Tag Archives: writing

The Bufoon Who Made No One Laugh

22 Mar

Beneath the gilt archways, in luxury’s shadows, snaking between fits of night and day, treads the Bufoon. The ugly wretch knows not its own name, its age or even kin. Born as he was, an exception to the rules which God had thrust upon the world, he is lost to Love.

© Wizards of the Coast

Ageless he is, this Storyteller who may yet live to see the end of Life itself and tell it to those who come to sweep up the filth left in Armageddon’s wake.

Some say he’s sidestepped death and passed straight into nothingness. After all, his flesh is not flesh any more, not the pink, vibrant morsel they call living. His veins weave into sappy tunnels, his brows grow hair and moss together, his skin grows warts and mushroom heads alike in the hidden creases of his skin.

It scalds the eye and churns the stomach to watch this immmortal wretch, but no heart would take notice of the trembling soul underneath the horrific shell. After all, he who no longer fears death should have naught to fear.

Yet he starts at any noise, crawls humbly out of sight and whimpers when called out of the shadows. He thrashes in his sleep and wakes in a drench of sweat, screaming horribly.

It’s perhaps the stories he knows, the truths he has seen about this world that frighten him so. Or maybe just knowing he will live to see just as much wickedness as he already has whisked in his broken cup.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps what he dreads most is the sound of shuffling feet at his door, when the master kindled by his sickening hunger comes to his room at night. Perhaps it’s the blood bath at every moonlit carnival, and the feeling that somehow all his knowledge of the world’s secrets is what drives the splintery spike through their entrails.

Perhaps it’s Life that spooks him so.

His own.

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Lovefield

20 Mar

Another clip in the promised series of top ten creepy shorts. I really cringed watching this one. Let me know what you felt.

PS: this will actually not work on the blog (thank you, Sony!) but use the link to watch it on  Youtube (along with other interesting shorts from the same director) and remember to drop a comment here if it made an impression on you.

You already have it in you, dear reader

17 Mar

If you’re gonna read a writing book, it might as well be Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

This is not a field guide for entering the writers’ complex world, or an encyclopedia of smart-ass techniques. If there’s a catchphrase that would define it best, my pick would be “you already have it in you, dear reader.”

Let me explain why.

The book is structured in two parts. The first half is pretty much an autobiography, just what the title promises. It’s a story of King’s life and how his writing evolved, based on his experiences. A great way to show that you are what you write and the other way around.

While seeing how King grew from a teenager writing crappy (sort of…) stories to a record-breaking author is inspiring, what really struck me was the second half of the book, concerning technique.

‘But wait, you said this wasn’t a book about technique!’ I hear the crowds roar.

It isn’t. The advice King gives is so basic, so fundamental and simple, I would hardly call it ‘technique’. What makes it so hard-hitting is precisely the simplicity. Writing isn’t supposed to be hard, it is just a matter of putting all your heart and skill into learning how to do it properly. Yes, it may take a long time, but work pays off.

And that’s where the “you already have it in you, dear reader” kicks in: if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do it.

I’ve read this book about 2.5 years ago, so I’ll stop here since I don’t feel I can give it enough credit from memory. This post intends to do just one simple thing – convince you to read it. You should, if only for the most basic writing advice I’ve ever encountered: if you’re a writer (a professional writer that is) you should write 4 hours a day and read 4 hours more.

You see, it’s real work.

Strictly business

16 Mar

Ding!

I’ve always wanted to do that.

Ding!

But it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Ding! Ding! Di …

… finally, the genie moves his ass out the bottle and I’m asking for a room.

“Let me check, sir, we‘re fully booked with the convention, but some may have checked out already.”

He gives me a wink while I stand there and wonder what the hell should I make of it.

“Ah, yes, two rooms have cleared this morning.  I’ll give you 27. Very clean, the cops didn’t even bother to dust the place.”

“Cops?”

“Yes. They have to come, you see. Even if it’s all so official and organized, they have to sign the papers when the guests kick the bucket.”

“Man, what the hell is this place? Hotel California?”

He goes all serious all of a sudden.

“Please, sir, don’t say something like that. We are a very, very serious establishment and wouldn’t have been chosen for five years in a row as hosts of the BlissCon if it weren’t so in the first place.”

“BlissCon?”

“The annual convention of the National Association of Suicidal People.”

I carefully scan the room for hidden cameras. I’ve had the experience before and I know entertainment when I see it.

Only this time, it’s the real thing, conference agenda posted in the hallway and everything:

14:00 – 16:00 – 2Fast, 2Furious: Crash Course into Traffic Suicide

16:00 – 18:00 – Serendipity:  The Art of Getting Caught in the Act

18:00 – 12:00 – Break & pill-tasting cocktail

Curiosity gets the best of me and two hours later I’m in the lobby. There’s a colorful table with shitloads of pills and girls dressed in slutty synthetic leather invite passers-by to sample the wonders of medical progress.

This is when I see her, a complete waste of hotness on a suicidal girl, browsing through pills with a melancholic look on her face, shifting from one stupendous leg to another and biting her lips with the slightly oversized dentition that always hooks me on a girl. I offer to buy her all the drinks she would have in the company of a lost soul and regret it right away.

“I met him in college. We were young and stupid, but he was the only man I would have followed to the end of the world. The way he talked, the way he acted, so decisive, but still warm and kind made me feel …”

She tells me for about half an hour how happy they were and how great the schmuck was. Then, all of a sudden, she takes a long break sipping her Martini. Time for everything to go bad.

“I got pregnant. He wasn’t ready for a child, he wanted to finish college, have a career, have fun with the guys. I wanted the baby so bad I fell out with my parents too, completely. Then, one evening, he went out slamming the door, got drunk and splattered on the tree he’d drove into. I had a nervous breakdown.”

The Martini lets me know it’s not over yet.

“A month later I lost the baby.”

Guilt takes a screaming rollercoaster when she touches my hand, thanking me for listening so sincerely and offering to listen to whatever troubles I have.

“It’s getting late, perhaps we should get some sleep,” I suggest, trying to get out of the guilt trap, but I’m out of luck. Before we know it, I’m in her room to make sure she won’t “do anything regrettable”.

At some point during our lovemaking, I do realize that I’m having an affair with a delicate, fragile woman, but it doesn’t last long. I am lost in her, completely sucked into how much she needs me to comfort, caress and love her and it’s probably the first time in my life that I am making true love, unselfish and loving, so remote from sex that I would still consider myself a virgin if this were my first time.

As I leave the room, she smiles radiantly and whispers in my ear:

“Perhaps there IS hope …”

I’m walking on air for the rest of the night, pacing through my room before I doze off in the armchair. Morning glory hits my windows with fury surpassed only by the banging in the door.

“Police, sir, open up.”

She’s dead, swallowed a jarful of pills. They wanted to let me know since we’d been seen together.

I’m moving through poisonous treacle for the rest of the day, with a bitter taste in my mouth, bitter as the coffee I’m having at the train station when I see her in the crowd, pulling a small luggage with the carelessness of a teenager out for a holiday. Her surprised stare confirms I’m not being delusional.

“You …”

“Yes, me … surpised?” This looks worse than the hidden camera incident and I feel my sarcasm overheating to meltdown levels very fast.

“Somewhat. You should be dead,” she says, an undercurrent of discontent in her voice.

“Because you’re so good at getting people depressed?”

“Please,” she says, straightening her back and pushing the familiar breasts forward, “I’m one of the best.”

“On the payroll of the National Association of Suicidal People?”

She loses her confidence now – no pride in being the best if you’re a bloody mercenary.

“And a couple of pharmaceutical companies …” she adds, getting gloomier.

While I am struck with disbelief, there’s only one thing I feel like saying right now.

“Would you like to have another drink?”

She stares at me with Viagra-blue eyes wide open.

“Are you sure? Doesn’t it bother you? My line of work, I mean …”

“Let’s just say I have a vested interest.”

I take out my business card and hand it to her. It’s all there, printed in golden, crisp letters, with large serif and warm font marketing the support and deep understanding that we sell with our services:

Daniel B.

Sales Manager

BARNARD & SONS UNDERTAKERS

Good ideas DO grow on trees

14 Mar

Ever thought about mindmapping your way to richer characters?

I’ve been using mindmapping for years now, but I had only used it for educational and management purposes when it hit me: what a good tool to add some depth to my characters!

Since this is one of the most important things on my To improve list (somehow I feel my guys and gals – good or bad – generally need more meat), and since I am a visuals junkie, I had to take the shot. So, this post is about how mindmapping can be used to get some good work done on your characters. Nothing revolutionary, nothing fancy, but practical. The way I like my tools.

1.       What is mindmapping in the first place?

This is a story other people have already taken their time to write, so I’ll provide you with bibliography.

click on the image for an introduction into mindmapping

2.       Oh, I get it. But why should I use it?

There are two important things that mindmapping can do for a writer. The first is outlining – a mindmap is a great way to explore possibilities for your story. The second is getting a deeper, clearer view of your most important characters by constructing an exhaustive portrait of her/him/it.

By mindmapping your characters, you provide yourself with a coherent view of who they are and what their motivations, quirks and secrets are.  You put everything in one big picture that you can easily tap into with just one look. But guess what – this doesn’t do squat!

In my experience, it’s not being able to go back to the mindmap that helps – it’s actually making one. The process forces you to think of the characters by looking at them from all sides, hidden and obvious, and filling in the gaps.

3.       How should I go about doing it?

If you’v ever done characterisation essays in literature classes, this is the same process, reverse engineered. Instead of looking at existing heroes, your are creating new ones filling in a similar templat:

  • Visual characterisation – how the character looks, moves, dresses and generally behaves on a level that can be perceived visually
  • Dominant traits that the story will underline/feed on (including dominant passions and vices)
  • Direct characterisation – what other characters would have to say about the subject
  • Indirect characterisation – traits (psychological and emotional) that can be observed and extracted as conclusions from his/her behaviour

Well, the best way to go would be to give you and example. Here it is, mindmapping applied to Vasilisk, the main character in the Trashgod short story.

For this particular piece, I’ve used a dedicated software (a few options below), but if you feel like grabbing you crayons and an empty sheet of paper to open the floodgates of your child-powered creativity, don’t let me stand in your way (not that I would DARE to).

http://www.mindjet.com – ‘professional’ software

http://www.mindomo.com – partially free, subscrition based license; online, so location independent

http://www.freemind.sourceforge.net – freeware. fast and furious

An extra note on creative mindmapping: to keep your left-side brain from getting in the way, use all sorts of elements for mindmaps. Sketches, clippings, colours and, of course, writing – it doesn’t have to be a sterile land – my character looks like this or that, he does this and says all the wrong thigs, etc. The branches of your mind map could well be short scences from the (future) story.

4.       When should it be done?

Any time you feel it is necessary. So far, I have never done it before starting a story, it has been more of a way to clarify things and make sure that a character does not get wishy-washy when he has some serios decision-making to do.

However, if you have a clear enough picture in your mind, you can start to put some more ‚meat’ on the skeleton even before you write the first line. Of course, this isn’t just for the main character. Linking their mutual stereotypes and feelings could be fun and creative.

So, what are you waiting for? There are no excuses left. Better characters are lurking out there, waiting for the right writer to prey on.

Bait them with some mindmapping and enjoy your writing.

Trashgod – part VII

13 Mar

The dragon’s screech followed them, but it died away before hitting. It was then that Vasilisk noticed the thick, rubber-and-cotton padding that covered the walls of the tunnel, even the floor they landed on.

“ He’s hit in the shoulder. Doesn’t look that bad,” suggested Mini as they stopped to examine Percival.

“A flesh wound, as 30 mm flesh wounds go. But that’s not what I’m concerned about.”

“What then?”

“This”, replied Vasilisk extracting a fragment fullmetal jacket.

Percival’s peculiar allergy to copper kicked in about an hour later. He was not particularly ill – no real fever anyways – and he didn’t thrash or anything, since his shoulder hurt. But it was pretty bad for his mates.

“Boss, isn’t there a way to make him stop?”

“… but I, being a poor man, have nothing …”

“We could gag him,” scowled Vasilisk.

“… but my dreams …”

“We should …”

“Fine. You hold him.”

Percival didn’t even seem to notice Mini as he was grabbed in the middle of the lyrical seizure, and kept on reciting as long as he could before Vasilisk stuffed his mouth with a dirty piece of t-shirt.

“… tread softly, for you are treading on my drhmfdsfs …”

Vincent

12 Mar

One beatiful, short but rich story from Tim Burton. Besides a craving for Edgar Alan Poe, watching this short movie leaves me with an aching question:

… is Vincent really dying, gripped by insanity, or is he just fooling around some more …?

This is the first in a series of top 10 scary clips that I know of, so watch out for the other ones, too. I promise they’ll get worse …

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