Monthly Archives: January 2012

Monday Meditations: Music Makes Everything Cooler And That’s Not Necessarily A Good Thing

Good guys and bad guys alike could live their lives to the Inception soundtrack. I posted three quotes below. Every one of these passages could be read with this music in the background, and make it even cooler than it already is. Think about that for a minute. These passages come from a vengeful anti-hero, a patriot, and a faithful family member. Regardless of the words, they are all amplified by the music.

Do they make the words more memorable to you? Could they make you believe what you thought you would never believe in?


“Inception Trailer Music”


“This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.

The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.

The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’… and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No.’

They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father or President Truman. Decent men who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over a precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody Hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say.”

Alan Moore

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

Winston Churchill

“And she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’

But Ruth said, ‘Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if even death parts me from you.'”

Ruth 2:15-18

Notes Of A Storyteller: Writing Made My Day Better

I had a rough morning. I told some college friends I would wake up bright and early to exercise. My alarm blared at 5:30, and I mindlessly slept in. In my stupor, I lifted my head and 5:55 and decided I couldn’t get to the rendezvous in time.

Grunting, I translated some Latin and got on with my day. I returned to my laptop, prepared to stay on top of my coursework. A cloud still rumbled in my mind. I was frustrated. I like my days to go the way I plan them. The fact that I had chosen to derail my day was frustrating.

I don’t even remember deciding to write but I did. I kid you not. I’m not writing this to make you keep reading, or spice up my prose. My fingers instinctively moved to a short story I’ve tinkered wit now and again. Several paragraphs later, I breathed and felt slightly more complete. I still felt in a funk, but I also felt like I had done something good and natural. We’ll see how good and natural that story looks when I dive in for an edit, but I’ll dive later. I feel good.

What’s the lesson, then? Frustration, whether with little things or great, can all be pent through writing. But not pent completely. You still have to do the work to put a smile on your face and spread it around your world. But the pen is a wonderful place to put those anti-smiling forces to rest.

The Storyteller Reports: Is There Too Much Darkness In Today’s Fiction?

I am pressed for time, so I will speak swiftly. For those of you wondering about the FastPencil edition of The Quest, it’s still rebelling against me. It won’t publish. I’m working on it, but I’m also juggling college coursework.

In the meantime, I want to leave just a thought today. Have you ever gotten the feeling that a lot of modern fiction tends to be grim and violent? I was writing on Friday about why I put down Watchmen in favor of more optimistic literature. Now I’m wondering whether Watchmen and other dark tales have too much power in today’s storytelling landscape.

Look at movies like The Dark Knight, The Road, and A Prophet. They were all critically acclaimed and all full of deadly moral choices. Think about the works of Cormac McCarthy, or Stephen King, or even Brad Thor. Think about The Hunger Games. Think about Twilight, even. The Wall Street Journal uncovers a brutal trend in YA novels that turns my stomach.

We still have our Harry Potters and our Frodo Bagginses. I don’t hear such hopeful works discussed in the same tone. Films like The Help, and books like Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, rake in plenty of cash, and people say they love them, but they don’t carry the same weight as The Godfather or a drug addict’s new book.

The message that I am being sent is this: successful, serious fiction needs to be dark. If you want to be successful and seriously considered in your literature, you have to focus on the dark side of humanity. Inspirational stories, or stories with pure good and evil, are lightweight and don’t merit as much esteem.

Am I right?

Monday Meditations: Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life


“Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” by Monty Python

I’ll let the boys do the talking.


“When the world turns its back on you… you turn your back on the world.”

Timon the Meerkat.

For Those Looking For the FastPencil Edition of the Quest…

… it’s not here. The site won’t recognize the final step of the publishing process. I’ll keep you in the loop as this develops.

Notes Of A Storyteller: Why I Stopped Reading “Watchmen”

Feeling reasonable adventurous the other day, I strolled in my friend’s dorm room. Witty banter gave way to small talk, and as I conducted the small talk, I noticed a bright yellow cover on my friend’s bookshelf. My hand shot out instinctively. I grabbed a paperback with a bloody badge on the front of it. It’s name was Watchmen.

“Watchmen?” I said.

“Yeah,” said my friend. “It’s really good.”

“Hmmm… I’ve heard a lot about this. I’ve never read a graphic novel before. Could I borrow this from you?”


“I’ll be really busy the next few days, but I should have back to you at the end of the week.”

We parted soon after. Once I got back to my own dorm, I simply had to pick it up. I had an idea already of what was going to happen (I had seen snippets of the movie), but I wanted to see it in it’s original form. Thus I leaned against my bed and held the books in my hands. I was already excited. The perfect storm of marketing and hearsay had already given the book an aura that was dark and irresistible.

Compulsively, my fingers peeled open the book and brought me to page one. From the very first panel, I was hooked. Alan Moore demonstrated a compelling voice from the very first sentence. His story captivated me at about the same time. Time jumped out of the way as I careened through the pages.

As I went along, I started going slower and slower. If you haven’t read this… don’t eat before you do it. There is jarring violence, and even more jarring philosophies. I had to skip one part before ever getting out of Chapter One.

Only a few pages into Chapter Two, I closed the book.

“I’m not ready to read this,” I said to myself. Quietly I returned Watchmen to my friend’s dorm and went off to study Latin.

Don’t mistake me, here. Watchmen is a well-crafted piece of work, as far as I can tell. I do mean to go back and read it soon. But there are some things that need to happen first. I’ve read lots of depressing material lately- and thinking about it. For the longest time, I’ve been singing the praises of anticlimaxes and moral quandaries that aren’t easy to solve. In fact, I was sneering at simple stories- even those of my hero Indiana Jones!

It makes me a little sick now. There’s only so much sickness you can take before you get sick yourself. That’s why I’m putting off Watchmen. For the next few weeks, I’m going to read The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. It’s a giant poem full of knights and quests and stout moral messages. I think it will do me good. Could you recommend some other stories where good and evil aren’t complicated? Where the good guys win? I need a reminder of humanity’s optimism.

The Storyteller Reports: The Next Logical Step For E-books

I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.

Have you heard of Coliloquy? It’s a California-based company who has taken the concept of the e-book and mutated it into an app for interactive fiction. This follows in the footsteps of a similar venture in September called The King of Shreds and Patches. They’re written like any other book, but at certain points you must make choices for your character that will determine how he/she fares. It’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” for the Kindle. What’s new about Coliloquoy is that your choices are recorded by the app and sent to the company to influence future editions.

When I saw these headlines yesterday afternoon, my eyes lit up. My head is only starting to soar. Imagine if this stuff gets popular on the Kindle. The next Great American novel could be interactive.

Oops. Did I just say that out loud? I think I did. Let me repeat it. The next work of literature that could pierce the core of the human condition, and be read and discussed for decades afterward, could be a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book”.

Consider the power is leaves to an author. One of a fictions writer’s greatest powers is fate. What happens to his/her characters says something about how he/she views the world. When the villain falls off an icy cliff because he alienated everyone who might have been with him to lend him a hand, the message is that people who alienate other people are bad. Obviously, we can get more complicated than that, but that’s the idea.

Imagine this principle working in interactive fiction. With more choices come a more sophisticated moral vision. By coming up with multiple plotlines and endings, an author is forced to make more commentary on people and the world; he is forced to broaden his moral scope and ask more questions. This must strengthen the vision of his/her novel- not to mention himself/herself.

If you’re not up for literary fiction, more plotlines will still result in more excitement and more chances to hone your craft. The more you write, the better you get. What could improve your skill better than having to make so many alternate stories make sense?

All it takes is one runaway success to turn this into a legitimate genre. I truly believe somebody is going to take this genre and write a story (erm, stories) that will stun the world. You heard it here. Interactive fiction is going to find a way to become a force in the literary world.

Monday Meditations: Everything In Its Right Place

Welcome to the new site, one and all! Here’s the first post written just for this site. We’re experiencing anxiety through Radiohead and Samuel Beckett.


“Everything In Its Right Place” by Radiohead

Something about this song will haunt you. That simple piano melody, and that wheedling little voice singing will linger in your mind much longer than it should. Unease and paranoia simply drip from this music.


“I don’t seem to be able… (long hesitation) to depart.”

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (click the link to go to Act I of this existentialist play)

Notes Of A Storyteller: Why Can’t You Be Artistic?

Doesn’t the phrase “literary fiction” sound prejudiced? Say that word aloud. Let it bounce off your tongue on your lips. Is it fair to set apart a genre that is supposed to intrinsically tackle higher, nobler themes than all of the others genres.

On Wednesday, I described my issues with that idea. Now I want to bring the conversation to writers. Are you a writer? Pay special attention.

I submit that every fiction writer should seek to incorporate theme in their story.

“But wait!” you might say. “I just want to entertain people.”

“You’ll do that either way,” says I. “Make sure you do it right.”

If you have a moral vision for your characters, you will have a much more clear idea of what to do with them. It is the values of the characters that determine what they do, right? If there’s something about life that you want to prove, you have a much narrower field of options to choose from. Otherwise, you’re floundering among a sea of options, many of which are entertaining- so many, I suspect, that you’ll have more trouble choosing.

Let’s be clear, though. I am not advocating propaganda. You need to learn the difference between preaching and sincerely exploring a theme. You can’t just have the hero (or heroine) punch the villain in the face and say, “See there! Capitalism will always win the day.” You need to make things a little more complicated.

Read some philosophy, or political treatises. Try Plato’s The Republic, or Aristotle’s Ethics. Read The Federalist Papers. Think about what they say, and the consequences that might result from following them. Read up on your history, too. Pay attention to the ideas that run through history. You could look at the political struggles between conservatives and liberals in 1800s Europe. Could this have led to World War One? How?

Think on that level, and you might be surprised what happens to your imagination. I bet it will change your fiction for the better. Do you think books with noble themes should be boring? Think again! With theme comes focus. With focus comes urgency. A wizard trying to save the world becomes a lot more interesting to the reader when the wizard isn’t entirely convinced the world is worth saving, or if he does something ethically wrong in order to save it.

Try it. I dare you.

The Storyteller Reports: Literary Fiction As A Genre

RANT OF THE WEEK: Is Literary Fiction A Genre?

According to BooksLive, and to absolutely nobody’s surprise, there is some controversy as to whether crime books constitute good literature. I’ll let them quote the talking heads. In the meantime, I want to ask some questions.

Isn’t The Brothers Karamazov a crime novel? Isn’t it one of the great literary masterpieces of Western civilization? Darn right it is. Isn’t it obvious, then, that you can have a crime novel that is literary? Why are there people condemning entire genres? All good fiction should impact us. The impact might be sadness, excitement, or joy, but there must be an impact. By literary fiction, we mean books that seek to impact readers with ideas, as well as sensations.

Genre should not be the focus, but individual books. Crime novels, thrillers, horror stories, historical romances and all the other genres are settings in which literary fiction can take place- or an entertaining story. It doesn’t provide as much meat for study, but there’s no reason to condemn it.

Take a chill pill.