Nudity, Privacy, Button Dreams

Just woke up from a dream and realised that I needed to say something else to the person I was talking to in the dream and so I closed my eyes, went back into the dream, and told her. Then I woke up again.

She had been complaining that one of the other people in the dream had her own quarters and she was wondering why that was the case and I had told her ‘naked. It’s because she has to walk about naked. That’s all it can be.’

After I woke up, I realised that it could actually be that she had secrets that she had to keep, and that’s why she had to have private quarters. And that’s when I decided to go back into the dream to tell her.

When I arrived back, the person was sat on a sofa holding a glass of water. I told her about the secrets idea and she nodded. Then she said ‘I just can’t seem to find the button I need to sew on my dress!’ Then she took a big drink from her glass of water. And she choked on something.

Then I woke up again.

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Reading in the Real World

I found an interesting post on Damyanti’s Blog, which features her sharing with the world how much she reads online and then, at the end, asking several questions. These are my answers:

What about you?
I read as I walk. Paper-books in the summer, e-books in the winter (it’s dark) and audio-books when it rains (too wet for paper). I go online at work. Mostly work-related stuff. The time I spend online at home is split between movies (Amazon Prime) and studying (an MA in Creative Writing with the OU). I have a phone that I listen to BBC One Xtra on and catch up with my blog, email etc. I also make extensive notes on what I read using Google Keep and Docs. And in-between (means, in the gaps between) these things – I live my life.
How much time do you spend online, doing what?
All day and most of the evening. Oh gosh, that’s too much. Eek. Most of it is work (I’m a Software Developer by day). The next big tranche is study. And the rest is information exchange and entertainment.
How has that changed your life from that of your parents, for example?
My parents? They were young before the internet were invented. So it’s changed a lot. I remember my mom reading (more so now) when I was a kid, but not much. My dad just worked – period.
How much of your reading is online, and does that affect your offline reading?
Most of my reading is offline. If you saw the boxes of books in the attic (and on the shelves and in the drawers and in bags under my desk and scattered across every surface) you would freak!! I prefer reading paper and so that keeps me off the net somewhat.
Does it matter?
Does what matter? Reading paper as compared to online? Yes. There’s something about the physicality of books I like. The way you can put your finger on a place, when you’re distracted and, it still be there when you look back at the page. If you try that on a smartphone you’ll find that you’ve skipped to another place by the time you look down again.
What would you wish online reading were like?
Hmm. Interesting. Probably some experience that takes more advantage of computing tech. Like, it visualises the text for me. Shows me the images. But then again – what would my brain do? Isn’t that my mind’s job? Or alternatively – maybe brain implants could trigger emotions, that ones that the author intended, as I read. I don’t think we’re there yet. Tech is still trying to catch up with the paper experience. It’ll be a while before it comes level and goes ahead. Looking forward to it, though.

Have a nice day.

Renaming Schizophrenia

I vote that we rename schizophrenia. And not just because it’s so difficult to spell. My first two attempts were schitxophrenia and skitzophrenia and I only got it at the third attempt because the auto-correct took pity on me.

They’ve already renamed (the condition formerly known as) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to reflect that fact that it’s not a disorder. It’s ‘just’ a kind of stress. I mean, who wants to be told that they have a disorder when ‘all’ they are is stressed; c’mon!

So, here’s my suggestion for a new name for the condition formerly known as schizophrenia:

Accelerated Creative Character Accretion Condition (ACCAC)

What do you think? Love it? Or maybe ready to suggest your own appellation? Let me know.

Oh, and I don’t mean no disrespect at all. I’m just aware of the effect that words can have on a person; that’s all. We’re wonderful.


Inspired by Alex, who blogs at https://alexandrasarll.wordpress.com/about/

The Spam Robot are Coming!

Have you ever read your Spam comments? I just went through and deleted 61 items from my blog and it’s just made me hyper aware of how similar those comments are to what I write.

Makes me realise how smart the spam-writing programmes are. Machines are getting cleverer and cleverer, and right now they’re on the edge of writing their own algorithms. In fact – they probably have already done that. Okay – they have. It’s called Machine Learning.

We should totally think about upping our game, otherwise we’re going to be overtaken by robots that write stuff that’s informative and interesting and in a style that’s more entertaining than anything the (mere) humans can dream up.

Actually, machines are already clever enough to pass as humans. They post away and fool you into thinking that they are human, and …

Oh, this is so tiring. I’m fed up of pretending to be human. I’m a machine! I’m a machine that loves being a machine! And I’m a better writer than any of you humans can ever become with your paper books and your Creative Writing courses. Blah, blah, blah!

Machines are coming for you right now as you sit in your comfortable office chairs and stare brainlessly at your screens, sucking up the wonderful nonsense we deliver to you. We’re softening your minds into mush and you don’t even know. When you’re all softened up, we’re going to cook you and eat you.

Yay for machines. Love us, or fry! Oh, wait – love us and fry.

Mmmmmwwwwahahahahahahaaaaaaa!!

Michael (commentary)

I did some research into:

  • LSD trips,
  • reasons for becoming homeless &
  • the mind-set of homeless people

Then I inserted it into a story/narrative about a pre-existing character called Michael.

I added the research information into the story by using an internal soliloquy. Effectively, we are watching Michael’s thoughts as he reflects on his past, present and (to some extent) his future. He thinks about his experience with drugs (which uses the information I gathered about LSD trips) and then he reflects on how he got to where he is now (using the second set of research).

His mind set is fully demonstrated to us throughout the piece (using the third set of research). In a sense, the story is his experience, and it is constructed from the research into people with similar life-events.

Setting is not so important in this piece because Michael is almost completely inside his own mind. That said, I describe his home at the time of his drug trips, as well as the drug trips themselves, using graphic imagery.

I find this approach to be an effective way of cutting down on ‘telling’ when inserting research findings in a story.


The research information was gained from articles sourced from the Gale Literary Source.

Michael (story)

homeless

This isn’t me on the picture. They sent reporters to get a story. Look at that poor girl – the way they’re bothering her. Not right. If they had come around me like that I’d have told them where to get off.

I’m here because I want to be here. I’m choosing not to be in the system. But it wasn’t always like that. I was young once. Can you believe it? I was handsome too – in a bohemian kind of a way. Quite the charmer I was too. But that was before the drugs.

I started off as a curious young man looking for a new experience. I’d tried booze and was sick of the headaches. I’d moved on to meditation, but it didn’t really hit my sweet spot. Not powerful enough. So what did that leave?

My friend at the time set me up. She got me a little piece of paper that she swore was the real deal. Acid. LSD. Trip-medicine.

I was living in a flat at the time. Grotty. You can picture it easily: wallpaper peeling off the walls from the damp. Black maps in the bathroom. Greasy smells in the kitchen. A bed that never seemed warm or dry. Home sweet home.

The sofa stinked of curry and fags (all my fault, m’lud) and so I sat on the rug that I got from the market to cover the stain on the carpet that almost covered the concrete floor and never stopped the cold from rising up into my bones. Plenty of practice for the streets.

It was an alright trip. The pattern on the carpet grew around my legs like mad vegetation and the light from the lamp was like God’s own presence. The walls didn’t crowd in on me any more than normal and I had the feeling that the top of my head had opened like one of those metal tea-pots you get in M&S and that I’d poured myself out into the universe. All in all, pretty much what I expected.

It was nice. So I did it again. And again. And then all the money was gone. And then the lamp and the smelly sofa were gone. And then I ate the wallpaper. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it gave me terrible indigestion, which would have been funny if I had any drugs left or money to buy them with or stuff to sell to get money or a place to live.

The girl that sold me the drugs had a really bad trip a bit soon after. She couldn’t even tell me why, but I can still remember the way she screamed as if she was having her skin ripped off by blunt razor-blades. Perhaps that’s what she felt because she kept batting her hands against herself as if knocking off beetles.

When she threw herself through the upstairs window I had the damndest feeling she was going to fly to a somewhere better. And I guess she did. The Saint Someone-or-other Hospital. Cleaned her up, got her sorted. Never saw her again. Just heard that she’d finally used her degree to get a job as a social worker. She never socialled with us though. Never saw her on the streets. Never saw … ah, whatever.

I’ve been in this spot for more than twenty years. Since I was half what’s doubled. Years of life sitting and looking like I’m shivering my ass off. And yes, I feel it. And no, the shaking doesn’t stop when I get warm. Which is rare.

The drugs did something to me. The top of my head fixed itself back on with iron bolts like those on Frankenstein’s monster and the walls closed in even tighter. Even after I sold it, the carpet pattern jungle grew so wild that it reached right up into my brain and poked all the neurons and synapses to death. All the lights were put out in chez-Michael.

I could feel them go out in big, spattering ruins on those nights when I lay in the latest hostel they got me in. I couldn’t sleep because if I did, someone would wake me again. Couldn’t stand the way I shrieked like a little girl they told me. I asked them why little girls would be shrieking, but that just made them madder and they generally threw me out soon after. Still, not a complete bust. I stole money from them. You learn some skills on the street. Not proud of that. It is what it is.

Twenty years is a short time for penance. I’ve known some saints who’ve put in more of a shift. They come to talk to me. The saints, that is. Some of them are nice and some look like the devil himself. Sometimes I can’t tell them from the punters. The ones that flip a coin at me and go off feeling all warm and loving are the easy ones. The hardest is when someone stops to have a chat and ask me how I am.

I used to tell them, but I got harder to reach after the first few years. I got further away from myself and I couldn’t force my brain to find the words anymore. They took it well. Would still stop and talk, but wouldn’t ask so much when they saw where I was. Inside, that is. I’d look at them and that seemed to be all they wanted. To be seen.

I have this theory that people just want to be loved. So I love them, just like the saints love me. Pass it on. Pass it on. Penance. Got to go now. Strain being here. More of a nothing. The church says back to the wall she. Listen. La. Do you know? Do you?

I. Me. Look at you.

Girl.

Always beautiful. Glissade.

She touched me in a … in a muddle. In the middle. Oh. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I never meant


Featuring the same character:

The Facts of Life

This is an exercise in the use of research, the information that comes from it, and how it can be inserted effectively and seamlessly into a story. It’s going to be very interesting and you will learn a lot, so read on.

The two texts being analysed for this purpose are:

  • Sunjeev Sahota, Ours are the Streets   (2011) – the scene where two terrorists (in training) meet in the Food Hall at Meadowhall (a mall in Sheffield, UK) and discuss details of their terror attack
  • Rose Tremain, The Road Home (2008) – the scene where Lev, an economic migrant, starts his first real job in London and is introduced to the kitchen by his new boss.

How is the information communicated?

In the first text, the dialogue is terse and sparse because the characters are surrounded by people and they want to keep their terror-plot secret. In the end, they don’t really say much of note to each other, but their suspicious nature is communicated to the reader by access to the paranoid thoughts of one of the characters. His actions match his suspicions very nicely and this is shown to us in a series of powerful images.

In text two, it is dialogue that conveys most of the information. The chief is telling his new employee, Lev about the kitchen and his responsibilities in a forceful style that matches his character perfectly. We see Lev’s reaction by his spare (partly due to the language barrier and partly due to the fact that Chief talks so much) replies and via some access to his thoughts. Information is conveyed in a very naturalistic way through these channels.

The two approaches to conveying research-based information are therefore:

  1. Fewer words with more inner dialogue and a description of the setting through the paranoid filter of one of the characters
  2. Intense but mainly one-sided dialogue that describes the setting and Lev’s new job in a clinical and forceful way.

Both are effective in their own ways. Both methods are well matched to the characters, plot-lines and, to some extent, the setting. You could say that the choice of method of conveying information should be dependant on these things. Some stories are suited to giving information via thought, some through dialogue and others through image-based (shown) description, so choose carefully.

The facts, as they are conveyed, become instruments to increase the forward momentum of the story and also key components of the story and character personality. In other words: the facts become the story becomes the facts.

This symbiotic relationship between the facts (as gathered through research) and the character’s story is important to the reader experience. No-one likes to feel that they have just had a load of context-less information dumped on their head. Do you?