Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Something Wicked ...

I'm expanding upon the idea of a metaphysical pov that I developed a few months back.
The idea came from a theme in my novel: We judge based on limited knowledge (from a point somewhere along a continuum of time); what can we know?
This concept itself is at the heart of The Maggot Farm: We might believe something to be so at this moment, but by the time we go to bed our beliefs might have been shattered or radically turned about. Moreover, the concepts of change and of reversal are staples of a good novel structure.
So, consider the opening to this sentence:
What I do not know about Buster and, indeed, what I will never discover ...
Peculiar isn't it!
The narrative is written first-person present tense. The future is unknown (to both protag and reader).
The idea that the protag could describe something that he doesn't know is odd enough (and is a good means of spotting rookie authors who have yet to grasp povs), but when coupled with an arcane foresight, the sentence is infused with a sort of omniscience that can only originate in a disturbed mind.

Rather like the musical numbers, I had intended to use this metaphysical pov once only, but it has a special power; foresight is a wonderful component of suspense.
Expectation/anticipation as a driving force becomes more powerful still when a countdown is introduced. The greater the expected effects of the future event, and the shorter the countdown, the more heightened the suspense. (NB. We can further increase tension by shortening the countdown some time after it has begun [moving goalposts].)

There are many ways to create expectation.
The result of the boulder catching up with Indiana Jones is created in our heads by shared preconceptions: Boulders are heavy, therefore boulder on Jones = crushed. Imagine the effect if the boulder were a small rock, or if the boulder were twenty miles away and rolling slowly. Or imagine if the boulder rolled over him and then he climbed to his feet, dusted himself down, and strolled away unscratched.
But maybe it's not a boulder - perhaps it's something alien and we need to create a shared expectation. Here we might use a demonstration. Send your Star Trek red-shirt onto the planet and witness his demise at the hands of an evil beasty. At this point, we judge the evil beasty and any preconceptions are amended accordingly/as necessary.
Premonitions are curious things. What would happen if Kirk, or even the red-shirt, see the red-shirt's demise before it occurs? The Final Destination movies use this premise: Death's coming for you next! How different is this to our preconception of the boulder's death-inducing properties? One is assumed, one is demonstrated, and the other is a possibility (depending on your views on determinism). Maybe? Either way, they all bring the/a future into the present.

The metaphysical pov allows me to allude to Corus' mental state, and also affords me opportunities to open suspense threads - to form something in the future, something that may or may not be inevitable. By layering these suspense threads using a multitude of techniques (more later), all bundled into the time allotted to Corus before his demise (for the fish have sung of his time of death and the clock is already ticking), I can increase my chances of holding the reader at the edge of their seat through to the denouement. Well, that's the theory anyhoo.

Monday, 29 January 2007


I've finished the second pass of my ss, and performed a first pass edit and am down to 1,560 odd words. Strict word limits are superb for forcing the writer to really understand what is and isn't necessary: What does each sentence add to the whole?

I'm constantly surprised by some of the stuff that my brain comes up with; so many obscure connections are made - wonderful connections - and I'd love to know how much of this is controllable and how much just happens. Is there anything I'm doing that makes these connections occur, or is it down to my make-up? Are writers, as Stephen King asserts, born rather than made?

The short-story competition is based on the post-facto premise 'It seemed like a good idea at the time.' One of my subtexts is about regret - more specifically, curiosity gone wrong. To this end, I began to think about the idea of getting one's fingers burned.
Imagine my kinaesthetic opening - the sun beating on my protag's skin.
Now I open with my protag holding her hand up to the sun, watching her fingers 'burning' in its glare. At this point, the finger burning is not literal, and there is tranquility.
By the ending, the tone has changed dramatically, not least kinaesthetically: the wind has picked up and the waves have grown and the sand is coated in coarse grass that scratches protag's bare feet, and there are rocks that are slimy with weeds. Moreover, I make much out of skinning and also feeling uncomfortable in one's own skin. I turn from having the reader relax in the protag's skin, feeling the pleasing warmth of the sunlight and the refreshing coolness of water around their ankles, to making the sensation of being dressed in skin utterly revolting and even painful.
I end with a thought - a happy memory from protag's life, where she and Kov are comforting protag's little sister. Now, the circumstances are unimportant, and I began with a thunderstorm. This idea never really appealed because it is stream of consciousness rubbish - it was the first thing that came to mind, and I rarely use the first idea beyond the first pass - it serves as a springboard.
When I made the finger burning connection, I decided that I would get so much more from having protag's sister tortured such that protag and Kov are comforting her after she has literally had her fingers burned. Cool!
Then, with a final blow, imagine how awesome it would be to have the little sister suck her thumb and press her stuffed toy to her cheek! Now, a perfectly innocent childlike action is transformed - violated - and the moment becomes memorable and powerful.

On the one hand (see - another link! :o) I work from my notebooks - rarely a day passes, and never a whole week, without my adding observations, dreams and random thoughts to my notebooks. My notebooks go everywhere with me, even to bed.
On the other hand, there is so much stuff that grows organically. So, whilst I might be making my life easier with my notebooks - my way of capturing and retaining the muse - and I am laying strong foundations, I am infinitely fascinated by what my overworked little brain does next - how it assembles everything and forms connections that are sometimes so deep or obscure that they might seem like divine inspirations!
O to fathom the mysteries of the brain and to invoke these wonders on a whim!

Friday, 26 January 2007

The Tuneful Tuna

I've been toying with the idea of turning my novel into a literal (a literary musical without music; aren't I funny :o) for ages now. The idea first occurred when I was playing with the revelation scene where God tells Corus the time of his death. How might this happen? thought I; do I want this to be deadly serious or humorous or what?
Given that I deal with an awful lot of disturbing concepts throughout the novel, I figured it'd be fun to have the fish man drive up in his van and Corus looking at the fish in their trays of ice, and then having the fish sing, creating solos (for the lemon sole perhaps) and harmonies and so on in the form of a libretto (which would tie in with Corus' love of opera and with his God-ordained task of transcribing a composition that has been implanted into his head).
I ran this idea by a few of my beta readers, along with the first pass of the song, and the overwhelming response was very positive.
Then it occurred to me that I might be onto something, and have since looked through the ms for moments that I figure could do with a little levity. And now I have lots of songs ready for insertion at appropriate places. Now I'm curious about how these will be interpreted; I'm really only creating little more than poetry, or lyrics - although I can hear the music in my head too, but it tends to change from one day to the next. However, using rhythm - the beat of the words - I can convey some music forms relatively easily, such as a march or a waltz.
This is going to be one of my first tasks once the ss competition closes (end of Feb) and I return to my ms. I need a greater spread of emotions and I need to deformalize Corus' narrative. I feel that I'm about ready to head into the ms again, and that all will be well for a short time longer!

Thursday, 25 January 2007

A Tense Moment

Wrote the ending to my ss this morning. It was really a process of elimination: I've removed all the non-essential stuff and focused on the final interaction between Bina and Kov. In its raw state, it's enough to give me goosebumps, so I'm sure I'm on the right lines; will give it a proper once over at the weekend, and then the second draft will be complete and I'll start looking at editing (the ending brings the whole ss to 1700 words! Eek!).
I'm contemplating shifting the tense for the final paragraph. The story is told first-person present tense. I like this because it puts the reader into the moment: they know what the protag knows, and the future is unknown to both. So what happens if I switch over to past tense for the ending? Suddenly, the story has moved on into the afterlife or, at least, to the protag's last few moments of corporeal existence, and the reader plays catch up. Now, the reader no longer knows what Bina knows.
What might be the effects of this?
Well, from the protag's pov, it is a moment of reflection rather than an instant reaction to events as they unfold. I also feel that the protag might have been overwhelmed during those final moments - that they would be too engrossed in events to offer any commentary. In this way, the point from which she commentates is a peaceful point - a moment of resolution.
I can imagine a danger here, where the reader is removed from the action and is now the underdog. And they would also need to adapt to a new tense at a very late part of the story (which could seem unnatural?). But, that said, the ending becomes more poignant because the reader is invited towards a resolution; the reader understands that protag is waiting at the other end, and the moment is given extra significance. This might increase anxiety too: Imagine that you are walking hand-in-hand with somebody you care deeply for - perhaps your child - and then they let go of your hand and hurry off somewhere, out of sight; imagine how tense you would feel, following a trail of breadcrumbs, wondering what has happened to your beloved and what you will discover at the end of the trail.
I think my predominant feeling is that the action is diluted and the personal interaction between Bina and Kov is given priority, and that's where I want the reader to spend their last few moments, with humanity rather than action. Yes, I like that idea. Will have to see how it all reads once I've finished the second pass.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Love Me 3

So, I finished The Catcher in the Rye last night, and now I'm bound to consider the similarities and differences between Holden and Corus.
Both protags are distanced from the world and become social critics. Holden sees 'phoniness' whilst Corus sees a breakdown of moral integrity.
Both protags admire the honesty of children (and I'd suggest that it is Phoebe who 'saves' Holden, and this is symbolized by the wearing of the hunting hat), notably so when juxtaposed with the dishonesty (phoniness) of adults (and the adults in my novel lie and cheat and ultimately disappoint Corus).
And, curiously, both Holden and Corus are self-deprecatory.
Now, Holden is unsure of himself. This certainly helps with the bonding process. Corus, on the surface, is confident, and this could be damaging? Not sure. But Corus does question reality and accept that all he knows and believes might be wrong; but he has to accept some sort of truth - some sort of moral code - and he chooses what he believes is the most logical and necessary truth.
Perhaps the most notable difference is that Holden is a teenage boy, whereas Corus is twice Holden's age. It is easy to empathise with Holden: most men will remember the turbulence of teenage years, the bars that would serve minors and the ones that wouldn't, the fumbling forays into sex, the pressures of school work and the expectations of parents. Moreover, Holden chooses to share these experiences with the reader. Corus is far more reserved: not only does he hold the world at a distance, but I'm also beginning to think that he is too reserved with the reader too. It's a peculiar thought, that Corus would regard the reader as someone to be trusted when he denies the rest of the adult world that trust. But I think this is something I should consider. Reader as best chum! Holden frequently addresses the reader direct with 'You should have seen it!' and the like. What would happen if I adopted this for Corus' musings? It's a doddle to make Corus (more) instantly likeable, and I've already lined up a bunch of characters who will allow Corus to demonstrate his kindness. But I think (I hope) that an extra bond - a less formal interaction with the reader - will solve any problems I might have been experiencing.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Emotion and Context

Didn't quite get as far as I had hoped with short-story at weekend: still fighting with ending. I know what my goal is, but I had four attempts at fulfilling that goal and haven't struck the right chord yet.
However, for the first time ever, I read back something I had written and burst into tears! Bottom lip went and everything! I've jerked the odd tear here and there before, but finally I devastated myself! Very happy to have done this (at last)!
I noticed, too, on one of the forums over at litopia that somebody has posted:
'I also read Solveig's competition winner and that made me cry.'
I gotta say, it's a very curious thing - that I have made a man cry with my writing (assuming he was being literal/truthful).
I've read this quite a few times now from various different authors and agents: If you're not moved yourself by your writing, how can you expect to move anyone else?
All of this presupposes a goal - that we must elicit an emotional response.
This is my top goal, closely shadowed by my desire to provoke interesting/profound thoughts.

So, the second draft of my short story is almost complete. I've tried some new techniques out, and I've also tried to create a greater variety of emotional responses than I did in my first short story. I'm very interested in context - in the ordering of these emotions. If I were to post here the paragraph that moved me to tears, it would not work on the reader. In part, its impact is due to its positioning in the narrative: the tragedy immediately follows a moment of humour, and the humour itself is both farcical and terrible. And this, itself, follows a moment of beautiful descriptive prose, which itself follows a deeply profound thought. And so on.
I'm still very uncertain how best to order the emotions and, indeed, if there is a prescribed order that might be used to generate maximum impact. I think much of this comes down to anticipation and also to establishing a receptive reader; to this end, I am happy with the kinaesthetic opening. The problem I am faced with now (and you'd think I'd learn eh?) is that I've gone over the 1500 word max again! Not so much this time (I'm at 1550 words or so; last time I hit almost 1800 words!), but I still have the ending to complete. The flow is working a dream, and I'm concerned that I might screw the entire thing up by removing or diluting a pivotal emotion. I can easily see where portions of narrative can be removed without harming the resolution. But that's of a lesser concern to me; the story works largely because of the emotional flow. Anyhoo, I'm hoping to find a few hours one evening this week to finish the ending first, and then I'll begin that horrendous process of editing.
Certainly, I will continue to experiment with the effects of ordering emotion sets, and will continue to develop techniques for eliciting a wealth of emotional responses.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Associations and Conditioning

We can get lots of cool stuff for free!
Imagine that I write:
Her face was shaped like a strawberry.
Even though I'm only referring the reader to the shape of the strawberry, I'm certain that the reader will also take other characteristics from their strawberry template. Maybe just the dominant ones, such as the smell of the strawberry and/or the taste of the strawberry (and perhaps PRS plays a big part here)? There might even be readers who have had unpleasant strawberry experiences and transpose these onto my girl and/or her face.
How was it for you?
Maggot Farm is a good example. I instantly imagine the smell and need no coercing to do this. See how easily we can make the reader smell something pleasant without actually mentioning smell at all:
Her dress was the colour of roses.
Or an unpleasant smell:
Her dress was the colour of rotten eggs.
So, while we're describing one thing, we can be pretty sure that the reader is taking a lot more from the words and, with practise, we can fill every paragraph with subliminal references.

Note that we can condition the reader to respond to certain trigger words.
A great and very simple example of this is the movie Silent Hill.
The protag hears the siren and then the darkness descends and monsters appear.
The next time we hear the siren, we fear the worst, and the worst is delivered.
We are conditioned to associate terrible things with the siren.

How easily can we do this?
In a short backstory, I recount Corus' mother's last few months. Rather than telling the reader that she lost control of her bowels, I show this, and each morning Corus hangs freshly washed bedsheets and pillow cases, and they billow in the wind, over the strawberry nets. (I remember, as a kid, tunneling under my Nan's strawberry nets to retrieve strawberries.)
Further to this, Corus ends his mother's suffering and euthenizes her with a pillow.
Now I have created associations: each time I mention the word strawberry or the word pillow, the reader (hopefully) is reminded of the event and (even more hopefully) of Corus' terrible dilemma and his guilt and pain.
I am free to remind the reader of Corus' anguish at the drop of a strawberry or pillow, and the reader knows what Corus is thinking when his life model presents him with a strawberry and when he is setting up the pillows in readiness for her first pose.
In this way, I can (very hopefully) insert sympathy into any scene with a single word.

Repetition plays a part here, working as a reinforcer. The value of repetition has long since bugged me, and I'm starting to find a good few beneficial uses.
One technique I use with great relish is to create theme sets. If, for example, I want my reader to feel, totally without knowing why they feel it, that my protag is about to be tortured, I can introduce a set of words that refer to torture. In the context of the narrative, and taken in isolation, they will probably not be read that way, but when this theme is reinforced again and again, the impression is made. Indeed, I am frequently told that I leave people with peculiar feelings.
So, I'll build a list of words that relate to torture. I usually create lists of around thirty words. And then I'll slot these into the narrative, and I can do this totally irrespective of what is going on in my story. Now my protag walks past slices of cliff and the trees have turned into pines spread with needles, piercing the sky and the sun cauterizes shadows upon the burning sand and so forth. And a brilliant side-effect of these theme sets is that imaginative prose (N400) is unleashed.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

The Inner Voice

I find dialogue interesting, and am often torn between using quotation marks ('Do you have an umbrella?') and a more silent, kind of interior/private thought (I asked her if she had an umbrella and she said 'no').
When there is dialogue, the silence is broken.
I have swathes of paragraphs in my current novel in which I have removed all dialogue. In this way, the reader is firmly in Corus' pov - inside his body and mind - and the outside world is held at arm's length. There's a kind of peace that comes with this, I feel.
When Corus speaks, he and reader are removed from this private, inner sanctum and are forced to interact with the world.
Maybe this helps with bonding? I'm not sure. Perhaps with characterization? Not sure. There's something peculiar happening that feels good though, as though protag and reader are lovers and know each other intimately and that knowledge is theirs and theirs alone.

I use this in my short-story too. I hide my protag's external voice from the reader, but it is still audible to the other characters.
I ask him if he knows where the end is and he asks me when I was born.
In part, this helps out with the power games I use, where Bina (protag) sits silently, playing with a rock, whilst her victim goes through various stages of fear for his survival. I create the interaction such that Bina is in control - her victim's fate is squarely in her hands. By hearing her thoughts - her interior narrative - rather than her external voice, the reader is given no opportunity to vacate her host body (I see the protag as the host that is occupied by the reader - and as the car that rides along the rollercoaster [emotional topography]). In this way, reader and Bina are dominant, together, and share responsibilities.
I don't need to speak to know what I am thinking or want to say. And that is a kind of power.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007


I'll probably be hitting this topic many times.
I should start by quoting extracts of discussions I have had with Peter Cox (a man who is much, much wiser than I):
Me: Would you say that an author's ability to elicit a strong emotional response from the reader is of primary importance?
Peter: Yes. But it’s also the ability to anticipate and control that response that really sets a strong writer apart.
[Full discussion here.]

Peter: What I’m really talking about when I refer to “emotion” is any emotion… positive, negative, fear, horror, you name it. It’s the failure to produce an emotional response that leads to calamity.
[Full discussion here.]

Now I'm bound to consider any conflict that might exist between this idea and McKee's idea of the imperative of story.
I've just finished reading William Burroughs' Naked Lunch (do check out the link; he had a remarkable life).
It is the most disturbing book I have ever read. There's a peculiar irony in the fact that I looked forwards to moments of drug abuse because they were the brief respites! Imagine Dante meets Bosch meets de Sade. And then some.
Curiously, there is little discernable plot (at least to my immature eyes) and much of the book is written in a drug-fuelled gibberish. (I really intend to try out Burroughs' cut-up technique some time because it creates obscure wholes from unexceptional parts, revealing highly imaginative sentences.)
The book succeeds in stirring very strong emotional responses - of that there is no question.
But, assessed in terms of story ... I wouldn't know where to begin. There are many recognizable techniques in there, and his similes are on a par with Kiran Desai's. I don't know - I can't say that I took anything much away from the novel apart from a deeply disturbing experience - a glimpse through the gates of Hell.

Is it not enough to simply give the reader an emotional experience from words?
How important is the story in actuality?
I can look at Rothko's No.15 (above) and take an emotional response from it, and that's all I need. I can discern no narrative from it. Furthermore, I could imagine that, were the painting imbued with a narrative, the narrative might contaminate my emotional response (which is pure).
Lots more thoughts to come.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Love Me 2

I watched the rest of Taxi Driver last night. It's interesting to observe that I missed that Travis is writing to both his parents - I just picked up on his mother. Preconceptions at work, no doubt!
Travis lies; he writes to his parents (dutiful son) and tells all manner of tales to conceal the true extent of his declining mental health and unpleasant work and equally unpleasant accommodation. Is he detestable because he's lying?
Well, I read this as 'wanting his parents to be proud of him'. The lie is a means to an end, and the end is a well-intentioned end. (This is referred to in philosophical circles as consequentialism and is a key theme - one that informs the Major Dramatic Question [MDQ] - of my short-story.)
I think too that, because Travis lives in squalor and takes all manner of abuse from his passengers, he is more likeable; that's to say that the bonding process with my protag, Corus, possibly suffers because he lives in a picturesque cottage and loves his work. Perhaps this can be likened to the broad appeal of soap operas: we like these characters because their lives are much worse than our own - they provide a context with which we can be happy/happier with our lot.
Whilst Corus will, by the end of the second third, lose everything (his black moment) - and I have to wonder at the perversity of the reader-protag relationship, where the reader wills the protag to suffer out of jealous spite :o) - this is meaningless if the reader has already absconded because they couldn't bond with Corus.
Thoughts on this matter are ongoing ...

Colour Palettes

I wonder if colour palettes are processed from words in the same way they are from a painting.
I tend to devise palettes in my writing to augment (or contradict) the emotions I am looking to elicit.
This is Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, and I use this palette on the dunes in my short-story, just as the wind gathers and the skies darken. Note the tones used (it often helps to squint) - how the figure's body and the sky are bright, and the houses and horizon border a dark terrain. Whilst I use these colours, I've inverted the tone so that the dunes stand bright upon the dark sky.

Monday, 15 January 2007


The first 1000 words of my second draft of my short story are done.
The kinaesthetic descriptions appear to be working very well.
I'm pleased with this simile:
His wooden teeth chatter like mouse traps that fuck up.
Although the word 'chatter' is a little throwaway.
Here, I'm hitting the N400 with 'wooden teeth'. I've probably bastardized, or over-simplified, an interpretation of the N400, but I use it as unexpected peaks. So the reader is occasionally smacked with something that they did not expect. This is a good thing because it sustains interest. However, when over-used, it is a bad thing because the reader needs some security as they read. Typically, I allow myself what I imagine to be a rather high N400 content which, I suppose, is a part of my style which itself is modelled on the things I have read and loved, with the omission of things I have read and loathed.
The reader will amend their template of this character and add wooden teeth.
The teeth also show he is cold and/or scared, which is confirmed by context and by supplementary narrative.
I use the word 'trap' which fits into my theme set and works subliminally as subtext. Indeed, a trap is being set for the protag! (Events should ultimately be seen as inevitable such that the reader will be able to trace the events throughout the narrative and see that the conclusion was always going to happen. I find that subliminal impressioning is an extremely powerful and effective tool.)
I swear. Or, rather, my protag swears (first-person eleven-year-old girl).
Originally, the line was '... mouse traps that mess up.'
But, 600 words or so into the max. 1500 words, I figured that it was time to bring those subtexts into the veneer and the profanity, in context, provides another N400 and informs the reader that the tone is turning.
Shortly after this, having surmounted a violent peak, I go into humour.
I attempt to wring every ounce of meaning from every word. I take great pleasure in creating layers of information and blending those layers and swapping them around, lifting them to the surface and dragging them to the depths.

Love Me

Work on my novel has stopped for a short time. I'm letting it settle for a few weeks (and the short-story contest has provided me with a lovely stopgap and the opportunity to experiment with some of those random thoughts that plague me and seek release).
One of my beta readers explained that she didn't much like my protag.
This is death. It's also an isolated observation, but one that I take seriously. Indeed, her agent made her remove everything in her ms that might tarnish the bonding process.
I spent a while looking for protags that are similar to mine so that I could investigate the bonding process. My good friend ricardo suggested that I study Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye) and I have the book on order.
I also thought of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. I watched the opening few minutes at the week end. Here are some of the bonding techniques used. (Spoiler alert!)
Travis was a marine and had an honourable discharge. Even association with the word 'honourable' is a plus.
Travis writes to his mother. Gotta love him.
Travis is lonely ('I ride around most nights - subways, buses - but you know, if I'm gonna do that I might as well get paid for it.'). Now this is curious: I'm unconvinced that this trait creates an automatic bond in the same way that, say, the dutiful son writing to his mother does. At least, I introduce my protag, Corus, eating breakfast alone in a cottage. His mother and sister are dead, and I develop Corus' thoughts on their deaths over the next few chapters, along with some drip-fed reveals. Corus' friends are spiders (and I subliminally create a menage a trois between Corus and the male and female cardinal spiders); they are reliable and are stable parts of his life. And he has a cat who seems to have deserted him (which is largely how he regards his mother and sister - he is abandoned). Corus' companions - people in his life by accident or design - are all oddballs - people who have been dealt a bum hand. With these characters, I hope to create bond-by-association, and I also use the interaction to show the tolerant side of Corus' nature.
I've pulled out many stops to cement a reader-protag bond (thereby creating, what I unbrilliantly refer to as the protagoreader).
So I wonder how easy it is to damage this bond. Travis is accepted by audience (sympathy) and the motivations for his murderous actions are understood (empathy). How does the viewer relate to his actions and his subsequent hero status?
Thoughts on this are ongoing.

Friday, 12 January 2007


Several people asked me to write a short analysis of my winning short-story - a few lines explaining my thought processes and techniques. I duly obliged, and the response to this was surprising.
When I revealed my techniques for creating anticipation - for controlling the reader - several readers were outraged that I had so successfully gone into their heads and manipulated them.
I spent some time thereafter considering my responsibilities.
However, to deny the writer's requirement to manipulate the reader seems, to me, rather naive.
Where is the story formed?
Not on the pages of a book. That's just a bunch of words.
The magic happens in the reader's head, where those words are mingled with the reader's unique experiences and beliefs and thoughts, and are interpreted accordingly. We throw words at the reader, and those words go into the reader's head, along with everything else in there, and the reader makes a story. We, as writers, do no more than manipulate or, if you prefer, shepherd the reader.
Consider this line:
She is a young girl.
Picture her.
We will all create our unique young girl.
I became particularly aware of this when I considered two books I had just finished reading. One was Pullman's Northern Lights. I forget what the other was. And in my mind, Lyra and the second young girl protagonist looked identical. That made me think!
I kind of liken this to Plato's world of ideas. We all have our template of a young girl.
The writer is going in at a point where that young girl exists, and must then refine the image - all of these unique images - and gradually mould the template into something that they/the story require/s.
I'd be very interested to discover where this template originates. Experiments suggest that this girl is not a single person, but is an amalgamation of family members and friends. However, I may be off course here.
I'm also interested in what I can rely on. Do I need to explain that she has two arms? Or, what will happen if I later explain that she has one arm? If the reader has automagically given her two arms, I'm liable to upset them.

Primary Representational Systems

This morning I began work on the second draft of my short story.
Last September, I was fortunate enough to win the first ever Litopian Laureate award.
You can check out Litopia (and my ss) for yourself here (more on Litopia soon):
I have decided to enter the third competition (although my decision to submit or not hangs in the balance).

Just before Christmas, I was hanging out in Cafe Rouge with some lecturer and ex-lecturer chums. One of them is now the Director of Education for a company called Confetti. I'd met him once before but had not really spoken with him.
He composes sonic soundscapes, and once studied hypnosis under Paul McKenna. We got on very well and chatted for some five hours; we discussed, amongst other topics, patterns and repetition and pauses, the N400 response, and something called NLP which is Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Fascinated by the similarities between his techniques and mine, I've been doing a little research and am experimenting with PRS (Primary Representational Systems). The idea is that we all perceive the world differently, and it has been suggested that we each have a primary means of evaluating our surroundings - that you might primarily use the sense of hearing and I might use the sense of touch, for example. Having just finished reading MJ Hyland's Man Booker-shortlisted Carry me Down, it was clear to me that she is a kinaesthetic person - that she uses the sense of touch predominantly in her writing. My feeling, however, is that some people have a primary RS and others don't.
When we write, we create an experience for the reader; we employ the five main senses, and possibly even those 'fringe' senses such as sense of hunger and sense of needing a wee.
This technique is also used in preparing a subject for hypnotic suggestion; essentially, the subject is conditioned to focus inwardly in much the same way that the writer draws the reader into the narrative and the outside world is removed.
To this end, and considering a number of choices for opening my short story, I have decided (for now, at least) to open kinaesthetically: the sun beats upon my protag's skin and she paddles her feet in the cool water of a rockpool. I am attempting to draw my reader into my world and have them feel that sun and the water; to create a sense of peace and relaxation such that they are receptive.
With this in place, I hope to create an emotional response by juxtaposing this tranquillity with ever-increasing violence, beginning with suggestion/subliminal themes.
More on emotional topography and subliminal techniques anon.


Welcome my friends to The Maggot Farm!
What and why? I hear you cry.
Chatting to a friend yesterday morning, I learned that he had once worked in (on?) a maggot farm. He told me of tiers of trays and of maggots measured and sold by the gallon and of festering fish fingers and cow carcasses. In a matter of minutes, a new world had opened before me, a world that existed alongside my own to which I had, until that moment, been utterly oblivious. And then I googled and caught a fleeting insight into the expanse of the maggot farming world.
Lives can change in such short moments. I have learned that I know so little, and I have changed perceptions and offered to others glimpses into new worlds. Every day is exciting to me; every day harbours untold portals to new worlds.
From this moment, I introduce the verb maggot farming: To actively make oneself receptive to new ideas.

Here at The Maggot Farm, I would be honoured to share my projects with you: my adventures in writing and art; my discoveries; the people I meet; the lessons I learn and the techniques I develop.
If I might inspire or introduce an interesting/practical idea to one person, this will have been worthwhile.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

hello world

Hey! This is all very new to me.
Might take me a while.
This is a test.