Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Nevets Paradox


Well, there are actually many Nevets paradoxes, but I was struck by one today.  More on that in a moment.

First, just wanted to call your attention to some of the tweaks to the blog layout.  Nothing major, but I moved the popular posts widget up, updated the features authors widget, and changed Twitter widgets.  Also, I added new widgets, one of which will link quickly to stories that have been posted on the blog, and the other which tracks some of the erstwhile educational posts I have put up. Hope these changes are positive.

Second, Nevets.QST-featured author Gary Corby is hosting a contest on his blog in which you can win a copy of The Pericles Commission with the nifty Australian cover.  If you don't have this book, you enter.  If you just like collecting, you should enter.  If you want to have a piece of Down Under, you should enter.  And, even if you don't want to enter, you should go check out Gary's blog.  He's always entertaining and has a great variety of posts about everything from his experience as a new writer to ancient history.

Alright, now onto the the paradox of the night:

I don't do sequences well.  Really, at all.  I don't think linearly, so point-A to point-H is just how I think.  The whole ABCDEFGH  thing is beyond me.  I think of states, not transitions between states.

When I'm writing that shows up in that if I had my way my book would be a collection of extended scenes with no transitions between them.  I hate transitions.  Mind you,  I'm not just talking about pedantic transitions such as, "He took the train to Chicago."  I'm talking about entire chapters of material about what happens in between.  I personally couldn't care less about how the process of development.

In life, it shows up in that I don't do the whole life is about the journey thing.  No way.  I don't do journeys.  Life is about the present moment and the destination.  Period.  Oddly enough, that's essentially how my memory works to.  I remember different things, but not the necessary steps in between them.  I remember a time when I didn't know A and then I remember knowing A, but I don't remember learning about A.  For instance.  Or, more commonly, I collapse all the states in my memory and don't even remember that at one time I didn't know A.

My emotions work the same way.  There's on and there's off.  There's no building or receding.

It's all states.  No transitions between states.

But here's the thing.

The only thing I  hate as much as I hate linear sequences is stasis.  Every state must be a dynamic state, with enough energy to change into another state.  I may not think about the changing, but I know I need there to be  change.

It often makes little sense.  For instance, I know that Rose and I are not in the living situation we want to be in forever.  We have no immediate plans of  chance, but we know we don't want to stay in our current state.  As much as I cannot think in terms of the steps required to transition into another state, I also go insane if I feel like we're not heading towards a transition.

This evening, I finally began to understand a little more how it works.  It's like how I imagine motion.  I've talked on this blog before about the fact that my mind doesn't do spatial thinking well.  One of my limitations is that I cannot imagine motion.  If for instance, I try to think about a car driving down the road, all I can do is picture the car on the road with a sense of motion that is implied but not visually apparent.

That's really how I do life, too: I need my states of being to have a sense of change that is implied even if it is not literally planned out.

In a practical way, it's also how I end up writing.  Most every scene I write, and most of my short stories and flash pieces, has an underlying sense of impending change that is far stronger than any actual transitions I write.  It's both a strength and a weakness.

I haven't really thought about it, but you can probably find traces of that tension in some of the characters and stories I've written.  

As a matter of fact, I didn't plan this, but here's a spontaneous contest: find something convincing in a story that I've posted here, or on, or on, or one of my stories in Genre Wars, that has a character or a plot element reflecting this struggle with state and change, and I'll send you your choice something from the CafePress store or a signed, nicely-printed copy of one of my stories.  Hop to it!


Soundtrack for the writing of this blog post provided by Kan-Johnny-Eight.


  1. I love your new layout and I promise to check out Gary's blog.

    I'm with you about the order thing. While I do write my mysteries in a specific timeline order, I always write in scenes.

    Currently, I'm writing a book (a non-mystery) where it's mostly scraps of journal entries and notes from times in my character's life. They're not in order of time, just how the scenes come to me. I really like writing this way.


  2. I like the new layout of your blog!

    Interesting post. I never really thought about transitions like that--the way they're thought of and used in writing.

  3. I'm with you Nevets. My friends go crazy with my "state" of being. They think I need to have goals and maps and whatnot. Not really. Nicely put.
    The only memory I have with transitions is...and this may be random...learning to spell the word 'because.' That word plagued me in elementary school. I clearly remember going through the process of writing it out again and again until I had it. I remember telling myself the order of the vowels (which was what vexed me so).

  4. Thanks for your feedback on the layout, gang. Another reader did alert me to a glitch in the canned popular-posts widget I'm using where the formatting is messed up. I'll work on that this week and hopefully get it taken care of.

    @Clarissa - I sometimes think that, if it weren't for the fear of people saying I had only one gimmick, I could write fiction as journal or letters for the rest of my life. I work really well in that format. One of the strongest stories I've written was a sci fi journal piece I wrote when I was ~ 15. It needs cleaning but it still stands up pretty well.

    @G'Eagle - Lucky you. Thinking about transitions too much becomes a burden. haha

    @Scott - haha Friends. Pssssh. :)

  5. Perhaps short stories in the first peson and present tense are what you should be writing, Nevets? More of a 'now' feel. (Actually, I love writing in the first person. It has lots of advantages, not least the POV one.)

  6. @Frances - Interesting you should say that. In fact, one of the things that allowed me to finally find my authorial voice was when I said, "pish-tosh" to all the people on the Internet advising otherwise and gave myself over to the first person. I love it. It's virtually the only way I right now. And I've had a similar experience recently with some short stories in 1st person present.

    In all honesty, as much as I believe in my current novel and the next one, as well, I will be the first to admit that my short work is, in many ways, stronger -- or at least more naturally so.

    As I've mentioned on Tim's blog before, I think if I could get a job writing shorts for pulp magazine, I would be all over that. Alas, 'tis not the world I live in.

  7. Very interesting post. I haven't thought about transitions in that way before and now . . . ok, this is weird . . . I'm excited about revising my novel and looking at transitions. How do I go about transitions? I don't know. Am I good or bad at it? No clue. I should know that probably, but I don't remember. As far as the "journey" thing goes, I like the journey when I'm in it - like when I'm actually walking down the street, or driving in my car - but I don't know if I'm all that good at the "journey" mindset - or at least not in moments of "what's next?"

  8. If my brain wasn't fried I would enter your contest, but as it is, I'm not sure I totally understand this paradox you're talking about. I do understand feeling like things are heading toward change, that your life isn't a stagnant body of water, so to speak. :)

  9. I'd think this might translate really well into literary flash fiction. Just sayin.

  10. @Tyrean - That's great! I'm glad you have a new spark of interest in an angle of your writing you don't usually think about. That's always fun!

    @Michelle - Well, here's the paradox: I can't wrap my head around transitions and sequence, but if I don't at least feel that there's one going on, I feel suffocated.

    @Carol - You are probably right! I do write literary flash fiction, and it's probably some of my favorite stuff. It's always good to hear from others that what you think makes sense as a fit also makes sense to them. haha


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