The Phantom of Truth appeared at the foot of my bed. His black robe draped over the mattress. His boney knees made the springs squeal. He pinned me to the pillows with a crocked finger as thick as a broom handle.
The Phantom did not fade in and out like a waking dream. He was a real tangible thing, buckling the floorboards, scrapping his hunchback against the ceiling, getting dust all over everything. He was a giant whose every movement shook the room. If he jumped he’d take the whole floor down with him.
It occurred to me that his long black robe was made from scales. I thought the robe might’ve been stitched together from snakeskins, until I saw it puff out on its own like the sack beneath a frog’s neck. The cloak had no seams. I couldn’t tell where it ended and the creature’s long arms began. Continue reading The Phantom of Truth
New Year’s Enigma
The more I tell myself New Year’s Eve doesn’t matter to me, the more I realize it does. That’s the power of negative suggestion. The more you tell yourself not to think about something the more you do (quick, try not to think of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man).
I try to roll my eyes at the Calendar, thinking the New Year is just another number; an arbitrary changing of the digits, a human construct with as much meaning as daylight savings. It’s still going to be cold in Minneapolis on January 2. Nothing significant is going to change, but that’s the thing that always gets under my skin. It isn’t merely about the festivities of the evening. It’s about how much distance I’ve put between this version of myself and the one from the year before. Continue reading How to Make Practical New Year’s Resolutions
We writers are always told to never quit our day jobs, but day jobs can have a dramatic effect on our creative output.
Sales employees have to put their brightest faces forward, give their firmest handshakes, and work their damnedest to mirror their clients. Reps have to know which way their buyers are leaning before the buyers do. Reps have smile through rejection and nod through micromanagement. When sales reps come home all that time spent aligning with their clients’ concerns has left them emotionally exhausted.
The last thing salespeople want to do is to have to deal with fictitious people’s needs, with their own urgent needs and unresolved conflict. So how do those of us with aspirations beyond our current functions make good on our dreams? How do we find the time to write around our responsibilities? Continue reading How Writers can Trick Themselves into Working After Work
In honor of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I wanted to explore world building in fiction. I’m going to talk about how mapping your world can can guide you out of writer’s block. This map not an outline of your story, nor is it a bible filled with character details. It’s a cultural guide for your community, an anthology of your universe’s mythology, and an atlas of your setting.
Don’t think of this writing exercise as a satellite image, fixed and defined, think of it as dots on a treasure map with space for further details. Your world map isn’t meant to chart your story’s space. It’s meant to give you options worth exploring. Not only is it a great way to get ideas off the ground, when you don’t have a premise, it’s a great way to help you come up with the next story in the series. Continue reading How Writers can Create Their Own Galaxies Far Far Away
Plot driven stories focus on external conflict. Character driven stories focus on inner turmoil. Plot driven stories are more situational than personal. While characters may evolve in plot driven stories, they never change as much as the world around them. Plot driven stories are action oriented. Characters don’t have the luxury of self examination before they make decisions. Their situation is too urgent.
The plot driven story approach is ideal for fast paced globe trotting adventures, sci-fi fantasies, and anything with a clock counting down to Armageddon. That’s why most blockbuster movies take the plot driven approach. It keeps the characters in danger and makes the audience feel like they’re on a rollercoaster.
The problem with plot driven stories is when their fast pace leaps over gaps in the plot. Continue reading What’s My Motivation? Why Writers Need to Motivate All of Their Characters
When I started my novel We the Damned my outline was no longer than a paragraph. All I wanted to know was the premise, the players, and the conflict.
In the story the demon Court of Skulls puts Eugene Black’s life on trial. They sabotage his defense by assigning him Murphy O’Dell, a day drinking public defender in the process of being disbarred. The courts rigs the evidence, alters procedure, and calls a series of couched witnesses to convince Eugene his life has no meaning. The court’s victory seems like a foregone conclusion until Murphy comes to care about his client.
I knew the surface conflict, but wanted to wait until I was in the thick of writing to understand the characters’ underlying motivations. All I knew was the Court of Skulls wanted to damn a soul while concealing its importance, and Murphy wanted to win, because it gave him a chance to stick it to the demons who he learned have been sabotaging his life all along. Continue reading How to Reroute your Story For A New Twist
When you want extra anchovies on your pizza you ask the person on the other end of the phone. When you want a pair of acid wash pre-frayed jeans you ask a clerk where to find them. When you want a tall non-fat half caff Latte you ask a barista for one.
When you want love you don’t just ask the person you’re attracted to. There’s a dance to romance. You don’t say, “I couldn’t help but notice that your face was symmetrical and the proportions of your body are agreeable. I like how your loose garments reveal your good genetics. Would you like to copulate and imagine what our offspring would look like, or just copulate for recreation’s sake?”
That’s a little too on the nose. Continue reading What First Dates can Teach You About Writing Dialogue
Right now many of you are cranking out stories for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You’ve got two more weeks to hit your 50,000 word goal. If the words are flowing you might feel an urge to share your idea with everyone and their mom, but now isn’t the time.
It’s hard to stay on the right path when your friends say, “What if, instead, you took your story in this direction?”
It’s hard to concentrate on where your story is going if someone questions where it’s been. It’s hard to power through to a deadline when criticism derails your train of thought. Continue reading Is It Safe: When to Tell People About What You’re Writing
Know Thy Self
Most of us avoid doing anything out of character. We don’t want our routines to get broken. If our lives have to change we want it to be so gradual that we don’t even notice. If we’re stuck in a rut we try to make ourselves comfortable with it. It doesn’t matter if every day feels the same, we choose to live in Groundhog Day scenarios because it’s what we know.
We predict how we’ll manage in tough spots, overlooking the difference between our ideal selves and our applied selves, between our routine self and our chaotic self.We gossip about other losers who fell apart under pressure, patting ourselves on the back for how we assume we’d react differently. We’d like to believe we wouldn’t panic from the comfort of our love seats. Continue reading Use Your Darkness: How Writers’ Shortcomings Benefit Their Characters
This is my first collection of musical spoken word recordings. Each recording puts a satirical slant on self improvement, self medicating heartbreak with humor, and dropping the mic on depression. The recordings are scored with synth melodies, backing beats, and radio drama sound FX.