Category Archives: Writing

The Great American Tell Off Speech

Have you ever had a job interview that went to hell? This one goes there literally. When I say I write Twilight Zone fan fiction, this is what I’m talking about.

Evil Drew

The Great American Tell Off Speech

Wind blew through the office. Lunging after a stray envelope, a mail clerk tripped over his cart. There were no walls to stop it, only pillars. The floor was arranged like a banquet hall, with a series of long tables. There were laptops in place of plates, phones in place of silverware. Sitting with the other applicants, Stewart felt like he was waiting for a reservation, not an interview.

Without walls, this was a hive with no honeycomb, a swarm that never sat still long enough to be a colony. The worker bees were at a constant hum. They buzzed into phones with fingers in their ears. Some fashioned borders out of folders. Some marked their perimeters, putting their hands up on their cheeks, and angling their elbows. Others ducked under tables.

Clicking buttons, they mistook each others’ mice for their own. Passing reports, they made bumper cars of rolling chairs. Waving their power plugs, they played musical outlets, jabbing at each other for juice.

Stewart leaned over to peak into a conference room. A facilitator hopped back and forth, armed with a set of markers and a smile. Pointing to someone out of view, the facilitator leapt up, spun around, and wrote a bullet point on the whiteboard. Giving a thumbs up, he jotted down the word: COLLABORATION. Employees raised their hands, kindergarden students waiting for their turn.

Stewart scanned his cover letter. Words like DISTINCT, INDEPENDENT and SELF-RELIANT stood out.

Giving his outfit a once over, Stewart found his yellow tie full of creases. He struggled to smooth them, only to find he was smearing ink down the length. Checking to see if any of the applicants were watching, he licked the silk clean. The nearest door was made of tinted glass. Stewart stuck his tongue out at his reflection. It was black. His cowlick stood straight up. Spitting into his hand, he tried to weigh it down.

The door opened to reveal a linebacker in a pinstripe suit, square-jawed and broad shouldered. He wore two bluetooth earpieces. They jut out like a pair of tusks. His brown hair had a reddish tint. It clashed with his silver eyebrows. His cheeks were tan and moist, a mannequin brought to life.

“Martin Williams.” He extended his hand, a catcher’s mitt full of class rings.

Stewart wiped the spit on his pants before offering his hand. “Stewart Smith.”

“Of course it is.” Martin winked.

The man had a vice grip. Stewart felt it in his arm socket.

Before Stewart could reclaim his fingers, Martin went in for a second pass. Giving the applicant’s palm another good squeeze, Martin tilt his head, a dancer singling for his partner to follow. Stewart squeezed back, quickly relinquishing his grip. When he withdrew his hand, it was clammy.

Ambling to his desk, Martin positioned himself to sit. Bending his knees, he froze.

Stewart mirrored Martin’s position in the chair provided. They were in a game of chicken over who’d be the first to sit. When Stewart’s footing shift gravity made the decision for him.

Martin raised an eyebrow at this development. Smoothing his blood red tie, he took his seat.

Stewart’s chair was anything but ergonomic. It dictated his posture at a ninety degree angle. With his hips shifting out of the seat, he became painfully aware of the position of his limbs. He crossed his legs, rather than sit spread eagle. He crossed his arms, rather than let them dangle like an ape.

Martin scanned him, a curator appraising the authenticity of an acquisition. His finger hovered over his speakerphone. “Would you like a coffee?”

Stewart didn’t care for what the chair was doing to his bladder. “No. No thank you, I’ve had too much already.”
Martin raised his eyebrow a little higher. “Let’s get right down to business. Your resumé says you’ve been out of work for sixth months now. The next guy coming in has the same qualifications. The only difference is he has a solid job. Why should I hire you instead of someone who’s stable?”

Stewart found his attention drawn to the waste basket at his feet, overflowing with 5-Hour Energy drinks.

He shift his butt in his seat. “Because I’m not stable.”

Martin raised his chin. “Care to elaborate?”

“No, but I will.” Stewart’s seat creaked as he moved to the edge. “Anyone can maintain a nine to five job, but it takes a particular type of person to hold out until they find a place where they’re needed.”

Martin rubbed his chin. “Needed, you say?”

Stewart scanned the bookshelf: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Steve Jobs’s autobiography.

He nodded. “Absolutely.”

The wall was filled with certificates, an Entrepreneurship degree from Columbia, an International Business degree from Harvard, and a slip certifying the completion of a weekend seminar in something called, “Neuro-Linguistic Programing.”

There was a photo of Martin covered in mud, a general whose army conquered a wall, letting out a battle cry. Ropes dangled over the side. Climbers grit their teeth, struggling to catch up with their agile leader.

Plucking the bluetooth tusks from his ears, Martin set them on the desk. Fishing a hand grip tool from a drawer, he gave his wrist a workout. “And what is it that makes you so vital to our business?”

On the desk, a pendulum drew figure eights in a Zen sand-garden. Stewart flicked it. “I’m here to change the flow of things.”

Martin quoted Stewarts cover letter, “And just how does an ‘independent’ ‘self-reliant’ ‘freethinker’ go about doing that?”

Martin slipped his copy of Stewart’s cover letter across the desk, a monologue waiting to be performed.

Stewart slipped it back. “I know what it says, it’s what it doesn’t say that matters.”

Setting the workout tool down, Martin smirked. “What, like the notes a musician doesn’t play?”

Stewart tilt his chin, committing to neither shaking his head, or nodding. “It doesn’t say that I’m a people person. It doesn’t say that I thrive in groups. Nor does it say that I’m passionate about communication, marketing, or social media.”

Martin pinched his pendulum to a stop. “You do realize the position you’re interviewing for is Brand Ambassador? It doesn’t get anymore social than that.” He wiped the Zen-garden down, making sure every grain was right where it belonged.

“You’ll learn that when it comes to emerging markets, none of us are as smart as all of us.”

Martin pointed to the group portrait on the wall. The staff stood in the parking lot with their arms outstretched, gnashing their teeth, lions eager to be fed. No one was smiling. No one was saying, “Cheese.” This was a warring army preparing to charge the enemy.

Stewart leaned forward to break Martin’s sightline. “You have too many initiatives competing with each other.”

“Life is a competition.” Martin blurt out.

Stewart nodded, as if that was a rational response. He took a deep breath. “The firm seems to think that if it throws a bunch of advertisements at the wall, some of them will stick. They need someone like me to offer users something worth seeking out. Someone who knows the difference between begging and branding, between panhandling and marketing, between crowdsourcing and true inspiration. It doesn’t take a village to represent a brand. It takes a delegate, someone to keep the message simple and consistent, someone to embody all the traits the customer is looking for.”

Standing, Martin wiped the last grains of Zen-garden from his hands. “I’ll be frank, you’re not it. I knew this before you even crossed my threshold. I feel like I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you why.”

Martin circled to Stewart’s side of the desk.

He made a square with his fingers, a director framing a scene. “Your posture tells me you’re closed off. You look like a marionette laid to rest, legs crossed, arms over your chest. You have none of the bravado to back up your selling points.”

Uncrossing his ninety degree angles, Stewart stiffened up.

Martin nodded to himself, confirming his assumption. “I knew it the moment I felt your slimy handshake, with your ring finger shorter than your pointer, this isn’t the man I’m looking for.”
Scooping up the workout tool, Martin slipped his finger through the loop. He spun it like a gunslinger.

“From then on you kept confirming my instincts. Staring at the bridge of my nose to avoid eye contact. Not taking the coffee. Being easily distracted by the pendulum on the desk. You do realize that was a test, don’t you?”

Martin squeezed the hand grip, like he was ringing a neck.

“But really, I knew all this the moment I spotted your yellow tie. Yellow is the color of cowardice, of betrayal, sickness and disease. A man who wears a yellow tie to an interview doesn’t want the job. This makes me wonder why someone with no confidence is trying to sell me on his penchant for insubordination. You’re running some kind of unemployment scam, aren’t you? I ought to offer you a mailroom position just to fuck it up.”

When I get mad I go full Super Saiyan
When I get mad I go full Super Saiyan

Stewart bit his lip. His face went cold. The pendulum began swinging on it’s own, drawing a shape in the sand. Stewart squint. Guided by an invisible force, the pendulum traced a glyph; the hook of a question mark, the zigzag of lightning, and the three points of a pitchfork.

The certificates shook. Photographs slipped out of their frames and slid across the floor. Standing, Stewart stepped on Martin’s muck ridden portrait.

“I too would feel like I was doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you something.” Stewart’s voice echoed through the building, a message delayed by a loudspeaker system.

His cowlick shot straight up, followed by the rest of his hair. The brown follicles turned bleach blonde. Smoke spiraled off the bangs. Stewart’s loafers grazed the carpet. Levitating off the ground, his posture corrected itself.

Rolling over his computer, Martin ducked for cover behind his desk. With the flick of the wrist, Stewart sent it through the wall. The screeching of its feet trailed off until it crashed. A sheet of dry wall collapsed into a pile of pebbles.

“Now it’s an open office.” Stewart’s voice boomed over the screams of panicked workers.

The Zen-garden came down in a heap. The hand grip tool spun end over end, landing in the dirt.

Martin hugged his rolling chair, a shipwrecked surviver with a floatation device. Making a pinching motion, Stewart plucked it free. Catching it, Martin rolled it back. Stewart found himself playing pantomime tug of war. Tugging the chair, he made Martin face plant into the Zen-garden. Whatever he’d slathered his skin in, gave every grain of sand a surface to stick to.

Stewart rose until his shoulder blades dug into the ceiling tiles. The chair rolled into his shadow. Coming in for a soft landing, Stewart took his seat, an emperor on his new throne.

Stewart crossed his legs, blowing the sand off the armrest. “Now that’s more like it.”

Pinching the air, Stewart pulled Martin up by his tie, forcing him into the modified cobra position.

Stewart glanced over his shoulder. “Of the four conference rooms on this floor, you’ve filled each of them. That’s half of your workforce passively listening, while the other half tries to pick up the slack.”

Through the window behind him, Stewart saw the facilitators poking their heads out, their smiles had flat lined, the pep had gone from their steps. Some of the staff stood frozen, while others ducked down, turning the spaces between the tables into foxholes.

Snapping his fingers, Stewart closed the blinds. “Punctual as I am, I had an opportunity to listen in on these meetings. Rather than tell your employees to respect the speaker, the facilitators asked for suggestions on how to do so. The meetings couldn’t start until the group stated the obvious: put your phones away, wait your turn, and stay on topic. The facilitators spoke the least. They drew out answers by asking questions. They confirmed nothing, offered no conclusions, and came to no ultimate ends.”

Twirling his finger, Stewart raised a tiny tornado from the remnants of the Zen-garden. He flung it at Martin.

“I actually knew Socrates, and there was a lot more to his method than that.” Stewart shook his head. “Whenever an employee realized the only way to get the ball rolling was to answer every question, the facilitator stopped calling on them, shutting out the very people who should be leading these meetings.”

The fluorescent lights flickered. Bulbs burst. Martin covered his head as glass rained down. Stewart cracked his neck. There was a flash of lightning, followed by a series of pops trailing off into the distance. The only lights that survived were in the exit signs.

Martin cupped his hands in prayer. “Oh Jesus, oh sweet baby Jesus on Santa’s lap, protect me.”

Stewarts eyes turned white. Sparks flowed from his gaze. His voice rattled the windows. “This company needs my omnipotence to look out for its interests. It needs me to sniff out the time thieves that schedule these meetings. You see, I eat waste. I devoir redundancy, and I am very hungry.”

Quivering, Martin tried not to look at the deity that had invaded his office. Stealing a glance, white streaks washed through his hair. Looking away, he saw the wheels rise off the floor. The rolling chair ascended.

Grains of sand took orbit around Stewart like rings around a planet. He sat in the lotus position. “Employees can only maintain social relationships with about one-hundred-and-fifty coworkers. This team has one-hundred too many. My belly growls just thinking about it. I’m here to pick the group-thinkers out of the herd, whether they’re grazing the carpet or standing watch from a corner office. I specialize in team dismantling.”

Martin groveled. “I didn’t mean to insult your tie, my lord, my-my master. Had you led with this level of confidence, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“But we are having it.” Stewart’s voice echoed from all sides. The rear window shattered.

Martin’s hands shook uncontrollably. His skin was awash with moonlight. Turning to the open window, he found a trinity of orbs floating in an unfamiliar sky.

Glowing neon yellow, the orbs pulsed with Stewart’s words. “With all the blood that passes through these teeth, I would never wear something so garish as a red power tie.”

Martin turned back to find Stewart’s tie had grown longer. With Stewart floating in the air, the tie hung down past his ankles. It stretched toward Martin, bobbing back and forth, a silk snake hypnotizing its prey.

The yellow tie of judgment is upon you
The yellow tie of judgment is upon you

Stewart’s big white eyes turned gold, “Yellow is the color of cowardice, and I’ve made you cower before me. Yellow is the color of sickness, and I am the plague that eats excess. Yellow is the color of treachery, and I am the knife that cuts the wheat from the chaff.”

Martin teetered back and forth, afraid that at any moment the tie might strike. “Please dark lord, spare your humble servant, and he shall make sounder assessments in the future.”

Raising his chin, Stewart sneered. “A worshiper once mispronounced my name whilst offering tribute. I squeezed his wrist until it burst.”

Extending his arm, the hand grip tool flew from the sand into Stewart’s palm. Working it around in his fingers, he reduced it into twinkling specks of dust.

“Do you really want to experience the full strength of my handshake?”

Martin shook his head. Tears streaked down his cheeks. Snot bubbled from his nose. Drool spilled from his lips.

The yellow tie coiled around Martin’s neck. Wedging his fingers beneath the silk, he couldn’t stop it from lifting him off the floor, up to Stewart’s eye level. The deity gripped the air. Invisible talons dug into Martin’s torso, offering slight relief to the strain on his neck. Stewart pulled him closer. The hiring manager and the applicant were face to face.

The whites of Stewart’s eyes filled with downward line graphs. “Your earning reports prophesied the fall of your profits, yet you continued to employ the same methods. You did the same things and expected different results. Lacking inspiration you tried to spark creativity through brainstorming.”

“Your earning reports prophesied the fall of your profits, yet you continued to employ the same methods"
“Your earning reports prophesied the fall of your profits, yet you continued to employ the same methods”

Martin struggled in his silk bonds. “But it’s a democratic process, we defer criticism, we welcome all ideas.” Martin kicked the air. “Quantity breeds quality.” He cried.

Stewart waved his finger, an animal tamer commanding his pet. The tie looped through Martin’s armpits, crisscrossing over his chest. Stewart would see him mummified for his mockery.

Stewart’s eyes filled with a pair of slides featuring a college campus. “In 1963 a group of research scientists, at the U of M, were asked to brainstorm, first together and then on their own. They produced better results when they were left to their own devices. They found that even in a welcoming environment, the fear of judgement persists. The outspoken dominated the conversation, while the soft spoken kept their ideas to themselves.”

Stewart blinked. His eyes filled with a landmass Martin didn’t recognize.

“I could’ve told them this. My followers in the Mediterranean tried to pool their resources to meet my blood sacrament quota. When they failed to deliver every last drop, I sunk their island to the bottom of the ocean.”

Martin’s face turned purple. His eyes bulged out. “You want blood?” He coughed. “The Red Cross is a client. They’re overflowing with donations. I can get you blood.”

Stewart’s irises returned long enough to allow him to roll his eyes. “I have been summoned by your overlords, called across distant shores, to make an example for your fellow employees. All of you hear me now.”

The building quaked. The staff cupped their ears. Blood trickled through their fingers.

Stewart addressed his flock, “I am the lord of layoffs. The father of phasing out. The demigod of downsizing. I make Anubis look merciful. I make Hades look like a humanitarian. I make Satan look sympathetic in comparison. There will be no bargains. There will be no mercy. I know all your sins. St. Peter doesn’t have shit on me.”

"I eat waste. I devoir redundancy, and I am very hungry.”
“I eat waste. I devoir redundancy, and I am very hungry.”

Stewart’s eyes filled with a set of scales. One rose, the other descended. “I find you guilty of tearing down the borders between cubicles, of running meaningless meetings, of over simplifying the Socratic method, of flooding your boardrooms with brainstorming sessions, of misreading micro expressions, of making assumptions based on the shape of an applicant’s hand.”

Pillars of lightning crashed around them, blasting holes through the marble tiles. Smoke shot through the gaps. Shrieks echoed through the building. The room shook as the floor fell out beneath them.

Stewart pressed his finger into Martin’s chest. “Indeed my pointer is longer than my ring finger, and it’s pointing at you now.”

Stewart breached the pinstripe coat. Martin’s flesh sizzled. Smoke billowed up his collar. His red power tie caught fire. His spray-on tan dripped down his cheeks. Hair product bled from his bangs. The yellow tie tightened around its prey. Cinders sparked through the gaps. Ash spilled from Martin’s cufflinks.

Stewart raised his eyebrow. “I deem thee unworthy.”

Unhinging his jaw, the applicant made a lasting impression on the hiring manager.

Drops mic, walks off stage
Drops mic, walks off stage

Cthulhu Comes to Craigslist

What if someone combined the corporate jargon of a Craigslist job posting with the sprawling mythos of H.P. Lovecraft? It would look something like this.

Now that's a stock photo I can get behind
Now that’s a stock photo I can get behind

Necronomicon Translator Wanted (Arkham)

Rapidly growing upstart looking to build buzz around tome of forbidden knowledge, The Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead. Job seekers should have a positive attitude, and be versed in ancient Arabic, Greek, and Latin. We want people who are excited to work with mould ridden manuscripts. People who like to solve puzzles, to piece together the fragments of unspeakable incantations. People with the mental resilience to withstand the inherent dangers that come with studying these texts.

We want individuals with good organizational skills, expert multitaskers capable of micro managing multiple realities. Self-starters who perform well under times of increased workload, and prolonged madness. Help us build a platform from the ground up. We want someone who is passionate about raising brand awareness of the coming darkness.

We want tag lines for the end times. We want to see our hashtags written in blood. We want someone on the cutting edge of the ceremonial dagger. Someone with vision, and by vision of course, we’re referring to the rising blood tide washing away the known world in a new era of delirium.

The ideal candidate has already had a dream about this position. They heard the call of Hastur echoing on howling winds. They saw the pallid mask emerge from phantasmagorical depths. They watched the black stars rise over Carcosa. They felt the yellow sign sear through their flesh, branding their very bones. They awoke with joyful tears, and bloodied hands, cackling at the revelation that we are all but the punchlines of the Old One’s elaborate joke.

Candidates must love working with people, have extroverted personalities, and be eager to form lasting relationships. Must have excellent interpersonal and interdimensional skills. Must be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and telepathically. Candidates should have a background in social media, networking, and astral projection.

We want individuals with winning mindsets, eager to succeed in a constantly shifting ecosystem.

Your duties will be to oversee parchment translation, marketing support, and the shoggoth servants that roam the labyrinth halls of Necropolis. You’ll run a web crawler to index the crawling chaos of Nyarlathotep, the Pharaoh behind the firewall. This is a great job for people looking to improve their networking skills. This position serves as a liaison to the denizens of K’n-yan, the tombs of R’lyeh, and the dark throne of Azathoth at the center of chaos.

We work in an open office built on terrifying vistas of reality. Our corporate culture is modeled after the Esoteric order of Dagon. This means our brainstorming sessions result in actual storms, and our problem-solving sessions have a death toll. We’re looking for team players who thrive in a group environment. People who will embrace the opportunity to contribute creatively, independently, and sexually, offering their flesh to the Deep ones and the many fins of Father Dagon.

Candidates must be punctual. Work days begin with peer recognition, a declaration of goals, and a ritual sacrifice to Mother Hydra. Together, we give fearless feedback, exchange pointers on best practices, and discuss positive client experiences. We encourage individuals to tell us what they wish to improve on, what they wish to learn, and what they wish to behold once Yog-Sothoth lifts the veil from the dark portal separating us from the looming cosmic dread.

We believe that our employees are our family, that collaboration multiplies opportunity, that together we can threaten the very integrity of the universe.

Cthulhu lies on the ocean floor deep in slumber. We need self motivated individuals to give him a little poke, to decipher enough arcane script to bring his mass of tentacles to our shores. We require exceptional verbal and written communication skills, and a technical proficiency in blasphemy. We want individuals who think like entrepreneurs, who will dive into the black sea of infinity from the placid island of ignorance. Individuals who don’t wait for Cthulhu to rise, they swim out to meet him.

It’s that proactive approach that empowers our translators to work on their personal development with minimal supervision. It’s the simplicity of our credo that inspires this growth. That’s because there’s just three core competencies: the Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be.

“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” Will you be the one to give him a wake up call?

Do you have good time-management skills, a strong morale, and an even stronger work ethic? Are you looking for an exciting career opportunity in the extremely private sector? Are you outspoken about stretching the boundaries of human consciousness? Do you want to abandon the hallow vestibules of man’s domain? Do nocturnal insects whisper profane truths to you? When you close your eyes, do you see the King in Yellow parting the nameless mist on the path to the Red Death? Can you drink the Kool-Aid without asking what’s in it?

If you answered “yes” to all of the above we need to talk!

Qualifications:
Must submit to a background check into your past lives with onsite regression hypnotherapist
Must have references that can attest to your whereabouts during every international tragedy that took place during your lifetime
Must be willing to relocate to our subterranean headquarters beneath the ruins of Babylon
Valid Pilot’s license
Moral flexibility
Ability to write CSS, HTML5, Flash, and ancient Sumerian

* Location: Arkham, Massachusetts
* Compensation: The privilege of being one of the first to be devoured by the dark lord Cthulhu
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster
* do NOT contact us with unsolicited services or offers
* Start Date: You’ve already begun

Laptop rage has nothing on Necronomicon rage
Laptop rage has nothing on Necronomicon rage

How to Get More Hits By Baiting the NSA

How far are you willing to go to gain new readers? My plan for getting on the bestsellers list through the watch list.

Tinthumb Proper Formatting

As an aspiring author, I’ve done some shameful things in the name of self-promotion.

Convincing someone I dropped a capsule in his drink, I told him the recipe for synthesizing an antidote was on my main page. Of course, the crucial ingredient was blacked out, until he signed up for my mailing list. One fifth degree felony later and I’d scored a solid hit. Not too shabby.

Calling in an anonymous tip, I said there were glitter bombs planted throughout the city. Thousands of citizens would have to explain why they looked like they had just come from a strip club. I said the only way to find my powder kegs of pixie dust was to listen for clues hidden throughout my podcasts.

Breaking into the morgue, I slipped letters under corpses’ fingers. I kept reloading my stat counter, waiting for the pathologists to spell out my web address. Shopping for a lawyer, I hoped to drag the trial out with the old “alternate reality game” defense. Spending the afternoon with my mother, we put together an outfit we felt a jury would really like. Alas, there was no arrest, no national news coverage, no excuse to model my fancy new duds.

Desperate for a retweet, I played Russian Roulette with one of my followers. Too bad I didn’t realize a victory meant he couldn’t deliver on his side of the wager.

Okay, maybe I didn’t do any of those things, but those are the claims I need to make to attract my target audience.

I’m drawing out people who scan for keywords like lives depend on them. There’s more than one way to grow your SEO. That’s why I’m baiting the NSA to investigate my blog, in the hope of gaining new readers. The patriot act guarantees me a captive audience of inadvertent promoters, provided I use just the right words.

Pie Chart

Sure none of my threatening language has any teeth, but it’s not like the government’s surveillance has produced any solid leads.

Isn’t it about time someone found the rainbow at the end of the PRISM program? Isn’t it about time someone gave those agents a break from playing World of Warcraft all day? Isn’t it about time someone Rick Rolled the government?

Getting on their radar is phase one of my master plan. I’ll have to hook them with national security-centric stories. I have a number of social media shorts in the pipeline. If I can get them to comb through my words, a few might find my writing compelling. If a small fraction of the agency starts following me, I’ll skyrocket to the top of everybody’s WordPress feed.

Most bloggers would think I’d be better off putting out quality work, but they’re just jealous because they didn’t think of this first.

Many Ties

With the explanation out of the way, I’d like to address those of you who are members of the National Security Agency directly. Before you go crying, “Obstruction of justice” remind yourself who’s stepping on who’s fourth amendment rights here. Now that I’ve got you searching and seizing, I might as well show you something. I’m not committing a crime. I’m not wasting your time. I’m taking the initiative. I’m thinking outside the box. Way outside the box.

I figure, if you’re sifting through everyone’s emails, then you’re bound to know a few publishers. Could you put in a good word for me? Sure, I believe that speech should be free, but I’ll leave a PayPal donation button incase you feel like paying a fee. Check out my Amazon wish list while you’re at it. When you’re done transcribing my posts for the record, don’t forget to hit “Subscribe” while you’re here.

If I can turn my pursuers into promoters than I’ll have a street team with more reach than anyone.

I’m taking the tape off my webcam, the gum off my microphone. I’m dialing the operator and leaving the phone on. Talking to myself, I’m letting you in on the plot. I’m waving “Hi” to my Playstation Eye. See anything that you like? Ignoring the flashing red light in my shower head, I’ll strut around naked wearing nothing but a smile and a tattoo of my web address. I’ll leave my iPhone on my pillow in case anyone wants to watch me sleep.

Privacy is dead. We live in public. I’m not hiding my shame, I’m inviting you to look at it.

You can listen to me sing If I Only Had a Heart in my tinfoil hat. Watch me try to fashion my tie into a pinwheel knot. Watch me lip sync Lorde’s big single. This is your intelligence empire, and we’ll never be royals in it, but maybe you could grant an audience to one of us commoners.

In the graph

Waiting at the bus stop, I expect to see well dressed men, reading newspapers, constantly itching their ears. I expect to see reel to reel equipment carted into the neighboring apartment. Watching the ceiling, I’m waiting for drill dust to fall into my hand.

I hear snapping, but I don’t see a fiber optic lens.

I expect indiscriminate delivery vans all the way up the block. Peaking through the blinds, I expect to see red dots on my chest. Taking the dog for a walk, I expect to see drones circling the apartment.

If you can’t be bothered to break out the surveillance scope, then I’ll get the megaphone. If your satellite doesn’t have a clear view, I’ll bust out the chainsaw and make one for you. If you can’t put a tail on me, then I’ll give you FourSquare updates for everywhere I’ll be. This is the information age people. How hard is it to stalk someone?

Come on! Haven’t you been reading my search history? I’ve been looking up, “How to turn napalm into orange juice concentrate.” Why isn’t anybody investigating me? My mom says I’m surveilable.

I’m calling in an anonymous tip on my sparkling wit. How many Guy Fawkes masks do I have to order to get some attention around here? How many times do I have to say, “Snowden” in front of the mirror to get an audience to appear? I’m yelling “Crowded theater” in the middle of a fire. I’m threatening bombs with wire cutters. The president and I, are threatening Death with his own scythe (the bald personification of Death as seen in The Seventh Seal and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, not the condition).

If that paragraph doesn’t get your algorithm’s attention, nothing will.

Good Numbers

Come on and get your snoop on. I’ll even give you a reason. The First Amendment has limits, and I’m skating on the edge of them. The time has come to settle up my tab with the Bill of Rights. My stories meet all the requirements for my freedoms to be regulated. Watch I’ll prove it.

I direct hate speech, at colorful adjectives and purple prose. I show religious intolerance, to warlocks from parallel dimensions. I issue true threats, to fictitious characters. I use inflammatory language, to describe the swelling of their limbs. I bring about a condition of unrest, as a plot device. I use words that wound, beloved supporting cast members. Treasonable talk, comes from my villains’ tongues. I use sexual harassment, as a cheap trope to get my audience to root against underdeveloped men. I use slanderous, obscene, fighting words, in my dialogue. My verbal attacks, often come without character attribution so I don’t have to break up the pace. Imminent lawless action, gives me a great cliffhanger to end my chapters on.

I’m exactly what the Supreme Court had in mind when they rendered that decision (for those of you who didn’t major in Constitutional Law and English Literature, the preceding paragraph had a lot of inside jokes in it).

Tinthumb salute

I will wave to my oppressors. I will link bait Big Brother. I will troll the secret service. My path to the bestsellers list will start with the watch list.

I’m putting in a surveillance request on my novel, bug that thing inside and out, and then tell me which parts you liked the best. You can be the Gawker Media to my Quentin Tarantino. Take a sneak peak at my first draft. You have the technology to give some feedback to me. I mean, what else are our tax dollars paying for?

May my review section light up with glowing endorsements like, “This book is a clear and present danger to your free time.” I aspire to write intelligent stories for the intelligence community. Something so good, rogue agents will prefer it to stalking ex girl friends.

Many of you intelligence operatives are artistically inclined. You can be my legion of ghost writers. If you can take over my keyboard, I’m open to suggestions for my Highlander fan fiction. If there’s a copy editor among you, feel free to correct me when I use “heel” for “heal” or “decent” for “descent.” Hunt down my adverbs, and take them out with extreme prejudice.

Maybe I harbor a fear that you might take me up on all this, broadcast my shower cam, and send in Seal Team 6 to wash my mouth out with soap. Maybe you’ll have my citizenship revoked, and ride me out of town like Jonathan Swift, just for few modest proposals.

That may be the case, but I say satire that doesn’t take risks is ridiculous.

So to my fans at the NSA, who might black bag me for a private signing, I might go and cry on the shoulder of the ACLU, but at the end of the day you know I love you.

Besides, if you do detain me that could be great publicity.

Andrew: A Story About Cinema Therapy

Tracking

I wrote a guest blog for @RachelintheOC that’s currently up on her site. It’s about how I’ve always used movies to help me deal with tough times, and the side effect this coping mechanism has had on me. I talk about where expectation and reality split. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to writing a memoir, and far more personal than most of what I usually post here (if you can believe that).

Check it out, share it, and tell me what you think.

Eavesdropping Advisory

Weather DrewA warning to rude people, on behalf of writers everywhere. We’re issuing an eavesdropping advisory: if you don’t have an indoor voice, expect to end up in one of our stories. If your temperance drops, and you put a shrill into the air, you’re begging for a role in our next adventure. If you blow white noise conditions out your molar vortex, we owe it to future generations to make a record of it. If you’re a severe weather friend, letting out an arctic blast every time you vent, we’ll be there to chronicle it.

To those who suffer from line blindness. Who steal spots because they feel entitled. Who complain about having to wait, when they couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment. When you say you want to give management a piece of your mind, we’re the ones who really take it.

We welcome you line cutters, you unsatisfied customers, you unexpected guest lecturers. When we need a character’s bile to come from a real place, we eagerly await what spills from your face. It might be toxic, but we won’t let it go to waste. We write what we know, and we learn from people like you.

To the megalomaniacal moviegoers, arguing with actors on screen, we’ll make sure that your dialogue gets to the right place.

To those who throw temper tantrums at tech support, we’ll pay special attention to how you’re wired, to where your screws are loose. We’ll find your glitch. Check your terms and conditions, we reserve the right to do whatever we want with this information. Your call may be recorded for training, quality, or entertainment purposes. Your anger may find its way onto one of our pages.

When you scream, “Am I just talking to myself!” We’re all ears, writing your soliloquy into our screenplays. When you feel like you’re shouting at a brick wall, we’re on the other side building a monument in your likeness.

If there’s a big book tallying up all of your sins, who do you think is keeping score? Never piss off a writer. We’re Santa’s little helpers. We decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. We decide who gets shown in a positive light. If we see that you’re always in the red, that’s how you’re going to be painted. If you ignore other people’s perspectives, we’re not going to see your good side.

When you pose statements in the form of questions, with valley girl up speak, we’ll be there to note the inflection. When you lob back handed compliments at your friends, we’ll be there to catch every last one of them.

When you drop F-bombs on civilians from coffee shop couch cushions, gossiping about the other members of AA, we’re the ones writing the flight manifest of your Enola Gay.

You’ve crossed the line, from annoying to entertaining. We went from shutting you out, to tuning you in. It’s not in our interest for you to calm down. We want to egg you on. It would take a boardroom full of comedians, working several months, to punch up lines of dialogue to your level of crazy. You’re doing all the work, and we’re grateful for your charity.

If the potential for conflict is visible, we aspire to make it audible. Conflict is the heart of drama. Be a drama Queen and you will rule our scenes. Be a diva and we’ll give you a place to sing. Every opera needs a prima donna. Every story needs an antagonist.

Send your minestrone back three times in a row. Ask to speak with the chef. Hand out reprimands with your demands. Remind your server that she’s working for tips. Read your nasty Yelp review out loud just incase the staff doesn’t think to search for it. Bravo, you’re perfect!

Drive your knees into the bus seat. Choke the life out of your cellphone. Shout into the receiver until you’re sure your voice is distorting on the other end. Point a finger at a person who isn’t there to see it. We’re casting for The Terror of Metro Transit, and guess what? You just got the part.

We’re the lurkers, the creeps, the ones with records to keep. We’re the quote bookers. We face away, because it makes it easier to hear what you say. We’ll be the ones to accept the awards for your tell off speech.

It’s your audacity that gives our voices authenticity.

If you can’t say something nice, then say it to our faces. You’re an expert quip handler and we’re here to take your tongue-lashings. Thank you mistress, may we have another? We’ve been bad. You should give us a talking to. You’re a control freak, so dominate us. Rake us over the coals. Break us down. Break our writers’ block while you’re at it.

You are rife with material. Take it out on us. Scold us. Berate us. Take us to task.

Good, we can feel your anger. Strike us down with all of your hatred and your journey to the quotation mark-side will be complete.

Now your cruelty belongs to the ages.

Pointing

Bubble Pipe

“There’s more than one way to get noticed,” says the man smoking a bubble pipe.

In my effort to spoof Sherlock Holmes I somehow created an album cover
In my effort to spoof Sherlock Holmes I somehow created an album cover


(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

One of the first things women notice in a man is his shoes, so says the round table of talking heads on day time television. Shoes are a window into a man’s wallet. What better way to put his best foot forward than to have the right kicks on? What better place to evaluate him then from the ground up? Of course, if there are suds dripping down the tongue of his loafers, you might want to pan up to see their source.

There’s something about a bubble pipe that makes you forget about a man’s footwear.

Watching the foam spill over his timepiece, you can’t help but wonder what makes this man tick. The pipe might make him look psychotic, but that soapy water is very hygienic. Mayhaps he’s giving his face a bubble bath. You’ve got to love a man who can luxuriate in public. That prop makes him such a mystery. Even his body language seems foreign.

Why would someone bring a bubble pipe to a champaign party? Maybe he’s just that confident. Maybe he’s crazy. Maybe you’re being pranked on national TV. You dare not ask, for fear the answer could never live up to your expectations, but still, you have to know before the night ends.

Watch another desperate boy work his tired sad little ploy, while just over his shoulder Professor Bubble Pipe is waiting there. You find yourself abandoning your companion mid-come on line. There’s something, someone else, that has your attention. He’s blowing you a path. Standing center stage, he plays his instrument, all tall dark and random.

Sure, he looks like a lunatic, but he’s a lunatic with a secret

IMG_2198

Bubble Pipe was one of those pieces from the archives that had me thinking, “I don’t need to share that on the internet,” but I kept coming back to it. It was an inside joke that I was the only one snickering at. People watching at parties, I wanted to mock the mating ritual. I wanted to confuse everyone.

Bubble Pipe is a piece in the spirit of that tao of fuck it. That go for broke attitude that says this is me as I am, take it or leave it. Watch me eat junk food. Watch me sleep until noon. Watch me mock social mores. If you don’t like my attitude, then that’s your problem.

It’s about spending three hours putting an outfit together, only to say, “Screw it, I’ll just wear the sweat pants with the mustard stain again.”

It’s about dropping your flowers on the way up the steps, leaving you to present your date with a bouquet of bent stems. “They’re perfect, you love them.”

It’s about giving up the pretense, but not the ambition.

I’d rather stand out as an honest lunatic than go along with a heard of straight faced liars. To steal a line from The Twilight Singers, “A lonely boy will stand when others crawl.”

So to my fellow lunatics, with pipes leaking soapy water in your breast pockets, I say, “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

IMG_2195

The voice I used in this recording is a sad attempt at a posh accent, if anyone asks I’ll say, “Oh, that? That’s just a typical midwestern dialect, it is no way a piss poor attempt at replicating the tone of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Star Trek: Into Darkness monologue.”

I chose flute sounds for the musical accompaniment because, like bubble pipes, they’re wood wind instruments. I used distorted hip-hop beats to add some weight to my thin premise, a little badassery to go with my B.S.

As for the poem itself, it’s one of those things I had to get out of my system. I wrote it when I was 22. I still think it’s funny, and as it’s turned out, I still have a lot to say about the subject. My original artist description for this poem became a companion piece, called 11th Hour Valentines, if you liked this, then you’ll love that. Check it out.

IMG_2196 Continue reading Bubble Pipe

11th Hour Valentines

What started as a Photoshop tutorial on how to create a heart balloon, turned into this, because things just kind of turn to cobwebs when I leave my mark on them.
What started as a Photoshop tutorial on how to create a heart balloon, morphed into this, because things turn to cobwebs when I leave my mark on them.

Ten years ago, I wrote a piece on the bar close mating ritual. I had a lot to say about it back then. Turns out, I still do. So much so I had to split up my entries.

Don’t worry, this rant doesn’t come from the perspective of an outsider looking in, no, it’s the confession of a participant. It’s racier than my usual fare, but the subject matter demands it to be. Don’t worry, there’s no judgements here. Why would I preach when I can immerse you in the sin?

If reading this makes you feel a little dirty, then my work here is done.

11th Hour Valentines

It’s last call. It’s the lightning round. It’s anybody’s game. It’s the final countdown. It’s your fifteen minutes to claim. It’s the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve. It’s the eleventh hour before Valentine’s Day. It’s the last round of a speed date, no pressure.

We go from looking for a soulmate, to someone to fill a space. We detach our heartstrings to make ourselves more appetizing. We go from real things to physical flings. We took our shot, now we’re rebounds just looking for a layup. Casting off our spines, we bend over backwards to lower our standards. We were your sour grapes, now we’re your low hanging fruit. Our desperation is in season. Come and get it.

It’s the end of the world. Time to find somebody to share it with. There’s a mushroom cloud on the horizon. We don’t want to leave a lonesome silhouette.

We shoot through the crowd, like comets looking for celestial bodies worth orbiting. Circling one, then another, looking for an opening, holding our breath until we can get into your atmosphere.

The clock is ticking. The window is closing. The train is leaving. The pod bay doors are down to a slit. The spark is running out of string. The stars are aligned. The sundial is ready for the ritual. We’ve got to sacrifice someone to our ego.

Time to blow as many kisses as we can, and hope that some of them stick. Time to throw ourselves into a pair of open arms, and hope we’re well received. We’re suicide kings with daggers for brains, and hearts hovering over our sleeves. Time to play the hand we were dealt.

Be happy to strike fool’s gold. Be happy to find a zirconium in the rough. Be happy with a forgery. It all looks real in the dark.

It’s bar close. It’s winning time. It’s the last few feet before the finish line. The night is young, but we’re aging out of it.

It’s okay if you’ve lost your focus. We’re all a little unbalanced, trying to find our footing on a point that’s tipping.

Clock Face

Magicians work the room, with linguistic tricks, slight of mouth illusions of wit. Weeding out volunteers from the audience, they blow smoke on mirrors, until all their competition has disappeared. Oh, they might seem like they could conjure up a magical evening, but really, they just want to take you home and saw you in half.

Social scientists step outside of their element, synthesizing chemistry from agents that were never meant to bond. They mix extrovert acids with introvert bases, with no mind the explosive consequences.

Self promoters put themselves out there, doing all they can to raise brand awareness. Stealth marketers close their deals, converting lustful leads into sexual sales. Night traders place their bids, buying low self esteem, selling their own as high. Shifting market value, they all have unspoken agreements to attend to.

Wingmen pilot their jocks into chosen targets. Pouring on the Whiskey to keep their Deltas from throttling back. They’re on the lookout for landing strips. They navigate their mates through kamikaze compliments, looking to help a friend scratch a one night stand into their night stand.

A confederacy of drunkards speak in man code, nonverbal cues and raised eyebrow clues. They challenge the competition to a staring contest. They offer their olive branches with balled up fists. They speak in two tones, one for each gender, flirting with one, threatening the other.

We throw psych out eye contact, like basket ball players, concealing passes. Don’t feel so bad, you’re just a means to your friend. We invite strangers to our table, introduce them to our secluded sidekicks, and flee the scene. The old booth bait and switch. Now your someone else’s entertainment.

We’re tired of being flies on the wall, eavesdropping insects, people watching parasites. We want to get some blood in the game. Give us a sign worth decoding. Give our hungry eyes something to snack on. Give our subconscious Sherlocks something to deduce, something that isn’t so elementary.

The pickings are getting slim. We couldn’t make the midnight kiss, give us the two AM illusion of bliss. We couldn’t cast the real thing, so let’s just role play the honeymoon scene. Let’s choose the mystery box. Let’s see what’s behind door number three. Let’s roll those dice. Give our dignity a chance to break even, for our status to go from “creepy” back to “harmless.” Give us time to wait for your raised chin to turn back into a subtle smirk.

Come on and give us a little win.

Spades call each other out. Pots have words with kettles. The glass home owner’s association lobs their stones at the other tenants. Staggering out with torn clothes, they mock each other’s nudity. Resting their heads on the bar, they draw attention to the splinters in our eyes, ignoring the planks in their own.

Fighters are just lovers who can’t get their shit together.

We know better. We swore we’d never do this again, but when the beat hits that dead horse, we’ve got to get our groove on. We can’t hear our conscience over the cognitive dissonance. Desire is our song, but dejection is our jam. We let it play, hoping that somehow it will turn out differently. This broken record, is the dictionary definition of insanity.

There are so many mixed signals, foot traffic has no where to go. We’re deers in headlights, when you want to call it an early night. We boogie on the barrier. We grind through the gridlock. We’re an unstoppable force hitting on an immovable object, a match made in collision. It takes two to tango. It takes two to play chicken.

The dance floor is an ongoing crime scene. Federal Agents claim jurisdiction over our libidos. Our eyes wander as we examine the evidence. Buttons are undone as we check each other for wires. We walk around with our flies down, hoping that someone will blow our cover.

Let’s follow our leads, find a nice soft mattress to carry out a sting operation. We’re just two confidential informants exchanging information.

Finger Heart

Wake up to the morning after interrogation room scene, to the entrapment of a state of the union conversation. Last night was a dream come true, but now anything you say can and will be used against you. That gas station food you shared on the way, that retroactively counts as a date. Your partner recites the night with the clarity of someone who didn’t have enough to drink. They read your words back to you. You might want to have your lawyer present when you go for brunch.

We make plea bargains for relations without relationships, docile deals for compromising positions, visitation rights for those long lonely nights. Making the walk of shame out of their jurisdiction, we wonder what the hell happened.

Some of us get sloppy. We leave an orgy of evidence. We don’t bother planning an escape route. We try to get caught. Show us to your cell. Handcuff us to your bedpost. We’ll get off with good behavior. We weren’t looking to cut and run. We were trying to end up here.

“Love” is a word we so rarely get to use in context. With our backs against the wall, just give us a reason. Tell us that you want something serious and see what happens. Do you really want to put a term on it? Because we’ve got all this meaning, we’re just waiting to attach to something.

Be our high time hookup, our last minute lover, our eleventh hour Valentine. Be our crisis point crush, our cab ride cupid, our wooer under the wire. Be our fail safe flame, our infatuation for when we’re in a bind, our escort under exigence circumstance.

You can be the hangover cure we didn’t know we needed. The unnamed number in our caller ID. The mistake we look back on fondly. Be our happy accident. We’ll be the missing piece that still doesn’t fit into your plans.

Maybe we won’t be yours for long, but for a moment we’ll be somebody’s something.

Franchise Fixes: Highlander

There can be only me
There can be only me

For those of you unfamiliar with Highlander, it’s the story of a five hundred year old Scotsman drawn into a deadly contest that’s raged for centuries. Connor MacLeod and immortals like him, fight for a prize some believe to be godhood. He is a reluctant participant in this game. Seeking the protection of holy ground, MacLeod fights for survival. Claiming the heads of those who try to take his own, MacLeod grows stronger through a merging of souls called “the quickening.” He’s done this ever since his mentor, Ramirez, taught him that in the end there can be only one.

Duncan MacLeod is Connor’s kinsman. While Connor represented the franchise on the silver screen his distant relative became one of the most enduring characters to dominate Saturday afternoon television. While the film series lost it’s way, claiming the immortals were reincarnated fugitives from the planet Zeist, the TV show kept the mystery interesting. When Connor and Duncan were reunited in Highlander: Endgame, fan favorite Duncan was put in a situation (MAJOR SPOILERS) that forced him to claim Connor’s head. This gave him the strength he needed to face a bigger foe. The series collapsed after that (stumbling back into Zeist-like planetary alignment territory in Highlander: The Source).

The problem with the currently proposed reboot: The screenwriters are stuck on retelling the story of Connor’s battle with the Kurgan, the strongest of the immortals. They want to bring back Ramirez, and give us an updated clone of the first adventure. Their additions have Connor swapping his iconic katana for a sniper rifle. They have the Kurgan exploiting a bureaucratic loophole to deconsecrate a church in order to fight on holy ground. Apart from Connor taking on one of his opponent’s physical ticks, after a claiming his head, it felt like this interpretation had nothing to add.

Controversial Fix: Keep the concept ditch the hero.

Connor MacLeod is not without his charm, but he’s no Indiana Jones. Connor was upstaged by his television counterpart Duncan, the romance novel cover model of the series. Both characters have established histories that come with a lot of baggage. I think the premise has more staying power than the protagonists. If we want to modernize the franchise, we’ll need a new MacLeod, one whose past, present, and future are mysteries to us.

The story will borrow many of the familiar beats from Connor’s origin, but it will tweak them to play with audience expectations. Continue reading Franchise Fixes: Highlander

Author Interview: Drew Chial

@akmakansi did an interview with me on her website. I get very candid on the sins of self promotion. Check it out:

Author Interview: Drew Chial.

Keeping My Memoir out of My Fiction

Question for writers: do you ever have trouble keeping yourself out of your stories? I do.

Head in a book

Keeping my Memoir out of my Fiction

Whenever I’m writing escapist fantasy, something happens that urges me to bring it back down to earth. My journal makes a compelling argument for its inclusion. My story relocates itself from a foreign land. It’s time frame travels back to the present. Memoir entries sneak into the margins. Mistaking them for notes, I find my private affairs on the page.

Overcome with a compulsion to method write, I draw from life experience. At the expense of the mystery, each line is a composite of my personality. Hoping no one has got my number, I hand my readers all the variables they’d need to do the math. Unrolling secret parchments, I leave them out for the uninitiated to see. Putting my shame up on a pedestal, I invite art authorities to criticize it.

I try to catch myself doing this. I try to spot the lines plagiarized from the other side of my mind, but they’re spaced out. It’s hard to drag the bottom of the text for corpses, the skeletons that once resided in my closet. It’s such a slow process, it’s no wonder my subconscious keeps getting away with it.

Exercising eminent domain, my internal city planner rezones my mental map. Putting my deepest fears in the town square, it gives the bad idea I’m trying to cast out of my mind the key to the city. Polluting my thoughts, it changes the skyline. Soon my enchanted kingdom resembles the streets I always walk down. The population resembles the people I see every day. Reality bleeds into my imagination. Now my dreamworld is no longer mine.

Real people show up for character auditions. Their dress code shows up in my descriptions. Personal ticks preface dialogue that I can’t help but quote verbatim. Sometimes I find myself wondering if I’m a writer or a stenographer.

I try to obscure their identities with accessories. They cast them off as inauthentic. No amount of armor can lock down their limps. No amount of flashy jewelry can bury their body language. No veil can mask their micro expressions. Glasses with plastic noses and mustaches will not spare me from paying likeness rights. The players want to be recognized on the page. I’m afraid that’s the only way I can get them out of my headspace.

The disclaimer will read: all characters appearing in this work are out there among you, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely intentional. Names have been changed to protect the obvious.

May the class action lawsuit commence.

Face into Book

I’m a closed book until you read my writing. My drawbridge goes down, and I’m open to interpretation. There’s no artistic alibi, no neutral nuance, no subtle subtext to hide behind. All my deeper meanings float to the surface. All my subliminal messages go up in lights. All of my dramatic disguises get outed to the public.

Every quotation mark says something.
Every ellipsis is evidence.
Every full stop is a footprint.
Brail breadcrumbs will take you right up to my residence.

There are too many parallels to the path I walk. Too many telltale signs buried between the lines. Too many plot devices for you to reverse engineer. Too many transparent notions making my agenda clear. You know that I know, that you know, what I want you to know.

Into the Book

Casting myself as the lead is such a rookie mistake. It’s bush league. It’s a noob cheat. Making myself the main character is so first year author, so vanity press, so screenwriting 101, but here I go again.

It happens so gradually that I don’t catch myself doing it. I’m tailoring the hero’s garments to fit me better. I’m relocating them to a climate that resembles my own back yard. I’m limiting their knowledge base to something I can pull out of my own ass. Forgetting what color their irises are, I hit my own with the old eye-dropper tool. Forgetting how they style their hair, I give them the grown up Bart Simpson look that I always wear.

Suddenly my female lead has undergone a sex change. Now all the parts for women have been underwritten. Their nuance gets rounded off, and a set of troupes come to fill the spaces in. My once progressive premise shifts, it’s now part of the problem. My ego demands screen time, and all my great ideas for solving conflicts with words fall by the way side. The violence just keeps finding it’s way back into the script. I keep seeing myself making a fist. I need someplace to put it.

Before long, I’m looking back at myself from the text, in this paper mirror, wondering how the hell I even got there.

The hero speaks in catchphrases I never got the opportunity to use. They lift lines from tell-off speeches I’d never be brave enough to give. Their words strike a balance between cold and charming, with a whit so quick you’d never see it coming. They’re not me, they’re how I’d like to be. Even when they’re down and out, they do it elegantly.

It’s obvious why Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler wrote the way they did. Their detective avatars could be the men they never were. They needed a place to feel secure.

There’s no mystery why this happens. Feeling weak, we writers long for self empowerment. When we feel emasculated, we tell a male power fantasy. When we’re lonely, we fill our dry spells with wish fulfillment. We escape to a parallel universe with a more agreeable set of circumstances. One that’s full of manic pixie dream girls, femme fatales, and sometimes even genuine companionship.

Book Face 2

Someone get this blog entry out of my horror story. Get this coming of age piece out of my sci-fi fantasy. Get this cautionary tale out of my dark comedy. Curb the autobiography. Set the diary at the dumpster. My life story hasn’t been lived in enough to fit in with this furniture.

I don’t want to talk about my circumstances. That’s why I tried to write this story in the past tense. I don’t belong in this universe. That’s why I wrote it in third person omniscient, but the story keeps shifting to try and deal me in.

Here I go breaking my hero’s routine with a break up, flashing back to the moment of impact, as a cheap ploy for sympathy. Underdog established, check. Alright, let’s milk this bit. Now my novella is haunted by the Ghosts of Moments Past. Not sure if I should hire an editor or an exorcist to fix it.

This is not the story I want to be armed with when I’m running the introvert gauntlet of social networking events. It will leave me in limbo at the punchbowl. There are too many personal details, too many big reveals. This pitch would make a cramped elevator feel a little too intimate. It weighs heavy on the tongue, because there’s too much information in it.

There are ballad titles in my chapter headers,
torch songs in place of description,
verses cutting through the prose.
You could practically sing my fiction.

Sad bastard lyrics show up in speeches,
blues structure creeps into the timing,
and no matter how hard I try,
I just can’t stop it all from rhyming.

Okay, so really, we’re going to do this? We’re going to let a character whine about watching a sunset alone, and everyone is cool with that? We’re going to commit to words that we bootleg movies because we have no one to go to the theater with? You don’t think anyone’s going to pick up on who’s really saying this? If all of our characters save seats for their imaginary friends, pretty soon our readers are going to pick up on exactly what is happening.

Now I’m talking to myself and making a record of it.

Of course I'm getting sucked into Stephen King's Doctor Sleep
Of course I’m getting sucked into Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep

I want to use lies to tell the truth, but the truth wills out. A few grains of it become a silo, and there’s nothing left to omit. I can’t distort it, stretch it, or be economical with it. A half truth is a whole lie, and my internal reader knows the difference. Jonesing for authenticity, my reader knows when something has been cut with bullshit, when a pack of lies has gotten into the mix, when an expression has lost its purity, it knows to squeeze the rest out of me. So I over share to feed its appetite. It keeps me honest with its refined tastes.

This compulsive honesty comes at the expense of a clever premise. Naked emotion costs me the storytelling possibilities that come from outside of my own skin. It narrows the appeal down to those who speak the same language of regret. Where a strong plot could carry a reader, I leave it up to a character’s voice to do the heavy lifting. Where a strong conflict would keep the pages turning, the honesty demands that I pause to dwell on how I’m feeling.

I refuse to accept that a fall from grace is a part of the process, that I have to hit a slump to produce a hit, that a downward spiral is a good point of reference. I have too much truth to draw from. My palette is overflowing with it. Quite frankly, I don’t even want it.

I need to learn to lie to myself more effectively. To vent about things that have never happened to me. To smuggle adventure into my tales of woe. To trick myself into writing fabrications with a twinge of authenticity.

When there’s something in my life to dwell on, it has a way of trying to star in everything. It bursts onto the set when it’s not even in the sequence. I can try to hide it in the shadows, but it keeps sliding into the spotlight, stealing the scene every chance it gets. This thought I can’t push out of my mind, is a diva that refuses to go back into their trailer. It wants to keep shooting until we get it right. It wants its story to be known, even if it’s not the one I wanted to tell.

If I could only smother it in makeup. If I could only give it some direction. If I could only fire it without slowing down the entire production.