Return of Writings by Ender

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve posted content on Writings By Ender but I missed it with my entire being. I’m actively writing again and hope to get a short story to you all by the end of next week. Until then I’m trying to decide what other material I should add to the site. What would you like to see on Writings by Ender? What sort of content do you enjoy on other writing blogs? Please feel free to tell me any of your opinions!

Advertisements

Writing Update, Free Ebook

I released Bonds That Bind late last year. It took time for me to realize it but my release of the book was contrary to what I stand for. To remedy this, I am now giving my collection Bonds that Bind for free here on Writings By Ender. If you enjoy it and want to support my writing, you can still by the book but I want to make it accessible to everyone. https://writingbyender.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/bonds-that-bind.pdf This is the link. No strings attached, straight-to-download. If you wish to support me and my writing after reading the book, you can buy it on Amazon here(reviews are nice too): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M5BIGM7

Link for readers in the UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B01M5BIGM7/

Thank you for your time! 

What We Must, Flash Fiction

Bryce turned his back to the stage and exited stage left. His body dripped with sweat and the stage lights made his scrawny back and shoulders glisten, thereby accentuating his exhaustion. Left in the center of the stage was a bloodied body lying face down. His chest didn’t move; the man wasn’t breathing. The house lights were fof leaving a perfect darkness beyond the stage and as Bryce left, the crowd cheered and begged for more.

“Bryce. What did you do,” asked a scrawny white man. Bryce walked passed the man without answering but the man followed behind. “You knew our rules Bryce, we don’t kill each other. That’s what they want.” The man pointed out towards the stage but Bryce wasn’t reacting to the man’s tirade.

Bryce’s face flushed red, his hands clenched and he turned to the man. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Bryce started reserved but momentum was building against his control. “You weren’t there, you don’t know what he asked of me.” He paused for breath. He smelled the blood on his body and it mixed with his the musk of his sweat. “He begged me to kill him. He told me he wanted to die and he begged like a child.” Bryce felt the heat escaping his body and he was growing furious. “I couldn’t let him go on like this, he was going crazy in here. You know as well as I do that some can’t handle the constant fighting. I had to do what I had to do.”

The stage was cleaned off and two more men rushed to the theater to fight for their audience’s pleasure.

Writing Tips: Science and Six Plots

 

Over the past few years scientists have been working to reduce story plots into data. On February 4, 2015 The Paris Review released an article called “Man In Hole” with the subtitle of “Can a Novel’s Plot Be Reduced to Data Points?” On July 12, 2016 The Atlantic put out an article “The Six Main Stories, As Identified by a Computer” and after having gone through these and similar articles, and diving into research papers I’ve found its time I weigh in on the matter.

The Paris Review article mentions a man named Matthew Jockers, who at the time of the article was an English professor at the University of Nebraska, did a study on tens of thousands of books. Jockers had a different approach to plot than what some of us writer types might think. Instead of identifying plot as the underlying structure based on the progression of the story, Jockers uses the emotional trajectory of the plot without putting scenes in chronological order, or “Syuzhet”. Jockers explains,

Syuzhet is concerned with the linear progression of narrative from beginning(first page) to the end (last page)… When we study the syuzhet, we are not so much concerned with the order of the fictional events but specifically interested in the manner in which the author presents those events to readers.

Part of Jockers’s research involved inputting a database of the emotional positive or negative power of words as pulled by crowd sourced voting. The ultimate finding of Jockers’s research was that there were “about six” story archs but never revealed much about it (presumably leaving the details for another project). More information on Jockers’s process can be found here and here.

Naturally Jockers wasn’t the first to posit novel could be put into a machine and analyzed. It was Kurt Vonnegut who had proposed it first and in fact it was the ever popular video on plot on OpenCulture that inspired Jockers into the specific direction of his research.

Vonnegut figures there are more than six but there is a similar path among the two men and they are unmistakably heading in the right direction.

Then there’s the post from The Atlantic and we finally get (possibly) the full picture. Scientists got together, citing the work of Jockers, and selected 1,737 works of fiction between 10,000 and 200,000 words long and after running the data through a similar form of sentiment analysis as Jockers we got 6 core narratives. (Here’s the link to the research paper)

  1. Rise, or Rags to Riches
  2. Fall, Riches to Rags
  3. Fall then Rise, Man in a Hole
  4. Rise then Fall, Icarus
  5. Rise then fall then rise, Cinderella
  6. Fall then rise then fall, Oedipus

It all seems to be fairly tidy and I’ve been thinking about what this neat sorting might mean. My assumption here (I am not an expert) is that the patterns above not only make logical sense but the structure of them in a very deep way reflect the human mind’s craving of drama, tension, and/or redemption. It is another possibility that since story telling runs so deep in the history of humankind we have a form of social or cultural demand for stories that fit into these arcs. If either of these are true, and I currently am willing to take any of my own hypothesis with a grain of salt, then it is perfectly human of us to have our plots fit in such a neat way data-wise. Of course, part of me wants to question if the researchers could possibly be missing information on fiction or if by analyzing the fiction they have stripped something critical from its nature. Ultimately I think it’s fine but I’d like to hear other opinions.

If condensing fiction into data concerns you in the least bit, I suggest that you reevaluate and realize the sole purpose of human creativity is to embark from such set patterns into something new. Data/statistical analysis of fiction will only let us clearly see the boundaries around us that we’ve been unable to see and in this new vision we’ll be more able to set out in a more creative, and hopefully better, direction.

In Our Time, a Flash Fiction

The entirety of Vince’s life was burdened with chaos and everyday was a compound of the last until Vince was miserable. Work, romance, community all lost meaning as he instead pursued isolation. Vince worked overseas teaching English and after getting fed up with the chaos, he left his job but he did not turn back to the States. There it was worse, politics and social tension were the only thing to be found in there and so, with nothing more than a backpack and substantial savings, Vince roamed Europe but ended up in Turkey.

Istanbul was a dream. The fusion of western and Muslim cultures culminated there and the people, despite their oppressive rule were kind and hospitable.

Vince drank tea with Mustafa, a self-made artist and writer. The walls of Mustafa’s home were adorned with tapestries and various paintings littered the walkways. The air of the home was a haze from the hookah that Mustafa voraciously smoked and together they drank tea from curved glasses and appreciated the twang of the Bağlama saz, a Turkish guitar-like instrument. The radio enchanted with these twangs and for a moment Vince felt his heart at peace. Mustafa said to Vince as Vince finally smiled, “See? Music is very good for the soul.”

The news was playing and though Vince didn’t understand much Turkish but the images of bloodied bodies populated the screen. There was live footage of a plane unleashing destruction onto an unsuspecting city. The reporter was on the ground looking for survivors. Vince asked Mustafa in the little Turkish he knew, “What’s happening?”

“They’re saying it’s a new world war, my friend. That communism and democracy can no longer coexist.”

Vince motioned for the hookah and took a long draw then after returning the pipe to Mustafa, sipped his tea and said, “That’s a shame.”