Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Category: Prose (page 2 of 2)

A Letter.

Turns out that this blog doesn’t just update itself. 🙂

Here’s something I’m working on for my class, wherein we write everything except poetry or short stories….


To whom it may concern:

I write to you today, not to complain per se (because I know that actual complaint is a bit ridiculous in a place like this), but rather to make an amiable suggestion, as a client, since I am after all one of the multitudinous throng whom you serve so tirelessly. In recent years, here on Level Eight, I’ve felt a little—how shall I say it—bored, perhaps, or at least having a level of ennui that was never, I’m sure, intended by The Management. A certain type of boredom is expected in some Levels, for example the Swamp of the Wrathful and Sullen, but certainly not all the way down here. I would imagine that a sense of impending doom, awe, and of course pant-shitting terror would be more far appropriate to the milieu. My drift, Gentlemen, is this: I believe I could manage Level Eight in a far more modern and efficient way than the current staffing.

I do not wish to overstep my bounds as a client; I simply feel the need to share feedback from my customer service experience. When I was assigned to Level Eight, I had the highest hopes that I would be plunged into an eternity of soul-wrenching pain, and indeed when I first experienced the skin-blistering heat of the lakes of burning pitch, I was impressed. My enthusiasm for Level Eight began to wane when it was over six earthly days from my arrival before I got personal attention from the staffing. Even then, the staff member in question merely prodded by buttocks and spleen with a pitchfork that was only slightly rusty, causing me little lasting damage and only a brief moment of fear. This level of service correlates poorly with the heinousness of my earthly crimes. I am personally responsible for the bankruptcy of hundreds, the starving of children, the disbanding of at least a dozen families. I took people who trusted me implicitly and turned them onto their cold, broke asses. Should I not be punished accordingly? Is a slight poke on the bum what The Management thinks is fitting punishment for someone who is responsible for the suicide of three people and the alcoholism of fifteen? Sirs, to be blunt: I was saddened by the current state of the Organization, and I wish desperately for changes to be made.

Firstly, and most importantly, the current scenery needs a major update. To be frank, burning lakes of fire and demons with whips are tacky, totally stuck in the 14th century. Considering the seven centuries of technological advances since then, it’s a wonder no use of modern technology has been made: no napalm, no nuclear radiation, no fiendish ways with hairspray. Perhaps in the era of Dante an effective contra-passo punishment for political corruption might have been being prodded by demons in a burning lake of fire, but in the 21st century? Please. Some kind of literal shitstorm, or possibly a sort of re-living of the most desperate moments of those whom the clients harmed would be more appropriate, don’t you think?

Aside from the actual landscape of the Organization, I’m quite sure that the current staff is being used in a fiendishly inefficient way, if you’ll excuse the pun. From my extensive Human Resources and campaign management experience, I would be able to downsize the staffing needs of the entire Organization by 25%, freeing up essential personnel for client intake services. We could be serving million more every day, if only we could allocate the staffing resources properly. (I suppose “Human Resources” isn’t an entirely accurate term.)

Finally, I feel that the Eighth Level in particular should be restructured to incorporate all of the varieties of fraud relevant in today’s world. Street pimps are in the same ditch as the Henry VIII and Charles Ponzi. Dot-coms and corporate fraud are a whole different kettle of fish than simony and sorcery. This level of disorganization is simply unacceptable, given the long-standing reputation of the Organization. I understand that chaos is an important value to the Organization, but let us make it controlled a chaos, a streamlined chaos, all-in-all a chaotic pit of terror that best serves its ever-widening client base while meeting the Management’s mission and vision. Please consider my offer of restructuring and assistance, as I am wholly your man.

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Soul

Dear Concerned Soul:

Consider yourself hired.


Scene vs. Summary

One of the basic tricks in a writer’s Bag-O-Tricks is knowing when to use scene, and when to use summary. What the crap does that mean? Well, scene is like a movie: the events are happening in real time, you’re watching them, there we go. It may or may not involve direct dialogue. For example:

Elijah squatted down next to her. He moved a lot more smoothly than he felt like he ought to be able to–his  heart was pounding.

“Your house got bombed,” he said.

“I know,” she snapped.

Summary, on the other hand, happens when the implied narrator moves through time more quickly or summarizes events. Sometimes summary comes in the form of exposition. For example:

Nicodemus Tolson, whom Elijah had always known as Nico at school, or Malacode online, would not be the first person you’d peg to be a gang leader. When Elijah met him freshmen year, he looked like a perfectly ordinary, intelligent kid who was the vice president of the Technology Club and who wore suits to school that made him look a little like an Archangel. Over the course of the year, Elijah learned that Nico paid for the suits and most of the luxury in his life with stolen credits, laundered and transferred to an account of one of his online aliases.

I realize that most of Freedomland is scene. I have a habit of writing too much scene when I could be doing creative and interesting things with summary. I think usually scene is more powerful, but I’m increasingly realizing that if everything is scene at more or less the same pace, the prose gets old pretty quick.

When I was writing my NaNoWriMo draft of my next novel, which is called Changeling at this point, I used almost exclusively scene. I was also writing in first person present tense throughout the whole thing, and while there are advantages to first person present tense (sense of immediacy, trendiness), I kind of wanted to throw up in my mouth a little bit after reading over 100+ pages of first person present tense. The novel has multiple viewpoints, which helped, but it was still weird.

I did go to a bunch of fun writers’ workshops at the Richard Hugo House, including one about stretching and compressing narrative time. Then I wrote the following compressed time piece for Changeling:

It was three weeks to the day after I saw my father slap my mother in the kitchen that the two of them sat Cassie and me down in the living room and told us they were getting separating. “Separating,” they said, as if divorce was a dirty word. “You girls and me are going to move out,” Mum informed us casually, as if she were telling us what she’d made for dinner. Moving out, it turns out, meant getting visas and flying across the Atlantic to the Denver International Airport, which is just like the rest of America: large, neon, and full of fat people in a hurry. We got to our new house in January, and it kept on cold and basically shitty until June. We didn’t even get to ski. I had almost stopped hating Colorado over the summer, and even mostly forgiven Mum for ripping us across the ocean, but then it was November, and Cassie disappeared.

See? Mostly summary there, with the wee bitty bit of scene-like dialogue. So much cooler than plain scene after scene after scene.

In case y’all wondered, here are some thoughts that it is both terrifying and gratifying to experience:

  1. “Fuck, I have to change the tense of my novel.”
  2. “Wow, I’m writing some stuff for the new novel that’s way cooler than the one I just spent three damn  years publishing.”
  3. “I will probably use maybe 20% the 150 or so pages of novel I wrote last November.”

In any case! I have a revision party scheduled tomorrow with the estimable HJB, so that will be good.

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