“Coconut Together” and “Tease”

Good afternoon, ladies and gents.

I’m afraid I’ve broken Rule Number One of Writing, which is perhaps not coincidentally Rule Number One of this Blog. DO you know what that rule is? It’s WRITE. Doesn’t matter what, doesn’t matter when, or why, or especially how well (although I suppose it sometimes matters where) Write Write Write Write Write. It’s practice. It’s learning.

Something I realised recently is that there’s nothing you start good at, and to get good at anything, you need to be able to make a fool of yourself before you can learn how to improve. Old dogs can learn new tricks, if they’re not afraid of embarrassing themselves and setbacks. Kids are good at learning because they overcome these. They pick themselves up and try again. And this goes for learning to cook, learning to do stand up. It goes for my adult friend who can’t swim, and my other adult friend who can’t draw. It definitely goes for learning a foreign language, which I can tell you from both sides of the fence about, and it goes for writing.

Self-Lecture over, on to writing. As I missed the Mid-Week post (I have literally 6 excuses, but I won’t bother writing them), I’ve got two things for you here today. One of them is co-written. And is definitely full of grammatical mistakes, inconsistencies, and an underdeveloped plot, with a conclusion that makes no sense with the rest of the story. It was difficult to keep up with the creative genius that is my co-writer. Let’s post that one first. I will call it, for now, “Coconut Together”, by Matt and Lily. See if you can spot which bits are mine, and which bits are Lily.

Coconut Together

Once upon a time, there was a girl called

LILYP1010086

and she had a friend called

HANNAH

and they had lots of adventures together.

One day, HANNAH and LILY were at Buckley House. It was summer, and it was hot.
Let’s play Hide and Seek, said Hannah.
Okay, said Lily. You hide first. I’ll come and find you.

So Hannah went off to hide, and she found a big bush to hide in.
She climbed into the bush, and suddenly she heard a voice, “OW!” said the voice.
“Who’s there?” said Hannah.
“My name is Philip”, said the voice, “and I am a rabbit.
“Hello Philip the Rabbit, said Hannah. I’m Hannah, and I’m a little girl. But we need to be
quiet now, Philip. Lily and I are playing Hide and Seek, and she’ll find us.

“Ok”, said Philip, but there was dust in his little nose, and he felt like he was going
to sneeze.
Aaaaha
aaaaaaaaaaah
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaTCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
sneezed Philip.
“I’ve found you!” said Lily, who heard the sneeze. “Is that you Hannah, sneezing?”
“No, Lily,” said Hannah, “It’s my new friend. His name is Phillip, and he’s a rabbit.

“He’s a very loud rabbit,” said Lily.
“Yes”, said Hannah, that’s how you found me.

Let’s play again, said Lily, only this time, I’ll hide.
Can I play too? said Philip the Rabbit.
No! says Lily,. You can’t play.
Why not? says Philip
Coz your naughty, and you pees in your house, on the floor, and the police get you, out of the garden.
I’m not naughty, said Philip. I used to pee in my house, but now, I pee on a potty.
You’re still naughty, said LIly and Hannah together
Why? said Philip.
Cause your naughty and the police will get you.
Suddenly, Lily and Hannah heard a police car coming. NEE NAW NEE NAW went the police car.
“They’re coming now!” sadi Lily
“Run, Philip!” said Hannah.
and Philip the Rabbit ran away. hoppity hop.
He ran into Buckley House, past Papa Ray, and up the stairs.
Then, the police were in the garden.
“have you seen a naughty rabbit?” said the police to Lily and Hannah.

Me and my co-author
Me and my co-author

“Yeah,” said Lily. “He’s in the house!”
And then Lots of police went into Buckley House.
They saw Papa Ray. “Where’s the Rabbit?” said all the police to Papa Ray. Lily and Hannah followed the police.
“He’s in the house! said Papa Ray. “Come and catch him. He went to…. his dance class with the other bunnies and the other pigs. In dresses.”

Thje police went into the dance class, and there were lots of bunnies and pigs in dresses.
Which bunny is the naughty bunny? they said.
And they heard a noise.
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It was Philip the sneezy bunny, all covered in bogies.
We’ve found you! Said the police.
And then they threw the bunny in the air!
They threw him out of the window! And then he stayed in the air, and started to fly. with wings!
WOW!!!! said Lily and Hannah, “he’s got wings! and
And then lots of bunnies started flying all around Buckley House. Mummy and Daddy were very surprised.

The pigs in dresses were flying too!
And Hannah and Lily got some wings from the pigs, and they started to fly with the pigs

WWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeee
said Lily
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO said Hannah
And the Yaya and Papa and Mummy and Daddy and all the family were flying in the air.,
And the police couldn’t fly. so the police got in helicopters and planes, and they flew too, but Lily and Hannah and Philip had wings, and all the different animals had wings.

And Philip dies. but he’s still flying, even though he’s dead.

And Lily flies to Plaza Trippy with Hannah and they had lots of warm milks and juice. And Lily had yoghurts.
Hannah had a yoghurt too. Coconut together.

THE END

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And now, to extend this special edition post even longer, here’s a poem I’m trying to improve. It’s a riddle, so the first thing you have to do is solve “What am I?” If your name is John, Raoul, or Carmen, or if for some other reason I’ve already told you the solution, don’t post it at the bottom. If you have suggestions to improve it, however silly, then tell me, because like writing, swimming, drawing and cooking, giving criticism to writing is something that you don’t improve at ’til you try and ’til you’re ready to make a fool of yourself.

Tease

This is how I am.
I tempt and tease
at the surface, wavering,
a persistent challenge,
your growing unrest interfering
but presenting an innocent front.

Your approach is expected,
I see a reflection with your eyes.
You think you can take me,
while I, half eager for
your teeth to sink
through my skin, bite,
your tongue against my side

I bounce away, unready, unsure.

Do I want you? Deep down?
Or just the thrill of the chase?
I bob in the shallows,
my purpose undecided.
My core as elusive
To me as to you.

– – –

Violence or gentility;
neither succeed.
Hot from the shame of defeat,
most do not care to try twice.
I wait for one who does.

Sudden Rain on an Empty Bus

This week’s been  an interesting week. The comedy performance went quite well, and the hours of writing, re-writing and then reading it all to myself in front of a mirror really paid off.

I’ve been also setting myself some amibitious targets in writing, both in short stories and poetry, to the result that I have nothing new to present, again. However, we’re definitely getting progression, and I hope to have something to present by Mid Week. Amongst my projects are:

  • A Byron-esque poem for  a friend.
  • Much more poetry connected with my current life in Barcelona
  • A Fantasy short story
  • A short story about an old man starting a new life.
  • The “Enrage” poem I mentioned a while ago to go with “Disentangle”
  • The “Stairlift” poem.
  • A riddle poem called “Tease”.

For now, I’ll just post a poem from last year… it’s another poem about being on a bus in Barcelona, like this one.

I want to write more about life in Bareclona, but it’s a tricky business. Poetry works on the fine detail much better than on the bigger picture. It’s about density of expression, not density of subject. Also, when life is very day-to-day ordinary, and I’m not experiencing any strong emotion about teaching or biking to work, or cooking, then it’s hard to get into the spirit of a poem about it. However, I think this last point is more conquerable. Also, I plan on writing about specific people I know in Barcelona instead, as they’re more focussed. Hopefully in the end, bits of Barcelona will be relfected through disconnected poetry.

I also suspect it’ll be easier to write about once I’m somewhere else, and memory’s power of selectivity will tell me what to write about. Her’s the poem.

barcelona sun rain

Sudden Rain on an Empty Bus

Minutes earlier, the morning bus
was warm and heavy like the day,
windows open so the press of
hot breath and smells could escape.

Now, a rush of cold spirals in.
Travellers duck out into the clicks and spray –
umbrellas pop, hoods up, and some run.

Those unshowered who left their sweat-skin here
are showered now; hair glistens
with a new damp, a cleansing sheen.

The bus stands empty, still clinging
to the scent of its custom. Cloyed,
my nose catches a passing swirl of wet concrete.
I don’t close the window;

though I’m not cold, I shiver in shelter,
the taste of rain on my dry lips,
flecks of spray in my hair,
as my grey view blurs with water.

Nose Fluting

Just a quick post to say, yes, I have been writing this week, and no, I’ve got nothing to show for it… except a performance. You see, I’ve been writing comedy, for my second proper attempt at stand-up comedy. I have a set of about 6 minutes, including two songs on the Nose Flute, which is the whole reason I’m funny.

I’m having a real go at writing some funny jokes and scenarios, too, but don’t expect them to be fantastic. Also, I feel that they don’t work just written down – they have to be performed and delivered. So, unfortunately, I won’t be posting my as-yet-untested material here.

It feels like a real let-down to be missing a deadline so early in the game on this whole Blog posting business, but I’m comforted in the knowledge that I have been writing, (as well as practising saying my lines and pulling faces in front of the mirror,), and that I’m trying something new and learning creative skills, which is why I’m doing this.

I could have pulled another old poem out of the bag for you, but I want time to go over my old poems and fix them before I stick them here. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a post tomorrow. However, I expect you’ll have to wait to the Weekend for my next appearance here.

See you soon, and wish me luck for tonight!

It’s No Fun, Getting Old

Good afternoon, good afternoon.

I promised you a short story today, and I shall not disappoint. This is a story that I’m both proud and fond of – I’ve put quite a bit of effort into it, and it’s something that, every time I come back to it, I see ways to make it a little tighter, a little better. I hope that by “publishing” it here, it doesn’t stop this move to always improve.

I’m still looking for pictures to go with this story. If you have any, send me some?

It's No Fun, Getting Old
It's No Fun, Getting Old

It’s No Fun, Getting Old

Ok, so. It was lunchtime, and I was just sitting on a bench in Charing Cross Station. I had just finished my lunch, I think I had a magazine, I was inside in the shade, so my chocolate bar didn’t melt onto my good skirt. I remember at the time I was all worried about why Kyle hadn’t called or left a message, and why he’d been all distant on the phone the night before. This was back when I was with Kyle, but it wasn’t a major deal, he explained it all later, but at the time I was really worried ‘cause I thought he thought I was too young for him, I’d seen a photo of his ex online, and I was nothing like her, so you know, was I even his type?

But anyway, none of that’s important, it was a little thing, it blew over in like, no time.

So I was on this bench, and I was enjoying having lunch breaks, ‘cause after years of being a student, you know, managing my own time? it was nice to have a bit of structure, you know? It was before I really knew anyone at work, so I wasn’t up for lunch with anyone, and like I said, I wanted to think about Kyle and maybe text him again.

And while I was sitting there, this old guy in a suit came over and stood really close to me. Really close, like he was in my personal space. And at first I was like, what’s with this, you know, because it wasn’t like there was a shortage of space, but you know when someone’s in your space you feel really uncomfortable? So I moved over, to give him space to sit down, and I carried on reading my magazine.

But I’d lost my focus and I was thinking about this guy, now. He didn’t move to sit down next to me, but he spoke to me, he said, “I wonder if you could help me.” He was really old, like in his seventies, and he smelt of alcohol.

And he said, “Oh, I’ve just been today to my sister’s funeral, and I was wondering if could you assist me to a taxi because I need to get over there.”

And I was like, ok, of course I can help you, but I was a bit miffed at first, because it was like – no wait, he didn’t say that at first, he just came over and said can you help me to a taxi.

And I thought, they’re just over there, they’re no distance at all, and he’s made it here from wherever, presumably a train. So why’s he come over to talk to me, you know? And afterwards, I felt really guilty for thinking this, for thinking, is this some sort of scam, is he some kind of perve, but actually, it’s natural isn’t it? To think that. Because no one comes up to you and talks to you in London, you have a kind of open privacy, where everyone can see you but no one talks to you. Everyone has this kind of personal space bubble, and when you’re in it, you don’t talk to strangers.

And I know that – I reckon I’ve got the kind of face, you know the kind of personality, that’s open and foreigners and tourists come up to me and ask me for directions. But this one old man, he smelt of booze and I thought, what’s he after?

But, then it was no distance at all, my train wasn’t for ages, and I could see everyone else rushing past not looking, and now he’d asked me, so what could I do? I couldn’t like say no once he’d asked me, I obviously had nothing better to do.

So I got up to help him, and he was pretty drunk, you know? His jacket was all crinkled, and his white shirt had this big blotchy red wine stain down it, and he stank of booze, and he was like, “I’ve got to lean on you.”

So I had his suitcase by the arm, and he told me to put my other arm round his waist, right? But I just thought, let’s get this done, and I started leading him across to the taxis, but obviously we were walking really slow, and he wants to lean on me, and I’m thinking why, and I later found out he was limping, but he was just all like “I’ve got to lean on you”, so I was being cautious.

And we stopped for a break, about half way there, and then he really announced it to me, all of a sudden; “I’ve just come from my sister’s funeral,” all clear and precise, and then he started crying.

And what do you do in that situation? I tried to be comforting, and say the right things, like “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” and then I didn’t know what to say, and he was crying.

“Where was the funeral?”

“Out in Bournemouth. I went over there last night, the funeral was this morning. She died of cancer.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, that’s awful. Was it unexpected?”

“There were a few months notice, but there was no time to do anything. She was younger than me,” he said, “she was younger, she was only 82.”

And most of the time, I didn’t say anything, he just talked and I said sympathetic things, and I started to ask him questions, thinking it might help him to talk it out. He said he lived alone, out in Shepherd’s Bush in a flat, and sometimes a neighbour comes in, but if he dies in his flat, like no one would know. He didn’t seem to have any kids, well he didn’t mention any. Some of the time I asked questions, and he just sort of stared.

At one point I realised he was leading the way, looking straight ahead, not looking at me, and he was going the wrong way, and I said “No, no, the taxis are over here,” and he said, “No, it’s this way,” but we could see the taxis by this point, so I pointed them out.

And he said “I’ve not got long now, myself,” and I thought maybe he had cancer too, but he didn’t say, but he repeated it, and, and then he thanked me for helping him. He was very polite.

And I explained slowly and politely that we were about to get to some steps, and that he should just take his time, no rush, and he, he thanked me again, and I walked at his pace down the steps, he was really leaning on me heavy, and I didn’t want him to fall and hurt himself. I was being careful of the limp, and I was encouraging him, you know, not to give up hope, you know? Trying to be cheery. And I was like “It’s no fun getting old, is it?”

And when we were halfway down, this woman and man came over and the woman asked us if we needed any help?

So I said I was taking him to a taxi, and she asked me where the taxi was to, and I said, “Oh, no, I’m not, not with him, I’m just helping out.” So the old man told her Shepherd’s Bush. She was in her thirties, and she was very helpful, she went over and got a taxi to come to the bottom of the steps, and told the driver where he was going, and to wait. And he started telling them the same story, that he was coming from his sister’s funeral in Bournemouth, and the man was really sympathetic and took the bag, and put it in the boot.

We all helped him into the taxi together, and got his legs in on the passenger seat at the back, and he pressed my hands together and it was like, like, god bless you, and he smiled at me, a kind of worn-out smile, and still crying, but he said, “you’re a Samaritan, you really are, you’re all Samaritans. Thank you. Thank you very much.” And the woman closed the door, and the taxi drove off, and she and the man left into the station.

I stood there for a minute in the heat, and thought about it, and I got all emotional and went and sat down somewhere quiet. It was a real mix of emotions, ‘cause I sort of thought, why did he come up to me, why, did he choose me? I sort of felt quite honoured.

I called up Sarah and told her, and I think I even cried a bit. ‘Cause he was such a sweet old man, and it must be horrible to have your younger sister die before you, and feel all alone.

But I’ve thought about it since, and wondered if it was all an act, a way to get help from people, but that’s a horrible thing to think, isn’t it? And then I felt bad for questioning it, you know?

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I’ve been playing with writing in a different voice, and it’s actually a lot of fun to be a step further distant from the action – it means I feel more comfortable editing details, for a start, and I got to have a little go at being an unreliable narrator. Hope you like it!

“A giant visits the river source”

Just discovered something new about me and writing – I do it more when I’m cold!

Sant Pol de Mar
Sant Pol de Mar

It’s hot here in Barcelona at the moment, so I may try and do more of my writing on the balcony on breezy days and in the shade, rather than in my room. because even with the window full on open, I get too hot to think and go all dopey. Considering this is early May, this doesn’t bode well for July…. last year, I lived in a cool marble palace, so I survived the summer. This year…. not so much.

Anyway, the task I set myself last time was to take a long and heavy Sestina poem about a river, and make it something shorter and snappier. I considered doing a Sestina myself, but one of the inherent difficulties with the form is that it means the poem has to be six and a half verses long. It lends itself to a story progression, rather than a series of dialogues on the same theme, which this river poem was. The writer’s choice of the word “current” to end lines was a particularly troublesome one. Look at these, taken from different verses:

“Wildlife from all worlds visit my current”

“Another day, another hour just me and my current.”

“Photos capture my good and bad current”.

“The banks contain my stronger more powerful current”

and

“My temper can flare and exaggerate my current.”

Maybe in the not too distant future I’ll write a poem in which I try to redeem the poetic value of the word “current”. Wish me luck.white flower river

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What I actually have for you tonight is a poem I wrote this evening on the theme of rivers. But rather than restrict myself to following the style of the first one, I’ve taken it off in a different direction. I wrote a second one that is like the original, but in a different voice. Just re-read it, and it’s a pile of steaming bilge, so I’ll hold on to that one for now.

This one is a first draft – I’ve not slept on it yet, so I’m sure it’s packed full of flaws. Enjoy.

“A giant visits the river source”

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A giant visits the river source

once a year, walking in the hills,

and when he cries, the water swells

and when he laughs, he scatters flowers –

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big bright flowers with no name

that gracefully dance downstream.

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I wait for happy years with reverence,

my shore solemnity meets his joy.

In sad years, I swim in the murk

and dip my feet to the bottom.

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Come back this weekend for a finished short story!

Conciseness, Regardless

As a gift from a flatmate, I got this magazine called “First Edition”, with 18 amateur Short Stories, and some poems too. While some of the stories were awful in their own individual ways, it’s a real treat to read through something imperfect and see the flaws, and learn from them. That said, I have found one short story that totally surprised me (called “Time Line” by Peter Marshall), so I shouldn’t go into reading these stories with an automatic superior sneer.

I also found a poem that shall remain nameless, for fear of Google Searches. It was a poem about a river, and here is a sample verse:

Down I trickle softly and gently

Rippling and darting during my flow

On cold dark days I travel fast and wild

Shadows of trees cast by the glistening sun

In summer and spring stillness affects my current

Cold winds brush against my surface water.

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brook

I may as well mention that the whole poem is 6 verses  of the same and similar, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, but it’s designed so the final word of each line, “gently, flow, wild, sun, current, water” is repeated in each verse in a different order.   No wonder it sounded repetitive.

This actually brings out what I consider one of my biggest weaknesses – piling adjective upon adjective (upon descriptive noun). Even in that extract I posted Mid-Week, the line I considered powerful was “your slow, tedious ascent” – two adjectives together, and the “slow” is pretty well explained in the “tedious” anyway.

So why do I do it? Partly so it fits some kind of internal rhythm known only to me. And partly because I believe that sometimes a piling up of adjectives is more powerful. In spoken conversation, it would be like thrnking of an adjective, then thinking of a better one, which multiplies the first. Which is usually how I come up with them.

Anyway, my writing task for my Midweek post is to take the complete and unwieldy poem above and trim it to something better.

In the meantime, here’s another river-related poem – and one of the first poems I wrote.

Regardless

The stream rolled on regardless

Bending, burbling on

Under the shelter of the bare sycamore.

It ran, full to the grassy banks

Glistening in the dying blush of day.

Even with that little light

You can still see cool pebbles at the bottom,

And the shadows dancing over them.

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A score of yards upstream, its path is stark

And wedged tight by tall concrete pillars

Over which the motorway runs.

There, constant carbon wilts the brookside flower,

And it is never dark, for when sunlight fades,

Two new rivers appear each night

Crawling against each opposite course,

One blinding white, one warning red,

The streams roll on, regardless.

Regardless
Regardless

Clarity and My Own Voice

Today, I am sorry to say, I have no new work for you. But that’s okay, because I feel like I’ve learned a few things about writing this week anyway, and that’s kind of the point of this blog.

blue-carpet

My Voice

This week, I’ve been working on an old poem of mine, confusingly called “Shark”, about my Grandmother’s ocean-blue carpeted staircase. I’ve been updating it, taking that old poem and putting a twist on the end – that we are getting a stairlift put in after her stroke.

While this is progressing quite well, I came up with this image for the final lines –

“….. in the construction of your slow, tedious ascent.”

This is causing me problems, because I like the image, and think it’s powerful, but with the heavenly connotations of “ascent”, calling it “tedious” in respect to my own grandmother’s health is callous and not what I truly feel.

So what do I do? Do I sacrifice an image because it’s not my voice, or keep it for its strength and feel bad about the sentiment it portrays?

I’ve decided, for now, to keep it. Hopefully the controversial interpretation will shock people into a positive reaction from this poem, and learn from it. But your input is appreciated. I’m still wrestling with this one.

Clarity

Gathering dust on my computer is a novel that I started to write years and years ago, that I really need to settle down and GET DONE, just so I can go back through it and fix it. I don’t want to tinker and tinker with an unfinished work – it needs the plot, on the page, so it can get messed with. Every now and again, I get little ideas connected with it. This lesson is actualy one my mother tried to teach me years ago, and I partially disregarded it because I thought “she just doesn’t get Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

A key ingredient of Fantasy, and to a lesser degree Sci-Fi, is escapism You are reading to enter another world, not your own. A key ingrediant of Sci-Fi, and to a lesser degree Fantasy, is to reflect our world, by providing a different one and making a point about our world through it.

Here is an extract from the start of a chapter of “Matter”, by Iain M. Banks, a gift from my brother. It’s four chapters in, but it-s a total swtich in scene, and style from everything to this point

“Utaltifuhl, the Grand Zamerin of Sursamen-Nariscene, in charge of all Nariscene interests on the planet and its accompanying solar systerm and therefore – by the terms of the mandate the Nariscene held under the auspices of the Galactic General Council – as close as one might get to overall ruler of both, was just beginning the long journey to the 3044th Great Spawning of the Everlasting Queen on the far-distant home planet of his kind when he met the director general of the Morthanveld Strategic Mission to the Tertiary Hulian Spine – paying a courtesy call to the modest but of course influential Morthanveld embassy on Sursamen – in the Third Equatorial Transit Facility high above Sursamen-s dark, green-blue pocked Surface.”

Holy moley, that’s one sentence. At this point of the story, none of these words meant anything to me. This is the kind of passage that would put off someone new to Modern Science Fiction – like me (I read H.G Wells and Jules Verne and utterly devour them). The whole chapter was a blur, but for those who are interested, let me explain:planet-plum

Sursamen – planet of the story (didn’t know it’s name before this)

Nariscene and Morthanveld – two freaky-deaky alien races that don’t much care about the planet, but are in charge.

I’m many chapters further into the story now, and that’s all the relevant information in that terrifying first sentence.

My mother’s lesson was this – “don’t overload on the names”. Names are thought to be the lifeblood of Sci-Fi and Fantasy and THAT IS TOTALLY WRONG. Sure, you might want it to sound official, but there’s no real need to. It almost made me put this book down, and Iain M. Banks is internationally recognised as an excellent storyteller with masses of well-known books. So why the total alienation of the reader?

So when I do go back to my story, I’m going to keep it simple. Sure, there’ll be titles and place names, but too many places and you’re lost (maps can almost fix this), too many names and you’re confused, and too much politican-speak, and the reader will lose interest.

If you want to see lots of names and places done well, I recommend you look at Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide”.

And that’s all from me for this Mid-Week post.