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maxbantleman

Writing

Welcome

Hello there!

Here are some thoughts on varied topics, i hope some of them will be of interest and will prompt a response.

I’m going to be putting stuff out via Kindle Direct, which you can find by searching Amazon.com / .co.uk  for – ‘Max Bantleman’.

Thanks for reading.

Featured post

SoulDice

Hurkle Glasts’ entry in to the Academy of Deep Thought was controversial for two reasons: he was the first amphibian to hop his way in to their hallowed halls. His entry ‘thesis’ was a three word note scribbled on the back of a snack-pack.

The average length of a thesis presented by applicants to the Academy was four days, and included written, visual and telepathic presentations. When Hurkle approached the Obsidian Gates and demanded entry, all took it as a crude joke, perhaps some attempt to garner a response that could be filmed and circulated on the waves. But when challenged, he simply presented an empty Unx-JaxSnack pack with a note scribbled on it, the note read, ‘nothing is unimaginable’. He was admitted immediately and has sat comfortably on the Academy ever since.

Hibble Xysix, from his best-selling download, ‘If Hurkle Can’.

Extract from ‘SoulDice’, available on Amazon.

Good Story?

What makes a good story?

Does it depend on the format / context of the writing?

Probably.

Or probably not.

Good stories have something in common: they tell us something about someone.

Bad stories have something in common: they reveal nothing about those in them.

So is that it?

Well no.

So what else?

We have to care about someone in the story, we have to have some empathy for them. That’s not to say we have to like them (so ‘empathy’ may not be the right word), but we have to have a way to understand their feelings about what’s happening to them and how they react to it.

Bad stories leave us not caring about the people in them, as if we’re reading a list: things happen, they are catalogued and off we go. Bleurch.

We have to be able to visualise the world the story is set in. There has to be enough detail to give the story some context and some atmosphere. Too much detail can feel like it takes us away from the story, back to that ‘cataloguing’ thing again. Not enough and we wander off, making up things for ourselves to answer questions that crop up and get in the way.

The flow is important, the sequence, how things unfold: can we follow it? Even if it’s not in chronological order, does it make sense, does the story get served by the flow? If the flow is broken then we are jarred out of the setting, out of our suspension of disbelief… wait? Our what now?

Suspension of disbelief. Why is that important?

We have to find the story credible in itself, it has to have internal consistency to make us believe the things in that that are happening could happen. Otherwise we just won’t care – it’ll be like a child’s make-believe, which is great if you are a child, but as adults we have more inquiring minds that need satisfying on many levels. So just enough to keep us satisfied, but not enough to distract or confuse.

So how do you cram all that in and not end up with a confused mess?

Focus on the story and who it’s happening to.

Keep that central to the writing. All the writing has to serve that.

First time around we’re brainstorming, getting it all out, laying down enough foundation to build a whole city block. Then we trim out stuff that isn’t serving the story. It may be nice, interesting, have the possibility to energise a different story (clip it out and save it for that other story) but it just gets in the way here.

After that we can see what’s left, where we need to put our energy in getting the characters and the surroundings filled out.

It’s a process that increases in focus by decreasing the amount of words on the page that don’t serve the story.

So… what’s the story? Tell us!

Anxiety

Warning – long post ahead!

Some people suffer from anxiety to the point that it affects their whole life.

We all suffer anxiety from time to time, but most of us have filters that kick in that, with facing the cause of the anxiety, or thinking or talking about it, reduce it to manageable background levels.

Some people don’t have those filters.

Anxiety is different in each person that feels it. There are no universal panaceas, no magic wands, no silver bullets: it’s different for each person and needs to be understood that way.

But one thing is common to anxiety in all people: Anxiety isn’t born of logic it’s born of emotion and feeds off irrationality.

It is very hard to understand anxiety if you are like the majority of people and can see your way through it.

The fact that logic isn’t a factor puzzles us.

Anxiety has its own logic, hidden from view and based on the experience that has triggered the anxiety. That experience can be so deeply buried as to seem non-existent.

To be supportive of someone with anxiety is to stop trying to reduce their anxiety with logic.

Acceptance is tough. For everyone with everything. It’s essential when talking to someone with anxiety.

It’s not about logic – it’s about emotion and irrationality. Believe that and you’re off to a flying start.

Two conversations with someone with anxiety to show what I mean…

A: Suppose it never stops raining?

B: Well that’s not going to happen, it will stop eventually?

A: Supposing it doesn’t?

B: But it will, it always does…

A: But suppose it doesn’t, what will happen.

B: But it will, it can’t rain all the time…

A: But supposing it does?

B: It will stop. It always does. You know this.

A: But supposing this time it doesn’t?

And on we go.

If B mentions that for it to never stop raining, something must be terribly wrong and the world will probably end – bingo! You’ve confirmed the result of the fear, it’s something that is now doubly real. Except it’s not because you know logically that it hasn’t happened, but logically, if it was to never stop raining, we’d all be royally screwed because it would be a symptom of something very wrong.

A: Suppose it never stops raining?

B: What makes you think it will never stop raining?

A: I don’t know, but supposing it doesn’t stop?

B: Why wouldn’t it stop?

A: I don’t know… but supposing it didn’t?

B: Then we’d have a lot of rain…

A: But I mean supposing it never stopped?

B: I wonder what could make that happen?

A: I don’t know, but supposing it happened?

B: Would it be raining everywhere?

A: I guess…

And on we go.

You can’t stop the irrationality and the fear, you can’t stop the anxiety being based on something you can’t get to grips with. But you can take the conversation in directions that gets the person thinking more about what is driving the feelings.

Now obviously this is a quick observation and suggestion with a silly little example: it’s not supposed to be anything other than an awareness raiser.

If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, well done you for supporting them!

Just being there for people, lending an ear, listening more than you talk, and not trying to push a narrative is very helpful.

And if you feel the creeping grip of anxiety getting hold: try talking to someone.

There are people who will always listen, many are friends, some are professional – talking helps.

Keep on keeping on and remember: everyone is unique, no one can completely understand another person’s anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that no one can help.

Poetry?

The discussions surrounding what is and isn’t ‘poetry’ are as varied and confused as the discussions about what constitutes ‘art’.

They are very similar in many ways.

To me it’s all about perception and context.

Poetry is writing with feeling, with an intention to trigger a feeling.

It has to be about truth, about telling a truth as you feel it.

Poems can of course be whimsical and trivial, entertaining us with language and playing with words. That’s a truth in itself – the ambiguity of language.

Calling something ‘poetry’ alienates it for a lot of people.

Most people would never think of themselves as fans of poetry.

Poetry, like art, is usually thought of as something for ‘other people’, other better educated, richer people, with the time and inclination to waste on such hifalutin things!

There are many ‘street poets’, people who use the common language spoken by most of us in performance pieces. They tend to get tagged with the ‘performance art’ label, and as that has ‘art’ in it, they get treated with the same ‘arty resistance’ that most people have.

Poetry has so much baggage associated with it that most people will never bother to consider it: it just seems too much hassle and they feel they will never really ‘get it’.

On a positive note, the smaller posts that are encouraged by all forms of social media are also encouraging some people to get thoughts and feelings out there in short bursts that are, to all intents and purposes, poetry.

But overall, getting poetry out there is tough.

I’ve written down my thoughts and feelings all my life. Sometimes as ways to figure things out, sometimes as ways to explore things that I haven’t directly experienced but am curious about, sometimes when I’m hurt or confused and sometimes when I find something funny.

Writing is something that’s important to me so I do it in many forms.

So when people ask, ‘do you write poetry?’, I usually reply, ‘I just write and some of it is poetry’.

That’s a cop-out from the ‘what is poetry’ discussion and baggage of perception.

The stuff I write as poetry is always very personal. It’s got my inner thoughts and feelings wrapped with it, even when it’s about exploring themes and ideas that are not directly based on experience. Sometimes I’m asked to write lyrics to a song and I treat these as poetry.

Some of my writing is full of pain, some is driven by anger, some by frustration, by a feeling of abandonment. Some of it is about love. All of it is a bit raw.

There is also some that is funny, looking at the ridiculous aspects of what people think of as important. Some of it just plops out fully formed from somewhere my brain has access to but I can’t quite remember.

I’ve never been shy about what I write.

I always write with a view to sharing.

I’ve collated some of my poetry in to a book called ‘Ramble On’ and stuck it out on Amazon.

It’s available in paperback and Kindle format in all markets.

Give it a look if you fancy it.

But beware: some of it is poetry.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1549721976

Sunshine

Even Goths like sunshine

Their darkness an indulgence

Out in the light they thrive and grow

Pushing upwards like sapling trees

Enjoying the warmth, the light

Basking in the golden glow.

 

Even poets like sunshine

They shrug off their shrouds of angst

Lapping up the light like photographs

Studying the world around them

Swimming in its energy

A time to smile, to chance a laugh.

 

Sunshine is pure

It’s unashamed

It wont discriminate

It’s there for all that

Want its golden rays.

 

Even sociopaths like sunshine

They have the chance to watch and walk

Among the living to recharge their senses

Imagining what it must be like to

Feel the frail normality of others

Enjoy the world with someone else.

 

Even quantum physicists like sunshine

They forget the particle wave duality

Instinct kicks in, science melts away

Specs of dust floating by, just specs of dust

Nothing that requires a deeper meaning

Just a lovely walk on a sunny day.

 

Sunshine is precious

It’s life giving

It’s bound to our fate

It’s there for us all

It wont judge us

Silent golden rays.

Paperback Writer

I got a book wot I wrote out there in paperback: ‘SoulDice’.

It’s available via Amazon in Kindle format and in paperback.

(Go check it out and buy it if you like it!)

It wasn’t until I got my copies of the paperback version through that I suddenly realised how real for me the gap between paperback and electronic really is.

I’m old, so I’m used to reading in books, proper books, with paper and everything!

Electronic reading still feels slightly wrong to me, like it’s temporary, or just for certain short things. Doesn’t feel like a medium I can read a whole book in. Just an age thing I know, but very real.

So, SoulDice arrives and I check through it for formatting, which to be honest could be better and I’ll have to tinker with. But then it struck me. I wrote a book! An actual book!

I flicked backwards and forwards, reading random paragraphs and then pages. It felt like I was reading a ‘book’.

I then tried to remember the last thing I read on a screen and it all seems to be tweets, FB posts, articles generated by those two things, proofs of work from others, or game-related material. No books.

I know millions of people own reading devices such as Kindles and many people are comfy reading on their phones. Electronic books are huge business. So what was it about a paper book that got me so much more excited than electronic? Is it just me?

Asking around I found a lot of people came up with the comment, ‘I love real books’, or, ‘I love proper books’ as well as the electronic versions. ‘Real’ and ‘proper’. Terms that imply there’s a difference between them and electronic books that is real, not just my perception.

That said, everyone also basically said, ‘but I’m more than happy to read electronically’, so, y’know, not really sure what it says about sales / lifestyle / whatever.

I look at my bookshelves and see books. It makes me feel good.

When I take a book down and reread it, I feel like I’m reacquainting with an old friend.

Books are something I relate to in an entirely different way on paper to electronic format. It’s a connection.

I’m guessing that isn’t the case with millions of people who are connected electronically to literature. That’s their connection and it works fine for them.

But to me it isn’t as real.

Gotta be an age thing right? (The title of the post probably gave that away… and if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, that’s OK, it’s an age thing… 🙂 )

Tasty Morsels

Available on Kindle and paperback: ‘Tasty Morsels’.

Collected short stories and a few poems from our assignments at the

Banbury Writers’ Café.

 

Just Write

I think we’ve all heard a variant of this anecdote:

The absent-minded maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal, when a stranger stopped him. ‘Pardon me,’ the stranger said, ‘can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?’

‘Yes,’ answered the maestro breathlessly. ‘Practice!’

From ‘The Wit Parade’, by E.E. Kenyon, 1955.

How do you get to be a better writer?

Write!

Finding your voice, your own personal style, is only found through writing.

You have to write a lot of words to get to the place where you are comfortable.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, the style you find most comfortable will only be found through writing. Lots and lots of writing.

You can study as much as you want. Reading ‘how to do it’ is great. There are a lot of useful books and articles out there on how to put words together for different genres.

But ultimately you are going to have to sit down (or not I guess) and start writing.

The time comes when the ideas you have, have to be put down on paper (the screen in most cases).

The self-doubt about whether you are good enough or whether the ideas are good enough is never going to go away. If there’s one thing that all writers agree on, from the most successful to the most obscure, it’s that the self-doubt always remains.

Don’t worry about it. It’s there. Write anyway. A saying that I’m trying to get off the ground (with very little success it has to be said) is, ‘know fear, do it anyway!’

Write stuff down. Get it out. It has value because it comes from you and you want to do it.

Write it down. Get it out. It doesn’t matter how rough it is, how jumbled up it is, how confused and mixed up the tenses are, whether there are spelling and grammatical errors all over the place: all that can be fixed later. Just write.

The more you write the better you’ll get.

The more you write the less shit your first drafts will be, at least for things like spelling and grammar. But the first drafts should always be about ideas, about the theme, the story, getting it out there. Just write!

All the horrible voices inside you telling you ‘there’s no point cos you’re rubbish!’ shut up once you start writing. They come back again as soon as you stop, but screw ‘em! Write anyway!

I have spoken to a lot of writers (a lot!) and have read articles and books by many more, and none of them have ever said that the self-doubt ever completely disappears. But all have said that they feel better when they are writing and that the need to write can only be fed by actually writing. Paraphrased obviously. But you get the gist.

All writers need to write.

The more you write the better you get.

Carry on reading, getting advice, learning from other people in whatever format best suits. But there comes a time when it all comes down to putting the words down. Writing.

Sure, we don’t all want to get to Carnegie Hall (metaphorically speaking, and if you literally do, it’s off East Port in Dunfermline), but we all want to get somewhere with our writing.

And the best way to get there is practice.

Get writing!

Grammar Expectation

Language evolves.

It changes with the needs of those using it.

We use language to express what we think and feel and to communicate what we need. We use it to define who we are to those around us.

Language is brilliant!

It is also held by some to be a precious thing that needs protecting and gently nurturing.

There are traditions tied up with it, brought about by the culture that has developed it and to which it is tied.

Looking back over this post, as short as it is so far, there are those that would criticise most of it for its grammatical inaccuracy.

With the explosion of communications devices and forums over the last decade or so, language has had to evolve at a faster pace than in the preceding years.

And with that evolution and development, some of the ‘old rules’ and ‘traditions’ have been abandoned as they did not serve the new needs.

The rules of grammar and writing have been bent and broken willy-nilly to accommodate our needs.

This has annoyed a lot of people and challenged even more.

When we read things posted on social media we have different expectations than when we read it in a ‘proper’ publication such as a paper / book / whatever.

Or do we?

Things written in any form of social media tend to have a quicker release rate, to have to go through fewer checks: we are more forgiving in terms of expectation of perfection.

Has this bled-over in to more traditional publishing? Are the rules of grammar and editing being relaxed in the more old-fashioned forms of publishing?

I recently had a conversation regarding ‘dangling participles’. We discussed how even the Bard himself fell-foul of them occasionally, and how they seemed to be more common in what we would have previously thought of as more strictly edited materials. The discussion concluded, as most of our discussions do, with us all being very understanding of each other’s opinions and agreeing that we all had different expectations.

The consensus was that as long as it didn’t hinder an understanding of the writing, that grammatical errors could, by and large, be forgiven.

That’s what I took away from that discussion and what I feel to be true.

If the writing is obstructed or obfuscated by the grammatical errors, then it is a crime to not have had them fixed. Otherwise I’m not actually that bothered.

Of course I have styles and voices in writing I prefer. I tolerate commas much more than the next person (apparently).

Dangling participles can confuse, and when they do and I have to reread a sentence, I feel a twinge of annoyance. But others just skip right passed them. Expectation. What we are used to.

It’s all about what works for us.

What do you think? Do the rules of grammar need to change and evolve? Or do we all need to study them more closely and apply them more rigorously?

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