Heathcliff, the Pileated Woodpecker

About fifteen, twenty years ago I told Susan I heard a new bird in our area. I didn’t hear it often, maybe twice in as many months, but its call was so different from what I was familiar with it stood out.

Nobody else heard it.

I attempted an imitation.

Didn’t go over well.

The call grew more frequent. Also more obvious. Others heard it, not as often as I but few spend as much time in the wood as I unless they’re born to it or work it.

Some said it was this bird or that bird. I knew different.

Then one day the call became obvious to all. I did my thing, tuning my ears (like focusing your eyes on something) and sure enough, there was a new bird in our area.

Pileated woodpeckers are an invasive species where I live.

“Invasive species” mean they weren’t here before.

Kind of like Europeans on Turtle Island.

Or man crossing Beringia.

Or hominids out of Africa.

Invasive Species. Kind’a depends on who was there first, doesn’t it?

 

World-Building – Language

There are three basic questions when considering language in world-building:

  • Does language play any role in your world?
  • Does everyone speak the same language, or is there a variety?
  • Do you need to invent any slang or terminology as part of the world-building process?

Here I paraphrase Aristotle’s Poetics, “Avoid neologisms unless introducing some new term/word/phrase is crucial to the plot; use jargon only to move the story along.”

Do you need to invent any slang or terminology as part if the world-building process?
The Augmented Man uses lots of military, biologic, and psychologic jargon, little of which is invented. One first reader asked me “Am I suppose to understand this stuff?” to which I answered, “If that stuff was replaced with something like ‘Oh, and we did lots of biologic and psychologic stuff to them’ would you have accepted Trailer could do what he could do?”
“No. Probably not.”
“More to the point, did you believe Donaldson (the character using most of the jargon) was an authority on what he talked about?”
“Definitely.”

Long story short, I could have reduced the jargon and it would have weakened the story and that brings us back to Aristotle’s Poetics; The jargon is crucial to the plot because it adds credibility to the story.

All cards on the table moment: Some reviewers comment they had to look up some terms. Lots of readers comment on the jargon. So far all of them kept reading despite the jargon. This poses and interesting problem to me:

  1. I could explain the jargon in greater detail so readers don’t have to look things up.
  2. I could use less jargon.
  3. I could include a glossary.

I have issues with each solution (and am open to suggestions).


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Relatability

To me, the key to keeping readers focused on your story is relatability (yes, I know. If you’re reading my world-building posts, you’re shocked). A story is relatable when the reader can imagine themselves in the story, meaning the reader accepts what happens in the story as something that could happen to them, meaning it’s familiar, and that brings us back to grounding the unfamiliar in the familiar.

At this point, we revert to basic psychology; How do people relate to things? Turns out there are four basic ways:

  1. they’re familiar with a place (Setting)
  2. they’re familiar with what’s happening (Plot)
  3. they’re familiar with the people involved (Character)
  4. they’re familiar with what’s being said (Language)

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The Augmented Man Video Series Episode 7 – “Goddamn Sheep”

 
Episode 1 – “Good Run, Trailer?”
Episode 2 – “Massively Scarred”
Episode 3 – “Learn Chess, Yes”
Episode 4 – “To Feel”
Episode 5 – “Tell Me About Her”
Episode 6 – “Little Snitches”

Sabine Rossbach
Joseph Carrabis
The Augmented Man

Shaman Story Chapter X – Little Girl Lost

Read Shaman Story Chapter X – Passing.


Shaman Story Chapter X – Little Girl Lost

 
Buppa stands me in front of him, on the sand facing the ocean. Chan adjusts my feet so they point forward and are as wide apart as my shoulders.

“You ever ride a horse, Gio?”

“At the Festa de Sant Antony I did.”

“You remember how the horse felt under you?”

I nod.

“Feel like that now. Make believe you’re on the horse.

“Giddy yap.”

Chan smiles. “My people call this a horse stance because it’s like you ride a horse. Make sense?”

Chan always asks if he makes sense. I have to show him I understand before he continues.

“Now put your hands out like this.”

The shadow of Buppa’s arms comes over me. I look up over me and behind me. He’s doing the same thing I’m doing.

“What are you doing, Buppa?”

“I’ve got to learn, too, Gio. Chan does this much better than me.”

Chan adjusts my arms, levels my hands, straightens my fingers, taps my belly.

“What do we do first?”

“Lower-Center-Relax-Breathe.”

“Make sense?”

I Lower-Center-Relax-Breathe.

“Feel the ocean, feel its power, hear the waves coming in.”

My body gently rocks back and forth.

“Let the ocean move you. Be its water. Learn where its been. Feel where its going. Taste its bottom. See what moves there in the deep, deep dark.”

I rock with ocean’s movements, striking the land.

“This is Waves, Gio. We do this to learn the power of Ocean, this form of water, so we can draw on its power when we need to. Make sense?”

Buppa’s head rises, his eyes open.

Chan’s head rise. He follows Buppa’s gaze. “You’re needed, Giovanni.”

“Finish the boy’s lesson.”

“We can practice more later. Nobody gets it the first time.”

I stop rocking but keep standing, my arms outstretched, my fingers sensing the ocean. A shallow forms in front of me.

Chan claps his hands. “Gio! You make a liar out of Chan!”

***

Officers Morelli and Clarkson talk with Grandma on the porch. Their police car is in the street outside our gate.

They walk to us as we get out of Buppa’s truck, their hats held in the hands in front of them.

Offers Morelli and Clarkson are friends. They walk through our neighborhood often. Sometimes Officer Clarkson wears shiny black boots and rides a motorcycle. Sometimes Officer Morelli comes by in a police car and I get to ride around the neighborhood in front with him. Sometimes he sits me on his lap while he drives and I get to hold onto the steering wheel. “Oh, we’re in hot pursuit, Gio. Gonna get them crooks, Gio.” He drives funny so we go all over the street.

Officer Clarkson sits me on his motorcycle and puts his helmet on my head. It covers my eyes and I can’t see. He gets on behind me and goes “VROOM! VROOM! PUT-a-Put-a-put-a-put VROOM! VROOM! PUT-a-Put-a-put-a-put.” We put on the siren and Grandma comes out of the house, a kitchen towel over her ears. “Shut that damn thing off. You’ll deafen the boy.”

Officer Clarkson turns off the siren. “Sorry, Mrs. Fortune. Just giving the boy some fun.”

He looks at me and his face goes Whoops! Grandpa and I laugh.

Grandma goes back in and comes out with a cookie tin. “You ask that Cheryl girl to marry you yet?”

“Doing it tonight.”

“Gio, bring these to him.”

I hand him the tin and he starts to open it.

Grandma snaps the towel. “No, no you don’t. Those are for your girl to give you when she says ‘Yes.’”

Officer Clarkson perks up. “She’s going to say yes?”

Grandma looks at me. “What do you think, Gio? His girl gonna say yes?”

I shrug. I don’t know how to see through time yet. Buppa says time is a place like any other. You can get there if you know which direction to travel.

Grandma laughs. “You bring those cookies, Charlie. In case.”

Officer Morelli looks at Officer Clarkson. “I’m going to speak Italian, Charlie. No offense. So I’ll be understood better.”

Officer Clarkson nods. “Go ahead.”

Abbiamo bisogno di te, Maestro Fortuna.” We need you, Master Fortune.

I tug on Grandma’s apron. “Maestro Fortuna?”

She pulls me on her lap. ‘People call Buppa “Master” when their need is great.”

Buppa nods. “They request the Old Ways and are afraid.”

Una bambina è persa.” A little girl’s lost.

Buppa nods. “Il ragazzo viene con me questa volta.” The boy comes with me this time.

Morelli shakes his head. He turns to Officer Charlie. “He wants to bring Gio with him.”

Officer Charlie looks at me and then at Buppa. “I don’t know, Mr. Fortuna. We suspect…This could be…”

“So he can learn. For later.” Buppa pats my head. “Go help Grandma clean you up, put on fresh clothes. I got to wash, too. All this sand.”

Buppa sends me the sounds of the ocean, of the waves, the feel of the water, our feet in the sand, little crabs scurrying into the water, bubbles where clams lie under the sand.

I feel the ocean move me. Remember Chan’s lesson. Hear Buppa inside. “Good, Gio. Remember.”

We get in the police car. “Can I ride in front?”

Buppa nods. “For now. You’ll have to help me later, Gio. Do you want to help me?”

I get to help Buppa! “Always!”

Officer Clarkson lifts me over the back of the seat and puts me on his lap. “No sirens this time, Gio. Don’t want your grandma mad at me.”

I pout. He tickles me until I laugh.

Officer Morelli starts their car. He looks back to Buppa. “Where do we start?”

“Where did she live?”


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