Category Archives: Writing

Writer Woes

The Hand that WritesSo, I’m a bit bummed.  Back in the summer, I started writing a speculative fiction short story with the intent of submitting it for publication to Icarus, a quarterly magazine that publishes spec-fic pieces featuring leading gay male characters.  I sent it out to a small group of friends who agreed to proofread it and offer critiques.  Due to it taking time for my readers to get me feedback and my health issues toward the end of summer and the beginning of fall, I kind of let the whole thing slide.  A couple weeks ago, I started thinking about the story and started thinking about picking it back up again.

It looks like if I’m going to get back to the story, I’m going to have to start by hunting for a new magazine to submit it to.  When I received my notice that the Winter 2013/2014 issue was available, it came with an announcement that the magazine is being discontinued.  The winter issue is the last issue it will be.

So now I have a story about to enter into the editing phase without a home.  Which is a bummer.  So far, my quick Google search does not show any other magazines that focus on spec-fic with gay male characters, so I will have to look for a magazine that either focuses on spec-fic in general or one that either focuses on any story with gay characters or stories written by LGBT authors.  Which is fine by me.  The bigger problem is that in its first draft form, my story is already almost 5,350 words long.  (To add a few things suggested by readers, I expect the final draft will be a bit longer.  Icarus allowed stories to be up to 9,000 words (they they reminded authors that longer was not always better and the magazine preferred something closer to 5,000 words.)  Other magazines, like Apex (5,000) and Jonathan (3,500), have much lower maximum word count limits.  So either I have to revise the story to meet those limits (which would be challenging at best), or I have to cross a bunch of possible candidates off my list of places to submit to.

Part of me is tempted to just forget about it, post the story to my WdC portfolio, and start over from scratch with a new idea to get published.  After all, that was my main purpose in writing this story.  I wanted to actually get published.  (Plus the fact that I would’ve gotten a small amount of money if my story hit print was a nice touch.)

But damn.

 

Short Story: Awkward Timing for a Conversation

Last night, rather than work on my novel, I decided to write a short story.  I decided to cross-post that story here to my blog.  I hope you enjoy.

I walked into the restaurant and scanned the dining room. I spotted Trent sitting at a table for two near one window. He spotted me and waved, shooting me his patented smile. I nodded to the host and gestured toward my boyfriend. She nodded in response and said, “Enjoy.”

I crossed the thirty feet and sat at the empty table. “Well, hello there,” Trent said as he absentmindedly ran his hand through his meticulously combed hair. He already had a beer sitting in front of him.

“Did you order me anything yet?” I asked.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d want, to be honest. But if you know, I’ll call our waiter.” He raised a hand and shouted toward the server station. “Cody!”

A young man about five years younger than me walked over. He had blonde hair, was about 5’9” and a somewhat slim build. “Hi. You must be Alex,” he said to me. “May I get you something to drink?”

“A virgin daiquiri, please,” I said. I was a bit taken aback that the waiter knew my name.

“Certainly. I’ll have that for you in just a moment,” Cody said as he hurried away.

“Thank you,” I called after him. I turned back to Trent at that point. “Have you been here long?”

“Ten or fifteen minutes maybe,” he replied. “Just long enough to get to know our waiter a bit.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I got hung up at work. Sue asked me to review a short document right at four.”

“No problem. Cody was a dear and kept me entertained.”

I tried hard not to wrinkle my nose. Was he trying to make me jealous again? “Well, that’s good. He seems like a sweetheart.”

“I didn’t flirt with him, in case you’re wondering,” Trent said in a tone that was almost too nonchalant.

“Oh, okay,” I said as I tried to resist the urge to rise to the bait.

“So, were you wondering?”

“Not really,” I said. It amazed me that I was being honest when I said that. Even one month ago, I would have been wondering. Hell, I would’ve been paranoid.

“It’s tempting though. I bet you he’d call me if I gave him my number.”

“It’s possible,” I said. This was getting irritating and I didn’t want to make a scene in the middle of the restaurant. “So, must be you mentioned my name to him?”

“Yeah, I said you were meeting me. And yes, I told him you were my boyfriend,” he said.

“Ah, okay.” I still wondered why he’d give a guy who knows he’s taken his number, but I had quit trying to understand Trent’s actions a few weeks ago.

Cody returned with my drink. “Here you are. Do you both know what you’d like?”

“Is the chicken in the chicken caesar salad grilled or fried?” I asked.

“Oh please, Alex. Like it matters. Having grilled chicken for one meal isn’t going to magically make you lose twenty pounds,” Trent said. He was often annoyed with my finicky food choices.

Cody stood looking at Trent with an astonished gaze. “It’s grilled.”

“Then I’ll have that. I prefer the taste of grilled chicken to fried chicken,” I said.

“And you?” Cody asked Trent.

“Oh, I’ll have a small order of ribs. Standard barbecue sauce.”

“Alright. And for your potato?”

“Baked and loaded.” Cody nodded and left to enter our order into the system. Trent commented to me, “I really think I will give him my number. Just to see what he does.”

I took a sip of my drink. “Okay.”

“You’re not going to object?”

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“So what? Are you going to punish me with the silent treatment?”

“No.”

“Oh,” he said, his face a mix of relief and confusion. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Let’s wait until after dinner, shall we?” I said.

“Oh, it’s going to be one of those conversations!” he said. “And here you said you weren’t going to make a big deal over me coming on to Cody. You just need to accept that this is the way I am already.”

I set my drink down. “I do,” I said trying to keep the irritation out of my voice.

“Well, good. It’s about time you just accept the relationship the way it is.”

I sighed. “I didn’t want to talk about this in the middle of the restaurant, but you keep pushing. So maybe it’s better if we just get it out of the way. I do accept this is way you are and the way our relationship is going to keep going.” I took a deep breath, then added, “That’s why I’ve decided that it’s time to end our relationship.”

Trent laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

I nodded. “I am.”

“You’re dumping me?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that. I just think we’re in different places in our life and we both need to accept that. I need to accept that.”

“I can’t believe this. I’m the best thing that has ever happened to you.” I shrugged. I felt that point was debatable, but didn’t feel like debating it. I just wanted this conversation to be over. He pressed, “You’ll never land someone as good looking or as sexy as I am again.”

I shrugged again. “You might be right. I’m willing to take that chance.”

“I’ll replace you by the end of tonight! You’re likely to be alone for weeks or even months.”

A thought occurred to me. “Are you really trying to get me to stay with you by trying to get me afraid of being alone?”

Trent stuttered. “What? How can you accuse me of that?”

“I’m not. I’m asking.”

“Whatever. This is all your therapist’s fault. She’s been turning you against me, hasn’t she?”

I laughed out loud at that one. “You mean the therapist that you insisted I go see in the first place because you felt I was just too paranoid?” Another thought occurred to me. “You wanted her to convince me I was just fucked up in the head, didn’t you? It’s just another way you’ve tried to manipulate me.” I paused, then added, “And yes, that one was an accusation.”

Trent sputtered. “I don’t have to stand for this. I’m out of here. He stood up and stormed toward the door.

I sighed and pulled out my phone and sent a text message to my friend, Sally. “It’s done. It wasn’t pretty, but thank god it’s done.”

I had just hit send when I heard Cody’s voice from beside me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I will be. Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you try to put a stop on the ribs?”

“Sure, no problem. Um, do you want me to cancel your salad too? I mean, if you need to leave after that, I understand.”

“Actually, I think I’d rather stick around and enjoy a pleasant meal.”

“That’s cool,” Cody said. “Let me run to the kitchen and take care of the ribs. I thanked him as he ran back to the kitchen.

Sally responded, congratulating me and asked when I’d be seeing my therapist next. I told her I had scheduled an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, though I was feeling surprisingly good about it.

Cody came back. “I was able to cancel the ribs. I also talked to the manager and he agreed to take the beers off your bill.”

“Beers? So he had more than just the one.”

“Yeah, he finished one before you got here. So, not that it’s any of my business, but I’m sorry.”

I shrugged. “Thanks. But I’m glad it’s over. I wish I had ended it even sooner. Putting up with him for ten months was just way too much.”

“No doubt. You certainly deserve better.”

The host came over and spoke to Cody. “When you get a chance, I need to talk to you.”

I smirked. “Let me guess, my ex gave you a business card to give to Cody.”

She blushed and shuffled her feet. “Yeah. I’m sorry. That was a really shitty thing of him to do.”

Cody asked her, “You tossed it, right?”

“I figured that’s what you’d want me to do.”

“Damn right. Are you sure you’re okay, Alex?”

“I’ll be fine. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of relieved. And I hope you didn’t turn him down just because of me.”

Cody snorted. “Hell no. He was an ass. Besides, at the risk of being too forward, I’d rather have your number.”

I blinked. “Are you serious?”

His coworker laughed. “Honey, he’s serious. Besides, he’d never play you after the experience you just had. He’s not like that.” Cody just nodded in agreement with her.

“Well, I’m flattered. But I think I need a bit of time. I’m feeling good about breaking up with him, but I still need to sort through things.”

“Understandable,” Cody said. “Though if I gave you my number, would you hold onto it and consider using it when you got things sorted?”

I considered this for a moment. “Sure. Though it’s probably going to be a few weeks.”

“That’s fine.” He tore a page out of his pad, scribbled on it, and handed it to me. It had his name and number written on it. “Thanks, Cody. And could I get another daiquiri? Non-virgin this time.”

“Coming right up.” He walked away. I smiled, surprised that the night wasn’t a total disaster.

Musings on Writing

"Write Drunk; edit sober."Tomorrow is my big day and my massive four day weekend is half over.  Today, I hope to spend a good amount of time doing some writing, as that’s the other reason that I decided to take these two days off.  Originally, I had hoped to have the first draft of my novel completed by June.  Well, that didn’t happen.  So I decided I wanted a couple extra days to put in some more work.

Granted, I don’t think that a couple days are going to get me back on track.  I’m looking at where I am and where I want to go and I realize that I have a long way to go.  Of course, I’m also realizing that a lot of what I’m writing will probably get cut.  It’s that, or have a book that rivals “War and Peace1” in terms of length.  And I have no delusions that I’m the next Tolstoy.

I’ve considered jumping ahead in the story, but have decided against it.  I figure I’d rather write everything out and then cut 90% of it.  After all, the more I have written, I figure the more I have to choose from in figuring out what’s the best, most compelling and most relevant 10% to keep.

Plus my choice to write everything out is an act of rebellion against my inner critic and my attempt to keep him reigned in.  Ever since I figured out that Ernest Hemingway2 was right (see the attached image) was on to something, the inner critic has been fairly well behaved.  I figure if I start trying to mentally edit out stuff and only write what I think might make the final cut now, I’ll jinx that.

In closing, I’d like to share a recent excerpt from the chapter I’m currently working on.

“Well, watching you get your sex on and actually enjoy some intimacy has been kind of fun, to be honest,” Ted said. “As for being obsessed, I think you were much more obsessed when you were single. If anything, it seems like dating Nate has made you find a new interest in life in general.”

I considered that. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I mean, I have the stuff going on with the youth, though that has more to do with Steve getting me involved than dating Nate. Plus there’s the possibility of me taking some classes. Which again is really about work and not my love life.”

“But haven’t you told me you’ve been doing a lot more drawing in your spare time, too?”

“Well, yeah. I figure I need something to do on the evenings when I’m not hanging out with Nate or working with the teens.”

“What did you used to do with your evenings?”

“Honestly? Watched television and surfed the Internet while wishing I’d meet someone special.” I cringed as I said it. “Wow, that sounds pretty sad, doesn’t it?”

“It sounds like someone who was depressed, if you really want to know my opinion.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. So why didn’t you say anything.”

Ted placed a hand on my shoulder. “Curt? I tried. Why do you think I kept telling you that you needed to get out and meet people? I even suggested you talk to a professional a couple times.”

“And I brushed the idea off,” I said smiling ruefully. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t apologize to me, guy. Your choices to stay secluded and sad didn’t affect me. Well, other than being sad to see a great friend do that to himself.”

“So, do you still think I should talk to someone?”

“Ultimately, only you can make that call.”

“But don’t you have an opinion?” I pressed.

Ted considered long and hard. “After Zach died, I spent some time in therapy. Mostly for grief, though we did cover a few other things. After my experience, I admit that I’m one of those people who thinks anyone can probably benefit from a few conversations with a therapist they can trust and open up to.”

“So that’s a yes?”

“Sort of. But at the same time, I’m not as worried about you right now as I used to be. I see you turning yourself around right now. You’re much more cheerful. You’re looking forward to working with your church’s teens. You’re doing things you love. And you even seem to be starting to set some boundaries with people like Tina. Plus it sounds like you might be starting to express your needs with Nate.”

“So that’s a no?” I asked. I was getting confused.

“I’m saying that it really is entirely up to you. Though can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” I said hesitantly.

“Okay. Let me first say that I think you and Nate make a cute couple and that I hope that you stay together for a long time, even all of your lives. However, just hypothetically suppose that the two of you break up for some reason. Do you think you’d still do all the other stuff you’re doing now and do them so enthusiastically? Or do you think you’d revert back to your sad, isolated self?”

“You don’t ask easy questions, do you?”

“No, I don’t. That’s why I don’t actually expect you to answer it, and certainly not right this minute. I’m just asking you to think about it carefully.”

I nodded. “I will. I promise.”


1Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, there are several other novels that are larger than Tolstoy’s book.

2Interestingly, I found this really cool post exploring that Hemingway quote while searching for an image containing it.

Making peace with being a non-NaNo-er.

In a lot of ways, I love NaNoWriMo.  For the random person who might come to my blog (I think all my regulars are at least familiar, if not actual participants), that’s National Novel Writing Month, which has occurred every November since 1999.  The idea is that the organizers encourage all writers who have dreams of writing a novel to go for it, writing a 50,000+ word story in a single month.  In many ways, it’s a great idea.  It encourages the whole concept of “Don’t think, edit, or worry. Just write!  There’ll be plenty of time to do that other stuff once you get it done.”  It also makes the writing process a community-supported event.  I’ve watched several people encourage each other, keeping up the excitement and — most importantly — keeping the ink flowing or the keys clicking.  It’s a great idea and a lot of people benefit from it.

My own experiences with NaNo — and I’ve tried twice — are different. For me personally, NaNo is a source of stress, insecurity and guilt.  I look at the goal of Nano, and I immediately start trembling at the thought of trying to write an average of 1,667 words every day for thirty consecutive days.  I just don’t work that way.  No matter how pumped I might start out the process, it starts to feel like a challenge and a chore, usually before the second week is over.  That just further crushes my creativity.  So most years — including this year — I don’t bother trying.

Of course, that leads to feelings of guilt and insecurity.  Again, I see all my friends pushing along and getting all excited, and there’s the small part of me that starts in on the self-judgement.  “Why aren’t I doing this?  Why can’t I do it?  Hell, why am I not even willing to try?”

This year, I’m saying to hell with all that.  I have tried.  It didn’t work for me.  I’m choosing to believe that that’s okay.  If my creative processes need a more leisurely schedule than what NaNo requires, that’s perfectly okay.  After all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up a straight-acting fundie boy only to become hedonistic Pagan flamer, it’s that it’s okay to be different and honor the fact that I’m different.

So to all my friends who are participating in NaNo, I say good luck.  I look forward to hearing about your progress and will gladly celebrate your success at the end of the month.  But as for me, my path is different.  And I’m finally getting to the point where I’m okay with that.

Still alive and sharing a link

Hello all!

Man, I’ve been silent for months now.  In some ways, it’s a shame that I’ve allowed this blog to remain untouched after spending November and December working so hard to get a regular schedule going.  But alas, I felt it was necessary.  Trying to keep it going through January — when I was completely unmotivated due to memories bringing up personal emotional issues (I’m fine now, thanks for asking) would have been disastrous, I feel.  At that point, keeping the blog going started to feel like an obligation of drudgery rather than something of I enjoy.  So rather than totally kill my own love for my blog, I decided to take a break.

I hope to pick this blog back up again, so I appreciate anyone who is willing to keep it in their newsreaders or on their blogrolls.  I won’t make any promises of when or how frequently I will return right now, as my attentions have also been focused elsewhere.  During my absence here, I started a new blogging project, which I’m really getting into.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of that project, I’m required to do it under anonymity.  That means that I am unable to let you all know where or how to find it.  Sorry.

I’m also trying to get back into writing more, which means my Writing.Com portfolio is slowly starting to see some action.  (My apologies to the prudes and those just not interested in male-to-male sex, but most of the stuff I’m working on right now is sexual/erotic fiction.)  I also just updated my writing-specific blog over there with an entry about one advantage visual media has over the written word.  I encourage you to check it out, though I warn you that it relies heavily on spoilers to the movie The Sitter.

I hope you all are well. Drop me a comment and let me know what’s new with you.

Entering a writing contest and reminiscing about roleplaying

Writing samples: Parker 75

Image by churl via Flickr

I’ve spent the past several days playing around with Writing.com (WDC).  It’s been good for me, as it’s helped get me motivated again to actually write.  And I’ve enjoyed the feedback I’ve gotten from some truly skilled writers over there.  Tonight, I decided to further participate in the site by joining my first writing contest.  I chose to submit an entry to the Character Creation Contest. I figure I’m pretty good at character creation, so it’s a good place to get my feet wet. I’ll move on to more challenging contests — one that force me to work on my weak points — as time goes by. So I put together a character profile for Hargath, a dark priest.

Hargath is actually a recreated and edited version of a character I played in an online freeform roleplaying campaign. The way I came up with him always amused me.

When the group on the BBS decided to set up the room for the campaign, I hadn’t decided if I was going to participate yet. So I sat back as people started making posts introducing their characters. I noticed that everyone was creating noticeably good — as in morally upright — characters. As I watched the party form up, I realized that this was looking like it would be a campaign where the players worked together perfectly well.

Now, perhaps it’s because one of my favorite roleplaying games (though I never got to actually play it) was Paranoia, but that state of affairs didn’t sit well with me. I felt that like good storytelling, good role-playing (I’m also of the opinion that the difference between the two is almost negligible) required some conflict between characters. It wasn’t enough to just have to overcome the obstacles of the NPC’s. There needed to be some obstacles to teamwork that needed to be overcome as well.

So I decided to introduce a dark priest. I forget what his name was, and I don’t think I described him quite as well as I’ve described Hargath. But he was definitely the dark cloud looming over the party. And his presence did make for some interesting role-playing.

Shortly before the campaign fell apart (those of us involve simply found ourselves with not enough time to continue it), I remember an exchange between my priest and the mage that my friend, Ben played. At one point, the party came up against a particularly nasty captain we had to get rid of. The party agreed that assassination was the best course of action, and my priest volunteered to do the dirty work. The mage decided that my priest needed a disguise in order to get close enough. The mage happily helped out in that department obliged, by transforming my priest into a woman!

Of course, my priest got his revenge. His new disguise allowed him to get the captain in private and dispatch the captain in a formal ritual sacrifice to the dark goddess. And the mage’s spell further enabled my priest to psychically link said mage to the victim. The end result, the mage experienced everything done to the captain as if it was happening to him. Ben thought the whole idea was a hoot. In fact, he wrote the entire scene for me because I didn’t have time.

Of course, my choice of characters did create problems between me and at least one other player. Another friend, Jared, played a Druid. Jared was interested in Druidism himself at the time. And my priest character did a couple things (like steal the soul of a horse so that it would bend to his will) that freaked Jared out. Note that I said it freaked Jared out rather than his character. Jared was mad at me for days. That much was unfortunate. But as I explained to him, part of role-playing and fiction is allowing some characters to do things we wouldn’t dream of doing in real life. After all, if all characters were the goody-two-shoes most of us try to be, our games and stories wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

And I admit that playing an evil character helped me write such characters much better.

Excerpt from a new story project

The following is from the first chapter of a new story I’m working on:

Josh
awoke with a start. He let out a strangled gasp before his mind began
to process his surroundings. He looked round, finding himself in his
own bedroom. His sheets were pushed off to one side, probably due to
him moving around in his sleep. He took a few deep breaths to calm
himself. He willed his heart to return to a slower rhythm. “It was only
a dream. Only a dream,” he whispered. “It doesn’t mean anything. Guys
dream about all kinds of things.”




He knew that was true enough. He had done a bit of research online, and
found that a lot of young guys dreamed about having sex with other guys
and still grew up to be heterosexual. He’d even read that some
experiment with male friends before going on to get married. So he
tried to reassure himself that this one dream didn’t mean he was one of
those terrible homosexuals.




However, his mind kept nagging at him. This wasn’t just one dream,
after all. He had been having a few dreams like this since he turned
fourteen nine months ago. He wondered if there was a point where it
quit being something any normal teenager might experience and starting
being the sign of something more serious.



“And it’s not just the dreams,” he whispered to himself as he lay
there, confused and frightened. “After all, I’ve been getting those
feelings when I’m awake too.” He thought back to that afternoon he and
Tim went skinny-dipping. While it had been innocent fun when they had
actually gone swimming at age eleven, it morphed into something more
sinister-seeming whenever he thought of it now. Tim had even suggested
they go skinny dipping again this past summer. But the thoughts and
feelings it stirred in Josh kept him coming up with excuses to put off
such an excursion.




Josh lay there, feeling more miserable the more he thought about
everything. He wondered how his parents, who raised him to be a good
little Baptist boy, would react if he told them he was attracted to
other guys. He wondered if they would send him to counseling or even
disown him. He was too afraid to find out.




And yet, he yearned to tell someone, anyone. He hated having to keep
this secret. It felt like a terrible burden – a burden he didn’t want –
to carry alone. And yet, he didn’t know anyone he could tell. He was
pretty sure everyone he knew would react badly.




“No, you’re on your own on this one. Just try to make the best of it,”
he told himself. Then he added in a quick prayer, “God, please help me.
And forgive me. I don’t want to be gay. I want to do what you want me
to.” He rolled over and waited for sleep to claim him again, to give
him a break from all his worries and doubts.


If you like it, please read the rest of the chapter and follow the story using the links above.  I hope to write more soon.  And of course, feel free to check out the rest of my portfolio on Writing.Com.  Though I’ll warn you that some of the other stories are sexually explicit.

Short Story: The Weaver and the Businessman

Traditional loom work by a woman in Konya, Turkey

Image via Wikipedia

The old woman continued her weaving.  Her slender, gnarled fingers deftly moved along the loom, positioning threads and locking them in place.  She studied her handiwork for several seconds before speaking to the younger man who stood behind her.  “What’s on your mind, Jeffrey?”

“You make the most beautiful tapestries, Grandmother.”

“Thank you.  I’ve had many years to practice.”

“And yet, it takes you so long to finish a single one.”

The woman frowned and her hand paused in its work.  “Good craftsmanship takes time and patience, Dear.”

“Perhaps.  But there are machines that would allow you to work faster, Grandmother.”

“And those machines would rob me of the joy I find in my work.  Working faster would be a poor substitute for the care and love I put into each tapestry.”

“But working faster would mean having more tapestries to sell.”

The woman sighed and turned to face the forty year old man.  She noted that he was still in the dress pants and shirt that his job required, though he had taken off the tie and jacket.  “And that would mean more money.”  She smiled as his pale face flushed at her words.  “Yes, I thought you might be coming to that.  It usually does with you.”

“Grandmother-“

“No, Jeffrey,” she said in a soft, firm tone.  “Listen to your old grandmother.  You are a good man.  You’re smart, and your business sense has provided much for our family.  For that, I am proud of you.

“But sometimes you seem to only think in terms of money.  And for that, I feel sorry for you.  Because some things are more important than money.  And my weaving is one of those things.

“You’re right.  I could buy machines that could help me produce a single tapestry in a few days, rather than the weeks it now takes me.  And if I was doing this for the money, it would make perfect sense to do exactly that.

“But I don’t do this for the money.  I have money enough as it is – as hard as it may be for you to believe that.  Instead, I weave for the love of weaving.

“When I weave, I create something beautiful, as you already noted.  I create it thread by thread and row by row.  Each move I make is an act of love and creation, a chance to pour another ounce of my soul into each tapestry.  That’s something I cherish.  It’s something that the money from a thousand machine-produced tapestries could never buy.  And I’m not willing to give that up just to collect money I don’t need.  It’s too high a price to pay.”

“But what of the things you could buy?  Things that would make your life easier?  More comfortable?”

“An easy life is overrated, as are excess comforts.  I have comforts enough.  Any more would make me value my life less, I imagine.”

“Are you saying I have it too easy, then?”

“That’s not for me to say, Dear.  I’m merely saying what’s right for me.  You’ll have to decide what’s right for you.”

“Oh.”

The woman paused a moment.  “I do admit that I worry about you at times, though.”

“You do?”

“Yes.  I sometimes wonder if you’ve lost sight of why you became a businessman.”

“What do you mean?”

“I remember when you first went off to college.  Yo were so excited to learn about business management.  The first time you came home, you talked incessantly about your classes.  I didn’t understand most of what you said, but I loved your passion and excitement.

“You took that passion and excitement into your first job, too.  You spoke of the challenges you faced enthusiastically.  You loved the problems and puzzles you solved.  Back then, it was about the adventure.

“But at some point, it seemed like you began focusing on the money.  And the passion changed.  Some days, I wonder if it’s there at all.”

“I see.”  The man sat down heavily.

“Do you, Dear?  Don’t misunderstand me.  Money’s not bad.  And you’ve always made a lot of money doing what you do, which is right.  But before, you thought of the money as a side effect of doing something you loved.  And now, it seems as though the money is your main motivation – maybe even your only motivation.  And that change seems to have stolen something from you.”

The pair sat in silence for a few moments.  Finally, Jeffrey spoke.  “I think I need to ponder this some more.”

“I hope you do, Dear.  I’d really like to see that fire in your eyes again when you talk about your latest venture or investment.  It’s a wonderful sight.”

“It’s a wonderful feeling, too.  I think I’d forgotten that.”  He walked to the door, then paused.  “Grandmother?”

“The old woman looked up from the weaving she had returned to.  “Yes, Dear?”

“How did you ever get so wise?”

“Years of living and learning.”  She paused, then added, “And weaving.”

“Weaving?”

“Yes, Dear.  When you pend this much time in front of a loom, you have plenty of time to think.”

He chuckled as he left the room.

Mary Sue gets me thinking

Recent conversations over at Slacktivist have increased my interest in writing again.  Hopefully this will lead to some actual writing in the near future.

The main conversation that has gotten me thinking was the discussion about Mary Sue‘s taking place in the comments section of Fred’s latest Left Behind post.  Wikipedia defines a Mary Sue thusly:

A Mary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fanfiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers.

The discussion of Mary Sue’s made me wonder about my own writing and my own characters.  I began to wonder if I have been creating any Mary Sue’s.  So I ran three of my characters through the Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test.  All three came out with a score that fell in the “most likely Not-Sue” category, though they were all on the high end of that range.  And a separate litmus test did suggest that Berit may be shading into “Borderline Mary Sue” territory.  This is a fair assessment, I think.  As such, I’ll be watching her character and how she affects the story somewhat carefully.

I think that what gets me about Mary Sues is that one of the seemingly primary traits is their ridiculous degree of perfection and capability.  Cactus Wren offers a powerful example of this trait when she describes a Mary Sue from a particular Harry Potter fan fiction author:

Callmebuck always reminds me of a particular Pottersue, a fifteen-year-old transfer student from America who was impossibly beautiful, slender yet curvy, had an IQ of 520 and ten given names, and besides being a more talented witch than Hermione was a brilliant actress and singer and stage director and filmmaker and was friends with all the characters from CardCaptor Sakura. (Who just happened to also be studying at Hogwarts.) And she was rich (her family had “estates” in about eight countries) and fluent in a dozen languages. Whenever anyone pointed out that this character was just too perfect to be tolerable, that she needed some flaws to keep the rest of the cast from killing her, the writer wailed, “But I can’t think of anyyyyy!”

Now personally, I can’t imagine writing such a Mary Sue, at least not that one extreme.  None of my characters are masters of every trade out there.  Nor can I picture them being so perfect.  I like my characters to be more human than that.  After all relatively ordinary human beings are what I find most interesting, personally.

Of course, reading through the litmus tests, I do find myself wondering if I’m not in danger of writing my characters as all being too likable and too agreeable.  After all, a story needs conflict, and personality clashes offer a great source of conflict.  So maybe I need to think a bit more about actually showing the conflict between Berit and Brother Jens that I’ve imagined all along.  Perhaps I need to work on those grating personality traits.  And of course, I need to working on having characters respond appropriately when those traits manifest.

It gives me a few things to think about.  And all this thinking is creating a desire to do some writing.  Now that’s a bonus.