Tag Archives: coaching

Is a tragedy acceptable today?

I stayed up until midnight playing video games with my son. I knew I'd pay for it today, but did it anyway.

Frankie, the alarm dog, got me up at 4:30. I should be overjoyed that she gave me twenty minutes longer than my alarm clock usually does. It's a flex day, so maybe I'll grab a nap this after noon.

I hacked out another micro-fiction while the dogs managed to go back to sleep. Then I grabbed a fresh coffee and sat beside the footboard of my bed.

A slurping noise moved from the darkness to just the other side of the footboard. A black tentacle slid a Nylabone out on the floor beside me.

“Black is a new look for you, isn't it?”

“Oh, you know me. Always trying something new. I think it makes me scarier in the dark.”

“You could be onto something. Things you can't quite see are more frightening. What's with the dog toy?”

“Oh, Frankie and Otto were tugging at it yesterday and it flew under the bed. I thought she might need it back.”

“Not for much longer. I think her puppy teeth are almost all gone now.”

“Good thing too. Those babies are sharp. I had to steal a Bandaid while you guys were sleeping.”

“No problem, that's why they're there.”

“So what brings you to talk to the old under-the-bed monster today?”

“Tragedy.”

“You're going to have to be more specific.”

“Okay, tragedy is a time honored kind of story. When done well, it produces a powerful emotional experience for the reader–“

“Right a PEE, I read your blog. Too funny.”

“As I was going to say, it seems to be out of favor today.”

“Times change and all that.”

“Maybe they do, but maybe they shouldn't. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after in real life. Fiction should reflect real life.”

“Riiiight. You write stories about spacemen, witches, and dwarves.”

“Okay, but I try to get real human emotions into them.”

“You still haven't told me what specifically brings you here today.”

“I nearly wrote a Greek tragedy a few years ago with The Cock of the South. I chickened out, and didn't completely go that route. Well, I've gone and done it again.”

“And you're worried it will make people mad. You're looking at it from the wrong side of the mirror. For every one of those happy endings, a monster dies somewhere. Do you know how many of my friends are hanging around the Union Hall just waiting for another story?”

“How many?”

“All of em, and they aren't going to get another story because the author killed them off.”

“Don't you guys always manage to stick a hand out of the grave right at the end, or open your eyes suddenly?”

“Only in horror. Not every monster story is technically a horror story.”

“That's all great, and I appreciate that monsters would understand, but they don't buy many books these days.”

“So it's a commercial thing?”

“Not exactly, it's a story for my blog.”

“Now you're just being stupid. Those things have the lifespan of a gnat. Eight hours later the readership forgets all about them.”

“Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. They don't swarm back and re-read the posts, but the story might stick with them.”

“Yeah, that's a good point. Is this for your macaroni thing?”

“It's called Macabre Macaroni, and yeah.”

“Maybe you can bracket it with something happy on either side. End with one that isn't a tragedy. They always remember the last one.”

“So bury it in the middle somewhere?”

“That's my opinion.”

“Thanks Under-The-Bed Monster, I owe you one.”

“You owe me several, but who's counting.”

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Filed under Writing

Coaching from the Gods

I sat behind my desk at the writing cabin. Lisa* asked for the day off to celebrate with Bunny. She believes today is a holiday for rabbit lovers everywhere. She filed back and forth from the basement to her upstairs room with boxes to build a fort for her beloved pet.

Lorelei** walked in and paused in the doorway. She wore a purple Easter dress with small white polka dots. The low-cut collar was framed by a ruffle of the same material. It cinched tight around her athletic waist. She wore a straw Easter bonnet with a large brim that turned up in front. The backlight made it look like a halo. She manipulated the light so the halo remained no matter where she went.

“You always knew how to make an entr–“

Squee! That dress is so cute!”

“Good morning, Lisa. I'm here to see Craig. I'll send you a link where I bought it.”

Lisa thanked her and carried a small basket of fresh vegetables upstairs.

Lorelei sat on the couch and crossed her legs. “Vacation's over. How do you think you did?”

“Bad.” I picked up my cup and moved to the easy chair beside her. “I tried to finish my novel, but didn't even get close.”

“I was watching from Olympus. I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did some good work.”

“I just didn't do enough of it. There were whole days where I didn't write.”

“Was that your fault?”

“No, but–“

She held a finger up to silence me. “Things happen. You don't control your own destiny, so you have to make the best of the time you get. I saw new chapters, and some of it's very good. I also saw new short stories.”

“Maybe I should get rid of the short stories for a while. At least until I finish my novel.”

“I send you ideas. You've been discarding those that can't carry a novel. That was fine, but now it's time for you to grow as an author. Those ideas are good, but sometimes a shorter tale is better suited. I like the idea that you've been writing them.”

“I think I have too many ideas. I could have spent that time on my novel.”

“But you wouldn't have. You like to write in quiet and solitude. You always have, and probably always will.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “I saw you writing at the same time as your lovely wife was watching television.”

I paused and thought before I spoke. “I'm just having fun with the short stuff. There are less plot points to work out, and generally fewer characters. I can free write them, and edit them later.”

“You're on the verge of a breakthrough. Let me help you here.” She steepled her fingers and chose her words. “You started writing, because you love it. You are the one who turned it into a job. I had nothing to do with that, and am trying to support you. Your own mind rebelled, and gave you something to write for fun once more.”

“Wait, wait, wait! How can I improve if I don't take it seriously?”

“I never said not to take it seriously. You simply need, a bit, of fun. All work and no play makes Craig a dull boy.” She reached over and lifted my chin with a perfectly manicured nail. A shiver ran down my spine.

“Maybe if I had less ideas I could take some time away after this novel is finished.”

“But you won't. You'll get all worked up over marketing, or some new project you want to outline. You're even talking about making the short stories into a book. I need you to write for fun too. If some of the shorts are good, I'll let you bundle the good ones together for others. Just consider them as personal entertainment for today. Write many, and harvest the best. Enjoy yourself.”

“Doesn't the blog do that?”

“It provides you with interaction, something you also need. It requires participating in comments, and even hosting friends. Those are important, but different than we're discussing today. You could easily be a hermit, because that's your nature. I won't let that happen.”

I emptied my coffee and retrieved the pot, along with a cup for Lorelei. “Sorry, Lisa usually does all this. So what's next for me?”

“Keep writing. Keep including a personal challenge in each story.”

“What challenges do you have in mind?”

“You still like the epistolary style. Maybe it's time you tried it. You could try an omniscient narrator, that would be new. Maybe you should write the story of an extroverted character.”

“Maybe somewhere down the road.”

“That's the point. Now you get to think about these things, and someday later you challenge yourself. Right now, your lovely wife just put the ham in the oven and you'd better get back. You have company coming.”

* Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She's a robot and works as my personal assistant.

* Lorelei is my Muse. She's from Olympus, and takes my writing very seriously.

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Filed under Muse