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Angela’s Children
Speaking with a Young Writer
[Incase Angela reads this, I have tagged different literary series posted on this site. Click on one of the tabs above.]

I woke coughing up green goo and blood again, deciding not to go for a run or even a walk—it was time to finish the novelette that had grown into a novella, 18,181 words deep into an almost complete writing week.
A lady down the road had a flood situation, so those plans went the way of the condor. Thinking still in Baltimore terms, a flood situation means shop-vacing or bailing a basement where the sump-pump failed. Showing up in shorts and a gortex hoody I then realized I’d be ditching. I’ve dug some ditches in my time, but never while a river was running through it…
In the end, wet and wearing a towel, standing by the woodstove while my shirts were in the dryer, Angela came to warm her hands by the fire. Angela is a young lady helping the homeowner as a visiting student.
We extraterrestrial anthropologists stranded on this vacuous planet of the apes have a sense for when we have come into contact…
An hour or so later, as we received stunned looks from the grownups that Angela doesn’t talk to strangers—we were discussing her various writing projects—two in particular, a multiverse and story about a fractured divinity. I thought Angela was a college student, but she is a homeschooling high-schooler who absolutely hated school—"like a walk into prison every day,” and she had some questions concerning writing.
In this conversation we were communicating across the usual author’s divide when it comes to fiction.
Typically, masculine authors decide on archetypes required to fuel the plot, and then build a character, often lacking in depth, as are most science fiction protagonists from the Golden Age of that genre. By contrast, feminine authors, now including as much as half of male writers, typically build complex, self-aware and highly interconnected characters, who tend to hold readers in a state of suspended empathy, but impede the plot.
Angela describes these characters as “my children, my creations—I get attached to them.”
By contrast, I admitted to being the abusive parent and murderer of my fictional creations, who die in droves.
Angela is juggling various stories and has trouble keeping from starting a new one. What follows is my advice for Angela in the management of her fictional work.
-1. Write nonfiction, anything, however mundane, in order to help develop narrative drive. Especially practice writing down from memory what someone has told you, the way they told you. Practice interviewing people you know about their lives—hell, write their biographies.
-2. Write myopic fiction based around a single character. This narrative can be a thread in a larger story, woven in with others. George R. R. Martin used this to great effect in his Game of Thrones novels. Soap operas do this as well.
-3. To overcome the feminine tendency to let a plot mire, take your complex characters and assign them a role. That role is their role in relation to the plot, not necessarily to the other characters. If my Sunset Saga characters all understood that Jay Bracken was the plot driver, they’d all conspire to lock him in a sealed gravity well. But as it is, they just regard him as an ass-kicking idiot—which he is to them, but not to the plot. To the story, he is arrayed like our breathing, the deep wisdom of the body that does not need to be told to act.
This need to engage the opposite narrative voice goes for masculine and feminine writers. It is like the need for a boxer to learn wrestling for MMA and the wrestler to learn boxing. Ultimately our goal is to be able to render authentic characters of all types and variations, even non-human.
Basic types of characters:
-a. direct actionist, actually a plot driving device
-b. indirect actionist, sustains the plot
-c. dreamer, expands the narrative scope
-d. philosopher [western authors like L. L’ Amour used these a lot] as ethical perspective portals for the reader
-e. self-absorbed jerk characters to make the others pop and for entertainment, like the asshole cook in a war movie
The above are all perspective characters, protagonists, who need to be rendered with empathy.
-4. Your fractured divinity concept—two metaphysic twins separated at birth—is really great. I would suggest a dreaming twin and a waking twin, with one sensing the other only in dream and the other consciously.
-5. Don’t fight the new idea, embrace it, I’ve worked on as many as 37 books at a given time. The book will scream at you when it needs to get done.
Reading for writers;
Nonfiction narrative: Will Durant or Barbara Tuchman. Find a subject you can have some initial interest in. I would suggest Tuchman’s March of Folly or a Distant Mirror. For male writers I would suggest Durant’s Story of Civilization.
First-person perspective: Gene Wolfe, Shadow of the Torturer
Minimal exposition [hiding the writer’s hand from the character]: Gene Wolfe, anything
Feminine perspective with masculine empathy: Alice B. Sheldon
Masculine perspective with feminine empathy: Phillip K. Dick
Dream and memory: Gene Wolfe, Latro in the Mist
Direct actionist: Robert E. Howard, The Tower of the Elephant
Direct actionist woven with indirect actionist: Robert E. Howard, Rogues in the House
Feminine/masculine interweaving perspectives: Robert E. Howard, The Vale of Lost Women, The Black Stranger, People of the Black Circle
Howard is so important for a female writer because he is the most plot heavy, direct-actionist dependent writer and includes high levels of feminine perspective contrasted with hypermasculine worldview—he is truly psychotic in the context of our current value system—as his mother, his family’s cook and family laundress all told him horror stories and engaged in tale telling with him along with his father when he was a boy.
Dreaming perspective: Tolkien’s hobbit characters are essentially dreamers, fighting against the ugly reality with a weaponized innocence.
I hope this helps, Angela. Congratulations on escaping public school before your scheduled release date.
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Add Comment
AngelaApril 4, 2020 12:50 PM UTC

Wow I'm extremely humbled and grateful for not only your thoughtful words this day but the fact that you also wrote a blog about it! Thank you so much and I hope other young/new authors like myself will get what they need from this as well. Sorry for late response I saw this awhile back but the dog business picked up alot and then Covid-19 came about and I totally blanked on responding . I have taken note tho and read a few books by the authors you suggested and its given me some inspiration. I've also worked more on pacing myself and not trying to rush my writing just letting it come as it will. As you so eloquently put a story will scream when it needs to be written. Again thank you so much for the words of wisdom and blog!
responds:April 5, 2020 2:47 PM UTC

Glad this helped, Angela.

Our talk helped my writing.