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Win a Copy of “The Pale”

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

Hey kids! Interested in the new Avery Cates short stories and the newest release in the series, The Pale (out digital-ONLY on 9/15)? Well, you can win a physical copy of the story from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Surf on over for the rules and enter for one of just three physical copies.

Here’s the summary: Continuing from The Shattered Gears and The Walled City, Avery tries to put distance between himself and The Angels and meets an old man with an unusual companion named The Pale. When they accompany Avery thinking he’ll provide them protection on the road, they come to regret it. Because someone’s hunting Avery.

Pre-roder it at Amazon, Kobo, and Google Play – Nook will be available on 9/15, as they don’t allow pre-orders. Good luck!

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One Thing About “Mr. Robot”

One "O" Away from EPIC

One “O” Away from EPIC

Mr. Robot, the first TV show USA Network has ever made that’s worth paying attention to (which is different from simply watching), has been making some waves–most recently because they postponed the finale due to the recent on-air shooting in Virginia.

I haven’t watched the whole season, but I’ve already formed an opinion about the show: It’s far from perfect, but in one specific way it’s the most interesting show on TV right now. No, not because of the nerdy computer stuff (which yes they get mostly right but JESUS do they hit that button hard; am I seriously to believe people actually say things like “Oh you’re running Gnome? I run KDE myself” in actual conversations?) but because it’s one of the only shows I’ve ever seen that does the Unreliable Narrator right.

Elliot, the main character, informs us (yes, us, the viewer) that we are a creation of his–an imaginary friend he’s created so he can talk to someone. He reaffirms this several times during the course of the show. In other words, the whole show is an exercise in breaking the Fourth Wall, and acting like the character is aware of our presence, watching him. Many things in the show are depicted from Elliot’s POV, and sometimes they’re a little off, a little weird.

There’s also the fact that the whole show, from the opening credits onward, is filmed like a 1970s horror movie. And that is also a good thing.

In addition, there are hints throughout that at least one of the characters Elliot interacts with isn’t actually real. Like I said, I’m not through watching the season yet, so this may turn out to be untrue, but it doesn’t matter. Because this show has so thoroughly nailed the Unreliable Narrator that I can’t be sure of anything that happens on it. And that’s pretty exciting, because the story is still compelling (enough) and well-written, so I also don’t care if it’s really happening.

Most shows and novels mishandle Unreliable Narrators, because they see them solely as a Twist Delivery Vehicle, and that’s because for most people Unreliable Narrators were invented by Chuck Palahniuk in Fight Club. Don’t get me wrong, Fight Club is a great book and film, but jebus, people, there are other uses for the Unreliable Narrator. For example: Unsettling your audience. Keeping them off-balance. Everything we’ve seen in Mr. Robot might actually be happening in-universe, and that won’t ruin anything. It’s not about the twist (if there is one), it’s about the artistry. My uncertainty about what’s happening on this show is pretty epic, and that is refreshing.

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Single-Serving Culture

Somery has nothing to do with Somers.

Somery has nothing to do with Somers.

It’s a funny old life, ain’t it? There was a time when I bought albums — old-school, long-form recordings with a bunch of songs. I often bought albums by bands I loved without having heard a single song from them. I’d buy older albums from before I discovered some band, and if they came out with a new one I’d buy it immediately.

I used to love the weird candy-like smell of a new cassette.

I bought new albums by AC/DC and NOFX the moment I could, excited to hear what they had for me.

Sure, sometimes I’d be a little disappointed. I’d discover half an album was just complete bullshit. Or I’d realize I’d paid $5.99 or whatever for an album that was thirty minutes and eight songs long, four of which I didn’t care for. But usually if I bought an album blind there was a reason for it. And sometimes I’d be blown away by the unknown. I bought Exile in Guyville based solely on what I’d heard about it, and was instantly — and more or less permanently — glad I did.

Those were the days. This week I purchased The Most Lamentable Tragedy by Titus Andronicus and realized it was the first album I’d bought in a long, long time. Usually, I just buy single songs as I hear them, because I had that epiphany: Most of the albums I’ve bought over my lifetime were at least 20% filler, some as much as 80% filler. And when I converted my old analog collection to digital years ago, I shed a lot of albums, keeping just the songs I liked and actually listened to. My decision to buy the new TA album had everything to do with the first two songs they released from it: Dimed Out and Fatal Flaw are perfect songs, and it gave me a giddy moment of optimism. For that moment, I was fifteen again and my faith in the long-form was restored.

It’s a rare moment. Albums just seem unnecessary to me these days: If I like a three-minute song, why in the world would I buy nine more I’ve never heard? And if I end up liking all ten songs and overpaying for the album, it evens out on all the other songs I don’t waste money on, I figure.

Some will argue that albums are discrete works of art, and need to be listened to and experienced as intended: As a set, a collection, a sequence. Some albums are this, yes, and even then your mileage will vary. For every Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (and there are still two songs on that one I skip every single time) there will be a Kilroy Was Here, an album I almost bought when I was seventeen because I was going through a strange Styx fascination. In other words, just because some musician thinks I ought to listen to their songs in a certain sequence doesn’t mean I give a shit.

So, it’s mainly single-serving songs for me. And it’s weird to realize that my listening and buying habits have changed so drastically over the years. Some of this is simply the freedom that new technology affords me: MP3s and digital platforms have made it possible to sample entire albums and decide ahead of time if you want to actually own every single track on the album. This is a superpower for someone my age; back in The Day the only way you got to sample an entire album was a) if a friend of yours already owned it or b) if a local record store had a listening station, or maybe c) if your library stocked albums to borrow. In other words, it wasn’t easy, and frankly if a friend owned the album and was willing to lend it I probably just dubbed it onto cassette anyway.

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

I am thinking about this, actually, because I’ve been writing these Avery Cates Digital Shorts. These short stories are all about 10- 15,000 words long, and will combine into a standalone novel eventually. But they’re also single-serving. In other words, while they tell an ongoing story about everyone’s favorite beat-up, aging future assassin, they’re also standalone. You can read them out of order and while you might miss some details or callbacks to the others, you’ll also get a distinct standalone arc in each one. So, like today’s music, you can wait to buy the whole complete book or just sample the stories that sound interesting.

Will it work? Define “work.” It’s a slightly different way of writing a book for me, but the end result will be an Avery Cates book. If some folks buy the first one, The Shattered Gears, and decide not to proceed, that’s too bad for me, but it’s great for the reader, because they got to spend one dollar and realize this is not their cup of tea, as opposed to eight dollars. And if they wind up buying each story as they come out, in the end they’ll spend as much as if they bought the book whole, so it’ll be a wash financially.

And in the meantime, I’m having fun writing like this, with a tighter focus on each individual section of the overall story. It’s a single-serving universe these days, after all. Why fight it?

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Pre-Order “The Pale”

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

So, here is the third Avery Cates short story in my ongoing writing experiment: The Pale. Out on September 15, it’s available for pre-order over at Amazon and Kobo at the moment, with Google Play to follow. It’ll be available for Nook in September.

I’ve also gone ahead and created a dedicated web page for this new series, as it appears I’m actually going to keep doing this and deliver three novels in short-story slices. Why not? I’m having fun.

In The Pale, we pick up where we left off in The Walled City as Cates is on the road trying to put distance between him and The Angels. He meets an old man with a … peculiar companion, who decides to accompany Cates for security. A decision he regrets as it becomes clear that someone is hunting Avery.

Check it out!

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My Weird Childhood Creative Projects

WEIRDO

WEIRDO

I have always been that Weirdo Kid. You know him. There’s one in your kid’s class right now–or maybe it is your kid. I was always the kid who liked to be creative, who made up his own games and made shit up all the time. That kid who makes up complicated games and gets all the other kids in the neighborhood to play them, that kid who can be left alone in a room with a piece of string and remain calm and thoroughly entertained for hours. That kid that most parents assume is some sort of psychopath, and hurriedly tug their own children away from. That was me. (And yet, I was adorable, see photo).

In the pre-digital world of the 1970s and 1980s that I grew up in (I didn’t have a personal computer until I was 12 years old) that sort of creativity took some pretty strange forms. Whereas today I would likely have spent my teenage years making Youtube Videos, Vines, and self-publishing novels, back in 1970s/1980s Jersey City I had none of these things, so my brother and I got, er, creative. Unlike that vocabulary choice. Sometimes our creative outlets were a tad on the strange side.

Since I have no dignity to speak of, why not discuss these strange creative endeavors? WHY NOT.

The Star Wars Photos

My brother and I were late to the Star Wars game; I think the first movie had been out for about a year before we saw it. But once we saw it, we fell hard. We bought tons of the figures and other toys, and like a lot of kids we played with those action figures and made up our own stories. Unlike most other kids, we also created several complicated stories using our mother’s camera: We would set up dioramas using the action figures (say, Stormtroopers surrounding Luke and Han with the Millennium Falcon in the background out in our backyard, standing in for a strange forest planet where the dead leaves were man-sized), take a photo, and then assemble our photos on pieces of paper with captions explaining the stories. We’d draw lasers and other special effects directly on the photos with markers. The one weak link? Sometimes Mom would take weeks to get the film developed–because back in those days it was either Polaroids, or developed film.

These stories got to be pretty complex and involved, actually, and often involved dozens of photos, each one meticulously staged and photographed. The only people who ever saw them, of course, were our parents, who could not have been less interested.

The Paper Plate Theater

This one’s weird; I can’t even reliably tell you where we got the idea, though a school project is a very good possibility. The way it works was: You take a standard paper plate and you cut a square in it towards the edge (but leaving the edge intact. Then you put plate #1 on top of plate #2 and trace the square onto the blank plate. Repeat all around, so you have like a dozen or more small boxes on plate #2.

Now, go in and draw a story in the boxes, starting at the top and going around clockwise. Draw your characters and everything else, maybe some quick dialogue. When you’re done, you put plate #1 on top again so you can only see one box at a time, and use it sort of like a viewfinder, moving from box to box to see the story told in frames.

We made a lot of these for a while. Like, a lot. I recall our mother buying whole packs of paper plates just to feed the monumental production of these stories. Yeah, I know it’s weird. Shut up.

The Chipmunk Tapes

Perhaps the strangest project though was my brother and I making Chipmunk Tapes.

You know the Chipmunks: Alvin and Theodore and the other one, and Dave. When we were kids we loved The Chipmunk Song every Christmas, and one year our uncle gave us a reel-to-reel tape recorder and we discovered that you could speed up or slow down playback manually. So my brother and I started making up little skits and recording ourselves, and then we’d play back the tapes super fast to create the chipmunk effect and record that onto a cassette.

Yes: Holy shit, it was kind of batshit.

Still, we were little kids and we had a blast writing scripts and making jokes that were only funny because they wound up sounding like a bunch of prepubescent squirrels were delivering them. Or at least we thought they were funny.

These days all I do is write stories and record music no one wants to hear, which now seems kind of lame and boring, don’t you think? I doubt there are many of these examples left in the old Somers Manse, but someday I might look for them, and if they turn up I’ll post some samples, because my humiliation is not complete.

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Need to Explain “Show Don’t Tell”? Watch True Detective Season 2

We also get the TV show we deserve.

We also get the TV show we deserve.

So, True Detective season 2 has ended, and bow howdy it wasn’t very good. There are of course plenty of bad TV shows every year and few of them rate the amount of attention that TD2: The Failuring has gotten; this is largely a result of the outsize praise season 1 received, of course. After “Time is a flat circle” briefly made up 90% of all Internet traffic, the second season was doomed to disappoint. It’s just the scale of the disappointment that’s surprising.

Because True Detective season 2 is complicated. It was terrible, don’t get me wrong, but also prestige television. It was pretty poorly written, but also delivered at least a handful of well-written lines. The acting was all over the place, and the direction was lackluster, and the plot overly complex with a weak payoff, but there were still tantalizing moments when it seemed poised to transcend these issues and become, if not great, at least watchable.

Ultimately the problem was a simple one, a fundamental one, a problem all writers struggle with: How do you handle showing and telling? And how do you ensure you earn your characters’ fates? That’s where TD2: Electric Mustache Review went wrong. It told. It told everything in an effort to be cagey, and it told it badly.

Vince in the Basement

Vince Vaughn’s character Frank Semyon is the perfect ur-example here. In an early episode, Frank had a soliloquy about his father locking him in the basement as punishment and then getting drunk and arrested, leaving little Frank to fend off rats in the dark for several days, starving. Vaughn delivers the speech with a blank-faced lack of affect that might have been poor acting or might have been batshit direction, but either way the speech lands flat because it’s all Tell and no Show. People think Telling is when you write something like

FRANK: I am a broken man because my father was a drunk who abused me.

But the fact is, Telling isn’t so much about declarative statements that are better left for the reader/viewer to figure out on their own. It’s about subtlety. It’s about understanding how real human beings act and speak. Who in the world lies in bed with their partner in the morning, staring up at water stains in the ceiling, and tells a five minute story about being locked in a basement by their father for no other reason than to let the invisible audience know these crucial details about themselves?

It’s also Telling (and bad writing) because it’s meant to stand alone. We learn very, very little about Frank (or the other characters) over the course of the show, but specific events in their past are supposed to stand in for actual knowledge. Frank and his basement story. Ani and her rage and her knives and her promiscuity. Ray and his wife’s rape and the murder of her supposed rapist. Paul and his closeted homosexuality and his time with the military contractors. We never really get much else about these people: These single events define them absolutely (and are often only vaguely outlined — we know Paul is troubled by his experiences “in the desert,” but we have no idea why or what he did). Frank’s basement story is Telling because it is supposed to be everything we need to know about Frank: He was locked in a basement and fought off rats in the dark, and therefore he is Frank Semyon.

Yeah, it makes no sense. Telling is like that.

And then Frank’s death is like a cluster bomb of Telling. As he staggers through the desert, bleeding from a belly wound after a final betrayal, a few million in diamonds in his pockets and vultures literally following his trail of blood, it’s almost a great scene. Frank came alive a little in the final 2 episodes, and his reversion into a scrappy gangster who takes down his enemies and negotiates his way — almost — to freedom was kind of fun. And watching him refuse to give up, watching him force himself to stagger onward despite the clear odds, could have been affecting if his character had a little more development and backstory before this moment.

Instead, as if the show was fucking with us, it chooses instead to Tell us again, using the worst mechanics of any freshman-level writing workshop: The mysterious hallucinations with no context. We get his father, who has never been personified before in the show, abusing him in a generic way, his speech the sort of thing you’ll find in any  piece of crap about an abusive, one-note father. We get a group of black kids taunting him for being tall and white and gawky. We get a man Frank presumably killed over a debt, begging for his life. This all sketches out a potentially interesting story of how Frank Semyon went from terrified kid to small-time gangster, but it does so in the final five fucking minutes of the character’s story, in a rushed, awkward sequence that treated Frank like a hero, when he isn’t one. Instead of last-minute hallucinations, we could have gotten Frank’s backstory over the course of the season, instead of the endless stilted conversations about a land deal no one gave a shit about.What really hurts is that in the final moments of the scene, when Frank is dead and yet having a sort of Owl Creek Bridge moment, Vaughn stops limping and grimacing and for thirty seconds he turns on a Charm Ray so powerful you almost forgive him. Those thirty seconds as Frank realizes he’s dead are great, and it demonstrates the possibilities.

It demonstrates what they could have Showed us.

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My Day at #WDC15

Jeff's Il Duce Pose

Jeff’s Il Duce Pose

This year I was once again invited to give a seminar on plotting a novel at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference held in New York City at the rockin’ Roosevelt Hotel. Sure, I’m a cheap date because I live in New Jersey and thus can be booked for this conference for the cost of two drink tickets, but that’s actually kind of true no matter where your event is being held. Am I saying that you can have Jeff Somers giving a speech in your living room for the price of two free cocktails? Yes, I am saying that. But it better be top shelf. We will not tolerate any of that Early Times bullshit.

Anyway, I digress. I gave the same seminar I gave last year: Take Off Your Pants and Write: Pantsing Vs. Plotting a Novel. It’s all about plotting your story and the two main techniques most people naturally gravitate towards, and how you can get out of blocked situations by using a hybrid approach. It’s rather brilliant. I’m hilarious. I even wore pants!

Unlike last year, this year we will refer to the WDAC as The Year of Competence, because with the help and guidance of The Duchess I was pretty much an adult the entire time, which, as we all know, is unusual.

I Need a Stinkin' Badge

I Need a Stinkin’ Badge

JEFF’S TIMELINE OF COMPETENCE

6AM: I am actually awake, despite consuming a lot of whiskey and some wine over dinner the evening before. Yes, my way of prepping for a big day of public speaking is to drink heavily. What of it?

8AM: I am actually on a bus, showered, sober, and dressed like either a published author or a middle-aged schoolteacher, I’m not sure which. I actually had all of my props and a backup of the presentation on a thumb drive. I make a mental note to drink more, as it obviously helps me wake up early, clearheaded and organized.

8:45AM: I am actually at the hotel and have my badge and know where my seminar is being held. This is unprecedented. The year before, I was racing around this hotel like a maniac, wide-eyed and sweating freely.

8:55AM: The Duchess, concerned that I do not know how to make my Power Point Presentation appear on the screen, stomps to the laptop and starts touching things. The screen goes black. The Duchess turns away and resumes her seat and refuses to discuss what we should do next.

9AM: A nice technical person comes and fixes what The Duchess has wrought. She looks around and whistles nonchalantly.

9:01AM: I am actually giving my presentation, and it goes well. Last year I finished up with my prepared material 20 minutes into a 50-minute session, and had to soft-shoe, sing, and take questions for half an hour. This year almost none of that is necessary. Well, the soft-shoe isn’t strictly-speaking necessary, but I do it anyway, to thunderous applause.

10AM: After some gladhanding and chatting with attendees, we stalk my agent by following the scent of brimstone. I am hopeful that she will buy me alcoholic refreshments despite the time of day, but she is too clever for me: She leads us to the bar area, sits down and makes cryptic remarks about the state of my career, shouts HEY LOOK OVER THERE and when I turn back there is only a haze of purple smoke.

11AM: The Duchess and I go to lunch. I’m not sure whether managing to eat a burger and drink several beers without incident can be listed under my accomplishments for the day, as most people manage to feed themselves without trouble. But, as The Duchess is fond of saying, I am not most people.

NOON – 3PM: Lost time. I have no memory. I am still checking the news for mentions of a drunk white man taking off his pants somewhere.

3:00PM: We’re back at the hotel, and hit the bar, where I drink several whiskies while engaged in a war with a cloud of gnats who all intend to commit suicide in my drinks. After three of the little buggers die in my tumbler, I start drinking like I’m in prison, hunched over my glass and muttering and twitching. Or, you know, like usual. Yes, I drank it anyway. This is whiskey we’re talking about.

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life

5:30PM: I am at my assigned spot in the ballroom for the cocktail reception-slash-book signing. Jacqueline Woodson is seated at the table next to me. Her line goes out the door. I have no line. I am sad.

But, because of this newfound competence, I stick it out and eventually my people find me. My people, I think, had their priorities straight: Getting to the bar first with their drink tickets so they could double-fist the booze as quickly as possible. I meet a few folks, sign some books, and have those curiously awkward conversations where you have to shout so much you’re hoarse. A few folks buy copies of We Are Not Good People and I fall asleep, and The Duchess carries me home.

So, here’s to a job: Done. Hopefully they invite me back next year so I can try the opposite approach: Total batshit incompetence. This would be for scientific purposes, of course, to see which approach works better.

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Monday is Guitar Day

Epiphone Les Paul CustomI know that after a long weekend of partying and relaxing, what you want is some amateurish songwriting and geetar playing to get you psyched up for the work week to come. Your wish is my command.

Here, songs:

Song695
Song697
Song699
Song701
Song709
Song717
Song721
Song725
Song726

You’re welcome.

The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

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Unnecessary Thoughts on “Friday Night Lights”

TIM RIGGINS FOREVER

TIM RIGGINS FOREVER

So, about 10 years too late to the party, The Duchess and I binge-watched Friday Night Lights recently. And I do mean binge: We normally don’t tear through shows too quickly, but The Duchess became absolutely addicted to FNL and so it took about three weeks to watch 76 episodes. It’s also one of the rare shows that could make her declare “I hate this show” when it did something emotionally devastating, only to have her welcome it back moments later when it did something uplifting.

Friday Night Lights isn’t a perfect show, despite what some people might say. It had some seriously dubious plot developments (there is no need to speak of the murdered rapist) and it dropped more plot threads, never to be mentioned again, than your drunk grandma at a knitting contest (we must imagine that poor Santiago is still living with Buddy Garrity, possibly in a pit in his basement, putting lotion on its skin).

But what FNL did well, it did exceedingly well. There were few Big Moments; this was a show about normal-sized people without super powers just trying to find their way through modern small-town life. But when it came to Character Arcs and sketching out the lives of these people, it was nearly perfect. Let’s discuss two specific things that are representative of the show as a whole: Tim Riggins, and the Housing Market in Dillon, Texas.

The Housing Market in Dillon, Taxes

One of the simplest ways to define a character in a visual medium is to show where and how they live. Yet for most TV shows (and most films) there’s a tendency to go for Setting Porn instead of realism. The kids on Friends couldn’t afford those impossible large apartments, and the titular Broke Girls on that awful sitcom Two Broke Girls live in a huge apartment that people would pay top dollar for, rats and all.

But in FNL, where the characters lived was pegged very realistically to their socioeconomic status. Smash Williams, whose mother moved her family from a crime-ridden town nearby and can barely afford West Dillion, lives in what appear to be either public subsidized housing or very low-cost rentals. Vince Howard, living in poverty-stricken East Dillon, lives in similar lodgings with his drug-addled Mom. Matt Saracen, living with his grandmother while his father is in Iraq and his mother is elsewhere, lives in a sagging old house with a scrabbly front yard. The Riggins Brothers live in a run-down ranch house that had once been part of a new development.

Moving up a little, Coach Taylor and his dual-income family live in a nice enough home on a suburban-looking street, with a neat front yard, and the taylors feel safe enough to play pin-pong with the garage door open at all hours. But they’re just municipal employees; the house is tight on space and little things are broken or run down. They’re doing okay, but there are frequent dreams of larger places and frequent arguments about money.

Buddy Garrity, initially a successful car dealer, lives in a much larger and newer home. It’s not a mansion, but it’s much nicer than the Taylor home. And the McCoy’s, rich and moving to Dillon solely to get their talented quarterback son into the best high school football program around, do live in a mansion. The housing for every character is almost perfectly chosen. It tells you everything you need to know about their economic background, their social status (outside of football, of course, which has its own social pecking order the town respects), and how they live, all without one word of exposition of “As you know … ”

Tim Riggins

As played by Taylor Kitsch, the character of Tim Riggins initially seems like a poorly-acted jock asshole, the sort of athletically gifted handsome lad who coasts through everything and while not precisely mean–though he is, initially, selfish and callow–does a lot of damage solely by dint of not really caring about anyone else. This character could have been a sad cliché, but FNL approached character development in a very smart and measured way.

First of all, most of the true character development took place in the younger characters, the kids. The adults in the show had their tribulations and their moments of clarity, but by and large all the adults are the same people, basically, that they were at the start of the show (which only covers about 3 years of fictional time, after all). It makes sense that characters that start off anywhere from 15 to 18 years old would go through a lot and emerge on the other side changed people: That’s what happens when you’re in high school. Me, I’m 44 fucking years old. I am who I am.

Tim Riggins is handled with almost supernatural subtlety. In the beginning his best qualities are his absolute affection for his friends, and a brooding inability to complain. Over the course of the show the writers slowly move Tim, an inch at a time, from the entitled jock to an actual adult person, someone who sees his glory days as a past chapter in his life–but not with any bitterness. Tim, in the finale, is a man who still loves football, still loves Dillon, Texas, but sees clearly that winning the State Championship as “Big Tim Riggings” of the Dillon Panthers was just a great moment–a great moment that’s gone. He practically spends the last two seasons of the show advising people to put football in perspective, to value it and enjoy it, but to be prepared to leave it behind.

Tim’s depicted as a fundamentally good guy who slowly figures out that you don’t do good things and behave in a responsible or moral way because you’re rewarded for it–in fact, the show mined a lot of drama and humor out of the fact that Tim often did good deeds only to be punished for them–but rather because it’s the right thing to do. After being crushed underneath a litany of bad breaks–deadbeat father, idiot brother, continually assumed to be an amoral seducer of underage girls, and finally falsely confessing to a crime and spending some months in jail–Tim could easily have been depicted as a rage-filled asshole. Instead, he finds some peace in knowing exactly what he wants: A house he builds himself on the outskirts of Dillon, a job that pays the bills, his brother and his extended family.

That’s a character arc that’s almost a straight line in its subtlety, yet it’s a powerful moment, and it’s the reason the series chose to end on the image of Tim and his brother building that house. Tim Riggins was the whole point of the show, in a way: People suffer, people triumph, and in the end all you have is what you make for yourself.

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We Are not Good People & WDAC

This year at the 2015 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, I’ll not only be offering up my presentation on plotting a novel (which was really well-received last year and which will be 150% more awesome this year because I plan to be sober this time) I’ll also be attending the cocktail reception and signing copies of We Are Not Good People (the plotting of which I discussed last year in a WDAC-related post). It’s my understanding that the conference is sold out, so this isn’t really me drumming up attendance (and yes, I fully expect to be sitting there alone, nursing a drink and weeping when absolutely no one buys my book to get signed).

If you’ve read WANGP, then you know the ending sort of folds back on the story, and the ending has been a divisive aspect of the story for some. It was very deliberate, though; Despite the fact that the whole book was more or less pantsed (that is, made up as I went, as opposed to being planned out) I did have the ending in mind as I wrote. As the story progressed, it became clearer and clearer to me that this was the only way the story could end.

One of the hardest things to come to terms with as a writer isn’t the people who think your works sucks and that you’re a terrible writer–every author will have those folks, and what can you do? No, it’s the people who love your work but hate one thing vehemently. When people tell me they loved We Are Not Good People but hate the ending, it’s difficult, because you feel like you disappointed Your People. These aren’t haters, they’re fans, and so their feelings about your work matter a lot more than the people who think you’re a Pantsless Wonder.

While writing this book, though, it slowly dawned on me that the whole point was really the friendship between the main character, Lem, and his nonsexual life partner Pitr Mags. This was a bromance, really, and Lem has nothing without his friend. As that friendship loomed larger and larger I realized, in the end, that Lem would do anything to save that friend–and thus that friendship. At a certain point, there was really only one way it could end. Sometimes plotting is like that: There’s only one possible ending, whether other people get it or not.

I’ll be talking about WANGP a bit during my Writer’s Digest presentation, and I’ll be ready to sign copies. Or sit there getting soused and muttering obscenities at people, whichever.

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