After my first season head coaching the reserve soccer team at Saint Olaf, I’m back to my regular routine.
Having just taken a big 5 personality test on understandmyself.com, I’ve been reminded I like having variety in my schedule.
Last week, Monday was the last soccer game.
Tuesday through Friday, I completed posts for Octalysis, new episodes for Bound’s Cumulus, a bit of short story writing, and work on Sound of Stone.
It feels good to get back into the novel.
Have you ever thought about Purpose?
Purpose is something different for everyone.
We chatted in the OP community for over an hour and I’m not even sure I gained ground, but we made a great effort!
To me, it seems purpose is something like:
Doing something in the consensus reality that provides subjectively good qualia or happiness in one’s internal reality.
A description of a motive or path which gives direction in moments of indecision, a reminder based on a summation of values (which derive from DNA/culture/experience/environment/moods/emotions).
A fulfillment- and potential-maximizing statement (assuming a long life).
Why People Joined the Beta Reading Team
In response to this question, I recently answered: “Because I asked them to.”
But this reply is too simplistic. If anything, it is because each individual decided they wanted to, after I’d asked them.
Trigger then decision.
There was something about the way I asked, I guess.
The easiest way, perhaps, would be to ask each reader why. Then I might know with better clarity, and see a range of responses.
Human behavior and motivation is at the heart of my work with Yu-kai Chou (yukaichou.com), but emotion and logic are at the heart of a work of fiction, too.
Now that readers are reading, the question becomes: “Why did you keep reading? Why did you stop reading?
The challenge becomes: Can I keep readers reading till the end? (And keep them wanting more?)
We’ll see :)
what would it mean to be a hunter-gather writer?
In reading the opening chapters of Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, I’m struck not only by the vivid storytelling but also by the persuasiveness of his arguments.
Perhaps something has been lost, mainly our symbiosis with nature, in the agricultural revolution and beyond.
What I’m thinking about: -If human progress is good (or the progress of conscious beings), is this still good to the detriment of domesticated animals and environmental degradation? (Yuval makes the interesting point that Homo Sapiens had made extinct many megafauna even before the agricultural revolution…and we continue to make animals extinct today, though at least now some people and people-made institutions are paying attention to this.)
-Could we have developed the technology we have today without farming? (I guess…yes. We would have a hunter-gatherer lifestyle with all the technological progress…but I also guess that progress would have taken longer…but on a geological scale, perhaps not too much longer.) ^ This is interesting to ponder. Less humans would have been born, a LOT less, but we would have also killed a LOT less of each other in the numerous territorial and resources conflicts since. ^ Could advanced hunter-gatherer societies have resisted fighting over, say, learning how to use combustible engines, oil, fuel, and so on? I’m imagining a land vehicle or blimp would help in hunter-gathering.
What does this mean for us, for me? -I’ve nature-nurtured my way to enjoy thinking and writing. It is an exploration. Was part of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle exploration? They didn’t always roam far, because they needed to learn routes and ways of the flora and fauna in their neighborhoods. We like travel but also home. -As someone who likes to write (I usually call myself a writer, although really I’m just a human), how would my lifestyle be different in 1) a hunter-gatherer society; in 2) an advanced hunter-gather society (fictional); and in 3) a current 2017 reality where writing and fiction and art are separate but combined and blended in so many other forms? (music, film, visual art)
I’m not sure. Which is fine. So I will continue gathering my thoughts. No need to hunt too much. I hear the hunter-gathers were mostly gatherers, anyway. (This doesn’t mean we can’t change, but we need to think about WHAT we want, and want to want, in other words what our philosophy is, and make decisions and efforts toward those individual lives and families and societies and ultimately Earth and beyond.)
Welcome to Erik’s Story Voyage!
This is where I’ll leave some journals about my writing and storytelling journey.
Student → Apprentice → Professional
I’m in the Student stage of my journey. I’ll learn in all stages (that’s my personality), but I’m very aware of how little I know about writing and storytelling.
There, I’ve said it. Now it’s time to get back to work :)
waking and walking and writing
I was a bit restless today, but still spent 3 hours on the novel.
I moved around my apartment and Minneapolis, short jogs and a skip (on foot) to the corner grocer to replenish the milk. Vitamin D!
I’m reaching roughly the 18 or 20% mark of the Big Revision #3. This number is made up. It could easily be called Significant Change Of THE Manuscript #9.
I’m not that good at organizing revisions yet, but I am using Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid to map this one, and enjoying it.
Many scenes are waving so long while others tug at me to reconsider.
The same occurs at the level of the paragraph and the sentence and the word.
Meanwhile, I’m learning more and more about my protagonist, particularly her flaws. Always learning haha.
Just finished Iron Council, now reading the Gulag Archipelago
to mark a moment
the below won’t make sense…it is just notes, my stream of conscious as I connect ideas…I do this regularly…since the below gave me a clearer image of the book’s emotional climax, I wanted to mark the moment in time (even though this happened last night around 9:30)…
upcoming scene: -migration at the lava bridge scene -analogy w/ syrian refugees (also look up other refugee stories… -gulag archipelago…Shay would have been a stone archeaologist (^when they chase Armis to Abyss/Source, do they have a chance to set free all the children archae’s, but if they do, they may not catch up to Armis in time…this way I get the moral philosophy question of do you save them or do you omit to save them and continue the larger quest) [by the way, Armis must have seen something religious etc or in poetry or legends from Mt Yona to make him believe revival is possible…one of the oldest stories, this is good, the old christian myths] anything else w/ Jungian archetypes…damn my storytelling chops are HEATING up…keep them growing like a jumbalaya pot…I’m apprentice to ALL the masters out there…I write to join that conversation, carry Solzhenistn through the ages, just as the sound of stones carries through the ages in the music of the wilders.
Qs…other side of not catching Armis is Tyranny (but Shay will choose a possible Tyranny in order to save the overall project…because there’s some connection she has with the Source…just like she had with the bone in the opening, that is WORTH the risk of tyranny ruining EVERYTHING –> similar to, we will push for AI even with the risk it will end humanity…just as we pursued Atomic weapons…knowledge we’d be better off not knowing…like JBP thinks, we don’t know what we’re “leaving out” of a truth-survival equation, so we won’t know if some high knowledge was too dangerous to understand until it is too late, most of the time…slightly different to the ‘falling into the wrong hands’ risk) ^ this is big, this is the emotional conclusion to the book! Shay finds and confronts the culprit, she’s at his mercy, but she figures out how to escape…and instead of shooting him down like she does at Crisis 1, she lowers the arrow, like she does at the Jag chasing her (believeable because she’s lowered her arrow before, at the VERY beginning)…SO she ends the fight with tyranny herself, let’s tyranny go on (a chaos feature in the game)…OR is Armis killing people, the child, and what Rienna is doing, enslaving children an externality that Shay is fine with, to attain greatness there’s something that has to be sacrificed… (it’s like the FBI, it’s a disillusionment)
“a well-thought-out critique is gold”
“I don’t give much to hope or withful thinking…I just give it my all in everything I’m doing.”
Threads of Peace - a short story (action/fantasy/realism)
“I’m going to have a look.”
The artillery explosions had ceased. Geoff turned his neck to see his roommate, Han, pulling himself out from under the couch where they’d hid all through the night.
“Mistah, don’t do it,” said Geoff’s houseboy Theo, peeking across from his hiding place under a tribal drum, the only bit of decoration in the house aside from Theo’s fabrics.
The boy’s head was still, holding the same intensity he applied to his tailoring on the sewing machine Geoff had bought him. The boy had expressed interest in supporting his family.
“He would know,” said Geoff to Han. Theo’s country had been wartorn for all twelve years of his young life. But Han, a contract pilot for their operation here, preferred action to its alternative.
And they’d been under a couch all night.
Geoff watched him walk stiffly into the next room. For balance, he ran his hand along the bullet-holed table. He reached the iron shutters.
“Mistah,” said Theo, “please.” The boy started to take a piece of cloth out of his pocket. The shutters creaked as Han opened them.
Gunfire. Geoff heard collapsing, gasping, groaning.
Geoff and Theo scrambled to Han, staying crouched below the shutters. With his cloth, Theo wiped the blood from the man’s chest, looking for the wound. He tried stopping up the wound with the cloth. “Your kindness is in it,” said Theo to Geoff, “but I don’t know if my skill was enough.” The cloth collected blood. Han whimpered.
Just as dawn crept into the house, the last thread of Han’s life left him. Theo folded the bloodied piece of cloth with bloodied hands, pocketed it. Geoff watched, regret rising within. He could have stopped Han.
// you can read the rest of the story here: *https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Fwcy2b3sQ4uj3mk3UQjVG-4aacvfEXPvbSox8SoYQIc/edit?usp=sharing*
Thoughts from halfway point of A Fire Upon the Deep
In such a large idea story, the characters from the various faction are holding their own and helping to drive the B story (to the A plot of the Blight spreading in the Beyond).
The idea elements of family and consciousness are handled delicately while maintaining scale.
The packs of lupine aliens are effectively imagined, from their appearance, desires, interaction with each other and environment and the alien humans, and their multiple consciousness form.
This pack mentality (and their additive single consciousness) is an idea I’m experimenting with further in Sound of Stone through Avatlis’s character, which is two parts ceph and one part human. The Cephs think in an aesthetic frame different to humans. But I can further play with this (even if I don’t use Avatlis as a POV character).
I’m also paying attention to the language and speech. The lupine aliens use various frequencies of sound to think. They don’t hear too much from the humans initially, and are confused about their ability to think and to what level of consciousness they may have reached.
Alright! About 10/20 hours to go in the audiobook.
The Revision Process
Starts with the pitch.
As a novel unfolds, the writer has an advantage over the reader.
In other words, the “Louise” view (æ la Arrival). She gets to see the tapestry of events throughout life.
As I prepare to pitch agents sometime in 2017, I’m considering the pitch and query and back cover copy and synopsis, I’m equally making a revision plan after a two-month beta reading session.
I’ve paged through Shawn Coyne’s ‘The Story Grid’, which has helped hone the internal and external content genre of my novel.
External content genre: mystery (specifically, what Coyne terms a Cozy, since the protagonist is an amateur sleuth with special insight or abilities to solve the mystery.)
In his terminology, from an external content standpoint I’ve also written a domestic story, as there are family politics to maneuver.
On the internal side, my protagonist moved through a maturation process (not quite a coming of age), which places the story in the Worldview vertical for internal.
Much more to think through before completing my own story grid ahead of the next revision process.
The limits of close-to-third-person narration
Close-to-third is useful, but has its limits. (Limits, generally, are fine.)
It is common, even trending (just as first-person-present is).
For example, we can achieve through setting descriptions character moods and motivations.
Imagine drinking a glass of water after a workout.
Imagine abusing the abundance of a glass of water, on Dune. Wasting it.
Imagine avoiding even the swallowing of one’s spit, during a fast. Imagine doing so while watching others quench their own thirst all around you, downing glasses of water like waterfalls into seemingly bottomless throats, stomachs.
The above examples express varying sentiments around water, from scarcity to thirst to cultural positions and rituals.
Close to third hinders the presence of a narrator, a narrator who’s presence is difficult to remove even with strict adherence to close-to-third point-of-view style.
I’ve experimented with coming out of close-to-third to allow the narrator to say things.
When I do, I try to have a reason. Often, it feels right. Maybe it feels right for the flow of the story.
For example, I may give the narrator a chance to inflict (or reinsert) layers of mystery into the narrative.
The question of who the narrator is can be a mystery unto itself.
The extreme of this is the unreliable narrator (as an aside, we are all unreliable narrators despite our efforts toward truth). But I’m more fascinated with the narrator’s point of view, their intentions or motivations for sharing the story…why, after all, has this narrator decided to share this story in her universe? More acutely, what is the narrator’s point of view with respect to the main character (our close-to-third point-of-view character)?
Just a few vibrations within me. All for now.
Everything is simply a happening, and all we are doing is watching it, attending to it.
The inciting incident in the middle growth
I’m analyzing the middle 50% of my novel as I aim to plan out a revision using:
- Feedback from beta readers
- Building current outline of novel using Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid
I’ve already mapped the first 12-13 scenes / chapters of the Beginning.
Thus brings me to the Crossing of the Lava Lake and time in the Desolates.
Probably will spend about 20/30 in each.
Major crisis will be Shay deciding to go to the Desolates to pursue the mystery of the bones. (Versus going back to the Shadows to continue seeking the stories there.)
This could be seen as a minor crisis, unless I raise stakes a bit. She is being pursued and the Shadows is a safe place to hide until things settle down.
(^This could also be the inciting incident for Middle Build)
But if I also include internal object of desire as seeking human belonging, then the chance to meet humans in Haven (and remain secret) is a chance.
I will need to make these two options the choice between irreconcilable goods. Shay can’t have both.
thank you, JRR
I surreptitiously borrowed The Fellowship of the Ring from my older brother’s bookshelf when I was 8 or 9.
I struggled to understand all the words in the book, so I skipped some of the more descriptive sections.
Now, at age 29, I listened to the audiobook version almost straight through over 2 calendar days.
Those descriptive sections contained some beauty. Unseen to me in my first and second readings (the second took place in 6th/7th grade).
Despite the criticism of JRR and the explosion of mimicry he supposedly inspired (some of this criticism from one of my current favorite authors, China Mieville), there remains something admirable in the multi-year effort by Tolkien as life in between and during the Second World War took his attention elsewhere.
Find and read his foreward if you can.
Summary of Sound of Stone Beta Reading Feedback (and Initial Direction for next steps)
I want to make it more personal.
I want to focus on Shikayne’s story. Build her character. Show her conflict, her journey.
By focusing on her character, I stand to tell a deeper emotional story. And one that pulls the reader through with continuous action (relative to the fits and starts of multiple POVs).
Who is Shikayne (aka Shik)
Shikayne is an outsider to the inner world of the Known Caverns. She’s chasing answers to her past, using skills picked up in childhood, honed in recent past. Competent with an ice bow, passionate about listening to stories in stones.
What’s her personality?
Reserved, brash, risk-taker, quiet, calm, imaginative, independent, empathetic.
Advantage of removing POVs
More clearly help readers care about the smaller cast. Especially Shikayne.
Shortens the book.
Current Shikayne POV chapters amount to about 30,000 words. About 50,000 if we include scenes she’s involved in from other POVs.
Reviewing possible opening plot sequences
There are key backstory elements that might help the reader care more about Shikayne in early chapters. Can I build this empathy without showing those scenes?
Creating an alternate story flow with even more focus on Shikayne
One of my beta readers asked to see the overall story flow (beyond just the synopsis), so I’d like to consider this approach.
I submitted 3 stories to Bound (getBound.io), which I’ve been writing off and on for about half a year.
Once my novel was in the hands of beta readers, I took a break and revisited a handful of short stories and story starts.
A major goal for 2017 is to sell some fiction.
In order to sell, I need to submit.
I’ll be looking for new platforms (like Bound), as publishing constantly changes and evolves.
I’ll also use Duotrope (a database of online and print magazines) to submit at least one story weekly, which means 50 submissions throughout 2017.
More submissions, more rejections, and with luck more pubs!
Storm in the Atmosphere
Spheres of myriad colors collided on a forest green surface.
“Well well,” peeped the pirate. She’d said the same thing when Lucy had washed over the railing of her ship in the previous night’s storm.
Lucy’s kind had their own version of this game. Send shells skirting through coral to find resting places in crevices.
Lucy’s fin had tangled in the ropes. Then one of Captain Meranda’s crew had closed his arms around her. It wasn’t quite how she’d envisioned meeting her first human male. The wind roared and the waves soared. She thought she saw Trola peek out of a passing wave, but none of her kind could save her from the wooden vessel.
When the storm passed and the ship found calmer waters, Meranda pulled Lucy from the grip of the deck hands. Lucy was glad to be away from their awful breath and crude comments.
“Need help moving?” said Meranda, tipping her Captain’s cap and warding the men away with her stare. Lucy’s fin was of little use, flapping about the wooden planks. The men laughed. How their voices, so long imagined as song in her head, erupted like sharp-toothed eels from coral shadows.
“That fin was designed for swimming,” said Meranda. “I’m the Captain, but you already guessed that.”
“I’m far from home,” said Lucy, pushing herself up by her arms, tucking her fin underneath herself for balance. She looked about her. The sky was calm blue like Trola’s eyes. And Meranda’s. Lucy wondered at the clothing wrapping her lean figure, the black pants, the dashing vest. She imagined herself in them. Past Meranda’s tied brown hair rose a strut of land. “Where do you think the storm took us?”
“Shark’s Fin,” said Meranda. “We’ll settle in its harbor. If my nose is right, there’s another storm brewing yet tonight. The Cloud Witch is always stirring her cauldron this time of year.”
They’d anchored. The men pulled down the sails. The cook whipped a meal. Meranda’s first mate and her choice deckhands ate in the Captain’s room. Meranda had fixed Lucy up with a cloth shirt and a tie for her hair. They’d lifted her onto a seat. They ate and talked of the storm and what needed done if they were to intercept the trade winds again. Supplies were low.
After, Meranda had invited Lucy into her private quarters where they’d begun this game of pool.
“A fine take from the last ship we ambushed,” said Meranda proudly.
Notes after reading:
Will Lucy help them find something?
Does she want to go home?
What are they looking for?
Where do you hear those stories? From the sea turtles, mainly. Of course, the sea turtles. On their currents.
stories about chatbots (i’ll be writing someee)
this is just testing my markdown and img repo chops in github lol
Reading my novel as a reader
Having returned from a 4-mile roundtrip walk downtown (I paused to play on a public piano–made my first 70 cents ever playing music, and gave 25 cents to the next player and 45 cents to a homeless man with a starbucks cup), I’m almost ready to begin reading the first draft of Sound of Stone.
I’ve been calling it a revision. Which it is. But it is also a first draft. Firsts and middles meddle with one another.
Well, I’m nervous.
Because I know there is improvement to be made. There are improvements to be made because parts of it don’t work. They need more sweat and craftsmanship. My dialogue is broken. My editor has reminded me several times of this.
But on reading one I will read through without a pen.
Then I will read with a pen.
I need to feel its flow.
To get the story right.
First (and foremost).
reactions and review of Ted Chiang’s Arrival
A letter to Ted Chiang
Over the weekend, I saw Arrival, the film adaptation of your short story, “Story of Your Life”.
I enjoyed your story, but this post is about the movie.
I liked how personal it was, with its touch at deep scientific questions (or theories) about time and consciousness. Loss, and companionship.
Some people had trouble with the perceived deus ex machina in act 3, where Louise gets helped from a future instance to resolve the boiling conflict in the present. This was preceded by a seemingly missing explanation as to how the heptapods knew there was not mutual allegiance between the nations of Earth (their decision to send 12 monoliths).
I didn’t have trouble here, as it is easy to imagine how, understanding the tapestry of time (however hidden to us), the heptapods would have seen the existing conflicts between humans (although this could lead into rabbit holes about how much access they had to human affairs.)
The scene where Louise meets the heptapods helped–she walks on what I perceived to be a white landscape of valleys and peaks. This later made me consider Paul Atreides’ discussions with the Guild Masters in Dune, where he shows them possibilities of a universe without spice.
I felt Louise’s future-seeing was similar to Paul’s prescience. This view meddles with determinism and free will, but still allows for multiple paths across a tapestry (landscape).
I think David Deutsche’s The Beginning of Infinity and (for fiction) Neal Stephenson’s Anathem are good studies of quantum narratives, a currently valid theory.
I looked around online and found the words in the Chinese Louise shares with the Chinese leader in the present. The line translates to: “In war there are no winners, only widows.”
After the movie, I brought up that we didn’t know in the future-present (that is, 18 months in a possible Louise’s future), whether the Chinese general’s wife was still alive. This line confirms for the movie that in a possible future the Chinese leader would die before his wife (presumably because he started a worldwide conflict).
In my interpretation of the movie, Louise navigates this potential thread and decides to take it (and then knows the right thing to say in her somewhat human-rigid present).
(^This is similar to Paul in Dune following vast threads or clouds of future-time but still arriving at key moments in his present.)
There is still free will (in the soft sense), in that Louise can choose what paths to take–she decides to have a baby, preferring the joy of a life with relationships, even if it is shortlived (her daughter dies and her husband leaves her) to one without.
Overall, I love the palindromic daughter’s name, Hannah (this was the moment where I understood the conceptualization of flat time for the heptapods and its structural impact on the film…the film opens and closes like Cloud Atlas’s nested Russian dolls.)
It also has philosophical questions, delivered cleanly:
“If you could see the rest of your life, would you live it the same way?”
“I think I’d say the things i mean, more.”
“I’ve looked up at the stars, but meeting them wasn’t the greatest thing…the greatest thing was meeting you.”
Thanks for a great short story and whatever influence you had on making the film.
from a comment online:
“Fragmented time in Arrival is very different, as Louise acually experiences simultaneously living in different times. The concept is deep, and if you know any physis and read Ted Chiang’s story you will know that this an open problem in Physics (variational principles and causality/teleology).”
Below this line are some notes I took while writing this blog post:
(need to respond to Terry’s comments as well-check my email)
(this post is a stub/draft) …testing auto-update…
I was impressed.
What seems a quiet movie has big ideas, makes you feel.
The personal that Interstellar wanted, but realized.
Relationship story, with a character that isn’t even alive yet (the daughter).
Mom and Dad, talk to animals. Playdough of the heptapods.
Hannah, (this I realized was a palindrome right away) … then they say it’s a palindrome.
^This is where I started to recontextualize the movie, wonder if these weren’t flashbacks, but forward flashes. (Prescience of Paul Atreides…guild masters, avoiding, but no purpose…Paul has finger over the button, shows them a future without spice anywhere in the universe)
The bigger idea, is book opens and closes in her house, then “you have 5 minutes” mirros also. (Look for more of these…)
Could relationship w/ Jeremy be explored further while still having the impact of revealing he is the husband later (a first-viewing problem, only…b/c 2nd viewing means we get to see the strong relationship from the beginning and be sad it is a relationship he walks away from) >> “It’s my fault.”
(Movie opens with memories of her daughter dying.)
did you sleep? do you speak Chinese? (this is good foreshadow to her talking to Chinese general later)
“if you could see the rest of your life, would you live it the same way?”
“i think i’d say the things i mean, more”
“i’ve looked up at the stars, but meeting them wasn’t the greatest, it was meeting you.”
Sam H. no overt violence
Phil: does extraction from future to change present work? (she is just seeing a possible future, not the future…like forking narratives in quantum …yehaaaa)
Re-triple the efforts
Re-doubling efforts feels like either hyperbole or an attention boost from an unproductive place.
Either way. The trickyness is I have no results to show, no short story in a prominent contest or magazine nor an agreement with an agent for my novel.
The journey continues.
Then the next milestone.
View the the archives