Archive | October 2015

Uncle Josh Contemplates Narrative Bookends

As part of my online writing course, someone asked for a critique of a story that she felt wasn’t working. I offered to blather about it a bit. One of her concerns was the ending falls flat. There was a decent enough emotional ending, but I think I understand her feeling. The rough story: Inspector on unpleasant field work. The draft I have is 8 pages long. The first 6 and a half pages take place in the field, the last page and a half in the office, where the narrator learns she actually suceeded in the external task of the story.

In my commentary, I suggested that this feels wrong because it is only one half of a pair of bookends. If the story started in the office, went to the field, and returned, then the bookends may work better. Alternatively, cutting the setting of the ending and keeping it in the field brings the end closer to the meat of the story. By this point, the world building was well enough established that a few paragraphs of inner angst while driving home were just inner angst, which the narrator could have had anywhere.

Then I looked at one of my short stories which has gone through every major market and several smaller markets. My story starts in the narrator’s office to set up the story problem, then transfers a coffee house date where the rest of the story happens. I, too, only have one half of a pair of bookends. Maybe there’s a way to fix it, and maybe there’s a market or two left where I can send it, otherwise, it’s off to Smashwords if I can figure out what the cover should look like.

Uncle Josh Contemplates Narrative Bookends was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

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Uncle Josh Struggles with a Writing Assignment

This post is part ramble, part warm up. I’ve been taking a MOOC from the Univserty of Iowa called How Writers Write Fiction, because I find taking classes can spur me to write when the rejection letters get too heavy on me. This is week three, and the focus is on plot. Here is the assignment:

Write a story with any number of characters (these can be newly created characters or borrowed from your Class Session 1 and 2 writing assignments), where an external force demands that a character or all the characters jump into action.

No problem there. The thing I wrote for Session 1 was a scene froma story I’ve been trying to write since 2006 or so. Here’s the second part:

Additionally, include in the story a separate decision made by a character/the characters that does not result directly from the external force.

And….this is where everything I think I know about writing and plot goes out the window. From what I think I know, this second bit will simply destract from the story, deviate from what is necessary. I have a rough plot of the story I’ve been trying to complete. I used the Seven-Sentence Story to put together some causes and effects. I had hoped to use this story during this class for source material, but the assignment doesn’t help that story particularly well. At least, it feels like I’m shoe-horning something into the story to make this assignment work. I’ve alse been telling this story in close third person with only one viewpoint, and this assignment feels like I’m going to need multiple POVs or good omniscient narrator, neither of which I have much practice with.

Have I really spent so little time writing this way? I think so. Looking back on my writing so far, there aren’t a lot of experiments. One favorite story of mine had 5 or 6 narrative voices (it also has 12 rejection letters so far, which is almost the point of self-publising for me), but that was written 11 years ago.

I think I can apply this to the story I want to finish, but I think this “random decision” is going to end up being the result of a secondary action, another character’s response to the initial external force.

Or maybe I should give up and take up pig farming.

Uncle Josh Struggles with a Writing Assignment was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Annotates the Nicene Creed

An internet-friend of mine posted a link to this article by Anglican News, which discusses the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. This is the formal name for the “and the son” bit that was added to “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of live, who proceeds from the Father.”

I’ve noticed it missing from the Creed a few times, but I had never stopped to question it until I read this article, and now I guess it’s time for me to post my personal corrections to the Nicene Creed.

Right now there are five things I do not say:

Through Him all things were made
Jesus is, for me, a very human Jesus, not the Jesus/Word of God from the Gospel of John.
For us and for our salvation
In general, I reject the intercessory idea that we can’t be good by God unless someone is nailed to a tree. I also have a problem believing that Jesus was thinking about everyone who would ever live after He was gone, simply because a) that’s a lot of souls and unknown sin to carry up to heaven, and b) Jesus mentioned the end of the world was coming soon, and even promised his followers that they would see it. Metaphor or not, I don’t think Jesus was thinking about the 21st century, but the very real problems he saw in the temple and in the way the church was behaving.
I do say the second part of this statement: He came down from heaven. On a good day, though, I am tempted to apply that to all children.
For our sake
Much for the same reasons above. Josh English wasn’t on His mind.
…in accordance with the Scriptures
This has always bugged me. Every time I read anything that points out that Jesus fulfilled some prophecy, I suspect that the reporting is falsified. They had an idea of what the messiah would do, and they wrote those stories in. I think they’re more propaganda than anything else.
This is underlined by my belief that Jesus is Lord not because of any action (birth, baptism, miracles, death) but because of what He taught.
…and the Son
I’m adding this one. Starting now. If I don’t need the Word of God from the Gospel of John, I don’t need the Son creating the Spirit.

Of course, all this is Trinitarian doctrine, which is a funny thing in itself. It’s a complex contradiction of One God in Three Persons, one of which (the Spirit) is best left unpersonified. It is understandable how some from other traditions (and even some Christian traditions) see this as polytheism, which it isn’t. It’s not even henotheism, which I think most of us secretly are anyway.

I have been asked in the past about why I can participate in a church without believing everything in the Creed, and the answer is almost simple: The Episcopal Church is not dogmatic. The number of things the Church asks you to believe are very small. The number of things the Church asks you to do, however, is quite long and based on several principals stated in the Baptismal Covenant. (Even this is a set of guidelines. I’ll have to explore them later.)

Besides, the Nicene Creed is a statement of faith for the whole body. There are people in the Church who need these statements to be True (capitalization intended). I am not one of them.

Uncle Josh Annotates the Nicene Creed was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much