Sunday, November 14, 2010


Freedom is about deciding what you want and giving up everything else. A alcoholic has given up his (or her) freedom...or maybe decided that only alcohol matters and slowly gives up everything else, family, friends, books...the things he chooses to "enjoy" come with a licensed bar, and soon he is not too bothered about the things so much as the bar.

I know this too well.

So. Magic. A long time ago when I was younger
(so much younger than today)
I read some books about magic and ritual, and also read some philosophy. Nietzsche was one of my favourites, mad as he was.

He who seeketh may easily get lost himself. All isolation is wrong": so say the herd. And long didst thou belong to the herd.
The voice of the herd will still echo in thee. And when thou sayest, "I have no longer a conscience in common with you," then will it be a plaint and a pain.
Lo, that pain itself did the same conscience produce; and the last gleam of that conscience still gloweth on thine affliction.
But thou wouldst go the way of thine affliction, which is the way unto thyself? Then show me thine authority and thy strength to do so!
Art thou a new strength and a new authority? A first motion? A self- rolling wheel? Canst thou also compel stars to revolve around thee?
Alas! there is so much lusting for loftiness! There are so many convulsions of the ambitions! Show me that thou art not a lusting and ambitious one!
Alas! there are so many great thoughts that do nothing more than the bellows: they inflate, and make emptier than ever.
Free, dost thou call thyself? Thy ruling thought would I hear of, and not that thou hast escaped from a yoke.
Art thou one ENTITLED to escape from a yoke? Many a one hath cast away his final worth when he hath cast away his servitude.
Free from what? What doth that matter to Zarathustra! Clearly, however, shall thine eye show unto me: free FOR WHAT?
Canst thou give unto thyself thy bad and thy good, and set up thy will as a law over thee? Canst thou be judge for thyself, and avenger of thy law?
Terrible is aloneness with the judge and avenger of one's own law. Thus is a star projected into desert space, and into the icy breath of aloneness.

A ruling thought.

So...what makes a man free is his purpose, not a lack of purpose. And (in a slightly NLP-esque sidestep) all the things in your life should be part of your purpose (that ruling thought) or they are dead wood.

So does that mean that family and friends are dead wood? A writer should discard his or her social life and become a hermit with a keyboard as a pal and lover? The “icy breath of aloneness”?

Not for me, pal.

But purpose is about focus. Deciding what you want, how to spend your time. Making habit your friend and turning impulse into a tool.

So...what are you doing here, my friend, reading this? Haven’t you some higher purpose than hanging around here?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reader Identification

What makes us keep reading? What makes us care about what happens to a character?

I think it ties in to the idea that a story (and a character) needs an agenda. A goal.

But why would a character needing a glass of water create identification? Well, apart from the fact that we've all been thirsty, what creates the tension is not the WANT it's the obstacle. Something or someone keeping a thirsty character from that cool, refreshing drink.

But what if the character just gives up. Strolls on and thinks, I'll get a drink later?

There's two issues there, I think. First you have to UP THE STAKES. Make them desperate for water...and not just because it's been a day and a half in the dried up drought of the desert, but also, maybe, they've got a sick, thirsty child to save. Or something.

Also very important (I think) is that the character does not give up. Boldness.

I think reader identification is as much envy of characters who attempt to take control of their lives as it is about recognising and sharing goals. Wish fulfilment.

Like those Twilight books where the teeneage girl wins the love of the cold marble-chested vampire.

So...let's have characters with a goal, with a lot at stake (no pun intended, vampire lovers) and who will go for it and not give up. Who can't afford to give up after that first step. No matter what the obstacle and what shit you throw at him or her.

And it's your duty (as writer) to throw a lot of shit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A visitor

Last night I was visited by a ghost.
"I'm lost." He was just a shadow at the foot of the bed. I could not see his face.
"Who are you?" I asked, but I knew the answer. I knew who he was.
"I'm not anybody," he said. "Not now."
"What do you want?"
"I want to be somebody again."
"Do you want to be me?"
"Are you me?"
This was strange, talking to a shadow. I am locked away in an asylum and I am mad. The shadow was not quite a shape. The voice was an echo in my skull. Whose voice?
"I used to live here," said the ghost. "I escaped."
I wanted to explain to him. What I was doing here, in his cell. Why I was calling myself...
"They put me here." I said. "They think I'm you."
"Who do they think you are?" the ghost wanted to know. Was there desperation there?
Thomas Grimes.
"They think I'm him. Jack The Ripper."
"It that what happens to me?" the ghost asked. "Do I become you? Do I become a monster?"
"I'm not a monster," I said.
"You look like one," said the ghost. "That's enough for most people."