Another Hiatus

This one will be indefinite. Sunday’s post didn’t happen for a reason. Everything’s crazy up in here, y’all. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Peace to you all.

Notes for Sunday

Notes Of A Storyteller will be out this Sunday; the next two days leave me little time for this blog.

Tuesday Meditations: Beautiful Darkside

Hello! Back from my week’s hiatus, which became a week-and-a-day because my life has not yet coalesced into some semblance of order. My laptop is temporarily down for the count, so I’m gonna make this short and get back to work. We’re gonna talk later. For now, enjoy this song and some thoughts from a guy named Shaw.

SONG OF THE WEEK

“Beautiful Darkside” by The Classic Crime

The introspection of this band’s songwriting is terrifying.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“And yet, what is there to say except that war puts a strain on human nature that breaks down the better half of it, and makes the worse half a diabolical virtue? Better, for us if it broke it down altogether, for then the warlike way out of our difficulties would be barred to us, and we should take greater care not to get into them. In truth, it is, as Byron said, “not difficult to die,” and enormously difficult to live: that explains why, at bottom, peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous. Did any hero of the war face the glorious risk of death more bravely than the traitor Bolo faced the ignominious certainty of it? Bolo taught us all how to die: can we say that he taught us all how to live?… Does it not seem as if, after all, the glory of death were cheaper than the glory of life? If it is not easier to attain, why do so many more men attain it?”

George Bernard Shaw

A Hiatus

My junior year of college begins, and there is much to do in my first week. Therefore, I shall not blog this week. Probably. Maybe. No regular features for sure. Have fun doing whatever that thing is that makes you happy. See you on Monday!

Notes Of A Storyteller: This Is Why Writing Fiction Takes Forever

I’ve never been well-acquainted with Oscar Wilde, but there’s a quote attributed to him that floats around the Internet that says, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

I’d like to find where he said that, because it matches my own experience with The Kingdom Trilogy to a “t”. Just look at a few phrases I obsessed over during the last few weeks of writing The Stand. My writing is in quotes; my thoughts while writing them are in italics. The sentences don’t come from the same passage, FYI, so don’t try to link them together.

“The thought had come to him before.”

Hmmm… there’s something about “come to him” that just doesn’t work with the sentence. It doesn’t sound right. I want it to sound different. How can I make it sound different? What exactly should it sound like, instead of this? I’m not sure, but I know I want a change.

What about “occurred to him”? No way! I see that everywhere! I want to make it sound more original than that! No, brain, this is not an insignificant details! If I want to write good prose, I’ve got to focus on the details!

Wait a minute… how did an hour just pass by? It was 10 AM just a minute ago… oh, forget this. I have a chapter to finish.

“50,000 armored men stood in endless iron rows.”

Hold it! I need to spend some time with this sentence. Do I absolutely need the adjective “armored”? The readers already know that this is an army. Wouldn’t “armored” be redundant, then?

Maybe I should get rid of “endless iron rows”. I mean, now that I’m running that through my head, it doesn’t sound quite right. It sounds great, but it might sound better elsewhere. What do I think of when I see the phrase “endless iron rows”? Not a medieval army so much as a robot army. Heck, I could even see a steampunk politican using this to rile his audience against some authority- hey, that might be a story worth writing…

Ack! No! Don’t brainstorm! Make a note and move on! But wait- we gonna keep “armored” or not? Ummm… let’s scratch it. And we’ll circle “endless iron rows”. If I can think of something more fitting during editing, I’ll use that. Wait, what was my problem with that phrase in the first place?

“Eyes were locked forward.”

That doesn’t look grammatically correct. I know, I know; it will be clear I’m referring to the soldiers Arman’s looking at. But still. Maybe I should play by the rules and say, “Their eyes were locked forward.” That doesn’t take anything away from the sentence, though having a word that starts with “e” at the start of the sentence looks kind of cool.

I wonder if I should just get rid of the whole sentence? I’m trying to show that the soldiers look tense. But it’s hard for Arman to notice that from a difference. Maybe instead of this sentence (how is he gonna see their eyes from where he is, anyway!) I should have a sentence emphasizing why he thinks they look tense.

Come to think of it, maybe the fact that he’s noticing emotion on the faces of soldiers at attention is a stretch. I might not even keep this passage. Well, let’s think about that…

… and there goes another hour. Okay. Decision-time. We’ll add a different sentence, and save the rest of the passage for edits. Let’s move, Sean! You have got to get this chapter done!

And that’s only three sentences. Remind me why I’m doing this again?

Monday Meditations: The Godfather

I stayed up until about 2 this morning watching The Godfather. Now I know why everybody loved it. In fact, I’m so enthusiastic that I’m probably going to watch it again, and listen to this theme song for the rest of the week.

SONG OF THE WEEK

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a “boy friend,” not an Italian. She went to the movies with him. She stayed out late. I didn’t protest. Two months ago he took her for a drive, with another boy friend. They made her drink whiskey and then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her. Like an animal. When I went to the hospital her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered, held together by wire. She couldn’t even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life. A beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again.

I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison, and suspended the sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool, and those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, ‘For justice, we must go to Don Corleone.'”

from The Godfather

 

Notes Of A Storyteller: Why Writing “The Kingdom Trilogy” Makes Me Think Religion Is Worth A Shot

Before we get to business, let me apologize for not posting yesterday. There were Internet boo-boos on my end. This morning I was finally able to access the Internet again.

My topic today is something that’s been floating in the back of my mind for quite some time. You may have noticed the “r” word in the title, and I want to warn you two things: I am going to speak my mind, and I am not interested in bigotry.

Here’s the thing. I’m a Roman Catholic, studying literature at a Roman Catholic college. I’m writing a fantasy trilogy with themes that draw from my experience as a Roman Catholic (and a human), and I am inspired by a man who was a much more devout Roman Catholic than I probably ever will be (yes, it’s J.R.R. Tolkien). It took a while, but I have finally decided to embrace the impact of my Catholicism on my storytelling.

Here’s another thing. There are millions of people out there who do not agree with my religion. You, the reader, might be one of them. Do you think I have weakened my storytelling by using my religious worldview to shape it?

I would argue that it is my Catholicism precisely that helped shape the more interesting parts in The Kingdom Trilogy. Writing this trilogy, in fact, has reinforced my belief that religion is worth a shot. Is that vesting too much real-world significance in fictional plot twists? Perhaps. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

One of the most important things that I am exploring with The Kingdom Trilogy is the futility of humanity. I credit much of that to another Catholic writer, Flannery O’Connor. When I encountered her stories, which constantly take human designs and smash them against a wall, I saw a powerful witness to real life. Does anything on this earth truly go according to plan? With that in mind, the scope of The Kingdom Trilogy began to change drastically.

For those of you who have read The Quest, you can see signs of this already, although the idea was not yet fully explored then.

(SPOILER ALERT) 

Arman thought he had time to think, time to sort through his soul and find the courage to announce his love for Lelana. Then orcs attacked his home, and Menemaeus revealed himself and sent Arman on a wholly different journey. Even then, there was a plan. Arman would warn the countries of Upper Nola about the Nameless One and then come home.

Even that plan was subverted violently. Assassins killed off most of the bodyguard, and threw Corrandar, one of the most well-fortified cities in Upper Nola, into chaos. Arman was forced to flee into the wild for his life. The only reason he is alive at the end of The Quest is because Govorro inexplicably let him live.

The Stand (Part Two of The Kingdom Trilogy) will be much more explicit about these themes. There is only so much I can explain; I don’t want to spoil the important stuff. However, I will say that the countries of Upper Nola are gathered into an alliance against the Nameless One at last. Arman thinks that this marks the end of the politics that he caught brief glimpses of during The Quest. He is terribly, terribly wrong.

The countries that he has helped unite have a history of tension with each other. Some of them fought wars recently enough for their grandparents to have fought it. Working together proves to be difficult. Arman reacts with anger. He thinks that if they all listened to him, things would instantly be simplified. But by the end of the novel, his own judgment proves faulty, and it will cost him a price that will cut him to the core.

Because of his futile judgement, he agrees to a secret deal at the beginning of The Stand which will also reap unintended consequences that will swallow him up. Because of his futile judgement, he underestimates his enemies, both the Nameless One and his political enemies in the Alliance. Because of his futile judgment, he alienates his friends and leaves himself much more alone than he has ever been in the trilogy.

(END OF SPOILER SECTION)

It is in writing about this futility that I am beginning to understand why I have stuck with the Catholic Church as long as I have. This summer, I learned that I cannot depend on myself to do the right thing anymore than Arman can. I also cannot depend on other people, not entirely, because they have problems of their own; Arman hasn’t learned this yet, but he will learn it unforgettably in The Crown.

The only sure guide is something that is not burdened by frailty. Not all of you may agree such a something exists. But who would dispute that no human being is perfect? Are you asking me to depend on the philosophy of a flawed human being? If that’s the best we have, I’ll take it.

But I don’t think that’s the best we have. I think that on some level, what was said in the Bible is true. Thousands of people shed their blood believing it was true. Thousands of people shed other people’s blood believing it was true, but those aren’t the Christians I’m talking about. I’m talking about the real Christians. I’m talking about privileged men like St. Paul who dropped everything to embrace the Gospel, and women like Imaculee Ilibagiza who continued to trust in Catholicism, even after her family was butchered in Rwanda.

Two mellenia of people have witnessed through intellect and sacrifice that there is more truth to the world than the judgments of flawed men like Plato and Bertrand Russell. This truth is that there is a being who is infinitely powerful, infinitely perfect, and infinitely loving. I am willing to take a chance that this being exists.

I believe that religion is plausible. I take my stand in a particular religion, Catholicism, and I’m not leaving it until I find out everything it offers. Until such a time comes, Catholicism will have a mark on my fiction and I’m proud to say it. After all, this is the same stuff that inspired Dante. I can’t be completely on the wrong track.