Tag Archives: story

The Bad Guys

In fiction, the most plausible and interesting villains do not believe they are the bad guys. In very basic stories for children, the bad guys act in certain ways because they are bad, and that seems like reason enough. However, in real life, how many people act in a way that they consider to be deliberately evil? The Nazis genuinely believed that ‘racial purity’ was a good thing. Most people who act in a way others find objectionable, have a rationale for doing so.

Which raises an interesting question. Both from a writing perspective, and a sense of self awareness, how do we actually know if we are the good guys? When life runs along smoothly and everyone is happy, then everyone can be right, without conflict or reason for doubt. However, when there are radically different perspectives on what constitutes ‘good’ how do we know where we stand? Further, would we actually want to know if, by an objective measure (assuming there is one) we have become the villain of the piece?

I imagine that from his perspective, the Sheriff of Nottingham was a decent bloke trying to do a hard job, hampered by criminals and uncooperative peasants. I think there’s a tendency in British myth and story making to favour the person who has the least power as being the more morally justified. On some very basic level, most of us do not believe that might is really right, and we are suspicious of those who wield power. That’s even more curious when you think about the shape of our culture and legal system which is far less pro self defence than, for example, America. In terms of how we run the country, I could argue that the UK is full of people who believe they are Robin Hood, when in fact they are the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Are the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things that we can establish objectively, or are they to some degree relativistic? What is happily ever after for the fox is a tale of tragedy for the rabbit. While it’s preferable to have situations where everyone benefits, often what is good for one proves harmful for another. How do we judge our own actions in light of this?

I find myself with far fewer points of reference for who I am than feels comfortable right now, and a handful of different ways of making sense of my own history. I tend to understand myself, and others, not through belief about who we are, but through actions. Doing is everything, but I do not currently know how to do anything. How do I step far enough back from myself to be able to see a bigger picture? How can I be certain whether I am Robin Hood, or the Sheriff of Nottingham? Am I even in the right story here?

Most of the time, as we write our own life stories, we cast ourselves as the heroes. Our actions make perfect sense in light of our motives and perceptions. We are doing the right things, for the right reasons. But if our whole world view crashes against a radically different perception, what then? If in someone else’s tale you stalk menacingly through their life, bringing grief and destruction, how do you deal with that other story of who you are? I find myself thinking of Douglas Adams, and the entity Arthur Dent inadvertently kills in all its incarnations. The ‘hero’ is unwittingly transformed into something hideous and malicious in the eyes of the victim, without even knowing what he has done. In other people’s stories, we can play very different roles, without knowing it.

Who am I, in my own story? Victim or aggressor? Hero or villain? Success or failure? In reality, these distinctions are too basic to be meaningful, and most of us are both at some time or another.

What a good novel should have …

Of course, this is only my opinion but for a good novel must have the following attributes …

  • Fully 3D characters
  • Excellent description of places, so you feel you are there
  • Complexity – nothing is simply black or white
  • Heroes who get it wrong some of the time
  • Bad guys who get it right some of the time
  • Events and characters that explode cliches
  • The ability to make you think, turn your values upside-down, if only a little
  • The story should grow you, your attitudes, as it does those of the protagonist

Novels that have all this do not grow on trees :-).

I’m currently re-reading Frank Herbert’s “Whipping Star”, it has all of these qualities and is still brilliantly thought provoking after 38 years.

What do you think? What makes a good novel for you?

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Oak Man 2

Bran is on the train from London and is in process of meeting Jenni. He’s a solitary soul but is opening up slightly with her.

She’s intrigued by his battered fiddle case and asks him what “itinerant” means.

He talks of travelling, moving around but it’s the word gypsy that hooks her, although he claims to have no gypsy blood …

Elen Sentier http://WWW.elensentier.co.uk

Gawain

Gawain & the Green Knight

Gawain, Gawain, tumbling down,

falling, falling, falling.

Here is a Hall. A King’s Hall.

The smell of smoldering peat and apple-wood,

of roast meats, old bones and wet dogs.

Where am I?

Here, says the voice inside your head.

Come in! Come in! I welcome you.

There is a lady, dark and fair, with raven hair.

Green eyes melt you.

Sitting now, you hold the wooden table hard,

fearing to float again,

the Hall will melt and you be

falling, falling, falling.

Ba-Boom!

Thunder at the doors.

Ba-Boom!

Again the thunder roars.

Ba-Boom!

Open!

The doors fly open, wind whistles the snow around your ears.

Blind, you see the darkness fill the doorway.

Your heart makes thunder softly in your breast,

Ba-Boom!

Fire sparks from the stones under the green hooves.

Wisps of straw catch light, smolder a moment

and fail in the dampness of the season.

The hooves come closer.

Upwards climbs your eye,

the soft green fetlock,

the shimmering green leg,

the green ripple of shoulder muscle.

Almost you shut your eyes. This cannot be!

But the voice within your head laughs …

Dare not? … Dare not? …

And your eyes betray you forcing you to see.

Green silk reins, bridle, green-gold bit.

Ah! A change.

The horse’s eyes are golden, like a cat,

first slitting then opening so wide you are engulphed.

Retreating, you turn your eyes,

follow up the reins.

The hands are green.

Green wrist emerge from silken green-sleeves.

One hand holds up a holly bundle.

The other holds the Labrys,

two-faced in her own sincerity.

Reaching upwards you find the face, crowned with holly.

Green, green eyes hold you, freeze your blood.

The King is bored, he will not eat

until some one has told a tale to sharpen up his appetite.

Ho! The Green Man calls. Who reigns here?

Who is master of this Hall?

The King’s eyes light, lazily he leans back in his chair.

Why, I do, he says softly.

And wouldst thou game with me?

For I would game, now, at the turning of the year.

And I would game with kings!

Nay! The King laughs.

I cannot game with thee.

I am the King.

My lady holds my head within her hands

and would not let it go.

He eyes the Labrys knowingly.

Then is there any other

who will stand in for the King

and play my game?

For I will surely game before I leave this Hall.

Silence reigns.

Breath is stilled.

Even the flames pause

in licking at the carcass on the spit.

Silence holds sway.

Even the wind pauses in his circling of the towers,

waiting a response.

Silence grips your heart.

Holding hard to the wood of the table you rise, shaking,

legs of jelly threat to buckle and dissolve

and pitch you in the damp straw.

Holding hard to the wood of the table you stand.

And standing thus it seems the hall revolves about you,

twisting light and dark in streamers.

You shake your head. Vision grows.

I will game with you for my lord King,

you hear yourself proclaiming.

Your voice goes on apace despite your reason.

And letting go the table so you stagger forth

and stand beside the huge green horse and his great rider,

an ant beside an elephant.

Haaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

The great laugh rolls around the hall shaking the banners,

even the flames leap with the wind, scorching the pig.

And down he climbs, down from the horse.

The earth rocks as his feet touch ground.

He stands before you, holding up the axe,

the holly gone behind the saddle now.

This is our game, he tells you,

that I will bear from you one blow of my great axe.

And I will not fight nor flinch

but will allow you do your best or worst upon me.

And all I ask in return is that you then, a year from now,

bear one blow in return from me and my axe,

and that you neither flinch

nor turn away nor offer any defence.

Will you play my game?

Again your voice betrays your mind.

I will, you say.

It seems as the Hall turns on its axis once again

wedding you both in the eye of the storm.

Slow and stately now he offers you the axe.

He kneels before you.

Parts his green silk hair to show his neck

and bows his head.

Labrys’ body, silken holly shaft, slips easy in your hand.

Lift me, heft me, she whispers.

Am I not graceful? Sharp? Incisive?

Do your hands not delight to hold me?

And it’s true.

Your hands caress her silken curves

and slide to grip her firmly for her work.

You feel her rouse and rise.

You feel her speed as she pulls your arms down for the mighty stroke.

You feel the inner sound as she screams for joy,

tasting blood.

The head rolls at your feet.

What have you done?

A life?

A life is gone for you and for the game?

How did you do this?

Ah! She whispers.

No man may resist my calling.

I am Labrys, eater of kings.

Now the world turns backwards.

Slowly, the Green Man rises,

gets up from his knees.

Reaches down to grasp the head and holds it on his arm.

Hast made me a body shorter, laughs the head.

And saying so the body leaps lightly to the saddle.

The green horse turns,

the man reaches down

and plucks the Labrys from your grasp.

She goes lightly, laughing,

returning to her lover.

In one year’s time, the head informs you.

In one year’s time.

And out into the snow they ride.

The doors fall to behind them.

Ba-Boom!

It seems forever since you heard the sea.

The dessert rises and falls before you and behind you.

Is there no thing in all this wasteland?

Your horse carries you forward.

It is long since you had the wit to direct him and he knows,

he knows where you must go.

Mist rises.

A shimmering tower spins before you.

A thing has come to you in all this wasteland.

Will you enter in?

Your horse walks on,

carrying you forward willy, nilly,

into the spinning mist.

You try to close your eyes but yet again they fail you,

forcing you to see.

The mist glows golden.

The light stills.

Warmth and moisture surround you.

Looking now you find yourself within a castle yard.

Silence reigns.

Your breath is stilled, halts in your throat.

What is this place?

A footstep sounds behind you.

Dare you turn?

You must.

Step down sir knight, he tells you.

You have traveled a goodly way.

Come in! Come in! I welcome you.

You climb down, weary,

the earth shudders as your feet hit ground.

Your horse walks over to a stall and is content.

Come in! He says again and turns towards the Hall.

You follow him.

There is a lady, dark and fair, with raven hair.

Green eyes melt you.

Sitting now, you hold the wooden table hard,

fearing to float again,

the Hall will melt and you be

falling, falling, falling.

She brings you food, wine.

Leads you to a fair chamber.

Takes off your armour, like a page

and helps you into bed.

Sleep! She says.

The touch of her hand on your brow is all you know till morning.

Come! He says.

I would go hunting.

I cannot, you reply.

I must go on to the Green Chapel.

I have promised.

I know, he says.

And I can show you your way when your time is come.

Now, while we wait let us have sport.

I am weary, you tell him.

Aye! Then I will hunt about the forest

and whatever I bring home I will give to you.

You will be here

and whatever you find during the day

you will give to me in exchange.

Agreed, you say, wearily, just wanting to be still.

Later, the Lady comes to you.

Anoints your head and leaves you then to sleep again,

giving you only one kiss.

At eventide he comes.

On his shoulder is a fine stag.

See, he says, what the gods have given me today.

How did you fare?

You take him by the shoulders and plant a kiss upon his brow.

Next day again you lie abed.

The Lady comes.

Her breath is honey and roses,

her skin like a peach, her hands cool.

You melt within her eyes.

She pours the unguent on your head.

Bending down she kisses you on the lips.

The taste of sweet wine lingers all the day.

At eventide he comes.

A fine boar on his shoulder.

See, he says, what the gods have given me today.

How did you fare?

You take him by the shoulders and plant a kiss upon his lips.

Next day you lie abed again.

The Lady sits with you.

I know your quest she says and you will fail but for me.

Take this girdle now and hide it next your heart.

When your moment comes none shall harm thee.

She kisses your lips and leaves.

You hide the green girdle deep within your shirt.

At eventide he comes.

A bright red fox over his shoulder.

See, he says, what the gods have given me today.

How did you fare?

Again you take him by the shoulders and plant a kiss upon his lips.

This night he looks at you,

a smile hovers over his mouth.

His lady too looks up from under her eyelids and almost smiles.

You eat bravely, for tomorrow is your day.

The morning is bright.

Your horse is rested,

stamping, champing, restive, on the go.

You climb aboard and touch your breast.

A smile breaks out upon the Lord and Lady’s faces.

Go forth, they cheer you on.

Your horse knows the way.

All the luck of the morning be with thee.

And they turn, take hands and go within the hall.

The shimmering mist surrounds you.

Coming out you find yourself in deep forest.

Trees arch and bow over your head,

the bracken stirs about your horses hooves.

The smell of autumn.

Pacing on, the track brings you up and up

and suddenly you come out in the grove.

Towering mountains spy between the trees.

Before you is the Green Chapel.

Slowly you climb down.

Some thing whispers, Welcome! Come in! Come in!

The earth feels soft and gentle beneath your feet.

You walk into the chapel.

Ho!

You know that voice.

And wouldst thou game with me?

For I would game, now, at the turning of the year.

And I would game with kings!

You turn and come out through the door.

Ba-Boom!

It slams behind you.

He is there.

Green silk reins, bridle, green-gold bit.

Green hands emerge from silken green-sleeves,

one holds a bunch of holly.

The other holds the Labrys.

Your eyes travel up to find the face, crowned with holly.

The green, green eyes hold you, freeze your blood.

It is my Lord.

My Lord of the spinning tower.

He smiles.

And down he climbs, down from the horse.

The earth rocks as his feet touch ground.

He stands before you.

It seems the grove turns on its axis,

the chapel spins.

You stand again in the eye of the storm,

wedded to your fate.

Slow and stately now he holds up the axe.

You kneel before Him, bow your head.

You can hear how Labrys whistles

and then screams for blood as he brings the blade down.

Nothing.

Nothing has happened.

You are still here.

Your head is on your shoulders.

That’s one! He cries and rises up the axe again.

And Labrys screams again.

You flinch and the blade nicks your neck.

Red blood flows.

Ha! He cries. That’s two.

Now be thee still for third time is the spell.

Labrys climbs the sky

and towers in the clouds above his head.

Down and down she screams, slicing the wind.

And nothing.

You still kneel upon the fallen leaves,

your head upon your shoulders.

Now show me! He demands.

Show me my lady’s gift.

Show me now as you did not the other night

but like the fox you hid from me.

And like the fox

I find you in the end.

With shaking hands you draw out the green girdle and offer it.

The light shimmers

and She is there beside him.

I will take back my own, she says

and takes the girdle,

runs it through her hands.

Hast earned it?

She turns to the Lord.

Aye, he says.

She holds it out to you again.

You did my bidding as I asked, she tells you.

The girdle is yours. Keep it close.

Call me, and I will come.

She turns now to the towering Lord,

standing a tip-toe she kisses him as he bends to her will.

The light shimmers

and she is gone.

Fires come down from the skies,

the winds tear through the grove.

The Man begins to laugh.

Laughing so, his body comes apart,

his face, his limbs.

All fly up swirling in the winds.

His body torn to shreds.

You find yourself

within a whirling vortex built of leaves.

Golden leaves, all shades of gold.

They surround you, hold you,

spin you with themselves.

Up you go,

into the eye of the storm.

Gawain, Gawain, tumbling down,

falling, falling, falling.

Here is a Hall. A King’s Hall.

The smell of smoldering peat and apple-wood,

of roast meats, old bones and wet dogs.

Where am I?

Here, says the voice inside your head.

Come in! Come in! I welcome you.

There is a lady, dark and fair, with raven hair.

Green eyes melt you.

Sitting now, you hold the wooden table hard,

fearing to float again,

the Hall will melt and you be

falling, falling, falling.

Tell me, says the King.

Tell me, says the Queen.

And you begin your tale …

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Coughing up bones …

Reconstructing the Fall: A Memoir

It was a rather memorable moment, or should I say – historic? Not that there weren’t any other animals around. There were plenty. All of them named by homo sapiens, my allotted spouse. I wasn’t around during that name-giving process and his first wife, Lilith, had just left, so – just to clear things up – we women had no hand in taking dominion over the living things of the earth.

I made my entrance without preconceived ideas about my fellow creatures and made friends easily, while Adam – that is to say this ‘reasoning’ companion of mine – felt he had to rule them. Being on friendly terms with the other animals gave me access to objective information about the time before I was in Eden. About the two trees and the one rule, and about Lilith and why she left. Lilith’s best friend and ultimate confident was Snake. She was wise and patient, understanding and trustworthy. And I wanted to get to know her, naturally. More than anything else, really.

She was of the most amazing appearance. Her body was of a dark shade of green that seemed translucent, and the golden stripes on her back were like sunbeams on water, images forming and re-forming in ever-changing patterns. Her eyes were as clear as crystals, and just above them there was a golden sign drawn on her skin, powerful and mystical. I saw before me the most beautiful creature I had ever beheld.

Now, you might think you know what happened then but, let me tell you, they got it all wrong. We had a long conversation about life, power and knowledge. Of course we touched upon the subject of making one’s own decisions. From there it was only the tiniest step to eat the fruit.

Leaving Eden was a blessing. My life finally had some meaning – meaning that I myself could attribute to it. Though I never saw Snake again, I knew I would never forget this shining figure’s enchanting voice, and how she uttered the words which led to my freedom. And Adam’s too, by the way. Although he just followed the leader.

© jsmorgane (2003)

Writing Class

Recently I completed a creative writing class and it reminded me of one thing. Everyone has a story to write….most people have more than one story. For instance, I have so many stories bounding around my head that there is barely enough time to get them all out.

But what makes one person a writer while the other person dreams about writing. The answer is simple and yet so hard for so many. It’s the simple act of writing. A writer writes.

The fear of rejection, perfection and judgement (among so many others) are a huge barrier for a lot of people who fall into the “wantabe” writer. The act of actually sitting down and writing is very confronting. There is a great deal of emotion spent in writing, it shows the soul, it shows our personality, our hopes and dreams. Once it is out there in the world, out on paper, there is no bringing it back.

But the adrenaline, the passion and fire so many writers feel when they sit down to write is easily addictive. The flow soon starts and all of a sudden the writer is in the “zone”. Hours have passed with relative ease as the writer has been caught up in their characters, plot, places and themes.

This is how you know you are a writer. You have the burning desire, you have the fear that goes with it. You write. I dont think a writer should be judged on the one and only fact of if they are published or not. To be a published writer is a whole different story. A writer simply has to write. If you decide to share your stories, poems or an entire novel with other people then thats great.

But you dont have to share, there is a feeling of freedom to be able to write whatever you want without having the censure in the back of your mind that says “what if people read that!!” But if people do read what you write, you may be surprised by the effect and the reaction.

When you write you grow as a person, you gain confidence, you can work through emotions, create worlds and people. You can write about your dreams and hopes, things that you could never say out loud to anyone can be written down for all to see in the guise of a character.

Writing is like reading, it is freeing. So if you have a passion to write, if you have stories within you that scream to be let out…..then write. I thought about giving up writing at one stage but a friend reminded me of what a writer truly is…..someone who has stories within them and needs to share them so others can see the magic they never knew was there. Seize your passion and go with the flow. You will be amazed what happens.

Then you can call yourself a writer.

Cheers

Connie