Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All that is true

It is fairly easy to know where to begin a work. However, the ending comes after a long, hard journey to get there. During that time, the destination itself can change.

Ideas do not remain stagnant: they move like living things. What seemed to be the perfect ending can falter under scrutiny. The foundation is unsure, and thus it collapses.

Characters change throughout the course of a story: for the better or for the worse. This can have a tremendous impact on the outcome. And thus, it is best not determine the conclusion, until they have had their say.

There are determinations to be made: how should the ending be accomplished, who will affect the outcome, and what does it all mean? The entire work will be judged by the way it ended, so this cannot be arbitrary. All that came before must lead up to it.

A bad ending can ruin a story, while a good ending can save it. That which the audience sees last, they will remember first. To stubbornly ignore the wishes of the reader is to consign your work to a neglected shelf where the dust will collect.

But if you craft a satisfying ending, the story shall always be remembered for it. People will talk about the ending long after they have read the book. For the destination has changed: to one that is better for you and better for those who enjoy your work.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The essence of clarity

They say brevity is the soul of wit. Long, drawn-out descriptions can rob a scene of its strength. What needs to be said can usually be communicated with surprisingly few words. And they will have more meaning, because none are wasted.

Complexity is often a means to deceive. Keep talking around the subject, so that people will not see the truth staring right at them.  Depth is not gained through volume of words, but rather through the meaning of those that are chosen.

It is easy to think yourself into a corner. I have done this many times. The way out is to determine the easiest and best course of action.

One should never be so determined to communicate an idea, that they stumble all over the place and provide little or no elucidation in the end. Simplify your concept: break it down into its component parts. And then, cut away the excess.

Buildings are made from basic materials. Machines are built from a collection of parts. Even living creatures are essentially a combination of flesh, bone and internal organs: each with a simple purpose.

The goal of communication is to achieve understanding. The essence of clarity is simplicity. If you spend too much time explaining something, it is likely your audience will come away having gained nothing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Comedy and tragedy

Comedy tends to make light of other’s misfortunes. Tragedy focuses on adversity for dramatic effect. What is it about man that he finds misery to be both humorous and heartbreaking?

The distinction between comedy and tragedy has a lot to do with who is suffering. If it is someone you know and are close to, the effect of the comedy is blunted. It is much easier to mock someone you do not know; and a bit harder to truly feel for them in their difficulties.

To the credit of many, things tend to be funnier when nobody gets hurt. If the person falling down the stairs shatters their leg in the process, the humor dissipates rather quickly. The mood swiftly changes from mirth, to genuine concern for another’s well-being.

However, the foolish get little sympathy. Since they brought the misery on themselves, a great deal of enjoyment can be had at their expense. And it is without the regret that would come from ridiculing the merely unfortunate.

Also, there is a human empathy for those who truly suffer. Even a stranger can provoke a great deal of pity when they have experienced a grievous loss. If children or the elderly are involved, the heartfelt concern is greatly amplified.

Laughter is a means of relieving stress. It is healthy and therapeutic. Conversely, through the shedding of tears the soul is cleansed. We live in a world full of suffering. Without this release, we would all go mad.    

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Traveler

A poem I wrote about the meeting of two worlds:

The Traveler

I dreamed a waking dream
as I rode into the night.
I dreamed that I saw faery folk
in the fading of the light.
Their eyes did seem as those of cats
whose gaze did pierce my own.
Were my stare to meet with theirs
my secrets would be shown.

"Silly man" I told myself
"such notions that you hold.
For there is but my steed and I
moving down this road."
With that, I gave a chuckle
but my heart was not at ease.
For I could swear, I had just seen
movement in the trees.

I chided myself once again,
and bade such fear depart.
A form stepped from among the trees
and I fought to still my heart.
"Who does skulk among the wood?"
I tried my best to say.
But with panic in my voice
it came out a different way.

The hooded figure moved with grace
that never I did see.
So delicate, in form and face.
A maiden, she must be.
She then began to speak
in a melody soft and light.
As if a bird attempted speech
to me that very night.

She said "I travel, just like you,
though I must walk along.
I have no steed to carry me.
The journey home is long."
She drew up close beside me.
I shook to end the dream.
Her features sharp and beautiful.
So very strange they seemed.

At first, I did not speak.
What words had I to say?
She gave a nod and simply said
"Peace" and walked away.
My tongue did swiftly find release.
I called to her to wait.
"How far must you travel on?
Ride with me, for it is late."

Her gaze did fall upon me,
so eerie did it seem.
Slanted eyes did pierce my soul.
This had to be a dream.
She said "I travel to a land,
that you have never seen.
A place of life and beauty.
The realm of endless green."

"I will take you to this land"
I proudly did proclaim.
"I just need you to show the way.
Does this land have a name?"
I did wonder at myself
and at my brave reply.
For never had I uttered such
to a stranger passing by.

"Take heed" she said. "Oh traveler,
I journey far away.
But I am weak and weary
from walking all this way.
If you wish to carry me
a little farther on.
I will go with you this night
but I must leave at dawn."

I wondered at her words,
and then I did assure
"You will be safer here with me.
Dear maid, with eyes so pure.
You do not need to hasten on
when the sun does rise.
Ride with me back to your land,
I speak to you no lies."

"Nay, oh man" she said to me
"at dawn I will depart."
Her words were filled with certainty
that cut into my heart.
"Very well, dear maiden"
I reached down with one hand.
"Come ride with me into the night.
At dawn, the ride will end."

She stretched forth a hand
so long and soft and white.
I pulled her up behind me.
And rode on through the night.
She wrapped her long and slender arms
secure around my waist.
Her head was on my shoulder,
my heart did beat in haste.

I wondered at the features
hid beneath her hood.
That now did rest upon me.
Within, I felt so good.
I gazed at hands so delicate
that still did hold me fast.
Before I even knew of it,
the night had hurried past.

I did not want to stop,
but my word is what I gave.
"The day begins, fair maiden."
My voice was sad and grave.
She slipped down from the steed
and said "My thanks to you.
I am rested now, and must go on.
But once more, peace to you."

My heart did faint to hear her words
and I cried out "Wait!
Why do you really have to leave?
Is this will, or fate?"
She said "Oh man, to understand
you must walk the path I tread.
It is not you, it is your kind
who fill me with such dread.

"I see it even in your eyes.
The fear, and warm desire.
Your heart is stronger than you know
it can contain your fire.
And that is why I rode with you
until the sun did rise.
There is love, a glowing jewel
shining in your eyes.

"But man is known to reach and take
whatever that he can.
And thus, his feet may never tread
our green and wondrous land.
But peace to you, and to your kin.
Your kindness do I see.
It is a treasure that I love
and will keep close to me."

With that, she stepped into the trees.
I wondered at the sight.
For such a dream could not be true
in the early morning light.
I rode on still much amazed,
at what my eyes had seen.
Could there be this land of life?
A realm of endless green?

Were my eyes so heavy,
that a vision they did see?
Was she just imagined?
Did I wish her to be?
But the dream was far too perfect
to come from within me.
Somewhere, she still walks all alone
so pure, so light and free.

Making people

Real people do not fit into convenient little boxes. They quite often do things that would be deemed to be out of character. Each person has their own opinions, which they vigorously defend regardless of any factual basis to their claims.

Friendship does not hinge on agreement. Good friends can disagree on many things, and yet still retain their bond. If you find a friend who agrees with you on everything, check to see if they have a slot in the back to put batteries in.

Since real people are not so accommodating, we must be mindful when creating characters. They will not always agree with the author, and that is good. I might be breaking every rule in the book, but I will still say it: the author is not always right.

After all, they are flawed human beings. But there is much to be learned, if one is honest. Through our characters, we are able to view life from the outside. We can distinguish what is genuine from that which is feigned.

Characters need not have all the failings of real people. It depends on what the story requires. Writing is a chance to imitate life, but still make a few improvements. Comedy and tragedy each have their place, and a good story will tend to have elements of both.

But above all, a character must be a person: one that you know and can sympathize with. You are there with them in good times and bad. For they are not just an enigma rolled up in an agenda. With the proper infusion of energy, characters can become very much alive…