the pilgrimage begins

The Pilgrim has the unique privilege of traversing the leagues of open  ocean separating the nations of Eormen.  They have seen countless peoples, the overwhelming majority with no experience of any other society, any other religion, any other culture than their own.

The Pilgrim, for their part, is neutral – merely a collector of stories.

But The Pilgrim understands. They have seen too many monsters not to notice the similarities. The dragons terrorising The Drylands are the same as those threatening the tiny nations who can see every edge of the known world from the one hill their island possesses.

They are at the same time identical and vastly different.

The Pilgrim understands this, and moreover observes that in every case, the isolation of these nations reduces the probability of salvation to almost zero – unless that salvation comes from the people themselves.

And The Pilgrim learns.

They learn how each little world leads its own destiny, how each little world faces up to their part in creating the monsters who threaten them, and how brave but otherwise normal men and women go about vanquishing them.

And those that do not?

They sink into the endless sea of Eormen.

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John Falconer is nothing special.  When he was born he was the wrong sort of person.  At school he was the wrong sort of person.  When it was time to make something of himself he was the wrong sort of person.

John Falconer will never be great.

What he is, is curious. He is open.  And he knows what is right and what is wrong.  Despite being the wrong sort of person, he is the sort that is treasured by the right people: a good, honest, and dependable man.

With Falconer, you know where you are.  Geniuses appreciate this.  Royalty prizes this.  Even evil has to respect this.

And so it is that even the wrong sort of person can have great adventures..

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Go to the top of the page and click ‘Menu & Widgets’ to navigate the site if you don’t fancy trawling through the entire blog.  The ‘Stories’ page is precisely that, stories written by The Pilgrim or by John Falconer.  The posts are arranged alphabetically, and right at the bottom is the option to search by category.

Read, spend some time, relax, shoot me a line.

Peace,

J

old and new

At just before midnight last night, and thanks to a writing prompt from Chasing Dreams Publishing, I got the motivation to write a brand new piece of flash.  The writing prompt was simply some words which had to be included in the story – those words are the penultimate line, if it still matters.

I didn’t exactly know where it was going at first, but then slowly I got the idea that this character was racing death to do something for herself, and it all went from there.  I hope you enjoy it.

Old And New

In the morning they sailed into the sun. It lit the water ahead and either side of them, turning the waves to molten bronze. She stared. Over the side, wood and tar meshed into one, living materials bound together to make new life. Brown wood and black tar, it stretched away until it all turned to gold. If the ship hadn’t been so damn tall, she would have thrown her arms into the water to the shoulder, soaking up the light and washing the old world from her like soot.

With the sun overhead they sailed on. Blue above, blue below. The old world was far behind them now and there was nothing to be seen in any direction except that blue, so empty. So alone. They told her to wait below while the day was at its hottest but she couldn’t bear it – somebody had to care for the sea and sky. She coughed into her handkerchief, put it away without looking at it.

When she did that twice more, they urged her below decks with their hands on her forearms.

She dreamed that the sun was at her back, that it opened her dress up like a sail and swept her up into the sky. She sighed with relief – the blue would be alone no more! But like all dreams it ended, and she awoke, and through the wood that was once alive she heard all the others shifting, snoring, moaning. She went back on deck.

Now the sun was nowhere, and this time she looked into her handkerchief when she coughed, wiping the viscous fluid from her lips and inspecting it in the moonlight. The romantic part of her saw silver; every other part saw dark red.

The captain was about. He inspected his crew briefly, giving soft orders and small, inconsequential corrections. He was a good man, they said. A brave man. Satisfied, he left the deck and went back below.

In the port, he had kissed her hand.

The days slipped by. She spent more time below decks, mercifully cut off from the other passengers’ sight – but they could hear her. Some made soothing sounds to her through the timber, though in the end most of them begged her to stop. Stop coughing and let them sleep. She didn’t blame them. It was a noisy, unpleasant business. In the old world she would have been bedridden. In the new world, perhaps, too. But this was neither, this was a world of silver and bronze, a world of blue skies and black tar where sunlight made you fly.

But like all journeys, it ended, and they carried her to the shore, and her dress flowed through their hands, and her necklace clinked softly with every step. She didn’t speak. Her eyes fluttered. They held her still. Finally she forced her eyelids open, her pupils wide, then narrowing slowly as the smile grew on her lips.

“My lady?” they asked.

She didn’t speak. Her tongue was dry. The new world was good.

It wasn’t quite what she expected, but still . . .

But still . . .

Emblem Black (2)

the roots of education

It has been an eternity since I last posted.  You will hear no excuses from me – it is how to is.

Without further ado, here’s something I wrote just now.  I would appreciate any feedback as the style is, I think, a little different from how I normally do things.

Bitter Roots

My whole life, I’ve only ever grown one tree. People say to me: Mateusz, if you only grow one thing, you can’t call yourself a farmer.

They may be right – but I do not accept their truth.

For I, Mateusz, know that I am a farmer, and will always be.

The only place this tree can grow is in the desert. It grows quickly and it grows slowly: quickly undergound, a hulking, twisted mass of roots that goes deep, deep, but never shows – slowly, unbearably slowly above.

Other trees put up a shoot, grow tall, then grow strong, but not this one. It pushes up from the ground, already so thick the stoutest man couldn’t embrace it, but still so small that even a child could step over it.

Every day I walk miles to bring it water, and I eat its bitter roots. Every day the tree grows more roots and I choke them down.  With my teeth I grind the brittle, dusty things to powder. The powder cloys, it sticks, and I spare myself a little water so I can swallow. But I am a farmer and I do it gladly, for the tree teaches me.

It teaches me how to mend my shoes, how to protect myelf from the sun, and how to walk all day without getting lost. It teaches me gratitude for my rare visitors with their gifts of honey and beef and bread. It strengthens my will every time I refuse to leave with them. When they are gone, it teaches me who I am.

When the wolves come, it teaches me how to fight.

I will only ever grow one tree, and it is a tree not often farmed. You must toil to grow this tree, and never stop, and live a bare life, and spend much of it alone. If you are lucky, it may take only twenty years to bear fruit.

But then.

You take that fruit back to your village – it’s the sweetest and most delicious fruit in the country, they say – and they sell it, and merchants come from far away, and they buy it, because it is not just the most delicious fruit in the country, it is more than that: there is no other like it in the whole world.

And only you know the secret.

Only you know how to care for the tree.

And still they won’t call you a farmer, for there is no word for what you are now.

But I, Mateusz, know that I am a farmer, and will always be.

Emblem Black (2)

Editing Tips Tuesday – Editing Dialogue

Once again some great tips from Chasing Dreams. Stay tuned for flash fiction from yours truly.

Chasing Dreams Publishing

Today we’re going to look at editing dialogue. I’m making the assumption that you already know how to write dialogue, have written a fair amount of it, and now need to edit it.

Let’s first look at some common mistakes people make while writing dialogue:

  1. Assuming that every character is going to speak in the same way. We’ve all done it. Monotonous dialogue happens when you write it as though it is still the narrator speaking. If you can remove the dialogue tags and it sounds like a single person having a conversation with himself, you’ll need to edit this.
  2. Using dialogue tags instead of the dialogue itself to express the character’s emotions. Telling readers that a character is angry is far less effective than allowing them a few expletives in their dialogue.
  3. Talking heads. There are instances where reading dialogue is like watching a tennis match. You bounce back…

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jack london’s three paragraphs

A lie, really, because it isn’t by Jack London, and it isn’t even three paragraphs.  I was looking for inspiration and saw a quote (which London did write).  Immediately, something within me said: flash fiction.  So I got ready to write three strong paragraphs and produced this desperate, clichéd trash*.  It just goes to show that forcing yourself to have an idea, even with all my practice, produces mixed results.

*Author’s appraisal.  Reader experience may vary.

His hunger fed upon what he read, and increased.”

I suppose I should have known by the way his glasses had that opaque kind of shine to them. That’s something that only really happens in comics and films. I know that now. In my defence, I don’t think there was ever any chance for me. From the first moment he opened his little black notebook and began to scribble, that was it.

I saw them all, a whole wall of soft, leather-bound notebooks. When he wasn’t writing them he was reading them. I saw his chair, the upholstery almost worn through but the seat as firm and proud as if the springs were put in that morning. I don’t even know what I was doing there; I just was. I don’t know why I put my hand on that particular notebook but I did.

I should never have begun reading but, when you think about it, how could I not?

Because there was everything in there. Everything since I first looked into those opaque glasses at the park. Everything including breaking into that house and seeing the notebooks. Everything except what I do next.

Even this thought process – these exact lines – it was all in there. But I can see out of the corner of my eye that the writing will stop soon. And then what? Do I have to wait until he comes back and writes more? What happens when he closes the book forever and puts it on his shelf?

I already know the answer: it will be the end of me.  After that I’ll exist only for him. After everyone who ever knew me is dead, there he’ll be, reading the story of me in the same chair, and when he’s sucked every last breath of me from my story I expect he’ll throw the book out.

He’s got plenty more.

Emblem Black (2)

as long as

“You can make your character kind, caring, generous . . . as long as he stays the top toy

As long as certain conditions are met.

After that, all bets are off.”

Thus spake Andrew Stanton, the writer behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and others.

It’s widely agreed that every character needs a flaw to make them interesting.  For Woody, it’s that he’s selfish.  But what happens if you make him just selfish?  Well, according to an abandoned storyboard, he doesn’t across very well.  In fact, you find yourself not liking him at all.

I mean, do you like anybody who’s just selfish?

Probably not.

But that’s the beauty of the story: Woody is a really great guy – as long as he’s the top toy.  Do you know anyone like that?  Someone you can’t decide whether you like them or not?  Someone who’s only nice as long as?  The chances are you do.  In fact in all probably you are someone like that.  There has to be some point past which all bets are off.  That’s what makes us human.

That’s what Stanton’s stories teach us.

But what about your stories?  Have you made your character likeable and relatable or simply detestable?  Are they a person you would like to know or is their flaw just too visible?  We’re all trying to hide our flaws.  The great moment in your story is when you choose to reveal your character’s flaw.

When will they reach the point where as long as no longer cuts it?

When are all bets off?

That’s the magic.

Emblem Black (2)

believe or die

When the fictional world colonises the real world, magic can happen.  No, it isn’t just lying; it’s something else entirely.

fantasy-2368436_19201
A fictional world, yet familiar . . .

Let’s start at the beginning.

The way my mind works is, at times, painfully logical.  Infuriatingly logical, if you ask friends and family, with no room for compromise unless those compromises are just as logically presented.

Then there are the other times.

For example, when I first announced my crusade for didacticism, my plan was to present first the clearest arguments for, and the clearest examples of, before working my way outwards to show that, at its essence, everything is a lesson.  That would have been logical.

Instead I got inspired, and then it didn’t matter what was logical any more, I only knew that I had to show you this thing, and I had to show you why I thought it was great and interesting, and then I had to think about why I found it great and interesting, and in the end it all came back to teaching and learning.

OK, watch it now.  It’s long enough to eat with, and a better lunch partner than most.

When Nico grows up and realises he probably didn’t talk to a real whale, he’ll be reminded of a beautiful childhood memory.  What he probably won’t realise is that by perpetuating myths of faith, such as Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or [insert preferred fictional figure from your faith tradition here], he’s actually helping himself, and society.

Take justice, for instance – or Justice, if you like.  Way back when, such concepts were understood as real things of substance, truly existing somewhere we couldn’t see them.  The phenomena we experienced were simply reflections of those forms.

Nowadays, we can believe in concepts without having a potential physical manifestation somewhere; we can believe in Justice for Justice’s sake; we can believe in Goodness for Goodness’ sake.

We can believe in Father Christmas for Father Christmas’ sake.

Because if a child can believe in keeping a pet whale in a fjord in Norway, maybe as adults we can believe that somewhere out there, there really is Truth, and Love, and Justice, and Law, and everything else that lifts us out of our primal instincts.

Where would we be if we didn’t truly, firmly believe in those?

Emblem Black (2)

 

how do you stay relevant?

If you’re dynamic, you’re moving. You might be moving forward or you might be moving back, but if you’re not dynamic, you’ll be irrelevant pretty soon.

Julian Stodd’s advice to listen to “stories of dissent” can be adapted to many situations.

When i’m asked “how will we know if an organisation is Socially Dynamic“, my off the cuff answer is that it will be able to hear stories of dissent. Perhaps i should add, “and it will recognise that it can learn from them“. Too often, stories of dissent are driven out of earshot, hidden, or […]

via To Hear Stories Of Dissent — Julian Stodd’s Learning Blog