Words in the Middle

I write not because I think I am good or because I have some profound insight that needs to be shared; I write because I don’t know what else to do. I want to be a great writer but have resigned to mediocrity and I am ok with that even if it doesn’t pay the bills. Of course, it is important being able to sustain oneself but this nagging need has gripped me again with its tentacles. I had managed to stay on the corporate wagon for the past seven years. Before that, I was in so deep, passion spilling over into all sorts of publishing projects and working with artists and writers, poets and painters from all around the Pacific Northwest. But then I dropped out – vanished in an implosion of creative impetus.  I vowed I would not return to it until I was settled financially and put up on a retired front porch someplace, aged with years of weather and stories that had accumulated there and needed a good writing. Instead, I find myself writing about writing while writing. What kind of trickery is this? I have not the patience for non-fiction – rehashing junk, and all my fictitious characters are troubled downtrodden protagonists that push like martyrs to the end. They are tortured but always are not without hope and take things as they come. Some rationalize their way into complacency, though, while others are cursed souls that have romanticized themselves right into purgatory. Where is the humor anymore? That could be it right there – just remembering there should be. My writing – this spirit inside is a dichotomy to the light and reflects something else. I can’t say it is accurate and perhaps my view is in danger – but it doesn’t matter because I already don’t like it other than to appease it with words, any words… with crappy words. I will deprive it of its ideal so that I can get to it – get back to someplace less appealing where I might get in real good and make lots of money to live another day and make sure my kids are solid with their own opportunities. I will hit that clock and force myself to love it.

Just then, a faint damp musk brushes the air, lush with old Douglas meal worms and fern. I am in the desert full of juniper – the Badlands. How can the Magic Skagit drift all the way down and over those Cascade Mountains? Ironically, it brought a blanket of wet snow this morning to Bend. The past couple of days saw rain and a weather inversion that settled in with air stagnation – a perfect setting for sweats and football from the couch. Why do old memories haunt me with it’s beauty? What can be done with all this gibberish? This reminds me of Jeff Larsen who is a burn out, drunk on detective work. He moved with his wife to the area around Sisters, OR and they made a garden in the sage brush just beneath the Three Sisters. After a life solving cases up in the Seattle gray, he couldn’t take it anymore. The problem was there were people who would not let him retire and had unresolved issues with him. That is a very random flashback to an old story written long ago. Nevertheless, the issue of writing is buried deep and now time has brought it back for me to deal with like leftover turkey soup taking up space in an already cramped freezer.

Funny thing is, I really can’t stand to read my own shit. It does make me physically nauseous – gives me a headache.  I just don’t know what else to do. I could practice to make it somewhat more appealing but then it would have had its way with me.

If I wasn’t so damn stubborn, I’d be in the city somewhere doing my high paying clock job.  But once again I find myself here just when I wasn’t looking. The only place for it was in my fantasy and I did get a rush when I thought about it – but it wasn’t real – at least I was always skeptical of the timing of such things as writing. What would be the point? I mean really – who says they are a writer? But if not – then what are you doing? What do you do with your time? Go get a job. Right, I could do that and pack my house, figure out my kids who are in college now and living with me full time and then move to the city. I could make that drive over the pass and into the populace to fight the tail lights each day for a scrap of bread from a company that has lost its perspective and loyalty to the value of the employee or is not honorable by its customers and is just a nameless machine churning widgets to fund someone else’s escape plan. It’s not so far-fetched. That’s what we are supposed to do, right? Aren’t we just words at the end of the day, anyway?

A Narrative Comparison

To write in first person is to take into account the authors view point or POV using “I” or “me” statements. Third person limited knows the feelings of a single character whereas other characters are limited as external casts without knowledge of them personally other than their support to the story. On the other hand, Third Person Omniscient knows the feelings of all the characters in the story.

The desire is to transition from a first person narrative into a third person omniscient to create an epic story.

Jack, a post-apocalyptic super hero, is writing about his experience and what led up to the ultimate conspiracy to save mankind. At some point, the POV transitions to capture other characters from a third person omniscient. Certainly, the story can be one dimension or detached as told strictly from a first person narrative. To avoid being detached, it is necessary to understand that the pace and flow in the relational first and third person characters are important for the reader to experience the story. Story experience is dependent on and coexistent to pace and flow and the narrative is an intimate guide to this process.  Therefore, how should the narrative transition to provide the best pace and flow for the reader’s experience?

This can be done using timelines to manage breaks from one POV to the next. The Preface should reflect from a first person narrative and then transition into third person with the beginning chapter. It is important to wrap up the preface so that it flows into the first chapter with designated timelines – even if hundreds of years apart. Deciding on an entry point to the story – both in the preface as well as the beginning chapter is important. Similarly, the urge to expound too deeply on the story details must be resisted from the first person POV where the preface should only be used to establish a backdrop or back story to create interest and story context for the reader.

For example:

Preface: I was not always considered a derelict. Though, I admit, most days were meant for nothing but shelter when the sun showed no mercy. It was the blistering hot air that pressed against the temples, causing thoughts to sizzle in a baked out brain. How did we come to this place? I always figured things would work out. I remember when it all started and the pop squads began making their rounds.

Chapter One: Jack fell into the wrong company that night. The sky was darkening as he took to the streets having been thrown out of his home -again. At least his car was running this week. He would find a spot to park for the night and try to mend things with his wife in the morning. At least, he would go back to get some things while she was at work. Just as he was warming up the car, he noticed some kids walking down the street. They were hooded and appeared ominous in the way they shuffled along the curb in the waning light. It was one of those late afternoons when it suddenly feels like time somehow skipped several hours to land at ten o’clock at night. He noticed the boys stop briefly looking at something one of the boys pulled from a pocket. For just a second, one of the boys looked right at him before they started off again. Jack did not trust people very well and his autistic nature made him frozen as his brain spun in circles about what those boys were doing in the neighborhood. Was his family going to be safe? Just as they were about to round the corner, Jack was able to get the car into reverse and backed out of the driveway.

James was a high school dropout whose parents did not care what he did so long as he stayed out of their way. At just sixteen, he had hooked up with some other kids who lived on the streets and started running with them. They were nothing serious, but that night, Albert a tall thick headed boy who had already been in and out of foster homes and juvenile convinced the others that they would burglarize a house and sell the goods for some good drugs.

“I am not sure this is a good idea.” James said as Albert pulled a key to the backdoor of Hamilton’s who were close friends of his foster parents who were to look after things while the Hamilton’s were traveling.

“Don’t be such a switch! This will be easy – we don’t even have to break in since I have a key.” Albert intimidated the others, in part because of his size but also because of his brash arrogant behavior.

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In the above example, we have moved from the first person narrative with a preface and into a transition that lends to the development of a story told in third person omniscient.

Of course, these exchanges should be linked throughout the story to develop the plot and not get too distracted where the reader becomes confused. At the same, credit should be given to the reader to have the capacity to keep up.

I think it is just fine to mix the narrative so long as it is done properly and the safest way for this to transpire is through compartmentalizing the story with time blocks and chapters to move between the characters. For good form and keeping track of the plot line, a good approach is to outline the protagonist and antagonist. For example, there could be three characters that serve as protagonists, while there are elemental issues that become antagonist along with one or two main persons that are also antagonist. However, that puzzle fits, the important thing is listing and identifying the characters that will be most affected in the story and for whom the story is about since they are the main characters.

In this instance, it is ok for the preface to be told from one point of view in order to set the stage. In some cases, an epilog can be another place where the first person narrative comes back to close out the book and set things up for the next story where there are more than on like what could be found working in trilogies or book chronicles.

I am not completely certain how this will play out – but the methods are typical. The challenge is deciding and crafting it so that things have the proper pace and flow without losing coherency.

An Attention Ore

It was left with only words to draw attention but the lack of reply empowered the final say, a last word of which we are all susceptible. To avoid such outcomes and misunderstandings, it becomes a fitting matter to strike some keys for further explanation. One song that could be associated with this rambling is indeed ‘Ramble On’ by Led Zeppelin or ‘Once in a Lifetime’ by Talking Heads.

Writing, as I have mentioned in other circles of thought, is a curse. My life has always revolved around it and life circumstances have pushed me into a corner where I cannot avoid it further and am forced to look squarely into a round mirror of truth and come to terms with the anguish that jumbled words provoke. As it is, I am working on a series of books which have gone past the point of fanciful notes to remind myself of some other world I need to spend time in; or some other characters to understand, to which we all are a part of, that allows the story to unfold.

Life outside of the corporate grind is where the unreliable and unmotivated dwell – or at least that is the stigma. It has come to my attention that I am no longer in that place and the transition has done so without regard to other flights that are also in process and learning to fly. There is no ideal time or perfect situation than as it is now. Like most humans, I require interaction and the need to feel safely accepted with my own understanding. This humanness is exasperated when the isolating process of writing something worth writing prevails and jumbled words begin to circle with their demanding stance to be properly fitted; no matter what paths you think you are on, you can’t help but relinquish to the words until they have run the course. When attempts are made to stifle, this curse inflicts a personal anguish that grips the tongue and words can no longer be spoken – taken by the need to write. The more resistance there is with attempts to normalize, the deeper the depth of wordlessness.

I woke after days of full moon madness that nearly drove me to the brink of utter emotional collapse and a heightened state of sensitivity. It occurred to me that I was spending too much time in the virtual world of Facebook where human contact does not exist in the flesh. It is a vice that I value because it does and has put me in touch with many I care about and others I did not know I would. The thing is I see where we (I) can become trapped in the need for social interaction, yet, because I procrastinate, am compelled to isolate myself for the sake of embracing the need to write. As well, I realize how life has changed with such tools like our online social environments. I am not against them whereas I think there is much more that is good than not as a result.

Part of my strife stems as a byproduct of my own exploration into the characters taking shape – at least as much as they have revealed themselves for my own understanding. Anyone who has worked on a book understands how a story can take over and begin to motor its own momentum where plot lines and characters unfold as the pages move from one turn to the next. Of course we all hide behind our characters at some point, don’t we? It’s life. Despite allowing myself to go into that forbidden place where I take on characters through empathic measures and write about them, I am aware that words are sometimes misunderstood by those closest that might think they have an inkling when they attempt to read between the lines. I have struggled with this for years where concern about what others might think has been a stage gate to any progress in the writing process. On the other hand, where does the story come from, if not at least on some level, from our own experiences and from people and circumstances that indeed have shaped our perceptions? So it is natural to expect that there are things to be read in the in between places, but I assure you reader that I am no more out of my mind than the world will end tomorrow.

The purpose of this is to recognize that some morning post posted by myself and alter ego, Jack Gable, may have caused some alarm and worry for me. For the record, I am fine and am grateful where perhaps I have taken for granted the word ‘friend’. I did not consciously think about how my words would affect some. But please understand that sometimes when I write words tumble out like vomit being channeled from some other region. I don’t mean harm as I am deliberately exploring this process. Admittedly, the isolation that has consumed me since being relieved from the corporate grind does benefit the writing that I am about and, yet, at the same time, is ground for some tint of insanity.  Human touch trumps all when it comes to the true nature of our being and is where my concern resides when I consider the implications of such mechanisms as our social media. At the same time, thank god for our ingenuity that has indeed tightened bonds as the world around us does expand as we age and touch can get misplaced like a pair of favorite socks. Life is transpiring from an inner core of who I am and being released into having nothing but my own time on my hands has forced me to start being. Life outside the clock is a strange and unsettling place in all its randomness and I have no excuse remaining that would otherwise serve my inclination to procrastinate.

As I sit here musing about how words draw different reactions and interpretations, especially for myself, I am struck by human condition as being an attention ore like a chunk of compressed soot stuck with high pressure into a ball of anxious matter. Extracting ore is painful to the surrounding landscape that must share space. Rocks, a lesser form, are bulldozed and plant life is uprooted as hillsides are displaced. The attention ore is a state by which we all find ourselves from time to time where the slightest human interaction reminds us we are still with the living just as inherent to our humanity as air and water are mortal requirements of our physical state. Touch is something real and the need for it is to be human – at least in an honest state. As I embark on this book, the very act does require some limbs to be removed to make way for new growth. I know this sounds cliché, but where I am susceptible to the alluring power of Facebook as being a writer, I realize it is a space that needs to reduce in size so as to effectively achieve that which I have embarked. But now I am just throwing words around. Any proclamations are purely for my own good, my own assertion and sometimes I forget people are looking when I do become engrossed in the beauty of words taking shape and can’t help myself.

At the end of the day, our lives are experience and change sometimes invokes the need for drastic measures so that dreams can be realized. It is instinctive and is a primal sense where our intuition about who we are does give way to something more from ourselves and honoring that with humility and honesty is not an easy step to take because it is often inconvenient. However, only beauty can come from it whereas our hearts are bound and will gravitate to love in the end. Bringing that forward to the present is where a longing sometimes ends with rambling incoherently in a whisky stupor and I just laugh. Writing sometimes expounds with too many words and I would say that even in the heavy dribble and twisted rants that there is humor and a lightness that rests still. That is the part I am resolved to never let slip. Funny thing is now I have this image of Facebook going totally dark for like thirty six hours. If so, then the challenge would be do something profound and life altering on some level and that is what my rambling assertion was really about as I contemplated all of it.

Standing Appreciation

We woke to about six inches of fresh snow this morning. It is now late in the afternoon and it still looks like a snow globe outside. The world slowed into a fantasy that moved a little closer to life; to the surface of imagination apart from the daily grind. Hands shutter with the need to write.

I went to a private party the other night and saw some of my oldest friends. This is a group to be mostly grounded and successful people with the same good ‘ol sense of humor and open to the same questions we all share about our lives as adults, parents, and old friends. The pretentious veil is thin between us; we share similar childhood stories having grown up in the same tribe. It is a natural state among peers.

I love the snow because time slows and makes quiet time for taking stock. It is like the observation of color; an awareness of life outside the grey. Not mired in routine.

Decisions force a new paradigm and music now flows from the back room. It is deep, a woman’s voice drawing from her well of longing, being in her purest form. The raw vocal moves through every crack in the fragile domain like a haunting light that flickers in the darkest places. A crying passion carries the chord of a new beginning that emerges with the memory of what it was to be child, lost to the circumstance of time and two people doing what they believed.

The backwash of realizing this and that and what-if scenarios play out with a discourse of forgiveness. There are no flowers to be delivered. Barely a drop remains to bring forth any root.

Risk is with everything worth doing and again for those things not worth doing. Sometimes we gain insight into our own lives and are set back, eased into acknowledgement and truth of our own desires. As a species, there is instinct to survive, to breathe. It is not like it used to be when we were growing up. Some know this and muse about ancient experiences that shaped who we have become, who we were. Our parents, while on different walks of their own, understood the basic human stuff that kids were just learning about. There were no prejudices about the place and it was easy to let things be. Principles were dressed in perfect fashion despite pushing boundaries of adolescesence, like Polo shirts and faded out Levis.

It is as still and frigid as a stolen love. Life does this sometimes. Nothing moves but for my breath that drifts away into thin air. Deer have left a very straight and deliberate line of tracks through the side yard. A sliver of alpenglow illuminates the top half inch of Mt Bachelor that sits atop my neighbor’s roofline and about twenty-five miles in the distance. I can see the Summit Chair and just to the right, Broken Top, standing almost as tall as a full twelve inches through a seventeen mile scope given my vantage point and angle of perspective. Despite this tricky viewpoint, it is a reminder of why I am here.

I hope this place remains resilient for another season. Our connections are ever changing and where we place our steps do matter. It is a time of introspection and drawing nearer to those things that lighten our heart. Whatever your life, let it be abundant as it can be when it comes to our own self perceptions. May there be reprieve surrounded by beauty and time to relax unattended in a garden of your own doing or whatever moment you long for that settles the mind and gives way to peace.