Purple? It’s not Purple!

The common response to a subtle suggestion that the writer may have added a little too much purple to their prose seems to elicit that response. It’s shock, I suppose, that someone could see their words as other than deep and meaningful, as a play of beauty in the deep sea of banal.

There, you see, is the problem. We love to ‘hear’ our own voices, and to put a bit of ‘magic’ in there by using words that make the story disappear under the crashing waves of words that don’t move the story forward.

That’s what purple means when referring to prose. Want an example? I’ll even highlight all the bits that I consider unnecessary, and therefore, purplish.

Blood drizzled down her hand, along the blade of the knife, dripped onto the ground. It turned from crimson to black as it seeped into the dark earth. The long shadows of dawn were beginning to fade into full day. Rose looked around at the ground, felt with her feet, listened for the right sound. She found what she was looking for.

“Blood to blood, earth to earth,” Rose whispered, as she stabbed the knife into the sharp sand. She pulled it out to check, stabbed again and again until the blade shone clean in the light of the torch. She slipped the knife into the leather sheath and shoved it down the front of her jeans.

“That’s for Lily,” Rose said aloud. “For what you did to kids like her. May your soul rot in hell for eternity.”

The leaves of the huge ghost gums whispered; branches and twigs rattled and tattled as the high wind above slowly settled. The breeze slid down the deep ravine, through the dry creek bed full of rocks and sticks, to the paddock she stood in. The cool spring squall whisked away the smell of tannin, of copper, of death.

One more down. One more off the list. One step closer to the end. What was his number? Her count should be minus one for the first kill, because that wasn’t really hers. However, she had disposed of the remains; she had taken control of the list; she had killed all but the first; and now the count belonged to her.

Copyright Cage Dunn 2016 – used with permission.

Do you see it? The red is cliche, so if you start your story with cliche, you’ve already turned off most readers. Describing things that don’t do anything for the story are purple. For the first page of a story, there’s a lot of purple in this example. Not as much as some, but it’s definitely too much – it would be too much for a whole scene or chapter.

The green – that’s the good/better bit. Why? Because that’s the hook, that’s what will draw a reader into the story. So why isn’t it closer to the beginning? I suppose it is at least on the first page, but to get the reader to continue, give them that bit of intrigue as close to the start as possible. Within the first two paras should do it. Catch the eye, catch the heart – at the start.

The lesson – if you want to give us a story, give us the story without the things that don’t do anything. If you want to be Tolkien, get a professorship first.

And that’s the Sunday rant for the infusion of sanity to the story-telling role.









The End …

The stick-figure who was once a man, who used to toss not-so-little kids up in the air and then catch them as they screamed, who once refereed football games without getting up much of a sweat – he’s slipping away.

We all go there. We all know that. But this descent is awful. The person he was is still in there somewhere, but can’t be seen, can’t get out. It’s in the eyes. Once deep and dark, now filmy and grey.

We all die. It’s a given. Once born, there is only one path to follow, only one end. The end.

Is it better to hang on and give family and friends the time to say goodbye? Or is it better to go quickly, while the chance exists for people to remember a good-looking, alive, person? Is it worth the pain and discomfort, the heartbreak and looks of pity and horror, and sometimes disgust, as the body fades into crackly skin and bone?

Death is not a nice thing to watch. But we watch. We sit with him until the final moments, we want to hear if any last words might be said, we can’t bear to leave him alone on his final journey.

Nor should he be left on his own. What if he’s scared and can’t tell us that? What if he’s scared there’ll be none of what he’s believed in his whole life? What if …?

We can’t help, not him, not each other. Each one of us will go through the process in a different way. Some will want to talk about it, some won’t. Some will want closeness and hugs and being surrounded, some will melt into a corner to be alone with it. Some will be forced into a foray they must comply with, rather than the one they want or need.

Until it’s over, we wait, we watch, we stand guard. We don’t know why, nor do we care. It’s what we do for someone who gave us life, who gave us joy and determination and justice. We wait for the end, and see in it a relief of the constant, harrowing pain and distress. We see the silence as distance, feel the letting go as the muscles relax, sense the departure.

But we don’t let go. Not immediately.

The ritual of placing the remnants of a person who once had a soul must be followed. Everyone must share in the process of farewells. For without it, we see only the lonely road to the end.



Being a Newbie Author …

And the setbacks created by the following:

No blurb

Basically, no one reads books unless they’ve already been reviewed and recommended (how can they tell if the reviews are paid for v. genuine, etc.?). How does a new author (by author, read novel is written and published [self or traditional])? How does a new author find the people who are willing to read their books? [No, forget traditional – they don’t want to have to deal with new authors – too many on their books already who don’t earn enough.]

The question: How to get a review?

It’s not a silly question. It’s deadly serious. Do you know how many people self-publish books/stories/novels each week? It’s a lot. And I know most of it is going to be unworthy of a read, let alone a review, but … if the people who do ‘reviews’ are only reviewing books that someone else has reviewed or recommended already (whether real or not), what’s the point?

Where are the people who want to read the ‘new’ stuff? Get in on the bottom, help the new writer, discover the next greatest thing? Where are you?

Admittedly, we (our group) may not yet be ready for a review, but when we are – who is out there willing to do what must be done? Who but a reader can do a review? Should the writers (avg annual income [in Aust] of LT $8k) PAY to get someone to say something?

No. It shouldn’t be like that. People who do reviews should look beyond what’s already recommended and become trend-setters, give unique understanding to the ‘new’ idea/concept/theme etc.

But this rabbit has already gone down a hole, hasn’t it? No one wants to read the ‘tail’ end of new writing. No one wants to take a risk on reading the new and fresh and distinct – oh, yes, sorry, forgot that you wrote a book too! So, who’s going to review your book for you when you try to get it out there? And trust me, the traditional publishers are not going to even consider a newbie who hasn’t already come to their attention through ‘other’ avenues (and that doesn’t mean social media).

Try as you might to get a review, until someone else has reviewed you to all their friends, you won’t be getting one. Ever.

Now that Amazon doesn’t allow reviews done for books that don’t have a ‘proven sale’ there’s nowhere left to go, is there? The cheats with their algorithms for fake reviews have destroyed any chance the ordinary new writer ever has for honest reviews. And no reviews = no sales because that’s the way the Amazon/Google/etc. algorithm works, isn’t it?

And that’s the rant for the month of May – because it’s getting colder and the leaves are falling and …

The Story Wall

It was a piece of board, then a whiteboard, then a door, then one side of a wall. Now, it’s the whole room, every wall, every thing that stands solid and still long enough to take the bits of story in the right place.

The Story-Board. It’s there, in pieces, in scatters of lines linked by different colours of wool and string and push-pins and map-pins (different colours, of course, to represent the difference in meaning).

Someone walked in the other day and their mouth fell open so far I had to help them lift it off the floor.

“Get out,” says I. “This is my room.”

“But I was hoping to stay for a while. This was my room.”

“You left. It doesn’t belong to you anymore.”

The story room is plastered with small chalk-boards and whiteboards and butcher’s paper and funny looking drawings and maps, and bits of words scribbled on sticky notes or other things (napkins, etc.) stuck up with blu-tak.

And it’s coming together nicely. The initial flow of story has moved on to a double-edged sword, deeper meanings, more power to the context and theme and motif. I hope.

Anyway, the room that is the story room once had another life, but the one who lived it went away and left the room empty, alone, bereft of intellectual and spiritual company. So the story moved in and took over and the room exploded into colour and song and movement, light shone in the window and glinted against the rows of pencils and pens and screens and markers. The story room came alive with the story.

It’s ready to set up the whole gamut of this new movement, this new journey. Just a few more days and the story-line from the story-room will become real words in real space for real characters who will march through the story that becomes.

Until the story-maker walks into the room and sees the bare walls, the cardboard box filled with junk and tangles and torn pieces of paper.

And the voice that comes up behind her to whisper.

“My room,” with a swagger that she sees in the shadow of the enemy.

What do you think happened?

Of course. One cannot be a sister if one hasn’t had to push for the right to be. The pushing and the shoving and the screaming and yelling and … all that stuff, caused a ruckus in the whole household.

And the result. The room is back to being the story room, the intruder is gone back out to the world she came from, and the final result that came from that:

Even though she had no qualms about destroying the work and reasserting her right to the territory – now lost, the work improved for the disturbance. What was once a really good story-start got mixed up with another piece of the story and became a great piece. Inspiring. Brilliant.

So, thanks, I guess – but don’t come back.



A New Conceptual Idea

Being a deaf mute with aspirations of composing the music in his head; being blind with aspirations of dance – can these two things come together? Can the dancer who can’t see move to the music only the deaf can hear?

To go blindly into this concept would be madness, but I have a friend who is deaf and also loves music – of course, not the way I know music, because I only have six senses and I lack the most important sense that would enable me to see, hear, or feel his compositions.

His friend, a blind woman, loves to dance. She can’t see the stage, or how other bodies move in those rhythms, but the way she moves is sublime, subtle, graceful as a petal opening.

When they meet one night a week to practice the things they love, it could look like something crazy. It doesn’t. More people hear about it, more come. The dancers sway and swing to music that a normal can’t absorb, can’t sense. These dancers feel it, taste it, and they all move in synch, better in fact than if they were sighted. They hear something from the orchestra of deaf musicians, who also move in a synchronicity that belies the lack of the sense that moves the stirrup in their ears.

This music is special, it is different, and it is only for those who have so many more than the simple six senses.

Not for you, not for me; but to watch, to feel the wooden floor under the bare feet, to close the eyes and become part of the frisson in the air – that is magic.

Like I said, a new concept for a story – is it interesting? And before you ask, yes, I do have friends who can’t hear, friends who can’t see; I also have friends who can’t walk, but no one questions their ability to do more than sit and wait for what life dishes out.

This story is about what happens when moved beyond normal to beyond, to superfy what was once considered below par, or different in a way that makes it unwanted, or that makes one person better than another. This is a story about dreams that become reality – and it’s not new: who was the deaf composer whose work we still all hear? This is a story that will become like the one for people who once lost limbs and never dreamed of being able to walk again – and of course, they can now, can’t they? Someone dreamed it, did what it took, did something. Dream, Learn, Do – put the dreams into reality, and what happens?


A Little Piece of Advice

Generally, I wouldn’t consider listening when those words were spake in my direction. Why? Because people who offer free advice make it meaningless by starting the next part of the conversation with something like: me, I, my, etc.; what they would do. And proper helpful advice is not about the individual, it’s about the work.


That’s my gripe for the week: offer a review of the work, not a platitude about your life.

The work of story is hard; it takes dedication and balance and commitment (and ignoring friends and family as much as possible); it takes a tough skin (and dark, so no one sees when you flush with emotion as they pick it to pieces); it takes grit and determination.

It takes courage – to get to the point of putting words in sequences; to get the outline finished (and it works in a story sense); to get the words to tell the story the right way, with power and connection; to share the words with ‘others’ who may or may not understand the rules of comments. It has to be done.

As the person who wrote the story from idea to ‘the end’ it needs at least another eye/mind/thinker to see where the holes are, where the power points rest (when they shouldn’t), where the character grows or leans (and when they don’t and should). It takes a commitment to share the words with at least one other person who will speak the words back to the writer to help make that story the most powerful it can be.

It’s hard. I tremble each time I pass on a story (small or tall, micro or macro) for critique. But I do it to get the fresh-eye value, even if I ignore the comments (sometimes what they feel is a detriment is exactly what I wanted it to do). And there’ve been a few editors/proofreaders who sent back words with no value and no meaning – because they don’t seem to understand the structure of story.

Even if they’re trained, educated, well-read, highly recommended they can lose sight of the elements of story that absolutely must stay to make it all stand up (structure, this is – very important).

And I understand. Truly, I do. Because it took me four years, dozens of courses and books and on-line reading, to find what I needed to make that thing work. Because it takes several runs of practice (doing the work) to see it, to feel it, to know it. Craft takes a lot of practical effort before it becomes natural.

That’s what I did, thanks to a very helpful person who shared what she knew for no other reason other than she wanted me to read her work with the same eye as she read mine – and to give back the words that mean something to the power of the story, not the “I’d do it this way; this is wrong … blah blah blah.”

The comments I receive from her are not meaningless – they give me an insight into how I can make my words better, stronger, faster (yep, and learn to recognise cliché).

There you have it – give your words meaning, give your story power, share what you learn so you can get back what you give. Simple.

Copyright K. Jaeger 2017

Short Words Syndrome

A lot of advice on ‘how to write well’ includes a variety of ways of saying ‘use simple words’ or ‘use short sentences’ or ‘be minimal’ in style. Well, sort of. Use short, simple sentences that don’t contain any $5 words, that don’t have semi-colons, or more than one comma. Oh, yes, and no adverbs.

The adverb one can be hard for novice writers, but consider this: an adverb TELLS instead of SHOWS, so where you have the adverb is the place to do some work on the Show part of the work in progress (WIP). It’s a sign-post for the editing phase.

I don’t like most of the advice about simple/short/minimal – mainly because I like to read things that are beyond simplistic, staged, staggered words that fail to display the poetry of life. No, not really – some things are best left simple and are enjoyable. But I also don’t like bluntness and directness that doesn’t have any music, and before you go nuts, writing can be very like music – and for those twelve base notes: how many different styles of music, how many different ways are there to express it?

Yes, thousands of different styles, some complex, some simple, some inexplicable – and that’s why I don’t like minimal, simplistic writing. I like to read things that have a distinct story-style (yes, story-style, not author-style – I want the next story by that author to be unique in its style; unique to the story, not the author). Stories should be unique, distinct, different. They should be a reflection of the meaning behind that particular story, with all the bells and whistles (or lack of them), with the idiosyncrasies and words associated with that story only.

Some call it Style. Just because one author has a distinctive style and uses it in every book that ever did well for them, will it work for you and your story? What’s-his-name who did the direct, concise style – why write like him? Why write like anyone else? Why struggle to avoid the poetry of prose?

Consider this: the way stories are told has changed – dramatically. The World changes. Politics change. People change. Theatre is as old as – were they doing it in the time of the Pharaohs’? You betcha! It’s been around for a long time. Were the songs and stories of cavemen relevant to their time? You betcha! Are yours?

And therein lies the point of this topic: write the style that suits the story.

If the story is a ramble, write it in that style; if the story is adventurers’ running like crazy from danger, write it that way; if the story is a low-octane romantic burn, write it that way. The style to suit the story, not the author.

Minimal words doesn’t mean minimal style. Use the right style for the story to give the reader the full impression of vicarious.

copyright 5bayby14u 2017