The Writer’s Room
Thomas Bulfinch, when writing his Age of Fable: Vol. III: The Age of Chivalry stated the need of “some check upon the lawless power”. In his introduction of King Arthur and His Knights. he listed restraints upon the corruption of society – the last of them being – “…the generosity and sense of right which, however crushed under the weight of passion and selfishness, dwell naturally in the heart of man”. From this “sense of right” he wrote “sprang Chivalry, which framed an ideal of the heroic character, combining invincible strength and valor, justice, modesty, loyalty to superiors, courtesy to equals, compassion to weakness,..” Nice points to keep in mind when commenting; principles by which all who comment should ascribe to.
These values are what we often use to define the legendary knights of feudal times. Notice though, how Bulfinch defines the fabled Knight: “The word “knight,” which originally meant boy or servant, was particularly applied to a young man after he was admitted to the privilege of bearing arms.” It’s been said that a Knight is knighted by taking an oath to protect the distraught, maintain the order, and live an honorable life, nevertheless, without the “privilege of bearing arms”- a Knight is but a boy!
In the name of Chivalry and for the desire of Contest, I, Sir Bic of Ficly, implore thee, my fellow Ficlyteers, to “A Call to Arms”. I beseech one and all to join me in The Tournament of the Comment!
Many of us are open to it, we love getting feedback and want to improve. Any comment is appreciated. As SirBic says: “Effective feedback can be any feedback; writers just want to be read.”
But if you are going for comments that make a difference, consider how you present it. In the cautious words of August Rode: “You may run into authors who don’t want criticism. They’ll likely tell you so. If they ask you not to critique their work, don’t do so in future.” As a writer, the hardest thing to do is to offer up something you put a great deal of effort into and find it smashed to bits along with your pride. So as a commenter, how should you get the word across that something needs work?
Has this happened to you?
You’ve just finished the best piece you’d written, thus far, and you push the “Publish” button. “Hurray”, the screen says back and you know, you just know, your fellow Ficleteers will be commenting on the newly released masterpiece real soon! So you wait. You push the “Home” icon to refresh the screen – nothing. You wait some more. Refresh – nothing. Is something wrong with the website, you wonder, Didn’t I push “publish”? Is it still in my drafts? With anxious insatiability you wait some more.
A screen refresh a few minutes later reveals someone else has posted a story and your masterpiece is slowly traveling down the “Recent” column and into oblivion. “Oh, I hope nobody else posts a story!” you blurt. Trembling, you refresh the screen more frequently; another story appears, then another and another! You’re shaking so profusely now that it takes nearly everything you have to keep your mouse hovering over the “Home” icon, barely mustering the strength to continue to left-click.
As any writer will tell you, the key to a good story is good characters. Characters need definition, because without definition, they are empty, soulless vessels, incapable of conveying emotion to our readers. If you fail to describe, you describe to fail. There. Stings doesn’t it?
There are different ways to do this, so try and change it up! Maybe describe one character by her actions; “She lashed out with a beautiful leg, digging her long, sharp heels into his fleshy waist”, and another as they’re noticed; “He emerged from the shadows, and my eyes were immediately drawn to his beaten, bloody face, betraying the downtrodden man it belonged to.”
But it’s not all just describing characters and mixing up your style, you also have to use the right words. ‘The quick brown fox’ didn’t ‘jump over the lazy dog’, instead, ‘The nimble, agile vixen leapt over the slothlike mutt, as the moonlight hit her beautiful coat of fur with its dazzling bronze sheen’. Abandon the mundane and embrace the extravagant! Red is crimson. Cut is gash. Long black hair is an ebony mane. Yes, you should mix in ‘red’ and ‘cut’ sometimes, but I encourage you to expand your vocabulary.
(Part one of a series on Character)
“Cut!” the movie star says.
“You don’t yell, ‘Cut,’ baby,” the director responds. “That’s my job.”
“But I don’t get it. I’m running from rooftop to rooftop, carrying a pig under one arm and swinging a nine iron in the other. What’s my motivation?”
“Baby, what are you making on this picture?”
“You wanna make another twenty on the sequel?”
“That’s your motivation.”
So goes the joke. But it raises the question: Do we think about why our characters do what they do? Or do we just let them do? Do we know their motivation?
When I was a youngster, growing up in south Texas, I more than once had a lunchtime showdown with the schoolyard bully. I wore just a half-pint hat back then and the bully must’ve had a ten gallon head. So you’d have imagined then, that this noontime duel would cause quite a stir. And in fact it did. The cafeteria was a buzz that morning, all the kith and kinfolk were talking. “Why’d that little guy wanna go and do that?” they’d say. “Why’s he wanna get himself all beat up and all?”
Sure I was little, and surely as the sun would rise, I was going to get my face smashed in by that mammoth of a twelve-year-old who shopped in the men’s section of K-Mart. But I wasn’t the littlest one, there were those smaller than me, those that needed me to take a stand. Day after day the playground was terrorized by idle threats and hair-pulling harassment. It had to stop.
Little Billy had brought his favorite ball to school that day, the day I risked my life, and was showing it to all the kids there in morning recess. He was so proud of the colorful spiral swirls and the “undeniable fact” that it could bounce as high as the tip top of the flag pole. Now we all knew that Billy’s ball wasn’t “all that”, but we liked Billy and we took turns asking to see it and telling him how cool it was. “Don’t bounce it,” he would say, “I don’t want to wear it out.”
“What’d you say,” the gargantuan grunted, “you want me to bounce it?” That’s when, the bully took the ball from Billy and pounded it off the sidewalk as hard as he could, which was pretty hard let me tell you. We all stood in silence, the shock and awe of it all paralyzed us in fear. When the beautiful ball had bounced on to the gymnasium roof and into the gutter, Billy began to cry. Without thinking, I pushed the King Kong of a kid, telling him what a complete jerk he was. Thankfully the bell rang just as I saw the anger welling up in the big boy’s eyes. “I’ll get you at recess!” he said pointing his sausage sized finger at me.
Hullo, greetings and salutations! We may or may not have met yet. My name is Robert Quick. I haven’t been here for very long (a little more than a year) and I wasn’t a part of the original Ficlets when it was around. My introduction to Ficly was through Wil Wheaton’s podcast Radio Free Burrito (which you should check out!). Three things you should know about me:
1) I love science-fiction and fantasy (though I prefer well crafted ANYTHING over sci-fi schlock)
2) I am color-blind- though a friend codified it better by calling it color confused
3) My goal is to hone my writing for novels or to be a part of a group that creates stories and worlds for games.
Nearly all great art comes from a direct interpretation of reality. I am a failed artist (drawing), but the advice I got from all of my art buddies and my art books was always the same- draw what you see. As writers we should do the same, except with words.
‘Method is much, technique is much, but inspiration is even more.’ – Benjamin Cardozo, United States Supreme Court Justice
There is no doubt that as writers we will all need to develop a method that works for us and procures our best work. There is no denying, however, that without inspiration there would be no method; without inspiration, there is no technique to develop.
The first thing a writer must do is become inspired. To that end, I am happy to have a share in the new chapter of Ficly blogging and I hope this blog continues to be a blog of inspiration. If we can share what inspires us and in doing so inspire someone else, then, in essence, we’ve sent a person off on their road to success.
Ficly is the medium that allows us to do just that. Here in the wonderful land of Ficly we find inspiration in the writings of others, the challenges we offer to all those who wish to participate and the comments and pencil ratings that make us feel – just plain good.
Ficly inspires me. You inspire me. – Thank you for reading what I write.
I am extremely depressed at this moment in time. Why am I depressed, I hear you ask. Well, it is of course due to the untimely death of the ‘Inspiration’ button. I loved that enigmatic, lazy, slightly useless little guy. OK, extremely useless. But even though it did nothing by itself, it still inspired me. Who wouldn’t be inspired by a big red button that’s probably meant to do something, but nobody’s quite sure what it is?
But now it’s gone. And I guess I’ll just have to find inspiration elsewhere. Personally, I get a lot of my inspiration from books. I read a lot of Rowling, a lot of Tolkien. I just finished Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and I’m now working my way through The Odyssey.
I also get a lot from my crazy brain. When I see something, a chain reaction of thoughts and images kicks off in my head, which can inspire me to write.
But that’s just me. And it dawns on me that knowing where I find inspiration, better enables me to find it again.
For me, sometimes just clicking on ‘write’ and opening up that window when I have even a whisper of an idea is enough to motivate me to start typing. More often,
“Sometimes the lights all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip it’s been.”
Being somewhat at a loss for words, that will have to suffice as a farewell, though it’s intended as a grateful farewell…pun intended for those that know the reference.
In more cheerful news, the new regime has been decreed! Huzzah, huzzah, and all hail! For your blogging enjoyment may I present to you your new Blogger in Chief, the esteemed Elshahawk. She has graciously accepted the responsibility of seeing that something of inspiration, something of direction, something of edification gets put up on the blog from time to time.
Firstly, she shall be assisted in this endeavor by ‘The Bullpen’, a cadre of reputable writers indeed, consisting of BARomero, H.S.Wift, Robert Quick, Sir Bic, and Tad Winslow! Secondly, she shall be assisted by all of you. Rather than speak for her I shall defer and allow her to direct you on how, when, and in what form that assistance might come. Just know that we are shifting from the previous model, me as the ‘Blogger in Residence’, to a more collaborative model for the site’s blog.
Thank you to all for your participation, patience, and encouragement; and huge thank you’s to Elsha and her bullpen members for stepping up! I will still be around from time to time, just not as frequently or as prolifically as I might like.
I finally did something! I know, it’s crazy, but I finally set aside some time this weekend to make some minor updates and fixes. Things have been so crazy at work that the last thing I’ve wanted to do is write even more code. But, you guys have been really patient, and it’s been too long since we made any fixes around here.
Here’s what’s happened:
- Jason made a bunch of UI changes that I just haven’t installed because there was a minor issue with Safari and Chrome. I fixed that one small issue, so all of his changes are now in. I honestly am not sure exactly what he did, but I think everything still works.
- The home page you see when you’re signed in now tells you when the last comment was added. Someone on Get Satisfaction asked for it, and it was easy, so I went ahead and did it.
- We’re now upgraded to the last version of Rails before 3.0. The Rails 3 upgrade is going to take a lot more work. I just wanted to get the latest security fixes and make sure things still worked.
- The tag view pages should be a lot faster. I also added some database indexes so various other pages should be snappier as well.
- It’s now easier to delete stories. As long as it’s not a prequel or sequel and doesn’t have any prequels or sequels, you can delete it. That should cut down on support issues.
- And lastly, I removed the link to the Inspiration “coming soon” alert. It was just mean and stretched the definition of “soon”. It was time to admit defeat. I’m not going to get the Inspiration page done any time soon, and it was cruel to keep leading you on (I swear my intentions were good).
And, that’s it for now. I should have some more time over the summer to clean up more stuff, upgrade to Rails 3 (and a new authentication process that will allow you to finally create a username and password if you want, and allow you to have multiple authentication options so you could have a single account with a bunch of different identities associated with it), and maybe, just maybe, some real new features and some of the things you’ve asked for over the past year.
Me, I love new and different. One of our many family mottoes growing up was, “Weirdness is greatness.” Some of us took it a little too far, but that’s beside the point.
Back to the point, Sir August Rode has come up with something new, different, and completely outside my scope of expertise. Below I quote his explanation.
“I’ve very nearly completed writing some software that will allow me to automatically generate eBooks from Ficly content. I want this for my own purposes as I often travel, and reading an eBook on the plane is easier that carrying paper books around. Anyway, I’ll be generating monthly digests of the Ficly stories, and it occurs to me that as long as I have these, I could easily make them available to other Ficly members. In addition to digests, I can also generate fairly quickly the collected works for single authors for those who’d like a vanity collection of their own stories. There may be other types of collections that I’d like to handle as well.”
He has an example available here: http://www.box.net/shared/gx2nerq6tg
Let me (and him) know what you think about the idea and whatnot.
The site has a pesky feature, the fact that it displays how long the blog post has been up. To most of you that likely means very little, but since I’m responsible for said blog posts it’s a bit of a thorn for me. If you hadn’t noticed, that last one sat up there for a while.
First, I’d like to apologize for that.
Second, I’d like to explain it. I can’t, so we’ll move on to number 3.
Third, I’d like to rectify that. Due to circumstances largely outside of my control I will no longer be able to serve as the ‘Blogger in Residence’, an entirely made up title. The goal has been that I post something to spur discussion, improve writing by way of instruction, or in some way help stir the collective creative juices. I’ve loved every minute and may do it again if allowed by the whimsy of fate and those in control of the site.
In the meantime, we need to fill the position! Oh my goodness, we need a voice, a spokesman, a guru, or whatnot. We have discussed a few options, but I want to kick it out to the community. Let us know what you think, both in terms of what you’d like to see in the blog and who might fill that role. Are you bold enough to put your own name forth? Are you cheeky enough to put your friend’s name forward? Do you know a more seasoned or professional writer who might like to do that role?
The floor is yours, ficlyteers. Sound off.
Your Most Humble Obedient Servant,
I’m not going to say I’m a gourmand, certainly not nearly to the levels of others in my family. Still I enjoy quality, fresh, well prepared food. Then tonight, after a tiring day, I made dinner for the kiddos and indulged myself by taking part in the feast. Twas a feast fit for college freshman or inveterate bachelor—chicken nuggets with macoroni and cheese, in a ketchup sauce.
That was mighty tasty. Low brow, really darn close to the bottom of the food hierarchy pyramid. No, not the pyramid from health class, the one with foie gras and filet mignon near the top and Ramen noodles and McDonald’s near the bottom. All the same, I enjoyed the heck out of that meal.
Why am I discussing my dinner here? Why do I discuss anything here? Why hasn’t someone shut me up yet? (Oh, that’s going to happen sooner than you might think.)
High brow as I imagine myself to be, I fear I am guilty of disregarding those ficly bits that are not of a lofty status. I miss the cheap jokes. The imagined sight gags elude me. My comments are not as effusive when the themes are common or unlightened.
In short, I’m missing out. Not everything has to be all Bronte, Longfellow, or Camus. Let us rejoice in the entire spectrum, from the lofty to the lowly, from the erudite to the crass, from the philosophical to the pedantic.
Read. Write. Comment.
Ficly or die.
I’ve seen a couple stories now that are just ads for really stupid things that don’t belong on Ficly. Now, I don’t have time to police them or read every story that gets posted (that’s your job). So, I’m asking you to keep your eyes peeled for spam and report it to me, either with a note on Ficly (you can send me one from my author profile) or an e-mail (kevin-at-ficly.com).
I hate spammers and their spammy spam. If it gets worse, I’ll see what else we can do, but in the meantime, please just point it out to me and I will deal with it with extreme extremeness.
In other news, tomorrow, March 10th, is The International Day of Awesomeness, a holiday I invented a few years ago and may have mentioned before. I welcome all who wish to celebrate it with awesome awesomeness. The site has more details on the who, what and why of the silly holiday.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled schedules.
I haven’t think of the words to the Beatles’ ‘Revolution #9’:
“…number 9, number 9, number 9…”
Shaking my head, I wonder at how artsy-fartsy they got and turn my attention to the words to ‘Revolution’:
“You say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world…”
Revolution is in the air. Mostly it smells like Molotov cocktails and tear gas, but still there’s something intoxicating about the topic. The 4th of July. Bastille Day. All those hipsters running around in Che Guivera shirts not knowing a darn thing about him. Viewed through the right lens, even Jesus was a revolutionary.
There’s just something exciting about the upheaval and the possibilities. Nothing will be as it was. Everything is up for question. Anything can happen.
So, ficlyteers, give me revolution! Not a challenge or anything, but I thought I’d throw the topic out there and see what popped up.
What, you were expecting some lovey-dovey treatise on Valentine’s Day? Perish the thought.
Those who have gotten comments from me probably think I hate the present tense in narrative writing. I swear I don’t. Writing in the present can be very effective, if and when it’s used correctly. Simply, I respect its power.
Any reading experience involves a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, that feeling of the story being more real than just words on the page. Errors, whether typo, grammatical, or continuity, detract from this, serving as reminders that the story isn’t real but the wordcraft of some human, fallible writer.
Stories in the past tense feel like you’re given access to a chronicle of events that took place. Writing in the present tense gives a greater sense of being in the story by being in the moment. Done correctly this actually heightens the suspension of disbelief, bringing the reader acutely into the flow of events. However, and herein lies the danger, errors in verb tense once you’ve established the present as reality completely break the spell. The fall out of the narrative is thus a farther tumble and more pointedly felt.
By all means, write that story in the present tense if you like. Realize though that there’s good reason why most books, almost all the classics really are written in the past tense(and please, chime in if you know a literary great written in present tense, cause we’re all about edification and worldview expansion here at ficly). The tense is simply less forgiving. If you’re going to do it, you have to get it right and stick to it.
Happy ficlying, and good luck, whatever tense you choose.
Merry Monthquel, one and all. I couldn’t be more pleased with this initial celebratory month of cooperative creativity. I’m horrible at numbers and tracking things, but it seemed like I was seeing a lot of great sequels and prequels bouncing around out there.
The response to my challenge was phenomenal! I had a heck of a time choosing a winner but choose one I did. As promised, here is the link to the winning story, Beyond These Walls. RoseTone gave a great starter, and his peers didn’t disappoint with sequels and a prequel with an as-of-yet-undecipherable allusion.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the runner up, A Cruel New Policy, a controversial piece by Robert Quick that triggered a slew of sequels that turned a bit of fiction into a heated debate.
Thanks to everyone, not just those who entered, but also those who bounced around throwing on awesome sequels and prequels (Sinister Hellbilly, I’m looking at you!), both in the challenge and just out and about in ficly.
Happy Ficlying, and one last Merry Monthquel!
After great pain, a formal feeling comes
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
The Feet, mechanical, go round
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought
A Wooden way
A Quartz contentment, like a stone
This is the Hour of Lead
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons recollect the Snow
First-Chill-then Stupor-then the letting go
Here we have one of the poems of Emily Dickinson, a careful study of pain, or the after effects thereof. Despite how indignant some people get after its arrival, pain is a part of this existence. Freud actually theorized that it was such an inevitable part of existence that even the first one-celled organism to slide from the muck had enough angst to consider suicide. However we try to avoid, however we attempt to reframe, and whatever measures we take pain will come.
The measure of a life then is not so much a quantification of sufferings but a matter of how one deals with those insults. Stopping is to be defeated. Voluntary numbing is a stalemate. Moving on is life’s triumph.
Writing, like any art, offers one avenue of triumph, the opportunity to take something negative and use it in creative expression, to produce something positive out of the experience. The sting of love lost becomes the melancholy sonnet. The emptiness of death becomes the vessel for an ode to life still left to live. Bitter disappointment becomes strident challenge to concede the battle but press on in the war. If nothing else, writing becomes a place outside of one’s head to put the rot and filth and stink that invades in the wake of injury. However the fates conspire, whatever evil this way comes, and whatever ill wind blows victory over the pain will come.
Welcome to 2011!
I’d like to start this year by proclaiming a new celebration. The month of January, yes the entire month, shall now be known as ‘Monthquel’, the month for celebrating the sequel and the prequel. For those who don’t know, one of the very cool things about this site is that you or anyone else can jump right into a story and add a sequel or prequel. Most authors consider it the highest form of praise, so don’t be shy about it.
I mean, after all, it is Monthquel after all.
To celebrate, first of all, go jump into someone else’s literary universe, invade their creative orbit, and throw a sequel or prequel onto their ficly. Second, if someone does it to you: Step 1) Rejoice! Step 2) Come back here and post a link to that wonderful sequel or prequel. Step 3) Go do it to someone else! Step 4) If you feel the need, go and use the potty.
I’m not sure if all those steps apply directly, but I don’t see any harm. We can all use a reminder now and again, right. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a sequel/prequel themed challenge from yours truly in the next week.
Happy Ficlying, and Merry Montquel!
We’re on Boingboing. I don’t know what that is, but I hear it’s great. Awesome really. And stupendous too. Here, go see.
Aside from this mention, I think the general idea of spreading the good ficly word is awesome. We’re a nice little community on a shoestring budget. There will not, in any foreseeable future, be a Super Bowl ad for ficly.
There is you. There is me. Let’s all get out there and let people know how awesome ficly is and how much they should join in the fun.
(More on joining the fun in January!)
It is done…or at least pretty close.
November is drawing to a close and thus is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Based on the response to the last blog post on this subject a fair number of our fellow Ficlyteers have been participating in this marathon of creative writing, the nationwide challenge to write a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. If you didn’t, let’s give them a hand for diving into a truly challenging creative endeavor.
[Pause for clapping, assorted cheers, and general brouhaha]
For those who did participate, good for you! Whether you managed that incredible word count by the deadline or not that was a heck of a thing to even attempt. I sorely wanted to, but I just didn’t see how to fit it in without compromising my work or pissing off my wife irreparably. One must have priorities.
Please, if you would, let us know that you attempted NaNoWriMo and how it went. Did you make the deadline? How many words did you manage? Anyone require emergency carpal tunnel syndrome surgery? I will also be posted a challenge this evening daring you to pitch your NaNoWriMo novel, somehow fit a plot synopsis into ficly length. Look for it in the Challenges section, and Happy Ficlying to all!
Characters fall into one of two categories: static or dynamic.
A static character does not change. They exhibit the same traits and way of thinking throughout a story. A dynamic character is one who changes. The journey of the narrative is in some way transformative for them.
In real life, we talk of constancy, reliability, and tenacity as good qualities. In some way, these all reflect being static or unchanging. Alternately, we mock politicians who ‘flip flop’ and describe someone of ever-changing moods as a ‘flake’. To be dynamic, or able to be changed, is seen as a bad thing.
So, generally you want your protagonist to be likable, endearing, or someone to whom the reader might relate or even aspire. The tricky part is that despite our societal bias, the general rule is you want your protagonist or hero to be a dynamic character, leaving the villain and maybe some supporting characters to be static.
Life consists of comings and goings, an endless string of interactions, reactions, and action. Wave by wave we navigate a life of coexistence. Upon this sea of humanity we see reflections of ourselves, projections of our introspection tinted and warped by the hue of the other person. Back and forth reality bobs in the midst of a near-constant negotiation and re-negotiation of what is and what is not, both within ourselves and at large.
You can talk and talk, paddle your little boat of self on a course that seems wise to you. Endless promulgation of your own point of view however is a one way journey with little point to, the final destination either delusion or misanthropy. Slowly, without any give and take, the multiform and delightfully, ruefully, bizarrely altered images shown back to us become staid and rote doppelgangers of what we already think and feel.
Living is in the evolution required by seeing the world not as we choose or as we might like but as a place made up of disparate individuals, each with their own truth, trying to come to common ground on the shift waters of reality. Loving is in the adaptations required by seeing ourselves not as the ideal of our dreams but as the beautifully flawed, tragically wonderful people others come to know and love. Inescapably, we must pause in our headlong flight from one coast to the next and listen, find that space of calm, and really listen. The connection must be maintained to the greater whole, to humanity. Without it we are specks upon the face of an endless ocean, tiny tyrants of individual, stagnant principalities of one.
The day we stop listening is the day we die.
This blog post brought to you by the letter ‘N’, the number 50,000, and your fellow ficlyteer H.S. Wift.
You may or may not be aware that November is the National Novel Writing Month. The National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a worldwide competition that is masquerading as a national competition. The aim is to write a novel of about 50,000 words or 175 pages, but you have to write it in 30 days.
You’re not allowed to write anything for your 50,000 words until November 1st, but feel free to come up with a plot or background or blurb beforehand. Just get an idea in your head and see where it takes you come November-time. They can’t stop you from writing anything before the first, but as ficlers I trust you’ll do the right thing if you feel like writing outside the 1,024 character box.
I’ll be entering and I hope a good few of you will too. God knows if anyone can do it, it’d be someone from ficly. If you run the sprint several times a day for fun, you should be able to handle the marathon, eh?
Note from THX: If you complete a novel and choose to post it some form of public domain electronically, we’ll have a blog post at the end of December where you’ll be able to post a link, if you so choose, in the comments section. Now, posting does change later publishability, licensing, etc., so maybe don’t if you think you’ll pursue professional publication. Still, I thought I could at least provide a forum for putting up links for those who want to share.
“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”
It applies in a lot of contexts, but I’ll let you and your imagination decide where best. For our purposes today, good ficlyteers, I mean playing around here on ficly, our literary playground. As all good playgrounds need games I’d like to suggest one. Most also have bullies, play structures, loners, and those little gaggles of giggling girls, but we can do without those.
I call it the Ten Ficly Bounce.
See, just reading the most recent or most popular or most active stories can be so staid, so predictable. Okay, it’s not really that predictable considering the random nature of each individual story. Stay with me though, if you would be so indulgent. The lists are a good starting place, so you pick one and read it AND leave a comment. Really, even something as simple as, “I read this and enjoyed/was lost/didn’t mind.”
Then comes the bounce. Click on the author link for anyone else who commented on that ficly. Read one of theirs. Click on the author link for anyone else who commented on that ficly. Repeat until you’ve read 10. If you find one with no comments, you win and get to be the first to leave a comment. Congratulations you get 10 bonus points. Now click the ‘Random Story’ button (small blue link at very bottom right of screen). If you land on one you’ve already commented upon, you win 20 bonus points and get to spin again by either clicking on an author link of another commentator or the ‘Random Story’ button. (This one doesn’t count towards the goal of 10 stories)
To make it more competitive, I say you get 5 points for being the second commentator, 3 points for being the third, and 1 point for being the fourth. Anything more than that, no extra points. Oh, and no points for the first ficly, as it’s too easy to cheat and pick one with no commentators on it, which also means you should automatically be picking the most recent story off the author’s list you bounce to. Also, no points if you don’t leave a comment, as that defeats half the purpose. Prequels or sequels by a different author are also a valid bounce destination, but not required by rules, I think, you know, just to encourage spreading the love around. Also, the author’s own comments on a story don’t count for any of this.
Feel free to comment with rule suggestions or brag about your scores. My first time around I got 113 points, so there.
I have a refrain of music stuck in my head, as often happens with sleep deprivation. The gentle strains sway in lilting swaths across my mind. Runs surge and ebb on a sea of strings, the steady thrum holding aloft a melody, a dream. Dancing chords traipse up and down my spine, on the front side, a waltz within my soul. I’m in love. I’m in rapture. I’m reverent, swept away, and inspired.
The piece is Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I don’t know what a Canon is, unless you add another ‘n’. What the “in D” portion refers to utterly eludes me. All I know of Pachelbel is that he wrote this. Obviously, I am neither musician nor scholar, just touched by the art.
Why am I writing this here, on a writing site, a site with no audio component whatsoever? Most likely, it’s because I’m an idiot, you know, telling a tale.
The loose association is art. Music is an art, and so is writing. The power of each, of any art, really is in the ability to evoke emotion. Not all writing is artistic. We all do a lot of clunky, formulaic stuff for work or school or to dash off a quick email to a friend. Don’t even get me started on texting. Writing for the sake of writing, as an art, now that’s a thing of beauty, a craft.
To the veteran writers, bring it on. Make me feel, and take me to the depths. To the more novice writers, forgive our nit picking and hubris. The intent is just this, to help elevate your writing to an art, to where word selection, tone, flow, meter, and voice combine to convey not just the details of a series of events but a whole world of experience.
You can do it. We can do this, people.
Bring on the art, and happy ficlying!
I’ve been thinking about layers today, which results in my craving petits fours…you know, those little cakes covered in icing? They’re yummy and adorable, but that’s beside the point.
Good stories…no, strike that. Great stories succeed on multiple layers. One of the most frustrating things for an author is succeeding on one layer then having the story fall flat because it didn’t wind up hitting the other layers.
This list is my no means in the right order, difinitive or authoritative, but I thought I’d put it out there as food for thought. In other words, which ones are you aiming for and which ones are you hitting? Obviously, we can’t hit them all in a ficly, but yeah, it’s about striving, people.
Conceptual: The idea behind the story. Is it original or at least interesting.
Technical: This the one we tend to harp on in comments the most. It’s the grammar and spelling stuff. This layer comes down to read-ability and comprehensibility.
Emotional: Does it evoke something? Is that something in line with normal human experience. For me, this is the core of great sci-fi and fantasy—can you describe plausible human reactions to fantastical events?
Oratical: I made this word up. By this I mean, did you tell a good story? Is there a beginning, a nice meaty middle, an exciting climax, and a satisfying denouement?
Thematic: This is the kicker, the thing that takes a neat story to the next level. When you miss this, it’s a “page turner” or a “good read”. Does the story speak to a larger theme, societal point of view, or internal struggle. This makes the story connect on a gut level with the reader, giving it valence and salience.
So, that’s my list and another overly long blog post. Did I miss any? Which layers do you think are the most important? How much do they interact? What is your favorite color?
Nothing is nothing, and from it comes…something. Out of the ether we pull with crawling fingers, sometimes with timidity, sometimes with staccato hammer blows of swiftly flying phalanges. Like gods and goddesses of rhyme and prose, we rend from the great expanse of human consciousness bits and pieces of narrative expression.
What a marvel it is! What a wonder! Creation ex nihilo of legends without number, lives that are countless, horizons unbounded.
We practice the ageless art, the storytellers’ trade, to tell the untold, breathe life into fantasy, folly, adventure, and turmoil. Do so in full cognizance of the rich heritage before, the long line of liars and wordsmiths of yore. You are one of them. You are part of the lineage, weavers of the web.
Breathe deep and bring forth the whirlwind, you writers, creators of worlds.
Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” which I’m sure is a shock to no semi-literate person. Then again, he also claimed to only need 4 hours of sleep per night and said, Religion is all bunk," not to mention being kind of a jerk about copyright stuff.
But I digress…
I think there is a temptation in the creative arts to reverse that idiom…the first one, not the second one, as that would be absurd. “All bunk is religion.” I mean, that’s just nonsense. Then again, so is trying to claim that art, being a product of good fortune and the favors of the muse has less to do with work and more to do with invisible lightning bolts of epiphany.
If you listen to Stephen King talk about writing, it’s mostly work—reading lots, editing, getting peer feedback, incorporating that into another edit, giving feedback, re-editing, and so on. Sure, our brief little ficlies don’t demand a lot of work, but I know I for one find myself sitting around waiting for the next great idea to pop up. It rarely does as I sit idly playing Bejeweled or TapFish. It probably won’t.
It’s not exactly slaving away in the coal mines, but being a writer is hard work. If you want to take it seriously, and be taken seriously, expect to put some effort into it. Now, get writing, people! (and by ‘people’, I mean me too)
It’s not all gala luncheons, you know.
Many thanks to everyone for making this happen. I think it’s great, and would love to see more Ficly books come out in the future (whether they’re used as a fundraiser for the site or not).
The soft cover version is only $7.50… so what are you waiting for?