Archives for posts with tag: writing

I’m pleased to announce that this blog is evolving into something more.

That is, it’s becoming a webpage of its own.

Image

ALSO THAT

This website is the next step.

It will still be updated on Mondays.

There will still be a Short of the Week every Wednesday.

There will still be guest posts.

There will be differences, of course.

In aesthetics. In quality. In output.

But the core of the website is still the same.

I’m still the one writing it, after all.

Come check out my new home. 

It’s my mother’s birthday today.

I went home this weekend to celebrate with my family.

Whenever I go home, I am always reminded of how similar I am to my parents and sisters and how much my home life has shaped me.

This guy was on to something in spite of how much coke he did.

This guy was on to something in spite of how much coke he did.

Like it or not, everyone is shaped by their family. Your parents are the first people you meet. As a child, you probably spend more time with your siblings than anyone else. These are the people that teach you how to be a human and live in a human society. Even the absence of your family can shape the person you become.

And because characters are supposed to be as realistic as possible, they are also shaped by their home lives. When building characters, it’s important to think about how they were raised.

There’s a huge, huge potential for drama in a character’s upbringing. Daddy issues, Oedipal complexes, sibling rivalries- all massive sources of conflict in fiction going straight back to the Greeks. Even if it’s not pertinent to the story, even if you’re not going to include any of the details in the text or plot, you should think about how a character came to be who they are.

Family is a major theme in my own writing. Many of my characters are motivated by ties to their family. Some are devoted to the point of giving up their own lives. Others are unhappily bound, constantly feeling inadequate in the eyes of their parents and siblings.

Regardless of the role that familial bonds play in your plot, it’s important to consider your character’s upbringing. Think about when you meet a friend’s parents. Quirks that you’ve noticed make a lot more sense, as you’re seeing where this person came from and how they learned how to interact with the world.

As creators of fictional people, it’s important for writers to think about family life, as it will allow them to build three-dimensional characters that audiences can understand and relate to.

I have known Eden for some time. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him develop as a writer, even growing to surpass me in many ways. The imagery he uses in his prose reveals his poetic roots, what I consider to be his biggest strength. He wrote a short story called Ash for our reading pleasure.

My name is Eden Shulman, and I am the Vice President of the Northeastern Writing Club. I have had poetry published in Uppagus and articles published at the Northern Colorado Business Report. I like to write because it’s the best way to bleed.

 

ASH

It is August. We are a spectacular future. This whole town creaks when we run, thunderous feet over slat wooden porches and cracking sidewalks. I am twelve, and Joel is eighteen, and we ache with progression. We wrench ourselves through time. We scream as lightning bolts and crash like muscle cars.

This is the last summer before Joel leaves for college. He’s going to University of Colorado Boulder – an hour’s drive away, south along the edge of the foothills, highway winding through Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, and the outskirts of Boulder. Most mornings, I watch him drive into town. He leaves right after breakfast and returns far later than dinner, or not at all.

I spend my forested time in solitary confinement. August is my favorite month, when the dry heat smothers and the grass is yellowed from drought, when all the trees seem to crumble and the wind feels like hot breath. Waves of dried grass sway by our old wooden house. I take the dogs and tramp through the woods. Tie a rag to a stick and pretend I’m a hobo, just a tramp making his way through the lonely world. Untie the rag, the stick is now a machine gun, bang bang bang, bang bang bang. No, it’s a karate sword, and I’m fighting waves of ninjas. I spar with branches, box with bark, battle roots and duel needles. This forest is full of monsters, and I’m riding out, alone, with only my trusty steed and this spear to my name.

Joel brings around a girl to the house. Her name is Emma. Joel brings around a boy to the house. His name is Jesse. He takes them to his room, upstairs. The house is silent for a while, and then we hear waves of laughter. I am watching T.V. with my parents, eating ice cream before bed. Dad is tired, and goes upstairs to kick Joel’s friends out. They fight briefly, and then Emma and Jesse leave. Dad comes back downstairs and whispers with Mom in the kitchen for a bit. I hear the words “smoke” and “never” and “love”.

Dad drives me to Fort Collins to see my friend Georgia. She has a beagle puppy and we play with it in the backyard for a while. Dad stays inside and talks to Georgia’s mom. Eventually, her mom comes outside and tells us to take the dog for a walk. So we do, around the block, once, twice, and then down into the park. By the time we get back, the sky turning orange, so Dad comes outside and drives me back home.

At night, I like to keep my window open. When I was real little, the sounds of the woods used to scare me. I imagined there was a mountain lion, waiting to pounce, waiting for me to peek my eyes over the edge of the covers. Every snap or creak would send quakes down my spine. But I’m older now, nearly a teenager, and I know that the nighttime outside is the same as the daytime outside. The rustles are the woods breathing. I can fall asleep now to every crack and crunch as if they were the loveliest melodies.

On Saturday, Joel takes me on a hike, off trail, up the edge of a neighboring mountain. He helped me pack my backpack and make my lunch. I have an apple, a slice of cheesecake, and a ham sandwich. Joel has a coke and a PB&J. He showed me how to tighten the backpack straps around my waist and how to tie my hiking boots so I won’t roll my ankle. We stomp up bushy slopes. The pine trees shift by us and we feel they are watching us, guarding something unimaginable from our gaze. Joel lifts me up a particularly steep section and I hold branches out of the way so he won’t cut his shins.

Joel has a new tattoo, a snake winding his way around his upper arm. He wears longer shirts around our parents, and tells me to not tell them or he’ll punch me. He stripped to a tank top and I watch the snake. It writhes and slithers across his bicep with his arm movement as if it were actually alive. I make faces at it, behind his back. Bare my teeth, silently snarl, stick out my tongue, wiggle my ears. He can’t see me, so I flip him off, with both hands.

The top of the mountain. The city spreads before us like a doll’s model. It ends at the reservoir, which is bowled at the base of the slopes. We can see the red and green of traffic lights, the white Budweiser tower, the sound of distant sirens. A helicopter flies over the surface of the water far below, kicking up spray. I grab Joel’s sleeve and point at it.

“Why’s it flying so low?” I say.

Joel squints. “I dunno. Probably for the fire out there.”

A plume of smoke rises behind us. I worry for the house. It’s been a dry year. Joel tells me not to worry, it’s all the way out in the national park, way too far off to threaten us. We eat our sandwiches and watch the helicopters buzz by. They look like little flies, tasting the water with their feet.

Mom is worried. The smoke is getting bigger. “Just an hour ago it was nothing,” she’s saying, over and over. She’s overwatering the garden, and Dad takes the hose away and tells her to relax.

I sleep with the window closed that night. The smoke from the fire is so thick that it’s hard to breathe in my room. It gives everything a faint greyish-sepia tinge, as if we were living in an old movie. Joel bitches about his car. “It’s gonna get ash all over it. It’ll get in the engine.”

Dad says it’ll be fine. He’s our massage, our chamomile tea, our midnight snack.

I am woken by the kitchen light. My clock says 4:30 in the morning. I walk out of the bedroom. “What are you doing up?”

Dad is shirtless, wild. His pants are rolled up and he’s shoveling books into a travel bag.“Sammy,” he says. “Listen to me. We’re being evacuated. Get all of your things together that you want to bring, and put them out next to the van.”

“Can I take Davy Crockett?”

“Yes. Take him and his cage and his snacks. We can get more feed at Vern’s.”

I take Davy Crockett and rub his fur for a while. He wriggles in my hands, and his nose is twitching. He sniffs my fingers for treats. I put him back in his cage and he begins to run in his wheel. I take the cage last, pack everything else first.

Posters rolled up from my wall. My grandfather’s violin. School backpack. Collection of young adult mystery books.

Mom comes in my room and begins to go through my packing. She has a halo of hair. “Do you have a coat?”

“Yeah. Right here.”

“Wind coat? Boots?”

“Here and here.”

She repacks my clothing for maximum efficiency and then goes to check on Joel. I move all of my bags out next to the car and then go back for Davy Crockett. Dad starts to toss the bags in the car, haphazardly, shouting that we’re supposed to be out in an hour. The smoke is so thick that I can’t see the front of the house from the driveway. The dogs jump about in circles, excited to be going on a trip. The cats can’t be found, and it’s a crisis until Joel snags one from under the couch and the other from behind the baseboard of the bed.

Davy Crockett freaks out a little when I lift his cage and put it into the car. He doesn’t like to be so close to the dogs. He squeaks and hides in the corner away from them. I open the top of the cage and rub his head to calm him down, but Mom tells me to close it so the dogs aren’t tempted to stick their snouts in.

I sit in Joel’s car, in the front seat. Mom is driving the van and Dad is driving the truck. We’ll have to leave the other truck; no way can we bring it now. The sun is just rising over the edge of plains, and we can barely see it through the smoke. It looks like an orange circle of construction paper. The house quickly fades away when Joel starts to drive. We’re driving through soupy ash. Joel leans forward, straining to see the road. The whole world has disappeared away from us. We hurtle, alone, through space.

Brake lights. A line of cars snaking past the cops. They wave us past, and as we drive down into the valley, we leave the tomb. There are faint wisps floating on the wind, but behind us the smoke walls up like a kingdom.

Joel drives to elementary school, where the policeman said the homeowner’s conference was being held. As Dad and Mom listen to the fire chief give his speech, I walk the dogs down by the creek. Santa is shivering, scared of the mysterious circumstance. Glenn is bouncing. He’s a puppy and everything new that happens to him is exciting.

I put the dogs back into the car and feed Davy Crockett little treats. He’s exploring out of his corner now, getting more used to this new environment. My parents come out of the school’s gym with Joel trailing behind them. Joel is texting and walking. Usually Dad yells at him for doing that, but today he doesn’t notice.

“How was it?” I ask when they get back in the car.

Mom turns to Dad. “Let’s call the Shapiro’s. They have an extra room for the kids and a foldout couch. They might let us stay over.”

“Hey, how was it?” I say.

Dad starts the car and begins to pull out of the parking lot. “I think what we should do next is go to Vern’s and get some coffee. I need something to eat, and so do the kids.”

I tap the back of Dad’s head. “What happened in there? What’d they say?”

“Sammy,” he says. “It’s not looking good. It’s zero percent contained and the line keeps moving towards us. I just want you to be ready for that, okay?”

Vern’s is an old gas station slapped on to the outskirts of a diner. The kind of place with electronic fish heads and rake displays and signed photos of local celebrities tacked to the wall. They have a soda bar and a section where you can buy winter coats. I used to love to hide among the racks out of sight of the rest of the store and pretend I was living in a house of coats, clothed walls nobody could penetrate.

We sit in a booth near a window and I order some fried eggs and toast. Joel orders a double side of hash browns. Mom and Dad talk about where we’re going to go for a while. The McKendrick’s are out; they have real little kids and no extra space. Dad can’t stay at the office cause it’s being remodeled, and we can’t afford a hotel. “We could be out of the house for weeks,” Mom says.

“How about the Underwood’s?” Dad says.

I swallow my bite of toast real fast so I can spit out these words: “Oh, yeah! I wanna stay with Georgia!”

Mom tries to veto, but Dad puts up his hand. “They have two couches and a spare room, they like us a lot, and it’s close to Sammy’s school.”

“Won’t we be back in the house by then?” Joel says.

“Not necessarily. The fire guy said it could be a few weeks. They gotta establish a perimeter and make sure all of the hot spots are put out.”

Joel rummages around inside of his backpack. “Where’s my watch? Sammy, do you got my watch?”

“No, it’s in your room.”

He’s unzipping every pocket, pouring out pens onto the floor. “Shit. Shit. Oh, I can’t believe this.”

Mom tries to put her hand on top of Joel’s but he brushes her away and stands up out of the booth. “I’m gonna go check the car. This is the worst.”

I follow him outside to help him look. “Did you check the cupholders?”

“Sam,” he says. “Go back inside. It’s okay.”

“No, I wanna—“

But Joel’s kicking the grass on the edge of the curb, over and over, so hard that clods of earth are flying upwards and into the road. He isn’t saying anything but his mouth is a thin white line and his face is growing redder. He’s flailing; his arms are windmilling. He looks like he’s fighting a swarm of invisible wasps. “Shit!” he finally screams. He waves me away, locks himself inside the car, and starts his iPod.

“Joel’s having a fit,” I tell Mom, but she says to leave him alone. The Underwood’s are close to Vern’s, just a ten minute drive down College Ave, and I ride in the back with Mom this time, and leave Joel to drive himself. He doesn’t come back for a few hours.

Georgia and I go outside to the dead pine tree that stands like a skeleton in her back yard, and we search for slugs among the roots. I find a branch and we use it to poke underneath the tree, where the dirt is colder. We flip over stones and pull grass out from around the base.

“Can Davy Crockett stay in your room?” I say.

“I need to ask Mom,” Georgia says. “I got Fisher in the tank and there’s stuff on my desk.”

Georgia’s mom is talking to my mom in the kitchen. She stands with her hips leaning against the silver sink and the phone tucked underneath her arm. Mom has her head in the laptop.

She’s looking up the local news reports.

“Can Sammy put his hamster in my room?” Georgia says.

Her mom nods, so we take Davy Crockett upstairs and find a place for him among Georgia’s colored paper and drawing pens. She likes to draw; scribblings are scattered around the room, taped to walls and stacked on her shelves.

I hear the front door open, and Joel’s voice announcing that he’s arrived. “Hello, Mrs. Boyd,” Emma says.

“Joel’s friend,” my mom says to Georgia’s mom, once Emma and Joel have left for somewhere.

We eat dinner at a cheap burrito place down in Old Town. That night, I sleep on the foldout and Joel sleeps on the opposite couch. The loud hum and buzz of the refrigerator and the glow from Joel’s phone keep me up. Mom and Dad take the guest room, and when I go to the bathroom, I can hear them talking in hushed voices.

Dad takes me to a large open air auditorium the next day, where all of the evacuated families were gathered to hear the news of their neighborhoods. Thirty five thousand of us were evacuated in total, though only seven thousand or so were in the crowd. The police chief explains the path of the fire; how it was started by a lightning strike in the High Park area, and has moved east towards the reservoir and the houses back there. About a hundred houses lost already, it seems, and it’s only twenty percent contained.

A woman in front of us is wearing a straw cowboy hat, and keeps taking it off to fan her head. When she does, I see that she has a large bald spot in the middle of her skull, like a middle aged man.

We eat pasta that night, silently, around the large circular table in Georgia’s dining room. Afterward, we walk the puppy down the street, and I turn towards the hills edging the horizon, and try to guess where our house might be. The mountains have always loomed over Fort Collins as watchful sentinels. We’re far enough away that the details blend into each other in a blue haze, so all we can see are the silhouettes of the peaks, like a row of jagged teeth.

There’s an old Colorado joke that Dad likes to tell to his family when they visit. “In Colorado, we only have two directions: towards the mountains and away from the mountains”.

It’s a kind of regional token, something to show we are unique from the other Southwestern states. Something to give us a sort of shared history; a bonding with the other families and folks whose history spans from Europe to New England to a second generation move out west; a folksy history of Dad jokes from ancient times.

But now, the mountains which shadow our city have been shadowed by a bigger darkness. The smoke cloud looms like an avenging angel, with wings outspread. Ash has been raining down on the town for a couple of days, and we can see some floating now, like toxic snowflakes. I wonder if any of the bits we see are burned remnants of our home. Whether the dusty coatings on cars used to be the photos that lined our upstairs hall. Whether our feet are crunching through the carbonized atoms of the porch, of Mom’s wicker rocking chair, of my teddy bears, of the painted masks from Guatemala that watched over all our dinners.

I’m awoken in the middle of the night by raised voices from up the stairs. Joel’s not here, either. The couch is empty and the blanket is tossed off to the side. Maybe they’re all upstairs.The guest bedroom door is slightly ajar, and through the crack I can see the back of my parent’s heads as they watch TV.

Dad is holding Mom, and but with his other hand he’s rubbing the top of his head, over and over. Mom is curled in a puddle of darkness. She shakes. Through the gap in between them I can see the TV: fire, helicopters, splashing water. I stand for so long my thighs start to ache, and I nearly doze off standing, like a horse.

My parent’s haven’t moved in ages. Dad is still rubbing his head, back and forth.

“Oh,” Mom says, startling me out of my reverie. “That’s the McKendrick’s house. Oh my god, it’s right on the side of their house. Robert, that’s right down the street. Oh, no.”

“Oh my god,” Dad says, quietly.

I don’t want to watch this anymore, so I walk back downstairs. A tinkle from outside, like the splintering of glass. I look out the front door. Joel is standing out there, in his jeans and an undershirt, about halfway across the street, chucking bottles off into the darkness. He has a good pile next to him, about ten or twelve. The light from the streetlamp refracts into the bottles and casts points of green all down the block.

I open the door and walk out next to him. “What are you doing?”

He doesn’t turn around, and throws another bottle off in between the houses across the street. “You couldn’t sleep either?”

“Mom and Dad woke me up. They’re watching the fire on TV. It’s right by the McKendrick’s house.”

Joel doesn’t say anything to this, and hands me a bottle. “You wanna toss one?”

“Where?” I say.

“Right down there, in between the houses. See that white bit? That’s a half wall of cement. I’ve been trying to hit the center over there.”

I hold the bottle by its head and throw it overhand. It spins a bunch of times and flies too low, shattering over the edge of the curb and spraying shards onto the sidewalk.

“It’s better if you throw it sidehand, like this. That way you can kind of Frisbee it and it’ll go father,” Joel says, and shows me.

I try this and the bottle flies too high, over the edge of the half wall, and breaks off in the darkness behind the houses. Joel throws again, and gets a direct center hit. The glass pieces spray outwards in a nearly perfect circle. I throw again, and miss. We keep tossing bottles till a porch light flips on from down the street.

We are all in one car together, two days later. We’ve gotten a call from the sheriff saying we’re free to return to our property, and so we’re driving through the blackened, twisted skeletons of trees and the craters of former houses towards ours.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Dad says. He’s been saying it a lot the past day or so.

On our mile long driveway, what had once been rows of forested soldiers now seemed like skinny screaming ghosts. The blackness spread in waves across the ground, layers emanating outwards from the mountains. Before, the trees that had been so thick you’d get scratches trying to walk between them were now an open pass between burned husks. There is a terrible silence; no bird calls, no secret scritch-scratching in the bushes, no loud cracks out breaking tree branches. From far off, I could hear the chop of helicopter blades.

Our house had been nestled above the driveway, so as you drove up the mountain you could see it rising out like an ancient totem. But now, there was nothing to rise, and only the empty air could be seen. We park at the top of the driveway. The old truck that we left is also burned, and black, and empty.

The house is now a pile of grey and black and twisted dark metal. Three burned supports poke up from various spots in the wreckage, and the brick chimney stands like a final warrior. The firefighters told us that it’d be too dangerous to walk on, so we skirt the perimeter of the house and look down on our former home, skittish and wary to touch. Mom starts to cry and gets back in the car, shuts the door and puts her head between her knees.

Joel crouches down on the far side of the rectangled hole and pokes his hand into the area that had been his bedroom before and begins to sift through the ash and embers. Dad shouts at him from across the wreckage to stop, that he might cut his hand, but Joel continues anyway. He stops, and pulls out a little blackened object, a twisted, incomprehensibly shaped little nub. As he spins it in the light, I see the brown face and cracked glass of Joel’s watch. Joel looks at it for a moment, then stands up from his crouch and tucks it into his sweatshirt pocket.

He shuffles to the edge of the driveway where the edge drops off, palms the watch back into his hand, and hurls it deep into the forest. I hear it clack off of a tree trunk and drop down into blackness.

“I’m gonna go,” he says, walking past the three of us. We watch him as he hikes down the driveway, through the silent screams of the dead trees, rounds a curve, and disappears.

I keep what I found that day for years; after college, a career, one failed marriage and one good marriage, after my kids have left and countless lines of dogs and cats have left as well, I still keep the husk of that watch, which I found sleeping amid some burned logs near a trickle of water. The High Park fire was a long time ago now, and the house has been rebuilt, and a new family lives in it now (or maybe they moved, and there’s a new family now, who tell their kids about the fire years and years ago). Joel lives three states away among the ashes of his own family, and, over the phone, without Mom and Dad to talk to, his nights bleed into mine.

These days come shorter and shorter in retirement, but the hours are longer. I still live near Fort Collins, in this old cabin out in the mountains, among the peaks, between the teeth. I like to spend them out in the forest, among my friends, trying to listen to the sounds of the pine trees crackling and the squirrels fighting over nuts, holding the watch up to my ear to see if maybe, just maybe, it’ll give one final tick.

 

I have recently had the pleasure of reading Chuck Palahnuik’s Invisible Monsters.

Flip this cover over and you get a sad old lady with a head injury.

Flip this cover over and you get a sad old lady with a head injury.

The name probably sounds familiar because he is also the writer of Fight Club.

There is actually a funny bit of history when it comes to Invisible Monsters and Fight Club. See, Chuck wrote Monsters first and got rejected because the publisher said that the book was too graphic and disturbing (they might have had a point).

So, Chuck, in a fit of spite, wrote Fight Club as a kind of “fuck you” in order to show them just how graphic and disturbing a novel can be.

Of course, the publishers loved it and Fight Club became wildly successful and pretty much catapulted him into the spotlight. Naturally, they gave Invisible Monsters  a chance.

And I’m glad they did.

Invisible Monsters is a remarkable book. Told in the first person, it follows a supermodel whose jaw gets blown off in a bizarre turn of events.

Of course, there’s nothing to be done to repair her face, so she pretty much just walks around with her tongue hanging out of her open throat hole.

Because nobody wants to look at the horror that is her face, she calls herself an invisible monster and soon teams up with a transgendered woman and her insanely attractive male companion. The three of them then tour the country stealing pills from the houses of wealthy people.

I know the plot doesn’t sound like much, but that’s because I’m explaining it linearly. The narrator jumps around from past and present, making things much more interesting as questions are posed then answered. The plot is not the crown jewel of this novel.

Palahniuk has a gift for writing first person narration. It feels like I, the reader, am having a conversation with this character (even though she can’t talk, you know, cause of her jaw…). She’s telling me her story. And even though she skips around and gets side-tracked, I’m hooked.

The cast is colorful, from the narrator’s bombshell transgendered mentor, Brandy Alexander, to her paranoid parents who can’t get over their gay son’s AIDS related death.

Chuck does a great job of weaving a common thread through such a diverse crowd- everyone suffers from self-inflicted wounds, caused in part from an effort to reinvent themselves.

Identity plays such a huge role in this story, as the characters are constantly changing their names and background stories. They mutilate their bodies in an effort to adapt themselves to the image the have for themselves. Some even do it just to stave off boredom,unwilling to live an ordinary life.

All of them are trying to reinvent who they are. All of them are trying to write their own stories.

And it’s a breeze to read. I mean, I would sit and knock out fifty pages without even realizing it. The writing is just so damn accessible. And Palahniuk does a great job of teasing readers with questions and answers. I kept reading because I wanted to know who these people really were and the flow of information came at a trickle until the very end.

Overall, this was a great book and I was glad that I read it. Did I like it more than Fight Club? No, but it’s a great read in its own right. If you liked Fight Club, I would definitely recommend it.

On Friday I graduated college.

Fine looking family.

Big day in Theebs history

It was a pretty good day.

At first, I thought it was stupid. A huge gathering of people all wearing the same thing, sitting around listening to some windbags go on about our futures and the first days of the rest of our lives.

But as the ceremony went on, I felt immense joy. Me and all of the people I have associated with for the past five years have accomplished something together. It turned out to be a good time.

During the ceremony, I wrote a poem to mark the occasion. Here it is in its entirety:

The end is beginning

And the bells are

ringing

ringing

ringing.

Raise your voices in celebration.

Begin singing

singing

singing.

The doors are open.

Wide and free.

The path stretches

before you and me.

Those bells are chiming

Still ringing

ringing

ringing.

The voices are swelling

Still singing

singing

singing.

The path is winding

long and unknown.

We follow along,

not knowing where it goes.

The bells are thunderous.

Ringing

ringing

ringing.

The voices are sonorous.

Singing

singing

singing.

The world is spread before us.

With all its horror and glory.

Come tragedy or comedy,

whatever the story.

Those bells ring us in

like a new calender year.

The voices sing our praises

to chase away our fear.

It is time.

The end is beginning.

The bells are still sounding.

The voices keep singing.

For those of you who don’t have their fingers on the pulse of quality television, a universally hated character was killed off last night.

There was rejoicing all over the internet. People were psyched that this actor pretended to die on their screen.

But things go further than that. If you were to see this actor on the street, you would probably feel hate bubbling in your stomach with volcanic intensity. You can’t separate the character from the actor.

Skyler White- one of the most reviled characters on TV.

Skyler White- one of the most reviled characters on TV. Not to be confused with actress Anna Gunn.

This association is the product of two things- the talent of the actor and the skill of the writers.

Seeing this on-screen death and the resulting internet excitement has made me realize how important it is to write convincing characters. Characters that makes the audience suspend disbelief to the point where they forget there is any disbelief at all.

Intellectually, this may seem obvious. But it’s another thing to internalize.

We try to make our characters seem as human as possible. A lot of the time, writers miss the mark. Sure, we write believable characters, but they don’t inspire reactions that make the internet explode with rage or adoration.

There’s got to be some kind of secret recipe to make an audience connect with a character.

In cases of hate, it seems that the best course of action is to keep villains safe from karma’s clutches. No matter how bad they are, how depraved or violent they become, have them get away with it. The longer they go causing harm, the more audiences will despise them and become emotionally invested.

With good guys, it’s a little trickier. Anti-heroes are vogue. Think about Walter White. Frank Underwood. Donald Draper. These are not good men. Some would call them fucking sociopaths. It’s complicated as to why audiences like them. They’re in on their secrets and want to see them get away with it. Maybe some love to hate them and want to see them fail.

Then there are the Ned Starks. The ones who are good to a fault, whose morals lead them down the path of destruction. Audiences become invested in them because they so desperately want to see them succeed in the face of insurmountable odds, knowing in the back of their heads it’s hopeless.

What resonates with an audience is an impossible thing to predict. It’s a ghost. Something that only exists in retrospect.

But it’s clear that success lies in writing characters that audiences can become emotionally invested in, either through loving or despising them.

It’s rare to read a book that makes you want to go out and write. Most of the time, this motivation comes from how terrible a book is. There are instances few and far between where a book is so good that it makes a writer strive to write something half as good.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer is one of the small number of books that fall into that elusive second category.

First Edition Cover

First Edition Cover

I can’t succinctly explain why I am so enchanted with this book. It could be that it’s a seamless blend of Sci-Fi and Noir, two genres that are very dear to my heart. This combination is described as “cyberpunk” but I don’t think that really does the blend justice, and Gibson himself has tried to distance himself from the term, so I mention it here with some hesitation. Neuromancer is, at its heart, a thing of its own.

It could be the vivid description of this futuristic Earth in slow decay as people distract themselves with sex, drugs, and the endless sprawl of the matrix (a crazy, immersive version of the internet).

Oh yeah, let me mention that this book was MILES ahead of its time. Neuromancer was published in 1984 and written on a fucking typewriter. Yet Gibson predicts things like widespread use of the internet, body augmentation, and cryogenic storage.

Then there’s the plot. On top of everything else, the reader gets a tight heist/mystery with more than a few twists and turns.

And the characters…I was really blown away with how well rounded they were for a novel that appeared on the surface to be completely driven by plot. And I couldn’t believe how fucking sad I was when everything was over, because things didn’t turn out the way I wanted or expected.

Finally, the writing itself is nothing short of spectacular. Maybe that’s why Neuromancer sports one of the most famous opening lines in the history of modern fiction:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

I don’t think there’s a better way of setting the scene for the madness and bloodshed the reader is about to witness. All packaged in a simple description of the sky.

Yeah, so I guess I’m done gushing. Neuromancer is an amazing book and everyone should read it. Get it here.

Local couple Joshua Barns, 25, and Alexandra Evans, 22, were experiencing some relationship problems.

"Way better than talking things out."

“Way better than talking things out.”

“Things were pretty bad.” Admitted Barns, smiling sheepishly at his girlfriend.

“Yeah,” Evans agreed. “It just seemed like there was no hope for us.”

When prompted, the now-stable couple went into detail about their problems.

“Well, it just seemed like we were always fighting. Not about anything in particular, just fighting about anything and everything. Whenever I came home, I felt like I was stepping into a boxing ring with Allie.”

“I hate to admit it, but it’s true. We were always at odds. Everything we said to one another smacked of bitterness and resentment, if we were even speaking to each other. Usually we would break long, uncomfortable silences with snippy, thinly veiled insults.” Alexandra confirmed her boyfriend’s claims.

The couple speculated on what exactly caused their three year relationship to fall apart. Alexandra cited her boyfriend’s emotional dependence on marijuana use and the fact that he had been unemployed for almost a year. Joshua responded by mentioning the deep, caustic resentment he felt toward Alexandra for forcing him to stay with her in Boston instead of taking a lucrative job offer across the country in Los Angeles.

But just when things seemed doomed, something amazing happened.

“I was reading an issue of Cosmo that was talking about relationship problems. It went through some boring cures we had already tried- talking to each other, being honest about what we truly want, doing what makes you the most happy. None of those were working out for us. Then it mentioned something we hadn’t tried. Anal. It seemed almost too good to be true.”

Joshua smiled knowingly. “I was skeptical, to be completely frank. We’d never done anal before and I really couldn’t see how it could repair the months of damage mutual emotional neglect had done. But then one night we both got drunk and said ‘fuck it, let’s give this a shot.'”

And give it a shot they did. After engaging in anal sex, things immediately turned around.

“It was amazing.” Alexandra beamed. “It was like all the tension in our relationship was gone as soon as he slipped into my butt.”

Joshua put his arm around his girlfriend. “I don’t know how to describe it. I think we just…pounded away all of the negativity.”

However, the couple made it clear that there are still issues between them.

“Oh, we still fight all the time.”

“All the time.” Alexandra repeated, nodding and smiling. “But now whenever we get into arguments, we just make up with anal sex. Then everything goes back to when we first met each other.”

“It really is a miracle cure.” said Joshua. “Way better than talking things out.”

I love Greek mythology. This is not the first time I’ve written about it.

A Detail of "Mercury and Paris" by Donato Creti

A Detail of “Mercury and Paris” by Donato Creti

I took a few minutes to write a poem about one of the most interesting deities- Hermes. I recently read the book Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde, and in it was an entire section on the role Hermes plays in the Greek pantheon. Hyde writes a very interesting cultural study, so if you’re interested in mythology and how it relates to modern culture, this may be the book for you.

Anyways, here’s my poem.

Ode to Hermes

Everything stolen
Tastes sweeter.
Be it candy
Or a heart.

I offer these lines
In sacrifice
To the father
Of this art.

Only a child himself,
When he boosted his first prize,
Covering his tracks
And heaping on the lies.

That swift-footed progenitor
Brought a gift to mankind.
Giving us the ability
To rob each other blind.

A stolen toy
May bring tears
And a stolen kiss
A smirk.

Stolen money
brings tragedy,
But puts off
A day of work.

Keep your hands
To yourself.
Keep walking
The line.

Keep your wits about
Or what’s yours
Will soon be mine.

Another prompt. I got a little silly with this one.

Mother Nature is fine as hell.

Mother Nature is fine as hell.

Describe a moment where you connected with nature.

Mother Nature is a little milf-y

If you know what I mean.

Yeah, she’s an old broad,

But still fine as fine can be.

Don’t believe me? Look around you. The proof’s all there-

Just look at the birds, or fish, or wild hopping hare.

Yes, she’s a naughty girl, that Mother Nature.

I love her so much, I think I might date her.

I’d hold myself to her earthy breast

And prance naked in her delta.

I’d bury my face in her flowers

Because I love the smell of her.

Yeah, me and Mother Nature, we have a good thing.

No matter the season I love her

Come summer, winter, fall, or spring.

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