The Dalzell KnockoutThe Banana Bar wasn’t Conner Dalzell’s sort of place. I was behind it slicing lemons, wincing at acid burns, when he walked in alone in a buff duffel coat. The guy was at least fifty, maybe older, his hair turning white.
Tonight was student night, all the cocktails were half price, and fresher girls were getting fresh with lecherous finalists in the faux-leather booths. Conner Dalzell stood in the doorway for half a minute and I thought he would leave. But he took off his coat and searched for a peg to hang it on. To his evident surprise, he didn't find one, so he flung it over his elbow and waddled to the bar.
“What would you recommend then?” he asked. My hands were sticky with lemon juice. I hastily wiped them on my apron.
“Our featured cocktail today is the Blue Lagoon Special: vodka, blue curacao, and white wine.”
“Sounds awful,” he said, slipping from the barstool he’d tried to mount. “What’s blue
deviantArt is a minimalist experience. No one has time to use words unwisely. You may write lengthily, but not redundantly. This is good practice; a rule they don't teach you at school, but that all writers ought to learn before they break it.
Brevity is the best way to show-not-tell. It is the best way to keep pace. It is the best way to create convincing characters and plot.
5 steps to keeping it brief:
Why use a genus when you could use a species? When describing Aunt Maria's dog, is it more effective to say "dog" or "dachshund". "Dachshund" not only tells me what the dog looks like, it tells me about Aunt Maria too.
Why use an abstract when you could use a concrete? The story of "the love affair" may be longer than the noun phrase, but its length is compensated ten times over by the new insight. Do not talk to me about "death" or "dream" unless I know whose death or which dream. It must be an action or event to earn its place, not a "thing".
House on my HeadI grew a house on my head.
I populated it with animals:
a mouse for a housekeeper,
a lizard in the kitchen cooking eggs,
a butler wolf whistling and saying 'sir',
a chinchilla to sweep rooms' corners,
a giraffe wiping windows,
a black Labrador pup to clear the chimneys.
The house is old fashioned but it runs to time.
A sloth winds the clocks;
a badger delves the vegetable patch.
Everyone gets on fabulously
and will eat eggs together at breakfast,
gossiping about the awful state of my head:
how the tubes in my brain need scrubbing out,
you can tell because the plumbing gurgles
and the lights in the attic flicker at unexpected hours.
The landlord, a snub-nosed monkey, is convinced
that nuggets of knowledge are lodged
in the mulch of my swampy mind.
He sends search parties of ants scurrying
down my ear holes, dredging the depths.
He thinks I'm a goldmine to be gutted.
I'm with the mouse. She says my taste isn't bad,
though for the carpets she wouldn't have gone with green;
and the journey
Blue Check FlagThe natural location
to begin a revolution
is the breakfast table.
No one is happy
as it is far too early
but everyone is there,
(If there is no
it is definitely time to revolt.)
Attention! the lady of the house
demands, tapping a butter knife
on her coffee cup.
Lace up your boots and let’s march.
Ben grabs the breadknife,
Heather the greasy saucepan. Dom
whips the tablecloth from under
plates of half-devoured toast
and waves the blue checks aloft.
and Ellen clangs two spoons.
At desks chairs are empty,
gaps are unminded,
Tablecloths fly over the
highway, and spoon bands sing.
Creating VoiceWhen you write dialogue, when you write dramatic monologues, when you write in first person, your character must have his own voice.
Voice is in part the distinct vocabulary, grammatical tendencies and spoken patterns which are unique to your character. A linguist would call this his idiolect.
Voice’s other part is made up of the interests and obsessions of your character: what sort of things they notice about the world, how they interpret them in relation to their previous experiences, and what emotional colouring they give events. We might call this perspective.
Firstly, a story: I am English, middle class, and I studied at Oxford. When I worked in a supermarket cafe in inner-city Cardiff (Wales) I’d get customers who would say, after half a minute’s banter about their breakfast at the till, “hang on, you’re too clever to be working here!” They didn’t say this because I had told them my life story,
Cassette Tape“Which room is the cassette player in now?” says Joe.
I picture the old stereo, a tower block of black plastic with a record deck on the roof and a double cassette player in the second storey. Then I paint the room around it. A brown cupboard, yellow walls, a twisting table lamp.
“The front room,” I announce. It’s hard to remember things like cassette players.
“Do we know where the tape is?” mum asks.
“I’ll find it.”
It ought to be in the cupboard drawer. I pull out The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Little Princess, Just William. None of these are right. I open the DVD cupboard, finger through the DVDs. No. On top of the digibox? Nope. The mantelpiece? Behind the stereo? No and no. Maybe in my bedroom. On the bookshelves? In my desk? Under my desk? Not here. The kitchen! By the radio? Ok, in the back room then? On top of the piano! Of course. Makes sense.
Three quarters of an hour have passed and my mum an
The Season!When the season arrives
it is terribly unfashionable
to breathe, to blush, to beat.
The deadest dance
is a lame waltz,
all bloodless hands, cold feet.
Oh, everybody wants to be dead!
It’s terribly modish
to catch influenza and wilt,
to bubble with cancer
take a knife to the groin,
to cascade to the ground and rot.
It’s a craze! A romp!
A lark! They say,
you’ll see the cosmos’s frozen heart,
perceive the language of stones,
at the living, alone and inept.
It’s the season:
even the living paint themselves corpses,
bruised and ragged and white.
All of us want
to be deader these days,
to admire ourselves finished, complete,
a painting, a novel,
a famous museum,
a “look what I made, what I did!”
So put on your shroud,
for this is the season:
it’s horribly chic to be dead.
Mr Evers jabbed the Black No Sugar button and yanked down the neck of his tie. He inhaled the steam gusting from the gullet of the machine, thinking of nothing but a smoke-hazed staffroom. It was only last year they repainted the nicotine-yellowed walls, he remembered. He inhaled again; the moisture in his lungs almost, almost like tobacco.
The coffee machine issued four loud slurps and hissed to steamy silence. Half a plastic cup of gritty water stood in the repository. Mr Evers thumped the machine's side and jabbed the Black No Sugar button again, harder, twice.
'Playing up, is it?'
Mr Evers's insides lurched. He hadn't realised he was observed.
Squelched in her habitual grotty seat beneath the window, a pen dangling between two fingers, (almost, almost like a cigarette) was Miss Duchy.
Mr Evers thumped the machine again, which groaned with the effort to excrete more steam.
Surely he was capable of greater articulation than that? Even with Miss Duchy?
'Again,' he tried, but hi
The Origin of the InternetThis is the story of Compudites and Internedes great gods of knowledge and communication. It is a story of their love for each other. It is a story of their betrayal at the hands of Hermes the messenger. It is a story of Internedes' destruction at the hands of Zeus. And it is a story of how, with the help of Athena, Compudites was able to be together with Internedes once more. It is the story of how and why humanity got one of the greatest resources ever known the internet.
Compudites was a kind and gentle god, frail and limited in power, but boundless in intellect a patron of sciences, mathematics, and technology. He was the guiding hand behind many of humanity's technological breakthroughs throughout the millennia. But just as technology and discoveries in the maths and sciences depend on others to spread them, Compudites was forever dependent on others to spread his knowledge. Hermes the messenger was one, swift like the wind, he helped carry messages between th
Apologies to LaoEach day is its own microstep--
since I woke from my mother's womb,
I longed to mimic new words, trammel
the sound until it blossomed
like a newborn, and oh how I birthed
stories--told them how I wanted
the author's sacrosanct title
once I've grown. But growing meant
learning the practice of citizens
and their due contribution: beast-slaying
nature of please, thank you,
an apology: sincere
or not. Then there is time--the first
breath of nine, exhalation
of five, the suffocating mandate
of overtime. You grow used to it:
the cyclical disappearance of parents,
pervasive need of sleep, a home-
cooked meal's gradual transmogrification
to a microwave's impatient beeps,
the drive-thru's static, monotoned voice
by a man who has already learned
what I am learning: to cherish
the alarm's morning hymn over my mother's--
now I'm rarely late for work--can navigate
those can-lined aisles, the cold-grey
of the warehouse with deep strides
until I lose track of every step within
my eight hours--my mind
Character - Fortune AdjusterCome in, boy, come in. No, I will call you boy. The carnival manager is Boy to me too, do not think yourself so high and mighty. Come in, you want your fortune told by the old circus hag, yes? Come in, sit here, let me peer at you in the shade. You want your future told? A simple task, for I have already seen it in my inner eye. But more than simply tell, I will change. In truth I am not a teller of fortunes, but an adjuster.
The youth of today, worried about the future, ha! The future happens over and over, will happen just as it has happened. All I need are your anchors, the things deciding your future. For example, that pretty little thing you left outside, she is no anchor. She will change you, yes, she will eat up your pocketbook! I saw her, I saw her jewelry and fake breasts. No, look at me, not at her. You did not bring her into the tent, you do not see her as part of your future, yes? She is a fun little fling, am I right? Oh, you think it shameful for me to speak of such thing
Yet Another Christmas CarolIt was Christmas, celebrated all around Earth - and in Heaven, of course. As for elsewhere...
If you believe for a single second that the devils don't celebrate Christmas, you are, well, right, actually. They keep very quiet about it. Not even a mouse would dare speak about it to the Almighty Fiend, Lucifer. The sole exception to this unspoken rule had happened a few years back on the occasion of a Satanically spiked MTV "Merry Christmas" video which had seemed like a good idea for a few hours. Until it became obvious that it had been a pointless endeavor those who watched MTV regularly had been mostly unaffected, those who didn't had had their opinions on the low quality of the station confirmed and, generally, it had been a fruitless fiasco.
You didn't talk to Lucifer on Christmas. It was the same as going to him on Easter, patting him on the back and saying "There, there, mate. Anybody would have thought that killing Jesus was a good idea. I mean,
The Price of Dying“I want to be interred after I die,” Mr. Peters said. He made that clear to his family while he was still lucid, before old age and illness rendered him unintelligible. Seventy wasn’t that old, but he recognized the symptoms that were creeping up on his ailing body – the aches, the fatigue, the feeling of helplessness and despair. Despite his daughter’s attempts to assuage his concerns, he sensed his own mortality.
The worst part about dying, Mr. Peters thought, was what happened afterwards. Even since he was a small boy, he had been afraid of fire. He could never forget the scorching heat of the orange flames searing his skin, the dark billowing smoke entering his nostrils. The time that his house burned down, the fire almost took him with it. How ironic then, to escape the fire only to be fed into it after death.
So one day, he sat his son and daughter down after dinner. “I want to be buried whole,” he said, emphasizing the
Never ToldHe thinks it's odd, sometimes, though he's not certain why.
A sense of dislocation, perhaps. Like cutting yourself on an unsharpened blade. He walks the immense aisles of the cathedral, footsteps echoing hollowly into the blue shadows of high vaulted ceilings and arches, stone figures watching him from above as he, in turn, watches dawn play across their carved and weathered faces. The grandeur of this place is oddly soothing in the solitude it affords him. A holy place, just hushed, here suspended in the silence after Mattins when most have shuffled out. It's a favorite moment of his, a favorite service to attend, and today it gives him pausethere is training, and paperwork, and a squire for him to wake and a council meeting and a king, but he lets himself linger nonetheless. Just for a heartbeat, just for a heartbeat.
Hal smoothes his fingers over the well-worn coolness of a granite pillar, and he passes it by for the window beyond it, so familiar. He tilts his head back to
Whale Songs of the PacificListen, the girls swallowed by whales are the ones that grow up lucky.
Listen, no one will warn you about the little boys with the magpie eyes and the fists swinging splinters of glass. No one will warn you that their smiles are sweeter than their words are sweeter than their souls are sweeter than their intentions. No one will warn you of the sheer weight of the world.
Listen, sometimes girls are fragile. Sometimes girls are frothy. Sometimes girls let boys nuzzle "I love you"s into their necks and sometimes girls drink the wine of believing them.
Listen, sometimes the boys really are sweet, and little girls' tart puckered mouths can't taste the difference.
Listen, writers are the ones that drip fishhooks down their throats to coax out their hearts. Writers are the ones who fling those heart-hooks into the sea even if they have a message but not a bottle. Listen, sometimes fish swallow them. Some of those fish sink to the bottom of the ocean with the weight of the world in those heart
First Day of School."Miss, miss!"
"Sit down Gerald. Waving your hand and jumping around will not make me choose you quicker. Everybody will get a turn. Now, Natalie."
"Stand at the front then. There. Nice big voice."
"whatididonmyholidays by Natalie Marsh. What I did on my holidays we went to the beach it was nice and su....sunny. I had ice cream and I went on a boat. The boat was nice. The sea splashed up and we all got wet. Then there was a shark and it ated us and we all got dead TheEnd."
"Very good Natalie. Well done. And you spoke nice and clearly too, but try to be a bit louder next time. Now who's next? No, Gerald, I will not tell you again. Sit down. Now, Kyle. Your turn."
"What I did on my holidays by Kyle age six. What I did, I went to the zoo. I went... no, wait, I know,
Divination as a Means of Finding a Way Back 1. I say nothing I am thinking.
For twelve years I have wanted
to do exactly this, but suddenly
pronouncing my own name calls up
the question of who it belongs to
in the same breath Like
Solomon I was born a singer
but in the wrong key and my
chords will not carry me, will not
summon the wolves to me only
packs of hungry dogs
stupid with domestication
but nearly feral And like
a hungry ghost I have learned
not to speak against those
who will give me food
2. A sketch of myself.
He says I must have been born
in the wrong culture, he says. I got a taste of
the crackling heat here, heat to drive you crazy,
and suddenly I open my wide arms for
New Orleans, find myself needing the wind from
the Great Plains. Like a buffalo I have the spirit
of the Sun and I carry it with me. I am a plant
of burnt umber,
brown, ready and waiting like
sage bushes, like the hill you go to that is best
for collecting jun
the Chandler's Around the WayThe hose slipped out again. Chan cursed, and shoved it back into the incision he'd made, adjusted his mask, and bent over the pump. He yanked the cord, and the pump started to life with a cough of biodiesel. It bounced on the sand as it grumbled away. Chan kept one hand on it and held the hose in place with the other.
If fucking Fathers would spend the bone on a new one, I wouldn't be all night at this, Chan grumbled. He ached for a smoke, but didn't have the hands to spare. Plenty of hands here, he thought as he glanced at the riverbank. Some of them even had a pulse.
"Hey," he said to whoever was closest.
It was a sunbather. A walker who drew enough bone to slot time on the beach without having to fight for it. She had each arm draped around a man, both of them tattooed in the same place with the same sigil. Chan was jealous. Someday he'd have his own numbers, but they'd be women. All of them. He was old-fashioned like that.
The walker answered without raising her sungl
The Solipsist's LotThere's something about yourself that you don't know. You probably don't remember the circumstances very well, but I do. If you enjoy things the way they are, if you revel in even the smallest speck of ignorance, you need not read ahead. I won't force you. But from what I know of you, you don't like secrets. Especially not when they are about you.
You see, when you were born, so at once was everyone else. Your mother, she sprang into existence, just like that, the instant your tiny infant brain achieved the smallest semblance of self-awareness. Woven out of the ether, she remembered everything that never happened, and she looked down at you, cradled and squirming in her loving arms.
"Oh," she said. "So here is life."
The doctor was there too, although a moment before if there ever was a moment before he was not. He just nodded, smiling assuredly, and said, "Here is the beginning."
They Also Serve Who Only Stand and WaitI don't know when we first went underground. I don't even know if it was one mass exodus, a swarm of mankind trickling through the earth's crust so vehement we carved our own caverns by the force of trampling feet, or whether it was a gradual process, perhaps even a repetitive one, a family here, a neighborhood there. For all I know, the echo of the damp subterranean machine has always reverberated off the cave walls, created long past by the Angels, who think of our well-being even while they shake their heads helplessly at our flaws.
They say that those who remained on the surface were raptured away in a great flash of light, like a million suns converted into raw energy all at once. While it was rumored once that the flash was our doing, our own horrid creation, we all know better now. It was the Maker who brought it forth from the void and cast it onto the earth's crust, as though shot from an immense sling, taking only those who were brave enough to trust in Him. We, who live in t
001. beginnings.Beginnings are vague things. Quite often you can't pin them down to one event you have to trawl back further and further through foggy past, peeling apart what ifs and untangling strands of memories.
Eventually one has to go all the way back to the start of the universe, and that's a question even the experts have to shrug their shoulders at. It's not like you can plug it into a calculator and come out with a balanced algorithm. At least, not yet.
But it is true that sometimes you can fasten down an occurrence or a moment or even just a single breath, like sticking a thumbtack through a dead butterfly, and label it as a 'beginning' in your mind. Identifying that one moment makes us feel secure, like maybe it was destined to happen instead of just being a random sequence of events that fed off each other and tripped over each other and eventually fell like dominoes to the unlikely conclusion.
Cvusscha Mistbane has pinned down a moment. Of course she knows that there are plenty of
RatsWhen I was a little girl, I went to church. Our church was an illegal one: the building was unregistered.
We would sit on the benches made from stolen floorboards and listen to a man dressed in black as he read us tales of angels coming to save righteous men from evil, their swords clean and their trumpets blaring.
The man dressed in black was old. He was sick. His Bible was missing pages.
One day in March, my mother turned to me and said clearly, "Masha, I want you to remember something for when you grow up." Maybe she knew she was dying. "God loves murderers."
I just looked up at her, thumb in my mouth. My mother was still a beautiful woman. She was young when a man at an after-riot party had given her a child inside of her, a bruise on her face, and a few kopeks for her trouble before running away forever.
So I watched the dirty gray sunlight washing through her sickly blonde hair, watched it illuminate the dark hollows of her eyes, watched her face, and asked, "Why, mama?"
Escape VelocityF = G(m1m2)/r2
Black – true black – is the absence of light. Darkness is defined by what it is not, by the lack of something else. When we say a black hole, we truly mean that; black. Blacker than black. An absence of not only light, but of time, distance, anything.
The night was scary when I was little. I hated the dark, but couldn’t bear to sleep so long as the light was on, any light, burning on the other side of my eyelids. I used to have nightmares about dark things in dark corners, shadowy figures with shadowy fingers trailing along my spine. I always woke up cold and fumbling frantically for the lamp, but the aura of light just made the shadows deeper and I turned it off quickly.
Black holes are dead stars. Graves. Tombs that bury light, bury it so deep, swallow entire suns, planets, galaxies. Dead stars take all the light with them like rich men spending fortunes on alabaster monuments and marble headstones.
There are four unmarked graves
GlassI always laugh when you refer to me as glass.
Not just because of the way you say it,
Or because I know it's a crack at my fragility.
Glass is pure.
I am like granite -
my body nullified from too many clashing traits.
Glass is transparent.
I am like clay -
illegible from all the plastered smiles.
Glass is unyielding.
I am like chalk -
easily broken and scuffed away by meagre things.
Glass is hung up on walls and in great cathedrals,
tinted for enhancement, but only ever painted on by fools.
I am hidden behind keypads and camera lenses,
coated in a thick paste of deceptiveness.
No, my love,
I was never glass. (Despite my fragility)
Call me granite or clay or chalk
and be done with me.
Come Home: A PantoumYou'll always come back to me
when the lights in the far hills
are done searching. For, new beds
entice adventurers. Too,
when the lights in the far hills
come home, the homespun dream they
entice adventurers too,
but they can't. (Dream we're neither.
Come home.) The homespun dream they
turn pioneers to homebodies,
but they can't dream we're neither,
our wanderlust fit to turn
pioneers to homebodies.
We've always made love free, so
our wanderlust fit. To
turn ourselves towards our home
we've always made love. Free. So
when the last adventurers
turn themselves toward their homes
in faraway lands, I know,
when the last adventurers
are done searching for new beds
in faraway lands, I know
you'll always come back to me.
The TypewriterThe Typewriter
It began and ended with a word.
Not a particularly strong or powerful word, but a word that changed everything. It wasn't too long or difficult to spell. It wasn't uncommon either. In fact, it was a perfectly ordinary word, but, I suppose, its commonplace origin is what made it so special.
I loved that word.
But the word doesn't mean much without the story along with it and I was always one for telling good stories.
I ignored the call from the other room and remained seated. That tone wasn't unfamiliar. Taking a bite from my toast, I waited for him to call again. It wouldn't be more than ten—
"Sammy! Come quickly! I've gone an' done it!" he shouted. I turned just as he poked his head into the room with a bright smile across his face.
"What did you do?" I asked as I walked towards his study. Chris had said those same words nearly twelve times this week. Every other day he had called me in for some discovery.
I pushed open the door t