without having to click through, and they came in all kinds of sizes and shapes. They weren't always on eReaders. This whole room used to be full of them - they had special shelves to hold them."

    "Why did they burn them?"

    Jason's face stiffened slightly. As oldest, he had... responsibilities. "Well, it was like this. The old books on paper, sometimes it would turn out they were…wrong, and they couldn't change them because paper didn't work like that. So people would get angry or sad or ask questions, and it made too much trouble. Now that all books are digital, they can make sure they are... always right. People are happier now. We no longer read books - Books Read To Us."


    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:33:24 PM PST

  •  Here's a real puzzler - what makes something good? (11+ / 0-)

    I heard a news story on NPR this morning. It seems a researcher got to wondering what makes a work of art great? Is it something intrinsic, or does luck have as much to do with it as anything? The example was the Mona Lisa - it's a great work of art because, well because everyone knows it's a great work of art.

    Several years ago, Princeton professor Matthew Salganik started thinking about success, specifically about how much of success should be attributed to the inherent qualities of the successful thing itself, and how much was just chance. For some essentially random reason, a group of people decided that the thing in question was really good and their attention attracted more attention until there was a herd of people who believed that it was special mostly because all the other people believed that it was, but the successful thing wasn't in fact that special.

    People have been arguing about this for years, but it's a hard question to settle because there's only ever one version of reality.

    He came up with multiple realities to test it - 9 identical websites with 48 songs by unknown artists. He then took a sample of about 30,000 teenagers split evenly among the websites at random. They could download the songs they liked - and that gave a measure of how popular each was.

    In one 'world', they couldn't see what other people were downloading; in the other 8 websites they could see what everyone else thought was good.

    As it turned out, given a base level of quality, which songs succeeded and which ones didn't turned out to be largely a matter of random factors! Check out the whole story - it's fascinating.

    And you can always console yourself with the thought that your own works of art might really BE masterpieces - they're just in the wrong universe!

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:11:59 PM PST

  •  My artwork is WAY more sucky than yours (8+ / 0-)

    in case you were wondering.  Which you weren't.

    I was going to have that "rules" poster in the first picture be designed by a future Solicitress, but that seemed kinda obvious so I'll try something different.

    "Don't sit there," Kelsey told the new girl, her 7-year-old voice swelling with the pride of knowing something that an older child didn't.

    "Why not?"  Anna had only been here since last night, and nothing made sense.  No one had told her if her stepfather was going to stay in jail, or what happened to her mother after the ambulance took her away.  The foster lady said she would try to find out.

    "That's the time-out chair.  That's for if you break the rules."  Kelsey pointed to the sign posted on the wall.  No eating outside the kitchen, no taking other people's things, no fighting.  No fighting?

    "I don't get it."

    "If you break the rules, you have to sit in the time-out chair."

    Anna waited, but the girl didn't elaborate.  Anna finally said, "And then what?"

    "And then nothing.  You just get your time out."

    The little girl didn't know what she was talking about, Anna decided.  That wasn't what happened when people broke the rules.  And nobody just wrote down the rules and put them on the wall - you found out the rules when you broke them.

    Anna longed to go home, where her mother was there and things made sense.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:16:28 PM PST

  •  I don't have problems coming up with ideas (7+ / 0-)

    I've created such a universe in my head that everyday events can trigger the thought 'what if this was there?' or something similar. Sometimes a character pops in my head wanting adventure. I've about fifty half started drafts on my computer waiting to see if on review I feel inspired to add to them.
    I used to sketch a lot because I wasn't always near a computer and I feared loosing the thought. I sketch less now but I often do draw main characters, maps, and critical scene just to pull the imagery out of my head. But drawing is always after the initial idea.

        “Your sitting at my table,” he announced, sitting down with a thunk, his eyes looking elsewhere.
        “I wasn’t aware of reserved seating in the cafeteria,” she replied icily. Firm and sharp, it was, she noted with relief. She wouldn’t go all wimpy, not this time.
        “Then you must be my date,” he announced, louder. Eyes turned their way. Eyes that appraised her, judged her differences.
        Her eyes flicked over his rumpled t-shirt, the grass stained jeans and ended at a cold stare in his eyes.
        “You must be mistaken. I don’t-“   
        He grabbed her hand, holding it gently yet not letting her pull away. His eyes looked back and she felt her cold stare melt. Her icy resolve giving way to something warm and reassuring in his look.
        “Aside from sticking it to those judgmental pricks staring jealously at your naturally deep tan, I promise an adventure.”
        Oh Sandawgs, she was going to say yes, wasn’t she? Who the hell is he?

    True wealth is a measure of what one gives.

    by WiseFerret on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:37:18 PM PST

  •  At least in my universe, I (8+ / 0-)

    get told what happened.

    I can say, "So why doesn't he want to raise his son at court?" and get back a gossipy character who says, "Oh,well, the sickness, you know. And there was that ambassador's son. They escorted HIM to the border with armed guards! If he'd been one of His Majesty's subjects, he'd have been in prison and probably executed for sure. That clan is still armed and looking for revenge. It was a prime example of why not to raise someone knowing he's royal and can have his way."

    "Wow, so how'd it go down with this ambassador's son?"
    "Well, when he came to court he caused SUCH a sensation. Handsome as the devil, you know, and with about as much conscience. And then he tried to run off with one of the young ladies in waiting...well, off as far as the nearest bed, if you take my meaning, and not a thought for her afterwards. And her brother, you know, the young Duke? Well, he took it a little badly and instead of taking his trouncing at sword practice the next day like a man, that fellow actually left a scar on the Duke's face. You can still see it. Well, after that there was an assassination of the ambassador's chamberlain. Admittedly, the fool should have known what was going on and taken guards with him if he was going to go see his mistress down in the town. And after that an attempt while hunting on the life of the duke himself. Killed the next heir, his younger brother,  and that's when the King stepped in. HE paid the bloodgold and made sure that that little jumped up kinglet was off our soil in record time."

    "Really! So how did it go down with him coming?" "Oh, for that you want the Queen's perspective."

    And she'll sit down and talk to me. Sometimes she calls someone else over to add to it. Sometimes there are holes where she says, "I went to bed early that night, ask so-and-so."

    The actual current stoppage on writing is that the chamberlain doesn't want to talk about how he got killed, and none of the assassins admit to it, let alone are willing to discuss the mechanics of the scene. They'll talk eventually, though.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:52:34 PM PST

  •  hi (8+ / 0-)

    I am sure you can guess that being late has to do with grandbabies.  :)

    One of them came after school to stay the night with us.  We had fun.

    Then, my daughter called and we talked for over an hour because we haven't had a chance to talk for a while since she has four children.

    So, I will just say hello and best wishes to all here!!

    See you next week!!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:08:30 PM PST

  •  My favorite bit of authorial doodling (4+ / 0-)

    is this bit, from Eugene Onegin: Pushkin drew a picture of himself hanging out with the main character on the banks of the Neva.  It's awesome.

    I'll never be on time for these things again: I have a regularly scheduled engagement until 6 on Thursdays.  Ah, well.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 12:48:12 AM PST

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