For some time I have been playing with the idea of writing my own futuristic fantasy stories. This grew from my disappointment in how the stories from a popular sci-fi franchise are written and, in fact, how space operas in general are written. I’d like them to be a bit harder. Not necessarily in the sense of rocket science hard, which is what you may be thinking, but with other plot elements, from warfare, exploration, pacing, economy, the spatial and time span of these stories, the fact that in most you don’t even feel like the vastness of space matters, etc.
I mentioned in the previous post that writing is a very peculiar behavior, with a great chasm between its execution and hypothetical reward. That makes it hard to reinforce, to keep it consistent, comparable to similar activities with equally deferred rewards, like strength sports.
I thought I was being original when I wrote that but reading the papers I had ready for today’s post I noticed I was probably just paraphrasing one of them. It’s from a 1977 paper , which includes an introduction and discussion by a psychologist, but the core of the paper is the novelist Irving Wallace explaining his charts and timekeeping methods he used to become a professional writer.
“The treatment of writing problems offers a special challenge for clinical psychologists. In few other domains do patients pressure themselves to be so spontaneous, original and perfect.”
Those are the first two sentences from a psychology paper on writer’s block and the generation of creative ideas, by Robert Boice, published in 1983  If I were to write a paper on those subjects, I’d probably start like Harry Frankfurt in his book On Bullshit, with something like:
One of the most salient features of the writer’s subculture is that there is so much bullshit.
This is uniquely relevant to the problem of writer’s block too, of course.
I was sure I had already published this post, but I had not. I “remembered” this post when I read The Pulp Archivist linking to my previous posts on writing. He says:
Given that writing has such a separation between the speaker and the audience, it is no surprise that many writers forget about the audience altogether. Many literary novelties are written for the speaker’s sake–such as three codas to a story written in the three persons of point of view–and not for the effect on the audience. The faults tackled in these blogs all boil down to writers forgetting about the audience and focusing on the flash of writing
My answer was “ah, yes, that’s like that thing about the writer vs. reader-based post I had… uh, did I actually wrote that or just thought a lot about it?” Well, apparently, the later. So let’s redress that…
“Who is, or was, this Bardo?” Corin asked.
“Is, he is still alive as far as I know,” Dolman said and a faint smile crossed his face. “He was discharged. His place wasn’t the army. Oh, he was pretty good, but…” his voice trailed off and the smile became a chuckle.
“He was one of von Strab’s Morons,” one of the hunters explained.
“That’s uh… an officer?” The scribe ventured.
“No, those were von Strab’s Idiots. The Morons were then brain-scrambled boys they grabbed when the war got really nasty.”Continue reading “November 15 story: Twenty Feet, Part III”
Once there was a master pick-up artist for whom the tricks of his trade were to him as natural as breathing. He got around the world, worming himself into women’s mind and bedrooms with equal ease. But during his last escapade (to the exotic nation of Moldavia,) news of his arrival got around first (his social media posts stating “BITCHES be ready, I’M HERE” probably didn’t help either.)
The women had been forewarned, and some now were forearmed, and they shunned him in bars, shopping malls, coffee shops, and maternity wards. But The Master, for that was his professional name, had always known this could happen and had many contingency plans ready for such a situation and knew that, eventually, he would get around the problem.
With flair and finesse, he dressed himself up into a human peacock. Two long, dangling skull earrings, a crystal cane, a double-breasted coat that could have only been worn by Dracula himself, a silver stole, more rings you can count, a top hat, and a fanciful beard later, he was not only outrageously embellished but also unrecognizable. Ready for action, he got around the ladies with humor, guile, charisma, and judicious negging, and then, finally, he really got around with the ladies.
Yes, this is just a made-up story to help me remember the various meanings of the phrasal verb “to get around.”
This post has been in my draft folder for a long time. It’s one of the most common issues I see in texts I read or proofread, and it’s also the one that more easily sets me off. I’m talking about the overuse of participial phrases or, as you probably know them, -ing verbs. They are everywhere, and although they can be used correctly, they usually aren’t.
This is the pattern, and once I mention it, you’ll probably recognize it: “Character A did X, Y-ing something else,” or “Protagonist said, twirling his mustache.” The participial phrase is the entire, well, phrase, “twirling his mustache,” not just the word twirling. Grammatically, they usually work as an adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun (like the subject.) I was surprised when I discovered that because I had intuitively thought they worked as adverbs, saying how something was done (How did he say it? Twisting his mustache) but in fact, they modify a noun, here, “Protagonist.” Basically, it’s like saying “The Protagonist, he-who-is-twisting-his-mustache, said.”