Sharpening Your Flaws

Corot-Girl Reader

Oh, those unintentional character flaws! How they distract me! They make me laugh when I should be crying. I weep in frustration.

To Flaw or Not to Flaw
Innocent writer: Why should my character have a flaw?
Experienced author: Because.
IW: Because why?
EA: To make her more interesting.
IW: My character is a man.
EA: See? Already she is flawed.

Once Flawed, Twice Shy
IW: Okay, I concede that my character must have a flaw. What kind of flaw?
EA: A character flaw.
IW: What kind of character flaw?
EA: One that will make your readers grab your character by the throat and throttle him.
IW: Her. But my readers, however much they desire to massage my character’s non-existent Adam’s apple, cannot do so literally. Won’t that frustrate them instead?
EA: No. They can do so literaturally, which means they will rewrite your story in the name of fan fiction.
IW: They can do that?
EA: Yes. Fan fiction covers a multitude of sins.

A Flaw in Hand is Worth Two in the Book.
IW: So my female character is a male which gives her an initial flaw out the gate. Should she have a second flaw?
EA: Yes.
IW: Such as…
EA: I wouldn’t be too fussed about it. Just keep writing, and one will no doubt crop up.
IW: Are you saying I should just leave a second character flaw to chance?
EA: Not entirely. If your book is serious fiction, I can almost guarantee a secondary character flaw that will have your readers in stitches.
IW: I thought you said they would throttle my character by the throat.
EA: Well, yes, but they will die laughing doing it.



William Blake ~ Gustave Dore


Tell me what is the night or day to one o’erflowed with woe?
Tell me what is a thought? & of what substance is it made?
Tell me what is a joy? & in what gardens do joys grow?
And in what rivers swim the sorrows? and upon what mountains?

Tell me where dwell the thoughts, forgotten till thou call them forth?
Tell me where dwell the joys of old! & where the ancient loves?
And when will they renew again & the night of oblivion past?
That I might traverse times & spaces far remote and bring
Comforts into a present sorrow and pain.

William Blake ~ Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Painting by Gustave Doré

Kitty Brains


Cats are very much like you and me.
So first, your memory I’ll jog and say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.
T. S. Eliot ~ Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Children are Jellicle Cats.

Children have a name their parents gave them.
My mother called us “honyocks.” My father called us “gremlins.” We did not take it seriously, especially when my mother flourished a broom above her head for emphasis. She was always good for a laugh. The only time we took our names seriously was when our parents called us by our full name (and when you are Catholic, that can entail up to four monikers.) When that happened we knew we were in for it.

In The Book of Rhino, Elbert thought his mother spelled the devil’s name E-L-B-E-R-T. This shows you that mothers (a) know who the devil is, (b) know how to spell his name, and (c) know how to use the name they give you to let you know you’ve biffed it.

(Note: There are other names that parents give to their children, but I will not speak of them. Like Grizabella, their stories are too sad for children to hear.)

Children have a name given them by other children.
These are children’s play names that they put on as much as they do their play clothes. We went by Hog-Nose Peso, False Fingers, Beady Eyes, Glassy Eyes, Snoggy Monstral, and the Nutts.

(Note: The Nutts went by the names their parents gave them because it was considered enough just to have the last name Nutt.)

Our parents never called us by our play names. In the first place, they did not know what they were because we never told them, and in the second place, if they did know them and used them, it would have been utterly weird—almost as weird as them playing with us.

Here I must mention in passing that, despite what is shown on television, parents do not play with their children. I mean, it’s really too ridiculous. What do parents or grandparents know about children’s games, games like Froggy and Mountain Dew? Would they pretend to thrash Beady Eyes under the streetlight? What about walking the fence, riding bikes on the roller coaster, or having grasshopper fights. I cannot picture either of my parents doing said activities; I have a large imagination, but it’s not that large. Children’s play names along with their play games are just for them.

(Note: We did play poker with my father, a minor concession because he paid in cash.)

(Note: We never actually told Snoggy Monstral his name to his face because he would have beaten the crap out of us—he was that type of guy, hence his name.)

Children Have a Name They Give Themselves.
We tell no one our secret names. Why? In the first place, they are secret; (that’s rather the point), and in the second place, we sometimes do not know ourselves what our secret name is. It took me years to learn my secret name. I had a suspicion of what it was, but for a long time, I considered myself unworthy. Then I read The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge and his story of the sea lion who had lost the sea. After that I embraced my secret name. Odd how things like that work out.

All children deserve a strong name.
Bill Martin



The Perils of the Real


Now I am carried beyond all bounds.
My tears will not be checked.
I see Antigone depart to the chamber where all men sleep.
Sophocles ~ Antigone

Despite out gifts, talents, and best intentions, we cannot control Life; we can only love it.
The Book of Rhino

H. L. Mencken wrote: “I believe that an artist, fashioning his imaginary worlds out of his own agony and ecstasy, is a benefactor to us all, but the worst error we can commit is to mistake his imaginary worlds for the real one.”

What about when the real world intrudes on the imaginary one? I don’t know why it does that.

Matthew Arnold ~ William Waterhouse


Nature, with equal mind,
Sees all her sons at play,
Sees man control the wind,
The wind sweep man away.

Matthew Arnold ~ Empedocles on Etna Scene II

Legend has it that Empedocles, a fifth century Greek philosopher, died by throwing himself into Mount Etna. He wanted people to believe his body had vanished and that he had turned into a god. However, one of his sandals survived the volcano’s fire, dispelling the myth Empedocles hoped to create.

Truth wins.

(Note to self: Remember this for those times when it seems otherwise. The sandal survived.)

Painting by William Waterhouse


Wrinkles in Time


“Chaos resolves into a pattern if viewed from the right distance.”
The Book of Rhino

I recently read The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. About halfway through, I decided that Captain Queeg and Donald Trump were remarkably similar in their behavior. I wondered how Herman Wouk could so accurately paint a portrait of the current president. Did he somehow get on board a time machine and travel to 2016? A more realistic possibility is that Wouk met or knew of someone like Donald Trump and used him for the character of Captain Queeg; perhaps Queegs and Trumps pop up in every generation.

(Note to self: If that is the case, then I think our current ship of state will make it to safe harbor.)

The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952. I wonder what the members of the Pulitzer committee saw in the novel. Did one or two of them encounter their own versions of Captain Queeg and so awarded Wouk for his accurate depiction of American life? It’s possible. After all, the novels that achieve greatness are not about people we don’t know but about people that we do.

Novelists who write about their own time periods reveal the culture of their world in a way that history books do not. For example, one of the fascinating aspects of The Age of Innocence and Bonfire of the Vanities is the culture they both reveal about New York City and its society. It runs like a connecting thread through the transient tastes in style, language, and status. Even though the novels are set roughly one hundred years apart, Edith Wharton and Tom Wolfe knew the same types of people.

The fictional works of authors who write contemporary novels bridge the gap in time for later generations of readers, enabling them to trace patterns in human behavior. These books are “wrinkles in time.” It’s no wonder that all my favorite authors are dead! In their novels, I can travel through time—not as a voyeur who is merely nosy about the past—but as an Observer and a mathematician who is always searching for patterns. Patterns help me make sense of real world phenomena, including human relationships. In a world of reactive effects, patterns help me see causes. Novels of the past smooth out the wrinkles of the present.

Daily Post WOTD:Wrinkle

The Revelation ~ Chapter Two



No teacher should strive to make others think as he thinks, but to lead them to the Living Truth…who will make them in themselves know that is true by the very seeing of it.
George MacDonald ~ Unspoken Sermons

“Those who wish to live in a civilized society must have social compact that everyone abides by for the good of the community.”
The Book of Rhino

Captivating Pajama Bottoms


Pajama bottoms are the gremlins of the clothing world.

Their appearance is delightful in the store.
Pajamas are soft and cute in the store. They come in a variety of designs and colors and sizes. They are made to appeal to everyone. Who doesn’t want to own a cuddly pair of pajamas? They are captivating.

Their attitude is demure in the drawer.
Once you have them home, pajama bottoms behave themselves. They stay neatly folded in the dresser drawer and do not harass the other clothes. They are platonic friends with pajama tops and keep their hands to themselves. Who would suspect the darkness that hides inside? Pajama bottoms do not come with a proper warning.

Their action is dreadful in the washer.
When pajama bottoms get wet, they change into gremlins. They wrap themselves around the other clothes and do not let go. Any effort to disentangle them from other articles of clothing ends in disaster; their wet tentacles drag socks, panties, and tops, down to the floor with them. And as for pajama tops? All that pretended “platonism” goes down the drain once pajama bottoms are in the washer. They glom onto the pajama tops in a most disrespectful manner. In this way, pajama bottoms are truly captivating.

Their appearance is deceitful in the dryer.
The chief issue with pajama bottoms is that they are soft, warm, and cuddly after they are dry. One is hard-pressed to believe that the slimy monsters he or she removed from the washer are the same garment when taken from the dryer. In good faith, the unsuspecting pajama bottom owner folds them neatly and puts them away in the drawer. There they stay until the next wash day. The interval of time between drawer and dryer is too long for people to remember this important fact: Pajama bottoms turn into gremlins when wet.

Daily Prompt WOTD:Captivating

Into the Woods

The following is a sequel to a story posted by The Ceaseless Reader. It’s titled Sick Day. I recommend you check out other posts from his blog.

The dim light of a gray dawn failed to elevate my mood as I locked my door then turned toward my car, and a sudden cloudburst doused what little cheer I had begun trying to muster.

As I exited the highway and turned onto the treacherous county road winding through the rocky hills on my final approach to work, I found myself once again bemused by how I’d arrived there.  The drive had become so routine that my mind disengages, and muscle memory takes over.

But when a sudden, stentorian ripping sound drew my eyes skyward as I approached the tunnel bored through Crummer’s Knob, and I saw an enormous, hairy arm begin to emerge from the slit in the torn clouds, I was instantly present.  Heart pounding and coated in a sheen of chill sweat, I entered the tunnel, pulled to the side, killed the ignition, and reached for my phone.  “B-Boss,”  I stammered, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it in today.”

My Sequel:

In my rearview mirror, I watched the arm crash to the ground. Silence. Then I heard a faint whimpering sound.

Oh, no, I thought, that giant arm has landed on someone. I have to check it out.

“Er, Boss, I might not make it in at all.” Like forever.

I eased out of the car and crept to the edge of the tunnel. The whimpering grew louder; it was coming from the direction of the arm. I looked around and MY CRIMINY! That arm was just an arm! I mean, that was all there was to it! No body attached to it! OH, MY OTHER CRIMINY! It was the arm that was crying!

Now I’m telling you, if you have never heard an arm cry, the sound is downright heartbreaking. I tiptoed closer until I was near the hand.

“Er, Mr. Arm,” I began; then I noticed the fingernails.

“Er, Ms. Arm,” I said, “are you alright?”

The hand started horribly at the sound of my voice and began to shake.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” I said. “I’m here to help.”

Oh boy, I thought, how do you help a disembodied arm? And a very large one at that!