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Bubba’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict

According to legend, there is a small speck floating alone in a vast, empty forgotten stretch of the universe that has not experienced conflict. Unless you happen to be this miniscule particle (and I think the likelihood is low), conflict is a part of your identity. If, by some freakish chance, you are that tiny speck, you just ruined a perfectly good setup. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Anyway, people have created a number of different techniques to handling, resolving, avoiding, causing, and denying conflict. In the real world, there are several ways to deal with it. Fiction, however, is not the real world.

Here’s the issue. For many years, authors, editors, publishers, and university professors who have never held a real job have developed a set a rules for each other that govern the ways in which a story may be told. Those who follow the rules are “good” and those who do not are “subhuman illiterate hacks.” Some of these rules govern and define our culture’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict.

Tyrannical Rule #1: Conflict must exist between a minimum of two parties and a maximum of three. Conflicts with less than two parties make no sense and shall not be permitted. Fights between four or more parties confuse the minuscule and fragile minds of readers and are, therefore, banned. Conflicts between fractional numbers are ridiculous and may cause an editor’s head to explode. Irrational numbers are right out. Authors who flout this law will be ridiculed and chastised in public by their betters until they either surrender their right to write or shrivel in shame. We’re good with either outcome.

Tyrannical Rule #2: All conflict must be created in such a way that the antagonist must be omniscient and omnipotent. Evil must always be infinitely stronger than good. The protagonist must have absolutely no reasonable chance of success. The antagonist must also have one weakness. Two or more weaknesses will not be allowed under any circumstances.

Tyrannical Rule #3: No matter how impossible or unlikely, all conflict must be resolved in only one way. The protagonist must overcome all obstacles through extreme debilitating suffering. Regardless of the mechanisms or methodologies employed by the protagonist, the only reason the protagonist wins the fight with their antagonist is by persevering through immense suffering just a moment longer than the antagonist. No other method of resolution will be allowed for any reason. Any suggestion that a conflict can be overcome by any other means will be met with extreme hatred, explosive derision, and the panicked shrieking of all good authors, editors, publishers, and university professors who have never held a real job.

Tyrannical Rule #4: No variation, deviation, or modification of these laws will be tolerated. Any author who dares question one or more of these rules will no longer be allowed to think with their own brain. Only authors who conform completely in every conceivable way to these laws will be considered “creative.”

Well, I disagree. I’ve listened to my fellow authors. I’ve heard their point of view. I understand that using commonly accepted thought processes and storytelling methods makes it much easier for a reader to predict how a story will go before they ever crack it open. That’s my problem with it. I want to be surprised by the story. I want it to go places that I didn’t expect and for the characters to do things I didn’t predict. To that end, I have created Bubba’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict.

Bubba’s Rule #1: Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s a part of the character’s personality, world, and culture. Some are sharp and intense while others are more trivial. Characters facing different types of conflict will appear more solid than those that only face one at a time.

Bubba’s Rule #2: Neither protagonists, antagonists or any other fictional characters are all powerful or all knowing. Get over it. Some may be stronger than others, but attempting to ramp up the drama by exaggerating the antagonist’s power is pathetic and weak. Having a protagonist find and exploit an antagonist’s one and only weakness is predictable and, therefore, to be met with a sarcastic eye-roll.

Bubba’s Rule #3: Conflict resolution must not be predictable. Protagonists may overcome obstacles in any number of ways including outwitting, surprising, appeasing, distracting, or talking with the antagonist. Conflict resolution that can be predicted before a book has been opened must be the one form of resolution that cannot be used. Any suggestion that conflict must be resolved only by suffering will be met with water balloons filled with jellyfish.

Bubba’s Rule #4: Exceptions will be made for each and every rule as necessary to fit the story. Rules will be considered to be guidelines rather than absolutes. Authors are required to think with their own brains.

Bubba’s Rule #5: Bubba’s Rules shall not be binding on any other person. No other author, editor, publisher, or university professor who has never held a real job will be required or expected to comprehend or accept these rules.

After all, I’m not looking for an argument.

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Self-Centered Reviews

Every once in a while, I ignore the GPS of conventional wisdom and veer onto a poorly lit side street. From the condition of the road, this appears to be one of those times.

One of the conundrums facing independent authors is the task of securing a sufficient quantity of reviews for their work. Common sense says that new readers may not be drawn to a new book until a critical mass of reviews have been written for the book. No one wants to be the first to dive into new waters. That never ends well in a movie during shark week. As a result, independent authors end up lurking in public places, begging for reviews and (occasionally) offering to wash windows in return.

One alternative to this rather pathetic display is the use of non-reciprocal reviews. The idea is that multiple authors come together and agree to read and review books by another author in the group, but not the author who is reviewing their work. That way, no one is able to trade one fawning review for another. When the system works, everyone wins. Honest reviews are written for each book and the street corners and viaducts remain free of loquacious beggars.

The problem is that most authors are human. While some will honor their commitments and write honest reviews, others will not. Some will speed through the book, skimming an entire novel in a few hours in an effort to spend as little time as possible on the review. Some may read it, but won’t bother to write their own review and will just copy and paste reviews written by others. A certain number of cretins will happily accept reviews for their own book while failing to review others.

Yes, that is reprehensible and no, there is no excuse for such behavior. The issue is that many authors are so consumed with their own self-centered desire to rack up as many reviews and/or accolades as possible for themselves that they don’t care that they are cheating other authors in the process. Even worse, they don’t care about the impact on potential readers.

Chasing after them, begging for them to honor their commitment is an obvious waste of time and energy. Scrambling after reviews in a mad race to reach a magic quantity that will coax readers to your shelf is an insane game. The solution is obvious. We can choose not to play.

If someone wants to write a review, they will. If not, there is little an author can do to persuade them to do so. While many authors may disagree with me, I would like to think that books will eventually find their audience. That may be naïve, but I would rather follow this course than hunt down self-centered reviewers.

Hang on, I think I recognize this street. I’m back on track now and my GPS can stop recalculating. You can relax now.

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The Unconscious Mind and Cheese

I’m not sure, but I think a caffeine deficiency can keep my unconscious mind awake. It’s a little bit like having a college roommate who has a schedule opposite to your own. You know about each other’s existence and you may occasionally leave notes for one another, but you never actually sit in the same room. You walk in, see the state of the apartment and wonder, “What happened here?” or “What was he thinking?” or “How did melted cheese end up there?”

I don’t know about yours, but my unconscious self usually keeps to himself. Most of the time, he’ll stay in his part of my brain with the lights off. However, on those occasions where I’ve been too busy to down the minimum amount of coffee for the day, my conscious mind will get drowsy and my unconscious self will emerge from his crawlspace. We’ll exchange uncomfortable pleasantries and he’ll complain about the excessive quietness. We’ll both eye the dishes in the sink and then one of us will change the subject.

He’ll close the window blinds, turn off as many lights as possible, and slink into the shadows. His eyes glow just a bit, so the net effect is a tad unnerving. “Are you awake?” he’ll whisper. I’m not always sure what he hopes the answer will be. I’ll usually pull myself up and pretend that I’m fully alert. While not convinced, he will usually make some excuse and then slip back into his crawlspace. Just before closing the trapdoor, he’ll say, “Stay out of my room. You wouldn’t like what you’d see.” The door will creak closed and metal will scrape as heavy locks grind closed.

“Right,” I’ll declare. “…As if I’d want to see your lair.” He knows I do. However, I know that he knows that I do and that he still got away without doing his own dishes or explaining what happened to the couch.  I’ll pour some more coffee and rub the sleep from my eyes. “That should knock him out for a few hours,” I’ll crow. Deep down, I know that it’s only a temporary fix and that as soon as I fall asleep, he’ll sneak out and lurk, unrestrained, throughout my brain.

That reminds me, I’m going to leave him a note telling him to stop using all of my cheese.

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Sweet Serial

Serials. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.  I’m experimenting with a different technique in writing my current novella.  I’m taking it serially.  Instead of waiting until the whole thing is done before releasing it, I’m writing and releasing each scene as I go. I’ve been posting additional scenes on Wattpad for Deeply Disturbed Donuts.  I just released the fifth scene today.

I’m enjoying this because I feel like there’s an immediate sense of accomplishment with each scene.  As one is finished, it is out there, vulnerable and twitching on the Internet. I like the idea that a reader can follow a story in real time as each scene is uploaded.

Sweet.

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Deeply Disturbed Donuts

Sugar is the least of your concerns with these donuts. They’re not natural. They do strange and unpleasant things to people. Everything about the donut shop screams, “Do Not Enter!” Urban legends whisper unbelievable stories of bizarre accidents caused by these donuts. Some say that the people who eat them may never return to normal. Very few have ever dared to enter the shop. Legends say that even fewer have returned. Even more terrifying, however, are the descriptions of the owner, a dark and mysterious woman known only as, “Chaos.”

Deeply Disturbed Donuts is a novella that I’m writing. I’ve uploaded the first part to Wattpad.com for those who are eager for an early taste. I am not responsible for any unexpected side effects you may experience. You’ve been warned.

If you are the sort whose curiosity gets the better of you, I have one piece of very important advice. Whatever you do, do not eat the donut with the furry purple frosting. I think that’s probably a good rule of thumb in general.

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Artificial Preview

For those who like to snag an early glimpse, I’m posting a draft of the Prologue to the third book in The Other Universes series, Artificial Stupidity. For the rest of you, I thought you might appreciate the warning.

I’ve just started work on the book, so I can’t provide many details. I can, however, offer a sneak peak that explains the title. If you are one of those people who either can’t wait, have an unhealthy amount of curiosity, or just like to click links, I’ve posted the Prologue on Wattpad.

This book will bring the major storylines to a close, completing what began in Reality Challenged and Blithering Genius. I hope to see some of the characters again as they spin off from this trilogy.

If you care to do so, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Prologue, characters, or things you’d like to see happen in this book. Who knows? You might get your wish.

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Facial Deforestation

It wasn’t Global Warming, the Ozone layer, or the fear of another shark/weather related movie. Now that the work crews have left, the trucks have hauled away the debris, and the dust has settled, it’s time to face reality. I shaved off my beard.

You might want to sit down. I’ll give you a moment. Here, I have a bowl of Cheetos and raisins for you. Feeling better?

It wasn’t hot, itchy or telepathic. Well, it might have been, but it didn’t talk to me. It was, however, multi-colored, forged out of rusty nails, and it attracted Blue-Fanged Skerlags from Mutiloid 3. Well, it probably would have if they weren’t so far away and in the midst of a zombie flea outbreak. I tried lectures, time outs, and even beard conditioner, but it just ignored me and controlled the neighbors. I’m not sure about that last part since I’m not all that neighborly.

No matter how I trimmed it, the beard never looked good. It had all the flexibility and comfort of spiked steel rebar. It twisted in nonsensical directions for no discernible reason. The gray, brown and black striping made me look like Skunkman. While, I’ll admit, that sounds a bit intriguing, it wasn’t as cool as you might think.

I really tried to make this thing work. I took it out in public on walks. Well, I drove, but it could have walked if it had wanted to do so. With great patience, I waited for it mature, hoping for a day when we could enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship. At first, I tolerated its annoying tendency to grab food, but its insatiable hunger and selfish cheese poaching became too much to bear.

Finally, I accepted the fact that this could only end one way. One of us would have to shave off the other. Since I would prefer to be the shaver rather than the shavee, I hacked it off early in the morning, before it had a chance to steal some of my coffee. It didn’t go quietly. The street in front of my house filled with neighbors holding pitchforks and torches. Well, it might have. I didn’t look outside. Anyway, I ignored the threats, pleading, and transmissions to Mutiloid 3. With a final flick of the razor, the deed was done. Afterwards, it was a tad disconcerting when the beard leapt up, raced outside, and shouted, “Free at last!” Well, it might have. I was busy enjoying some coffee, so I missed it.

I won’t miss the beard, even though I liked the idea of the beard. I guess I’ll never be able to grow it out enough to do a comb-over or tie it in a bow on top of my head. I suppose those are looks I’ll just have to imagine for now. I suspect a character will soon venture forth in one of my stories with just such a beard.

I hope my actual beard doesn’t come after me for copyright infringement. I’ll put in a call to Mutiloid 3 just in case they need directions.

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Deforested Bubba

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Un-Advice

Sometimes, I’m asked for advice. Most of the time, however, I’m not. Go figure. All of that advice just bubbles and festers, waiting on an inquiring mind (or one without a sense of self-preservation) to ask for it. After waiting for several decades for someone with a dangerously over-developed curiosity to ask, I’ve begun to realize that it’s just not going to happen.

I know. You’re probably just as stunned as I am. Don’t worry, though, because I’ve thought of the perfect solution. I’ll assume that you asked. I’m sure you meant to do it. I’ve got you covered.

I call it Un-Advice and I’ve created a category for it on this blog. I’ll post some random pearls of wisdom which may infest your life and help me to clear out some of the mental toxic waste I’ve been hauling around. Here are some examples.

“Humans are red meat, but we taste more like pork. Researching this can raise eyebrows. It’s a good idea to realize that when conducting research for a story, not everyone will share your enthusiasm.”

“Creative problem solving is based upon the concept that most people are hopelessly incompetent. Never assume that anyone else did their job properly. Sure, they might have, but the odds are not good.”

“People. There’s just no excuse.”

“Learning about Electricity at a conceptual level is different from licking an electric fence. Some lessons are only learned through acts of unbelievable stupidity. The question is whether or not one chooses to learn by observation or participation…”

“If you agree to review a book, you should pay an appropriate amount of attention to it. Skimming a book, glancing at pages and flipping through it in order to spend as little time as possible on it is a bit like texting throughout a movie and then complaining that you couldn’t get into it. If you put in the effort and still don’t like it, at least you’ll know that you gave it a chance.”

“Just because melted cheese gets stuck in a beard, does not mean that one must give up pizza when one grows a face blanket. I mean, we’re talking about pizza. One can always wear a facekin (It’s like a napkin, but for your face.) Hey, I didn’t write the rules for dining etiquette in polite society.”

There you go. You’re welcome. You see? This is what happens when you let un-advice spoil in my head. You’re probably rethinking that decision not to ask for advice now, aren’t you?

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Bubba Bits

They’re not all the same. Some are crunchy and have that, “I probably shouldn’t have done that,” flavor. Others may be wiggly and squishy and have tendency to slide all around in disconcerting ways. Every now and then, you end up with one that’s got a smokey, mesquite flavor

I just posted the first scene from a short story / novella that is currently being fried on the stove. It’s still hot, so don’t burn yourself. I put it on Wattpad so you can have a taste. http://www.wattpad.com/story/69089976

This story follows Boomer and his new (albeit less than thrilled) companion, Katy Lynn. There are crop circles, a missing truck, whispered tales of alien abductions, a mysterious disappearance, and a deep dislike of foolishness. Something strange happened more than 30 years earlier and Boomer hasn’t been the same. Working his ranch and patiently waiting for an unlikely return, Boomer never left the prairie until now. The search for his truck may force him to do the unthinkable. He may have to leave his old life behind.

Okay, I said it was hot, so don’t look at me like that. Here. Drink some iced tea. Yes, I’m going to make more, just hold your horses. When your mouth has cooled off, you can try it again. I’ll let you know when there’s more. Go on, now. Don’t make a pig of yourself.

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A Profound Nonsense of Relief

Time has come. You can probably hear the bells on her hat. Now that she’s here, I feel a profound nonsense of relief. It’s April Fool’s Day and that can only mean one thing. Well, I suppose it can mean other things as well, but it primarily means only one thing. Blithering Genius, the second book of The Other Universes series, has been released.

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. It actually exists. The jingly hat on your head may or may not be virtual, but the book is real. It comes in three versions, eBook, paperback, and mental. Here’s a picture of the first two.

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The mental version is installed as you read one of the other two versions. Think of it as the electronic copy of a movie you have on a disc. It’s actually nothing like that, but think of it anyway. Anyway, the great thing about the mental version is that the characters tend to leave the confines of the book and make themselves at home in your brain. They lose the remote, eat snacks, and nestle into remote corners for naps at odd times. They hang out with characters from other books, jump out and scare your nightmares, and tickle the inside of your skull. Sure, sometimes they’ll wake you up in the middle of the night by playing too loudly with your subconscious, but they apologize and quiet down again. Of course, then you’ll wonder what trouble they’re getting into, lurking around in the darkness beneath your conscious awareness, and you’ll turn on all of your mental lights and climb up on the furniture just to be safe.

At least, that’s the way they act in my copy. Your experience may differ. Just a moment. Time is flipping over her hourglass and the skulls inside are miming walking downstairs. I think that means that I need to wrap this up.

Blithering Genius was a great deal of fun to write and I am excited to be able to share it with you at last. The book is available at all of the usual eBook retailers, along with a pair of short stories and the first book in this series, Reality Challenged. Book 3 is being planned now, along with a group of short stories. There’s a lot more to come.

Here are some links to some of the sites where you can find Blithering Genius.

Amazon USA Smashwords iBookstore Barnes and Noble Kobo

(The Author is not responsible for any damage to a reader’s mental structure, concepts, furniture, plant life, pets, fears, hopes, ideas, or snacks caused by imaginary characters in the reader’s brain.)