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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

INTERNAL CONFLICT BLOGFEST



Once again it's blogfest time. THE INTERNAL CONFLICT BLOGFEST held by the Alliterative Allomorph :
http://thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/2010/04/announcing-internal-conflict-blog-fest.html


{Short note : Guide to Literary Agents
http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Dear+Lucky+Agent+Contest+Fantasy+And+SciFi.aspx is having another "Lucky Agent" contest. This time focusing on Sci_Fi and Fantasy. And I have entered it. Those of you who write Sci_Fi and Fantasy, follow my link and enter, too. I wish us all luck, Roland.}

Internal Conflict. Good writing depends upon it. In every scene. It's what pulls the reader and the story itself along. As the plus and minus of electrons determines the flow of electricity, so the plus and minus of EVERY scene determines the healthy flow of a novel's narrative.

An upscale attorney walks into his office, his back being slapped by his associates for winning another case. He closes the door, turns on the light, and turns off his smile. His eyes move to the certified letter on his desk, informing him of his wife's plans to divorce him. He walks to his desk, sits down, and buries his face in his hands.

A metropolitian mayor is hanging his latest civic award upon his paneled wall. His eyes flick to the picture of his son, killed in Iraq. He remembers his last words to him : ugly words, harsh words, impossible to erase words. He takes the award from the wall, tossing it into the waste basket.

Plus and Minus.

All of which leads me to my internal conflict scene from my historical fantasy, RITES OF PASSAGE :

It is 1853 aboard the cursed transatlantic steamer, DEMETER, heading from New Orleans to Paris. Captain Samuel McCord is on the trail of a murderer of young Rachel Houston. Samuel delivered her as a baby in the midst of a Comanche raid.

He always looked after her. While he was returning from a manhunt, she was found dead on the docks of Galveston without a mark on her. Except for one thing. Her face was missing. Marie Laveau has told McCord that the face was taken, not as a trophy, but for a mask.

Rachel was last seen in the company of someone only known as the Gray Man. McCord has tracked him to the DEMETER. Now, in his cabin, McCord has just been told by the ghostly Turquoise Woman that innocents will die if he is not smarter.


And so we join him in his brooding :

The more I thought about it, the less it seemed I knew. If I kept on, I would soon end up knowing nothing at all. Estanatlehi's last words stung. Be smarter. But that was just it. I wasn't smart, only stubborn and relentless.

The beginning of every hunt was like this. I would hold a tangled ball of unanswered questions in my hand, knots that seemed beyond untangling. I would tug here. I would bumble about there. Ask this person a question. Look for the most hostile face. Ask it a question.

Listen. Poke holes in obvious lies. Ask some more. Sooner or later, someone would try to kill me. I would object, survive, shake the survivors like a wolf would a rat. Follow what fell out. Someone meaner, tougher, would make a try for me. The process would begin all over again. People would die. I would be fed. The killer would be found.

It was a messy way of doing things. But I wasn't smart enough to do it any other way. And it kept me fed. Usually. Right then, I was weak from not feeding.

Feeding. The images that word pulled out of the darkness made me ill. And it wasn't from lack of -- nourishment.

Suddenly, I felt dirty. I needed a bath. One scalding hot. Maybe if I soaked in it long enough the screams from a thousand throats would be drowned. Maybe. I looked to the gold-trimmed door to my left. It was partially open.

An ornate ivory tub was half-revealed. Running water? Maybe this suite was worth $2,000. Of course, I didn't think Sen. Houston or Gov. Bell would think so. But then, steaming, scalding water didn't mean to them what it did to me. More than hiding in the sensation of the heat, there was life and energy to scalding water. Weak but enough to sustain me for a bit.

I got up. I took off my buckskin jacket, folded it neat, and laid it next to my clean, black buckskins. I shrugged out of the double shoulder holsters with their Walsh Navy Colts, each one capable of firing twelve .36 caliber bullets. I unsnapped my Paterson Colt from its SOB holster at the small of my back. I slipped off the sheath that hung down my back which held the strange knife taken from King Solomon's mines.

I smiled bitter. King Solomon’s mines. No wonder it had been so hard to find. Everyone had been looking on the wrong continent. There was a life lesson there. I was just too dense to see it.

Last, I unbuckled the Colt on my hip. I laid all that death on top of my jacket. The rest of the buckskins followed. The gloves stayed on. I would lay them by the tub. No one saw what passed for my hands. No one that remained alive, that is.

I ran the water scalding hot and eased myself into the tub. Any other flesh would have blistered. I barely felt it. I hunkered down into the tub until the steaming water was at my chin. Then, and only then, did I take off my buckskin gloves.

And even then, I did not look at my hands. I shoved them under the water quick but still caught a glimpse of them. It made me ill. I sighed.

Rachel. She had always wondered what my hands had looked like. She had teased me that I was hiding the fact that I painted my nails.

I felt like crying. If only. The memory of my last sight of Rachel, her face neatly removed as if by a scalpel, made me worse than ill. She had needed me on the docks of Galveston, and I had been unconscious in a hunger-coma on the city's outskirts. Even when I tried to do right, it seemed I did wrong.

I watched the water turn from blue to death gray. I was leeching what life breathed in the steaming water. I was even draining the heat from it. It no longer steamed.

I stared at the copy of a painting from some old master whose style wasn't familiar but was. I squinted at it. I was an idiot. It wasn't an old master but a recent one. William Blake. He'd died just twenty years before. Poet and mystic, completely mad. Sounded like me.

I finally recognized the painting. It was of a man with long, flowing moon-white hair like mine, bending down as he hung impossibly in the sky before a bloody sun. He was surrounded by black, boiling clouds. His arm was pointing down, his fingers splayed odd, shafts of light shooting from his forefinger and from the others joined together. The brass plate below called it The Ancient of Days.

Then, I realized that they weren't spears of light coming from his fingers.

They were a compass. It was God setting a compass upon the face of the depths. Just like I was trying to fix some design to the madness my life had become, the nightmare that was Rachel's murder.

I recalled words from the Bible when Wisdom spoke :

'The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before the works of old, before the mountains were settled, before the hills were brought forth. When He prepared the heavens, I was there. When He set a compass on the face of the depths.'

Wisdom. I was a dry well there. Sure, Father had schooled me in all he knew. And after surviving the Comanches, I had undergone a strange Jesuit education of sorts for seven years. But that had just been knowledge.

Wisdom was the application of it. And I had lived my whole life and undeath tangling the threads of my life until it was one big knot that could never be untied.

I rested my head against the rim of the tub and studied Blake's painting some more. The Ancient of Days. I felt ancient. And unreal.

I wasn't used to all the elegant splendor that was all around me. I felt like I was watching myself in some strange dream. I wanted to yell a warning to my dream self that he was missing something important, something left undone. But I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was that my instincts said I should have done.

Of things I shouldn't have done there was a wagonload. I studied the picture some more. God looked as unreal as I felt, hung up in the sky, still and frozen in time. Still and frozen. There was another reason I felt unreal.

Rachel's murder. She had been like my little sister given back to me. I had allowed myself to feel again with her. My only remembered laughter had been with her.

Though it had started getting a little awkward these past few years, what with her crush on me. But in a few months, a young man her age would have come along and swept her off her feet. And I would have proudly given her away at her wedding. She deserved -- had deserved a shot at happiness and growing old with the love of her life.

But the Gray Man had swept her away first. And ever since her murder, I had been like a frozen lake. No matter what happened, it just glanced off the icy surface of my mind, my heart. I noticed with a start that the water in the tub was ice cold and black -- just like my soul.

But not black with dirt, but black because all the life had been leeched out of it. Not cold from the air, but cold because the thing that I had become had drained all the warmth out of it. It seemed I leeched and drained all the beauty from the world around me. I sat there in my cold, wet self-pity for a few more ticks of the clock.

Then, I heard the door ease slowly open. No human ear would have heard it. But to me, it sounded like the screeching of rusted hinges. And with that sound, I remembered what I had failed to do.

I had failed to lock the door.

And all my Colts were neatly tucked in their holsters on the fancy bed in the next room. There were times when 'Oh, shit!' just didn't cover it.


***********************************************************************
And now, for some stirring, haunting music :

32 comments:

  1. It's good to read some of your work. How long have you been working on Rites of Passage?

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  2. So his conflict is frustration and guilt and what to do about it. The whole piece is a little wordy and pedantic. I liked the last few paras when something actually happened. That's the problem with internal monologue sometimes, I get restless waiting for something to happen instead of hearing all about the character's train of thought and I start skimming. So now you've got me wanting to read the next part and find out what happens...so I'd say it caught my interest in the end but it was a little hard to get through. Does my comment sound conflicted? ;)

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  3. Sam is such a deeply emotional soul. Burdened with the weight of all he's seen of life. I don't think I'd want to be immortal; to live so long I become so deeply immersed in all the futility and despair. Or worse, to become so callus none of it touches me any more.

    I liked the descriptions of the warmth and color leaching from the water. Emotive prose? Very well done. And the tidbits about his hands, I'm really interested in knowing what they look like, feel like.

    Loved the end, and the set up for the next scene.

    Thanks for the music and slides. Very soothing after such deep musings.

    ........dhole

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  4. I know this wasn't a part of your exceprt, but I just loved it: "He closes the door, turns on the light, and turns off his smile." This line is brilliant. It just shows how simple prose can really have a strong impact.

    Now to your excerpt. I have to slightly agree with lapetus999, it was quite long and wordy, BUT, your writing style is like savoring that last bite of chocolate fudge cake. You want to chew it slowly, taste every possible flavour and cherish it's consistency.

    Your writing makes me want to read slowly, gobble up every word like a guilty mouthful of delicious food.

    I too sometimes find it hard to get into the rhythm of your writing - but that makes me step back and attempt to breath it in with a bit more concentration. I'm not going to let good writing slip away just becasue it's not commercial and easily immersible like a movie scene.

    Have you ever read any Marilynn Robinson? You remind me of her in the way that I want to savour her prose. It takes me twice as long to get through her novels, but in the end, it's so worth it. Well done!

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. Definitely drew me in to what he was thinking and feeling. Very dark! Good stuff!

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  6. Hi

    Wow. I loved the internal confict scene. It's moody and atmospheric and infused with such gorgeous language and imagery.

    I was riveted from start to finish!

    Thank you for sharing

    Take care
    x

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  7. Thank you for the link about the blogfest. Maybe I'll finally enter one of these.

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  8. Nice setup!! Loved the lines, follow what fell out and laid all that death on top of my jacket...Drawn in by the biblical quotes, wondering what creature he is, The Ancient of Days, The Turquoise woman and wondering why in the world they took Rachel's face?!

    Good stuff!! Thx for sharing!!

    Also thx too for the contest head's up!!

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  9. Man this is good. Every time I read some of your writing Roland I find myself amazed that you are not yet published. That is a big YET there my friend.

    Thanks for sharing this sir, it's awesome.

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  10. Very engaging, thank you for sharing this!

    There's an award waiting for you at my blog too!

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  11. Very, very good, but the highlight to me was the last line. I´m gonna use it as a quote now. Instead of "Shit" Im going to philosophically say: "There are times when 'Oh, shit!' just doesn´t cover it."

    Also, brilliant and strong examples of internal conflict.

    The text itself is a tad long, but this is your element and you rock at it, so it´s dark and angaging, I loved it.

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  12. Wow, what a powerful, haunting piece. Very nice work Roland :)

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  13. ah, but this is sam... naked, in a tub! ;)

    no worries....

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  14. Wow. I enjoyed reading this. Truly it reads like a poem that a reader slowly wants to nibble. I actually liked the introductions and wish they were somehow tied to the story.

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  15. I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow, and I’m glad I did. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become one as well.

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  16. Great scene...a bit long, yes, but once you "read yourself in" it really flows. And I have to agree with our Host the lovely Alliterative Allomorph, the line that really got me was "He closes the door, turns on the light, and turns off his smile." That one's poetry.

    ps. did you say 'calibur' on purpose? Because I kind of got caught on that...

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  17. Hey Roland if I offer any critique it's because you're an awesome writer and I want to do my small part to help you get published. :)
    Keep doing what you're doing and things will work out for you!

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  18. Wow. I love how you use short sentence to maximise tension. Good stuff!

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  19. I loved the last line. It spat me out of Sam's soul and back into the reality of the moment. Great!

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  20. Well done, Roland. Beautifully written. I was utterly caught up in your prose and Sam's inner conflict. And the ending was a hook plus. I don't think we've discussed how much I love NOLA or how much I admire Marie Laveau. If there was a stronger, savvier woman in US history, I don't know who. Laveau was more myth than reality while she lived and so she remains.

    My only pull from the story was the title of the Blake painting. The timing was right and it was believable Sam could recall the image, but his knowing the title stretched credibility. Of course I'm basing this on the fact that I didn't recognize the title myself, looked it up and recognized the image at once. :)

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  21. Excellent entry. I love the flow of this, and of your writing in general. :)

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  22. I'm always so disappointed when I come here - because there is never enough!

    It was long, but I could have read another page of it.

    This: "My only remembered laughter had been with her." = Beautiful, and tragic.

    The last line, though...loved.loved.loved.

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  23. Good luck with your contest entry!!

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  24. My favorite part of this piece was the imagery of the water as he pulled the life from it-- from blue to death grey, to black ice. I think it added a lot to the scene!

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  25. All of you who comment do not know how much it means to me :

    ZZ : I've just finished the final draft of RITES OF PASSAGE. I started it during my Hurricane Katrina-enforced exodus. But I was also concurrently writing FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE {an urban fantasy with many of the same characters} and THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS {a Native American/Celtic YA fable based on the tales told to me by my half-Lokota mother.} So five years to completely write three novels isn't too bad. Thanks for dropping by,.

    Andrew : That's the trouble with excerpts -- they're plucked out of the whole. J.R.R. Toilken wrote that writing is very much like breathing. Inhale {internal conflict} followed by exhale {external conflict.} There is quite a bit of action in the scene following Sam's bath so there had to be a deep inhale before it happened.

    And the only way I will ever grow is if friends caring enough like you will shine a light on what they believe are areas in which I could grow. Thanks, Andrew, for being such a good friend.

    Donna : You've been with Samuel and me for such a long time, and we both appreciate it. Yes, Sam is one of the hearts strong enough to keep on caring despite the wounds inflicted upon him and those he cares about. Thanks for seeing that. I'm glad you enjoyed that tune from Enya. It is one of my favorites of hers.

    Alliterative Allomorph : Thanks for the in-depth comment. It means a lot that you liked my simple line that wasn't so simple for me to construct about the attorney.
    I will have to study my style of writing to see if I cannot alter it to make the reader more relaxed and drawn in by it. Roger Zelazny is my role model in that. His LORD OF LIGHT is the star I chart my course by. I will have to read Marilynn Robinson. Thanks for the nod. You made my day with your comments. Stay as safe as you can in Athens.

    Creepy Query Girl : Your praise is deeply appreciated. Drop by again.

    Old Kitty : That you were drawn in and riveted means more than I can say. And that it wasn't off-putting to you means even more.

    Theresa : Please enter one of these blogfests. I look forward to reading what you would post.

    Slushpile Girl of Easy Affections : I'm glad you were drawn in by my Biblical quotes and the ghostly Turquoise Woman, The Ancient of Days, and just manner of being has Sam become. It meant a lot coming from you.

    Matthew : From your lips to God's ears. I'm glad you liked that template of a query letter I wrote for your novel, WARRIOR MONKS. It's just a guide. Or you can use it with my blessings as it is.

    Sangu : Thanks for the award. Reading your blog is reward enough for me.

    Clara : Sam is honored that you would use his words as a quote for "unique" moments. I use Merde. It sounds classy and means the same thing.

    Crystal : It means a lot to me when you say you found my excerpt powerful and haunting. You made me smile.

    Laughing Wolf : You're right there, old friend. Never get a wet, naked undead Texas Ranger mad at you!

    Jaycee : I'm happy you liked my introductions. And I'm gratified that you recognize the lyrical thinking to Sam. He is, at heart, a poet and scholar who backed into undeath and becoming a Texas Ranger to feed his curse.

    Rats. Another blood run emergency. I have to run. Thanks all of you, Roland

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  26. Thanks for sharing your writing. The conflict is really felt throughout the passage, wonderful!
    Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm following yours now! Looks like we are both thinking about keeping those stakes up as the novel moves along.

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  27. Hey, Roland! Thanks for visiting my blog today. Love your premise here - and I dig the internal conflict. Evocative, moody...nicely done :)

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  28. The rest of my thanks before the answering service calls again :

    Covnitkepr1 : Thanks for dropping by and following. I returned the favor. Don't be a stranger, hear?

    Tessa Conte : I'm sorry about the length. But I'm glad you liked the attorney line. And sorry, ever since I was a toddler I've misspelled caliber.

    Tali Roland : Yes, sometimes the shorter the sentence, the more effective the impact. Hemingway was right.

    Ann : Wow. I love your words "spat me out of Sam's soul and back into the reality of the moment." I think you'll like Thursday post then. Please come back and comment.

    VR : It's my fault entirely. First, I insist on using a black background with hard to read white letters. Second, I persist in posting a phalanx of prose for long stretches. It's no wonder you missed the teeny, tiny sentence at the end of a long block of prose saying : The brass plate below the painiting called it The Ancient of Days.

    Thanks for getting caught up in the prose, despite its punishing length, and Sam's inner conflict. May be both be published soon. I enjoy your blog immensely.

    Sarahjayne : Your high praise means a lot to me. Come back again soon.

    Tara : Don't be disappointed. Come back and read Thursday post -- which was supposed to be my entry for the internal conflict blogfest. Your comments make my writing not seem so pointless. Thanks.

    Lynda : It would be nice to win that contest, and that's for sure. Thanks for the good wishes on it.

    Amalia : Yes, thanks for picking up on the color and heat changes in the water. I was trying for the exact effect you felt. Your praise means I'm doing something right -- and that means a lot to me right now.

    Lydia : You have a lovely blog. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Yes, cranking up the stakes makes for an enjoyable read. Please, come back again.

    Zoe C. : That you think my writing evocative and moody means I'm hitting the target. You have a delightful, intriguing blog. Don't be a stranger.

    Now, all of you wish me a straight-through night's sleep, and I'll wish you the same. All may our dreams of becoming published all come true! Roland

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  29. Oops! Bad move. I'm really intrigued. What is he?

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  30. Nicely done. I really enjoy the internal narrative here. The quick, short sentences really add to the tension and intrigue for me.

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  31. Thanks for sharing this - good examples that generate ideas. Internal conflict, always interesting stuff. My favorite line was where the lawyer 'turned off his smile'. Love it!

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  32. Hey, thanks again for making it over to my blog! I really enjoyed this, I was intrigued about what was going on, although, as someone who's new to your writing, I would have appreciated actually being told what McCord is. I liked how detailed you were with the scene, I enjoyed the historical detail. I like the "Oh shit" line, too, but, again as a new reader, I can't imagine what could possibly threaten this guy, he seems pretty lethal.

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