Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mole People Fan Fiction

I never knew until my last post how much you loved Mole People, so I’ve decided to dip my toes in the fan-fiction pool for the first time ever. Thanks for the inspiration! My apologies to Universal Pictures for the copyright infringement, but they shouldn’t have made their mole people so damned sexy.

And now, without further b.s., the greatest work of Mole People Fan Fiction ever created:

Levity is the Mole of Wit

By Cire Nhoj Rekab

mole manBella Swan and Darth Vader sat back to back, their hands bound with tree roots, as the Mole People brought forth armfuls of sticks. Here, deep within the Earth’s crust, a breeze issued from an ancient lava tube, chilling Bella’s arm and shoulder exposed by the tear in her dress.

They were about to die, burned alive in sacrifice to the insect god Garfoobel.

The raven-haired Bella showed no fear (a childhood injury had paralyzed her face muscles, which often led people to wonder if she could act feel emotion at all). Yet she was fearless not from bravery. Being this close to Vader, feeling the firm muscles of his black-caped back press against her flawless, porcelain skin, hearing the masculine hiss of his breathing apparatus… made her feel so alive. “Let them bring fire,” she thought. The burning she felt for Vader was hotter than the torches of a thousand Mole People.

But Vader pondered not love or fire. He thought of what he had witnessed just hours before aboard the Enterprise, a scene that shook him to his very respirator: Captain Kirk and Spock, lying in passionate embrace beneath satin sheets, violating Starfleet regulations nine ways to Sunday. Despite all his power, Vader could not Force the image from his mind.

“I see you’ve resigned yourselves to your fates,” said Ian, the Mole Person in charge of gathering flammable materials for sacrifice. “That’s good. Your little wizard friend, with the funny glasses and the yellow and maroon scarf… he thought he could defeat the great god Garfoobel, but he was wrong.”

Bella thought that skull stuck in the dirt over yonder had looked familiar. If she weren’t so busy brooding, the realization would have made her scream, “Haaaarrryyyy! Noooo!”

Vader mustered all the menace he had in him and turned his helmeted face toward the Mole Person. “Ian. I am your father.”

Ian tossed another branch on the pile. “No you’re not.”

“Search your feelings,” Vader said, impressing himself with his soulful delivery.

“One,” Ian said, “Mole People don’t have feelings. And two, that’s my dad right over there making Garfoobel’s tea. His name’s Archibald but, of course, we call him Stan.”

Damn, Vader thought. That worked so well last time. If only he could shoot finger lightning like the Emperor, this would all be over in a jiffy.

Garfoobel!

Garfoobel!

“Come on, then,” Ian said. “Over to the stake with you. And no funny business.” He hoisted the entwined couple to their feet and shoved them toward the iron post at the center of the Circle of Sacrifice. “You’re actually doing the topsiders a favor, you know. Without human sacrifices, Garfoobel would be up there smashing up the place. So think about that when the fire starts to lick your toes.”

The voice came from behind them. “Stop right there! They’ll be no sacrifice tonight!”

The Mole People, Bella, and Vader whirled around (which should have been a physical impossibility, given that the lovely waif and her planet-destroying love interest were tied together). Standing before them was Dr. Who, pointing his weird little screwdriver thing. His travelling companion, Clara, clung to his arm.

“And why not?” the Mole Person asked.

“Because,” said the natty Time Lord, “You cannot kill trademarked characters like Bella Swan, Darth Vader, and Harry Potter without the expressed written consent of Lionsgate, Disney, and Warner Brothers!”

An epic battle was about to break out when the exceptionally beautiful Clara turned from the page and gazed directly into the eyes of the guy writing this story, which startled him, to say the least. “So why are you wasting your time writing this bollocks? Especially when I’m standing right here, waiting for you to notice me.”

“Well,” the writer said, finding the attention she gave him rather implausible given the severe attractiveness mismatch. “I’ve got this Mole People thing going, and I really ought to–”

With that, Clara stepped through the writer’s laptop screen, into the room, and put her arms around his neck. “You’re new at fan fiction, so I should tell you that you can make it end however… you…want.” She tapped his nose with her index finger for punctuation.

And they lived happily ever after.

Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman),  formerly Dr. Who's time-travelling companion.

Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman), formerly Dr. Who’s time-travelling companion.

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Don’t Write Boring – Part II

Overzealous editing?

Overzealous editing?

Last week (before my anti-virus software went rogue and hijacked my laptop), I wrote about chopping the boring parts out of a story to make it better. I meant your own story! The managers at Barnes and Noble are very cross that you smuggled in a pair of scissors and attempted to edit their inventory manually. If you do that again, I shan’t post anymore! Got it?

So anyway…

Writers are known post the beginnings of their manuscripts on online writing forums for critique and feedback. I’ve seen ‘em do it! Many times the opening goes something like, “There were five of us living in the little ranch house on Maple Street. It was my Mom and dad, my brother Jimmy, who was a year older than me, my twin sister Mary, and me, Lisa. Even though the house was small and we didn’t have a lot of room, we were pretty happy. Then, in the summer of ’92, when we went to Mexico for vacation, everything changed forever.”

Writers have many intriguing options for starting a story. What I just wrote is not one of them, but developing writers do it all the time. They begin by explaining.  Just as movie making is so much more than pointing a camera toward pretty people and saying action, writing a good story is so much more than explaining what happened to the characters. For starters, writers have to decide what parts are worth telling.

In the example above, we have five family members, not wealthy, who go to Mexico for vacation, where something happens that changes their lives. With only that information to go on, each of us would take the tale in a different direction. Some of you would write a poignant tale of love and loss. Others would build a mystery. At least a couple of you would turn out an epic saga, and still more would unnerve readers with biological or psychological horror.

I haven’t figured out what type of fiction I’m good at yet, but  I’m not a poet who composes lyrical prose or a worldbuilder gifted at setting up a 10-volume series. I try to skip the exposition and reveal my characters and their lives through action and dialog. I’d start my version of this story with Lisa and clan already on their way to Mexico, flying into a sudden storm, and about to experience a hair-raising landing.

Why? One, because nobody cares about Lisa’s ranch house or how long she’s lived there or what shoes she packed or what brand of dental floss she prefers. We’ll find about her life as we go, through little details and bits of dialog that give clues. Two, because “Lisa’s fingernails clawed helplessly across the stainless steel armrest as the jet bumped and plunged its way through the giant black cloud that came from nowhere” is a much better opening line than the bland drivel I wrote 5 paragraphs ago. And, three, because her frightening descent foreshadows the fact that she will later get sucked into a sandpit in the Yucatan and discover an underground kingdom of mole people who intend to sacrifice her twin sister in honor of their giant black insect god, Garfoobel, at midnight.

Hey, this is my story and I want mole people in it. You gotta pro’lem widdat?

Not everyone writes action-packed commercial fiction, so I’m not suggesting all novels have to begin with a thrill ride. I am suggesting they start with something other than banality. What is your strength as a writer? Emotion? Imagery? Elegant prose? Start there.

Writing Rule #1: All stories are better with Mole People in them.

Writing Rule #1: All stories are better with Mole People in them.


Don’t Write Boring

It seems obvious, but writers do it anyway. They leave boring bits in.

Read a book that became a film—it has to be one of those “faithful” adaptations—and then watch the movie. You’ll notice only about 10 percent of the book is on screen. The film is essentially the novel in bullet points. The most important bits, in other words.

If your beta readers say your story (or non-fiction narrative) has good parts and a good concept but put them to sleep anyway, don’t chuck the whole thing; cut the boring bits. If you aren’t sure what’s boring, start here [you know these are weighty concepts because I capitalized each word. I’m all about gravitas, which sounds even cooler if you roll the r]:

1. The Expository Beginning

Wake me up when something happens.

Wake me up when something happens.

 

The Expository Beginning is a writer letting you know a story is about to start. For example, I could have begun this post with:

Welcome back and thank you for continuing to support this blog. We’ve talked about many writing concepts in the past, as you know, and today will be addressing something that I’ve seen crop up all too often recently. Whether you are a beginner or have been at the writing game for a few years, it’s possible to fall into the trap of…

**CLUNK! (face hitting desk from sudden-onset narcolepsy)**

Stories, narrative non-fiction, and essays do not require a pre-game show. They should start with the first interesting thing that happens. Notice how fellow blogger and writer Jill Weatherholt begins this essay from earlier today: She doesn’t tell us about the weather, about putting her golf gear in the back of the SUV, or about eating a bowl of Lucky Charms before heading to the links. It starts with her already on the course, already having taken her shot, already having watched the puck go over the glass and into the stands.

Sorry, I know more about hockey than golf. I know this though: She didn’t mean to hook her shot, but she did mean to hook us in, which she does successfully by skipping the exposition. Despite what everybody says, a writer has to use a little exposition here and there. Just not on page one.

2. Explaining What We Already Know From Context

Right, then. Can you get on with it?

Right, then. Can you get on with it?

The human brain is a remarkable, if expensive to repair, invention. It can recognize patterns and fill in blanks better than any computer could hope to. Readers, many of whom come equipped with a brain, understand that if chapter 3 ends with Lazlo the Potato Sculptor’s car sliding off the road in a snowstorm and heading toward a tree, and chapter 4 begins with Lazlo in the hospital with his leg in traction, that an ambulance came, that he survived, that he was transported to the ER, that he was treated by a doctor. Unless the ambulance driver and the doctor are suspects in a murder Lazlo is investigating (he specializes in carving a forensic likenesses of victims from a russet potato), we don’t need it. Like Lazlo, a writer should be smart yet bold in cutting away that which is not required to create an artwork.

If someone said your story is dull, look at the spaces between the action and character moments. Does it matter that Carlos, the poor kid from a bad neighborhood who dreams of one-day becoming World Pogo Champion, is brushing his teeth and combing his hair and clipping his nails before he goes to the prom, or can we start with his mom adjusting his tie and gushing over how handsome her Carlito looks? We can surmise he already did the other, boring-to-read stuff.

From the beginning of each scene in your story, go line by line and ask, “Why do I need this sentence?” If you don’t have a good answer, cut it. The first sentence that argues back is the real beginning. Whatever remains after that should drive the plot, build the character, paint a world, reveal your voice, and entertain the reader.


The Great Bookshelf Purge of 2013

Have you ever seen Hoarders on TV? It’s a semi-exploitative reality show about people who refuse to throw anything away, to the degree that they alienate family and friends and are threatened with having their homes condemned.

My biggest book at 15" x 11"

My biggest book at 15″ x 11″

Watching it will compel you to vacuum the carpet and wash the dishes during the commercial break in a panic response to all the filth, bugs, and accidentally mummified pets you just witnessed on your television screen. It’s no mistake that they advertise cleaning products between the segments.

I’m definitively not a hoarder. I can’t stand clutter and have little tolerance for things that don’t fit neatly onto a shelf next to other things exactly the same size and shape. It’s my good fortune that I like to collect movies and music, which suit my orderly world of rectangles. If a thing ain’t a rectangle, I put it in a rectangular case.

I also love books. Yeah, they sort of follow the rectangle theme, but that damn size variance! There’s just no way my coffee-table book on Gothic cathedrals would work if the pictures were shrunk down to the size of a passport photo, yet I have no use for a paperback mystery in a 72-point font. Both would be unwieldy, in their own ways, at anything other than the proper size.

Which means my bookshelves look like an earthquake at a library. More books than shelf, and then there’s the rather unforgiving shelf dimensions. X high, Y deep, and Z wide, take it or leave it. My biggest book is 15-inches tall (complete works of Michelangelo), and my smallest is a quick spelling reference at 5-inches tall, with titles at every size in between. It’s my little mad hoard in the middle of all that geometric clarity.

Maybe it wasn’t so little. Did I forget to mention that I had a closet stuffed with boxes of books at my mom’s house too?

Well, on Sunday, my wife got into one of those moods. If you are a married man you know the mood I’m talking about: If you don’t get rid of this shit, I’m calling a lawyer.

I have to admit, it was cathartic and cleansing at the same time. At first I was making excuses, like, “I might read this again. It was pretty good,” and, “Aunt Gertrude gave this to me. Sure she passed away five years ago and I’m never going to read it, but…”

My tiniest book at 5" x 4"

My tiniest at 5″ x 4″

However, once I got into the groove, I went full-on rampage. I cleared out almost every novel I own, except for my five favorite Agatha Christies and a couple of classics everyone should have. I made stacks for my mom’s church flea market, stacks for eBay, stacks to chuck because the pages have yellowed or the binding glue has rotted, and stacks to keep.

I kept most of my art, film, and music books and a couple of science ones I use for writing reference. The rest is gone. The storage boxes are gone. The sneezing is over. The dust mites are saying, What the f*** just happened?

Most importantly, my shelves are now neat and tidy, and every remaining title is easily accessed. And that eBay stack? The ones I was sure would fetch me enough to buy a new car? I looked them up, and their average value appears to be somewhere between $1.75 and $4. I guess I’m stuck with my Malibu for a few more years.

How about you? Are you a book hoarder? Would purging your bookshelves be liberating or be like giving away your children?

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Note: Today’s theme was inspired by my blogging pal Tuesday and her post on a similar subject. She’s just began a countdown of 20 favorite books she’ll never give away. Now’s your chance to get in at the beginning!

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Honestly, I’m not crazy about Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I can’t think of a more appropriate song for today’s piece.


I’m a guest, I’m a guest; I put my writing to the test!

Greetings, gang

I did a guest post today over at change it up editing, a fine editing-themed blog that I know many of you already follow. If you haven’t been there before, and you have designs on self-publishing or small-press publishing, it’s a blog worth reading. My post today discusses how an intelligent editor respects the author’s voice.

Please check it out by clicking on this slightly discolored word. Be sure to leave a comment for Candace telling her she was nuts to let me sully her reputation by writing such drivel on her fine site.

I’ll be back here soon with my unregularly unscheduled nonsense!

Ciao,

Eric

Just waitin' for Disney to come and tell me I gotta take this picture down.

Just waitin’ for Disney to come and tell me I gotta take this picture down.