Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

From September 4, 1996 to September 17, 1997

Susan Tue Sep 16 17:04:20 PDT 1997

I can't see myself buying somone else's plots. I'm too much of a control freak. I take pride in creating and developing my own plots. That's part of the fun of writing. You're creating something that's your very own. They're you're stories, your characters, etc. Besides, I'm cheap. I'm not gonna give someone else money for plots when I can come up with my own plots.

Hey I just came up with the idea and the beginnings of a plot for my next science fiction novel. The initial idea came from a show I saw on the Hubble telescope. I've even got a couple of characters in mind. Wish me luck.

Britomart Tue Sep 16 14:53:24 PDT 1997

Dear everybody

I'm appalled! Buying plots!?! Why part with money to have somebody do the fun part? It's like paying somebody to have sex for you.

Plotting is easy easy peasy. Here, let me demonstrate. You need a premise - okay, how about "a man is searching for his wife's killer". Now you need a conflict - let's try: "his wife's killer is actually his brother". Now you need a twist, something to wind it up more - "his brother is mildly mentally handicapped and has done time for violent acts before, even though the man always held he was innocent (because he felt he should protect his brother because of their appalling childhood... whatever). Then you need characters - that part's easy, just steer clear of the stereotypes. DON'T make the man alcoholic - make him sublimate his pain into horticulture or something. Perhaps he can be obsessed with his garden. Etc.

Now just draw a line on a page. Say you need about 40 chapters. By the end of chapter 7 or 8 you need to have the whole thing "on stage" - characters and conflict introduced, everything set up. So, the wife would be dead, the police would have closed the case (ruled suicide or something), the man would be starting on his quest, and the reader would be alerted to the fact that the brother had done it, and have some background of the brothers' relationship. By the end of chapter 20-22 you need to have passed the point of no return, to have crossed the rubicon so that the book can end no other way. For example, the man needs to have got to the stage where he's vowed to kill his wife's murderer - maybe he's found evidence that she was tortured first or something. Perhaps he's also helped his brother get out on bail on another charge which he thinks is erroneous. Perhaps his brother is now going to kill the man's children. Whatever, you think of it.

Then from about chapter 33 on, you need to wind up for the denouement. Between 22 and 33, write whatever you like. The reader should be hooked by here. Have a love interest (just, please, don't make her a rocket scientist with the body of a supermodel - cliches suck); have the man go crazy when somebody destroys his garden and show his own violent side... whatever.

So when you've got those main turning points marked, just think up some scenes that join them in logical succession.

Okay, this took me ten minutes to write. Whether or not it's quality fiction is in the execution. The hard part isn't plotting, the hard part is writing. The FUN part is plotting, and I, like Phil, have many for sale.


Philip Tue Sep 16 14:23:54 PDT 1997


Roll up, roll up get your plots for sale here!

I'll sell you a full plot, character development, time line and chart on any subject you want to specify ... but I'm extremely expensive.

Back soon - Philip.

Rhoda Tue Sep 16 10:22:02 PDT 1997


You probably can buy plots. I believe that there are even books of plots you can purchase. Plotting is an essential part of a story, but it isn't the most difficult or the most important part of one.

I don't think buying or acquiring plots from someone else is unethical. It is done all the time. Consider the author who is commissioned to write a novel from a movie screenplay. If a bad author is chosen to do the novel, the product will still be bad. If a good author is chosen, you will have a good novel.

Consider also the many movie renditions of the story of Cinderella. I can think of at least five. None were the same though they used the same plot. I saw the old movie of Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart as well as the 90's remake with Harrison Ford--same plot and even the same characters, but totally different experiences.

I personally believe that most writers have no problem coming up with plots. I never did. The difficulty in a story is in commission. I find some stories easy to write and others very difficult. Much depends on characters, setting, organization and my state of mind while I am writing.

toby b Tue Sep 16 07:38:58 PDT 1997

Phantom- I don't do drugs. But that was funny. See, you remind me of my friends, who all ask me the same question once they get me started on any topic.

Kae- I personally wouldn't mind if you or other authors bought plots. I think it's a cool idea. Some people, like Asimov, and Campbell, and others, literally are full of plots and ideas they can never get around too. Jerry Pournelle broke into the biz when Niven GAVE him the notes and partially written novel with plot and all. I'm not jealous, really. Has anyone here ever tried one of those plot generators?

Tue Sep 16 07:38:57 PDT 1997

Tue Sep 16 07:38:55 PDT 1997

Kae Tue Sep 16 06:59:19 PDT 1997

Gosh, Phantom. That wasn't very nice. And as Ben once called another anonymous post/slam, rather "chickenshit."

Has anyone ever heard of writers buying plots? I've always been a big fan of Jack London, and once someone told me that back in the 30s he purchased a bunch of plots from Sinclair Lewis (I think it was him--don't quote me), who I also love. I've always had problems coming up with interesting plots, and I thought that buying them was kind of a neat idea. But on the other hand, maybe it's a shade unethical. If I did it, I certainly would openly admit it. Does anyone know if this is still done, and/or where you'd go to find plots for sale? What do y'all think about buying plots?

The Phantom Tue Sep 16 02:36:16 PDT 1997

TOBY: What are you on, dude?

toby b Mon Sep 15 19:58:02 PDT 1997

Hey dudes. Me again. I just started a story in the notebook, check it out!

Toby (Me again) Mon Sep 15 17:46:18 PDT 1997

OK, wait. I just read the little pop-up-thingey Jack had up in the corner of the screen. I have a response to where my plots come from.

They come out of nowhere man!

I'm not kidding. I'll just be sitting in class, listening to the prof explain the several thousand year spread of our apish (that a word?) ancestors across prehistory plains, when, boom, the character Aaron lands on me. He's a detective. Allright, he has asthma (only because I do too, playing college Soccer in my condition is hell), if I have to suffer this week, so does he. He is Blah, and Bleh, and these things drop on me, but meanwhile, the idea for his little scene drops in, he is yelling at his daughter, and the reason he does this a lot is that his wife Tina, left him five years ago for another man. While he is on duty chasing some scum, his daughter is kidnapped. This is because, several weeks ago, Aaron had captured (unknowingly) a powerful (very) underground type criminal. Now he has to find his daughter, but as he is doing these, is being blackmailed (some dark secret in his past, a chance homo sexual experience with a higher up which has scarred him, and makes him very anti-gay, which is harsh in this tolerant soceity[I think, but who really understands all that political tension]) and coerced (remember his kidnapped daughter) into freeing the horrible criminal (who has had some history he know finds out as a kiddie porn/slave dealer, among other things).
All that is the easy part, the hard part is actually writing the damn thing, as far as I can tell.

Sorry for that long one, but it sorta expresses, in a nutshell, how I go about all this. Feel free to criticize.

Toby Mon Sep 15 17:31:37 PDT 1997

For me personally, I have never really been sure of the difference between plotting the novel and outlining it. Okay, everyone raves about 'making sure you have an awesome plot', and then a good outline. In my dimwitted mind there seems to be little difference between MY outline and the plot of MY novel. The outline is a guide, a beacon for what's to come as I write, to keep my goals in mind and stop me from wandering off the path.

Was all that even relevant to the conversation floating around? I can't remember.

Anyway. Feel free to correct me if needed.

Susan Mon Sep 15 09:44:55 PDT 1997

The trials and tribulations of plotting. Hmmm . . . Plotting can be a trial sometimes. Some stories come to me easier than others. When I wrote my first novel (sadly, unpublishable) I wrote a very short chapter by chapter synopsis, then a more detailed outline. Now I simply write the outline, plotting the story little by little. I don't worry about chapter divisions, I just get the story down and then develop it in the first draft. In the later drafts I work on detail and characterization, then fine tune the story and work on making the plot more consistent. My most recent novel that I'm writing was actually quite easy to plot. I finished the outline in a few weeks and then went on to the first draft. I don't stick to the outline one hundred percent either. That restricts my creativity. The outline is just a loose guide. I'm not sure how I get my ideas for plots. Something just catches my interest and I go with it. It might be something on television, or in a newspaper, or in a book. I've thought about writing down my dreams and seeing if they might generate ideas, but I'm not too coherent before my first cup of coffee and I usually forget. The idea for my detective novel came from a little mystery in my own family. An uncle of my father disappeared around 1920 and was never seen or heard from again. We still don't know what happened to him. That got me speculating and from that speculation came a mystery, though there is little relation now to my great-uncle's disappearance. The idea for the science fiction novel I'm writing came from something in a class I took on environmental geography. There was a town in Siberia that existed in the 1940s, but which is on no map now and seems to have ceased to exist, along with the lake near this town. Apparently there was something explosion which released radioactive chemicals into the air and badly polluted the environment. It is said that to stand on the shores of this lake for an hour is fatal because of the radiation. The science fiction story which has come out of this is very different, but that doesn't change the fact that this little story inspired me.

Any comments, suggestions, jokes ?

Rosemary Mon Sep 15 09:40:45 PDT 1997

An amazed hello:
I spent all day yesterday in a seminar about plot and structure of a mystery or suspense story. While I was out for one day, the subject matter on the notebook changed to the area in which I was immersed.

The teacher was a published author of books of different types but lately she had a series of 5 pocket books. They were mysteries set in the world of show horses. Of course the author has horses and knew all about that world. In fact she was covered in heavy make-up because of a broken nose from the hard head of one of her horses.

Iím wandering as usual. The main thing I wanted to impart here was:
Plot is well and good, but structure is as important if not more important. She gave as an example, a book that starts with the main character talking to her obviously dead sister. The next chapter starts with her in the hospital with this same sister who is giving birth to an illegitimate child. The teacher points out that if the plot had been presented in chronological order, it would not have been nearly as interesting.
I felt that learning this made the whole seminar worth while.
Hope that helped at least one other person.

Has anyone else noticed that many books are no longer leaving a double space after a period. Surely this doesnít save enough space to make it worth my irritation at having to go back and reread a paragraph because it didnít make any sense to me.
Just a nagging thought I would throw out.

Rhoda Fort Mon Sep 15 09:19:49 PDT 1997


I'm not much help when it comes to short stories, for I've not written many of them, and plotting them is somewhat different than plotting a novel.

One very good way to develope a plot is try to put together a detailed synopsis. Have a friend whose opinion you respect read that synopsis and give you his or her opinion about it. From the synopsis, does this sound like a story that friend would want to read? I have two friends who are also writers. Many times we talk on the phone or meet together and do nothing more than discuss or brain-storm plots. You can't entirely build a plot this way, but it is a great way to fine-tune something you have thought up and get some feedback on your ideas.

As someone mentioned before the newspaper is a good way to think of plots. Old movies are also good inspiration for plots. I have heard it said by English teachers in college that every story in the world stems from one of thirteen or so master plots (I don't know the exact number, but I've heard it vary from 7 to 14). I think there is even a book on master plots. Plot is not usually the factor that makes a story unique. Often times it is the characters or the message in the story that make the story moving and compelling.

When I'm at writer's conferences, most agents and editors claim that most anyone can put together an acceptable plot. Manuscripts get bought because they are well-written (that means more than correctly putting together a sentence), and because their characters are interesting. In a story, a writer must adequately convey the character's emotions so that the reader empathizes with these characters. Supposedly, this empathy is what keeps readers turning the page.

Have you heard the distinction between a plot-driven story and a character-driven story? I'm not sure I completely understand it, but all the editors claim they are interested in character-driven stories. One good example of a character-driven stories is GONE WITH THE WIND. Mysteries are primarily plot-driven.

I hope some of this advice helps you.

Philip Mon Sep 15 04:30:38 PDT 1997


The Plots and Problem link you suggested is excellent. Thank you. Unpublished, developing or emerging writers among us do yourselves a favour, bookmark this site and implement.

Back soon - Philip.

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Sep 15 00:45:05 PDT 1997

Just a couple of quick comments and then I'll get off and let others speak. I've added a new area to For Writers Only called Artists Web Sites. If anyone has any sites they think would fit, give me an email.

Also, I've started a new discussion topic. Feel free to weigh in on this new one or come up with one on your own. The new one is the trials and tribulations of plotting. In the category of where to come up with the plots, I'll throw out two. One was already mentioned, i.e., dreams. An excellent resource indeed. Another is just sitting in some interesting spot. Here in Seattle I like Pike Place Market. I'll sit, have a double tall mocha with raspberry and begin doing character sketches of the people walking by and then plugging story lines into their appearance. The green mohawked teen with rings in his nose, ears and navel presents many possibility. But so does the sad bedraggled bag lady that weaves her way through the crowd with her little hand cart piled high with flotsam and jetsom stuffed into little plastic garbage bags. You get the idea. Take care and I really may be scarce for a while. Or should be. Word processor lend me your electrons ;-).

Mary Reevess Sun Sep 14 19:59:50 PDT 1997

To Scott:
Write down dreams, then play with them in the back of your mind until they fall together and evolve. I had a dream about being trapped in a cave in a sphere of light and trying to trick my way past a dragon. After a dy or two of playing with it - why was I trapped? What was in it for the dragon to let me go? Who else was involved? The story develped itself. I cahnged the dragon to Genie, and gave her the POV instead of the person who was trapped. MZB bought it.
Dreams are powerful stuff!

Lyn Martin Sun Sep 14 18:42:35 PDT 1997

TO: Scott

Thank you for the response to my message. I look foreward to hearing about the release date for Elton John's song. I have been hearing it on the radio alot. It really is a beautiful song.
Thank you again, Lyn

TO: All

Just a small something that rolled off the top of my head;

Walk on through the night, no fear, no fright
For the shadow that you see in the light
is your guardian angel, sent from above
to guide you home, and keep you safe and loved.

I hope everyone has a safe night.
good bye for now,

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Sep 14 15:14:41 PDT 1997

Alanna: The newspaper idea is excellent. However, I also suggest checking out Damon Knight's excerpt from his own book on writing relating to Plots and problems with plots I especially like the area where he relates potential problems in a plot and diagnoses possible fixes for them, including when your story seems to just wander. I don't wish to quote directly from the page so I suggest visiting it. There is a lot of food for thought there.

This is rather serendipitous since I just discovered this page a couple of days ago.

Bob Hanford Sun Sep 14 14:32:34 PDT 1997

Alanna: Get a half-dozen different daily newspapers. They are filled with plots. Many well-published writers get their ideas and plots (and passion) from real-life reporting.

Joan: When home video was starting, everyone predicted the end of movie theatres. After all, why put ourselves in a situation where babies cry, people talk, the popcorn is overpriced, not to mention the price of the ticket. Of course that didn't happen. Last year the movie industry had its best year ever. Others predicted the end of the print novel since it could be read on computer. Now it's the end of libraries. The one constant that precludes these demises is that we are a social animal. We've been able to buy groceries over the phone or via modem for almost five years here in Harrisburg, PA. We've been able to bank the same way. But it doesn't happen. The library is not about to go away.

Alanna Sun Sep 14 11:19:19 PDT 1997

I don't know if anyone else has run into this problem, but while everyone who reads my short stories tells me the writing is very good, no one likes the plots, saying that they don't go anywhere, they are boring, etc. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm becoming very frustrated because I don't have trouble writing once I have a story in mind, but it's getting the story in mind that gives me problems.

Joan Sun Sep 14 11:16:56 PDT 1997

Hi all--
Just a quick comment on something that was said earlier about the web eventually taking the place of libraries. Now that I have access to Internet, it's a great help to me. We live 30+ miles from any sort of real library, so the Internet is especially useful. But I HATE to think of a world without libraries. Maybe it's nostalgia---all those childhood memories of finding unexpected treasures on the bookshelves, of looking at books you might never otherwise notice because they're not in your home or in a bookstore. I love the smell and feel of libraries.

Anyone else?


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Sep 14 03:12:58 PDT 1997

Bob: Not sure what transpired with the Workbook, but my attempts to duplicate the problem only resulted in several additional blank entries. I've deleted those and does some slight clean up. My suspicion is that you ran afoul of chronic connection problems that occasionally arise. I have found this to be more prevalent using IE 4.0 Preview Release 2, but that may just be me.

Take care all. Good writing. I've taken a week or more to update and redesign Writer Resources into For Writers Only. Now I have to quit procrastinating and get back to writing the second draft on my book. Wish me well and I have fingers crossed that I can break my own procrastinating ways. Doing simple web design is somehow more satisfying at the moment over writing about doing web design :-) Also, I have finally surrendered and snagged a copy of Photoshop. So, as soon as I master the learning curve, you may see some additional graphical embelishments here and there. First blush review, its really a rather nice and full featured program which is definitely inspiring a great big grin on my face. Only, this is proving an additional potential point of procrastination. Oh, well, what is not.

Bob Flowrs (Goodweed of the North) Sat Sep 13 22:53:41 PDT 1997

Hi everone; I just want to thank Phil McClaren and Joan Rhodda for their critique of my query letter. I have taken their advice and revised the query. I tried listing it in the writers workbook with no luck. I connected to but waited forever for a reply. Finally I gave up and am back on this page. I am including the query for your review and critique. I know it will still need polishing but am hoping to get some more advice.

Britomart. Joan tells me that you are very good at this kind of thing. If you have the time, tear it up.

Kae; you know how I feel about your critique. Tell it straight. I can take it.

Phil, Joan; Am I going in the right direction? This is every bit as hard as writing the original story manuscript. In fact, I am more comfortable with my story than with the query.

Strange. I've always been good at interviews.

Thanks guys and gals. Here it is:
TechServices Inc., Literary Agency
Elizabeth McHugh

Subject: Submission of Fantasy manuscript for evaluation and representation.

Title: The Power of The Tallisman

Subtitle: Book One of The Northron Chronicles

From : Robert J. Flowers
Pseudonym: G.W. North

Address: 710 West Buchanan St.
Sault Ste. Marie, Mi.
Zip: 49783

E-Mail Address:

Length of manuscript: 108,750 words

Upon Request, the entire manuscript is available both in printed hardcopy and as a Wordperfect 6.1 for windows file on 3 Ĺ " floppy diskette under the name Keldron.wpd.

Next page

Dear Ms. McHugh:
I wish to submit for your review a portion of the first manuscript in a series of fantasy novels which will take you into the world of Northron. It is a blend of good and evil, talismans and primitive technology, magic and mental powers. It pits the evils of a power crazed sorceress against her own people and the people of the Northron Valley. The tale is filled with a mixture of known and unknown creatures ranging from the bear and the wolf to mythical rocs, and dragons.
The personalities of both people and creatures are explored and woven together to give the reader an intimate knowledge of the cultures of this world. Tension is created by treachory, mistrust, ignorance, and the misuse of power.
The story moves quickly and provides adventure and action. It also teaches the lessons of teamwork, tenacity, and tolerance. Care was taken to allow the reader to see and feel through the eyes and minds of heroes and villains alike.
The villain is an especially nasty sorceress who had been severely punished as a young teenager for the crime of expressing interest in her cities political system.
The hero is not one person, but an unlikely team of Telgar, prophesied king of Northron, his twin niece and nephew, his wife, a roc, and a dragon. These are supprted by a cast with varying personalities and talents. Some of the talents are telapathicic in nature, others are magical, while some are qualities of leadership or fighting skill.
The prophesied King doubts his abilities but is thrust into battle against a seemingly unstoppable sorceress, Quella. He must find a way to unite creatures and people, who have been enemies for hundreds of years, into an effective fighting unit capable of resisting Quella's magical infatuation spell which affects males of every species, save dragons.
The twins have extrordinary telapathic abilities and are central to the story. At ten years of age, they witness the brutal murder of their parents and the destruction of their village. They escape and fend for themselves in a wild forest until they save a badly injured man named Dana who is a member of a tribe of profesional couriers. He leads them and the Skyangle tallisman to Telgar.

I have enjoyed the genre's of fantasy and science fiction for most of my life and have had a love for writing from about the 2nd grade. University coursework has trained me to approach writing from the reader's perspective. Though my formal training is technical writing, I have a strong need to be creative.
This story is the culmination of three years work in writing, reviewing, learning the craft, and soliciting advice from published and prospective authors. As requested, I have included the first three chapters of hte manuscript.

As a mater of courtesy, I inform you that I am sending querry letters to many agents. If this is a problem, please feel free to contact me so that I may withdraw the other querries should you decide to represent this work.

I thank you for you time and interest, and look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely: Robert J. Flowers

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Bob Flowrs (Goodweed of the North) Sat Sep 13 22:51:00 PDT 1997

Hi everone; I just want to thank Phil McClaren and Joan Rhodda for their critique of my query letter. I have taken their advice and revised the query. I tried listing it in the writers workbook with no luck. I connected to but waited forever for a reply. Finally I gave up and am back on this page. I am including the query for your review and critique. I know it will still need polishing but am hoping to get some more advice.

Britomart. Joan tells me that you are very good at this kind of thing. If you have the time, tear it up.

Kae; you know how I feel about your critique. Tell it straight. I can take it.

Phil, Joan; Am I going in the right direction? This is every bit as hard as writing the original story manuscript. In fact, I am more comfortable with my story than with the query.

Strange. I've always been good at interviews.

Thanks guys and gals.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Britomart Fri Sep 12 15:07:40 PDT 1997

Hey everybody.

Regarding non-fiction/fiction and art. Well, it would depend very much on your definition of art, which is a slippery term at the best of times. Do you mean art as in a special, finely-honed skill, or art as in an imaginative/creative, but ultimately not-real, mode of interpreting the world? I think it doesn't matter what you call it, the person had no right to compare non-fiction unfavourably to fiction, because they both require talent and commitment and hard work.

Regarding archetypes, I'm particularly fond of the Prometheus myth, and tend to use it all the time: The one who over-reaches and tries to "vary from the kindly race of men" only to bring about his/her own damnation. Anything that's remotely like Greek tragedy - with a fatally flawed character - also appeals to me. What I want to know is, why do some myths resonate for us so strongly while others don't? The whole "once and future king" thing doesn't really get me excited, but other people get a frisson just thinking about it. So that's my next question - why do you think we're attracted to the myths we use? It might go a long way to explaining why we have each chosen our respective genres.


bobhanford Fri Sep 12 05:54:55 PDT 1997

As one who writes more non-fiction than fiction, I firmly believe that both are art. In non-fiction, my competition is fierce: TV, videos, sport-in-season, movies, etc. How do I coax a busy, involved adult into reading a piece on ballroom dancing? I use every skill I know about writing fiction. The piece on ballroom dancing starts with a man who has spent four years building a plane from scratch. He is now on the runway and about to take it into the air for the first time. In twenty seconds he will either live or die. Years later, he is sitting alone in his car outside of a ballroom, about to enter the dance for the first time and he is shaking so badly he can't drink his cup of coffee. He stays there, shaking, for forty-five minutes before he finally gets the nerve to go in.
The only difference for me is that the non-fiction is true.
Rhoda said it best: Shelby Foote

Joan Fri Sep 12 04:22:13 PDT 1997

Philip -

About non-fiction: Writing non-fiction not an art? Hah! So many times writing non-fiction deals with telling/showing people's (or our own) feelings and thoughts. Of putting them in YOUR shoes. That's something many people can't do face to face, much less on paper. Talk about an ART!

And then "how-to" books. Getting across to someone how to do something is an art in itself, whether it's done vocally or on paper. It's so much more than just "go do this." It's putting yourself in their shoes and seeing the best way to explain to them so they'll understand, and also doing it without sounding like you're looking down your nose or boring the heck out of them..

So I agree. Nonfiction is definitely an art. Fiction deals with these same things, but it has the added advantage of not having to work within the narrow guidelines of the facts as they stand--not as you create them.


Jack Beslanwitch Thu Sep 11 22:01:01 PDT 1997

Joan: You hit right on target. The whole point of an archetype is that it resurrects into reality without the writer in question realizing that it is inherent in human nature. C.G.Jung had a field day with this and Joseph Campbell stood on his shoulders in extending the discussion. A little bit of my psychology degree is showing here, but archetypes will rise to the occasion whether or not we realize it. If we can consciously exploit these, I think they can be very advantageous. Just a thought.

Phillip: I hate to say I am prejudiced, but since I am currently writing as non-fiction a book as you can get, a how to computer book, I have a certain perspective. In my case, the art is in the programming a little more than the writing. Yet, in other occasions, especially where the discussion surrounds people as in autobiographies or biographies, the words are ever the thing. One of the best primers I have for fictional writing is one called Writing For Story. It's is by a journalist who writes true stories using the skills of the novelist or short story writer to create tension and otherwise make journalist endeavors more engrossing. His book is a how to in this regard. Some of the more engrossing things I have read are diaries from pioneer men and women going west in North America. So, I have to fall squarely on non-fiction being an artistic endeavor. In either case you are shaping words, a very precious commodity indeed :-).

Bill Thu Sep 11 19:52:29 PDT 1997

I would think that if anyone, if that person was is truly a writer, would understand that any form of writing is an art. It may be that some writing is better than others, but I don't think anyone can say that one type is any less, or any more of an art than the other. Someone saying that what THEY do, and only what they do is art, would not only be showing his/her own ignorance, but should look seriously at their own self-conceit. How can someone be so headstrong as to think that their way is the only way? My step-father was like that. He was a complete A$$.(out of respect, I won't use a few of the other words that come to mind) Maybe, just maybe, that person, through his own insecurities, is attempting to make the world believe that he is the better than everyone else. ???

I haven't written non-fiction, except in high school and college, but I can imagine that it might even be more of an art than fiction because of the amount of research involved. If not more artistic, then much harder in th effort department. Of course, a fiction writer also has to do research to make his/her story believable, but not to such an extreme extent. Perhaps, that person mocked non-fiction writers because, and I repeat, of his own insecurities and has not attempted, nor is smart enough to attempt such a task. Personally, I grew out of the old Ďmine is better that yours" routine when I was a child. Perhaps, that person just hasn't grown up yet!

Joan Thu Sep 11 18:00:09 PDT 1997

Hi all---Wow, Jack, what a topic. It really made me do some thinking.
I'm ashamed to admit that while I write mythos, it's mostly taken from whatever is inside of me, and I probably need to do some research on "real" myths---not just something from inside my head.
And yet, a good friend of mind is also the most spiritual person I know (in an extremely non-conforming way--she's a spiritual healer) and it's very strange how some of the "unreal mystical" things in my first book correlate with her life experiences as a healer. The book was written before I ever met her, yet the similarities are there. As I looked at Jack's question and tried to analyze the different things I'd thought and read and heard about death---and the things my friend had told me from her personal experiences---I wondered just how many of the "unreal things" we think and hear about are "real" and how unreal the established beliefs might be.
I'm not quite sure I'm going about this the right way (and I wish I could go back and read Jack's topic again, but it's disappeared from my screen), so I'll just tell you what I came up with when I analyzed a couple of things I'd written.
One is a short story and I guess you could said the central theme is death--and therefore about life, because there's little difference in my mind between the two (maybe that's wishful thinking). In the story, a man (a writer) has lost his very best friend, a down-to-earth person who liked to throw pots. The writer hikes to a high mountain ghost town in search of . . . well, he thinks he's in search of a story, but underneath it all he's grief-torn and believes it should have been him who died--that if he'd been a better friend, loved more, cared more, his friend wouldn't have died. I won't go on with the whole thing, but in the end, he finds both his friend and his life in what could be death, but what might be life beyond life as he knows it.
My first book also contains several death themes (but don't most books?). When people die in the parallel world of that book, they'd normally go into the blue magic between the worlds to rest and renew (R&R--hah!) before going on. However, the thing that threatens their world has shut them off from that option, and from their magic. The result of that is that not only can they not go on (death in its truest sense) but they also cannot create life--no kids. Another "death theme" is that the heroine in that book is basically the incarnation of their world's creator, who had to leave and die in order for the land to survive.
In looking at some of the myths Jack mentioned in his topic, these stories have similar elements. But those myths are mostly nothing I have studied. How about the theory of "universal thought?"
I've taken up enough space, but hope I've given you something to think about.
Thanks for the forum!


Rhoda Fort Thu Sep 11 17:56:31 PDT 1997


That's a good question--the type I like because it doesn't require much thought.

Non-fiction writing is art every bit as much as fiction writing. Go to the library and pull out every biography you can find on some famous person such as Queen Elizabeth I. If there was no art to non-fiction everyone of those books would be pretty much the same. I've read two biographies on Elizabeth I. One, I liked, the other one I didn't. There was a book about the six wives of Henry VIII written I believe by Antonia Frasier. I thought I knew everything about these ladies until I read that book. I read the thing in two days (I'm a slow reader). Antonia Frasier is an artist.

The non-fiction artist weighs several different facts--major and erroneous and weaves them together in a way that can bring the subject alive to the reader. I've read biographies about people I thought I'd never care about that made me cry, laugh, and see these people come alive. The same applies for writers of history, geography, cookbooks, and even chemistry text books.

A well written non-fiction book not only informs but leaves the reader begging to know more. When I think of an artist, I think of Shelby Foote. As I read his FORT SUMPTER to PERRYVILLE, a book about the beginnings of the American Civil War, I thought as I was reading that this man is a superb story-teller.

Well written history books helped me decide to write historical fiction. Perhaps I take artistic license with facts and create a fictional story out of them, but good history writers such as Geoffrey Ashe, John Morris, and Charles Thomas helped inspire the endeavor.

Non-fiction is definately art!

Philip Thu Sep 11 16:23:56 PDT 1997


To Jack's Topic - It has always struck me as strange that writers who rip off, 'adapt', myths or legends - put them in a modern context or not - get praise heaped on them from all quarters. Re-writing or mirroring another writer's original work has never elevated a single writer in my mind.

Something to chew on: last week I read a long-winded introduction to a prominent Australian author in London (he was about to address a gathering at one of their snobby literary establishments), I think the Chairperson was a Professor of English at the London University. Anyway, the Chairperson implied, I'm sure with a plum firmly in his mouth, that writing fiction was art and writing non fiction was not. Mmmm.......

The Australian was a multi-award winning non fiction writer.

With brilliant style and true English understatement the Professor immediately declared in the next sentence that he didn't necessarily agree with this - but anyone who reads this piece knew exactly what he meant.

Forget about this as being an extremely rude put-down of an upstart Aussie - a mere colonial, what do others here think? Is writing fiction art while non fiction writing is not?

Back soon - Philip.

Jack Beslanwitch Thu Sep 11 00:24:46 PDT 1997

     Yes, when touching on myths and archetypes it always does get a little bit on the touchy side. However, I still think it appropriate to touch upon and discuss some of the archetypes that run steadily through literature. One useful reference for me is Joseph Campbell in the Hero's Journey. Some might have trouble with him, even bitter difficulties, but I found his ability to pull a diversity of cultures together into easy reach to peruse and understand through mythical themes quite enlightening. The steps from innocence to climax to validation are repeated steadily in most of the many myths and legends and truisms of all cultures.

I suggested this topic, because it does give a map on which many another have scripted tales from as long ago as Homer in the Odyssey and the Illiad or the Baghavad Gita to as recently as Lucas in Star Wars and beyond, archetypes enrich our writing and act as key signposts of understanding. Whether as a grail quest, a hero's journey, the sacrifice of the godhead and his or her resurrection, the little tailor, man learns better or boy meets girl, all are integral archetypes and myths that enrich our literature and our writing. See how they are played out in the past is useful, but I would bow to what others think. I'll leave it to others to express themselves or not.

A discussion of how to do research might also be an appropriate topic. I severely doubt that the internet or the web is up to speed as yet to be a replacement for the library. However, for quick facts there is little better and especially the most current news. Still, the depth of this fantastic medium is growing quickly. I can foresee the day when it will very much be a replacement for many of the functions of the library. Especially, archival research in tomes of precious manuscripts if they have been scanned and rendered digital for sharing. That would be invaluable. However, it has not reached that point yet. I still have to go down to the library and peruse archive copies that I cannot check out for many points of research. Or, at least, I had to when I was exploring that kind of book.

Take care and hope I have not muddied the waters too much.

Ben Woestenburg Wed Sep 10 22:52:52 PDT 1997

JACK: I have to agree with Rhoda. As much as what I may have said might be distracting to some, and tasteless to others, I don't want to give the wrong impression and lead everyone to believe that I'm suddenly Atheistic because of all this strange research I've been doing. My own questions about God and the life of Christ are deep rooted, and may eventually be answered when I open my heart and my mind a little more. My questions probably come from my early twenties when I was a wild and crazy guy. living a life of sex, alcohol and drugs -- that's S.A.D., how's that for an...I forgot the word, damn I hate that when that happens.

But Rhoda's right. The question seems a bit too heavy because idiots like me go off on these strange tangents and screw everything up. Don't talk about religion and politics they always say, and as a result, I've become apolitical. Which is okay, because up here our politicians are probably all on drugs -- or should be because it would be the perfect excuse for the way they run this place.

I don't want to talk about Lady Di because everything's been said about her, and the only way for the world to get over that kind of grief, is to go on. There'll never be another one like her, or Mother Theresa, for another hundred years, and that's probably the saddest comment of them all. I grieved for that fact, and I cried for her children.

So in order to make it all a little lighter, let's come up with something we can all get into with a good bite. Like, which is a better way of researching something? The net, or the good ol' Library? Is the Net making the library obsolete because of its availabilty to the writer? Or, what do we see when we look at a picture? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but as writers in this day and age, they tell us less is better. Dickens would have used a thousand words, whereas Hemmingway would have done it in under a hundred.'s getting late and Phyllis just came in so I have to go home and get some sleep -- I slept in this morning and only got a quick hour to write. But I made up for it at work drifting lazily on the river and reading Tacitus with three different hi-lite pens, marking out passages I want to use as a basis for the plot of the second volume which is going to involve letters.

I signed up for a half day at the writer's conference here next month, making appointments with three agents, oh yeah, and some classes. I just want the agents though, but have to go through the one to get the other. That's O.K. by me though; it's a give and take world. I'll have ten minutes with each one.


Rhoda Fort Wed Sep 10 22:01:33 PDT 1997

I wish we could lighten up on the next topic!

As to Diana, I never could come up with something profound to write. The emotions I experienced concerning her death were aptly expressed by everyone else here. I had nothing better to add.

As to myths, mankind comes up with them to explain the unexplainable and to attempt to obtain the unattainable. Man is always searching--always reaching for hidden knowledge. Out of frustration, he conjures up myths.

I do wish to add that belief in God is not a myth. That is faith. We cannot see God. We cannot actually hear Him with our ears (I never have). We can't smell him, taste him, measure his temperature, or check his vital signs to ascertain that He does indeed exist.

God is known inside the human heart. There is a longing in most everyone to experience Him in some degree. To most of us God represents order in the universe and a purpose and meaning to our lives. The question that sets people apart into different faiths is, "What are God's attributes and who is man in relation to Him?"

I believe the essense of God is summed up in "truth." God is perfect truth and ultimate integrity. How does man communicate or come to know this ultimate integrity? God is loving and kind. He created us with the ability to communicate, to reason, and freely choose to do right or wrong. In light of this, it is reasonable that God would somehow manifest himself to us and make himself accessible.

I am not going to embark upon the tenents of the Christian faith. I am readily assured that individuals such as Ben, for instance, are familiar with them. Jesus said that he was, "the way, the truth, and the life." No man comes through the Father but by Him. Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life, the giver of living water, the door, etc. One has the choice to believe Him or not to believe Him. Because of my make-up and the experiences in my life, I readily believe His claims. I have no proof, but I believe. That is faith, and it has never failed me.

What has this to do with writing?

Writers convey truth. They might write fiction, but whatever they write, it must ring true. A romance presents an idolized view of male/female relationships, a thriller often presents the dark side of the human experience. Science fiction takes what scientific knowledge we have and interoplates it--often exploring the consequences of such knowledge.

Faith is only a point of reference. There is not one author alive today who does not carry his or her personal point of reference into his or her writing.

Bill bwhitney@mail.usmo Wed Sep 10 12:41:33 PDT 1997

Just a note to remind everyone that they are welcome to add to the story in the Workbook. "The End of a Planet" awaits your expertise. Ben is the last to add to it. Any takers?
Anyone want to critique what is there? HAVE FUN.

Nancy Corbett Wed Sep 10 12:36:36 PDT 1997

In watching the quiet procession of Diana's funeral last weekend, I could sense the presence of John Donne somewhere just behind my left ear. Donne expressed most eloquently one of the reasons a funeral holds such facination for people. "Do not send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." With each step of Diana's procession, I was aware of my own mortality. Feeling the love and extreme sense of loss with her death, I was also forced to question what list of accomplishments I could claim at this point in my life. Diana's death diminishes me, yet, at the same time, empowers me to rededicate myself to following my own bliss, not to heed the song of the sirens and to unflinchingly confront my own paparatsi (spelling?).

Bill Wed Sep 10 10:11:27 PDT 1997

Good luck, Philip.

Bob Hanford Wed Sep 10 08:23:05 PDT 1997

Thank goodness there are enough troubled people in our society who commit violence. Because they do it, I don't have to. I imagined last evening what it would feel like if we lived in a country with absolutely no violence and realized that I would spend a goodly portion of my awake time (and dream time) resisting the temptation to do something wrong.
Thank goodness it is reported and written about on a daily basis. The words and images act as a constant reminder that I don't want to explore that part of myself - nor do I need to.
Yesterday I would have written against the use and reporting of violence. But when I imagined the vacumn, I realized it would bring the dark side of myself to the forefront just as a need to stick a pin into the bubble to hear it burst.

Philip Wed Sep 10 03:03:58 PDT 1997

Go Ben......

Philip Tue Sep 9 23:39:08 PDT 1997


I'm finishing the paper I have to deliver this weekend to the Sydney Spring Writing Festival. I may use some quotes from you guys. I promise if I do, I will properly accredit you with your gems. It is not for publication so no need to worry on that count.

In all I pulled 12,000 words from the internet that directly related to my topic - I need only 3,000.

So it's off to the writers' only party on Saturday night (mingle, mingle, mingle) and I'm on deck on Sunday afternoon at 2:00.

More after it's over.

KAE: Re: knowledge of the ownership of the Paris Ritz or not - I wasn't particularly referring to you in my post but....

One would think Dodi would be able bring extraordinary security to bear if he dined at the Ritz with such a super-celebrity. She may even have preferred the extraordinary high dining style the Ritz is famous for; or she may have enjoyed the company of its fashionable clientelle; or it may have been because the Ritz jealously claimed it has one the world's greatest chefs and she concurred; or it could have been her favourite public place; or she might simply might have liked the Ritz decor; or it could have been a change from all the small, romantic restaurants they had been dining at for the past week; or.... how the bloody hell can you or I possibly begin to know.

I certainly don't think it had anything to do with the size of Dodi's allowance (how can you really know such a thing with clear certainty?) or the superior service the Ritz staff might lavish on it's owner's son or his royal guest.

Back soon - Philip.

Ben Woestenburg Tue Sep 9 20:55:57 PDT 1997

Hey y'all!

Okay Jack, I'll give it a shot. But you guys have to underastand that I'm not a uni. grad, or anything like that. I'm basically self taught as far as everything in life is concerned, and if my opinions offend, well, it happens sometimes. I'm not even going to touch the Christ myth -- or maybe I will. You see, when you look at the story of Christ, you have to realize that although he may have lived, a little bit of his story may have been embellished. I don't want to upset anyone with what I'm saying, so bear with me and be patient. I've done a lot of research on this period in history, and as a result have come across a few startling facts.

I'm a good little Catholic boy in a way, but I've always been what you can label as a 'Doubting Thomas'. There's no doubt in my mind that He existed, nor do I doubt that He had special abilities. Today we have people we call faith healers, so why wouldn't there have been one then? But the thing about the New Testament is that it was written after the fact. It was put together by a number of different people who had different motives for its success. If you look at the Semite religious beliefs of the time -- and when we say Semite we are referring to ALL of the middle East: Medes, Persians, Parthians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Jews...everyone, because that's what they were called, they just died out, or became assimilated over the course of the centuries. But they all had the same basic beliefs: that of the death and ressurection of their gods. Osiris of course comes to mind, and Baal, but Mithras was even bigger, and half the Christian religion was based on that particular cult. Orpheus descending into Hades is another one that comes to mind. I believe that most good stories evolved from these. Arthur and his death, with the people anxiously awaiting him to come back from Avalon. LA MORTE D'ARTHUR is a fine example of literature usurping religion with the quest of the Holy Grail -- the Grail itself becoming more of an icon in literature than it actually was in reality. I mean, come on, do you think that someone actually kept the cup He drank from because he thought it would be worth something to humanity in a couple of years? They rented a room and had Passover dinner together. That means someone washed the dishes and put them away. And saying that it was the cup He drank from, and then changing it into the cup that held His blood? What? Someone was standing underneath the cross and collecting drops of blood? No, of course not. Just good fiction. The stuff legends are made of...and what Arthur could be invented around because he was a hero they needed at the time.

Look at our modern day icons. Marilyn Monroe, because she died a mysterious death and left a lot of unanswered questions. Jack Kennedy because he ushered in a period the Americans lovingly refer to as CAMELOT -- that's that Arthur thing again -- Jimmy Dean because he was young, and Elvis! John Lenon. The only two people that deserve to be icons in the future just died. And I just heard people are asking for Mother T. to be canonized. It doesn't work that way of course, we all know that; it takes miracles and centuries for that sort of thing to happen. But some of the world's finest lit. comes from these beliefs.

Homer is probably one of the best examples of Man writing about the gods as an explanation of what happened in a time they could not explain. And from that piece of fiction almost all the great literature was born. How many times will we read a poem only to find literary allusions going back to Homer, or Vergil even? "Of arms and the man I sing", probably one of the best beginings to a poem ever, besides Tennyson's "Idylls of the King", (but that's because I love Tennyson).

And we haven't even gotten into Grendal and Beowulf yet, have we? I'm sure Britomart can fill in the blanks for me when we bring up the subject of 'The Fairie Queen'. And speaking of her, how about Shelley's 'Frankenstein'? Now what's that supposed to be about if not the ultimate man-thinking-he's-God-novel? Resurrection and Creation with tragic results.

Okay, that about ends it for this cowboy. Those are just a few thoughts I've managed to gather over the years as I floated on my little boat on the river mindlessly pushing logs around. That's the good thing about no-mind jobs, you get to think a lot.

BTW, Kitty, where are you?

Jack Beslanwitch Tue Sep 9 15:03:16 PDT 1997

A quick note to say that I just got Britomart's Infernal in the mail, ordered from the Australian Online Bookstore If anyone else would like to check her book out, this is the way to do it. One warning, it took a little under a month to get here at economy air mail. Now to read the book :-).

kae Tue Sep 9 11:14:07 PDT 1997

I think violence in entertainment interests us because it gives us the all-mighty vicarious thrill. We are able to step out of our day-to-day existences and feel a little excitement. It allows us to be a part of the action without actually putting ourselves in peril. American Psycho is fascinating because it simultaneously allows us to be involved first-hand (-person) in serial murder AND also be removed from it, both on an emotional and prosecutable level. We're not really killing anyone, but it lets us imagine we are. And on the flip-side, it allows us to conquer the bad guy-to avenge the world, to rid ourselves of our own personal frustrations. It gives us the feeling that if we were in a similar situation, we'd know what to do. All risk-free.
I don't think violence in entertainment is right or wrong. Violent movies, I think, provide more of a psychological impact than do violent novels because fiction allows us to gage the swiftness with which the images hit our senses. I guess it's all in how it's represented-and again, it's that old argument, art vs. crap. And it's a matter of a personal taste. I've read a number of novels in which violence takes place-most novels have some kind of violence, whether it's physical or emotional-and I think it's done to represent the realities of life. If it fits the story, then I think it's okay.

Oh, and Philip: I did know that Dodie's dad owned the Ritz in Paris, I just don't see the relevance. With his dad shelling out $100,000 a month to him as an allowance, I doubt Dodie chose the Ritz to save a couple bucks. He probably got A-1 service at his dad's hotel, but so what? I'd still want my privacy if I was dating a celebrity who was tired of being hounded by the press. But enough dead horse, all ready (and there is CERTAINLY no pun intended). The whole situation was a tragedy, no matter where they were hanging out.

Scott Tue Sep 9 10:05:35 PDT 1997

TO Lyn Martin

It seems that Elton John's "English Rose" has touched quite a few souls. I've heard while channel surfing that he recorded the song in a studio after the funeral and it will be available for purchase sometime in the near future.
The proceeds are being donated to the many charities that princess Diana supported....If I find out when its being released I'll get back to you.

I just found this page today and I'm still looking it over, but I just thought I'd let you know that the album was in the works.


Jack Beslanwitch Tue Sep 9 00:12:51 PDT 1997

Quick comment for everyone. I have finally initiated the geographic sites on the For Writers Only. If anyone, particularly those from around the world other than in the states, see a site that is useful for imparting the cultural and geographical details of an area, please email me with them so that I can use them in that section. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Also, I really did invite everyone to list their favorite archetypes that might be employed in a writing endeavor. Take care.

Dale Tomb Mon Sep 8 16:21:56 PDT 1997

Hello to All,

To the point, I think violence (and sex, for that matter) within writing will consistently point to a larger truth about ourselves as animals who find enjoyment in our lowest common denominators. However, a pinprick can be more thought-provoking as a two-by-four to the head. Novels like AMERICAN PSYCHO will only work on a certain level simply because we ARE desensitized nearly to the nth degree. A baby's red mitten in a muddy puddle, in the proper context, can rend hearts more so than describing its head wounds because it forces the reader to imagine. To imply rather than describe, I feel, can be so much more effective if it can be done properly.

Thanks for the soapbox!! My name is Dale, and I'm a writer in Portland, Oregon. I love this site (I just found it last week), and I already love reading you all. Does anyone mind if I join in (especially after my rant?)

Anyone feel free to drop me a line or two to talk.


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Sep 7 17:58:26 PDT 1997

I also want to thank Britomart for speaking her mind and mirroring what I feel as well. The French police have indicated that the paraparazzi speeded their motorcycles in front of the limousine and attempted to slow it down so as to take pictures and possible resulted in a contributory factor to the accident beyond the fact that they were rapaciously chasing the vehicle. Setting aside the whole issue of Diana, I wish to also stamp my name on the hope that the actions of the pararazzi and the media invading the privacy of individuals should be subject to legal opposition. At the very least, libel laws should be loosened to be brought against those tabloids that out right lie about the celebrities. In listening to the paparazzi arrogantly stating that celebrities had no rights to their privacies made my blood boil. I am a forgiving sort of individual in most cases, but I have very little if any compassion for paparazzi. A very good example is a paparazzi who refrained from shooting the dying moments of River Phoenix and was roundly and severely criticized by his compatriots for his actions. It was to the point that he elected to retire rather than continue in a profession that condoned such unethical behavior. I think what I am indicating is that at some point the photographers did act responsibilities, but in recent years something has changed. That something is money. I don't have a solution for drying up the well, but I would happily see it happen. Hopefully, sometime soon this issue can have nails in its coffin because the laws arise to short circuit their actions. I am not going to hold my breath, but I have endeavored in this post to be as civil as I could when discussing unscrupulous photographers that loosely come under the brand of paparazzi. Take care all.

Toby Buckell Sun Sep 7 17:44:30 PDT 1997

Thank you Britomart, I could not have said it better myself. I thought Pulp Fiction was an incredible movie, not because of the sensationilism, I didn't watch until just recently. Yes there is violence on TV, but all over the world there are situations that are far more incredible and mind stretching than the tame examples we see on TV.

Try to imagine an act of violence that would turn a man crazy for the rest of their life, and remember how many veterans of wars have lost their minds over what they have seen, in all of history. What is TV to that? Or what is Pulp Fiction compared to someone getting executed by a gang in reality?

Having been in Grenada (where i was born) through the invasion, and having talked to soldiers from both sides, I don't think that movies have anything to do with violence, as most of the people who fought on the third world side (sixteen and seventeen year olds) hadn't seen much TV at all.

Violence is a human condition, and to blame TV on it is far too easy of an escape. No, in response to Elisebeth (sorta), I found Shakespeare's original Romeo and Juliet just as bloody as the recent remake, and am one of the few Shakespeare buffs who actually enjoyed it, and am not afraid too. Anything new always gets ragged on. IMHO, of course.

Of course, I think a lot of this has to do with mood, because my parents come down on me like a ton of bricks for watching and bringing home 'Bladerunner', and the 'Aliens' series, but gleefully watched 'BraveHeart' with me and loved it, which had more gore in it than the others, and was a lot harder for me to watch. (The main character was tortured to death in the end! What was up with that! At least adventure movies end on a lighter note!)

I'll drop out on that note!


Britomart Sun Sep 7 15:34:38 PDT 1997

Hi everybody!

Well, I managed to get through my first writers festival relatively unscathed. I gave my little talk about suspense in fiction (and of course, couldn't resist linking it to suspense in life and how we just don't know what's going to happen to us in any given moment) and it seemed to go over well. I'm giving myself a week off before I start to concentrate with some seriousness on my current novel, which I have to finish by March. It feels as though the walls are starting to close in...

Just a couple of things that I want to say about what's been written here in the notebook. The first is this persistent justification that the media uses (and which people have picked up on) that the papparazi and the tabloids are only fulfilling the demands of a market. I'm sorry, but this just doesn't hold water. There are markets for heroin, child pornography, and (as I mentioned in an earlier post) there was once a market for slavery. All of these things are illegal, and are regulated by judicial bodies. In other words, just because people want it, does that mean they should get it.

Secondly, the media creates the market just as much as it responds to the desires of the public. Think of the huge publicity campaigns that go on for movies like Jurassic Park or Batman - the media gets whipped up into a frenzy, and it seems the more information we are fed, the more we want. Media people are not charming little darlings that just do what we want them to, they are a powerful (perhaps even a too powerful) ideological force.

Now, onto violence. Did you know that there has not yet been one conclusive sociological piece of evidence linking TV violence to actual violence? In fact, the cause of actual violence is largely actual violence - ie. domestic violence, institutional violence etc. People can generally (unless they suffer a mental condition) tell the difference between fiction and real life.

In fact, I think that more violence in fictional media (TV, movies, books) might be a help. We only ever see glamorous scenes where a person vents his/her fury with a gunshot, and rarely do we see the mess that that gunshot can make of people. More attention to the effects of violence might serve as aversion therapy.

And violence isn't a specifically 20th century thing. After all, Pulp Fiction hadn't been released in 1593 when Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in a bar brawl, nor was American Psycho available when the Reign of Terror took place in France. It's just that in the 20th century it's reported more - our world is so condensed through the media that if somebody goes all postal this afternoon in Norway, we'll hear about it practically straight away in Australia. It just seems like the world is more violent.

In fact, I think that violence in our fictional media is actually a response to violence in our society, a way of dealing with it. I'm happy to be debated with at length. Anyone here put violence in their work? I know I do, but I don't glorify it - I usually try to link it to its tragic and messy consequences. (After all, I am named after a female knight who ran quite a few people through.)


Rosemary Sun Sep 7 11:12:47 PDT 1997

Hi again,
First I want to apologize for the multiple dates that appear with my postings. It takes at least three tries to get it to take. (Usually) After three tries, I copy it to my wordprocessor and try later.

Mostly, I wanted to let everyone who might be interested, that I posted a Christmas story in the Workbook. I noticed there had not been any new action for a while, so thought I would try.

Suggestions on where to submit it, (if its publishable) would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot,

Sun Sep 7 11:12:45 PDT 1997

Philip Sun Sep 7 02:47:07 PDT 1997

Jesus knows this place is an oasis for writers... try browsing the so-called writes newsgroups if you ever doubted that. They are mostly an international collection of bloody goats, plain posers and bloody idiots!

You may be interested in checking out this excellent site:

For well known poets works I've not seen better. I've bookmarked it.

Back soon - Philip

Ben Woestenburg Sat Sep 6 19:55:06 PDT 1997

Hey guys how's everyone doing? I'm not even going to get into the Diana thing. I ended up waking up at 2:30 a.m. or so and watching a lot of the highpoints: Tony Blair was very moving, and E.J., my all time fave! HArd to believe indeed, that Bernie could come out with such wonderfully touching and moving lyrics -- those two are remarkable. Her brother pretty well expressed everything everyone else was afraid to say. I don't know what it is about funerals and tears -- I mean I didn't know her, though I certainly would have wanted to meet her -- but I guess that's what happens when you grow up and become one of those sensitive nineties type of guys. I cried for all sorts of different reasons, just like I'm sure everyone else did.

I had to get a new mouse because mine bit the biscuit. I tried cleaning it and all that other stuff, but it was just no good. I talked to the computer geek at work and he said for me to bring it in and he give me another. Whoa! I like to call him the computer geek because he's young, into sports and health, and for you ladies, very handsome. My wife thinks he's a dream. Real cute, she says.

I started work last wednesday. And boy did that come at the right time. I got the car running finally -- well, it's always been running, it was just not street legal as they say. But it cost a fortune just to bring it into a shop and have the set screw on the carb set properly. So we thought we'd better get new tires while we were at it. They were bald. So when we got back home we heard about Lady Di. I ended up going downstairs for soem reason, only to discover, sometime after midnight, that the hot water tank had burst. Thank God I caught it before it ruined everything down stairs. My brother-in-law owns a carpet store and said he's get me some new underlay for the rug. Pretty depressing weekend I thought, considering I didn't know if I was going to be working the next week or not.

I managed to keep up with the writing though. Unfortunately it's getting re-a-a-al long. Over 200,000 words now. It doesn't seem long to me though. But I know publishers think about money first, and cost over runs, and marketability...But I'll worry about that later.

I want to go to the Surrey Writers Conference in Oct., because the 1st volume will be finished and ready by then, and I want to sell the idea to an agent. I made three appointments with agents, because I think that's the only way for me to go. With three, my chances have got to be pretty good of talking one of them into something. My brothers have always said I've got a natural way of going on and on and on...that maybe I should be in sales. Well, time to find out if he's right.

Anyway, I have to go now because my son's playing Nintendo, and just told me, in his off hand kind of way, "Oh yeah Dad, dinner's ready." But Phyllis's son Tyler is here, and I know he wants to get on to some of the free porn pages he found -- I found out he was on there because I was looking through the history trying to find the address for this page and thought, "Uh-uh, Phyllis is going to think it's me." God, ain't puberty just great? I used to have to steal my older brothers' magazines, and he just loads up a page on the net and he's good for an hour. So I don't dare leave my kid here with him because his mother's out for the night (Phyllis). They want to go to the store --Tyler and his friend -- and I'm not leaving til they go. Wesley's not allowed to stay here by himself, because Phyllis doesn't think it's a good idea.

Bill bwhitney@mail.usmo/com Sat Sep 6 19:26:32 PDT 1997

Rosemary, Well, If that is a vanity press, I won't bother sending for their brochure. Thanx

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Sep 6 18:39:06 PDT 1997

Trudy, Bill and Rosemary: I will make it habit to not apologize and post whenever I feel like there. There. :-).

Kasin: All I can say is try again. I have a feeling it might be your installation of Netscape this time around. I was having a devils own time with another page of mine that was routinely crashing Internet Explorer. So, I deleted it from my system and reinstalled today. Loads the page fine.

   Still, thanks for the information. I am hoping that others like the new look and name of the site. It was generally begining to look a little long in the tooth. Take care everyone.

Trudy Sat Sep 6 18:07:15 PDT 1997

Hi all, Just wanted to say welcome back to TOBY and let KEVIN O'REGAN know that we don't generally ignore people's questions regarding writing here in the Notebook.
KEVIN, You are a writer! You say you have written short stories and in my book that makes you a writer, so stop worrying about how to become one. As for courses, I have taken a variety of workshops (weekend, week-long, one day, one-hour) as well as a course on children's writing, and all have offered assistance and encouragement. Most were made known to me through the Writer's Federation of New Brunswick to which I belong or were offered at the local university. I highly recommend attending any workshops or courses though I wouldn't necessarily say they are necessary to become a writer...they can help make the process less solitary though. And if there's a local writing group in your area join it...not only is it a great way to meet other writers it's a great way to find people who can help you with the writing process...which leads me to your second question...the Notebook has a page called the Writers Workbook where we can post our writing for criticism. You have come to the right place...some of us will even take a story through e-mail and help out...just post a request and wait for the offers! It isn't every week we become obsessed with something like the death of a public figure so be patient...we'll get back to other things soon.

JACK...stop apologizing, I, like Bill and Rosemary, love hearing from you so frequently...I'm sure others agree.

I find it so sad that Mother Theresa's death will not receive the coverage it should have in the news because it takes a back seat to Diana's death. Glad to see a few people did mention it here.

Later, Trudy

Kasin Hunter Sat Sep 6 17:32:08 PDT 1997

Hi, Jack. Tried your Writer's Resources link, but when I went to look up Resources (dictionaries, etc.) Netscape crashed. Humm . ..

Lyn Martin Sat Sep 6 16:59:25 PDT 1997

Just a couple of thoughts on the funeral for Princess Diana, I thought that the funeral was beautiful, but I most enjoyed Elton John's song that he wrote for her. The words touched me in a way that I never thought a song could. And the fact that it was written in just a week is a sign of a very accomplished and talented writer. If only I could get my thoughts on to paper so quickly. I can never manage to get them out the way they are in my head. I sometimes think that I need to keep a tape recorder with me at all times.
But back to the funeral, I have heard that the song will be available but have heard nothing further about when, or even if this is true, as I have not heard it from a reliable source. If anyone hears anything about it being available for purchase, please post it here, because I would really like to have it. Thank you, and have a pleasant evening.
Good Night.

Bob Hanford Sat Sep 6 16:58:03 PDT 1997

Jack: Re your involvement with Diana's death. I find myself in the same situation. I realized early on, even while deploring the constant reporting of every detail, that I will miss her gentleness. After all, we never saw her in a fight or doing any of the many negative things men and women do daily. We always saw the polished side. It feels to me like all I will see from now on is the ordinary person, his or her good and bad sides. I guess, for me, it is the loss of the ideal, although I completely understand she fought and was negative and grumbled and maybe even cursed. But we were always shown the compassionate, courageous, woman who cared about children. I will miss her grace.

Rosemary Sat Sep 6 15:44:53 PDT 1997

Hi, Everyone.
Jack---Your postings are always interesting and informative.
I woke up at 3:30a.m.CST(not planned) and watched most of the funeral live. I never have really followed her life either.
I do hope this is not going to be one of those things that come in threeís. Two down.

Bill---I had one of the booklets on vantage press a couple of years ago. It was an excellent glossy package and if you can talk them into accepting the approx. $30,000 they charge, Iím sure the resultant book will be a professional product. I donít remember how much marketing they do. Probably different by now anyway.

Drive carefully everyone.

Bill Sat Sep 6 14:54:21 PDT 1997

My daughter, or should I say one of my many daughters, just showed me an ad in a magazine--"U.S. News"--and I thought I would pass it on: "AUTHORS WANTED Leading subsidy book publisher seeks manuscripts of all types: fiction, poetry, scholarly, juvenile and religious works, etc. NEW AUTHORS welcomed. Send for free 32-page illustrated booklet S-69 Vantage Press, 516 W34th St., New York, NY 10001" I hope that this info is useful to someone.

Elisabeth Sat Sep 6 14:08:51 PDT 1997

It seems that today's public is obsessed with death, with gore and violence. The movies that come out these days are perfect mirrors (I can't seem to find the right word) of our society's obsession with blood and guts and gore which, for very emotional and tender people like me is very unsettling.

It is hard to see a good movie these days without getting a load of heavy sex and violence. It positively disgusts me. You can really see the effects of this mainstream gore on society by watching old movies, like from the 50s. The first impression is how slow it is, how in comparison a modern movie would be speeding along, hurling wild attacks at our senses. Which is not necessarily good. We get so assimilated into this fast, violent culture that our perception is blurred and we no longer see violence in as horrifying a light. In fact, we begin to crave and hunger for the violence, becoming easlily bored with something not as wild. A perfect example is the modern remake of "Romeo and Juliet", full of fast-paced neon violence and heavy rock music full of really frightening udnertones glorifying gang warfare and a society full of rapists and murderers. It's disgusting, but what's more disgusting is the fact that today's teenagers have become so assimilated into this violence. It really disturbs me and I stay as far away from it as I can. Unfortunately, I am of a very small minority.

Debbie Osorio Sat Sep 6 09:00:48 PDT 1997

Hello all,

All of this death in the news lately, Diana, Mother Theresa, the couple who were murdered by bounty hunters, has me really thinking about my own mortality. I don't wanna die. I don't want to think about it. My immortality will come through my writing. In a perverse way, death has become my motivation for writing. I read about how scientists have discovered that _____ is harmful to us. Abandoned babies, child abuse--all motivation for me to write. My writing keeps me sane. My writing may one day inspire someone else, so I must keep at it.

In response to this week's topic, I guess I do have a morbid fascination with death. I believe the media can overdo it, and they need to be held accountable for their actions, and not only because of Diana's death. How many times have we watched news coverage of a tragedy, and see reporters and cameramen hovering over victims, and grieving relatives, just in a race for ratings.. Personally, if I were in such a position, my first instinct would be to swing at a reporter/cameraperson.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing the public goes for. They (the media) would not show such images if there were no market for it.

Graphic images have their place. They serve to remind us of the "evil" side of human nature. However, I do not think it is ever necessary to replay those images over and over again. There comes a point where it is just "overkill".

On a ligher note, I don't write horror, but I am preoccupied with the idea of death. If it were possible, would I want immortality? At what price? I used to tease my son when he was younger, and had him pretty much convinced that I was a vampire. However now, at the sophisticated age of 6 1/2, my son questions every aspect of his mom's "vampire life".

S'all for now, bye.

Bill Sat Sep 6 08:56:49 PDT 1997

I, for one, am interested in whatever you have to say in the notebook. I've noticed that you have apologized several times recently. I am certain that everyone else enjoys your posts also and out of everyone, you certainly have the most right to post here. After all, you so graciously keep this wonderful place up for us to share our ideas and comments and if anyone does take offense to your frequent posting, then they shouldn't be here anyway. If it wasn't for you, we would have to be content with those STUPID digest formats. You have nothing to apologize for, but I forgive you. Kidding...he he. THANX for this Notebook--THANX for you.

Goodweed of the North (Bob Flowers) Sat Sep 6 08:49:28 PDT 1997

Hi all;

On this week's topic I would like to add that sometimes
violence, whether graphic or not, is used to provied tension
and anxiety. I action novels of all genre's, the villain
must be vial in some way, and almost superhuman. Said
villain must grate on the nerves of the audience and make
them cringe. The hero must them use wits, strength,
sometimes teamwork, and a bit of luck to overcome the almost
always more powerful villain.
This makes the reader want the hero to win. It provides
excitement to the story. The bloodshed and gore are used to
prove that the hero is in grave danger and it must be
possible for the hero to die. Of course that will be
Every story in every genre, with the exception of maybe
textbooks of most kinds, capture the imagination of the
reader through some sort of tension. It is the authors job
to use the blood and gore not gratuitously for its own sake,
but rather for building a believably dangerous situation for
the hero to contend with.

Phillip, I never got the info on my query, though I did get
the note. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
What I wrote above was inspired from your posting.

Bill, I haven't forgotten you but have been busy rewriting
my own revisions. I can't believe how many errors I've
found, not to mention the errors that were found by three
other persons. I've got an idea for a story that we may
collaberate on after this one is finished. Two local
freinds may want to get involved also, though they have no
creative writing experiance.

Kae; Hi. Hope you finish that book soon. Say hi to all
for me.

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Sep 6 04:25:05 PDT 1997

Apologies, again, for frequent postings here. However, just got done watching the funeral for Princess Diana and had to comment on her brother's rather pointed and, to my mind, right on target ruminations about the paparazzi, that the focus should be on her children, that they should be exposed to a broader range of options that is afforded by the Royal family and the rather pointed comment about the fact that Princess Diana did not require a royal title in the past year to be...and here my memory is failing me...I believe he said noble. Take care everyone. I am still finding it somewhat baffling the depth of my own involvement in this issue despite the fact that I never really followed her life that closely in life or am a tabloid reader.

   On an additional note, it is almost uncanny how the death of the famous and the great seem to come close together Mother Teresa lived a long full life and filled her existence with help for others. She will be missed. Let's hope that many others like her will take her place.

Mother Teresa and Princess Diana, our prayers are with you both.

Susan Fri Sep 5 19:51:45 PDT 1997

Gee, I go away for a few days and the whole notebook changes. Sorry I haven't been around but classes started the 25th and I've been too busy with school and work to get on the internet. I haven't done any writing either because I've been too busy, and because I needed a bit of a break. I've done a lot of writing this summer and the first draft for my science fiction novel is more than half done. Hopefully when things settle down I'll be able to get back to my writing. I've been doing a lot of reading lately because I believe reading inspires writing and I'm feeling a little drained. Reading gives me ideas.

As to Princess Di's death, it's sad and tragic. She was a human being who died too young. I was in shock when I heard about her death, and my heart goes out to her children. I guess the one comfort is that she died with someone who loved her. It put a bit of a damper on my weekend. My tenth wedding anniversary was Friday the 29th and now I will always remember my tenth anniversary as the weekend Princess Diana died. It's just sad that Diana is gone. 36 is too young to die. My husband is 36, and I'm 33. What is also sad is that death has also touched the University community where I live. A former history professor of mine died the week before classes started. He was 71 and retired, and was a very nice man. It's strange to think about him being gone. Then, even more tragically another history professor died of a self inflicted gunshot wound, something which has really shaken the history department here at CMU. J.D. Smith was only 55, he had a wife, children, a grandchild, and he was liked and respected by so many people here. He taught legal history and African American history, and one of his areas of interests was the Negro Baseball Leagues of the 1930s and 40s. I only met him a couple of times at history department functions when I was a graduate assistant, but I know professors who were close to him and they are in shock. It is just one of those things I don't think we'll ever understand.

I don't know how these things will affect my writing. Sometimes I use writing to escape pain and it has been therapeutic. My current novel deals with death and atrocities, though I do not go into grotesque detail because that makes me uncomfortable. One of my characters is trying to come to terms with the death a his father, a man he was not close to. I'm not close to my father and this is a situation that someday I will have to deal with. I still cannot stand to see film of the Challenger explosion. Even now it is still painful. I followed the shuttle program from its beginnings and that horrible day is still fresh in my mind. It's still an open wound. I remember too how terrible Dan Rather looked that day. I have never seen him like that.

Forgive me for rambling on. I'm rather tired tonight. Now that school has started I have considerably less free time. I'll drop by again when I can think of more to say.

Toby Buckell Fri Sep 5 07:42:00 PDT 1997

Sorry, here's my name and adress. Forgot about that.


Fri Sep 5 07:40:45 PDT 1997

Hey Jack, how could you archive me! My first message back, hidden away from all to see. Kidding. I don't mind, I'll be a regular contributor now that I'm back in school as I work in the computer lab. For everyone who missed my last message, here I am! Happy to be back.

As for gory images- I don't know. There seems to be an ever human fascination with watching violence and death, myself included. It is why a fantastic amount of the movies we watch contain 'action'. If you spend the time to watch cable one of the most popular TV shows in my area is Real TV, home camera shots of disasters. I watch it all the time. So it sells because we're all rubberneckers, deep in our hearts, and the media gets to exploit that with these images, and make money.

As far as what it does to my writing, I would say that often it tends to make me a bit more graphic in description than is sometimes necesary. I find myself leaning towards the 'shock the reader with an image so that they keep on reading' approach, or maybe its something I'm doing for myself. I don't know. I'm not very good at analyzing myself.

Anyway, see ya'all 'round.


Jack Beslanwitch Thu Sep 4 22:06:55 PDT 1997

Well, I've archived, including most of our Princess Diana discussion in the archive. This is a mostly tabula rasa. I have included Phillip's post and his querie about more legitimate press photos of explicit violence, i.e., the holocaust, etc. Tobie, sorry to have archived you as well just as you came back on the scene. So, please feel free to post again and often ;-).

To comment on Phillip's querie, the one example that immediately springs to mind and there were no bodies visible, no blood, was the Challenger blowing up. CNN and others must have played that spot a hundred times or more the day it happened and I stayed and watched, hoping for more details and to this day I wince and feel the urge to look away whenever a shuttle goes up. For all the beauty of each flight and all the joy I have at man in space, I would probably find it impossible to watch a shuttle launch in person at the Cape. Mind you, given the opportunity to ride one I would jump at it in a fast second. There is a contradiction in there somewhere. But I never said I was not a contradictory person.

Oh and this is to announce that Writer Resources is now officially changed to For Writers Only Take care all and good writing.

Philip Thu Sep 4 20:06:30 PDT 1997


At a heavy meeting with my publisher and his senior editor yesterday the editorial process of my next book was commenced.

As some of you may know my publisher is HarperCollins. You may also know they have had a world-wide rationalisation program, downsizing, as noted on these pages by Bill - to hell with the litigation costs. In Australia the fiction list has been hit hard and I feel fortunate to have survived the cut. I compromised my contract when I delivered my manuscript... (gulp) ... late.

The publisher was clear that he now wants 100,000 words - I delivered the previous obligatory 80,000. The style/approach I used to tell this story was different to my previous works - I experimented somewhat, balancing lyric with fast pace storytelling techniques. He was complimentary about my lyrical prose and simply wants more of it in the book. He was emphatic the plot (the skeleton) stay exactly the same - he really, really liked it, saying so many times. He wants more meat on the bones - he said. This is something I will find easy to remedy - and fun.

One of many revelations gleaned from the meeting: it appears HC wants it's writers to increase their output 20% to occupy more space on book seller's shelves. This will impact on their competition - less room for opposition books you see. Those precious shelves...

On the topic something amusing to do with writing: when I attended the Melbourne Writers Festival dinner in '95 a keynote speaker made reference to the spate of recent literary hoaxes in Australia. He fell victim to one of the more infamous of these committed by Helen Demidenko - he came second in a major literary prize she had won, so he was not a happy chappy. He was in fact scathing, venomous and tenacious as you might expect. Helen Demidenko invented a whole fictitious life for herself which had a huge impact on her supposed non fiction book about the Jewish holocaust. She also plagiarised great slabs of it. With a straight, intense face our speaker closed with the remark that when she was found out the fraudulent Ms Demidenko threw her hands in the air and exclaimed ... OK Ned I'm Ed! ... which he quickly explained was her pseudonym spelled backwards. I was stunned to laughter along with the big crowd. For myself, it will go down as a classic closing remark - he was cheered from the stage.

I'm reticent about commenting on this week's other topic about the death of the Princess of Wales. I've read the newspapers, seen the television reports and am about as expert and sympathetic about it as you all are. But some among us apparently don't know Dodi's father owns the Ritz in Paris.

Away from that topic slightly, paparazzi to hardcore news photography. How do we feel about seeing pictures (or film) of dead bodies; of film shot during WW2, the Viet Nam war, the Jewish holocaust, airplane crashes, bridge collapses or a charismatic US president's head being shot to pieces? Shocking, powerful images of human terror, horror, death and destruction.... news. But do we need to see news of these events in all its graphic glory. Then see them again and again, in slow motion, in stop frame, in blown-up stop frame ad nauseum? Maybe we do, then we might come to better understand the reality of human action, reaction and tragedy....

Sincerely - Philip.

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