The Writer’s Room
An awesome member of the Ficly family has written a Google Chrome extension that will tell you which famous author your story was written like. I just tried it out on three of my stories, and I’ve gotten Stephen King, Cory Doctorow and Ernest Hemingway.
If you’re using Chrome, you can check out the extension in the Chrome Extension gallery
Thank you, mysterious stranger!
We forget a lot more than we ever remember, I think. It’s probably for the best, considering the nonsense we see and hear everyday. I think Paul Simon put it best, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”
In reading, for example, I’m really horrible about remembering. Like in Crime and Punishment, I have no idea how he ever wound up in jail. Frankly there’s a whole sequence I’m unsure cause I fell asleep while reading it and had a dream involving the characters. Did I read it or dream it?
But I do remember the sense of isolation and cold wonder that possessed Raskolnikov.
I read ‘The Black Tulip’, an amazing book…about which I could tell you very little at this point. But I do remember feeling transported and enmeshed in the world of French horticulture in days gone by. Note the vague time reference as I can’t remember in which century the story was set.
One of my favorite random books of all time was ‘Earl in the Yellow Shirt’, a book whose plot points entirely escape me. But I do remember the feel of being trapped in a small Southern town with few options.
There’s another book about a hydrocephalic kid who lives in the swamp with his dad and gets involved in an armed robbery. I can’t even remember the title. But I do remember the disconcerting feeling of reality and non-reality as the narrative wavered between the various points of view, including that of the slow-witted protagonist.
Therein lies the trick, the beauty of a good book. Even when details and facts elude, something remains. That’s when the author got it right, made the reader feel something. Is that usable? Can you plan on the selective memory of a fickle consumer of the written word?
But you can keep things consistent; maintain an internal reality that doesn’t jar the reader out of their suspension of disbelief. You can make the people believable; keep reactions within explainable human psychology no matter how crazy a situation you’ve cooked up. You can make it encompassing; however much or little you tell, make sure you have a clear idea of the entire universe in which your story takes place, the universe into which they slip page by page.
Good luck with all that, and happy ficlying.
(this was written by Mostly Harmless, not by THX or Kevin)
Friends, family and ficleteers!
It’s been a week and a half and we’ve received enough responses to be able to forge forward and produce an anthology of some of the very best pieces of work our community has to offer.
In light of the suggestion made by many of you, and as a matter of practicality given the amount of nominations we received, we are going to be publishing one book which includes the most-voted for pieces of both poetry AND prose – which leads me on to…
The voting system:
Below is the shortlist of pieces which were nominated by the community – each member now has the right to vote for four of these pieces to be included in the final publication, regardless of whether you nominated in the first stage –
- YOU CANNOT VOTE FOR YOUR OWN WORK, (MH cannot vote for himself.)
- OR FOR PIECES YOU NOMINATED, (If we all voted for our own nominees, we’d get nowhere.)
but there are no boundaries with regards to poetry and prose – Just Vote!
Please send all four of your votes – in the same Ficly (or Facebook) note – to Elsha, over the next week, with voting ending at midnight on the 21st of July.(Using notes makes this anonymous, so no one fights.)
From here, the wonderful Elsha will tally the votes, and the winning pieces will be announced as soon as possible – the total amount of pieces will depend on the lengths of those most voted for, but it is likely to be around 37 – an eclectic mix of genre, format and style. (winners will be posted with their tallies)
Thank you to all those who nominated, good luck to all nominees, and may this book raise oodles of cash for a phantasmagorical cause!
- Mostly Harmless
(Note by Elsha: Due to the possible change to a different publisher than Blurb, there is the possibility that all nominees could be published at a reasonable cost. Still looking into this. If you would be willing to pay for an anthology of all nominees, leave a comment below. Please send your ANONYMOUS votes via Note.)
UPDATE: The e-book is available now! You can buy it now, or wait another day or two for the physical copies to be available for order! And remember, with Creative Commons, anyone can create a book of Ficly stories as long as they provide proper attribution!
As much as I like escapism, there is something inevitably empty in pure fluff. This may suffice for times of relative idolatry, such as seaside vacations and the interminable wait of doctors’ offices and legal proceedings. For really enjoyable reading though, I want something more, a deeper level.
In ‘an American Childhood’, Annie Dillard wrote, “The trick of reason is to get the imagination to seize the actual world—if only from time to time.”
There is a space behind the page, a fantastical world filled with jabberwocks, un-killable secret agents, and sharks of surprising focus and memory. We like to go there. It is a nice place, a safe place away from what troubles us from day to day. That place shifts ever so slightly from semi-pointless entertainment to something of powerful magic when a thread of reality finds its way amongst the creations.
I don’t mean that the story is believable, that the events could conceivably happen. I don’t mean that the internal logic is consistent, though that is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t mean necessarily that it is even artfully written.
I mean that something in the story grabs you by the gut and screams for acknowledgment. I mean you see a little bit of your life reflected in the gloss and sheen of that far away world. I mean that something in the character’s experience resonates with you and makes you think, “Yeah, I’ve felt that.”
This is something to which a great author can aspire, a touch of reality that stings the soul and stirs the heart of even the most fanciful reader.
Best of luck!
(Note from Kevin: You still need to nominate stories and poems for Elsha’s book of ficlets!)
(Since I’m too busy to write, here’s something challenging from ElshaHawk and Mostly Harmless… join the fun! – Kevin)
Well, Ficly Folk, it has been a full year of writing, socializing, rating, and replying. I don’t know about you, but I love this site and try to foster it as a home for nurturing the ranting lunacies that transform into lucid and awesome stories worthy of publication.
With that said, I have a proposition. See, the servers are not free, but the ficly website is open to all. This website is nothing without people; just a few servers and some code. It’s up to us to breathe the life inside and keep it alive. I propose we publish some ficlies into a small book, affordable for nearly everyone on the site, sell it, and the profit be donated to Ficly.
RULE No. 1: In the comments section under this blog post, you nominate a ficly that touched you. See, you can’t nominate your own, because Ficly is about community, and for this project, check your egos at the door. Again, I know it hurts your egos, but *DO NOT NOMINATE YOUR OWN STORIES(.
When the next blog post goes up, I will invite you to vote for your two favorite pieces. (Details on that to come)
I know that a) this will take some time to find that perfect story and nominate it and also that b) some people will miss out. (This may become a multi-volume deal, YIPES!) So I am going to open the publishing to two categories, prose and poetry.
RULE No. 2: NO MATURE STORIES. We want this to be read and purchased by those that choose not to view mature tagged stories.
I am going to use Blurb.com to publish in black and white, standard size. Blurb accepts Euros, Pounds, Australian and Canadian Dollars, so I hope all who want to purchase a book will be able to. The book will be published under creative commons, just like the website, so keep that in mind.
In 12 point font, one ficly fits nicely on a page.
There will be at least 37 winning stories! (depends on title page and copyright page requirements)
Depending on poem length, 37-ish poems too!
Again, details to come on the voting half of this blog post about how many stories, how to vote, how votes will be tallied, etc. I will also let you know what stories/poems are the ‘winners’.
So if you think you’ll buy a copy to keep Ficly alive, nominate!
Please stand by. We are experiencing technical difficulties.
By technical difficulties I mean I’m going to be away from internet access for a week, and I’ve cut my hand bad enough to need stitches.
Blogging shall resume when I return or if Kevin decides to post something. This should not affect writing in any way, shape, or form.
Sorry for the delay. I’ve had some connection issues. Here, without further ado, is the second place entry for the blog contest, courtesy of Mostly Harmless. Thanks for all the great entries, guys!
There is nothing quite like following a story from it’s very inception to it’s final curtain – watching it grow, develop, take risks, maybe even stumble a little, in it’s quest to reach ‘the end’.
That said, as several friends of mine clogged up my inbox with messages telling me how awesome the final episode of LOST was just a few days ago, I began to question how many things I have actually done that with. A tendency to channel hop can certainly make television viewing a surreal experience – half an episode of House, ten minutes of a Seinfeld rerun and the closing minutes of a nature documentary don’t exactly slot together naturally.
But then, is that necessarily true?
Yes, Ficly has it’s fair share of sprawling sagas, gripping you by the shirt collar and pulling you into their mammoth worlds, a la LOST, but at the same time, there are writers who have mastered the art of 1024 character storytelling – you can jump from a horror to a fantasy to a weepy romance in five minutes, and enjoy the ride as much as you could a whole novel.
John Steinbeck once said ‘a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.’
Don’t just let your writing take you where it will, but your reading, also – don’t let a story’s length or style put you off, because if Ficly is about anything, it is about discovery – and the beauty of discovery is that more-often-than-not, what you end up finding is infinitely deeper and more poignant than what you were looking for.
Here we have the first place entry to the blogging contest. My apologies to the other entrants, but this one just won me over. Next week we shall hear from the second place entry, but now, first place, from Stargazer 1960. Thanks to all who entered.
As a high school science teacher I often have to confront my students’ misconceptions. My students listen to what I have to say as I take their ideas hostage in the concentration camp of scientific truth. I force their misshapen ideas through a tortuous obstacle course and require complete sentences and complete thoughts.
My students are visibly hesitant. They frown. They pretend to accept my meager, logical replacement for their strongly held corruption- that science requires only the briefest of explanation. Their acquiescence lasts until they go through my doorway and the bravest of all exclaims, “Can you believe that she expects us to write our essays like that!”
I tell them that art is a science. The germ of the idea started in high school, where I was as comfortable on the stage singing in a musical or playing bass violin as I was in A.P Biology class dissecting a shark. For me, the interplay of harmonics on my bass violin was more than just mathematical frequencies constructively interfering with other notes. It was a small piece of the larger artistry of the orchestra.
Drama was science. It was a representation of cause and effect. Comedic delivery required precision as much as quantitative analysis did in chemistry class. I took my notes in poetic metre and made up rhymes to memorize the metric system prefixes.
It made perfect sense to me to see “College of Arts and Sciences” on a catalog because, for me, they where inseparable. I would often sing a song about balancing chemical equations. Later, I taught the muscles to my biology students by demonstrating the six ballet positions. Sometimes we writers spend too much time in our heads and forget about engaging the rest of our bodies.
As writers I feel we must embrace the best of science- the forensics, the questioning, the analysis- and bring this to the page. Not that we have to dissect every emotion and eviscerate every line, but a critical mind is a fertile field for writing.
While I take my sweet time deciding who won the blogger contest, here’s something to occupy your time. For those who don’t know John Scalzi was the original blogger for Ficlets and did a smash-up job of it. This seems like a great opportunity for you Ficlyteers, veritable masters of condensed fiction on random topics, to shine like crazy literary diamonds.
Best of luck, and if it’s not a ficlyteer who wins this I’ll be shocked beyond my capacity to articulate it.
To be honest, as I write each blog post I have this vision of the various ficlyteers reading it and thinking, “I could do better than that. Who does this guy think he is? How did he get this job anyway? That so doesn’t fall withing the 1024 character limit! This is heresy. Someone should teach him a lesson, like I did to old man Jenkins after he looked at my sister funny.”
I tend to visualize ficlyteers as violent, vindictive people…nothing personal.
It is in the humble yet paranoid vein that I propose the first and potentially annual ‘So You Wanna Be a Blogger Contest’. [Insert fanfare here] The task is simple. Write what you think would make for a good, nay a great blog post and send it to me in a note. A panel of imaginary judges and I will pick a winner and use it as the blog post for the site. Entries will be judged on originality, message, prose, with grammar reserved as a tie-breaker.
Deadline is June 1, 2010 at midnight, though honestly if you send it at 12:01 or even 2:00 AM I won’t know the difference.
Good luck, and knock my socks off!
“Language and knowledge are indissolubly connected; they are interdependent. Good work in language presupposes and depends on a real knowledge of things.” ~Anne Sullivan
The media in which we work here in the land of storytelling is language. Perhaps in an ideal world we could tell our tales in a proper setting, around a crackling fire, with a percussion accompanist and full Greek chorus. Realistically, we’re left with this, words and phrases left upon the page (or screen, of course).
As the concert pianist masters their finger coordination, we strive to perfect our use of grammar. As the sculptor hones his skill with hammer and chizel, we bring into crisp clarity the application of syntax and vocabulary. As a serious pugilist will rehearse footwork until it is fluid and natural, we must elevate our use of language above the mundane and coarse.
Even the most beautiful recital piece by Mozart or Beethoven played with clumsy hands, though done note for note, will utterly fail to wow the audience. Imagining the sculpture within the block of marble is all well and good, but crude strokes will spoil the image all the same. No boxer became truly great based solely on having a thick skull and heavy fists.
The challenge, my most beloved Ficlyteers, is to take your writing to the next level. Go beyond neat ideas and good intentions. Use deftness with words and preciseness in language to shift ever so subtly from the practice to the craft, and from the craft to the art. Writing, storytelling, can be so much more than merely conveying information, and I know you can all get there.
I recently went to the local library book sale. It occupied a full-sized exhibition hall at the local arena, rows and rows of tables littered with books of every kind imaginable.
It was a bit daunting.
All those books, they sat as testaments to mass production. Heavy tomes and ragged paperbacks covered every topic under the sun. Several tables held a myriad of variations of romances, with its many ins and outs. Reference book after reference book after opinion book littered a whole row. Spy novels lurked amongst the others but couldn’t go unnoticed for their sheer number. My mouth watered at the cooking books, and my mind reeled at the scientific works. Sci-fi and fantasy were thick as thieves, conspiring to conquer nearly half the available space.
How could I ever hope to write anything that could add something original and worthwhile to this mountain of literary effort?
I shook my head and began to peruse, shamed by my own vain hope. Flipping through and tossing volume after volume aside, realization dawned.
It was a bit inspiring.
Of all that pulpy mass, most of it was absolute drivel. The crap that some people get published boggled my mind. There was a book about how physical education was failing our kids. All those romances were basically the same story, with slight variations on the naughty bits. If these books were so great, why were they being sold for $.25 each? This was no sea of literary greatness, but a miasma of poor judgment in publication.
Aha, if I can just keep working at it, earnestly striving to tell my story, in my way, and produce something even halfway decent, odds are actually fairly good I could be as published as these other sad sacks.
Best of luck to us all, and keep chasing that dream!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spider webs, bundles of sticks, slug slime, melting points in long-chain hydrocarbons, Darwinian evolution, medication side effects, marmosets, and neuroanatomy. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to come up with one coherent analogy or metaphor, only a great deal of pointless mental meandering. It happens.
The underlying theme, as I highly doubt it could be evident from the above rambling list, is participation and interconnectivity, which are to me, the beauty of this site. Anyone, especially these days, can make a website, a blog if you will, and post their stories, novels, musings, manifestos, and naked self pics. If you structure it right, make it all searchable and whatnot, people might even stumble upon the material and read it. You could even provide a way for them to leave comments. Great. Good for you (except the self pics, cause that’s a bit naughty…I mean, what would your mother think?).
Here we have the wonderful opportunity to interact. I would put forth that the strength and quality of your experience is largely based on how much you are able to make connections with other authors, thus the spider webs and stick bundles. This can take the shape of adding sequels or prequels to their work, participating in challenges, or just commenting frequently and earnestly. In this way, the site becomes more than just a receptacle into which one may spew unending gobs of material. It becomes a living and lively communal organism of thought.
I realize that sounds a bit icky when I put it like that, thus the slug slime mentioned earlier. I promise you, however, it’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It’s a Ficly thing. So get out there, and stick yourself into the mass in as many ways as you can!
It’s not as cool as it sounds.
The Malleus Maleficarum is a 15th century text on the danger presented by witches, how to figure out if a woman (as witches are more generally women, per the text), and what to do about them. As you might suppose from the time frame, the instructions did not include, “Give them a hug,” or even, “Ask them how their day is.” The name of the book is generally translated as, ‘The Hammer of Witches’, and its treats the subject with according gentility.
Obviously, I don’t bring this up to advocate you go strip and shave your English teacher on account of thinking she be a witch, a fair precaution according to the Malleus. Instead, and please, for Pete’s sake don’t anyone go assaulting a teacher, I bring it up to show the power of writing, namely the power in its longevity. Because this treatise was written down, published, and preserved an entire phase of history is lifted from obscurity to easy scrutiny. We need not look back at the events and wonder what they were thinking. They have told us, and the text stands where they cannot, being physically dead, to testify of their rationale and methods.
In this way, the authors live forever. In the same vein, Shakespeare breathes and spouts verse to this day, in literature courses, theater stages, and outdoor festivals. Are we not all intimately familiar with Steinbeck, Whitman, and Thoreau? Bless his heart, Solzhenitsyn trudges on. Things are still, and likely always will be, falling apart for Achebe. Into the infinite void, Asimov and Adams plumb the depths of space. And we all know Anne, Stephen, and Clive haunt the shadows of our dreams to this day.
Do we not as authors hope for this same thing? We toil and slave over our creations in the hopes that they will be read, appreciated, disseminated, and preserved. Our work is intended to go on, to remain after we have gone. Authors, let your writing be up to this weighty task! Write! Expand! Live for today! Live forever!
Hmph, look at us, chasing after immortality. We must be witches.
“This needs a sequel!”
It’s a comment that shows up from time to time here on ficly. Initially, my response has always been to bristle at the sentiment. Mostly, this is due to my own defiant and contrary nature. If you want a sequel, I would think, you write one. You can’t tell me what to do!
Now that I think of it, however, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the highest compliments one can pay to an author. Rather than seeing it as a demand, I’ve come to view it as indicative of something very positive that has gone on. The story, however brief, has engaged the reader on some level, whether intellectual curiosity or emotional attachment. This engagement creates the desire for the story to continue, a curiosity to see what will develop next and how.
On ficly, this is a hoot. It gives the author license to sequel their own work or (my preference) provides impetus for another author to jump on with a continuation. More importantly however, the principle can easily generalize to lengthier work outside of ficly. If you can encapsulate enough in this small space to get that kind of engagement you can do the same thing elsewhere. Here it means they want a sequel. Out there it means they’ll actually read the second page. Whether you’ve written a 5 page short story or a 500 page tome, the reader has to have sufficient connection to the material to compel them to read that next page.
To put it in simpler terms, pack it in there, and leave them wanting more.
Speaking as someone who has spent the better part of his life as the sidekick, I think they don’t get enough credit. Now I’m not complaining about having been a sidekick. Quite the contrary, it was great fun. There’s a lot you can get away with going unnoticed in someone else’s shadow.
In stories though the sidekick is more than just the guy seeing what he can do while everyone else is watching the star of the show. In literary terms, he or she serves as the foil. Not aluminum foil. Not the fencing sword thing. And no, the purpose is not to ruin anything.
A foil serves as a counterpoint to the main point. Your hero seems more heroic in the face of the sidekick’s doubt. The ingenuity of the hero shines compared to the concrete thinking of the sidekick. A heady romance of sweeping emotions overwhelms the practical concerns of the onlooking sidekick.
Think Watson to Holmes. Think Sancho Panza to Don Quixote. Think D’Artagnon to the rest of the Musketeers. Think Robin to Batman, but only if you can do so without giggling at the homoerotic undertones.
At the very least, think about those ancillary characters as more than just convenient plot points. The more fleshed-out and real you can make them, the more depth you can add to your protagonist either in contrast or in compliment to the attributes you give your sidekick. It’s just another layer of depth available to the careful author.
Since neither Jason or I are at SxSW this year, we have to find out through twitter, e-mail, etc, if we’ve won or not. I have to tell you, it’s stressful waiting to find out. I think it may be more stressful than the first time we went through this with ficlets!
And so the big news is… We didn’t win this year. And that’s OK. I’m happy that we were finalists for the second time.
But, so it doesn’t go to waste, here’s the acceptance speech I put together from all of your lovely sequels. Thank you guys for doing that, and for caring enough about Ficly to share your thoughts.
Maybe next year!
Thank you to everyone who voted for us, for the judges and for all of you for sitting through the next 45 seconds.
Ficly is a creative oasis in a sea of sameness. It allows anyone with five minutes to create a world, a character, a scene or an emotion – all in 1,024 characters or less. In fact, this acceptance speech is a Ficly, written by the community to express what it means to be part of the community and to thank you for this award.
Before we get to that part, we have a few people to thank. First of all, Jason Garber for pushing to build Ficly after ficlets went away, and writing all the CSS that won us this award. Viget Labs for helping us out with such an amazing design. Seimitsu for being there with the hosting for us, and the Ficly community who help keep us going!
Now here’s what the community wants to tell you about what Ficly means to them…
Ficly is more than a writing site, it’s a family. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Here you aren’t shunned by what you are in real life, you’re accepted no matter what your background is.
In the world of Ficly, we get the greatest assortment of people. Nerds, gays, even the odd robot or three. Ficly has challenged it’s members to use their brains in any way possible, writing short, writing long, writing different languages, writing new genres. Ficly has provided some gems for any genre you can imagine.
Ficly is a place to shout and be read.
Ficly is a giant, online creative writing class with no teacher and a lot of eager students. That’s how I like to think of it, and its why I love it.
Ficly is about that brief creative burst, middle of the day or late at night. Ficly forces you to choose your words wisely and accurately in order to create something coherent.
Ficly is a platform for me to stretch my brainpower to its very limits just to pen down that story to express my sadness, happiness, excitement, anxiousness.
It is a joy to ficly.
Just like last time we were up for this award, I think it’s only appropriate that you help us write the acceptance speech! I’ve started it, thanking most of the people we need to thank (I’ll probably need to add more) and what I want to say. The rest is up to you!
So, write sequels to my acceptance speech before next Wednesday (oddly enough, that’s The International Day of Awesomeness) and I’ll compile them into our acceptance speech, which will be read by one of our friends from Viget Labs since Jason and I aren’t going to SxSW this year.
Yes, I know the Oscars are in a couple weeks, but this is about something better. Ficly, like ficlets before it, is up for a SxSW Web Award this year! Thanks to Jason’s insane CSS skills, we’re up for the CSS award again.
And, just like last time, you guys can help us win! You can go vote on the SxSW Web Awards Site once a day, every day, right up until the day of the awards (I think).
So, if you don’t mind taking a couple minutes out of your day… go vote!! And, thank you!
In a few short weeks a momentous day shall be upon us, my fellow miscreants of miniscule fiction. It is that time once again for the International Day of Awesomeness. March 10th. Mark it on your calendars. Send yourself an email. Get a tattoo.
No wait, scratch that last one. Most or at least a lot of you are minors and shouldn’t be getting tattoos. I am not taking the blame for that sort of misadventure.
The point of the day is awesomeness. The commemoration is of all things awesome. Doesn’t that sound awesome?
Now I know I’m early, like a Christmas tree going up the week before Thanksgiving, but awesomeness doesn’t just happen, people. Trust me, as I’ve failed to mark my calendar enough years in a row to know personally how hard last minute awesomeness is to achieve. It’s very difficult. The closest I’ve come is being awesomely lame and pathetically late…which is about the same as I tend to do with birthday cards to my family members (sorry guys!). Perhaps I should have started the post instead with…
Yes, make some plans. Dig deep and pull out some awesome. You know, do something cool on the day, whether it be a one-time thing like a stunt or a new goal, like putting up decent blog posts more often than once a month or so. Make it your own though, so I’m not going to give any more suggestions. Also, I still have to figure out my own awesomeness.
Stay tuned for more awesomeness, and happy ficlying!
Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.
Thus ended another Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. Man, that guy’s got a voice that makes you want to just sit by the fire and listen for a spell. He could probably read the dictionary, and it’d be fairly interesting. For me the whole Prairie Home Companion thing is nostalgic, though I can’t even say when if ever I listened to it on a regular basis. Did my dad listen to it when he wasn’t exposing us to Baroque classics? Did my mom listen to it when she wasn’t censoring any and all media entering our household?
Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.
Maybe it’s not about having listened to him in the past. Maybe it’s something to do with the simplicity of a radio program, the quaint majesty of the spoken word conveying images, thoughts, and narratives. No special effects. No choreographed fight scenes or high speed chases. Nothing in 3D whatsoever. Heck, I don’t even think it qualifies as 2D. Perhaps it’s just nostalgic the same way Norman Rockwell paintings are; it’s just the intended style, a crafted hominess.
Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.
Then again, there’s something to that, an inherent honesty. Truth hits and tends to feel familiar. It’s what we want. Say what you want, but there’s rarely anything controversial about what gets said by Mr. Keillor. It feels right. It feels honest. It feels like where you want to be. Sometimes when what you want to hear, what you need to hear, and what you yourself have been trying to say however inarticulately meets with a soothing voice the message manages to settle in, for better or for worse. This time around, I think it’s for the better.
Be well. Do good work. And stay in touch.
“…Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
I don’t know about you, but whenever I read that I imagine it being intoned by a very ominous sounding baritone. It has a morose, threatening sort of feel to it, like I’m going to die. Please allow me to present to you a more complete rendition of the quote.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a peice of the continet, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of they friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~John Donne, Devotions, XVII
Is that not lovely? Is that not sublime? It’s not supposed to be ominous at all, which amuses me in itself, as I always love when my preconceived ideas are dispelled in such a way. It’s not about some dread foreboding; it’s about a way to be connected to all of humanity, to be involved in such a way as to feel the loss of even one soul.
I like to think, you know, when I’m rather full of myself like I am this evening, that writing is one way in which we can achieve this. If I may clarify, it is not just in the writing but in the reading. Then it is in the discussion. Next comes those brilliant moments against the dull monotony of life when creativity pings from one mind to another, when epiphany bursts from the stray words of the semi-anonymous peer, or when you bear witness to one soul touching another through the written word.
May it happen more often. May it happen more dramatically. May it happen to you.
Happy ficlying, my friends.
Sure, I know you’ve thought it. Heaven knows I have.
You sit there, pen in hand poised over paper…no, wait. That’s rather old school, isn’t it. It’s so dated it should be referred to more accurately as olde school. Let me try again.
You sit there, nervous hands poised over a keyboard while the harsh light of the monitor bores into your skull. Yes, yes, that’s far more contemporary.
He/She thinks…(didn’t want to leave out our transgender friends)
“It won’t be good enough.”
Bah. Pheh. Phooey. I say all three in tart rejoinder to the thought, to myself and to you all, gender benders included. Art is for the doing. The viewing and the appreciating comes later, a secondary afterthought to the exercise of human creativity. Anything else is mere commercialism or a primped up shadow of adolescent attempts to gain popularity, to be liked.
So just write the darn thing already. Go on. Put something down. If it’s really all that horrid, call it a learning exercise and do better on the next one. You don’t even have to do all that much better. Just a little improvement at a time with lots of messes and backsliding along the way.
Writing is like life, I say, if you’re not enjoying the process what’s the point anyway?
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
For me the purpose of any artistic endeavor is exploration. A painting can lead you down the tortured streets of Guernica. A symphony may take you the heights of eroica. A sculpture can put you right back in the golden age of Greece. As a writer where will you take your reader?
Aside from where the consumer of art can be lead, there is where the artist himself may wander in the creative process. From the depths of one’s own guilt may come a masterpiece of suspense set to the beat of a guilty heart. One man’s search of boundless expression could produce seemingly random paintings that still say so much. As a writer, to what well will you go for inspiration?
May the journey be kind to you, and the discoveries worth the exploration.
I know this is seriously late, but I don’t want to let it go any longer. The stickers have been ordered and should arrive any day, at which point, I’ll send them out.
- Christopher Steffen chose Dark Room by Textmason
- Jeremy Keith chose Z is for Zombie by… me
- Jessica Cahill chose Without Walls by Spiderj, and her favorite story of her own is Junkie.
- Coccinella chose One hundred thousand bagels, he said by Scott, and her favorite story of her own is A white wedding
- and that’s all I have. There should be 11 of these, but I can’t find anyone else’s response. SO, if you pledged $20 or more and didn’t send me a story, please send me either a note on here or an e-mail to kevin at ficly.com and I’ll add it to this post.
I had a hard time getting the money out of Amazon Payments, and then finding a place that would print the stickers exactly how I wanted them. But, the money’s in my account, the links (well, some of them) have been posted, and the stickers are on their way to me (and then on the way to you). I’ll be delivering the check to the hosting place next week.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you guys supporting us like this. It means a lot to me, and I’m sure to Jason too.
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” —George Orwell
Welcome to the modern age, or maybe just my cynical view of it on a cloudy afternoon. It seems that all we have around us these days are lies. For goodness’ sake, even little pieces of Frosted Mini Wheats lie to us, saying they can make our kids do better in school. There seems to be, in fact, a general consensus that we can’t handle the truth. Heck, we’re so jaded that a poor guy runs his car into a tree or fire hydrant, and we’ve got him convicted of driving under the influence, having a mistress, and probably selling secrets to the Russians.
Enters the writer, to tell a tale, the intentional lie. We go so far nowadays as to put disclaimers that if anything or anyone in the story resembles reality the reader should chalk it up to coincidence (not irony, coincidence). The stories are fictitious, nothing but lies we proclaim with the very heading. We writers should fit right in, shouldn’t we?
For all the lies we tell, fibs we might call them, our writing has power and impact only in proportion to the truth we can surreptitiously weave in the midst of a fanciful story. The place may be as remote as unexplored space, but the fears of being alone speak to many an honest soul. The situation may be as far-fetched as zombies who resemble Karl Marx, but an earnest desire to be an individual rings true. The heroine may be as unlikely as misguided fairy, but that need to make a difference hits home.
So go on, tell me some lies. Just make them good ones.
I found a one page article in the February 16, 2009 issue of Newsweek. In it, the author Ann Banks wrote:
“If my grandmother Blanche were around to read the headlines today, I know just what story she would tell” in the mid-1920’s, at the height of the Florida land rush, she was working in a real-estate office in Palm Beach. Times were flush and sales were booming. This exuberance was on display in the showy mosaic map of Florida embedded in the office floor.
To highlight Palm Beach, the artist had cemented in a shiny silver dollar. Before long, the speculative bubble burst, helped along by a hurricane. One morning my grandmother and her colleagues arrived at the office to discover that someone had chiseled the silver dollar right out of the floor. Times were hard.
Blanche ended up losing her house, her car and all the money she had saved for my father’s educations. Those things, though, she seldom mentioned. Instead, she told me about the stolen silver dollar. It comforted my grandmother, I believe, by reminder her that in her misfortune she was far from alone.
I was raised on Depression stories; this was only one of many told around our dinner table. Hearing them again and a gain, I became fascinated by the role that stories play during hard times—the way they seem to strengthen people, offering a bulwark against loneliness and feelings of personal failure…”
She wrapped up her article with the sentiment, “We need again to imagine a future that is meaningful in the face of difficult circumstances. Listening to each other’s stories may grand us a sense of common purpose that money can’t buy.”
Behold the power of writing. Ficly-teers, tell us your stories. Draw us in, and help us relate to your experience in this crazy world. Imagine that brighter future. Or imagine the dark future that haunts your dreams. Write. Tell your story. Come together.
In psychiatry we have nine defined personality disorders. These represent a stable set of behavioral patterns that are consistent across multiple environments and over time. Briefly, they are:
Paranoid: They may not be convinced the FBI is spying on their every move, but they aren’t ruling it out either. Basically they see the world as a dangerous, aggressive place.
Schizoid: The content loner, off on their own but happy to be so, generally pursuing solitary activities, especially collections of various sorts.
Schizotypal: Eccentric right up to the point of being psychotically delusional but not quite. They have magical beliefs and tend to come across as rather odd.
Antisocial: No, they don’t avoid parties. They have a disregard for rules, societal norms, and how you feel about what they’re doing. They tend to be career criminals.
Borderline: Not easy to deal with. They are prone to emotional outbursts, tend to see the world in absolutes, fear abandonment above all else, and can go a little psychotic when stressed.
Histrionic: Dramatic and generally provocative. They’re entertaining to have around, but I wouldn’t be alone with one if I were you…unless you’re single and feeling daring.
Narcissistic: Yes, they think they’re all that, and they’re dangerous if shown to be otherwise.
Avoidant: They also wind up as loners, but it has more to do with a fear of scrutiny and public embarrassment.
Dependent: They can’t make a decision and would really like you to make it for them.
Obsessive Compulsive: No, they don’t wash their hands 100 times a day. This group is the epitome of anal retentive, liking things to be in order, parallel, perfectly right. They don’t delegate well and can be overly concerned with right and wrong.
The fun part of knowing these diagnoses (http://psyweb.com/Mdisord/jsp/mental.jsp for full criteria) is that you can diagnose your friends and family. Also, these represent stable, realistic, and common archetypes of human behavior upon which to base characters. You don’t have to make someone exactly fit a diagnosis, cause real people rarely fit exactly either, And you don’t have to keep a character in that role for a whole story (remember the whole dynamic vs static character thing from Eng lit). Deciding on a character’s makeup and underlying psychology will help you keep them consistent, cause nothing kills a story more than plot-convenient behavior that defies a character’s previously described idiom. It also helps the story to feel real when what goes on manages to ring true or remind the reader of things they’ve noticed in real life.
Have you ever noticed that there aren’t a lot of good stories revolving around pacifists?
Any good story has to have conflict. Though honestly, as I sit down to write this it’s difficult to articulate why. The best example I can think of is the ‘Little Bear’ television program for little kids. I’ve had to watch a lot of episodes, and they are mind-numbing. Mostly I blame the incessant, bland, meandering background music. The other big problem is a glaring lack of conflict in most of the episodes. You just wind up thinking, “Why am I watching this?” Or more to the point, “Why is this story being told?”
If your story needs conflict, does that mean there has to be a big fight scene? Beowulf fought Grendel. Dracula finally got a stake through his heart. Rocky went the distance. Sydney Carton got hanged (okay, it wasn’t much of a fight, but someone lost…or did he win?). ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is basically one long argument, though fortunately it never gets to physical violence.
Thankfully, especially for you pacifists out there, conflict doesn’t have to be obvious, external, fist-on-face (or tentacle-on-face, or fist-on-slime, or what-have-you). Generally, there are four types of conflict. Physical would be your character physically fighting against other men, women, children, animals, or natural forces (see above list). Classical refers to a character fighting against fate or the circumstances of life (think Film Noir). Social conflict means you’ve got a character struggling against ideas, practices, or customs of the group (Yentl). Psychological is, of course, my favorite and involves the internal struggle to overcome the enemy within.
Which type do you write the most? Do you only use one type of conflict in your stories? Is the conflict obvious or does it get lost in flowery descriptions of each and every bit of minutia? (That’d be me) Can you, would you, or should you try to layer in different kinds of conflict over one another? Does the conflict necessarily create or define a “right” and a “wrong”, a “villain” and a “hero”? Do you remember where you parked the car?
Just a few questions to get you thinking. Now quit thinking so much and get to writing! [see last post]
The Block. It’s so hideous, I hesitate to even mention it for fear of causing a collective jinx. Whatever I do, it’ll be there one way or the other. Goodness knows I’ve had my fair share lately. For instance, Ernest Hemingway reportedly answered that the most frightening thing he’d ever encountered was, “A blank sheet of paper.”
“The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”
“People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.”
“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining—researching—talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
(E. L. Doctorow)
“Read a lot. Write a lot. Have fun.”
So, welcome to ficly, the perfect cure for writer’s block! Read a lot and be inspired. Jump on a challenge to get something done. Hit that ‘Random Story’ button, and see where it takes you.
Fight the block! Write, write, write!