In this Issue:
Letter from the Editor
by Chrispian H. Burks
The Write Off: A Poetry Edition
by Richard Dani
Article: "File Sharing," A Thing of the Past?
by Richard Dani
Article: Sound and Fury, part II of III: "Getting it Out"
Article: Characterization, Including the Technique of Dialogue
by The Alienist
Serial: So You Say Part 2
by Beckett Grey
Poem: The Light
by Chrispian H. Burks
Letter From the Editor
By Chrispian H. Burks
Lit.Org has been a labor of love for a long time now. Sometimes it's more labor than love, but lately one of the
things that's been a pure joy is editing and compiling each issue of Majestic and watching it grow. But I couldn't
do this alone. We've been fortunate to have a staff that puts their own heart and sweat into the site every day,
and into the many projects we have going. But as the site grows, so does the need for help. This month we have a new
staff member to join the ranks. Formerly insomnia74, he now answers to the monicker Bartleby and He's got the quite a
sorted history with women in Wasteland. He's become very active and I'm sure will prove to be a valuable member of
the staff. This month is also the debut of our Fan Page, where members of the site can contribute art, icons,
desktops/wallpapers and other items to share with other members. And to kick things off is an awesome Race Car
by Khazra3829. Go and see it for yourself!
This issue of Majestic continues our trend of brining you new and original content. If you look back you'll notice
each issue continues to grow. And we are please to continue that tradition. This month we feature more poetry and
even announce Lit.Org's first ever Poetry Write Off. So, without any further drum beating, here it is.
Chrispian H. Burks
Editor - Lit.Org
The Write Off: A Poetry Edition
By Richard Dani
This month we bring you a special competition, which will not only feature some new faces, but a new format as well. That's right, the Write Off is going Poetry. This form of writing has taken Lit.Org by storm and it seems like a good time to put some of our best word wranglers to the test. Further, instead of two combatants, this month's event will showcase five. Rogan, Jessicanm, Bartleby, Vamp Eyes and Furius have all accepted the challenge and I can't wait to see what they produce.
Obviously, we cannot use a story starter for poetry so instead our competitors will play be the following two rules:
1. On Wednesday, June 26th, yours truly will send each participant a topic, such as "Joy" or "Angst,"
and the entrants will have until Sunday, June 30th, to submit a poem that describes, conveys or uses
this theme in some functional way.
Sound simple? I hope so. With these small rules, I hoped to tie all of the poems together without restricting their creativity. Of course, this competition only works if you, Lit.Org's Members, take the time to read, review and rate their posts. It is the average rating that each poem receives which will decide the winner. So members, please step up to the plate and reward their hard work by rating each poem based on word choice, imagery, staying on theme, grammar and use of the appropriate number of words.
2. Each poem must contain at least 50 words, but no more than 200.
Editor - Lit.Org
"The Little Country" by Charles De Lint
De Lint is the master of what I like to call urban folklore, the mixing of
the fantastic and mythology with a modern day setting creating stories that
blend "real" characters with unreal situations and events. "The Little
Country" is perhaps one of De Lint's best works.
"The Lords of Discipline" by Pat Conroy
Conroy is one of the few writers I read regularly that I feel certain will
eventually find himself in the literary cannon that all well educated
students of literature will be expected to read. This book is my favorite of
all of Conroy's novels including such favorites as the Great Santini and The
Prince of Tides. It's a story of brotherhood, coming of age and the strange
xenophobia of the American South all set in a fictional military academy
obviously based on the Citadel. Pick it up you won't be disappointed.
"Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman famous for his ground breaking comic series "Sandman" stunned me with
this deftly handled quirky story set in the mystical underworld of modern day
London. We are introduced to Peter Mayhem an ordinary Joe who finds himself
in the midst of a plot to kill an unlikely damsel in distress. Gaiman
portrays this character with surprising realism. Peter's not always likeable,
in fact in some cases I would have slapped the taste from his mouth with nary
a second thought. A short but satisfying read.
"A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin
Okay admittedly this isn't a single book, but rather an ongoing fantasy
series. I decided to recommend this as a whole rather than book by book,
because simple put as someone who has been reading epic fantasy since middle
school, nothing I've ever read holds a candle to this series. Martin handles
politics, intrigue, dialogue and characterization with an attention to detail
and realism that I find refreshing. Here is a world that is detailed but not
as distractingly complex as Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series. I could
gush on and on about this series but I will say this instead. Martin is the
first author to ever make me skip ahead in a book to find out what happened
next to a favorite character. That in my opinion is the most sterling
recommendation I can give. Buy your copy of "Game of Thrones" today.
"File Sharing," A Thing of the Past?
By Richard Dani
It seems that the golden age of file sharing is behind us. Napster recently filed for bankruptcy and the record industry's hitmen, known as the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA), had next aimed its considerable cannons at Audiogalxaxy. The RIAA claimed that Audiogalaxy, a company based in Texas, created an environment far more suitable for Mp3 sharing than Napster had and like it or not, they were probably correct. Audiogalaxy recently folded under the pressure and has settled out of court by agreeing to censor their files and to pay an undisclosed amount in fines.
Audiogalaxy made the right decision because RIAA attorneys merely need to show up in court these days and the battle is won. That is the reason they spent millions prosecuting Napster so they could now cheaply and efficiently eliminate those who infringe on their artists' copyrights.
Napster's backers had gambled that a surprise victory would garner them a small fortunate. However, they never stood a chance. The recording companies have developed a billion dollar industry that employs tens of thousands, funds politicians and political parties and supports every state in the country with the tax dollars generated through the sale of their products.
Napster did none of these things. So it would have been difficult for a judge or jury to side with them knowing the damage that would have been done to the recording industry and subsequently, the nation's economy.
Now that Audiogalaxy has been put to rest, the RIAA will most certainly turn their sites on organizations like "Gnutella" and "Bearshare." Unlike Napster and Audiogalaxy, these programs connect users directly to one another and claim that they are beyond the RIAA's reach simply because they have no central computer to shut down.
They are mistaken.
The recording industry has begun sending letters to Gnutella's users threatening that repeated copyright violations would cost them their ISP services. In laymen's terms, the RIAA will force internet providers, like "AOL"and "Juno," to drop individuals who frequently download Mp3's. Gnutella argues that it would be too expensive for the music industry to go after each of the millions of individuals who share copyrighted materials, but again they are wrong. The RIAA does not have to go after everyone when attacking a handful would cause a stampede.
Sadly for some, the future for file sharing appears bleak. Like weeds, websites will continue to pop up offering Mp3 swapping capabilities and the RIAA will continue to knock them down. (And they'll be able to do so at a much faster rate now that they have the legal establishment behind them.) As a result, it is unlikely that any websites will boast the membership numbers, or song selection, that Napster and Audiogalaxy had.
Still, these sites had a good run and I'm sure many people are sorry to see that it's almost over.
Editor - Lit.Org
Sound and Fury, part II of III: "Getting it Out"
Welcome back! Hopefully you've read the first part of this series, so you'll be familliar with the terminology I'll be using.
If you're interested in voice recording on your home PC, you ought to have the ingredients I mentioned last time -- which are:
a) A computer to handle the raw audio data.
Fisrt thing you'll want to do is set aside some directories so you know where everything is. I keep my temporary (raw) audio files in a folder located at 'c:\temp\wav' and the finished, encoded files in a directory like 'c:\temp\mp3'. Feel free to store them anywhere and anyhow you like, but try to keep the different formats seperate; it helps! Once you know where the files will be going, your microphone is hooked up and working, and the recording software is configured to save its files to your WAV directory .. You're set to roll.
b) Plenty of drive space. How much you need is proportionate to how much audio you want to record.
c) Soundcard with microphone input (most have 'em, but some don't. 'onboard' soundcards are notorious for not possessing any).
d) Speakers, so you're not working with just the waveforms ;)
e) A microphone, so you can make your voice into a bunch of ones and zeroes.
f) Software to manipulate (normalize and edit) and encode (compress) the raw audio into a more compact form.
Some things to keep in mind if you want a clean recording:
a) Try to limit ambient noise. Since you're probably right in front of your computer, this can be a bit rough. Computer fans are known to be noisy and utterly tempermental. I just toss a thick blanket over my computer to keep it quiet.
Whether you're aiming for crisp vocals or a low-fi crunch, it is a good policy to record the audio at 44100 Hz (other choices range from 8000 Hz to 48000 Hz). This is a standard format that most recording software will support -- it is the frequency that is used the most in recordings. Monoaural recordings are ideal for voice, mainly because recording in Stereo takes up more space and doesn't offer many advantages (unless you'll be adding effects or background audio after you've done the vocals. in this case, Stereo recordings are a good idea).
In digital recording, there are several other options that can be manipulated to offer up certain results. 8-bit audio is a bit muddier, discarding certain frequencies of sound. 16-bit audio is quite common in digital recording, as it retains most of what is recorded.
b) Prepare your voice. Gargle with salt water, do dome vocal exercises, stretch your jaw muscles or whatever. Also, have a glass of some refreshing beverage (water, perhaps?) on hand. It'll help you keep an even tone, because speaking for a long time can cause drymouth. Ugh!
c) Keep a hardcopy of the work you are reciting (if that's applicable) nearby in case you get stumped. Sometimes it's good to read directly from the page, but memorizing the piece works well if you intend to convey a lot of emotion and other subtle qualities.
So now you're down to it. Finger hovering on the record button. GO FOR IT! Go nuts. Experiment. Find out how comfortable you are while recording. Sometimes, it pays off to set the mood for yourself. Lights dimmed and windows cracked open slightly? The fun of digital recording is that it's pretty much free. You're not writing to a limited supply of analog tape, so you're free to try it as many times as you like until you're comfortable with the results.
Since pacing is important, it's good to do at least two takes and compare their times. If there is a marked difference, you may want to try it again to get a bit more consistent. If your times are close, you're probably doing ok.
So, suddenly you've got all this raw WAV audio sitting on your disk, waiting to be edited and compressed. What to do with it? You'll find out next time, in Sound and Fury III/III: "Shrinking the Obvious". Stay tuned, and in the meanwhile, pat yourself on the back. You're one step closer to having a presentable final product! Please note that the next (and final?) installmant will be on the technical side, but I'll try to present it in an easily understood format with planty of help. It'll also be longer than the last two parts combined ;). I like to save the best for last...
Characterization, Including the Technique of Dialogue
By The Alienist
Some stories don't require great depth in their characters. Some stories whose main
characters do receive detailed treatment have many other characters who
remain two-dimensional for their simpler purpose in the tale.
However, when a character's motivations for what he or she does in your story are
important for the reader to understand, you must put some meat on that
critter's bones and make him or her a true persona.
Many younger or otherwise inexperienced writers believe that the reader needs to
receive all their information about the characters via narration; it will be
useful to them to point out that there are several avenues to informing the
reader of characters' traits and their motivations.
First of all, the narrator isn't the only one with anything to say. The character,
even if not narrating in first person or even the protagonist, has something to
say for himself, one way or another. Other characters can tell us much as
Dialogue is a challenge to master but is a rewarding way to provide
characterization in any story.
Dialogue is intimidating to many inexperienced fiction writers because, in part, of the
grammar rules associated with it: paragraphing for each speaker in turn;
quotes; punctuation within quotes; confusion regarding how often and when to
attribute each speech ('he said', 'she said', 'said Mike', 'she exclaimed' etc.).
There is also the fear of simply being untalented at writing readable dialogue. By
'readable', I mean 'accessible' or 'good'. This was a stumbling block for me,
which caused me to have hardly any dialogue in my fiction from the time
I was a young teen until my late twenties.
Dialogue is a challenge even for professional screenwriters. How many movies are
critiqued wherein the reviewer cites 'stilted, wooden dialogue'? Even Star
Wars has been nailed for this from the beginning, by many critics, especially
the recent Episode II.
Ironically, Carrie Fisher, who of course played Princes Leia in the original three Star
Wars movies, now makes her living as a 'script doctor', as a master writer of
realistic dialogue. I wonder why she's not working with George Lucas?
Want to see a working example of dialogue doing the work of characterization?
Let's have a dialogue.
He motioned to his partner to come to the spot where he stood, leaning over the
She walked over, with some trepidation.
"How did he die?" she asked him nervously. She could see the lost wealth of blood
pooling around the body even as the patrolmen set up the barriers and tape
around the crime scene.
"Shotgun wound to the back, as far as I can tell without flipping 'im over." The crusty
old detective lifted the dead man's head slightly from the mortar. "No head
wound. The blood coming through the shirt and jacket indicate that some of the
blast just made it through the torso from his back. The coroner'll tell us for
She stepped closer, as much to expose herself to her new career and its inherent
sights and smells as to show proper objectivity and bravado.
"He's dressed like a banker."
The detective stood back up. "Yep. He's either that or an investment broker.
Crisp white shirt, red power tie, snazzy double-breasted black jacket, matching
snazzy black pants. Nice Italian leather on the shoes."
"He sure doesn't look like a godfather." She looked over at the briefcase near the
corpse's right hand, by the curb. "I wonder if he embezzled from somebody's
bent down and fished in the man's jacket for a wallet.
"I already looked. Either a patrolman's already found it or it isn't there."
"Or he forgot it," she suggested.
"There's plenty here to help us ID 'im once the boys get'im on the slab in forensics."
He surveyed the patrolmen finishing up with the tape. "I wonder if one of
these boys did pick it up before we got here. I'd like to know as much as I
can about this stiff before we go chasing leads from the ghouls."
She fished in the dead man's pockets gingerly, getting some blood on her knuckles
as they lightly scraped the mortar beneath the blood-soaked corpse.
"We've got leather."
She stood up with the wallet, retrieved from the dead man's rear pocket. She
flipped it open and rummaged the contents.
"Sure as shit, there's his driver's license." She handed it over to her mentor as he
curiously reached for it.
He whistled loudly, in a crescendo of mild surprise. "I've heard of this
She stepped behind him and tippy-toed to peer over his shoulder and shook her hair
out of her face to see the license again, in his hand.
"This is the guy who runs Lit.Org."
"Chrispian H. Burks! He wrote a bad review of the new Black Sabbath album," she said remorsefully.
She stopped in her tracks and made the mental connection.
Her mentor spun around and looked her in the eye as her face went pale.
"Your theory, pardner?" he asked her, eyebrows high.
"We're going to have to stop by The Alienist's for a short chat."
She turned around and marched to their sedan, the Lieutenant in tow.
"Interesting how this relationship has suddenly reversed," he grumbled as he followed her
through the throng of rubbernecking citizens...
The reader will notice that the majority of the text
above, in italics, is dialogue. The speech of the characters has provided the
observant reader with the details:
An older detective, the mentor of a younger female officer who is a new
appointment to the homicide squad, is teaching her the ropes. This is one of
her first cases. She forces herself to deal with the 'spaghetti sauce' to make
him see that she's coming up to snuff and produces the wallet he couldn't find,
or was too tired to search for thoroughly. Perhaps he wanted to ... expose
her to the hazards of the job a little more, and made her do it intentionally:
"I do wonder if one of these boys did pick it up before we got here. Gosh, I'd
like to know as much as I can about this poooor guy before we go chasing leads
from the ghouls, wouldn't you?" he cheerfully suggested, rolling his eyes and
smiling faintly. With equally facetious aplomb he turned around, tapped the
corpse pointedly with his foot and began surveying the working patrolmen in
earnest, as if their activities could teach him the secret of the universe.
She stooped at the corpse as she turned her eyes up at him, mildly annoyed. "I
know, I know, time to get my hands dirty again..."
She soon turned up the wallet from a back
This way, we get to know more about his desire to teach his pupil about their work,
and her distaste for some of its... grittier aspects.
We also know that they have a friendly sparring relationship, almost
father-daughter, lifted from the basic concept of almost every buddy-cops movie
ever made. What's more, we get it all from what the characters say and a
little bit of what they do, instead of stale narration.
Not only is it a more entertaining and efficient way of developing the characters
than simply expositing them via narration (whether it be first-person or
omniscient third-person), but it enables the reader to visualize them with
greater imaginative clarity. It lets the reader inside the writer's head and
shares the adventure more richly. It is more perfect... at least for this
story and the majority of others.
Admittedly, however, there are times when plain narration is better, as when one is trying
to achieve a 'storyteller' ambience similar to many classic folk stories or
fantasy tales. This doesn't mean one should demean the reader with something
stale like "Once upon a time...", but that the writer will have to lead the
reader into a scene whereupon the characters may begin to interact and speak.
This happens often in movies, for example the several adaptations of Tolkein's
Lord of the Rings. (Yes, I know I used that example in the last article, in
Majestic #8. Yes, it is an excellent example for illustrating just
about everything about the writer's craft, isn't it?)
There are a few very basic points to make before we finish here.
During a quote, that is when a character is speaking, keep punctuation inside the
quotes. For example:
"She said it would be an amazing experience!" (Exclamation mark inside quotes)
"I know what she said," he replied, "but I still think she's a lying bitch. She's
misguided us before." (Comma inside quotes before attribution break, small
letter beginning continuation since it's technically the same sentence, and
period inside last quote, ending entire sentence, and also the paragraph -
minus this explanation of course.)
The example dialogue above demonstrates that it's easier than one thinks to help
the reader keep track of who's talking. Mixing dialogue with action or
reaction sequences and personal descriptions help the reader easily follow the
conversation back and forth without repetitive overuse - or confusing underuse
- of attributions such as 'she said'. As long as said speeches and actions
from a particular character are within the same paragraph, as in some examples
above, there should be no confusion in a competent, interested reader.
One more thing:
As with all writing skills, mastery of writing good dialogue means two habits all
writers embody, from beginners to masters: Read lots, practice lots. Read
fiction (or even nonfiction) with good dialogue, frequently, in order to study
working models, and, in the words of Billy Crystal in "Let's Throw Momma from
"A writer writes, always." This means...
Practice writing lots of imaginative dialogue, and of course let people critique it
So You Say Part 2
by Beckett Grey
I looked up from Screen
Jaimie? Think: You are a newsboy, not a fictionist. Suspense does not become
you. Now: Take a breath, count to three, and tell me who or what it is you
Professor. Sorry, Professor." Jaimie paused, and I could almost hear him
counting. "I saw Annn, Professor!"
Wait a minute, how do you know about Annn? I never mentioned her to you."
"I read it
in your journal, sir."
"Oh you did,
did you? I don't recall giving you the address for that."
"Of course I
didn't! I'd remember it. When?"
Eve, sir. At the party."
should've known. All those Califax cocktails. What else did you read?"
bad liar, Jaimie. It's one of your good qualities. What else did you
sir. Just about Annn...and, um, the story about the head mites...and, um,
Collie's um...his, um...his-"
problem, yes. I know what you're trying to say, boy." I sighed. "If
you ever breathe a word of all that to the newsfeeds..."
never do a thing like that, sir. I'm well-paid, treated with respect, and quite
loyal. I would never have a reason go behind your back, or betray you to anyone
"I see. You
drive a hard bargain, kid. How about...a 10% raise in pay and next Faraday
be very nice, sir."
"Sold! And if I hear a word of all that on the streets or in
the feeds, I'll track you down and cut out the creative centers of your brain.
Now- did you say you actually SAW Annn?"
doubt it, but you'd better tell me, all the same."
"Well, I was
down in the Southwest Quadrant, near Gould
"And what, pray tell, were you doing on Gould Street?"
answered my question."
about to get to that in the story-"
"You know as
well as I do that Gould Street is classified as Deep Red. You want to get killed,
but I DO follow the Newsie's Code, which states-"
anywhere. Do anything. Offend anyone. As long as there's a story in it. Yes,
I know. But I hired you for your information-gathering abilities, and
you can only gather information when you're alive, and hanging out on Gould Street
is a good way to reduce your chances of remaining so."
stop me," he said. His tone was rebellious, stubborn.
"Nor would I
want to," I said. "But I do intend to annoy you about it until your
ears fall off and your brains dribble down your neck. Weren't you supposed to
be telling me about Annn?"
Like I said, I was down by Gould Street- " he shot me a defiant look. "And I was
tracking down a story about robots being abused in that section of town. More
than usual, I mean. Things like limbs getting pulled off, robots being smashed
and destroyed, that sort of thing."
I said. "I hope they have a special section in Hell for people who do
that. If not, I intend to build one when I get there."
Anyway, I was hiding behind a stack of barrels and trash and stuff, with the
cam set up on a barrel in front of me. I'd been there about four hours- and
missed some really good story opportunities, too- when along came this robot
street-cleaner, one of the humanoid types. He's washing the road, washing the
road, and then along comes this man..."
of model, would you say?"
sir, or the robot?"
smartass. What was it? Old or new?"
I would guess. Only half-sentient."
up comes this man behind it, and starts stepping on the backs of the robot's
"Did it have
Not a new enough model. It was still using the three-pronged design. But this
man, he's stepping on the robot's feet, and it doesn't notice- it's a pretty
heavy one, so he probably wasn't impeding it much. At this point, I reached out
and turned the camera on, just in case something happened. And I got lucky! The
man pulled out a gun-"
shabby one, sir. Oldstyle solid shot. He takes it out, and he puts it to the
back of the robot's head and says: "Turn around or I'll blow your gears
out," to the thing."
this guy look like, Jaimie?"
Looked about 30 equivalent. Scruffy. Kind of flabby, but not really overweight
or anything. Messy brown hair. Fat nose. Beard stubble."
did he do?"
robot didn't hear its model number, and so it didn't respond, and this guy, he
pointed the gun at its leg and squeezed off a shot at it. Blew the whole leg
clean off at the thigh, all frizzling gears and wires and stuff! And the robot
turns around, still standing on the other leg, and the guy points it at the
robot's arm, and he pulls the trigger again. Blam! The arm goes flying. About
this point, the robot seemed to have an idea about the whole thing, and he
turns to go, and the guy puts the gun to its head. I was sure I was going to
see him kill it! It was really exciting!"
I snorted. "Your
idea of exciting needs a little work, kid. The word for that is 'horrific' or
'anger-inducing' or even 'stupid beyond all rational expectations for
stupidity'. But not exciting."
mixing your tenses, but go on."
"So I was
expecting to see this robot do the final leap, you know, and then all of the
sudden, this little beam comes out from somewhere to my left and cuts the gun
out of this guy's hand, along with his fingers. It- and they- fall to the
ground, and he just looks at it, like he isn't quite sure what he's seeing.
Then he looks to his right- I can't see over there, the buildings are blocking
my view- and he gets this terrified look on his face and turns to run. As soon
as he does, the beam cuts along his legs, and they just fall off! No blood
though, must've been really hot. And so the guy falls down, because he doesn't
have any legs anymore, and he just sort of thrashes around on the ground,
when I see them come out. Six or seven robots, all of them newer models, most
with skin, or something skin-like. They walk up casually to this guy, who's
screaming like the end of the world, and they get out of the way all of the
sudden, and there she was..."
glazed over as he remembered.
knew it was her- I saw her pictures on your journal- and she was even more
beautiful that she looked in the picture. She walks over to this guy, and puts
her foot on his neck. "You'll do," she says, and then uses the same
little beam to burn both the guy's eyes out. His brain too, I guess, because he
stopped moving or breathing. Then two of the robots pick up the street-cleaner,
who was just standing there, watching, and start to haul it away. Then Annn
looks over- I swear she was looking RIGHT at me- and she points the little beam
at the barrels. At first I thought she was going to fry me, but then she
blasted the camera. Then she smiled at me, and walked away. And they were gone,
just like that. It was amazing. So I decided to get out of there, quick, before
the police found the man's body. Then I hopped on the nearest transport to One Street and
ran straight here. I thought you should know first."
job, kid. I feel even better about giving you that raise now."
by Beckett Grey
I perch on this wall
and watch the women go by
they smile sometimes
but I walk away
I know I'd look too hungry
A few stop to say "hello" or "what a nice day."
I can only nod
thay are no more than animals
to me now, to be capyured and tamed
the boyfriends scowl at me
they know what I'm thinking
I just chuckle and murder them with my eyes
Then I see her, hair like a wave of ink
tight belly, long fingers
I can almost see the wet prints
my lips made at her navel
and her nails bite my back again
my stomach churns, my mouth goes dry
and I can't breathe
But it's not love anymore
Shadows dance in the flickering light
The embers glowing only so
As I lay beside the fading flames
I watch the wisping tendrils gasp for air
And in the silence a storm
Consuming, violent, and embracing
With my eyes fixed, amazed
I try not to look away
But awe turns to comfort
and comfort to peace
And as the embers fade
I rest, blissful, in her light.
by Chrispian H. Burks
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