“You Will Be The Worst Writer”

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It’s been somewhere near a year since I started this blog. Today while browsing my spam I came across something that I think may be my first real (non-spam) comment – even though it was relegated to the spam file by some excellent software.

Here it is:

“You will be the worst writer”

The comment led back to a website selling drugs, including testosterone supplements for men.

Hmmm. Maybe there’s insight to this.

At any rate, thank you for your comment. It’s high time I got one!

You’re not alone in thinking that I’ll be a hack, perhaps even the worst hack writer, although taking the absolute bottom or top seat on a roster seems arrogant to those of us devoted to mediocrity.

But all kidding aside, I have two readers (of my fiction, that is. I have one and maybe slightly more than one reader of this blog. It’s difficult to be sure.)

Those two readers of my fiction are, not necessarily in any order:  my wife and my daughter.

Now before you start saying that they couldn’t possibly be objective, and I shouldn’t get a swelled head over their kudos, let me stop you. They don’t like my stuff. Polite? Yes, they are. Encouraging or supportive, they’re not.

My wife likes my non-fiction prose, though. That means a lot.

She finds my fiction a chore.

A few days ago I conned her into reading this blog and she chuckled encouragingly as she read.

A few weeks ago I asked her to check out the website where I’m working on my story, and she said something to this effect: “It doesn’t seem like a story anymore. I’ve never read anything written like this, so I don’t know what to compare it to.” Admittedly, it was an experimental version in which I was pretending that the protagonist is a real person who has a website and is recording her every move as it takes place. And yes, my wife was a good deal less negative – even positive, as I recall – when she read the more traditional version of the story nearly a year ago.

And I should point out that she only read as much of the latest version as she could stand, which wasn’t very much unless she’s a closet speed-reader which I doubt.

My daughter loves me dearly and would never want to hurt my feelings, so she pretends she’s forgotten to read the stuff I’ve sent her. She’s really a sweet girl. It’s too bad everyone can’t meet her and have a friend of her caliber.

So why am I bringing this up?

Partly because I think it’s humorous and I’ll do anything to get a laugh. (Just ask my daughter.) But mostly because of this…

If I can write fiction without getting discouraged and giving up, so can you!

You? You should never give up!

Never, never, never give up!

The world needs to hear what you have to say, trust me on that.

When you get discouraged, don’t give up! Don’t even let up.

Bottom line: Neither you nor I could tolerate someone like YOU giving up. You have real talent.

Me, I mostly have desire and a mind for over-analyzing things to exhaustion. But even my gifts are plenty to work with, because, like you, I’ve got something to say.

Content.

So please, get back to writing your story, already. This is enough web surfing for today. Don’t you think?

M. Talmage Moorehead

Wow, how times change. I’ve got some readers now, thank God!

My current in-progress version of Johanna’s novel (written by my protagonist from another universe) is a lot like the experimental thing she and I were doing back when I wrote this post.

If you’re interested in intelligent design, weird artifacts, genetics and psychology from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old “Hapa Girl,” it may be a fun read. The protagonist is a genius geneticist with a younger brother who struggles with depression, though you wouldn’t know it to meet him. Her evolving story starts here.

It’s an experiment called, Hapa Girl DNA, and is a hybrid itself – a tightrope crossing of fiction and non-fiction. “Hapa” is the Hawaiian term for “half.” Johanna is half Japanese and half Jewish. In writing her novel, she and I ignore some important fiction-writing rules, partly because we like to test dogmas, and partly because it’s fun to try new things.

But the “rules” are essential knowledge to anyone crazy enough to either break them or follow them mindlessly.

So you could download my e-book on fiction writing, the second to last chapter of which gives my current opinions on many of the dogmatic rules of fiction writing. Downloading that 10,000 word file will place you on my short list of people who will be politely notified when my traditional novel is done – possibly before the next ice age. (No spam or sharing of your info. I haven’t sent an email to my list yet. It’s been over a year.)

Next time you’re writing emails, if you think of it, please tell your best and hopefully weirdest friend about my blog (www.storiform.com). Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Talmage


Round Characters Believe for Good Reasons

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We stress the different personality types of our major characters, some of us studying personality types so our people ring true. Books like, “Please Understand Me,” are useful in this regard.

But one thing we don’t hear about is the importance of the knowledge supporting the beliefs of our characters.

You knew a guy in high school who was into conspiracy theories. He was socially awkward, smoked a lot of weed and was generally quiet until you got him started on the government, the corporations, the way they hide the truth and herd people around like sheep. Then he’s talking fast.

If you want to write this character you’ve got to read what he has read. You need to learn enough “facts” to understand his logic. If you don’t, the character can’t breathe. You’re not writing the peculiar type of truth that undergirds fiction.

When you do understand his thinking – if your bias won’t allow him to explain things plausibly, he’s still a puppet, not a real fictional character.

You have to be willing to let him speak his mind so convincingly that people reading your story may suspect that you believe the nutty stuff the guy is saying. That takes courage.

If you have a young lady who is convinced the UFO subculture is important, guess what?

You need to go there in your reading. You need to let her do her best to convince the reader she’s right. At least if she’s a major character.

My protagonist, Johanna, is so extraordinarily intelligent that she has an informed opinion on almost any subject. I have trouble letting her tell you some of the things she believes.

But her broad knowledge and off-the-chart smarts are themselves traps in a couple of ways.

First, she has a tendency to be synthetically “bigger than life.” (Unreal, Supergirl.) In a sense, I love her, so it’s difficult for me to hold back the “gifts” I want to give her.

But my gifts to her of great innate talent, like the toys we shower upon children, can ruin her.

If I’m not judicial and self-controlled, Johanna will become a non-person, just as two-dimensional as a spoiled brat standing behind his mother in line, predictable in the spectacle of his tantrum.

Secondly, reading and googling a taboo eye-roller is apt to have an influence on your own thinking. This can devastate relationships at home and at work. You can become the conspiracy theorist, the odd uncle or the weird kid at school.

If, for instance, you were to decide that your oddly interesting minor character needs to spout off on UFO’s, you must be able to support his viewpoint in a believable way. So ya gotta read the details on this “UFO crap.”

Problem is, in researching to understand the “crazy” info-motivation, you will sometimes come to question society’s normal dogma.

You will. Sometimes.

Here’s my advice, for what it’s worth, which is a lot since I’m your humble and yet infallible hack writer.

If you’ve got the power within yourself, try to completely avoid having characters who believe in UFO’s, ghosts, conspiracy theories, alternate interpretations of Earth’s history, unfamiliar religions, unacceptable political views (from your support system’s perspective), demon possession… etc.

Or, if you must delve into darkness, don’t be fooled by the unrealistic notion that you’re too smart to be sucked in.

You’re not. The human process of “knowing” is unsound. Even for scientists working in narrow fields of “expertise.”

Hopefully you will be too closed-minded to drink the endless forms of Kool-Aid, but…

If you write fiction, you might not be all that closed-minded at all. You might be an open minded truth seeker with the courage to believe whatever makes sense to you, regardless of social consequences.

Fiction writers are not average, normal, comfortably superficial people.

We’re accustomed to being different. Most of us don’t have family members interested in our writing. Polite tolerance is the best support we get.

And worst of all, we care about the truth for the truth’s sake – as if the truth actually had inherent value.

Yikes!

So be careful. If you become interested in a fringe subject, such as UFO’s, “normal” people will treat you like an outsider.

Your boss is “normal.” Assume this and spare her the Ancient Alien rhetoric if you possibly can. Do not open yourself up to political arguments at work, no matter what amazing logical “facts” you learn. Let your characters talk to your readers about it. Let them rant.

Your mother-in-law is “normal,” too, don’t forget. Keep her on your side by tolerating the concrete subjects that fill her ISTJ heart. Forget the lecture you heard on chem-trails and the shocking stuff you read about fluoride in drinking water.

Even your spouse is going to be “normal” compared to you. Mine is, and I’m glad for it. Truly. But I don’t want to bore her to tears every time I open my mouth, so I need to care about who won “Dancing With the Stars.” And I need to say less to her about the implications of ancient rockwork in Bolivia, Peru and Egypt, the astonishingly broad spectrum of UFO believers, and the need to look beyond modern medicine for prevention of common diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

No matter how normal or fringie your support group (if you’re lucky enough to have one at all) you honestly shouldn’t allow yourself to become a crazy ranter, if you can help it. It isolates you. Isolation causes depression and anxiety.

It’s bad, umkay?

But if you are basically a crazy ranter at heart, enjoy it and save the world. The people worth having as friends may possibly accept you for who you are. If not, at least you have accepted yourself. That’s got to bring a smile to God’s face.

One last thought: when you read the ultimate “facts” on any subject, realize that you are believing them almost entirely because you trust the source (in 99.9% of situations).

It’s trust (faith), not hard data, that we base our beliefs on. Scientists don’t want to admit it, but in five hundred years, scientists will look back at certain “facts” of our era, such as the supposedly mindless origin of DNA, and they will scratch their heads the way we do when we stand on a beach, look at the curved blue horizon and try to imagine how a person could ever have thought that the world was flat.

In developing all of our opinions (science, art, politics, religion, sports, music), we are not forming truly scientific, primary-source beliefs based upon reproducible data and rigorous repeated testing. We are trusting someone else. Someone else who hasn’t done it either, except in the rarest of circumstances.

This reality needs to be clear to more of us in our polarized society. Objectivity matters. Knowing when you have a little objectivity is key to rational discussions. Recognizing and admitting when you don’t is even more important.

All of us take a position on polarizing subjects by faith in someone we trust. We often feel sure, but we’re not objectively sure of most debated things.

To think otherwise is denial.

Almost everything you believe falls into the category of “taken by faith” because you cannot personally reproduce the work that went into uncovering and interpreting the data in any field (other than your own niche of hard science if you have one. And even then, the distinction between “hard” and “soft” science, while subjective is foundational to the search for truth.

And even the notion that well-structured studies with statistical significance provide the best route to truth is a Western assumption that needs awareness of its context and deserves skepticism – in my humble and yet infallible opinion.

So…

In virtually all your research into the fringes – sometimes necessary reading – any new opinions you might adopt are based on anecdotes that may not be worth ruining your reputation over.

Or maybe your interpretation of things matters more to you than your reputation.

I tend to be that way.

M. Talmage Moorehead

My current in-progress version of Johanna’s novel is written by a girl from a parallel universe. If you’re interested in intelligent design, weird artifacts, genetics and psychology from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old “Hapa Girl,” it may be a fun read. The protagonist is a genius geneticist with a younger brother who struggles with depression, though you wouldn’t know it to meet him. Her evolving story starts here.

It’s an experiment called, Hapa Girl DNA, and is a hybrid itself – a tightrope crossing of fiction and non-fiction. “Hapa” is the Hawaiian term for “half.” Johanna is half Japanese and half Jewish. In writing her novel, she and I ignore some important fiction-writing rules, partly because we like to test dogmas, and partly because it’s fun to try new things.

But the “rules” are essential knowledge to anyone crazy enough to either break them or follow them mindlessly.

So you could download my e-book on fiction writing, the second to last chapter of which gives my current opinions on many of the dogmatic rules of fiction writing. Downloading that 10,000 word file will place you on my short list of people who will be politely notified when my traditional novel is done – possibly before the next ice age. (No spam or sharing of your info. I haven’t sent an email to my list yet. It’s been over a year.)

Next time you’re writing emails, if you think of it, please tell your best and hopefully weirdest friend about my blog (www.storiform.com). Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Talmage


How to See If you’re in the Writing Zone

IMG_2097Some mornings I’m brain-dead but don’t know it. If I try to write I will produce clumsy sludge. I won’t realize how bad it is until that evening when I’m awake and able to judge subtle things.

This ain’t good.

This morning is one such brain-dead morning and fortunately I discovered it before I started writing. Here’s how…

I went to a special web site where there are scientifically studied and validated “games” that you can play, five of them for free. You’ve heard of the place. I’ve been going there for over a year, off and on, trying to keep my mind sharp.

They keep track of how you’re doing, compared to how you’ve done in the past. And compared to others in your age group – if you really want to be masochistic. I used to look at my stats in detail, but I gave it up because I’m so tired of tests and evaluations I could… I don’t know, scream or something even less original.

So this morning I went there and played the five free games. I scored astronomically lower than usual on each of them.

That tells me that I’d better not try to write fiction right now. If I do, it won’t be pretty.

Later today I’ll be well caffeinated and at least half awake. I’ll go “play” those five “games” again and see if my brain damage is permanent or not. I’ll amend this post and let you know – assuming I remember.

You’re probably alert all the time and self-aware enough to know how awake and ready-to-go your brain is, but if there’s ever any doubt, go to lumosity.com, get a free account and play their five free games.

Here’s the link: http://www.lumosity.com

You will find that, compared to your age group, you’re kind of below average when you start. But trust me, if you’re a fiction writer, you’ll be in the 90th percentile and above in a few months or less – if you keep playing regularly.

Of course, there’s good scientific evidence that their games will improve various aspects of your thinking and memory. But I’m not sending you there for any of that. You’re young and you don’t need it.

I’m just saying you probably could use a tool to tell you when you’re in the “zone” for writing fiction. Maybe even help you get into the zone, I don’t know. Lumosity.com is that tool. Check it out, it’s free unless you decide to pay for a boatload of other “games” they offer.

One last thing… I’m putting quotes around “games” and “play” because these are not addicting games that will waste your time. These babies are endothermic… at least for me.

Remember from general chemistry how an endothermic reaction requires the constant input of energy. In a previous post I likened this to a text-book. Lumosity’s games are more fun than a text-book, by far, but they’re similar in that you need to put more energy into them than you will get back from them.

This is in contrast to exothermic chemical reactions that give off energy continually after you put in the “energy of activation.” I likened these to meaningful page-turners.

Exothermic reaction are also similar to the addicting-type video games like Halo.

Bottom line: Lumosity’s games: endothermic, but pleasant and highly useful, as well as beneficial to the mind.

See if you’re in the zone. Maybe even help yourself get in the zone.

Lumosity… You loved it as a child, you trust it as a mother. No, that was Wonder Bread. My bad.

M. Talmage Moorehead

For a free copy of my new e-book, Writing Meaningful Page-Turners, opt into my email list. I won’t write to you very often, and I will never share your email with anyone, ever.  Click Here

If you’d like to read my weird in-progress novel, Hapa Girl DNA, from page 1, click here.

Update: I just played Lumosity today and it seems they’ve kicked me out of the free stuff. Oh, well. I guess they must have allowed me to play five free games for awhile after my subscription ran out. At any rate, I think they might have a free trial you can use if you’re interested. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m going to shell out the bucks for a new subscription. It’s pretty cheap.

By the way, that’s Halo’s picture up top. She’s my new Labrador Retriever. She managed to get that red toy around her neck all by herself, and seemed proud of the accomplishment.


You Can’t Be Silenced

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The picture above  is from Paria Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Colorado Plateau.

Seriously now, if you were making layered jello you might be able to get the kind of bend you see in the right side of the geologic column (at about 3:00). On the other hand, if you were making the same layered mould using cement instead of jello, allowing each layer to harden for a few million years before adding the next, how would you get that bend?

To ask this question is to invite ridicule. You might be labeled a religious fundamentalist who believes that the age of the earth is, I don’t know, six thousand years? Your sanity, as well as the thickness of your cerebral cortex would be minimized. An elite laugh would try to cower you, shut you down and shut you up.

Humans attack those who dare pose politically (culturally) incorrect questions. Especially in science. We can’t seem to help ourselves.

But if you have trouble getting along with your lover, a counselor will say it’s unfair to turn arguments from the potatoes to the spouse.

We’ve all done it…

“Pass the potatoes,” he says.

“Please!” you snap back – uh – innocently and benevolently.

“Please pass me the damn potatoes.”

“What’s wrong with you? All I ask is a little respect! I am not your servant.”

He yells over the thing you’re about to say. You hear the word, “potatoes” somewhere in the mix.

But potatoes, like the other things you can’t remember, are irrelevant. Yesterday it was… What was it? The TV remote? You really can’t remember. Tomorrow you won’t remember the potatoes.

What politically incorrect question could you raise here?

How about…

“Is it possible that our culture is wrong about the merits of a 50:50 relationship between husband and wife?”

To ask this question is to say, “I’m a sexist,” in western culture. But my mother-in-law doesn’t hesitate to ask it. She says that both husband and wife must be willing to give in and let the other have their way more than 50% of the time.

It’s part of love.

In some other cultures, to mention the western notion of a 50-50 deal between husband and wife is to demonstrate that you should never have left home and gone to America to be brainwashed. “Nothing good comes from abandoning our traditions.”

No matter what culture shapes our perspective, most of us feel we can’t afford to question local dogma when it comes to certain issues. It’s suicide, either figuratively or literally, and perhaps there’s not an infinite difference.

Story characters, on the other hand, can afford to ask anything. They’re expected to shake up our thinking and comfort zones.

Well, I guess Salman Rushdie proved I’m wrong about that. He’s the exception that disproves the rule, since exceptions don’t prove rules in some parts of the universe.

But for the most part, a fiction writer’s characters can push the envelope without getting their author into trouble.

And our characters must push.

As a fiction writer with readers, you and your characters are central to the evolution and hopefully the improvement of human values. You have more influence than presidents, preachers and all the cute yellow journalists who’ve lost their way and can only spout bias. Unlike them, you and your characters can still question the unquestionable without losing your job or being trampled by the IRS and other elite groups.

Your sympathetic round villain or misguided protagonist can be a hateful, ignorant, narrow-minded nazis with tiny frontal lobes and thinly veiled racism, but readers will be curious because “no one can take their eyes off a train wreck.”

And while you’ve got their attention, a few million of your readers will question a hidden assumption for the first time in their lives.

No matter our culture, we find truer answers when fictional characters show us our blind spots.

M. Talmage Moorehead

If you’ve ever suspected that the currently embedded host of scientists has a blind spot wide enough to fly a 37 foot UFO through, please read my in-progress novel Hapa Girl DNA, starting here (as a “one-page” document). I hope it’s a fast ride, but at this point it really needs more conflict – let’s be honest.

If you like my fiction and want to be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the next ice age) please join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info – ever.)

Ka-Pwing!

By the way, if you like my stuff, please tell your weirdest and best friend about this blog (www.storiform.com). Maybe in an email. Thank you!!!

Talmage