The Voice in Cuckoo’s Nest

The crazy-not-crazy voice of Chief Bowden in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest shunts straight into a place we forget about because we’re scared: That ain’t me, that ain’t my face. It wasn’t even really my face then; it was just being the way I looked, the way people wanted. It don’t seem like I ever been me. I was seeing me do things that didn’t fit my face or hands, thinks like painting a picture or writing letters to somebody in a beautiful flowing hand. (140)

And defines happiness as best as any: We’d just shared the last beer and slung the empty can out the window at the stop sign and were leaning back to get the feel of the day, swimming in that kind of tasty drowsiness that comes over you after a day of going hard at something you enjoy doing – half sunburned and half drunk and keeping awake only because you wanted to savor the taste as long as you could. I noticed vaguely that I was getting so’s I could see some good in the life around me. I was feeling better than I’d remembered feeling since I was a kid, when everything was good and the land was singing kids’ poetry in me. (202)

Writing Process: No More Speechifying

I have a tendency towards giving my characters speeches, or speechifying, as Tommy calls it. And it’s no good. It slows the narrative and, in the end, offers very little about the character. It’s really just me using them for my soapbox.

“To the mighty and fine Apollo.” Fitz raised his glass. “I look out at that river of ice out your backyard and think about those giants of millennials ago pushed off into the Davis Strait and into the great Atlantic, some of them the size of city blocks, whole towns, buildings and all, tankers, battleships, luxury liners, the works. They’re an impressive fleet, an impenetrable flotilla at the outset, only to gradually break apart, one from the other, going out into the bay, the strait, the ocean, down past Twillin’. But then they all come apart, not just one from the other, but the thing from itself. These mighty giants go out on their quest, out into the great unknown, just to dissolve, become bits and pieces, and then the water, gone like that. Seems to me that they might have a fate more suitable than that.” He opened another beer. “We’ll have another drink with you, and then we’ll be off.”

Id on Parade

Writing is a spew of the subconscious, or at least a myriad of that, mostly the id. That’s where the core is of what I refuse to realize I am, that fear and pain and stupidity that make me so unique and nothing at all.

It doesn’t mean much of anything. I am alone in this. Except when I write it down here.

Writing Process: At a Loss. And Then What?

I am coming to the end of Anori, Draft #5, a process that has taken ten months. I have had some satisfying moments – tightening up narrative, deleting unnecessary characters and scenes, building the arc and all of that – but it feels almost pointless in the end.

I will be hiring an editor once again. I will see what advice is there to get this thing published. After all, it has been some eight years since I started. It was called The Ark, and it seemed so remarkable to me at that time. It feels more a cage now, with Dee and the others just screaming to get out.

If Only Reviewers Could Write Like This

I recently attended a conference in Kenyon College where one writing colleague, although young, was astounding in his engagement with the work.

“It’s…” Sean jabbed a finger out, pulled it back just as quick, snapping his fingers, once, twice, bowing his head, eyes closed. “I’m jiving with this. I totally am. I’m just riding this train until it gives out.” He paused, looking up. “Something is getting fucked, in a bad way.”

Sean would have made a great member of Love Portal, a group who once performed in NYC

“That’s exactly it. Unless you disagree.” He bent forward with kindness, reaching for her understanding. “It’s up for debate. I can’t remember what I said a second ago. Oh, right, yes. City life. Absolutely fascinating. I know nothing about it. I think that’s really very awesome. It all feels so urgent. Ardent. Just caring about—just caring about that. It’s a very cool thought.”

Writing Process: Characters Need to be Disgusting

Readers are troubled by Dee Sinclair because she acts like doesn’t care about others. If she doesn’t care about people, why should we care about her? That’s the thing.

She needs to be more raw, more awful and wrong, more revolting and lost. It’s about that, her disgustingness. We will care about her because we’re all disgusting.

Effective Montage: Writing Process

Effective montage moves the story with a series of poignant moments. One only has to think of the Rocky montage to appreciate the potential: Mr. Balboa going from drinking raw eggs to surmounting the steps of the Philadelphia Arts Museum in the final iconic shot.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Montage has become so commonplace that a more sophisticated approach is needed, perhaps with a gag and non-sequiturs or two; otherwise the audience gets bored.

Such is my current issue in Anori. Dee Sinclair spends a year aboard a ship, collecting animals from across the world with a group of biologists. The montage of eight locations – moving from Lisbon to the Galapagos – is there to emphasize the power of the expedition along with Dee’s isolation from others.

Lonely sea lion pup on Fernadina Island, Galapagos

Army escorts appear, pirates attack, and Dee observes oddly from a distance throughout, not because she isn’t affected by the dramatics but more so that she doesn’t feel connected to any of it. But does it work? I don’t know.

The Goldilocks Frequency in The Writing Process

“Thanks much” or “Much thanks“? I go back and forth between what Tony would say. I am never happy with either and continue the fruitless search through “Many thanks”, “So Much Thanks”, “Thanks As Always” or even “Kind of you”, until I end up back where I started. “Thanks much”.

Tony says things to get attention and pretends that he doesn’t. He mutters and stutters, his face forward to be listened to and then acts as if he doesn’t want anyone to hear. It’s a question of not overdoing that about Tony. Too much it’s caricature; not enough it’s obtuse. I need the Goldilocks frequency for this phrase.

The Cx Trilogy: The Book That Will Get Humanity Back On Track

As crazed as it sounds, that my deep-down aim for The Cx Trilogy. I can feel like I am insane not because I am but because of the insanity to which I am subjected. And so it’s not a burden as a release knowing these things, getting them out of my head so that I can help us get on with it and make things as they should have been a long time ago.

Fallen Greek columns in Termessos, Turkey

Get one with what, you ask? Why, treating people like shit because they don’t have power. It’s that simple. And it’s something we should have figured out a while ago, the 9th century at least. (Fuck all those plague/dark age excuses.) Okay, maybe the 15th century. But the 21st?!? Come on! How many chances can we miss? Allowing Hitler on the scene and then Trump and all of the other fuckers in between? Huh? What? And now we think we are close to being on track for what? Acceptance? Understanding? For anything other than obliteration? That’s just dumb and weird.

Inflatable Christmas penguins at The Brooklyn Navy Yard

Anyway, the book, yes, that, getting humanity back on track. It’s actually about leaving this planet on an generational journey to a distant planet to start anew. And it’s got everything in it: sex, exotic cats, epic action and deep fucking thoughts. And I aim to have it out for you by the end of the year. (If we make it.)

Character Development: Keeping It Real

I blogged three days ago on the importance of a character being nebulous. I then watched Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Handheld screenshot from I’m Thinking of Ending Things

While I’m fan of Kaufman’s work (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Anomalisa, et al) and admire a writer’s attempt to pry open the meaning of self, this film makes nebulous look adamantine. Characters swimming in vagaries of subconscious angst. All that. And…no.

A story can’t be all dreams and poetry and philosophy because there’s no place for the reader to hang their hat. Definable characters are needed. Without them, we’re nothing.