Tag Archives: Dire doubts

Meet the nice guys: Exilian

Tradition demands to start the New Year withs some fancy vows. “Resume going to the gym”. Or  “replace the kitchen faucet” .  That kind of thing. Familiar with the exercise? Aware of the futility? Thought you would be. Probably a shared trait, among sapients, across solar systems.

Three weekly runs at the gym are fun. They do happen. With or without vows. Whereas that faucet… It does look bad. Duly noted. Ever since we moved in. A couple of years back. But it just looks bad. No leaking. It can be considered ecologically sustainable. Why replace it, now?

Instead of participating in the vow exercise I have decided to start the year by breaking with a tradition.

This site was created to keep my fiction writing well apart from my day job. I make a surprising amount of money generating non-fiction. Theres is also an abundance of calls and meetings involved. And some walking around an office building. To fetch drinks and cookies, to attend meetings, or to combine both activities. And the occasional bout of thinking. But my output basically consists of non-fiction.

The last thing I need, in my spare time, is duplicating my day job. Especially without getting paid for it. Non non-fiction writing.

So far, so rationale, so implemented. Since 2014. No non-fiction pieces for other platforms.

But some guys are so nice you can’t resist: Pleased to introduce you to Exilian, the project that made me break my vow. By providing a little Lagos digression. Even got myself an account…

Writer’s amnesia

Today, it happened again. This is scary. First time I was subjected to the phenomenon, my inner hypochondriac suspected early stage Alzheimer. He insisted on doing the usual tests. Results just fine.

So what the hell is this? The admin alerts me to a new comment on Inside the box. Vaguely remember the plot. Wonder how long ago I wrote this. Not recently enough for the post to feature on the front page. Select “Words to Go” tag to get all the shorts.

First reaction: Cool, this does add up. As the admin suggested at the onset of the project: “You worry too much, Troim. You won’t even notice one short per month. That’s totally unlike novels. No risk to get obsessed with those characters.”

True enough. Scrolling down the list, I don’t even recognise the names. I mean, I’m lousy at recollecting names in real life. Used to this handicap leading to countless episodes of embarrassment. I’m name deaf. Recall the person, or some shared occasion. Draw a blank for the names. First and last. Bad.

Not recognising the names of characters I invented earlier this year, and struggling to recollect the plot, that’s worse.

Feels like disrespect. The major characters of my novels, and of the 1KYears series, they’re closer to me than some day job colleagues. (More interesting, too. But that’s beside the point here. And not a nice thing to say, about colleagues). The poor heroes of the shorts, they get forgotten faster than the tram driver spotted through the front window.

Wonder if this means anything, regarding depth and quality? One more question I probably won’t dare raising on LinkedIn.


One more question for the experts on LinkedIn: How bad a sign is it, if you get obsessed with your characters?

This is very much like real life falling in love, only worse.

In real life, past a certain age, you’re familiar with the phenomenon, and know the acute phase won’t last. Either the subject of your desires is within reach, and things will calm down. Or it isn’t, and you’ll face up to this fact, sooner or later.

No such resolution with your characters. As long as they remain active, for the duration of a particular project, they’re here to stay.

And not just the tip of the iceberg the readers will meet.

The writers privilege, or nuisance, is total acquaintance. You’ve got access to the character’s backstory and family history, for the simple reason that you’re the one who came up with it. You have peeked into every nook and cranny. You know them better than they do, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to imagine scenarios where they surprise themselves. In a plausible way.

You check your slides to prepare for a day job meeting, see an arrow and wonder which shade of red colour sensitive character x would have selected. You have a toilet break and stay just that little bit longer because you’re revisiting a pivotal scene involving character x. You ride home on public transport and miss your stop because a fellow passenger stands like character x would.

The longer the project lasts, the worse the obsession gets. And it’s not only character x piling in on you. The whole cast gets ever more prone to showing up outside writing slots.

Such symptoms may suggest a mental health issue.

Nope, wrong guess. With privileged access to professionals this explanation was easy to discard. Especially as the symptoms vanish once the last round of rewriting is completed.

No pathology involved. So far, so good. But what does it mean, for the writer? Is being prone to this kind of obsession, or total plot immersion, a bad sign, signalling lack of distance? Or the contrary?

Last stretch urge

Spent months loving, nurturing, developing, refining and generally never getting enough of my cast. Reach chapter 9 out of 10 and  wham, change of mindset. I just want to get it over with. AFAP.

Judging by what happened with the Pluggers, the last stretch of  Think-o-mat will again consist of a fortnight of tedium. Writing fast and under unfavorable conditions, to get it done. Rewriting a lot, because this way of proceeding ruins a style that is pretty bad in the first place. Without managing to maintain more than a semblance of the low standard achieved in the previous chapters. The last stretch is as much fun as sorting bills. Why?

There isn’t much significance to be gleaned from a sample of two, but twice is much better than no repeatability and now is the perfect time* to speculate about what causes the phenomenon:

  1. The actual fun is less in the writing than in the development of the characters. On the last stretch, they are all set in their ways, the story just rolls on to its denouement. This turns the creative process = fun into work = tedium.
  2. Reaching the end there is no longer any escape from the fact that this is all one big pile of rubbish that should never have been written. The plot, the cast, the style, it all doesn’t make one bit of sense. The daily dire doubts on steroids, minus the chance to escape into plotting the next step.
  3. Writing the finale is no worse than the earlier phases, but awareness of the approaching ordeal ruins the experience. Like trying to enjoy a good movie when you’ve got a dentist appointment scheduled right after it.  Synopsis writing and handling publishing questions would be the root canal therapy equivalents in the authoring business.
  4. Knowing that once cherished characters will soon be abandoned to their very well known fates calls for emotional stabilization, which triggers a kind of premature mourning. If it was still fun, how would you manage to stop writing at the target point?

Enough speculation. A bigger sample is needed first. Perfect time* to ask the subject matter experts on LinkedIn if they struggle with some sort of last stretch phenomenon.

*Perfect time is an euphemism for active shirking. You can only write one piece at any given time. Blogging and posting on LinkedIn postpones the drudge. Oh, and it’s a new month, too. Words to go and the Aspiring Writers Short Story Challenge call for action.


Inside the box

Inside the box

“It’s no worse than an office or a cubicle, Elisa. Will you stop making a fuzz? People were upset, when the first open space workplaces appeared, you know? Saw a documentary about this. One day the workers had each their own office. The next they were assigned cubicles, in a large common room. They suddenly were confronted to each other. Some made a fuzz.”.

Noticing the lack of affirmative response, Sharifa raises her voice: “Why am I telling you this, Elisa? Why talk about offices and cubicles? To remind you that you’ve got a perfectly nice job, of course. Now you go do it. The working conditions are fine. You said so yourself. You told me about the health & safety inspection. You mentioned the certificate confirming everything is in good order. What more do you want? Don’t try telling me you’d prefer to live on basic universal…”.

Elisa, still standing in front of the building, does hate it. Them. Everything. The building, for being her workplace. The raindrops on her glasses, for impeding her vision. The augmented reality feed is all blurred, too. She also hates the rain as such, for making a bad morning even worse. This should be a special day. And the plug inside her left ear, she hates that one, too. For delivering unwelcome encouragement. And Sharifa… No, not Sharifa. She’s not a problem, she’s a solution. Even if she currently sounds like one more mistake. Sharifa is an improvement, compared to her former flat mate. Polymeros, he was a disaster.

Elisa would love to be good at words. Why is it so hard, for Sharifa, to understand she can’t keep doing this? This so called job is an aberration. It’s inhumane, to spent your days at the mercy of weird people. Offices? Cubicles? As if this was just another call center. Some vile clients enjoy their flat rate subscriptions with the RHHB, the Regional Health and Happiness Board. HH as in haha. The acronym is the perfect misrepresentation of average employee job satisfaction.

At the other end, Sharifa takes a deep breath. Freaking out won’t work. She has to play this cool. Slouching on a bean bag chair, vintage 2012, she takes a sip from the replica one-way coffee-to-go cup before resuming the pep talk. Elisa can be so… complicated. Two hours ago, her flat mate stood up, went to the bathroom, had breakfast, summoned a commutopod, folded herself into the guaranteed harassment free mono compartment and rolled off, without one single complaint. Now that she’s there, right in front of her workplace, she starts arguing. Stupid. No wonder she wasn’t considered viable for any more intellectual occupation.

“What’s not to like, Elisa? It’s safe, it’s inside, it’s technology-driven, it’s hygienic,… Your job delivers good marks on pretty much any scales anyone can come up with. Just think of the poor field scavengers following the harvesters. They at least have a reason to complain. Even your hours are good. Every fourth week. When you’re on the 08:00 to 14:00 shift. As you are now. As I hopefully won’t need reminding you. Please look at the watch in your glasses to check, if you don’t believe me. And while you’re at it, please do notice you’re running out of time. If you keep idling in front of that building, you will have to dress up at speed. Don’t you come home moaning about how you had to endure a crease in the gear pinching you mad for six hours…”.

Sharifa trails off again. Sarcasm doesn’t work, on Elisa. She needs a gentle hand. Gentle, but firm. Even for the early shift, the most harmless of the four. Most roboes, as RHHB staff call themselves, are quite comfortable with the early shift. It’s mainly about exercise and shopping, interspersed with a bit of wellness and very few odd requests. Late shifts are far more rowdy. And only the most seasoned and thick skinned employees manage to handle a full week on one of the night shifts without resorting to doping. Antidepressants, mostly.

Sharifa sits up to have another go at exhortations when the little dot on the monitor wall starts moving again. And in the right direction, too. Five more meters. Up the stairs. This is the lock. Hurrah, Elisa is inside. A major milestone. All is not yet won, though. She could still turn around and call it quits. As long as she’s not geared up and plugged in, escape is possible.

This is exactly what Elisa is thinking about, wandering through the hall to reach the elevator. But you don’t get out without an interview. If you try to leave before having performed according to the shift schedule, you will have to explain your motives. All roboes end up in that interview at least once in their careers. Typically early on, in their first or second week. 

It starts harmlessly enough. You get to select your preferred type of voice for the artificial intelligence in charge of human resources: Male, female or hard to tell? Old, young or hard to tell? Intonation oriental, orientav, orienty or plain glob? For anglotrads, please add @ to confirm you claim minority status and wish to be addressed in a complex ancient language.

That’s how the interview starts. Two hours later, you feel like a pile of trash, for having considered leaving without performing. ‘Retroactive depersuasion’, that’s what they call this management technique. Elisa shivers. A six hour shift is bad. Getting interviewed by HR is equally bad. She would like to dissolve into thin air, to avoid both options.

Some of the roboes love to speculate, for hours, about the interview algorithm. It’s supposed to be based on a matrix combining your choice of linguistic interface with your profile. One legend has it that the @ will spare you the worst, whatever your origins and educational achievements. But you need to be more than a bit crazy, to actively claim anglotrad status. Asking to be mobbed, that is. And what if you don’t manage to make sense of the questions? Replete with nuances, the antique lingos. Anglotrad is supposed to be more straightforward than Aramaic, but…

Elisa asked Sharifa for her opinion, on the @ legend, and she just laughed. If Artificial Intelligence algorithms were that simple, she would have made it through the computer science selection process easy. Instead of hitting the wall at level five out of eight and being made to earn the means for her vintage tastes as a mere human medical procedure interface. Better than a roboe, but not a career you proudly mention in sophisticated company. You can’t second guess an artificial intelligence, dumbo. Why not put humans in charge of running RHHB, while you’re at it?

Of all the people Elisa doesn’t like to meet it has to be Polymeros joining her in the elevator. Brimming with service mentality, as usual: “Elisa, isn’t this one wonderful Wednesday? Can’t wait to get online! Just hope it’s not too quiet. Seems like a bit of a lull, lately, doesn’t it? RHHB really need to do more marketing, no offense intended. I had three breaks, yesterday, three! In just one shift! And the longest lasted for upwards of four minutes. Felt like a holiday. I immediately cancelled one of my five days of annual leave, to make up for it…”.

Elisa would love the elevator to accelerate. Instead, it stops at level three. She should have opted for the session with the artificial intelligence. Anything is better than Polymeros. If he got his head stuck into a toilet bowl, you can bet he would scream: “Oh, lovely, a waterfall!”.

She doesn’t know the new entrant by name, but she (most probably she) looks nice sad enough. Especially by comparison. Anything is better than a one-on-one with Polymeros. And she (or would that be he after all?) had business on level three. At this hour, he most probably tried his luck at requesting a reassignment. Only two services, on level three. Vocational counseling and Accident & Emergencies. If you count the row of padded cells as part of A&E, which you should. Nervous overstretch is their biggest occupational hazard.

“…, that would be so nice! Or one more marshmallow addict. Love marshmallow addicts! Did you ever get one of these, Elisa? My last one, he went up to forty six. Forty six! Amazing, what this does to your metabolism. Went on a real high, wanted to keep going. But the emergency stop got triggered. Pity. Whereas your average fancy dress fan, not much happening. You really need to think of an extra, to turn this kind of performance into an experience. Like last night, for example. Because I volunteered for an additional early night shift. Was boring out at home. Just dressing up into a 1899 swimsuit would have been a terrible dud. So I ordered some ice cold water, added a couple of blue ice cubes for additional visual, and splash,…”.

Elisa is glad to see the third floor entrant sharing her feelings. Polymeros, and anyone of his persuasion, will be the first to go when the revolution comes. Perhaps they could be relocated to an island all of their own, the service mentals. Elisa longs for a humane revolution. No killings. Just some gentle relocations. Even though the likes of Polymeros don’t deserve kind treatment. They are every bit as bad as the job itself. Humiliating yourself to provide clients with a live flow of virtual experiences, that’s horrible. Becoming intimately associated with people fancying vanilla pudding, pints of extra sweet vanilla pudding, does ruin your emphatic inclinations. But coworkers pretending to like this nightmare of a job, they are the worst. 

Level eight, finally. Elisa doesn’t want to arrive. But at least she’s getting rid of Polymeros. He rides on to level twelve. Fishy, level twelve. Lots of service mentals. You wonder if they were mad before getting their performance space assigned, or if it’s the level turning them into freaks.

Sharifa was right to tell her to hurry. Elisa is late and has to stop brooding, to put on the captor harness as fast as possible. It might look like a blue catsuit completely covering the roboe’s body, including most of the face, but it is fiendishly difficult to adjust. All sensors need to be in exactly the right place. Feverishly tapping commands on the touchscreen, Elisa forces the material to adapt. All 120 captor point dots need to switch from red to green.

Currently, it’s all green all right. No red dots on display. Except her left ankle feels like shackled. Trying to reposition the captor promptly turns the dot back to red. Bloody fuck-up of a useless technology, will you behave now? It takes her two more attempts to finally achieve both a green dot and a bearable sensation. Someone really should invent a less tight captor harness. But trust the designers not to care. They don’t get to wear this.

Blue. Why does this place have to be so blue? The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the 3D outline of Elisa’s own body, all blue. Only exception: The red emergency stop button that has materialized on the display, next to the countdown signaling she will be online in twelve seconds.

Originally, the red button was intended to provide the roboes with the means to get rid of customers requesting inappropriate action. There are guidelines, and there is a filter, of course. RHHB worries about the potential for scandal anyway. A big company is just one staff error away from fatal scandal, according to Elisa’s trainer. He emphasized their right to cut off customers. In case of improper requests, they are to terminate the connection, at once. Complaint management will handle the rest, including apologies and refunds where necessary. RHHB is a principled employer who will not put staff in harms way.

The emergency stop in practice mostly serves as a pause button. The coffee break concept didn’t make it into modern shift arrangements. But bio breaks are hard to avoid, if you rely on human staff. The sensory stand-in for a customer sampling teas to decide which blend to order will need a bio break, at some stage. Even an artificial intelligence with only the most virtual grasp of the inconveniences associated with a full bladder can accept that input has to be followed by output. And that the next customer is sure to complain, if his experience is perturbed by sensory remnants of previous assignments. RHHB offers a premium service. The clients are made to believe the roboes idle around most of the day, only waiting for them to come up with an idea.

Three, two, one, could have been worse. Elisa’s first job of the day is a workout. To be performed in the body shape of a man. In his fifties. With a serious body mass issue. She looks horrid in this shape. He is sure to have photoshopped the 3D projection to make himself feel good about his appearance. But he’s horrid. The Superman shirt, his idea, makes esthetics worse. But a workout is good. Exercise is fine. Keeps you trim. Allows you to get rid of all the angry feelings.

Amazing how many people believe that remotely experiencing some of the sensations of a roboe exercising on your behalf makes you loose weight. Urban legends…

Elisa puts her heart into it. In her own body shape, this could be borderline pleasant. But doing it for someone else is so degrading. And she has another fourteen years to go. She feels like blowing up the whole place. You don’t get used to this. You can do it for fifty one years, and still hate every single day. And this is no way to celebrate your seventy first birthday.

We are not alone

Really love a post by Elisabeth Giovani on LinkedIn, about the scares and doubts about not writing in our mother languages. Feels good not to be alone, shared scares are lighter scares!

Funny, though, how we automatically refer to native speakers as arbiters who might grant or refuse us permission to write in English. As if they were familiar with the language we are using.

The globalized non-native English speakers and writers, talking mostly non-fiction here,  have developed their own codes and good verbalization practices, as anyone working in an international environment can testify. The rules are fairly straightforward:

  • Keep it simple: The sentence structure or syntax, the vocabulary, the references, the metaphors, all of what you say or write.
  • Forget about stylistic aspirations. Achieving comprehension is hard enough without additional handicaps.
  • Try to avoid cultural references that don’t travel easily. Keep in mind that your Fridays are some else’s Sundays.
  • Think before joking. Humor has the nasty tendency to rely on prejudices that might well be mutually exclusive.

In the world of anglophone non-fiction, you get training to understand what you’re up against and learn these rules. Forget abut elegance. Keep it simple or the plane won’t fly. Those who are not willing to adjust don’t last long.

Making a living in this universe doesn’t prepare you well for encounters with the anglophone fiction writers guild. Turns out the bad English we have been using for decades didn’t make it into this particular sphere. OK, point taken. Think-o-mat is too well advanced to reformat the American and British characters. Starting with the following project, the full cast and the narrator will be non-native speakers. Pity there are no non-native agents and publishers.

With friends like these…

With friends like these…

Dustin has never been a fan of navigating the Rhône-Sète canal, but now he’s considering to quit. Fine to spend his days with the cargo ghosts. Without, his job would be a lonely affair. But this is an outrageous proposal. Oilyboy is a naughty number.

With a soy ghost, you’d expect no good. Agro bulk never means anything but trouble.

Pity he got himself sacked from ContiCross. When he was ferrying around containers full of gadgets, he got Whizzby. She was so nice to look at. With a more substantial body, she could have been a top model. No, not skinny enough. A 1950 pin up girl. Whizzby was pleasant conversation, too. Being on a first name basis with so many tablet cores, she was a treasure trove of news.

Another three hours to go. 4,000 tons upstream, you need to push real hard.

“Whales complaining about oceanic noise pollution should come try a high traffic river!”

Oilyboy won’t give up. Never does. Dustin is well aware his fellow traveler can’t have a clue, about whales. He’s not biological, how would he? It’s surprising enough he manages to make himself heard. They should at least mention the phenomenon, in the physics manuals for school. Or someone could do a YouTube tutorial. Like the one on how to launch rocket propelled grenades.

The real Oilyboy is bound not look like an tango dancer right out of Argentina. Cargo ghosts are called ghosts for a reason. They make your brain hear and see a humanized version of themselves. Originally, according to Whizzby, who was very much into interspecies politics, to complain about the disturbance. It’s low frequency noise creating disruption, in their subsoil world. They used to ignore surface roaming biological entities, for lack of common issues. Except mammoths, mastodons and elephants, the rare low frequency offenders in the good old days.

When Dustin heard his first cargo ghost, he was still a trucker. It was back home in Wales and he had seven tons of chilled pork halves on board. The worst possible cargo for a first encounter.

Dustin dutifully reported himself to a general practitioner who referred him to a psychiatrist who prescribed antipsychotic drugs. He was a good boy and took them. His neck went stiff, as the medic had foretold. The stuff was also supposed to shut down any alternative reality sights and sounds.

Pinkypally didn’t mind, about the neuroleptic. Obviously, it wasn’t her shoulders aching. She was too weak to achieve more than a faint hint of a slender silhouette for an image. But her voice was clear enough. You could have sliced pork with her laughs. She was brutal, in her comparisons between humans and livestock. Sent him veggie, for days at a time.

Doing six pork runs a week, for half a year, he had ample time to get used to Pinkypally. Eventually, she calmed down. Occasionally, she engaged in meaningful conversation. Explained, about the Beneathverse. Something about geology. And vibrations condensing into sentient structures. And more, some q-thing. Physicist stuff. Someone really should do a TED talk.

He got hooked on cargo ghosts. It’s special, being chums with these guys. Human friends and likes on social networks? Forget it. Humans are boring. Like when you go pub. Or bar café, as the pubs are called down here. You know who’s there, before entering. You can guess what they’ll say. And your own response, too. Except for the football results, there is no news. Whereas a cargo ghost, she can be a him in a blink. If she wants to. A big if with some, like Pinkypally. She was a nuisance, most of the time. But he owes her anyway.

He soon wanted more than a mere truckload shadow. The bigger the heap, and the engine, the more massive the ghost. You can spend your life waiting by an apple cart vroomed at by a generator, nothing will happen. Whereas a lorry full of gravel puffing up a hill might get you a date with Crusher. Looks like feeding on nails, gentle as a puppy. Dreams of marrying a garden gnome. And please do make that a neon blue and yellow one.

Dustin wanted more. He pulled himself together, fought hard for his license. Transoceanic container ships provide the most stunning encounters. Some folks even whisper of haptic 3D experiences. But a high seas captain’s patent was beyond his means, and they only take Asians for sailors these days. So he became a river skipper, moving first to Belgium and then on to France in his quest to be put in charge of ever bigger boats. Until that bloody accident set him back.

“Come on, Dustin. What’s the problem? You’ll love it.”

Oilyboy fills most of his field of vision, grinning from ear to ear. He’s standing right inside the front window, on no floor. Some cargo ghosts get it, how people and objects interact. Not Oilyboy. Impossible to mistake him for a real person, despite the precisely crafted mustache. He’s always either floating above or sinking into, not standing on. Now he’s thrusting his pelvis forward, in a gesture even more obscene than the perfidy he’s proposing. It’s really hard, not to reprimand aloud. Time to think firmly.

Courtesy of Whizzby, Dustin is aware Oilyboy is only partly to blame, for his bad manners. It’s a severe handicap, to consist of vibrations sharing a structure with foodstuff. Digestion. What goes in goes out. Small wonder the agro bulk ghosts are so ill tempered. They’ve seen it all.

How long has this phone been ringing? Picking it up and seeing the icon, Dustin braces himself: “Laafi, chérie, so good to hear your voice!” Aminata is from Mali and can occasionally be softened by greeting her in Mossi. Not today.

She strikes back, voice sharp and hard: “Don’t you dare laafi-chérie me, bozo. Who is it? You’re up to something, not hearing the phone like that. If you crash one more…”.

No need to listen to this bullshit, he’s done nothing wrong: “Calm down, chérie. I’ve got a job to do, here. Steering a boat requires action, can’t just pick up the phone at all times. That would be unsafe, and you certainly don’t want unsafe, right?”.

Oilyboy grimacing doesn’t help with this conversation. Sucker. Whizzby would never have interfered. Too keen to observe humans interacting with each other. Like a zoologist.

Turns out Aminata has a good reason to call. The generator they’ve been looking for has finally popped up on eBay. Bargain, self-collectors only, a mere eighty kilometers to drive. Aminata already checked with Camille, a parcel service driver living two houses down. He can make himself and his delivery van available on Saturday, in exchange for Dustin helping fix the roof. Deal.

Shoving the phone back into his trouser pocket, Dustin looks forward to the first trial run on Sunday. The new generator combined with the amplifier he already bought, set up in the courtyard of the cement factory next to a pile of sacks, that’s worth a try. Massimo, a trucker friend from Italy employed there, has the keys to the gate and will let them in. Would be cool, if Crusher turned up. He’s friends with both him and Massimo, there’s a chance.

“Come on, Dustin, don’t be such a wimp.” Oilyboy is couching in mid air, staring at him. Why can’t he at least pretend to lie on some flying carpet? Lack of logic always makes Dustin itch. He thinks, forcefully: “Shut up. Me, I’ve got a Christmas present for my kids to plan. Sick of telling them fairy tales myself. They’ll get a cargo ghost, home delivery.”.

Oilyboy flips back to what would be a standing position if he was touching the floor: “Fine, Dustin, fine. Good plan. And next you’ll invent an app. Any kind of home delivery has an app. But first you need to do it. Be a man. A real man. Act. And we film it. And we post it. It will make you feel better.” And the pelvic thrust gesture again. This cargo ghost is a nuisance.

“Remember how they make you slave. You, who should steer a proud container convoy, reduced to puttering along with mere agro bulk. It’s not fair. A real man fights back.“

Dustin gives up, as he knew he would. Taking great care to set the autopilot correctly, this time, he steps out of the cabin and opens the lid covering the first bulk compartment. Look around. No one. Look upwards. No drones. Camera in one hand. Relevant anatomy in the other. And go.

Oilyboy is doing what would be a tap dance if his legs were visible. They’re not, he’s up to the arms in soy: “Yes, Dustin! Like the burger flippers spitting between the buns! You’re a genius, Dustin.“

This is so stupid. But there will be his piss in the soy that goes into the beef that goes onto the burger that goes into some idiot ruining rainforests.

Heading back to his cabin and steering wheel, Dustin knows Aminata will love the little film. As long as he doesn’t crash and get himself sacked, she’s all in favor of cargo ghost pranks. That’s how she got herself married, after all.

Narrative beats

Amazing, the amount of terminology one needs to master to discuss book quality issues. Newest addition, courtesy of Ally Machate, owner of The Writer’s Ally via LinkedIn: ‘Beat’, as in narrative beats.

Repetitive beats as one major cause of boredom, makes loads of sense. Even novice me experiences occasional rewriting urges associated with a feeling of ‘We’ve been there, haven’t we?’. The plot needs to progress, or the character to reveal one more trait, stalling is no good. But where to stop the pruning and condensing?

Can’t there be some fun in discovering how a previously revealed attitude becomes manifest in a novel situation? The personality-savvy reader enjoying to be able to guess how a certain character will struggle through a particular adversity?

I do wonder and won’t ask yet. One more future question. In the meantime, lets pay attention to the beats. This weekend will see one more back to beginnings rewriting round for Think-o-mat anyway.


Obsessed with visuals

In principle, Think-o-mat doesn’t progress too badly, on the plot and character side of issues. Chapter 6 will be available by the end of the week. But style remains a huge concern…

The third language issue is solved by having been declared a feature.

Rewriting after a gap of at least one day is both a must and fine. At least half of the first version of any scene is found guilty of verbosity and goes trash while the rest is subjected to mood stress tests and has to survive a couple of permutations. So far, so fine. Long live the memory of Saint Steve, inventor of the tablet without all this wouldn’t be possible.

What really sucks is my obsession with optical balance. No writer should worry about a single small word ending up all alone in a new line. This is irrelevant. In todays eWorld, line breaks vary according to gadgets. I know it. I tell myself to ignore optical balance. And end up spending time on dreaming up constructions that don’t sound too bad while looking more balanced. Bad Troim! Probably correlated to my Duck-on-Wall tick. Or trick.

Wonder if other writers, especially real, professional ones, experience similar kinds of bias. Don’t dare raise the question in one of the LinkedIn groups. Yet.

Third language travails

One of the disadvantages of writing in a third language is the occasional confrontation with gaps. Had to look up the definition of ‘aside’, just to be on the safe side when using this format option.

Turns out it means as suspected. Phew. Got really close to a dire doubt here. Except one of the reasons for this whole project is a little revenge. Anglo-american linguistic dominance forces a whole generation of specialists who never aspired to linguistic brilliance to spend our days writing and speaking a foreign language, badly.

If we keep increasing our numbers at the present rate, we’ll soon be the majority determining style. Yep, I know this is a ghastly outlook. Hurts me less than thou, though.