Chekhov’s curse – You can’t mention anything in writing without giving it too much significance.
Labels and titles are rather unimportant. “Artist” implies a special and untetherable link to the artifact. Should a maker of cars be called carist? The artifact is the thing – we only bring it out of the structure. Summoner, shaman or magician. Condenserist? Cavic light-blocker? Rustler of trees serving fruits of emotions. In the end I am no one and the artifacts I made are something else.
Meaning, message, rules of storytelling – tools to be used or discarded at will. One story built by logic, narrative structure and character development, an electrical grid with source, relays, switches controlling a single engine. Another is a mood, a feeling, a river shifting from rapids to falls to meandering and ground water tunnels.
The questioning of everything is built into the urge of expression. Instead of competing with the masters I have found my own niche. Not trying, comparing, wishing, but just going where I have to go. Admiring, learning, repurposing, but never playing the same game, changing the rules to fit me, challenging myself as I wish, pushing-relaxing with the tide of my energy.
Humming to myself, the vibrations in my chest is comfort and joy, a pleasant feeling, as the flow kicks in and I leave logic for intuition. I’m doing this for me, for the experience, for the vibrations I make, for the thrill, for the climax, for the satisfying end, be it artifact or a surge of electrochemical lightning caused by putting words in a novel and exiting order.
It’s tricky business trying to guess how people will perceive what we – as writers, artists and plain human beings – try to convey in our attempts at communication.
Tricky because every little part of information (sentence-word-letter-punctuation) in our message have connotations that are inextricably linked to the unique point of view, shaped by mood, language and culture, that any one of eight billion potential readers happens to have at the particular time they interpret the message.
Title, cover art and typography are the shutter, aperture and ISO of a book. Tune them all appropriately together to get a good image of your novel.
I put on headphones and turn up the volume as high as I can endure and then listen on repeat to an hour long recording of feedback from a distorted guitar amplifier paired with unintelligible screams from when some friends of mine had a bad trip in my basement studio until my subconscious starts writing some weird but true shit without interference from my fucking anxious people-pleasing consciousness.
As a writer I strike a chord on your neuron strings; my words are my pick, my novel a bow; you are the instrument, my story the melody, your emotions the harmonics, my emotions resonance; the crescendo you and me vibrating in unison – there is no audience in a performance like this.
30,000 words into a story is where the hard work begins. Up until then you can improvise and go with the flow. But at this point things have to start to fit together and make some kind of sense. Every word you write limits the possibilities for what you can write next.
From here on you need craftsmanship rather than creativity. You need to decide where you’re going and use a suitable narrative structure to get there. Anyone can write a good beginning. But only those who manage to push through and tie it all up neatly will finish a novel.
It’s like going for a relaxing run along a scenic path you like – only to realize you’re suddenly lost in the dark part of the woods. It becomes an orienteering race in difficult terrain and the map is smudged so you have to guess where the important control points are.
All work and no play, you know. So no wonder it’s easy to get trapped at that magical point. I suppose it doesn’t matter how skilled in writing or how creatively visionary someone is. The most important trait to becoming an author is perseverance.
Don’t get stuck in the bog.
As a writer I know how fun and rewarding it can be to explore long stories with massive world-building in a series of novels. But I also know how easy it is to get trapped and unable to work outside an increasingly narrow perspective.
We all want more of what we enjoy, and I’m certainly no exception to that. This makes it much safer to bet money on continuing existing franchises than taking a risk with something new. But eventually this repetition can also make us saturated and bored.
Sometimes I find the limited more intriguing. I don’t need every mystery explained. I don’t always want to know the whole backstory of the mysterious stranger in the background. I don’t like to be told exactly what happened ever after every time.
I want at least some stories to end with a trust in me to continue the narrative. Every now and then I want to be given room for speculation and my own conclusions. Sometimes I want to connect the dots myself – even if they are invisible.
Not everything has to have a sequel.
The opening line of a book
should be a tuning fork
for the readers mind
so it can harmonize with the story.
Once a story is published the author no longer holds authority over it. Any further influence from the writer severed. Any intention behind the choice of words irrelevant. The story becomes it’s own entity. The sole authority of what’s real and what’s our interpretations.
There is a concept in many stories that I’ve been meaning to write an elaborate essay about. But since I never seem get around to it I’ll just write something shorter and less nuanced here and now.
The Chosen One.
I don’t like the concept. Yes, I know it’s a classic archetype, and it’s used in many good stories, though more or less successful. But eventually it gets boring with millions of chosen ones loitering our collective fiction doing heroes journeys ad nauseam.
There is one main thing that bothers me. It’s the notion that The Chosen One, one single person and no one else, can fix this huge problem that society is facing. It is the implication that some persons possess a character superior to everyone else.
Often heritage is invoked. Which makes it even worse by saying that some genes are more noble than others. But however they are chosen, this superiority makes them better at fighting, magic or whatever than those that has already been doing it for years.
I understand that the concept appeals to feelings we all have: “I’m such an ordinary person – I wish I was a secret princess with magical powers about to manifest so I can escape this boring life.” Nothing wrong with delusions of grandeur.
But when stories repeatedly promote salvation from one single person, be it chosen ones, kings, queens or eccentric billionaires, they are fostering the harmful belief that if you’re just “chosen” enough you can and should deal with any problem on your own.
No one is self-sufficient. People are most likely to succeed with the impossible when they work together and help each other. That is our strength as humans. That is the real triumph we need in the final act of the story.
Therefore we need to leave The Chosen One behind and move on by making new stories that instead inspire whole groups of people to go on collective hero’s journeys and help each other.
Breed mutations. That’s what we do as writers. We use our minds to trap existing words and ideas from our cultural surroundings. Then we expose them to high levels of imagination-radiation until they mutate into new creatures that we let loose and claim to have created from scratch.
The now mostly collapsed socmed platform Ello.co was a minimalistic non-profit alternative to FB with respect for privacy and no advertising. It attracted a lot of artists and writers and it was where I started writing both fiction and socially in English. The #ellowrites community was fertile ground for all kinds of weirdness and I made friends with some “fellow mutants”. It shaped who I became in troubled times. Ello was a real place to me.
Together this small but diverse group created the fictional living twin city of Azza-Jono and collaborated on a collection of short-stories set in that same world. I started writing a story-line I called The Second Voice, of which my short-story The DreamCube Thread (now found in Vast published by Orchid’s Lantern) is an offshoot. I still plan to continue writing The Second Voice in the (hopefully) not to distant future.
What is Azza-Jono then? It’s The Conscious City. The two cities of Azza and Jono connected and divided by a river and a great wall. A city-state with it’s own anthem. Populated by high-tech assassins and glitchslingers, mutants and magicians. An exploration into art, science, religion, madness, dreams and wakefulness. It’s as hard to explain as it is looking into the Sun.
From my personal point of view I think Azza-Jono is fiction becoming real. Much like myself. My first words on Ello were: “I write myself into existence.”
Today the former ellovians are scattered all over internet. And since most of them seem to shun socmed there is almost no information about this fantastic multi-disciplinary project anywhere – except for the collections by T van Santana (see links below). Although I know some of us continue to work with and in Azza-Jono through writing, art, design, music and even animation.
In searching for what remnants I could find that is still available on the internet I was reminded of many fond memories. This strange community of writers, artists and musicians, and the odd fiction we sprouted together helped me to accept myself and transform as a person. I wouldn’t have been Ellinor Kall if all this hadn’t happened.
The time and place was just right. The positive mood, the feeling of something new, curiosity celebrated and rewarded, diversity appreciated, and the sheer force in the creativity. It won’t happen often. Or ever again. For a while this other world took me in and I lived there while healing my wounds.
And to think I just stumbled upon it all by chance when I found Ello while randomly browsing the internet to distract myself from sobbing alone and abandoned on a ten hour train ride all these years ago.
Links to Azza-Jono
The history of Azza-Jono summarized on Ello
T van Santana became our editor and collected our first drafts in this advance reading collection (= an unfinished sneak peak)
Baphomet Tripp (from X.A.O.S) wrote the story Cynocephalus (direct link to the TVS-collection). He wrote music and lyrics to The Anthem of Reconciliation (for Azza-Jono) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s60tIsO3lFw. He also wrote and animated a trailer for an animated film set in Azza-Jono.
My short-story The DreamCube Thread is set in the world of Azza-Jono and it is published in the British anthology Vast
My main contribution is a collection of The Second Voice-stories that will either be published in print or made available on this website once I’ve had time to work some more with them.
More stories by contributors (will add more when I find them)
Azza-Jono portal (stories, videos and things still up on Ello)
Search for even more fragments and work-in-progress that is left on Ello.co (though many profiles and posts have been deleted since)
Books are beings. They are living entities and we writers are their midwives, proud to have delivered them, but not their biological parents. They live and feed through symbiosis. They never die but can be annihilated. They propagate themselves in the most remarkable ways.
I’m actually thinking about breaking canon within the novel I’m writing right now. Different chapters will state things that don’t match, on purpose of course. Subtle at first, then more and more. It’s crazy, I know, it shouldn’t be done, but my brain works this way… for some reason. What do you think, is it crazy, should I stop this idea right now? Or did someone say genius?
Uhm, the story is the soul, but the message is not the body, it’s the scent, hardly noticeable, but very important for attraction or repulsion and lots and lots of subliminal things.