The Writing Process: Architecture


Ryan Lanz, who writes The Writer’s Path, recently posted a great article on plotting style. He writes:

The People Whisperer (20% Gardener/80% Architect)
This type of writer only is a Gardener when it comes to writing characters. This writer will detail out the plotline to its every detail yet leaves out the planning of the character arcs (development). Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t have any idea where the character will end up, per se, but you’ll give the character the room to grow into it. You could find the character will add a flavor you never imagined would come about. This is another option for some free play inside a preset structure.”

I love this. It so describes the type of writer I am when it comes to fiction. It feels good to be understood. Thank you, Mr. Lanz.

While I am not sure if the exact percentages apply to me, (having not gathered the necessary data), I am certain this nails my plotting style. Being a writing “architect” is what I love about writing because for me, writing is mostly about the journey, not the destination. My goal is to write, not to have written.

Every morning the first thing I do, as I sip my coffee, is to design my building—I am currently working on the third Book of Rhino. Like the first two books, this book is complex; that is, it integrates several concepts and themes, such as mathematical functions, beauty, aging, and self-actualization, as well as the primary themes of intellectual honesty, emotional maturity, and volitional integrity. I am also weaving in the parable of the sower.

Once I have the structure built and furnished, then I will turn my characters loose in it. I eagerly anticipate what they will do with the world I have created. Writing is such fun. Life is good.



Burning Through Life at Cabela’s


The Daily Press WOTD is Tantrum. My response to the prompt is a play on the word.

The scene opens with a married couple sitting at breakfast. The husband Greg is a bull moose; the wife Marina is an attractive cow. Greg is sipping his coffee and staring out the window while Marina is reading the newspaper.

Marina: Hmm…it says here in an article by the Associated Press that Larry Harvey is dead at age 70.

Greg: Who is Larry Harvey?

Marina: You know, dear; he is the co-founder of the Burning Man festival. You remember; it’s that annual tantrum that humans have at Black Rock desert in Nevada.

Greg (shaking his head): Not a clue. An annual tantrum you say? What? A bunch of humans get together and throw a fit?

Marina: I suppose that is the best way to describe it. Thousands of them gather to dance naked, painted, or costumed—according to the particular taste of the individual—and bang drums and occasionally each other. If that isn’t a tantrum, I don’t know what is.

Greg: And what does that have to do with Larry Harvey and a burning man?

Marina: Well, dear, the highlight of the festival is a large figure set ablaze—the Burning Man. Larry Harvey launched the event in 1986 when he and a friend burned a wooden man on a beach in San Francisco. It just took off from there. It says here in the article that friends and family toasted Harvey on Saturday as a visionary.

Greg: So then this Harvey guy was the Burning Man?

Marina: No, dear, he started the Burning Man festival.

Greg: But you said his friends and family toasted him.

Marina: That is a different kind of toast, although I believe many of the participants do get toasted.

Greg: So Harvey himself did not get toasted, but he let his friends toast him. I say, that’s rather rough. Still you say he was not the Burning Man?

Marina: No, he was never burned, but he did get toasted. Whether he ever toasted himself, the article does not say.

Greg: Well, it all sounds like silly human behavior to me. I prefer to do my own toasting. It would really fry my toast if somebody did it for me. Perhaps that is why the humans have an annual tantrum; perhaps they are getting toasted without their consent.

Marina: I don’t think so, dear. The Burning Man festival would not be so popular if people were getting toasted without their permission; the whole point is to celebrate individual freedom.

Greg: What about the Burning Man? Does he want to get toasted? Is there any consideration given to his needs and wants? If anyone has cause for a tantrum, I should think it would be him.

Marina: Yes, dear.

Quote Challenge ~ “Notable”

Ivan-Waves at Night

The Daily Post WOTD is Notable . To find a quote for this word, I went to Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.

“Your race had shown a notable incapacity for dealing with the problems of its own rather small planet. When we arrived, you were on the point of destroying yourselves with the powers that science had rashly given you. Without our intervention, the Earth today would be a radioactive wilderness.”

“Now you have a world at peace, and a united race. Soon you will be sufficiently civilized to run your planet without our assistance. Perhaps you could eventually handle the problems of an entire solar system—say fifty moons and planets. But the stars are not for man.”

The speaker is Karellen, an alien being from another galaxy whose race has taken over the management of Earth. His words remind me of a favorite quote from Theodore Dreiser from his novel Sister Carrie:

“Our civilization is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason. On the tiger no responsibility rests.”

When I first read Childhood’s End, I had to admit that Karellen and his pals had a valid point about the humans of Earth; we really are a tiger at times. Nevertheless, it really fries my toast that a group of outsiders would tell us Earthlings what do to as if they were the boss of us. As it says in The Book of Rhino, I would rather be tossed about in my own turbulent sea than safely secured to someone else’s anchor.

Dylan Thomas ~ George MacDonald


Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.
Dylan Thomas ~ Poem in October

Fair as is the gliding sloop on the shining sea, the wavering, trembling unresisting sail below is fairer still.
George MacDonald

Flights of fancy are random acts of kindness from the heart to the mind.

(Painting by James Christensen)

Quote Challenge ~ “Authentic”


The Daily Post WOTD is Authentic.

In his book My Generation: Collected Nonfiction, William Styron discusses authenticity in writing. He recalls a discussion he had on the subject with Hannah Arendt.

“I told her that someday I hoped to write about Auschwitz—I had in mind, specifically, a Polish Catholic survivor of that camp, a young woman named Sophie, whom I had known in Brooklyn after the war—but I was troubled by how authentic my rendition might be. What did I know about midcentury Europe in its torment and self-immolation?

She scoffed lightly at this, countering with this question: What, before writing Nat Turner, had I known about slavery. An artist creates his own authenticity; what matters is imaginative conviction and boldness, a passion to invade alien territory and render an account of one’s discoveries.”

I felt relieved and heartened after reading this because I was having my own struggle with authenticity in writing The Book of Rhino. Rhino is set in the Middle Ages in England; if I used the actual language of the time, it would read like The Faerie Queen, and while the latter is a delightful poem, it is slow-going. Even a book like Ivanhoe is a little off-putting because of all its thees and thous.

So thank you, William Styron and Hannah Arendt, for encouraging my invasion into alien territory. What I have discovered makes the journey well worthwhile.

(Note: This is in response to a quote challenge to myself.)

Parallel and Polya


Golden Ratio

I usually do not post on Thursdays, but when the Daily Press WOTD is Parallel, I can’t resist commenting. My inner mathematician demands it.

I recently tried to construct a regular pentagon inscribed in a regular hexagon inscribed in a circle with a compass and straight edge. The circle and hexagon were easy; but the pentagon proved impossible without using a protractor. (If anyone out there knows how to do it, please let me know.)

Part of the construction involved a sub-construction of parallel lines, and dang! if I could not remember! I got fairly fussed about it because parallel lines are simple, one of the first things a geometry student learns to construct. Therefore, I did what I do with any problem I need to solve—I paced about the room and stopped occasionally to stare out the window.

(Note to self: George Polya did not include this step in his problem-solving process, but he should have because it helps.)

Eventually the trees and rocks outside my window jogged my memory for the construction of parallel lines. I drew my figure and showed it to the world outside my window. Everyone was happy.

On Moral Integrity


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?

William Blake ~ Visions of the Daughters of Albion


Quote Challenge ~ Introduction


The Daily Press WOTD is Glimmer.

Denny, the ceaseless reader tagged me for a three-day quote challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed participating. People throughout the centuries have been thinking, saying, and writing quotables, (if that’s the word I want), and I love sharing them.

I decided to continue this challenge by once a week finding a quote that relates to the Daily Press Writing Prompt. It’s a good mental exercise and a way to share samples of great writing with others.

In order to make it a true challenge, I decided that I would only quote from books I have read or are currently reading; I would not search for a quote on the Internet. I also decided that if the quote did not contain the exact word-of-the-day, I would include a justification.

Now for the initial challenge. The WOTD is Glimmer. It just so happens that the word glimmer makes several appearances in a book I am currently reading—Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. I think the battle cry of Ulrica is fitting to quote.

Whet the bright steel,
Sons of the White Dragon!
Kindle the torch,
Daughter of Hengist!
The steel glimmers not for the carving of the banquet,

It is hard, broad, and sharply pointed;
The torch goeth not to the bridal chamber,
It steams and glitters blue with sulphur.

Whet the steel, the raven croaks!
Light the torch, Zernebock is yelling!
Whet the steel, sons of the Dragon!
Kindle the torch, daughter of Hengist!

So cried Ulrica, Saxon princess turned slave, as she brought down fire, death, and destruction upon the castle of her Norman captors. Poor woman! Hers is a sad and haunting tale, one best not told to children.

Note: Hengist is the Saxon leader who invaded Britain in the fifth century. The Saxons in Ivanhoe considered him the first Saxon king of England and honored his name. Sir Walter Scott implies that Zernebock is a Saxon god of death and the dead.