Recovery Triptych: Welcome to My Sandbox

Recap from Recovery Triptych: The EchoRecovery Triptych took shape 9 Feb 1990. Originally I conceived only the first section, The Echo. I shared it with a critique group and was told I shouldn’t submit anything to the group containing such vulgarity and violence (see Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death, third bullet). I remember thinking at the time, “You think this has vulgarity and violence? You’ve had a protected life, huh?”

The triptych’s three parts are:

  1. The Echo
  2. Welcome to My Sandbox
  3. The Stone in God’s Sling

Here for the first time in slightly over thirty years, starting last Monday and continuing next Monday, Recovery Triptych.

It is precisely because a child’s feelings are so strong that they cannot be repressed without serious consequences. The stronger a prisoner is, the thicker the prison walls have to be, which impede or completely prevent later emotional growth.
– Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child

Welcome to My Sandbox

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Recovery Triptych: The Echo

Recovery Triptych took shape 9 Feb 1990. Originally I conceived only this section, The Echo. I shared it with a critique group and was told I shouldn’t submit anything to the group containing such vulgarity and violence (see Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death, third bullet). I remember thinking at the time, “You think this has vulgarity and violence? You’ve had a protected life, huh?”

The triptych’s three parts are:

  1. The Echo
  2. Welcome to My Sandbox
  3. The Stone in God’s Sling

Here for the first time in slightly over thirty years and continuing over the next three Mondays, Recovery Triptych.

It is precisely because a child’s feelings are so strong that they cannot be repressed without serious consequences. The stronger a prisoner is, the thicker the prison walls have to be, which impede or completely prevent later emotional growth.
– Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child

The Echo

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Marianne

Marianne started life as a rewrite of Mitre. I wrote the original Mitre sometime in the mid-1970s and have never been happy with it. The current version (I’ll share it next week so you can see how Mitre and Marianne differ and how Mitre‘s change from the first sharing back in Oct 2018.

Anyway, Marianne is a different take on the same idea.

As always, let me know what you think.


Marianne

 
Marianne looked up as Rose threw some paperwork down on her table. “What are plane tickets doing on your MasterCard bill, Mother?”

Marianne turned her wheelchair and glanced at the bill. “How many guesses do I get?”

“Well?”

“What exactly is the problem? I paid with my own money, used my own phone, tapped the order with my own fingers, arranged for Uber to pick me up and drop me off on both ends of the trip, – ”

“Are you going to Oregon to commit suicide?”

“I can’t go to see my sister?”

“Is she going to help you commit suicide?”

“She’s always been such a dear, hasn’t she?”

“You think I’m going to allow you to do this?”

Marianne laughed. “You won’t allow me to do what? How about I won’t allow you and that Captain Holes-in-his-Pockets husband of yours four thousand a month rent for this – ” She looked around her. ” – room.”

Rose’s face blanched.

“Is that your big worry? You won’t be able to keep your house once I’m gone? How about you stop spending money you don’t have. And I don’t remember giving you Power-of-Attorney. What gives you the right to open my mail?”

“I just thought I’d be helping -”

“You just thought you’d be snooping.”

Rose clutched her arms to her chest.

“Close the door on your way out, Daughter.”

Marianne checked her wall calendar. June. Doctor Mulvaney said she’d be bed-ridden by this time next year and little more than a locked-in idiot in two. “I’d like to go while I’m still able to know I’m doing the going.”

She grabbed a Mackintosh apple and a small paring knife and wheeled herself to her window. A crow and a catbird stood on either side of a feeder she attached to the window when she moved in. “Hi, Amos. Hi, Andy. How you boys doing? Your chicks worried about how many seeds you’ll leave them when you pass?” She gazed at the knife. “I suppose if I was brave enough I’d just do myself in. Nobody’ll notice until a bill needed to be paid.”

Amos hopped closer to the window. Andy watched, a sunflower seed rolling in his beak as he cracked the shell.

Amos tapped on the window.

“How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t know Morse code.”

Andy hopped over to Amos.

“Teaming up on me, boys?”

They both tapped.

“Want some apple?” She raised the window. The birds hopped onto the sill. Marianne cut slivers of Mackintosh and put them next to the birds.

Amos looked at the slivers. “Thank you.”

Marianne looked at the bird and blinked.

Andy pulled an apple sliver from his beak with a claw. “Don’t worry, M. You’re more sane than not.”

Marianne stared at Andy, then at Amos. Amos nodded. As much as a bird can nod, Amos nodded.


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Steam

Another flash piece (~430 words). Steam is my first attempt at the Steampunk genre and, being honest, I’m not sure it’s Steampunk so much as it’s Josephpunk.

The initial inspiration came pre-covid. I participated in a mostly steampunk con. I walked the hall meeting authors, asking questions, looking through their books, and wondering, “WTF is steampunk all about?”

My previous experience with anything steampunkish was several years ago reading Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. A story (and sorry, I can’t remember the title) about a steam-powered airplane (and if anybody remembers its title, please share it in a comment). The technology was interesting, the aircraft feasible, and what caught my attention was the emphasis on character in the story. I read the story because I wanted the characters to succeed.

But none of the books I scanned at the con dealt with character, all focused on technology, and could probably be classified as “Tour of Wonders” stories more than anything else.

Not for me.

But as I stood beside my table signing books, I wondered, “What would a truly character-centric steampunk story be like?”

The concept came to me immediately.

This flash piece took about fifteen months to get to a first draft and a few more to polish.

Let me know what you think.


Steam

Arrival

 
The shrieking of my wheels on the tracks as I pull into the station, so like your screams when you realized what they’d done.
The hiss of my brakes, my body slowing as my heart began racing.
But could not; eyes on meters, release valves turn lest all their work be in vain.
Has no one told you?


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Toing and Froing

We’re going to build on elements from Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories and Flashback as Story Frame to deal with another story challenge that often leads editors and publishers to stop reading and reject a story: Toing and Froing (To-ing and Fro-ing), something I first wrote about in Quit Stage Directing.

Simply put, Toing and Froing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

The end result is weak writing, exposition, narration, and lots of uninteresting things happening just to fill the page. Most writers/authors fall down on “movement is unnecessary to the dialogue.” They’ll have two or more characters talking and feel the characters should be doing something while they talk.

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

Eating my own dogfood
I’m currently editing Cicatrix, a work-in-progress last picked up and put down in late Feb 2019.

What follows is the ninth scene in the story. I’ll share the scene’s original form first with brightly colored “Problems” buttons after each weak paragraph. Click on the “Problems” buttons for examples of that paragraph’s problems. Next I’ll share share a rewrite with brightly colored “Solutions” buttons. Click on the “Solutions” buttons for explanations of why the rewrite is better.

PS) this is more for my edification than yours. Feel free to disagree. Please make sure you explain your disagreement and offer suggestions for improvement. Always happy to learn, me.


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