On writing the protagonist

The protagonist will want something tangible, like money, a romantic interest, to destroy a facet of society that affected them earlier in life, and so on.

This want will be tied to a personal problem that either haunts, drives or motivates them. Get a sense of what your protagonist’s problem is and how it triggers them into action. 

This problem will usually be aggravated by an inciting incident that forces the protagonist to move from story’s start to a path of action, what Joseph Campbell called the adventure.

Who will the protagonist need to talk with throughout their story? What relationship will be focal to their attention, and thus drive most of the story’s drama? Who will antagonise the protagonist?

The antagonist’s obvious or not-so-obvious actions will oppose the protagonist’s efforts to reach their goal. The adventure will move toward disorder, hitting a peak in the middle of the story, which will make life much worse for the protagonist and lead them to not end up anywhere near where they started.

Continue reading “On writing the protagonist”

Writing characters

All characters in fiction should be asked the same questions:

1. Who am I?

2. Where am I?

3. When is it?

4. Where have I just come from?

5. What do I want?

6. Why do I want it?

7. Why do I want it now?

8. What will happen if I don’t get it now?

9. How will I get what I want by doing what?

10. What must I overcome?

Light across the horizon

Our current state of affairs is revealing a penetrating needle dipped in melancholia rising from the depths of change. So off-settling is this steely splinter that it’s shifting the very foundations of society by enchanting our minds into having itself be seen as a towering spire equal to Babel. Like its biblical counterpart, man made in the collective unconscious, but, unlike it, unable to split our collective voice.

This crisis is teaching us, even on lockdown, that we speak the same words, sing the same songs and dance to the same anthems, which take the piss out of our solitary sentence. Who ever thought Alice Deejay – Better Off Alone would become so meaningful?

The new world beyond this time is waiting for us in silence on twilight’s Apollonian shore, where it’s coming to Spring, the birds are starting to sing and the last of the bats are flying home for hanging sleep. It’s cooler there, clean and fresh, the sun has purified the airways and there’s a lingering smell of freshly cut oak that’s ready to be shaped into bowls, tables and such for market sale, giving people a chance for a new way to live indoors.

Nature becomes cherished among all our senses in this new world and a zen-like spirit will begin to blossom from the ruins of this invisible war. It’s not on the horizon yet but it will be once the sun goes down and the night sets in and the bats flap by and the light finally gives view to our haven by a divine sea.

Psycho assault and battery

The past few times I found myself away from here had been either spent collecting essentials or rations because of a largely irrational response to an ad hoc order that we now find ourselves in. This order has been put in place to protect the proletariat, the majority of us, from an invisible invader, so scary, it has us cowering indoors – learning to cook again, catching up on stories – during what must be an unprecedented phase of this millennium.

Never have more people known not what to do since, I’d surmise, the Spanish Flu of the early 1900s and never has more people known what to do since ingesting a decade of zombie survival viewing, like the Walking Dead, Black Summer and other viral outbreak flicks.

There is an inherent meaninglessness to it all, found in the unspoken words and corner shadows that are emanating the fears of our assaulted minds. And they are assaulted, this can be sure, all you need to do is look at the news to see the social order, the rules, the guidelines, the cultural programming of your place in humanity put into question, subverted or bent like rubber in ways more akin to what authors do to create horror plots or narrative thrillers.

Look at the similarities between movies like Contagion, or any zombie flick, and the world news playing 24/7 right now and you will see a psychological assault and battery in progress. The police are not coming to save us nor are we on our own. This is something new to us because it is something undocumented historically or fictionally.

So, here we are, looking out the window at a brand new world.

The life and times of fruit

When we buy fruit from the grocery store, which we do not wish to eat immediately nor anytime in the near future, our ultimate goal is to preserve said fruit until a suitable time for its consumption. The fruit’s survival depends on the continued existence of its nutrient-filled, delicious body and thus must be preserved in this state for as long as possible. So, we place said fruit into the fridge, an ice box capable of defending against the passage of time, the fruit’s mortal enemy, which carries the law of entropy in hand as it marches on and on toward the end. Inside the fridge it no longer exists in a way things exist outside the fridge, such as a cat would. It is dark in the fridge and cold, akin to the depths of the soul, allowing the fruit to contemplate itself in relation to the world around it, always out of sight in the darkness. When the fruit emerges from the fridge it is bathed in light and from this light does it make its way in the palm of a giant to the belly of life. Long live the fridge. May it preserve our fruits until all are one.

The seat of emotion

Most people who are sensitive to the world around them are receptive to fierce and consuming urges. Because what people desire most, the soul is yearning for impatiently and quietly in unchanging fervour. Which is why no action I take holds me like writing. Anything I get myself into feels like an aside to it, an experimentation of sorts to inform ‘the truth’ of writing.

When I attend to the words, I do so diligently, romantically and always in utter fear of what they can do to me. Writing is the bedrock in my life, the passion in my world, the cement making up my foundation. Everyone needs solid ground to stand on. Atop of mine is the love of my life, my rock, mon coeur, my all.

Her dreams are filled with passions, yet mine are relegated to adventures with strangely common or oddly foreign guest stars, brimming with all sorts of veritable piffle, drivel and bunk. I never record any of it; it’s better to forget in silence rather than decipher in noise what may not even be.

Talky dialogue, bad plot

One thing I hate most of all in movies or even some books is when an abundance of dialogue is used to mask what little, flimsy plot there is because what plot there is is terrible. You can tell the writer is struggling for ideas so instead of thinking of something worth saying they just fill scenes with talky back and forth that lacks any stakes, conflict or even character. Characters who lack character. It’s the worst, and I blame superhero comics. Now, I love superhero comics, they’re great in many ways, but the problem I’m describing is a common part of them because superheroes have been around for a long time and that flimsy plotting and bad dialogue are just standard practice among them for business or editorial reasons. So now that superhero movies are popular, that type of storytelling is seeping through into new movies and books, and it’s wrong. Let’s just hope it’s a faze.

Dialogue for a rainy night

I spent the morning interviewing someone for a story. She was interesting not in what she spoke on but in how well she structured her answers. I kept thinking the story was writing itself, but also that it’d be interesting to take the transcript and give her words to a made-up character to see if it could work as story dialogue. Sure.

The transcription service popped out the transcript, I looked it over and thought, no, no, there’s something missing. This is not dialogue for a character. It’s so unrealistic. Some of it you could pass off, yes, but verbatim, no. This idea of mine would need to be tested properly. The process of writing will reveal all.

I could cut the transcript up and give dialogue to one character, then give dialogue to another character, make them converse – some creative liberties would need to be taken – then see if it holds. You know, I don’t think it would be up to standard, which brings to mind actors who do well with bad dialogue, such as Tom Cruise. But this test is something for a rainy day.

Technically, it is raining as of this moment, outside my window.

The whistling pipes of ole norther cote

My apartment building has a certain number of quirks, such as, within the walls of the plain, white hallway interiors, certain shower piping with the ability to sing at a whining pitch. With these lilting pipes that so love their karaoke when turned on by naked bodies hopping into the shower, comes a rather unremarkable feeling stemming from what can only be described as a sporadic series of nightly and morning asides. Considering why these hidden whistling tubes are happy enough to burst out in tune every now and again, my mind kept settling on the idea of a stretched budget at the construction company that put mortar to this place. I nearly always tuned out these asides because they didn’t interest me. But then as I began to write this evening’s post, one began to. Why do they all sing the same way? Why don’t some rattle or shake or hum or drum or belch or screech? Instead, they all just whine and whistle in a way that sounds like the melody of a strung-out radio transmission. Must be something in the water.

Encircling a normal mind

I realised while sitting on a plain chair, breathless, that the disorderly, nebulous, future was of no significance, as it crudely stretched out in my presumptuous mind, reeling on its roots in a soured past. There was room for promises, if I could make for rationale.

I departed from that to which my love adhered, while her own mind grew naturally uncertain with the words inherited from her mothers, not for any man, but for the disembodied future she mysteriously yearned for from far below. I interpreted my dilemma as needless fixation, through a sense of awareness I had acquired through the imperceptible lessons in Zen.

A normal mind is a mind clear of thought fixated on the non-essential. Takuan, a 16th century Zen master, wrote that fixation, a sickness encompassing and encircling the normal mind, brings an end to the practice of art and thus inner-self. Yet fixating yourself on ending a fixation is a mode that can be taken up in order to regain clear thinking.

Zen helps to think about self, about writing. I’m no adept, a student perhaps, but I am conscious of the disquiet that percolates the air when I’m without. Put into practice, this awareness does wonders to plow away the dirt, letting the seeds grow.