Friday, July 30, 2010

Haiku: Ur doin it rong.

I am the scarecrow,
the tin man, and the lion,
all rolled into one.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

STC and the withering manuscript

He sat at his desk and saw his manuscript for what it was; a series of concentric circles. They're about something, but at the moment, that something is just black lines going nowhere. He listened to music to see if something would inspire, if something would click. It didn't. He tried writing poetry, to take his mind off of things. Nothing. And the days fell away so fast. He found himself clinging to the half-way marker, unwilling to reach for more words, to tip the manuscript over, to spill the words into something more rounded, more balanced, more complete. He looked over the scattered pages, and with less than seven days before his goal dried up, he came to terms with the fact that he wouldn't reach his goal. No novel. Not this time around.

"Maybe," he thought, "I could make a novella out of it. There's time for that yet."
In a world where nothing is certain, he could only hope that bringing his target down would bring his story to an end. It was hard enough starting the thing, with only two characters vaguely identified at the time of the manuscript's conception, and with a plot clutching at a beginning, let alone a middle and end, the challenge was never going to be easy. But when the first draft is done, then his real work will begin. Then the characters will come to life. Then the plot will resonate from within. Then the manuscript will blossom from a scattered and incomprehensible novella into the novel it was meant to be.

Good luck, STC, you've still got a very long way to go. Hang in there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Some of my best friends are strangers

May I help you,

May I take
your order,

May I give you
what you ask,
what you ask of me,

May I offer
unparalleled value,
and unparalleled service,
and unparalleled flavour,

Here is your

May you enjoy
your meal,
your drink,
and have a pleasant day,

Will you take me up on my offer?

Can I help you,

Can I straighten
your tie,

Can I fix
your shoe laces,
and button your shirt for you,

Tell me about
your sordid affairs,
your stressful finances,
your unfulfilled home life,

Give me
your attitude,

May you enjoy
this moment,
with me,
as much as I have with you,

Take the damn order and have a nice day.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Novel Excerpt

We pulled up outside the hangar and got out of the car. And I could hear the loud murmuring of conversation competing with conversation. This was a gathering. Gabriel popped the boot. Blindfolded. Gagged. Bound arms and legs. This was Penny. But I'll get into the details later. He lifted her over his shoulder, her short brown hair falling and masking her face.
“Can you get the boot there?” Gabriel called out to me, walking towards the hangar.
I pushed it shut and I looked over at the girl slung over his shoulder, her hair bobbing with each step. I thought of the police, combing the car for evidence. I imagined a group of them pouring across every square millimetre of surface. Finding nothing, finding nothing, finding nothing. Then reaching the boot. A strand of hair. Hers. A set of fingerprints. Mine. A maze of little lines mirroring my own sitting clear as day on the boot. I rubbed the boot where I pushed it down with my sleeve. I didn't want this guy as my enemy. I jogged after him towards the hangar.

I've been reading through my novel sort of as I write it. Like, I'll print out each page as I write it and take it into work and read through what I've written at work. I think this is my favourite paragraph of the novel thus far. Could be a potential opening paragraph (yes, although it is currently in chapter 6, I'm more than comfortable with the fact that nothing is concrete at the moment). I also think it represents the sort of stylised horror that I'm aiming for. Quirky. Bizzare. Because it's not straight up horror, and I think I really need to sort out in the redrafting and editing processes how I want that balance to sit. Because I want it to be as much about character as about plot. That's probably why there's a lot of dialogue in my novel so far. Like, A LOT. I should probably cut down on that a lot and flesh the scenes out more. I guess that's why I like this paragraph. But, you know, it's a work in progress and it's got a long way to go. I'd like to think that people will read my writing and go "that kid's not normal." I'd like that. Because everything else about me is pretty much normal. Or even more normal than normal. Paler-shade-of-grey normal. But, you know, the plan with writing this book is to raise a few eyebrows and maybe suggest a few things. Still figuring out the details though.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Where we're going we don't need time. Well... time in the linear sense of the word. I'm a measly five-and-a-half thousand words into my JulNo novel Utopia Ltd and I just want to shake it on its head to make all the change fall out of its pockets. I know for a fact that when I write it I will be starting at a different point in time. I just don't know where. At the moment, everything feels on the whole, too linear. When I finish the draft, I'm probably going to cut the story and print it in chapters and do a massive reshuffle of things.

When I first thought of the idea for this novel I wanted to write it about what goes on inside my head, the main character going through an identity chrisis works through his issues which are not too dissimilar to my own. While this may be interesting enough, I did what I always do when things sound like they might put my readers to sleep (my readers, lol), I chuck a bunch of fucking guns in there and see what happens. To make things exciting.

Now it feels like I've got two narratives going on in the one novel, and it's my goal to weave them together. The primary one (primary being more immediately identifiable) is the events of the armed robbery and the rather exciting [insert spoilers here] that follow. The secondary narrative is the one mentioned earlier, the main character's internal anxieties and identity struggles (as externalised through the presence of his psychologist) and his working through that.

I feel like the more I think about it, the more it changes and evolves and grows, and, to some extent, the less capable I am for writing the crazy fucking thing. And now I'm wanting to start at the end and toss the reader around like a ragdoll throughout the jumble of events that occur, giving them a chaotic, yet progressive journey as to how things got to be so out of proportion. I'll get there eventually. I'm actually hoping that once the draft is done, and once I cut it down to chapters and mess about with the ordering of events, I can treat the chapters more like short stories and brush up on the draft, edit through as if it were essentially a novel of short stories.

Fingers crossed I can get into a rhythm where the following forty-four-and-a-half thousand words just click into place. It's definitely been an interesting challenge going into July with minimal preparation (November last year I had character descriptions, locations and whole chapters mapped out before I started officially writing).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All Is Full Of Love

You were made for each other.
You two, so perfectly fitting together
impossible to tell
if you are a copy of her,
or if she is a copy of you.

You were meant to be together.
You two, with sweet voices
producing the perfect harmony,
a call and response, call and response,
that all is full of love.

What's wrong with this picture?
Nothing, you say in unison.
Nothing is wrong.
This is perfect.
This is love.

You were happy with each other.
You two, singing your love
so proud and strong and clear.
But heads turn,
those who have never known your love.

You were built from the fires
of original sin.
You do not kiss and touch
and hold and love
without these judging eyes.

What's wrong with this picture?
Your love is not true or pure,
your love is not real.
You are lesbionic,
you are void of humanity.

You were taught to love,
to feel it and express it
for another so 'unnatural'.
You are beautiful, sweet machine,
it is a tragedy to be so unloved by so many.

Please teach us to love as you do.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Utopia Ltd

Chapter 1: Fifteen Minutes at Gunpoint

Andy Warhol would be turning in his grave, if only he knew what this culture was calling 'art' now. Turning and turning and turning and turning. Art is just another form of advertisement. It's a way of artists expressing their thoughts and ideas on canvas. It's immortalised as a still image of one person's thoughts at a particular marker in time. Replace artists with corporate advertisers and the whole world becomes a canvas. Through artists, companies could buy space, they could manipulate people, they could project their ideas through artists onto walls, onto billboards, anywhere and everywhere physically possible, and it would seem as if these ideas were projected straight into our minds.

“Do you know why you're here?” The question lingered in my mind. Does he mean here-in-this-room or here-in-this-world? I would think a shrink would know better, but I've been disappointed by greater things before.
“Yes,” I said.
“Good.” He ruffled his hands through his hair and sat down at his desk. “Because I don't want to give you the impression that you've 'got issues' or that you're a delusional psychopath needing urgent medication.”
“Yes, of course,” I said. “But that's not to say that I don't have issues, right? I mean, I'm familiar with your type. Preying on the insecure. Convincing people that they have serious psychological problems. Charging a hundred and thirty five bucks an hour to make the problems go away.”
He raised his eyebrow and stared at me for a moment, before saying “I can assure you that I'm not that type of psychologist. After all, I work for the Utopia Corporation, I don't work for individual clients.”
“So you're going to tell me what Utopia wants you to tell me and then send me on my way?”
“No, no, no. Not at all! While I am under their employment, my relationship with them is strictly professional. They hire me to do my job, and to do it properly. They hired me to check your mental well-being, and that's what we're here for. My results are not influenced by who I work for.”
“Ok,” I said. I sat down in the armchair opposite his desk.
“Right off the bat I'd say you're an anxious and sceptical individual, but I'm certainly not going to try to convince you of any problems that aren't there.”
I nodded.

“For this first session,” he said, “I just want you to settle in. I'm not going to try to probe your mind for now. Just relax, talk if you want, we might run through a simple test or two, but for today, we're going to keep things easy.” He leaned on his desk conversationally, to indicate that I had his full attention.
“No notepads?” I asked.
He held up his hands, “No notepads.”
“No recorders?”
He nodded, “No recorders. My time is yours.” His shirt had a slogan on it which read 'CHARLIE BROWN CAN GO SUCK A LEMON'. It made no sense to me, which, I believe was the entire point. I imagine a lot of people have forgotten who this Charlie Brown character is, but I certainly couldn't figure out what lemons had to do with anything.
“Ok,” I said, “so the robbery-”
“Later, later, later. We can talk about that later. I get the impression that you just want to work through this and be done with it. Everything we do here is necessary, I can grant you that. I need to take my time to do my job. Please, ease up. You're so anxious.”
I gulped. “Ok,” I repeated. “I like your office.” I rubbed the arms of the chair. Leather. “It's nice.”
“Thank you,” he said. “It's a bit messier than I'd like it, but it works for me.”
“Sure,” I said. I took note of the large textbooks on psychology that were spilling from the bookshelf. Entire textbooks dedicated to the Rorschach test and to dream analysis and other psychological methods.
“Do you like reading?” he asked when he saw me staring at 'Advanced Psychoanalysis', sitting on the corner of his desk.
“Sure,” I said, “fiction, mostly.”
“Great, great.” He smiled, and I couldn't be sure what he was thinking.

It was like a dance. A great ugly ballet for people tip-toeing around the meat of the show. We were there to talk about the robbery, and, to be honest, it was painful trying to keep it at the back of my mind.

“What's with the shirt?” I asked.
He smiled again, this time with a genuine personality behind his face. “I saw it at a market. Loved it, bought it, wearing it.”
“Cool,” I said. “What does it mean, though, 'Go suck a lemon', what is that?”
“Oh, you know, it's just something that'll get the Peanuts collectors all riled up.”
“I didn't think people still read Peanuts, let alone collected them.”
“No. Not many at all. But Charles Schultz is decomposing and I'm still wearing this shirt.”
I stared at him. At the shirt with the slogan. At the cartoon Snoopy below, posing with the one-fingered-salute. Real nice.
“I know,” he said, “I know. I've got issues.”
I gaped.
“Hey,” he said, “I'm a shrink, I can deal with it.”
Was this guy being serious?
“When you've been in my line of work for a few years you start to believe that everyone's got issues of some form or another.”
“Do I have issues?”
I waited for him.
“You're anxious. You're not sure what to think of me because we haven't talked about anything significant yet. You think I'm acting quite unprofessional, and that makes you nervous. You feel like you need confirmation from me. You need my approval, not because of who I am, but because of the qualifications I have. You need my professional opinion in order to convince yourself that you're 'normal'. I think this is something you've had problems with for years, you seek out approval and acceptance. You're paranoid.”

This guy. With the brass name plate on his desk, 'Bernard Shepard', and the diploma on the wall. This guy. With the fuck-Schultz shirt, and the 'everybody's paranoid' theory. This guy. Reaches into his drawer for his packet of cigarettes, and I thought he was reaching for a gun.