The next Big Thing


Geoff OBrien

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G'day everyone,

Geoff O'Brien here.  I discovered Ayn Rand and Objectivism(via Terry Goodkind) in 2006 and have been learning and living by her philosophy ever since.  I'm an Australian-based(south-east Queensland) self-published author, and have been for several years now.  I recently published my fourth novel, which I honestly believe the community here would be interested in.  Achieving this required at least five years of basically daily work.

 

My primary purpose here is to raise awareness of myself and my novels.  My fourth in particular represents the beginning of an ambitious, life-long project that will encompass several series' of novels.  I'm not sure whether I'll ever end up actually finishing this project.  At this point in time, I don't really care, because it's my central purpose.  With any luck, I should get in at least a couple decades work on it, which ought to be substantive enough.  This project is inspired by Atlas Shrugged and another very well known and thought-provoking IP.

 

(I don't want to unintentionally run afoul of community posting or spam-related guidelines, so I'm deliberately refraining from posting specific details, either about myself or my works.  Should anyone ask and/or I'm given an 'all-clear', I am definitely keen to elaborate!)

 

I don't intend to work through this literary project of mine alone -- though I have been, so far.  I have many, many goals with my writing.  One of these is to find and collaborate with awesome people, in my backyard and around the world, both for my -- our! -- personal benefit, as well as to improve my novels.  Sooner or later, I'll start doing this IRL too.  For now, however, my every waking hour consists of (a) writing; (b) improving my writing, or; (c) feeling guilty for not doing more writing.

 

Though I'm less inclined to spend precious non-writing time discussing topics unrelated to my writing -- especially not politics, whether in your country, mine or anywhere else -- I would enjoy bending ears with any of you regarding the craft of fiction writing or the ideas I typically grapple with.  Off the top of my head, these would be:  AI(of any and all types and contexts), virtual/augmented/expanded reality(including contexts where it's all-but indistinguishable from reality) and computer games(in general, as a form of art and it's foundations regarding other contexts; eg, the metaverse).

 

Themes surrounding seemingly singularity- and/or apocalyptic-esque technological advancement(s), in specific and in general, are central to my fiction project.

 

I'm aware that your time also is precious.  If you're read this far, I do appreciate that.  Hopefully, we can get something started!

 

Sincerely,

Geoff

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Geoff,

Welcome to OL.

:) 

I looked on Amazon and saw your books. Congratulations. 

As to promoting your stuff here on OL, go for it. You are obviously a producer and not a spammer. 

I hear you about focusing on fiction writing. That is mostly what I am doing these days, albeit, I do discuss a lot of politics for the time being on OL because I perceive an enormous threat at hand. I promote the things that deal with and defend against this threat--in reality, not just in theory. This is one small way I contribute to make sure my kids have a free society to contemplate, much less live in. On that point, you are in Australia and have a Randian vision as your worldview. So it must be painful to see what Australia has turned into. But enough of that.

 

As to talking about writing fiction, I only have a gazillion things to say.

:) 

Let me get the bad part out of the way right up front so you can decide if this will be of value to you.

A lot of people in O-Land believe any criticism of Ayn Rand is an attack on her. They don't know what to do with people like me. I have a Randian worldview because I adopted it when I was much younger. And it has been a good worldview to live by. I know. I lived it.

But as I go along, I see the world is big, I am only one, and I am at a point where my curiosity often gets the better part of my attention. So I branch out, examine other ideas and forms of thinking without all the traditional negative attitudes in O-Land. If I don't like something, I mostly leave it behind rather than try to demolish it or beat it in some way. I fight, of course I do. But nowadays, I have learned the wisdom of choosing my battles.

So whenever I criticize Rand, I do so from having a worldview informed by her. This comes from the glass half full mindset. I want to add to that worldview--for myself, not for preaching. I don't care to preach, but I don't care what other people want me to think, either. (I am very poor peer pressure material. :) )

In this sense, I believe Ayn Rand was one hell of a fiction writer. And she was a lousy fiction writing teacher. I wasted years trying to go down that path and it did not work for me. Before one can write Romantic Realism, one has to know how to write a firggin' story that engages people. My criticism is not true at an intermediate level, though. Once you have good storytelling chops, Rand has some interesting approaches to try out. 

But for beginners, her fiction writing teaching is too intimidating (and frankly, too unstructured) to use from the ground up and learn the basics. Especially for those attacks of self-doubt all fiction writers experience. Even for her, for that matter. See her discussions on "the squirms." 

Also, I am enormously interested in neuroscience and modern psychology as applied to story.

 

If that works for you, I say go for it. You and I (and others here on OL) will likely agree and disagree. And it's all good. That, to me, is as it should be. Owning a functioning brain, and using it to grow and make a good reasoned life while, at the same time, going off into the unknown is hard work. Especially in a world governed by peer pressure, behavioral science manipulations, and outright threats. But that work of using a functioning brain, as an individual, to me, is the most sacred we have. I note we all make mistakes and change our minds about some things over time, so I don't do the bellic rhetoric or go for the putdown. I try to understand first (unless I already know the person and know he or she is trolling or preaching to get power and a following). Besides, I have a playful nature. The Virtue of Sourpussness has not taken root inside my soul. :) 

Rand's ideas are my starting point, not my end point. And that is the spirit I have tried to promote here on OL.

I have found it's the hardest path to travel, not the easiest. But, for me, it's the most rewarding.

 

At any rate, whether this resonates with you, or whether you have a different path to follow, I am pleased you stopped by. I hope we can produce good interactions, but regardless, you have all my best wishes.

And keep writing.

Not only do you need you, the world needs you.

:) 

Michael

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G’day Mike,

Thanks for your kind welcome. Frankly, I assumed/hoped that at least some of folks here would be curious enough to take a moment to track me down. It’s what I would have done, were our positions reversed – ‘alright, I’ve got a spare thirty seconds; who is this Geoff guy and why does he think he’s all that?’

 

I’ve browsed various areas of OL prior to signing up and posting here, and will continue to browse where time permits – both out of personal curiosity and respect for what you and yours have achieved here. I don’t intend to disrespect that by dropping a self-promoting post or two and then vanishing in the wind. If nothing else, I anticipate learning new things – I’ve already bookmarked a couple of links and threads for later reading.

 

To briefly clarify my position on Objectivist social dynamics/politics: without descending into details, I’m fairly well aware of most(likely not every last one) of all the (major)intellectuals, philosophical arguments, parties, squabbles and sides. At the risk of oversimplifying, I consider(or have considered) all of this for personal eudification.  Generally, however, I pretty much leave all that alone for the same reason I leave arguing neighbours(whom I otherwise interact with and judge to be decent) alone.

 

To briefly clarify me in general: I’m way past any sort of stage of angst, am mostly chill by nature, and feel little need to prove myself except via fiction writing. In other words, I’m unlikely to raise or engage in any fuss.

 

 

And now, to shameless self promotion! Yay! Something that I could use more practice with.

 

Geoff’s the name, and trying to milk literary value out of what feels like a wasted youth(playing too many video games and reading too many books) is the game. I write to explore what interests me first and foremost, so I don’t focus on typical thrillers and romances. That said, my style tends toward readable and fast-paced(I believe), rather than overly descriptive and abstract.

 

To cut a long story short, I soon conceived of my Philsophy of Life project, primarily inspired by(and containing lots of references to) Atlas Shrugged and The Matrix. Philosophy of Life will be my grand epic, similar to a Sword of Truth, a Star Wars, etc. PoL basically is/will be a post-apocalyptic exploration of humanity and technology, guided explicitly by (Objectivist)philosophy. My first PoL-based novel(and my fourth overall) is Existence.

 

Existence is the first entry in what I’m informally thinking of as my ‘axiom trilogy’(I intend many more PoL-based novels after these). Those of you familiar with (Rand’s)exposition of the philosophical axioms can probably guess the titles for my next two PoL novels.

 

My (poorly updated)online shrine is at geoffobrien.com.au. There, you will find links to purchase my works, as well as samples and faqs regarding same. The website is still unencrypted(once certain current issues are resolved, I’ll organise an SSL certificate for it), but it’s super simple: just text and online vendor links. The site doesn’t use cookies or track you. I don’t even have a email list to sign up for, let alone nag about.

 

If anyone is curious, but unsure about what novel of mine to check out first, I’d recommend either Better Together(my third novel) or Existence(my fourth). These two novels differ a lot in tone, maturity, content, etc. The former is more short, simple and lighthearted, the latter more epic and detailed. My first novel is a write-off; albeit a valuable, painful and necessary learning experience. My second novel, Siren Plays Zeperno, is similar, but salvageable. It’s alright in places, but it’s past due for a major re-write and edit(I’ll be gutting at least a third of it). In terms of tone and (emotional)theme, Better Together is a much more technically accomplished and succinct version of Siren Plays Zeperno.

 

Whew! I'd reprimanded myself to keep this post ‘short’, but ego cares not for word counts. Again, if y'all made it this far, I really do appreciate your time and attention. Hopefully, I’ll (also) pop up in a different thread around here in the near future.

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Geoff,

I will get one and read it. I will get it today or tomorrow, but I can't guarantee I will read it fast.

I want to get a feel of your storytelling chops.

:) 

 

Here's a wildcard to throw at you for now, though. Have you ever heard of a story trance? I have been studying that for quite a while. Sometimes it is called transport or getting lost in the story or a slew of other names.

There are certain things that induce this mental state in a story reader once the buy-in happens. (The buy-in is the reader's interest and intention to keep going with the story--this can be volitional by the reader or automatic--it is like breathing.) I have been very interested in this aspect of storytelling more recently. 

Why? Because if I want to convey an ideological or political or even technical message in my own stories, I have to get the readers into that trance, including the emotional roller coaster a good story provides, before my intellectual message will pass their objections if they have mental defenses erected.

There's a lot more to this, but that's good for a start.

More later.

:) 

Michael

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Geoff,

btw - I have a comment about money.

If you want to sell your books to an Objectivist audience, and you want to make a living at this, you will have to go the route of grants and sponsors. The free market is a dud using the Objectivist and even libertarian niches because those audiences do not buy much Rand-related material from Rand-related people. They go for the free stuff like online sites and social media. :)

Sometimes an organization will put on a seminar or something like that and they will get a decent audience of O-Land people who buy tickets. But for selling books, if you want to make money at this on the free market, enough money to consider it a profession, you will have to sell your stuff to different targeted buyer audiences. Forget the O-Land audience. As the poet said, they don't buy shit. :) 

However, you can interact with a lot of O-Land people for free all over the Internet. Even famous people. That approach is good for goosing buzz, testimonials and so on. And who knows? Even though that is not a business plan, maybe you can sell a copy or two as you go along. 

I know, I know. Why so negative? It's a reality thing. A is A. I hold to a cognitive before normative sequence when going into something where learning is required.

But all is not lost. Moneywise, the Internet is marvelous for the opportunities it gives. You have already discovered Amazon publishing, which is good. But without some marketing in the beginning, your books will tend to sit there and do nothing, even on Amazon.

I suggest you look into the best selling genres that can be related to each of your books and see if you can goose a marketing message aimed at one (or more) of those genres using elements from your books. Then it's just a matter of going around to the places where buying fans of that genre hang out and interact with them. (Don't forget to provide links to the sales pages for your books when you interact. :) ) Finding famous people in that genre to endorse you is also effective since they already have buying audiences. Learning the Art of the Schmooze is hard for O-Land people, but it is doable and doable with integrity. See Rand's letters if you want to see how she did it.

Those are a couple of great starting activities to develop an exposure project.

Capitalism, baby. :) 

There are several great places to get self-publishing advice and routines. I am a big fan of self-publishing at the start. And even for famous authors who have difficulty with corporate culture. Besides, self publishing is far more lucrative per book sale. About 90% more or less per copy (after costs) is a lot better than the traditional publisher average of 10% of a cover price that you do not control.

If you are interested, I can point you in a few directions.

Michael

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On 9/24/2023 at 10:37 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I will get one and read it. I will get it today or tomorrow, but I can't guarantee I will read it fast.

That's waaaay more than I was expecting. Hoping, yes. Expecting, no. You're an awesome human being!

 

On 9/24/2023 at 10:37 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Here's a wildcard to throw at you for now, though. Have you ever heard of a story trance? I have been studying that for quite a while. Sometimes it is called transport or getting lost in the story or a slew of other names.

Not sure. The closest concept I can think of is the flow state or being 'in the zone'. Very briefly, (this is one of half a dozen topic starters I've been considering) I think flow state applies to any cognitive endeavour. It's relatively easy to 'zone out' or establish a flow state when reading(or consuming any other artistic media), because the (competent)writer has laid everything out to engage with and follow. The exact same mental (flow)state, with it’s concomitant engagement and rewards, occurs for writers. For them, however, that state of mind is much more effortful and difficult to establish and maintain, because in that context, so much more (if not all)is abstract, with few existents(if any) to latch on to and immediately engage one's mind.

 

On 9/24/2023 at 10:37 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

There are certain things that induce this mental state in a story reader once the buy-in happens. (The buy-in is the reader's interest and intention to keep going with the story--this can be volitional by the reader or automatic--it is like breathing.) I have been very interested in this aspect of storytelling more recently.

I'm not sure that establishing flow state and/or story trance is conducive to effective intellectual persuasion. On the one hand, I can read that almost like trying to 'sneak' in any intellectual message(wrt passing their objections after their mental defenses are up). On the other hand, I read it as establishing proper context -- which in fiction, amounts to showing(ie, not telling) certain elements and/or effective foreshadowing.

Or maybe you’re referring to the so-called ‘hook’? Effective opening line(s), getting to the ‘action’ as soon as possible, etc? Or perhaps more like what editors look for in the first page or two of ‘slush’ submissions: immediate evidence of the writer’s skill? Analogy: knowing someone can play piano merely by listening, even if the listener is a layperson.

 

On 9/24/2023 at 10:37 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Why? Because if I want to convey an ideological or political or even technical message in my own stories, I have to get the readers into that trance, including the emotional roller coaster a good story provides, before my intellectual message will pass their objections if they have mental defenses erected.

(Hmm. Now, you're getting me thinking, by prompting me to more explicitly examine my (writing)ideas. 'Duh', you and others are maybe thinking. Understand though, that folks here are basically much more experienced with intellectual discussion than I(for the past few years). This is also one of the reasons I decided to join here, to 'update' myself a little in this way.)

Getting back to your point: zooming out a bit here, I think this point implies contexts regarding 'experienced'/older/ornery/mature characters, going about their lives in more naturalistic/western/modern day-to-day contexts. Such characters in such contexts would more naturally hold to certain (political)ideas and thereby express them. (As a counter-example, I deliberately crafted my main character of Existence as basically tabula rasa, within a post-apocalyptic context, thereby dodging this exact issue).

How to have such characters act according to their beliefs without prompting 'shields up' from readers? Unfortunately, I'm not the most experienced writer to be conversing with about such characters, because I deliberately avoid these 'ordinary' sorts of characters and contexts.

Also, I may be misinterpreting what you’ve said, but I do not write fiction to ‘convince’ anyone about anything. I merely show ideas as best I can, given carefully crafted characters and contexts, to thereby invite readers to arrive at their own conclusions.

Having said that, I will briefly add that my antagonist/villian of Existence is very religious(Christian -- I have no intention of becoming the next Salman Rushdie). I show her acting this way, according to her beliefs, in very select contexts. If you're going to read Existence, I will basically submit her as perhaps my best example to explain how I deal with your idealogical/political/technical-related points above(specifically, showing(as opposed to explicitly stating) faith/religion as fundamentally evil).

If you and/or others are unwilling to invest that far, I'd be happy to elaborate in a different thread…

…in fact, I'll probably do it anyway. Now that I think of it, this is an issue with any and all so-called objectivist fiction(assuming it's writers are halfway competent with the basics of both writing and philosophy). Unless someone else has covered this...? I haven't come across anything like that here on OL yet, though. I'll check before I try starting anything that might be retreading covered ground.

Another possibly related point, from a reader’s perspective, to contrast Atlas Shrugged with the Harry Potter series. My first reading of AS (read second, after Virtue of Selfishness) was like this: about a hundred pages in, I’d had enough. I couldn’t ‘sink into’ the story. Still wanting to continue, sensing that AS was Something Big, I made a conscious decision to 'enjoy' it more like a non-fiction book – basically reading, slower, more focused and more thoughtful. Took me a month or so to get through AS. Contrast this with my first reading of the entire Harry Potter series, which I tore through non-stop in nine days.

 

Finally, Michael, thank you for your entire post regarding marketing and selling. You’ve made good points, which I’m more or less aware of. At this point in my writing career, marketing and selling are almost certainly my worst weaknesses(assuming, as I am, that commercial success is a goal of one’s writing) – but only because of paucity of funds and networking connections, plus an utter distaste for anything to do with marketing. That’s all.

 

Where I can and am able/comfortable, I take action. I recently did a deep dive on Amazon ads, for example, and now run several campaigns – if anyone (especially folks here, I imagine) search on Amazon using certain words and phrases, I suspect at least some of you may see so-called sponsored ads for Existence in particular, and perhaps Better Together.

 

If – and only if – you’re comfortable, willing and have time to elaborate on further marketing strategies…go for it, I guess.

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Geoff,

I have not forgotten you.

:)

I'll talk about a few things from your post later today. And the time will not be too long before I start reading your book. I will start with Existence since I speculate that the other is more young adult oriented.

For now, if you are interested, here are a couple of threads on OL you might be interested in.

Write Fiction Like Ayn Rand Project

and 

Writing Techniques with Examples

 

Neither is more than a beginning of a discussion, though. I have a ton of notes for the Write Like Ayn Rand Project that have not made it online.

And for Writing Techniques with Examples, I do a writing Journal every day, minimum of 500 words each Entry (usually more by at least 100 or 200 words). I practice these techniques in my Journal and I have written a ton of shit. :) I started this thing in May of last year, so I have about 500 Entries (more or less) written since that time. I share a few of my Journal entries in this thread and discuss some specific techniques I am practicing.

This Journal unblocked me for fiction writing. But beware of one thing. I am not writing in any particular style in this thread. In fact, I make a point in my Journal to write normal stuff, not Romantic Realism or any other style, for that matter. I am interested in becoming skilled, not artistic, with this particular Journal endeavor. So I focus on one thing at a time. If I can pull that one thing off well while writing about mundane things, when I apply that skill to my more important works, my artistic works, I know I will shine. :) That is the task I set for myself and, frankly, it is paying dividends like I never dreamed. Get this. I now love revising. Whodda ever thunk that? :) 

 

Also, I want to mention a harsh exercise I am putting myself through. There is a small group of writers in Naples, Florida, who have a podcast called "Why Is That Good?" They assign a story for a podcast, then when they get together, they discuss it. And they focus on literary stories, usually the more modern kind.

Since I have tried to understand that stuff for years, I thought I would give it a go. I have been doing a story and discussion a day (they have over 100 podcasts up so far and I have done about 50). As I suspected, modern literary writers hide some amazing techniques, and brilliant turns of phrases, in stories that are, for me, complete shit. :) I also write about this in my journal. I call the podcast people The Naples kids. 

In one Entry (August 17 where I was discussing these stories along with how to do vividness and emotion in writing), I threw my hands in the air and wrote the following (this is a direct quote):

... if no one cares about the people in a story or the situation they are in or what they do, it won’t matter how vivid the story gets or how much feeling is imparted. 

A shitty story is a shitty story, sort of like the DeLillo story I read and listened to the Naples kids try to dissect (and I thought  about). I love the technique of imitating one situation as a parallel to another, but why do that with a shitty story? Can’t that happen in a good story, too?

As the saying goes, life is short and art is long for these people.

:) 

 

Anyway, more later.

Michael

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Geoff,

I said I was going to write something about your post, but it will have a be a brief comment. My brain is fried right now. That, for me, normally means my brain is tired from overuse along with lack of sleep. :) 

 

Briefly, a story trance is different than a flow state, but they are kinda cousins. 

It's too too soon to go into this, but what the hell. Look into Angus Fletcher sometime. He's a neuroscientist specializing in story who works at Ohio State University and teaches soldiers at DARPA how to weaponize story. We have two main kinds of neurons that evolved in our brains, sensory neurons and motor neurons. There are also intermediary neurons that connect the two, but for simplicity right now, let's just stay with the two.

The actual processing of the sensory neurons is relegated to the present. This deals with abstracting things and systems like math. Motor neurons are processed with past, present and future as part of the same abstraction since they deal with muscles, that is motion. And, according to Angus, story evolved from those neurons. That's vastly oversimplified and I don't have time to go into it right now. But if you like, I can point you to some videos, or Angus's books, Storythinking, and Wonderland.

A story trance allows a narrative to unfold at an abstraction level as if the aware person were processing reality predominantly with motor neurons. The person doesn't observe reality unfold in abstraction. Instead, the person observes abstractions unfold along a narrative line as if it were reality.

This is a long subject, but I find it fascinating. I will go deeper later if you are interested.

 

I also want to mention that propositions do not persuade except within a narrow range of logic, and even then, logic does not persuade well. Rhetoric and story do the bulk of persuasion among humans, but there are other forms, too. Logic added to observation is good for arriving at truth. But truth has a hard time persuading all by itself. Just look at the world for oodles of examples. :) 

There is plenty of truth out there. It doesn't persuade many people when it shows up, though. So the trick is not to use logic only, but also learn how to couch it in rhetoric and story. Once a person is persuaded to look at an idea and even like the idea, that person can use logic to examine it further. It's not either-or. It is all of one package of how to use a brain.

 

Enough for now. This is another long discussion.

Sorry this one was so short, but gotta go.

Michael

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  • 2 weeks later...

G'day Michael,

Thanks for namedropping Angus Fletcher.  I've spent some time reading articles by him this morning, and I suspect I'll be spending many more mornings doing the same.  Using his name and other information you've given, I suspect (a) we were talking past each other a bit; (b) I've spent some mental time on these and similar concepts, but only at the periphery.

One of the reasons I started posting here was hoping to find new leads/ideas/information, and you've lead me to a real gold mine, by the looks of it.  It's information like this that I love reading/viewing first thing in the morning, to provide inspiration and drive to keep going with the day-to-day grind of writing, to say nothing of possibly informing future novels.  Thank you!

Incidentally, some of what you've said reminds me of a couple of AG Riddle novels(Pandemic and Genome, of his Extinction Files series).  Trying to avoid spoilers; at one point, the author's characters discuss the power of 'fictive ability'(IIRC; not necessarily fiction writers, but anyone who may imagine something then construct it or bring it forth in to reality), and how this is a/the concept that drives mankind forward, especially after the agricultural revolution.  All that is off the top of my head and thus may be false data, but I now suspect Riddle may be drawing inspiration and data up from a similar/same well as you.

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Geoff,

I am very interested in our discussions and I do not want to shortchange you intellectually.

But I am writing a nonfiction thing with a deadline and it takes up my writing brain, which is fried from doing this.

:) 

I should be done before long.

So stay tuned.

We have lots to talk a about.

:) 

Michael

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  • 5 weeks later...

I ought to add a bit more regarding a previously mentioned novel of mine: Better Together, the first novel in my Win-Win For The Win series. I happen to be drafting the sequel(second novel in the series) now; it’s working title is Ambition.

 

Better Together(and Ambition) is a mostly lighthearted middle grade(ie, targeted to children/preteens) novel about a preteen Australian girl who is inspired to play rugby league(basically a contact sport somewhat similar to NFL). She also happens to be a recently-diagnosed type 1 diabetic. Any and all rugby-league description descriptions and action were written foremost for readers unfamiliar with rugby league; ie, anyone should find it easy enough to follow what’s going on. 

 

Better Together came about from me wanting to take occasional breaks from my more intense and philosophically demanding PoL project to write something more fun and easygoing, aiming for tone and content similar to The Mighty Ducks movie. I’m proud of one scene in particular, toward the end of the novel: a big feel-good moment that, years later, I still consider as one of my best scenes ever written, and very ‘fun’ to write.

 

Better Together is philosophically light, due to both my writing style and it being a middle-grade novel. I do briefly mention certain ideas, however, mostly surrounding the concept of win-win relationships. Also, in a couple of lines in one scene(of fifty), a man is basically talking to the girl’s mother, lauding(ch) the sacrifices she’s made for her daughter. The mother explicitly corrects him, redefining her ‘sacrifices’ as investments, because her daughter is her highest value.

 

Technique-wise, I’ll add that three scenes of the five or so comprising the climactic game(roughly 3000 words) were written entirely as speech – no narration. Those three scenes consist of two commentators commentating the game, alluding to the experience of listening to commentators while watching a game on TV.

 

Thanks again for indulging me!

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