Why I Took April Off

Over the last few years I’ve been using different holidays as writing prompts.

For Halloween I wrote a story about a Halloween pale in the shape of the devil’s face. It converted those non-treats that religious households gave out, like dental floss, into forbidden objects, like cherry bombs and pinup playing cards. For Christmas I wrote Home Alone fanfiction that pitted modern day Macaulay Culkin against the Yule tide demon Krampus. For Valentine’s Day I wrote a story about the ghost of St. Valentine stalking the streets holding his severed head. The vengeful spirit targeted couples who were foolish enough to be out after dark and set his dire wolves upon them.

With all this holiday-centric fiction flowing I was looking forward to coming up with something for April Fool’s Day. I was trying to come up with some sort of meta-fictional mock journal entry, but it never came to be.

In late March I went and got myself seriously injured at work. Long story short: I was helping a customer lift a box out of his car. He walked away to argue about pricing with his wife. I worried about a line forming in my store and decided to lift the box onto the cart myself. I lifted, twisted, and felt a sharp stabbing pain in my back.

It turns out the box contained a 150 pound safe that the customer should’ve thought to mention before I went out there with him.

All April I’ve been out of commission, spending a lot of time in doors, limping around with a cane. The blog became less of a priority.

I eventually started writing something, but I decided not to share it on a self-imposed deadline. It grew into something really interesting. Right now it’s called The Lost City of Chrome (my stories change names a dozen times before anyone sees them).

I’ll tell you more about it as it develops.

In the meantime I’m going to try to get back to blogging. Graphic Artist Bryan Politte and I are already working on another entry in our Monster Mingle series, and I have more things I want to do with my novel He Has Many Names.

Stay Tuned.

Continue reading Why I Took April Off

The Secret Writers Don’t Want Idea People to Know

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every story you’ve ever read was concocted by a secret society of Iron Age academics called the Illiterati.The Illiterati determined that there are only 7 types of stories.

  • Besting the Beast
  • From Nothing to Bling Bling
  • Fetch Quest
  • Go over there then come back again
  • Rebranding in the wake of a public shaming
  • Pun based Prop Comedy
  • Too bad, so sad

The Illiterati, in their hallucinogen-fueled brainstorming sessions, imagined every possible permutation of these plotlines, and inscribed them on a parchment that’s been passed down through generations. From the Oracle of Delphi to George R.R. Martin every story you’ve ever heard came from this tattered document.

This is because the Illiterati vowed to keep the literary tradition in their bloodline. They wanted their lineage to sculpt the world’s imagination. That’s why every fresh voice to ever take the publishing world by storm was descended from these shadow figures (ask any of us to our faces and we’ll vehemently deny it, but it’s true).

I admit storytelling was never my calling. I wanted to be a Radon technician, but as a first born son of an Illiterati member the tradition was thrust upon me.

From the age of eight I was lead through the sewers to a subterranean lair where I was taught the secret formula for writing fiction. The Master Storyteller walked us through the 12 steps of the hero’s journey, charted the dynamics of balancing hope and dread, and the strict architecture of plot structure (I’d share these secrets here but I don’t want to be “disappeared”).

The beneficiaries of this recipe for riches rarely appreciate it. For us, writing is more of an obligation than a creative outlet. We’re not driven to do it so much as we’d rather not face the consequences.

Sure, from the outside looking in our lives must look like fun. You see us wading in the wave pools of our penthouse grottos and think that must be so swell, but when you look past the blood sport cage matches and masked orgy key parties you’ll see our routines are pretty boring.

The Truth About Storytellers

The title storyteller loses its luster when its assigned at birth. That’s why novelists are the least engaging artists you’ll ever meet. We’re grunt workers. We’re basically groundskeepers raking plotlines together.

Once you know the formula then novels pretty much write themselves.

Authors lie in interviews. We say we come up with the characters and they take over. We act like we’re just as surprised as our readers. We’re not. We say we write by the seat of our pants, because there’s a joy in discovery. It sounds magical, doesn’t it? But really it’s just some warm and fuzzy bullshit.

I have never discovered anything that wasn’t preordained by some long dead desert sage.

I’ve never feared forgetting a dream before I could jot it in a journal. I’ve never run out of the shower to scribble something down, and I’ve never made myself chuckle from a snappy line of dialogue.

I’m so grounded by the Illiterati’s teachings that I’m certain I’ll never feel the true jolt of inspiration.

The Creatives Every Writer Envies

With enough time any caveman could knuckle out a manuscript. Western storytelling is more procedural than cerebral. It takes a true philosopher king to will a NEW idea into being.

That’s why every writer I know envies Idea People.

Idea People have a natural ability to conjure up stories without enduring the decades of programing and ritual abuse that name authors go through.

They’re not burdened by the Illiterati’s private protocols, because Idea people never write their ideas down. Theirs is an oral tradition. They pitch entire adventures in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

If brevity is the soul of whit then novelists are a pack of drooling dullards and Idea People are the ones who are truly inspired. Idea People never water down stories by stretching them out into scenes. They don’t tangle themselves in sequences either. Hell, they don’t even believe in acts.

Idea People Cut to the Heart of the Story

Idea People keep the focus on the best part of the story: the premise. Never mind what happens. Idea People are able to dazzle us with the set up. They prove it’s not the journey or the destination, it’s the brochure that matters. It’s the seminal scenario with the billion dollar box office potential. That well-put what if?

What if penguins and dolphins banded together to take over the northern hemisphere?

What if wars were fought with bipedal drones operated by trash talking gamers?

What if climate change made whales fly for some reason and it turned out they all has laser eyes at the same time?

No cast. No tedious character growth. The dramatic question plays out entirely in your mind.

The brightest Idea People turn this question into an equation: What if this megahit met that one?

The Exorcist multiplied by TitanicequalsLegion Liner: Woman and Children Cursed.

Death Wishmultiplied by Titanic equals Die-tanic:Vessel of Vengeance.

The Terminatormultiplied by TitanicequalsCy-Berg: Rise of the Tip.

Real Heroes Have Nowhere to Grow

Idea People are efficient storytellers. They utilize time tested conventions to evoke familiar connections.

“He’s like a John Rambo type.”

Boom, right there you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Idea people waste no time dressing complex characters in shades of grey.

What flaw do these heroes need to overcome? They saw some shit.So they’re coping with post-traumatic stress? No, it made them a certified badass.What drives them? I don’t know, someone killed their wife or their daughter or their dog or something. All that matters is that they get shit done.

Idea People Talk a Better Game

As an author I get so hung up writing dialogue that furthers the plot and reveals my characters that I fail to realize what people really want to hear.

Idea People don’t twist their tongues on all that chit chat.

They speak entirely in the kind of quotable catchphrases preteens love to parrot. They invoke a nostalgia for times when action heroes knew just what to say before peppering a warehouse with machine gun spray. Back when men wore their hearts in their mouths and kept things too real for subtext. Back when people said shit that would play well on t-shirts.

The Best Storytellers Tell no Story Whatsoever

The most powerful stories leave room for the audience’s imaginations. The monster in the dark is only as scary as viewers let it to be. The love scene in silhouette is only as steamy as viewers let it be. The love scene with the monster is only as raunchy as viewers are willing to imagine.

We novelists always nitpick over which parts to cut. We lose sleep every time we’re forced to kill one of our darlings.

Idea People have no problem murdering their beginning middle and end in order to focus on pitching a situation. They enable their audience to fill the rest of those pesky details themselves.

Closing Thoughts

We writers get lost in our own linguistic machinations. We prattle on and on about symbolism, structure, and themes, because we are beholden to a mystic fraternity’s designs for humanity. Had the Illiterati’s influence not been so entrenched Idea People would be molding future generations. Perhaps they will when the written word is rendered obsolete.

Continue reading The Secret Writers Don’t Want Idea People to Know