Please bear with me on this little history lesson. We’re going on a somber trip, a reminder of what writers had to deal with even in the civilized corners of the globe.
Blessed Memorial Day. I know we’re international, but in America, today is a day we remember those who died for our freedom. So thank you to those fighting for it, and especially thank you to those who died and will never know how grateful I am.
Freedom of speech is not perfect throughout the world, and sometimes it’s not even existent. But we have incredible freedom of speech, especially in the Western world. We are able to say things online that are horrible, uplifting, destructive, and empowering. We can air our opinions, and there are more than enough people who will come back and brow beat those opinions with their own. Something we may not fully appreciate.
When taking an English literature class there was a man who stood out to me and reminded me how amazing it is that we truly have freedom of speech, that the government does not get involved and take it into their own hands.
It was during the 1500s, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. England was protestant, and the protestants were allowing a good amount of freedom of speech, where the Catholic church was very staunch in their reaction to people who spoke out. To give you an idea, Galileo not only lost his sight from staring at the sun to chart it, he was also detained by the inquisition for claiming the earth revolved around the sun.
At the time, France was still Catholic, and Elizabeth wished to marry a French duke, who was the son of the king of France. It was Stubbs’ opinion. It may have been a little overreacting. Stubbs stated that first, Elizabeth didn’t need to get married since she couldn’t have kids. Second, and more important to him, was that if a French man was allowed to marry the Queen of England, it could destroy the freedom of speech England was enjoying under Protestantism.
Ironically, for making a comment on how he didn’t want to lose the current freedom of speech enjoyed in England, he, his printer, and his publisher would be convicted of sedition. The punishment from Queen Elizabeth was to cut off their right hand, so they could never write something seditious ever again.
Story doesn’t end there. Stubbs was up there, ready to lose his hand, to which he said to the crowd, “Pray for me now, my calamity is at hand.” Good sense of humor. After having his hand cut off, just before he passed out, he said, “God save the queen.” The crowd is supposed to respond, but they said nothing. Stubbs paid for his speech. He remained loyal to the queen and continued to write, doing great things for England.
People have had their tongues cut off, fingers mutilated, been hung, decapitated, and a dozen other punishments. There has been branding, torture, and so forth. All because someone said something, because they wrote something, because they had an opinion that was not agreeable by whoever was in charge, or whoever had the largest mob.
There are those who say horrible things about our soldiers, and they have the right to do that. But on Memorial Day, remember those soldiers in the ground, the ones training, the ones serving, they are the reason we have those freedoms. They are the reason people can disparage the president, no matter which side they’re on. It’s the reason we can even have multiple parties getting into power. We can decry corporations and pollution. We can do all of this because of a freedom Stubbs did not enjoy. A freedom many people have sacrificed years of their lives for. A freedom many people died for.
Blessed Memorial Day.
So, something I’ve had fun with recently is learning to play the game of Go. I’ve found a couple of teachers down here who are good (or at the very least much, much better than I am), and it’s a game that I thoroughly enjoy learning. It’s also an extremely complicated game, which I enjoy all the more. So, I’m hoping to get a few more sessions in while I’m still here, and maybe I’ll be able to find someone else who can teach me after I move. Anyway, on a different subject entirely, I have a story challenge, and it’s time for my favorite story challenge. I’m going to give you a series of criteria including genre, theme, some character archetypes, etc. Your job is to write a story that includes all of the features required in the challenge. If you intend to post it here, please keep it short. However, the complexity of this challenge often requires a longer story.
Theme: Knowing Yourself
Genre: Fantasy, Surreal Fiction, Fiction, or Science Fiction
Setting: You can choose your setting for this. Personally, I think that a surreal fiction genre set inside a mental landscape would be excellent for this.
1) The Pilgrim
2) The Inner Guide
3) The Adversary
4) The Fool
2) The Key of the Soul
3) A Pear
I don’t plan on joining the giant hubbub over what is going on in the Duggar family or what Josh Duggar did when he was a teenager. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about and you want to know, then I suggest you google it. However, Alayna did make an excellent point to me today. Reading blog posts, articles, and what people have shared on facebook I have seen a lot of shock, outrage, judgment, and chastisement. I’ve seen a lot of people pointing out what the Duggars did wrong, raising concerns about responsibility, safety, wise judgment, influence, etc. I’ve seen a lot of hate and vitriol mixed with rampant gossip mongering and what is probably a little honest fear. What I haven’t seen is anyone who actually seems more concerned with the people who were hurt, both by Josh’s actions as a teen and by the current media hubbub, that about making a political or personal point. Honestly, I think the best thing that anyone can do is to let this story die in the media. Whatever happens, it needs to be the Duggar family, their community, and the local authorities who make the decisions. Those are the people involved, and those are the only people who actually have a place to raise or reraise any concerns.
I’m seen a lot of people who are ready to crucify someone. A lot of people who are acting like Josh Duggar is the exact same person now (and I do not mean the same metaphysical entity, but the same person psychologically, spiritually, and socially) that he was when he was 14, and a lot of people who are acting like the victims involved are the exact same people now that they were when all of this happened. This speaks to me of a singular mindset: the idea that people can’t change in any real way. I think that this is an extremely dangerous mindset. However, even in saying this I am not arguing that questions don’t need to be asked or that no action needs to be take. To be honest, I don’t know if questions need to be asked, or if they already have been. I also don’t know if actions need to be taken, or if they already have been. I am not well enough informed because what few facts the media has actually presented aren’t sufficient to actually inform me to the point of making a meaningful opinion possible. So, my encouragement to all of my readers is to let this go. Give your prayers to the family, and let the people who are actually involved, actually know the people involved, actually understand the situation, and can actually make meaningful decisions concerning it actually handle it. This is the most responsible action that can be taken.
What is the nature of the self? At the moment there are three major philosophical definitions of the self that are contesting with one another. The first is the foundation of the Western Liberal Tradition, and that is the conception of the self as an autonomous individual self. This self exists apart from anything and everything else. It is a self-contained unit, like an amoeba, and thus like an amoeba it lives in competition with everything in it surroundings. This competition can be expressed in a variety of ways, from friendly to hostile, but ultimately the autonomous individual is dependent upon him/herself, and thus his/her own needs must come first. This autonomous conception of the self has been posited as being the impetus behind the move from a covenant conception of relationships in the Western world (which dominated through the Medieval period) to a contract conception of relationships (which is now dominant). It has also been accused, by Henry Rosemont Jr. and others, as being the basis for many of the problems in western society, from the breakdown of families to the overreaching of financial enterprises.
The second major conception of the self is the social conception of self. This conception of self has been popularized by one side of the New Confucian school of thought and is behind what is known as Role Ethics. In this conception of the self, there is no individual apart from the roles that individual plays in society. Thus, I am fiancee, teacher, son, brother, friend, etc and apart from these things there is no actual me left that could possibly be recognizable. This conception of the self argues that the self can only exist in the context of community, and thus cooperation rather than competition is the natural model of human interaction. Since we are seen as inherently social beings, and in fact there is no I apart from we, what matters to us is extremely important. Thus, this model of the self tends to emphasize the community over the individual. Just as the autonomous conception of the self is blamed for the problems associated with individualism, selfishness, and with an emphasis on procedural justice that sacrifices all concept of social justice, the social self is blamed from problems such as ignoring basic human rights, emphasizing social justice over procedural justice, and forcing people to sacrifice their own good and happiness for the sake of others.
The third major conception of the self is the analogical self. This conception of the self is at least as old as Thomas Aquinas. In this version the self is an individual, and exists as an individual apart from other individuals, but is not autonomous. Instead of being an autonomous, self-deciding or self-creating individual, the individual is dependent upon a higher divine being for his/her form, function, and basic existence. Thus, there could be me without you, but there could be neither me nor you without God. In this conception of the self the individual is an analogy or image of God or of some piece of God (as an image does not necessarily reflect the whole) and thus is dependent upon him. Like any image it may be more or less complete and accurate, but in its essence (or those characteristics without which it could not exist) it is both dependent upon and derivative of God. This conception of the self has been accused of being determinative, and unnecessarily complex (as it supposes a divine being).
So, here is your challenge for today: which of these three conceptions of the self do you think is most accurate? Or do you have some different conception of the self that you think is more accurate? Remember, write a 1000 word story that presents and defends your position.
Okay, sorry for the late post. Like I said earlier this week, it’s been hectic. Anyway, I do have a plot challenge for you.
Your challenge: Take a movie, book, short story, play (preferably something religious) that you love, and identify each character and significant plot point. Now, identify the three most significant, pivotal events in the story, and work your way back through the plot, but change those three events. For instance, in Romeo and Juliet you might change the death of Tibedo so that he lives. Now, work your way back through the story step by step and figure out how the characters would react to those changed plot points. How would they react (in character)? How does this change the overall events of the story? Feel free to use this as an impetus to write some up a new story entirely, but the goal here is to see how character’s themselves help to shape the plot of a story.
As promised, here is the next installment of Discourse Grammar in The Name of the Wind! Since it’s been a while since our last post, I’ll try to jog everyone’s memory a bit. Last time, we talked about Kvothe’s embedded narrative, and the fact that it follows its own plot diagram.
The innkeeper sets the stage with his description of his early life as a member of the Edema Ruh—focusing in particular on his first encounter with the Chandrian, an inciting incident if ever there was one.
Next in Kvothe’s story, however, comes the developing conflict.
Although Kvothe’s narrative actually includes even more embedded stories, the rest of the book mainly consists of developing conflict—at least until the first climax.
According to Robert E. Longacre, developing conflict involves an increase in intensity that often reveals itself through grammatically marked “episodes” (35, 37). These episodes—or scenes, like in a play—occur throughout The Name of the Wind, especially after we’re introduced to Ambrose Jakis, Kvothe’s rival in the University.
As the innkeeper confesses, Ambrose and Kvothe early on develop an intense loathing for one another: “To deem us simply enemies is to lose the true flavor of our relationship. It was more like the two of us entered into a business partnership in order to more efficiently pursue our mutual interest of hating each other” (219). This rivalry intensifies throughout the entire novel until it eventually comes to a head in the final suspense of the story.
According to Hengeveld and Mackenzie, “Episodes are [. . .] characterized by unity or continuity of Time (t), Location (l), and Individuals (x)” (133), a formula that Rothfuss for the most part follows whenever antagonists such as Ambrose are involved.
When the two first meet, Kvothe is attempting to gain access to the Archives at the University. The entire scene takes place in the entrance hall to the University archives, where Ambrose and Kvothe argue about whether or not the younger boy should be allowed in when he has just passed his entry examination and is not yet “in the book” (168). The episode also includes a peak, where storyline clauses appear back-to-back with short, abrupt sentences.
Ambrose turned back to me, his smile bright, brittle, and by no means friendly. “Listen, I’m going to give you a little advice for free. Back home you were something special. Here you’re just another kid with a big mouth. So address me as Re’lar, go back to your bunk, and thank whatever pagan God you pray to that we’re not in Vintas. My father and I would chain you to a post like a rabid dog.”
He shrugged. “Or don’t. Stay here. Make a scene. Start to cry. Better yet, take a swing at me.” He smiled. “I’ll give you a thrashing and get you thrown out on your ear.” He picked up his pen and turned back to whatever he was writing.
I left. (169, emphasis added)
Although the first sentence includes descriptive reduced clauses such as “his smile [was] bright” and “[his smile was] brittle,” punctiliar verbs are also used throughout the peak—as evidenced by the bolded words.
According to Longacre, “the reporting of speech is quite regularly a storyline function even in the absence of an explicit formula of quotation” (123). Although the paragraphs of dialogue may be missing the typical quotation formula, “he said” is implied, adding to the storyline clauses in the peak. This section of the episode also includes simple subject-verb sentences such as “He shrugged” and “He smiled” as well as the one-sentence paragraph “I left”—all of which indicate mainline.
The scene has all of the grammatical markings of an episode, including a peak and occurring at the same time and place with the same cast of characters. However, the episode is also revealed as developing conflict through the use of tension.
According to Burroway and Stuckey-French, “Conflict is a fundamental element of fiction” (249), and that conflict is often created through tension. Dialogue in The Name of The Wind for the most part always “advance[s] the action” (Burroway and Stuckey-French 79, emphasis in original), filled with tension that further develops the conflict of the narrative.
For instance, tension is seen throughout Kvothe’s interactions with Ambrose, especially during repartee such as in the dialogue paragraphs mentioned above. A key element of developing conflict, this tension is also seen to a large extent through Kvothe’s interactions with Denna, the eventual love interest of the story.
Denna’s importance is alluded to in the opening of Kvothe’s story, where the narrator says, “In some ways, it began when I heard [Denna] singing. Her voice twinning, mixing with my own. Her voice was like a portrait of her soul: wild as a fire, sharp as shattered glass, sweet and clean as clover” (39). Although conventional episodic structure is usually set aside during the protagonist’s meetings with this character, a significant amount of tension arises whenever she is mentioned in the narrative.
According to Burroway and Stuckey-French, “There is more narrative tension in a love scene where the lovers make anxious small talk, terrified of revealing their feelings, than in one where they hop into bed” (80). This fact is especially seen during Kvothe’s journey to the University, where he first meets Denna:
It slowly began to dawn on me that I had been staring at her wordlessly for an impossible amount of time. Lost in my thoughts, lost in the sight of her. But her face didn’t look offended or amused. It almost looked as if she were studying the lines of my face, almost as if she were waiting [. . .].
In that breathless second I almost asked her. I felt the question boiling up from my chest. I remember drawing a breath then hesitating— what could I say? Come away with me? Stay with me? Come to the University? No. Sudden certainty tightened in my chest like a cold fist. What could I ask her? What could I offer? Nothing. Anything I said would sound foolish, a child’s fantasy [. . .].
Neither of us spoke. (148)
Although Kvothe has only just met the young woman, he immediately feels drawn to her, and a thick layer of tension develops between them as so much is left unsaid. The scene occurs in the midst of a cluster of summary paragraphs, but it is also one of the only instances when Denna is mentioned within a clearly defined episode. For instance, the scene occurs in the same time and place, and the only characters present are Kvothe and Denna.
This portion of the episode mentioned serves as the dramatic peak, but since Rothfuss places the reader distinctly in Kvothe’s thoughts during the episode, storyline clauses are almost nonexistent. However, one could argue that the peak is instead marked through other means.
According to Longacre, “Rhetorical questions may be used with effect at the peak of a story” (42). The long string of rhetorical questions, the abrupt responses such as “No” and “Nothing,” and the one-sentence paragraph “Neither of us spoke” all indicate the peak of the episode. As Sandra Scofield states, “Every scene has a function in the narrative,” whether it is to “introduce new plot elements” or “reveal something about a character” (15). Kvothe’s blossoming love affair certainly builds tension within the narrative, but it also helps build the story to its climax.
Guess what part comes next? ;)
A Brief Works Cited
- Burroway, Janet, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. 8th ed. Boston: Longman-Pearson, 2011. Print.
- Hengeveld, Kees, and J. Lachlan Mackenzie. Functional Discourse Grammar: A Typologically- Based Theory of Language Structure. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.
- Longacre, Robert E. The Grammar of Discourse. 2nd ed. New York: Plenum, 1996. Print.
- Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.
- Scofield, Sandra. The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.
Okay, welcome to the middle of your week. I am sorry about the late post. I’m surrounded by boxes at the moment an life is… hectic. Anyway, I hope that you are all having a wonderful day! I know that you’re for a scene challenge. If you can’t remember the rules, I’ll provide them: I provide you with specific rules for how to write a particular scene. Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction. If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit. If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.
Your rules: You task this week is to write a scene of at least 150 words that is all one sentence. If you’ve been following the blog then you’ve seen this challenge before. Remember to make sure that the scene is grammatically correct, and that it flows well. Again, you might want to give it to a grammar nazi after you finish to make sure that your grammar is solid. Your cue: “Now here’s something you’d never suspect…”
As most of you know, I finished my MA degree a couple weeks ago (you may now all call me The Master), and since leaving school, the long job hunt continues. At the beginning of May, I put in an application for an internship with a company in Pennsylvania. The internship looked pretty awesome: lots of writing, work from home (no relocation needed), set my own hours, etc. It specified unpaid, but hey, internships are great resume builders, right? And it keeps me writing. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting to get it because those things are competitive, but I sent in my Resume and CV anyway. They contacted me for a Skype interview the following day, and the interviewer talked to me about my experience. He was really impressed with the wide variety of writing I do, as I have several academic publications, two theses, several non-academic publications, editing/proofreading experience, creative writing, and, actually, this blog. He looked over some of my posts for The Art of Writing, and he loved it. He said it was a unique and interesting addition to my varied resume and it spoke to my writing experience in various mediums. So, I got hired on the spot! It’s unpaid, but he said there’s a good chance of getting a full-time job out of it in three months if my performance reviews are high enough, which is pretty exciting. The moral of the story is: writing is awesome and it opens many windows for you that you may not be aware of. Varied writing is the key; if I’d only done academic writing or creative writing or what have you, he wouldn’t have found my resume interesting. So keep writing, try new avenues of wordcrafting, and see where it takes you!
Packing… …is not my favorite thing to do. The entire process frustrates me, but it is the only way to get all of my stuff up to where I’m moving, so it’s either pack… or not move… which would probably involve not getting married, which is not going to happen in any possible world. Which means that I need to hit up stores around here and get more boxes… yay for boxes. Anyway, you’re here for a story challenge. So, in case you haven’t done this challenge before, I’m going to post a picture. Your job is to write a story about what is happening in said picture. Feel free to flesh it out some, to add things to the picture (you’ll probably have to with this one), but make sure that your story is actually about the picture that I post. For example, if I post a picture of a dart competition in a bar, don’t write a story about slavers selling mermaids. If I post a picture of a sorcerer casting a spell at the top of his tower, don’t write a story about a fist-fighter competing in the ring. So, no that you’ve got a good concept of what your doing, here’s your picture. Remember, if your going to post a story here, keep it under 500 words. If you want to post a longer story on your own blog, feel free to post a link to it here: