Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lucid Dreaming; Vivid Writing

Have you ever had a dream, so real, that it lingered upon awakening? 

I have. Often. Bizarre, seemingly unrelated imagery, words, that seem to make sense in the dream world, although, upon awakening, leaves an emotional aftertaste, without much in the way of cohesive meaning. And then, over the ensuing half-hour, or so, the imagery fades away until it is barely remembered. 

But not always

I could smell the coffee, the dark roast, freshly brewed, before my wife handed me the paper cup, shriveled in some bizarre, and yet, normal, way. That was the coffee, and I held it in my hand as the scent permeated both worlds; the one where I was lying on my bed, a hypnotic soundtrack playing through ear buds, and the world where I was sitting in a familiarly, foreign couch, surrounded by people I knew—some family members—and others, at a birthday party for me. The party was a bore; no one did anything, we sat around waiting for the coffee, and I slipped between conscious and semi-consciousness, bringing with me the scent of the coffee. 

For a moment I opened my eyes and saw my wife seated across the room, reading a book, with a glass of wine beside her. She looked at me, hoping that the assault of tinnitus that had made me take a hypnotic nap, had helped, and she waited for me to say something. 

"Did you just have a coffee? " I asked, groggily. I already knew the answer; the wine glass was half-full, so it had been awhile in the partaking. She shook her head, and I lay back down, muttering, "Just had an amazingly real dream...." But was it?  

Was I really there, in that place, the alt-world of subconsciousness, where the erratic and often jumbled reality, still makes sense, nonetheless?  It was real enough to believe that it was real enough. The sight, sounds, touch, scents. Even though the plot line seemed more a psychedelic trip, it held a credential to reality, an innate proof that somehow I could understand. 

"I've heard that you tap into multiverses; alt-realities that exist elsewhere, like a television set that picks up every fucking channel at once, and you stare at it, hypnotically, and you catch a bit here and there, yet no one gave you the roadmap, or no one showed you how to fine-tune your immersion to a single channel." I'm not sure to whom this is directed. I almost believe that there is someone there, a voice of reason to help me piecemeal this trip into coherence. But I do not know who that is. 

I've often believed that reality is the state of belief. It's not original. The best movie to that effect was the sappy, Christopher Reeve film, Somewhere in Time with Jane Seymour, a romantic, trans-time film about lovers cross-crossing from 1912, through the 1970's when the film was made.  If you believe enough, you can go elsewhere. We are here because we believe we are here. 

Wipe that smirk off your face, reader. It's my story, dammit! Besides which, you have NO proof I am wrong, just as I have no proof you are right. But what if?

Philip K. Dick wrote a short story called  The Electric An back in the day—you can read it in the reprinted anthology of Dick's voluminous works. The story is about a man who wakes up in hospital to learn he is not the human he thought he was; rather a robot (back before androids, replicants and artificial people.) The question was a definition of reality. How do you know? Really. How do you know? 

You don't.  

And yet, almost everyone will argue with you, whether in religious terminology, "I am; therefore I am," or from a quasi-logical point of view. I just find it difficult to argue about preordination when the people we postordinated were the Native Americans, living proof why pacifism is not part of evolution's master argument—the strong must always subvert the weak—as foretold in historical evidence, and the primary reason against the God head; He who demands worship is a conqueror. But that is the topic of another rant.

Back to the dream. Lucid dreaming, and I will call it that for the sake of etiquette, does offer the writer a chance at vivid writing. To open your mind to the possibilities, which is contrary to the uniform mentality of the PC society we now live in, allows the writer to be the master, something imperative when using an omniscient point of view. After all, this is your creation we are talking about, your story, your world, your characters that you have created and are solely responsible for. Is this not so?

I am plagued by what I call "my payback" for being a shit in an earlier life. I have degenerative vertebrae that inflict a host of symptoms, mostly three arthritic cervicals that are a result of writer's slouch (also known as millennial phone slouch, these days). I am also plagued by tinnitus which ranges from mild to severe, which, despite a myriad of medical professionals arguing to the contrary, is related to the cervical decay. It is also your vanilla, aging, tinnitus—about 50/50. 

I wear hearing aids with a tinnitus masking generator. This has helped greatly, to about 50%. Now I must seek alternative treatment for the remaining 50% since a cervical epidural failed to help. My mother always said I was a "pain in the neck," and now she gets the proof of it, not that I fault her. 

I am hardly incapacitated. I function as do you, my stubborn arrogance prohibiting any self-pity, although there are days when a nap is certainly a requirement. As was the case today, my lucid dreaming from the hypnotic audio binaural beats blended with obscure orchestral variants, quite hypnotic and indusive to a relaxed state of mind. 

As a writer I recognize one fact at I find other writers reluctant to openly admit. This is MY world, dammit, and I, at least in my writing, get to decide how it works, why it works and how to manipulate it. I do not have to endure the PC illness that plagues the outside world, do not have to identify everything with a label. It is my creation and it remains raw, pure, subject to all the influences placed upon it, including freshly brewed coffee that is so strong that it returns to my awake world with me. 

So what's the point? A good question. Often, I receive manuscripts that get a detailed, raw response back. I assume that you know you can write already, so I do not feel the need to praise you for the effort. I assume you want to know what is not right, how to strengthen it, not some hyperbolic platitiude that your mother or grandmother has already given you. My advice is to take the reality, and to take everything else and make it your own brand of reality; God knows humanity has not done a better job. Write raw, write real, hold nothing back and what you will have is both a manuscript of note, but also a reflection of the demons within, the dreams within, and the muddle of deciphering what it all means. 

Don't buy a book on how to write. If you need that, you have no business writing. And don't get hung up on grammar and sentence structure. That's why God invented editors and proofreaders. Some of the best selling writers I know have so many errors in their work it is close to embarrassing. No one gives a shit; the story is so compelling they never notice. 

Just write. Because you are a writer. In this world. In the dream world. In the parallel world. In the alternate world, and even in the world behind the veil of reality, the one we have yet to discover. 

And that's that! 

Of course, if you want a little mind-blowing science... check THIS OUT!

Amen. Or not.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Looking For Words in All The Wrong Places

Sometimes, the act of putting words on paper—seems easy enough, right—becomes a tortuous exercise in rhythm, not unlike lyrics to a song. You know what you want to say' you know how you want it to feel, and yet the words just do not emerge in the way you have envisioned. Is this your poor vocabulary at work? Probably not. As clinical as many genres appear to be, all are written with passion' certainly a passion for the story, if not the word choice.

And this is where authors encounter difficulty. The reading audience is still there their vocabulary level has, however, decreased. Between failing education models that put more emphasis on 'safe spaces' than hard work, the demand of students to memorize certain things—math facts and vocabulary, to name a few—coupled with a far shorter attention span, requires authors out for commercial success to simplify their work. 

Case in point, go to a book store and pick up a copy of the Twilight Saga or the Divergent series. Even the Harry Potter series of books.  Aside from thicker paper and a larger number of pages, you will also notice huge margins, larger type size and near double-spacing between lines. As you glance through it, you also notice the simplistic language, more dialog and less narrative, thus also requiring less complex vocabulary. Yes, I do realize that the image in the reader's mind is paramount, and that maintaining a decent reading speed is the only way the brain has to process words into imagery; however, at some point the simplicity is danger of reaching the levels of See Spot Run.

The English language, with all its complex, and often inane grammatical rules, has a healthy vocabulary that, when used properly, can invoke masterful imagery. This is a learned skill. It requires building your vocabulary throughout your life. And it should be a point of pride to learn new words on a regular basis. And to use them.

Anything that interrupts a reader's flow detracts from the imagery of the novel. Except a word that they may not have know and which,if they are astute readers, they will jot down for later examination. Alternatively, poor word choice creates the opposite effect it stops the reader who, attempting to figure out why it was there, may lose their rhythm.  

I find this often in spy books, or thrillers. The author, trying to pace out the storyline, interrupts it with needless information, excessive sentence length, or vague descriptors that make the reader stop. I have seen this in best-selling novels, even best-selling series. 

I have also found, since starting to narrate audiobooks, that frequently the written word now spoken, sounds clumsy and out of place. This is a problem actors face when screenwriters offer their characters unspeakable word groupings. 

The solution is not complex. Read aloud the work you have written. Better yet, have someone read it to you. And if you cannot find anyone, use your computer's accessibility feature to have the machine read it to you. It's not perfect, but it will point out areas of poor construction. 

Keep a booklet for words you have learned, along with an example of useage. I love words. They sing. Words like exegesis or eisegesis, aphorism, auxesis, and polemic, to name a few. As a younger writer, I took exception when teachers would correct me regarding the use of the word 'waft'. I would always make my own creation because it sounded more appropriate for the use. The scent of fresh apple pie wifted to my room. Scents should wift not waft, a far harsher word implying a roughness, quite the contrary to thoughts of freshly basked apple pie. If you agree with me, let's start a word revolution; start using wift and help it become mainstream.

Happy writing!

William Gensburger