The Tight Rope Act — a blast from the past post from February 2011

*So you don’t worry — I am better.  Much better.  Unfortunately the antibiotic messes with my fluid balance which has given me headaches from beyond, so I’m putting this here from a few years ago.

Two interesting observations — I’d just “lost” a fledgeling when I wrote this.  No to the best of my knowledge he’s not dead — it’s been a few years — but I couldn’t get him to understand the difference between stories you tell yourself and stories you tell the world.  In the end, he preferred his inner narration and refused to shape it in a way others might be interested.  This memory was revived recently by a certain obsessive author that some of my fans/friends have tangled with.  The thing is, they keep thinking this man is especially crazy or dangerous, but my feeling is “there but for the grace of G-d go I — and every other professional writer. Sometimes I think the miracle is that we DO pull away sufficiently to write stuff others want to read.”

The Tight Rope Act — a blast from the past post from February 2011

When I was very little and very sickly, before I learned how to read much less write, I spent the time I was kept alone, indoors, while recovering from some dread awfuls, making lego houses. It came naturally, after that, to make up stories about the people who lived in the lego houses.

After a while, learning and listening to adults became a mission of finding facts and “how things work” to incorporate into my stories. Some of the story lines and some of the characters have been with me in one form or another since then.

Needless to say I started writing stories as soon as I could write for a long time without discomfort – about six. But the “untamed” story lines, the ones that I told myself, continued in the background. And some of these people became as real to me as my best friends.

Right here I want it to be perfectly clear I don’t hear voices and I don’t see things. Having just watched Harvey, this is an important distinction to make. The only way I see things others don’t is if my fever is through the roof (and then mostly I see cartoon characters. Don’t ask. Tom and Jerry, yep) or if I take anything morphine-based, which seems to have a disproportionate effect on me, which is why I don’t take it unless the pain is truly unbearable. (Unbearable – can’t stop either crying or throwing up JUST from the pain.) Then I see Tom and Jerry speaking Latin to each other. (You wish I was joking. You’re just jealous because you don’t have the high class hallucinations we published authors get.)

This is not auditory or visual or any of that type of input. I’ve HEARD some writers have those. I’ve read The Evolution Of The Bicameral Mind. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

My storylines and characters exist in the same space as the “constant internal narration.” If you have no clue what I’m talking about, you’ve never stepped back and thought about it. There is a voice, always, inside your head telling you who you are. That voice sometimes takes on multiple tones and allows you to debate things with yourself. “No, I shouldn’t go to the store, because” “But I need to go to the store.” Etc. there’s also the times it replays arguments you had, or conversations where you’re not sure you got your point across. The story lines and characters are sort of like that, only these conversations never happened in the real world. Yet, it has the same feel. I.e., I can’t just change a character or what he/she says, just like I can’t just change what my mom told me when I was three. I’ve always figured it’s because my subconscious is a MUCH better writer than I am and creates this stuff without asking me about it. Usually I find the characteristics that bugged me about a character or a situation are needed – at least if these characters/situations are in an actual story (more on that later.)

From what I’ve found, I’m not unique in this. Most, if not all writers, have this going on in their heads. Some with one world, some with several, some with a world that’s much like our own, some with wildly alien lands. Some writers even have the full blown auditory/visual thing going.

Which brings me to why I’m writing this. Most of us who have this in ANY degree think we’re completely alone and possibly insane. My first clue I was not totally alone was when I read an interview with Rex Stout, when someone asked him how Nero Wolfe was doing, and Stout was able to give him the exact place Wolfe was, what he was reading, etc. as though Nero lived next door. After that, I became a member of a tightly knit writers’ group and found I wasn’t alone.

I still have the two or three “primitive” and hyper extended story lines going on in my head, but these days I tend to shove them to the back. I’ve learned to put my peculiarity in service of my art, and I USE that in the service of my writing. If a character never comes alive – and yes, I’ve had those – and the scenes don’t start playing themselves out in my head – including scenes I’d NEVER put in the book but which explain actions in the book – then the book is very difficult to write. To date I’ve done three that way, and I’m not going to tell you which, because I don’t think you can tell. It was just hell to write. And I have had one set of books in which only ONE character came to life. The others were “placers”. This is strikingly obvious and reviewers have noted it.

In addition, I have stories that come to my head by means of a fully formed character wanting to discuss things. This is why walking, ironing and repetitive tasks are ideal for coming up with story ideas. The mind goes somewhere else.

Again, I assume – and it’s the only explanation I can come up with – that as a result of my boring, lonely childhood my mind learned to amuse itself by playing chess between my conscious and my subconscious. My subconscious sets up the board, as it were, and throws up these situations and creatures for the conscious to play with. This is also not a bad analogy by the way on how to control it, survive it and use it.

So, why am I telling you this? Well… there are several reasons.

First of all, there is a huge possible trap for new writers who are of the type I am – people who want to write because the stories won’t leave them alone.

If you think of your world as pretty toys, spun out by your subconscious to amuse YOU particularly, you’ll understand how fascinating these stories are to the people who created them. Most of them, once they become hyperextended over years partake a lot of the characteristics of soaps, or even Lost (coff.) People die. People come back to life. Bizarre and purposeless stuff happens. But because these are designed to catch YOU and they are aimed specifically at you, you’ll remain fascinated. If your particular angle is sex, your plots will have tons of sex. Mine had/has tons and tons of medical details – because I grew up in a family with a lot of doctors and absorbed a lot of the interest, even if I never wanted to do it myself. These days mine also have a ton of start up businesses, economics and new inventions, because those subjects fascinate me.

For new writers, who are afraid to talk to anyone about it, the danger is that they will get caught in the first world they (subconsciously) created and which to them is so immensely fascinating. ANYONE who has been in a writers’ group for any time knows the “eternal beginner” who writes story after story after story in a world that is obviously NOT commercial by anyone else’s standards – a world that’s so targeted or so icky or so bizarre that you know no one else will ever buy it. But the writer remains trapped. If you read Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, and examine the dromes, these are something like it. The dream catches you to feed the dream. If you go on in it, you’ll never be published (more on why this is important later) and you and the drome will eventually die together.

The type of writer who does this type of story usually has ABSOLUTELY no control over them, either. You start noticing after a while, that their stories partake this dream-like and formless quality and it’s not unusual, if you approach them, to be told that “it happened that way.” That means they’re being used by the subconscious, instead of using it. It’s one of the many ways potentially great authors die on the vine.

Worse, with the advent of self publishing as economically feasible and THE way to get in, a lot of these writers will churn out endless novels that two people read, and go quietly insane, never understanding why they don’t sell more.

So what can you do about it?

1– (Sorry to use Pratchett as a guide here, but the man presumably knows what this is like.) Always remember which voice is yours, there inside your head. This is very important because it’s easy to become fascinated by a character and let it take over. I wonder how many of the cases of “possession” or personality disorders are just that.

Remember that your mind is yours. For whatever reason, you created this mechanism to cope with reality. Perhaps like me you were just bored and lonely. Or perhaps, like others, the situation was unbearable and you escaped it.

You might not even remember the circumstances, but do, please, remember, you are you — the other “voices” are just stories wanting to be told.

2- Seize the story, instead of the other way around. Yes, okay, people getting complex operations to repair bizarre injuries might be endlessly fascinating to you. Understand it’s not fascinating to most people. Your world might marry high tech and a neolithic society, because at the time you created it you had clue zero how that stuff worked. Understand you can’t use it that way in a story, unless you explain it. Then deliberately intervene. “No, it didn’t happen that way, it happened this way.” Give the story form, shape it (studying stories that worked commercially helps, here) and write it as a commercial story. You’ll find this helps too. Once it’s out there, in commercial form, it will cease to obsess you. Though you’ll probably get others and have to write them too…

3- Take a clue from stories about possession (I believe a lot of them centered on this type of mechanism) and bring in more devils to drive out that one devil. Weirdly, this does work. By conjuring up a lot of different stories (not in the same world) it divides your subconscious’ ability to create lures for you. That means each story line will be SLIGHTLY less fascinating to you, personally, and you’ll take better control of it.

4 – Publish it. Eric Flint has been known to say that if you’re not crazy when you become a writer, you’ll be by the time you’re a professional. He says this is not so much because we have to work with imagination at a level kids do, but because we live such solitary isolated lives, in which weird thoughts and ideas can seem perfectly plausible. It is the same with your world. You must expose it to the sunshine of other people’s minds. All the unpublished, cherished, obsessed upon worlds I know grow in “ick” factor. It’s the nature of the beast to make itself even more targeted and push more buttons. Which means “more insane” and also “would cause more readers to run screaming into the night” And, UNFORTUNATELY more importantly “will distort my sense of reality till I start reacting oddly to real life.” You must make it passable enough for other people to read. And this will allow you to control you own obsessions and move on.

As writers, we’re creatures who shape dreams. To some extent these dreams also shape our lives. We must walk that fine line every day. I hope this will help people stay on it, without falling into either side.

286 responses to “The Tight Rope Act — a blast from the past post from February 2011

  1. C4C

  2. Yes but my internal narrator sounds suspiciously like Harrison Ford’s voice-over from Blade Runner….

  3. Wow. . . Sarah, you’re only the third other person I know that’s READ Julian James on the Bicameral Mind. . . .

    • Read it bc (before chemo) I think the chemo wiped my mind of that particular book. lol I AM NOT KIDDING.

      • I think most people who were into linguistics read it. It was an interesting beginning, but you can’t take it as absolute scientific truth. It was a little out of date by the time I read it, and that was only about a year after it came out. (I was taking linguistics, neuropsych, anthropology, and archaeology classes that year, so I pretty much had to assign it to myself.)

        I think it was a decent enough book, but the way it went into religious territory was not a good idea, except maybe for the purpose of being able to get attention with press releases. I mean, there you are reading St. Teresa one day and she’s describing stuff, and then the next day you read this guy trying to explain away her experiences and basically failing miserably. (There’s definitely some interesting work to do in the interaction between mysticism and brain stuff, but it really needs some experts on mysticism and a more fruitful paradigm of research. Starting out with the idea that it’s all just a meaningless brain artifact isn’t going to get anywhere.)

        There was also a large dose of “people back in days of yore were just stupider than we are,” except that it was dressed up as “their brains were less evolved.” Three or four thousand years is not particularly long in the lifetime of our species, so you can’t just say “Oh, Abraham and Moses saw things because they didn’t have spiffy modern brains.”

        So yeah, one of those books that some people really liked, but mostly I kept yelling at. Possibly I missed some nuances because I was mad at the historical theorizing that made no sense.

        • Eamon J. Cole

          When you start with the position that “well, obviously they were hallucinating/imagining/etc. those events” I think you’ve undermined your own position, scientifically. Working with historical models, an element of the conversation needs to be “what if they weren’t?” What does that do to our evaluations, what does that say about how we see and interact with our world?

          It’s one of Sarah’s complaints, the assumption that the arrow of history necessarily points one way, forward.

          I haven’t read the book, but from your description it sounds as if it might annoy.

          • Yes. One of the nice things about The Midnight Disease is that while the author is an atheist, she does observe that Saul on the road to Damascus fits all the classic symptoms of epilepsy — except that other people saw some of it, too. She then observes that if you dismiss that, you really have no grounds to cite the incident at all.

        • “There was also a large dose of “people back in days of yore were just stupider than we are,” except that it was dressed up as “their brains were less evolved.” “

          Confusing ignorance with stupidity because of his own ignorance or a lack of knowledge if evolutionary biology.

          Our brain capacity hasn’t changed within last 100,000 years and definitely not within recorded history. The only thing that has changed is our knowledge base and the understand of how the universe works.

        • Suburban — when I wrote this I was very afraid people would think I was nuts. The thing is there’s a bit of the mysticism to the way I write too. As someone said “reporting” it right is what it feels like, sometimes.
          On the book — meh. My opinion is closer to yours than that it’s an answer. it was recommended to me by a friend, and I read it, and it explains some stuff in the writing — but yeah. It misses some too.

        • Yea – with the update, I vaguely remember trying to throw it through the wall.

        • Arrogance, pride and vanity. Anyone thinking that our modern brains are totes so much more advanced than the brains of yesteryear needs to be sat down and forced to read Euclid.
          Or Aristotle.
          Or Plato.
          Or the Proverbs.
          And THEN, because teh evolution, given a pad and pencil and told to top that. Failure to do so will be met with a paddling.

          Shouldn’t be any difficulty, because, you know, brain power.

  4. Of course, it’s a balance act between too bizarre to get published and too cliched.

    there are times when I wonder how Jasper Fforde pulled it off.

  5. It’s never good to stay to much inside your own head.

  6. That brings to mind Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage:”
    “Lock the door, and throw away the key
    Someone’s in my head, and it’s not me.”

  7. Living in another world…

    Sometimes, I wonder if this is why my dear, sweet mother wasn’t convinced that I was on drugs as a teenager. I found that endlessly vexing given that I had (have) never taken a recreational drug in my life. Apparently, she had heard something about teenagers being “withdrawn” as a sign of drug abuse.

    The bottom line is that, in many cases, the worlds in my head were more interesting than the one I lived in. Don’t get me wrong. I knew what was real and what wasn’t. I just preferred the land of heroes and daring-do, of fair maidens and large dragons. One day it was a land where men rode bestride giant robots to do battle. The next, a land of dark gods and the fight against them. Think about it. Is it more fun to slay monsters and woo maidens or do homework? Would you rather earn the gratitude of your king or watch The Simpsons? It was just better there.

    I guess part of the appeal to writing (to me at least, YMMV) is in letting other people see how interesting those worlds are. In sharing my vision to others. Now, if I could just get something finished and make that happen…

    • As adolescence kicks off, various glands either come on line or go into overdrive and dump buttloads (that’s a medical term) of drugs (hormones, drugs, what’s the diff?) into the bloodstream. So, to all intents, alll teeanages ARE “on drugs”.

      This makes all “public service” ads that proport to tell how to know if your teenager is on drugs less than useful.

    • In Surprised By Joy, Lewis wrote about how miserable life at public school was. Then opened the next chapter that it was all lies, it was a time of wonder and enchantment, wandering in myths and legends.

      All invisible to the outsider, of course.

  8. I have a friend who’s trapped in her head world and I wish there were some way for me to break her out of it. She’s ended up stuck because she’s pretty much alone in life and her situation has stagnated, she’s a few years older than me, lives at home with her parents, doesn’t have any friends other than me (I live several hundred miles away), doesn’t seek new experience and it shows in the worlds she makes and the people who populate them. We talk about our head worlds from time to time and in hers the situations are always needlessly convoluted, conflicts are horribly messy yet totally bloodless – like she wants to do intrigue but has no idea what it is, the good guys are always spotlessly good and never conflicted, while the bad guys do evil for the evilulzs.

    i wish I could help her because I used to be in a similar situation and got out of it. The worst part is that she wants to write. I’ve gotten her started posting things on the internet on one site, but it’s clear that her head world is always creeping in to places where it doesn’t belong.

  9. The inside of my head is crowded and that is usually a good thing, except when I can’t get the others to sit down and shut up long enough for me to hear the one I need to be working on. (Which is what mental duck tape is for.) I never wanted to invite anyone into the full world inside my head. I’ve always tweaked them before letting anyone else see them. The inside of my head is not always a friendly place, and I really don’t want to scare people that badly.

    • Those who read A Few Good Men. Luce and Nat are right now trussed up, gagged, and thrown in the garage, so I have the mental space to finish through fire. It absolutely was necessary, and yes, I know there will be hell to pay.

    • Then it can happen that you make an innocuous mistake… Like, say, “what shall I think about/write about today?”

      Villanous Vermin #1: *I* think you should write about *my* story. It’s got magic, and thievery, and evil, wicked, badness things. Zombies. Souls bent against their will to dastardly deeds. Lies, cheating, underhandedness, and general gruesomeness. Fight for injustice! Write my story!

      Space Scum #2: Oh yeah? You’re not evil at all. I chop off heads and make the bodies talk. I enslave AI’s and make them do food-processor level duties (truly nasty, when you’ve the computing power of a planetoid and end up making fried rice in space). My ship is absolutely awesome in its awfulness. Write mine, not this petulant poseur’s!


      Space Scum #2: Ow! I’ll have your neck for that! I’ve obliterated stars for less!

      Villanous Vermin #1: Not evil?! You never even get your hands dirty, you overfed pimple! Have at you, do-gooder!

      Space Scum #2: Non-rotten nice guy! Have a boot where your head is, simpleton!

      Mysterious Stranger: I hurt someone’s feelings, once. Maybe you could get my story writ-

      V.V. And S.S. still scuffling, in Chorus: Shut up, Third!

      Reformed Vixen: I think you should write *my* story.

      Villanous Vermin, in headlock: No way! You fell for Chew Toy Hero and went to the light side! You abandoned the abyss, and now we have to put up with Space Scum’s cookies, which are horrible! They have *aspertame!*

      Space Scum, picking himself up off the floor: Listen, you-

      Reformed Vixen, rolling up sleeves: Now, you’re gonna get it!

      Reformed Vixen kicks ass (figuratively and literally), but then her nemesis, General Specific Evil arrives and things start looking the worse for her until Chew Toy Hero picks himself up off the sidelines to Win By Nearly Being Beat To Death by all the other villains, scum and otherwise, then the other Heroes join the melee…

      Writer retrieves mop-bucket to clean up Splashy Snags, Clotted Contradictions, and Pulpy Plot-Holes and save the Sub-Plot ideas, Fight Scenes, Hooks, and Vitally-Important Viscera…

      • Eamon J. Cole

        I believe you missed this spot of viscera, here. I don’t know that it’s vitally important, but somebody’s probably fond of it.

  10. I’ve said it before, so forgive me if I sound repetitious… but I always feel like I’m on the right track when I’m writing if it feels like I’m describing rather than inventing.

    Another sign – and this I suppose goes to publishing, should I ever move from hobbyist to professional – is that when I solve one problem, the solution also solves other problems. I had a story with a subplot that actually made it impossible for the hero to win. I wound up yanking it out root and branch (and it hurt), but not only was my hero’s path suddenly clear, but the people he was interacting with suddenly became much more interesting; they got a character arc and some positive growth for having come in contact with the hero. Absolutely the right thing to do.

    Stupid subplot, I miss you so you incorrigible beautiful monster… *snif*

    • There are several books kicking around in my head but only one I’ve written… and it was literally fifteen years from first conception to actually writing it. Part of that was because the original idea happened in middle school and I had to learn to write first, but the thing that finally made the plot work was realizing that a particular character had to die… and because he had to die, he had to actually be guilty of the crime he was executed for.

      Sorry, Dad. He was a good guy when I named him after you.

      • Now when that story becomes something a college professor or some other professional starts to analyze, looking for all the hidden meanings and themes and how those reflect the life and times of the writer… 😀

        • The ultimate analysis would have to come down to the names being picked by a middle schooler who wanted vaguely Norman names that got stuck. If that means I have to stick in a postscript apology, so be it. ‘Cause my Dad was awesome.

          • Sometimes it’s possible to impose a new name. Can be a wrench, since you are so used to it, but it may be worth a try.

  11. The hard part is trying to explain to your doctor that, no, you really cannot take antihistamines, because, umm, it inhibits your imagination. Which is as close to saying “because then these imaginary characters in my head stop talking to me” as one dares. I don’t need a referral to a shrink. Umm, make that, I don’t _want_. _Need_ is a matter of opinion.

    • OMG. you too? it COMPLETELY stops the writing. Part of the issue the last two years has been that, until I got the hvac fixed, I LIVED on antihistamines. The writing just wasn’t there.

    • I’ve never heard of that with antihistamines; I should be more grateful that I’ve never really had allergies. It is a common effect with other meds. A doctor told me I’ve had ADD my whole life and prescribed me something (the name of it escapes me). Well, it worked, and I was finally a good little boy at age 40, and I stopped taking them in a week because I wasn’t me anymore. (I also went whole days forgetting to eat because they suppress appetite as a side effect. I simply wouldn’t notice.)

      This is a debate between my wife (a school librarian) and I. She sees kids who are absolute basket cases without the medicine, and I believe her, but I also see how often it’s used to simply pacify kids to make them easier to herd. No thank you.

      • I suspect I’m severely ADD but not as much as my husband, who has all the markers,including being put to sleep by caffeine.
        I shudder at the idea of taking meds.
        I don’t know if it’s something I ever mentioned, but I was on valium from 8 to 19 when I quit cold turkey. (Long story, but mom simply couldn’t handle me.)
        I could write on valium, but not really. I couldn’t FEEL anything. It was like living wrapped in glass.

        • Whoa, more new news – I wondered why drinking coffee at night seemed to knock me right out. I drink it anyway because it’s tasty and I can pour fun things in it, and the caffeine helps my migraines.

          I know exactly what you mean about that cloudy mental feeling… like being smothered under a heavy blanket, or watching yourself do things without being able to really participate. For me that happens when I’m sick. My medicine feeling was different, as if I’d lost a layer rather than had something extra put in.

          • oh, yeah. My husband can use caffeine as sleep meds. Doesn’t hurt, just puts him to sleep.
            Beware he also has inverse reaction to codeine. Doctor gave him a cough med heavy on codeine. It was four in the morning, and he was pacing around the bedroom, spitting equations at me, and bouncing off the walls…

            • For a time, I had to drink a soda at night just to get to sleep. But I think it was because I was so hooked on caffeine I needed a fix to avoid withdrawals.

      • Antihistamines actually turn my imagination on MORE, but it wouldn’t be anything anyone would want to read…

        Wait a minute. Lewis Carroll did ok with that kind of stuff. Hmm…

      • Drugging ADD kids does not make them perform better in school. Both parents and teachers claim it does, but it must be halo effect, because the grades do not change.

        • Then they weren’t ADD. True ADD children definitely get an improvement from proper doses of medication, unless for some reason they decide to actively fight the medicine. Both my sons are ADD. The oldest got help when he was younger, but the youngest did not. However, younger son also has ODD (Oppositional-Defiant Disorder), and made it a point to prove that the medicine did not help, so eventually we quit giving them to him.

          Later, in high school, he went back on them, and got significant benefits, because he wasn’t trying to prove it didn’t help.

        • In certain instances, I’m not really sure that “improving grades” is the point. Some people literally can’t be bothered to instill any discipline in the poor kids. The attitude is that the little rats can fail so long as they fail quietly. Nor is this attitude reserved to the teachers of the children in question…

          • Teacher-types always insisted our Eldest was ADHD. We finally had him tested last spring as part of a general assessment. Diagnosis: bored. I don’t think you can discipline the bored out of kids. At best you can get them to daydream quietly, but if you want them to pay attention, better step up the information.

            • Yeah. One nice thing about Frazz is that it manages to capture nicely that Caulfield is 1. a real trouble-maker, and 2. bored senseless.

            • I, thank fortune, am out of the line of fire on this one, but I have run into plenty of anecdotal evidence for the position that when a doctor suggests you child may be ADHD (or something similar) he may well be right, but when a public school teacher suggests it, she is almost certainly an incompetent work-shy twit.

              • In Connecticut, they actually had to pass a law forbidding teachers to make such amateur diagnoses.

              • There’s a couple, shall we say, live wires that I occasionally get to work with. They were, and are, on what I’d consider the energetic end of normal, but only that. My first thought on our first encounter was “typical -th grade boys.” I suspect a few too many public school teachers would have been jumping up and down wailing about untreated ADHD.

                • Eamon J. Cole

                  When did teachers lose the phlegmatic “boys” understanding?

                  Now there’s so much hysterical “boys!!” nattering.

                  • With the loss of male teachers and the gain of female teachers who don’t understand and don’t like boys. Some of these harridans see boys as deformed and hyperactive girls.

                  • Teachers have admitted in anonymous surveys to punitively giving boys worse grades. That explains the gap.

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      That is — frustrating.

                    • All you need to do is look AT any graduating lcass, and the top ten slots will have maybe three boys. MAYBE.
                      The feminists say that is because men are massively dumber, but we know from IQ tests which correlate well with schooling results (if iwth nothing else) that this is not the truth. soo…..

            • Me, in second grade…teachers thought it was ‘hyperactive’ (hey, this is 1979) when it ends up I had completed the busy work they gave us and was getting bored. Throughout school I could never understand why the other kids didn’t seem to retain the previous year(s).

          • Yeah, but that’s not ADD. That’s poor discipline at home and the teachers not being allowed to discipline the brats at school. Drugging them so they don’t mess up the entire class is . . . not the best solution, but too often it’s all the teacher can hope for.

            With ADD, I’ve heard the main goal is for the child to be able to learn the basics of reading and math before they’re in the upper grades and so far behind that catching up isn’t going to happen.

            • There’s a vicious cycle there. Time was when there was a sort of unspoken contract between the schools,and the parents. The parents knew the schools would do SOME indoctrination (how not?), but knew that a) they woukd teach the little monsters to read and do basic math and b) they could be reigned in by local control. The schools broke that contract, in several ways. Parents who would have trusted the schools to discipline their growing house ape no longer do, because the schools no lomger provide reliable services. So the teachers can’t discipline the problems, and thus cannot teach, even if they were minded to.

              I honestly don’t see a way out of this, other than a voucher system which woukd allow MOST schools to expell.

              • Good, why give the teacher the easy way out of being able to get rid of their problem students. They might actually figure out how to break through to the little miscreant. Anyone can teach someone that wants to learn it takes a real teacher to teach the unwilling.


                • The problem is what the teacher does with the other 25-30 students while getting a headlock on the ones who don’t want to be there.

                  • What you don’t do is give the kid what he wants and that is out of school. If you give up on a kid he is definitely going to have a harder time learning stuff on his own without any guidance.

                    1. Maybe the classroom model of teaching is outdated and part of the problem.

                    2. There are ways of passing knowledge on that have nothing to do with sitting quietly in a seat for an hour at a time.

                    3. Why do kids have to conform to a specific way of learning and not teachers molding how they teach to individual child and how they learn best?


                    I’m going to stop and leave it at this I could go on and on.

                    • For number three: There are not nearly enough humans (not merely existing teachers) who have the capability to teach all their students in the various ways they can learn best. Some accommodation like that is possible for most, but to be able to tailor to EACH child is a one-in-a-million talent.

                    • uWayne… Really?

                      This why I’m for homeschooling as the Parent(s) and extended family ratio makes (or should make) this moot, but this is another reason that the break down of the American family is such a problem. But if we are dead set in farming out our parental responsibilities then we need to look for solutions within that framework.

                      That last sentence do to a lack of imagination. To start with their are two broad categories or ways to learning academically (Book) and by doing (play or hands on). There is an infinite was of teaching things and if teachers can’t spend time getting to know their students; their interests and how they like to learn then you probable shouldn’t be teaching.

                      If your goal is to teach than not teaching is not a solution to having difficulty accomplishing that goal.

                      On to Mary.

                    • Josh, you might want to watch that. Your ignorance is showing and it turns disagreement from “I disagree” to a kick in the gut.

                      I’m only working with two kids, and they’re little, but tailoring their education is already a handful– and I know that I’m not doing the best that could be.

                      In the Navy I always got stuck setting up training, because I’m fairly good at it– in that very limited situation. Technical information, mature people with a common goal, and accepted authority.

                      With at least several years of practice in tutoring folks, I still recognize that I do not have the skill to actually tailor the education to perfectly fit the kids I do have– to do it for a really wide range of kids? Definitely a one in a million.

                      I do it, because I do a better job than any other option that we have.

                    • Foxfier,

                      When did I imply that it was easy?

                      Far from it. What I said is just expelling the problem children is just taking the easy way out.

                      Often the most difficult things are the things most in need of doing. “We educate are kids not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

                      I applaud you and commend you for taking the time and not farming it out to someone else.

                      Trust me you are more than qualified to teach your kids even if you do not feel like it. The home schooling vs public schooling stats bear this out.

                      Don’t ever forget it!


                    • When did I imply that it was easy?

                      Josh, LISTEN TO ME.

                      This is not funny. This is not about “being easy.”

                      This is about someone who has a theory telling a guy who has actual experience– not even far end experience, but further along than I am– that the thing he knows from first hand experience is not possible is just a matter of “trying harder.”

                      For the love of all that’s holy, STOP AND THINK.

                      I’m almost positive you’re not trying to accuse Wayne of being lazy and knowing nothing about children, but that is what you did.

                      You took my 40 year old college kid lecturing my parents about what is involved in the animal husbandry of beef cattle (dad has been doing that job longer than the cousin has been alive, and mom went into it before the kid hit his teens) and nuked that into orbit, then added a direct attack on family into it.

                      I do not CARE what your theory says– it’s wrong, and worse yet it’s driving you to ignore sources of information you should be BEGGING for.

                    • Foxfier,

                      If what we are doing isn’t working then we needed to figure out something that does.

                      What Wayne said, “For number three: There are not nearly enough humans (not merely existing teachers) who have the capability to teach all their students in the various ways they can learn best. Some accommodation like that is possible for most, but to be able to tailor to EACH child is a one-in-a-million talent.”

                      Google Learning style and Learning Style Test.

                      “[A] one-in-a-million talent” is pure hyperbole.

                      Determining someone’s preferred learning style is a one shot deal, not actually that complicated.


                      Public school are set up to only cater to a certain way of learning, and if that is not to your style you are going to get marginalized right out the door.

                      This has been my experience with the public school system as well as others from the complaining I hear. Is this a problem in need of a solution or is it a system needing defending.

                      And if it is arrogant to think I can come up with or propose a solution, then I’ll gladly take on that mantle.

                      We are really good at Black Hat Thinking around here, Don’t get mad at me if I counter it by putting on the Green.

                      Criticizing a policy or practice is not making things personal, because the other side holds the opposite position. Saying that some can not see a solution because of a lack of imagination is not saying they are bad or morally corrupt.

                      If Wayne has data that backs up his position I would love hear it. There are reasons that my Ideas will never be implemented in our public school system, but those reasons are political and not based on whether or not it would improve children’s ability to learning.

                    • If what we are doing isn’t working then we needed to figure out something that does.

                      That. Has. Nothing. To. Do. With. The. Problem.

                      If Wayne has data that backs up his position I would love hear it.

                      No, you wouldn’t. You’ve been ignoring his data– years of experience– in favor of your theory. Ignoring so hard that you can’t even pay attention to what YOU are saying.

                      You are being blind while priding yourself on how willing you are to listen.

                      I’m done with it, I already know how you get when the bit is between your teeth.

                    • I think part of the problem is that you’re careless with your word usage.

                      You make a statement that we need “… teachers molding how they teach to individual child…”. This carries an implication that the teachers need to present as many different programs as there are children in their class. THIS IMPLICATION is what I was addressing in my original response to you.

                      Then it becomes a limited number, rather than being completely individual. You cannot take a different goal post and apply it to the response to the first one.

                      If you go back and look at my whole reply to you, you will find an implicit recognition that there can be flexibility in teaching; just not as much as your original comment implied.

                    • Wayne,

                      Your right I was sloppy in my word choice.

                      We need to evacuate each individual child and teach to their learning style. I combine the Audio & Visual learning styles into what I call Book because it’s easy to do so, and I call Kinesthetic “Hands On and Play” because I have a hard enough time spelling 4 letter words.

                      So! You only really need two’sh lesson plans; which I admit doubles a teachers work load for a mixed learning style class, and is why it will never be adopted. It’s much easier to do what they do now with those rambunctious Kinesthetic learners; boy and girls.

                      Wayne, I believe that if given a chance there could be greater flexibility than you think is possible. Maybe not within the bureaucratic general public school framework as is, but that does not preclude that it could not be done at all. FYI: Charter schools are a away to try to bring more flexibility into the public school system, and to address this concern.

                      I do see how what I said could be construed that way.

                    • Incidentally, I saw your comment that Real Life was intruding. Now worries, I’m patient.

                    • Josh, your breakdown is hopelessly simplistic in one way, yet axiomatically proving my point in the other, when referencing the statement that I replied to:

                      3. Why do kids have to conform to a specific way of learning and not teachers molding how they teach to individual child and how they learn best?

                      And later you said,

                      To start with their are two broad categories or ways to learning academically (Book) and by doing (play or hands on).

                      Yes, you could break it down to two broad categories. But that’s not enough, because those two categories need to be broken down further, depending on what subject you are teaching and the student you are trying to teach, leading to much higher levels of complexity. Remember that the vast majority of humans are near the average for abilities. Few are able to handle being pulled in all the directions that would be entailed in actually tailoring their curricula to each student, even if they had as few as 10 students per classroom.

                      Yet later you said,

                      There is an infinite was of teaching things…

                      Which actually makes it harder, because, rather than giving the teacher a better set of choices, now he must determine which methods he should use, from an infinite set.

                      Look, I’ve seen this in a different setting. When I worked the helpdesk, we had about 30 different companies as clients. Our management, in its infinite wisdom (NOT), decided that we would ALL support EVERY client. It’s not possible, unless you’re super-ADHD-man, to keep all the various rules in place in your head for the various groups and shift to the appropriate one as the call comes in. And we COULD NOT use a single set of rules for everyone, so our service level suffered monstrously, and eventually the helpdesk closed down.

                    • Wayne,

                      Give me a little bit and I’ll address your points.

                      RL is intruding.

                    • Wayne,

                      “Few are able to handle being pulled in all the directions that would be entailed in actually tailoring their curricula to each student, even if they had as few as 10 students per classroom.”

                      This true if we are not going to evaluate students to see what their preferred learning style is before you stick the little darlings in a single class teach them all the exact same way.

                      How about test then split them up into there different learning styles. Audio learner go to one class where a teacher that specializes in teaching Audibly and has there teaching plans geared to this style. Do the same for those who learn visually and Kinestheticly.

                      Yes, certain subject are a blending of the three style but the focus is to try to teach to the students strength when possible within those class and the prepared curriculums. This will allow for easer tweaks and adjustments for within those classes.

                      Specialization works. This way you avoid the a single teacher having to bounce between learning styles within the same class.

                      This is happing in some private and charter schools already.

                      When I said, “There is an infinite was of teaching things…” I was trying to point out you can be creative you don’t have to do it the same way for everyone of every time.

                      To your last point. At no point did I say a single teacher had to know or do it all. Specialization works.

                      There are roughly three ways of learning. audio, visual and hands on. How many ways within that framework are there to pass on the knowledge of the ages.

                    • To your last point. At no point did I say a single teacher had to know or do it all. Specialization works.

                      There’s a skill that you need to cultivate. It can be very hard, or very easy. It’s easier for me, because of the way my brain works. The skill is learning to read what you write as if you have no idea what you were thinking at the time you wrote it. If you can pull this off, it will forestall a lot of the communication troubles you have here. Because, as I pointed out in my reply to your reply to Foxfier, yes, you did say that.

                      You may not have thought you said that, but that’s what the concatenation of words that you wrote did indeed say.

                      Hmm… no matter how I phrase that, it either sounds patronizing or pissed off, but I don’t intend it that way. I’m trying to point out a true difficulty, which I recognize through intimate familiarity. I say things to people and have no idea why the respond the way they do. And I eventually figure out that they aren’t hearing everything I’m thinking.

                      Why is it easier for me to go back and read as if I don’t know what I was thinking? Because I forget things so quickly that I probably don’t remember what I was thinking.

                    • Wayne,

                      No worries.

                      If I say, “teachers need to do something,” Do I mean teachers as a whole or teachers individually?

                      It was sloppy of me to not be more clear., but it’s not the only way to interpreting that statement.

                      I do need to slow down and workout where there are misunderstandings.

                      I’ll try to be more clearer in the future.


                    • So you pour more and more resources on the kids who don’t want to learn?

                    • Mary,

                      I don’t know of any kids that don’t want to learn, most of it is they just don’t like the way they are being taught and is bored.

                      As to resource management the outliers on either side of the bell curve are going to need special attention.

                      At no point was my “solution” to just put more and resources into the problem cases.

                      Maybe if they don’t want the money from the voucher or state and federal money for that student then they need to be teaching that student. If they don’t want the money voucher or tax then by all means the parents should go some where else or homeschool.

                      It annoys me to only hear excuses as to why something can’t be do vs finding solutions.

                  • P.S. If you do fill that Class Room learning is needed maybe the Administrator of the school needs to identify those teachers with an aptitude for breaking through to the hard cases and there job will be to take the students under their wings until they are at a point they can be reintroduced to a larger classroom.

                    • And perhaps the parents should be required to attend school with the problem children and deal with the discipline themselves. Get Daddy docked some pay, and you’ll see a kid get straightened out quick. And CPS not over reacting to reasonable levels of physical discipline would help.

                    • +1

                    • Parents black, teacher not: RAAAAACIST! discipline.

                      My mom taught school in AL 30 years. I know how this works.

                      Daddy? Which daddy? One mom, 5 kids, 6 different last names.

                      (Duplicate comment; WP nested wrong on first one.)

                    • You’d also have to have a way to prevent the parent from being fired, not merely docked pay.

        • May be too much noise to get a proper reading– I know it’s popular to put kids on meds for that “mental condition” because they’ll qualify for some extra programs.

      • I personally think that’s because a lot of these kids never learned self control, they were just popped on the pills as soon as they showed any sign of being difficult.

        • Professor Badness

          Yeah, people who have actually dealt with ADD/ADHD can tell the difference.
          I’m severe ADD, but I was only on meds briefly (a year or so) while I learned to cope. I had supportive family and help at school to teach me coping mechnaisms..

  12. Glad to hear things are improving, continue along that path, yeah?

    Never know whether to be comforted or terrified to find other people like me…

  13. I haven’t been daydreaming lately – I do dream a lot. Since Foxy wakes me up with her jewelry to get under the covers I am remembering a lot of them too. The latest I was wearing a cap and some officer was telling me that I didn’t have the right to wear the cap. My hubby’s voice came from behind me and he said, “you have every right.” Yep, even in my dreams I have his support. I was about to punch the officer in the nose, but saved by Foxy. Anyway– I have a few of my first stories that are dream-like and exactly what you are talking about (meaningful to me and not to the reader). They didn’t do well when read by someone else. But, that was when I went looking for books on plot and structure.

    I don’t know if I am doing okay with my stories– hard to tell as the creator… but when I compare them to the oldest ones, then I know there has been some progress. I started out writing as a poet and had to change my language structure to accommodate stories. It is two entirely different ways of writing… that was interesting and sometimes hard as well.

    • Oh and my head is full of sound… my characters can be hard to pull out of the shadows. So I learned to do deep meditation a long time ago. I think I was meant to be a musician.

  14. Professor Badness

    I’ll normally have a scene, or a moment of action or even an entire conversation just appear in my mind. Then I build the story outward from there.
    I’m not sure my characters grow/develop so much as fit themselves to the scene. (Maybe that’s why I haven’t been published.)

    • Did you have trouble getting the “figure it out” to attach, properly?

      I got introduced to my main character that way, and I know a lot of his story, but the “figured out” frequently doesn’t want to hook up with the rest…..

      • Professor Badness

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “figure it out”?

        • You mention you build the story from there– so you figure out what wasn’t handed to you, right?

          • Professor Badness

            Oh yes, but the scene is sometimes so vivid that building the rest of the story is easy.
            When I’m on a roll, the story really just writes itself. (As opposed to other times when my brain seems to get stuck on a particular scene or conversation.)
            My average seems to be about one page per hour, but the actual speed varies.

            • Dang it, the scenes I get are more… well, I got introduced to my current focus when he was ferrying an old family friend to a new ship that was being sold to her people, a make-work task because he was on wahtever you call mental LLD…and that’s all I knew. I knew his family, some of what he could do, even his philosophy, and that they were going to disappear in the ship, unwillingly.

              Guess I need to work harder!

              • Professor Badness

                I don’t know if you need to work “harder”.
                Some of my world building happens as I ponder a story and characters. But the best stuff just happens as I write. I’ll have a bare bones story that flesh’s itself out in the most astounding ways.
                My biggest problem is a lack of time. Between work, commuting and housework, I don’t get much done.

    • That’s a lot of how I write, too. Takes development. In particular, I have to make sure that the moment does not dictate the character of those in it; they have to have other facets.

      • Professor Badness

        I just find it’s a good place from which to start. The development of a character happens as I keep writing. I like to use my commute home to think of the stories and especially the characters.

  15. Yep, my mother has it. She did have a stalker for a bit. After that, she took the bit in her mouth and ran with it. Imaginary enemies galore. After I quit painting and began writing, I noticed that there were little voices in my head. They were always there even as a kid; but, eh, they were friendly except for one that sneaks in a ‘you’re no good’ once in a while and I and the other brothers have to have a small talk with ‘him’. It dawned on me that they were my creativity and needed to be befriended but controlled. Then, I began to look at Mom. Sure thing- Type A personality, keep her busy, no problem. Let her get bored and the imagination begins working. The staff at the retirement home- routine minded, can not relate when she starts one of her stories. I have to do a lot of counseling on both sides to keep peace and I don’t think the staff understands yet. Funny thing is that she and the other residents get along just fine. She just annoys the staff.

  16. People in your heads. Have you seen the trailer for Pixar’s next movie:

    • Gotta wonder if they really _meant_ to portray the Mom as a vapid harridan, incompetent to handle the role of nurturer, emotionally adulterous, and projecting blame for her failings onto her baby-daddy when she aims the Discipline Hammer at a delicate bit of electrical work.

      (The Dad’s failings, of course, were entirely deliberate from start to finish.)

      • Looked like a pretty obvious “the whole family is having trouble.” Stuff that can be fixed, if it’s identified.

        • Reminds me of a 50’s or 60’s cartoon where a woman was “driven” by two little opposite versions of herself, sitting at the controls behind her eyes. One was impulsive and the other disciplined. No idea what it was called, but this clip definitely hearkens back to it.

  17. Tom and Jerry… Speaking in Latin…. Better that butterfly dragons and living clouds. (Wisdom teeth removal that ended with finding out I have an intolerance for codeine’s and a 102 fever. I have a vague memory of my mother laughing hysterically *after* we got back from the ER.)

    • This changed to high pitch singing evil lizards in the last four years.

    • Anti-inflammatories after wisdom teeth removal had me seeing pink elephants. I was kinda surprised to find out that indeed, you can see pink elephants. (Aaaaand Firefox won’t let me copy in the appropriate video. Grarf).

    • Then I see Tom and Jerry speaking Latin to each other.

      Could be worse. Porky and Miss Piggy could be speaking Pig Latin.

      Or Napoleon and Snowball performing Julius Caesar?

  18. Anyone ever get distracted by their internal story at a particularly bad time? Big meeting, driving in traffic, firefight, etc.

    • once, while driving to teach class in the North of the Springs, I found myself in Denver. I called my class at the air force base and they said “We figured. We’ll wait.” 😛

    • Yeah. I work in sales. Some of the people I sell to are way too focused on their specialty (AV equipment) and can drone on unendingly about it that there are times when I totally tune out. Trust me. There is ALWAYS somewhere more fun to be than listening to some dude tell you the story of when the bulb in his projector blew and cracked the mirror. Trust me. So yeah, at that point it’s easy to drift away and end up in another world summoning your magical warhammer.

    • Had a story ambush me at work once. I was walking security patrols in a dimly-lit, empty, unfamiliar office building at 1AM. Of course it started out as a horror story involving a fast zombie-like killer with a large knife with me playing the role of victim, (in other words, just a sci-fi version of the mental exercises I did do all the time) but then it morphed into a variation on the Hulk story with the infection going “wrong” and the victim keeping his sentience, learning to cope with it, and themes of embracing and harnessing one’s animalistic side to positive ends…

      Then I gagged the muse and stuffed him back in the closet and locked it more securely. I haven’t got time or energy enough to have ideas floating around like that. I might trip on one.

      • Gotta watch those security jobs… I have a friend with one and he has ended up churning out an endless MLP fanfic (but at least with mostly his own original characters). I preferred it when he drew, but he seems to have given up art.

  19. There’s a book I worked on in my head for years. Whole backstory, scene after scene, the works. And then I wrote a different book entirely. Because that thing in my head? It’s not a complete narrative. I don’t have the core purpose for it yet. If I ever get that, I’ll write it down. But there are too many pointless books out there; I don’t need to add to their number.

    P.S. That book I’ve written has not been sent out for lack of one stupid thing: the three-sentence “elevator pitch.” If I could describe it in three sentences, I wouldn’t have had to write 70,000 words on the subject.

    P.P.S. I want to try traditional publishing first, in large part because of that external check.

    • You are a writer. You are not supposed to write English lit articles about your own work. You are supposed to put it out. Let other people analyze it if they feel like it.

      If you want an external check, get beta readers or an editor. But otherwise, your job is to publish yourself, as quick as books are finished or good.

      If you want someone to write you a blurb, hire an editor or an ad copywriter. Heck, bribe your friends to be your marketing focus group too, if you want. But you do not have to be a marketing genius before you can put out a darned good book. You are writing books, not Hollywood screenplays. (And the screenplay industry does elevator pitches because Hollywood is rude and doesn’t like to listen.)

      The author of Watership Down said he had no idea why people like his book so much. He just wanted to get it out there because his daughters said it was a good story and other people should be allowed to read it. It was rejected again and again, and only saw the light of day because he found a small press that reprinted a vaguely similar book from Victorian times. I’m sure you know that Tolkien and Rowling were rejected lots, too. We don’t know what great books are lurking in trunks.

      Are you going to rely on luck? In a traditional publishing industry that sucks? Or are you just procrastinating by saying you are holding back for lack of analysis?

      • Eamon J. Cole

        Hope no one minds, I’m just going to take a little scoop of this to heart…

        • I’m very good at telling people to do stuff, ’cause it helps me procrastinate about my own….

          Seriously, though, if people do want to go the trad route, it’s even more important not to put it off. Trad submission can take literally years, even if you have a decent agent and an editor who gets back to people. And you have to be writing something else all the time while the submitted stuff is going through the process.

          • Eamon J. Cole

            I’ve no interest in trad pub, personally. The clear idiocy of the trads kept me from looking toward writing for far too long.

            But the little bit about external checks, and marketing, and putting it out there…

            My writing background is steeped in evaluations and checks, and my storytelling background is personal and fluid. Tying the two together: Obsessive-compulsive guy — hesitates.

            • Well, then it’s probably better if you hire a tad of help or establish a process, and then just push ’em out there indie-style.

              • Eamon J. Cole

                Working on it. Struggling with the novel process, currently. If I get that under control I’m looking to hire that tad of help.

      • Cracking the whip… Fifty Shades Style.

        * Crack*

      • It’s the submission letter thing. For some reason, unless I follow a particular script, my letter writing goes straight into really dry technical writing mode, partly fueled by the dry understatement style my family has been using for my whole life. The particular form I’m trying to follow requires a pitch to get the person to actually read the manuscript, and my problem is mostly the distraction of having small children, one only four months old. I basically finished the book while pregnant with the first, managed to do all the major revisions before he was six months old, and totally lost focus the instant he became mobile.

        If I were to self publish, that would require money for the cover photography (model, costuming, and rights from the photographer to photoshop the heck out of it) and more marketing than I have the focus to do—that is, pretty much ANY marketing is currently beyond my current ability to commit. (This week, I was intending to get a birth certificate for the baby, take expired car seats to the CHP so *they* can throw them away, and finish the IEP renewal prescreen paperwork, and maybe clean the house from the aftermath of the unexpected houseguest we had for the holidays, but instead I get to take the car in for the Check Engine light and the fog means that the four-year-old was NOT taken by her grandmother for the day, so no cleaning because she needed attention.) Yeah, I’m interested in tradition publishing right now, even with its downsides. At least it’s fantasy, not science fiction, and young adult, so it’s slightly different markets…

        • google dollar photo club, then poke around. The licenses are cheap. And you can probably get me or one of the huns to letter for you.
          If you insist on trad, ping me at my first and middle initial then last name at hotmail dot com. I’ll send you a few cover letters/proposals that sold.

          • Oh, I have a very specific image in mind, and a photographer I can use. (I work for a studio myself but don’t own an SLR; it’s why I’m confident in my photoshopping and design skills. Nothing like making a living at something with deadlines to hone your skills.) I also need to build a harp that I can smash.

            I don’t do things halfway. 🙂

            • BTW, did I mention I’m insane? I’m not a writer, I’m an artist. (As in visual art, no guarantee of quality. My profile pic is a random sample of horsing around.) I only wrote the silly thing down because nobody else wrote me that story and I wanted to read it.

              That probably explains a lot about why I’d like to get it published but don’t feel too uptight about it. However, this discussion did inspire me to start re-transcribing the mass parts I wrote for my wedding fourteen years back. (Today. Um. We always don’t do much for anniversaries.) (Note the above: I’m insane. These days I do more music than art and I’m still an artist, not a musician, Weird how the mind works…)

            • Um.
              Is it romance?
              If it’s not romance, you don’t want a picture.
              I need to talk about covers again, don’t I? I guess I will for Mad Genius Club.

              • It will start as a picture. By the time I’m done, it will look like a painting. And yes, I do need a photograph to start with because that is my shortcut—get as much of the lighting and costume correct as possible, and it looks better than I can do out of my head alone.

    • There’s a reason my husband writes novels and I write blurbs. He can’t see the forest for the microbiome on a patch of a mossy tree trunk, never mind the totality of the leaves. I just write a nice travel guide description of the path leading into the forest, and leave it up to people to decide if they like it from there.

      • My skill set includes, I kid you not, poetry and technical writing. When there’s sufficient length, I can get a nice blend… but going very short and it’s one or the other. Unless it’s comedic. My brain is really weird, even to me.

        • Oh, you don’t sound weird at all. For eight years I didn’t send my book out because I didn’t know how to write queries or synopsis. I wrote eight books, they just never went out except to “takes full manuscript” places.

  20. Publishing– the Tolkien style of this works, too; he shared it with his kids. My husband is building a world, Tolkien style, and is “sharing” it with me (…I don’t quite count…) and a couple of geek friends.

  21. My problem is I have the framework of a whole world and society in my head, and the archetypes, good and bad, needed to populate said world. But no characters or a story to pull people into it.

    I have to constantly remind myself that when people give me “what if’s” about supposed situations that would come up in this world, that they have never been there or lived in it. It get’s frustrating because the answers to me are simple. Not all outcomes is going to come out to everyone’s benefit. The “good” guys not always going to win, the “bad” guys most assuredly will not. This seem to be the most common argument as to why it will not work. Which is funny as this is counter to the, Don’t lose heart as “We win they Loose!” message.

    Hmmm… Peter F. Hamilton put out “The Confederation Hand Book” explaining the world(s) that one of his trilogies was set in and RPG’s have their World Books.

    I think I just found my next project.

    • Do it. Sell it as a Role Players’ Guide and get people to pay you for coming up with characters to inhabit your world.

    • Well, you have a world and a society. What is the worst thing that could happen to it? What kind of person can prevent it/fix it/change it/get revenge? Now give him a name get him started on it, he’s got work to do!

    • Hmmm… I think I’ll just write it and see where it takes me.


  22. Light bulb moment! Thanks, Sarah. I’ve got a world in my head, but I’m not good enough to write it, yet. From Sarah’s “A Novel in 13 weeks”, I started with deep backstory so I could practice with throw-away characters. (I’m still in “started” mode 13 _months_ later due to a shoulder injury that makes typing painful – and that’s my day job.)

    After reading this, I realize the world in my head will not sell. I can fix it, but I hadn’t even considered the possibility that my story is not necessarily the story to tell. I’m excited to get to it, now.

    I’ve also read Bicameral Mind. It’s weird, interesting, and almost certainly completely wrong; reminded me of what’s-his-name (Belikofski?) who wrote about Venus being extra-solar.

    Vaguely related: The one world-building thing I can’t stand is the good guys are the bad guys and the bad guys are the good guys. I just can’t get into Sons of Anarchy because of this. Dying more than once usually does it, too (Buffy and Supernatural being two exceptions).

    • I’ve read today’s article twice, and still don’t think I’ve got my head around it. The internal narrator part I can relate to (mine’s an unreliable narrator), as well as the difference between the stories we tell ourselves and what we’d tell the public. The issue of stories characters coming to life, though, is difficult. The closest I’ve come was to “interview” the main characters in a novel, which sort of freaked some of the family. True, one character wasn’t as villainous as I thought, and another wasn’t as good as the others thought, but they didn’t “run away” with the story.

      It may be that I don’t have that sort of imagination. When something comes, it’s usually visual, like a stand-alone cartoon in a magazine, or a vignette.

    • velakovsky. I like reading him too. I just don’t believe him.

    • Dragon Naturally Speaking. Once trained, extremely minimal typing & mousing needed.

  23. Parents black, teacher not: RAAAAACIST! discipline.

    My mom taught school in AL 30 years. I know how this works.

    Daddy? Which daddy? One mom, 5 kids, 6 different last names.

  24. This makes me worry that perhaps I’m better off not pursuing the Dr. Mauser book… But I DO have alternate worlds kicking around aside from that. In fact, I think the real problem is a shorter attention span. (There was a year I spent reading a CNC forum because I was really interested in building my own CNC router table. Then I kinda forgot about that other than occasional guilty feelings.)

    Maybe it will turn into one of those first books that BELONG under the bed while you go on to bigger and better things. Or at least I can fool myself into thinking that….