Curiouser and Curiouser

6ACB4FF9-A1E1-4EDF-B903-735F8521D882.gif

Working on a new writing project is always a little daunting for me. I don’t know the world, the characters, the detailed plot, nor the ending. Basically, I know shit. I have found that once I begin to think about a story, I tend to dive into things that seem to have no relevance.

For example, my characters in my fantasy has wings. The world they live in is completely made up. As I moved through my normal life, my mind seemed to come up with things that I could include in the story and world. So much so that I couldn’t keep track of it all. I bought a small notebook, this was before phones had become smart, and I jotted down everything that came into my mind that I thought might be of use. All of the sudden a flood gate opened, and my notebook was filled with nick knacks and tidbits and nuggets and morsels. I was amazed at what came out. And I’m not talking about my first time.

I remember watching a documentary about the evolution of birds. One of the topics it explored was: Do birds prefer to walk, or do they prefer to fly? To test this, the scientists put a bird on a wooden plank. The incline of the plank was increased to various degrees. No matter the degree, as long as the birds could walk up the plank, they would walk. It wasn’t until the incline had gotten so high that the birds were forced to fly up the plank. So I decided that my characters with wings would have that same behavior. That they preferred to walk, unless the place they wanted to go to required flight.

Be it fantasy, science fiction, or plain ole’fiction, the foundations of the world needs to be consistent. I’ve talked about his in the world of Harry Potter where J.K. Rowling almost made a mistake in this regard. Being the writer that she is, she caught it and corrected it.

B7957123-CC64-4309-8520-2D47CF0F5FB7.gif

In my new book, one of my main characters is a skeptic. He was entrenched in his martial arts school, loved teaching, and loved working with kids. But a slow disenchantment led him down the road of rebelling against his own school, much like Bruce Lee had, and he questioned what they taught and their methods. His skepticism lends well to working with children because he’s willing to investigate their issues to discover their real causes.

Before I knew all of this, I came across YouTube videos from the Athiest Community of Austin, the ACA. Their cable access show, The Atheist Experience, is run live with callers that ranges from theists to atheists to conspiracy theorists. I have to admit the theist callers are fun to listen to because the debate that ensues is not only entertaining, but opened my eyes to what constitutes as evidence and gave me a basic overview of how logic works. Both of these things were not very well defined in my mind beforehand. And this current character that I’m writing understands those things well.

Now, I started to watch the videos before I began to write this new book. To prove that my mind knew to watch these videos because I was thinking about this new book would be difficult. But I’ve always allowed myself to dive into things that seemed unrelated to anything that I was doing in my life. A lot of it went into the ether. Some of it was useful. Quantifying it would nearly be impossible since I don’t remember where anything that I think of comes from. But had I not watched the ACA videos, I may have not had enough of an understand of logic and evidence to write this character well.

Steve Jobs talked about this process in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford. In it he mentioned that he took a calligraphy class at Reed College simply because he was fascinated by the beauty of the lettering. He learned about serif and sans serif typefaces and what made great typography.

“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me...It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

I’m not saying that everything you’re interested in will become useful in the future, but you never know. Why not delve into something just because you’re curious? For me, it’s part of the great joy of life, to learn and experience new things.

Out of Control

91AA6981-DC0B-41A6-B99C-74EBB2A06649.gif

I was talking to a writer friend of mine about how characters sometimes take on a life of their own. In my experience, sometimes they do things that can help the story. Sometimes they screw shit up. This is where writers come in and reign them fuckers in. But there’s a balance between letting the story flow naturally to wrangling it via Deus ex Machina.

This happened when I was rewriting the ending of my second book. In my first draft, I had killed off a supporting character. Workshopping the book had revealed a lot of weaknesses that I needed to shore up. During my rewrite, I was looking for an opportunity to off this character. But as the new ending progressed, the situation required him to remain alive because I needed someone to complete certain tasks and goals. I could have killed him off, then used a no-named character to fulfill these tasks, but the scene wouldn’t have any emotion. With that I was forced to keep this character alive. After he had completed his tasks, I decided to have him escape death. On an intellectual level, I had already killed off a lot of the supporting characters, so keeping him would be a great way to have some continuity going into the third novel.

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere —Gustave Flaubert

I’ve written how heavy handedness in storytelling can be a huge problem. Most people can feel that manipulation, which can take them out of the story. And I think writers, including myself, sometimes forget that being a good wordsmith, the mechanics of language, the structure of story only serve to spark the most powerful machine on the planet: our minds.

When we watch musicians, their tools of the trade are their instruments. When reveling in the performances of dancers, actors, singers, and professional wrestlers, we’re admiring the human body as instruments. But as storytellers, our tool is the imagination.

D5B5EE63-44F8-47EA-8C56-5CBB19741CEE.png

Consider the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words.

How many words is the imagination worth? Simply put, enough to spark it.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I started a new writing project. For the past 15 years, I’ve been living in a fantasy world of my own creation. Longer if I consider that I’ve been dipping in and out of it since I was in high school. The challenge is that I have to describe everything that isn’t familiar to this world. That’s part of the reason why fantasy novels tend to be longer than normal fiction.

My new story takes place in San Francisco. And that’s refreshing because I can use words like office and bedroom and car and street without having to fully describe every single detail. I still have to show what’s important, ground the reader in the setting, but a lot of the heavy lifting is done by virtue that I’m using the real world. The challenge for me is giving enough detail to spark the imagination, but not so much that I bog the reader down.

So let’s explore this sentence: She entered her bedroom. If I don’t write another word about the bedroom, the reader will automatically picture their interpretation of a bedroom: bed, side table, armoire, bay window, sex swing...sorry. That’s my version. Putting no details whatsoever can be a mistake, especially if this is the main character’s room, because using the environment can be a great way of showing what this person is like. Is she messy? How expensive is her taste? A plant and it’s health can be used to symbolize the progress of the character arc. I can set the lighting to represent her mood. Pictures can illuminate her interests, passions and loves. These are the kinds of details that readers are likely to want because it helps tell the story without writing on the nose.

Working in a writing group is helpful because I can see where we all fall short in telling our story, or where we do a great job. So much of what we like in art is based on how it makes us feel, which is incredibly subjective. But we as writers are trying to spark the imagination and invoke emotions, all the while making sure the mechanics and structure of our writing are sound without confusing the reader. A small task, wink wink.

My writing group was featured in a podcast, showcasing how we work, answering questions about writing, storytelling.

Messy People

I finished watching Seven Seconds on Netflix. I Netflixed and chilled by myself, which is pretty sad. And messy. That's one of the things I loved about Seven Seconds. It's very messy. Napkin please. For my tears.

Veena Sud is the series creator and is known from her series The Killing. The Killing was amazing because of the mood it creates. It doesn't resort to bloody grotesque images to shock the viewers because that isn't the goal. The surprising realization for me was that most of the show followed the two lead detectives who were tasked to solve Rosie's murder. Well...duh. Stay with me.

The reason I was surprised was that I felt this sense of dread and darkness throughout the whole series. This came when the rest of the onscreen time was spent focused on the mother and father's reaction to this unimaginable hole that murder leaves. Powerful storytelling. But what punched me in the gut emotionally was how messy their relationship was with their daughter and with each other before Rosie was murdered. This creates complexities because the parents can't resolve old wounds with their dead daughter. So the question becomes can they heal from their albatrosses? Can they heal their relationship with each other?

So why not aim the cameras solely on the victim's friends and family? Wouldn't that make it more powerful? More engaging? Short answer, no.

image.gif

Too much darkness and dread can be too intense. Most viewers would be put off by this. Pretty quickly too. Which is why the show centers around the detectives. And the fact that the show asked "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" gave the audience a mystery to solve, something for their minds to chew on.

Whew! All this is to say that more often than not we see characters, especially supporting ones, that have no backstory. Even if they do, they're bland. Disney stories are like this. Most of the character building is focused on the main players. And that's understandable. Time constraints may limit that. But good characters had lives before showing up to the reader or viewer.

However, with a ten-episode series, a writer can delve into the messy lives and bask in the dreaded details. We resonate with that because all of our lives are messy. This is where Sud shines. She creates characters that have had lives before we see them. They're revealed in a way that helps create plot and arcs to be traversed.

image.jpeg

In Seven Seconds Clare-Hope Ashitey dives into the role of KJ Harper, the lawyer responsible for the case that encompasses the series. It's not enough to have her be an alcoholic. That's cliche. What isn't is how it affects KJ's choices socially and professionally. There's a couple of suggestions that she sleeps with whoever is available. A guy at a karaoke bar. Her detective counterpart. There are many times alcohol threatens her case. She either misses her court appointments, or delves into the deepest darkest part of her so she gives up on the case (and herself, essentially).

The detective, her partner in crime, not only has to deal with her messiness, but he has a messy past of his own, which resulted in a resentful daughter, revealing his emotional character arc. And this is something that isn't made very clear in a lot of the writing classes that I've taken. Creating messiness for a character is easy. But having it linked so his character arc must resolve it to me is pretty basic. But to know how to do this the writer must know the character traits. How it was taught to me is that a character trait shapes how she sees the world. For example if she's a workaholic, then her whole world revolves around that life. When a guy asks her out on a date, she'll likely deny him in some way, despite the fact that she may be hard up.

So working backward in creating scenes for your character is one way to approach this messiness. Having a character trait, workaholic, that allows you to move her toward the person she should be, appreciating the moment (smellin' da roses), will make it easier on the writer to create scenes. Because the scenes have to push the question: What's more important? Work life? Or life with people, nature, real experiences that changes her soul? I can tell you, living in the San Francisco Bay Area that real experiences are a luxury. In my opinion, that's unfortunate.

Answering the Question: Am I A Man?

I'm not a man. Because I'm afraid of heights. Because I wear both the panties and dress in a relationship. So, I want to come out of the closet and tell the world I'm not a man.

What does it mean to be a man?

That's a hard question to answer. And one I try to in my book.

When I first envisioned my main character, I wanted all the hallmarks of what America thought a man was, or at least from what I could gather...

He has to be white. Having blonde hair is a plus. He can fight, a warrior, so long hair is on the ingredients list. And he's a master with a pair of broadswords. Skinny swords? Hell no. Those are for sissies! And he has to be a captain of industry. In this case, he commands a Legion of warriors. Not just any Legion. The largest and most powerful.

Of course, no man is complete without having sewn fields of women. Endless fields. Like countless. Like seven...

But there comes a time when any real man with manly qualities must take a wife. Yes, take. Not only did he take from another suitor, he charmed her with his charming charm. Is there any other way? And what a beauty. To say she is hot is like saying the sun is bright. A quarter doesn't bounce off her ass because quarters don't exist in my novel's world. But if they did, it would't stop bouncing. In fact it'd bounce higher and higher. That is how fit his wife’s ass is.

Now their children can't be anything less than ultimate perfection. Both son and daughter are beautiful and strong warriors, well educated, and have wisdom that extends beyond time and space.

All right. I went a tad overboard here. But what would happen if I took away these things one by one. Would my character be less and less of a man?

How you answer that question will say a lot about yourself, man or woman. Because I can take away everything on that list, and I do in my book, and my character would still be a man. No, I'm not talking biologically. But nothing from the above list makes any person a man.

Think of it this way. There are two guys. One owns a Porsche 911 R, which starts at $184,900. The other drives a Walmart 18-speed bike, which costs $79...$87 with tax. I bought one. Who's more of a man?

This is a question that's impossible to answer. First off, material wealth doesn't determine manliness. Second, we as a society can't pin down what a man is versus what a man isn't. Even men have a hard time defining what a man is. So they buy more and more stuff, big stuff, fast stuff, stuff that says, "See this big, fast, brightly colored thing? I own it. Well, 1% of it while I owe the bank the next five years of my life. But, hey, I'm a man!"

Or we do crazier and crazier things in order to prove ourselves. Or deny doing things because it's not manly. "Crying? What's that? Some sort of hand-to-hand combat to the death?" "Read? No. I don't read. Only nerds and geeks read." "Chick flick? Not really into throwing little yellow birds."

However, my definition of a man is pretty simple. It's knowing thyself.

Fuck you! What the fuck does knowing thyself mean?

Part of being a confident person is knowing your strengths, your weaknesses, what you like, what you don't like. It's having the gumption to be fine with your weaknesses and not judging yourself for not liking certain things such as sports. I don't like watching sports. That ain't my thang. Math isn't a strong suit of mine, despite being Asian. I don't go around solving string theory equations or force myself to be a sports fanatic in order to become more manly. That would be a waste of my time.

Now back to my acquaintance who basically said I'm not a man, and I wear dresses.

I had become friends with a woman on a group trip to Zion, Utah. Afterward, I called her for a date, and she said yes. Having gone on two dates, I was trying to set up a third when she told me she was going to go to the store. So I told her to call me back. An hour crawled by. A second hour oozed into the night. So I texted her if she was back. An hour weaved its way through a labyrinth of endless thoughts in my head. And I went to sleep. The next morning, she texted back and apologized. I asked what had happened. Not where the fuck did you go, bitch? That wouldn't be manly, in my opinion. She texted, "Had an emergency with my madre."

She'd never mixed Spanish like that when we talked. So either this turned out not to be an emergency. Or she might have been playing some game. I don't play games in dating. It's just not my style. I'm upfront. I'm an In Your Face Motherfucker kinda dude. So I decided to not text back and to never talk to her again.

A couple years later, some guy I know told me that he had dated her for a few months. I asked him why it didn't work out. He gave me no details except that they had clashed. Later through our conversation I found out they had talked about me. Were they that bored, having nothing else in the world to talk about? He revealed that this woman had never liked me because I'm weird. And he agreed with that assessment. Had she and I gone on a blind date, I would understand why me being weird would be a turnoff. But we spent a week together in Utah. The fact that I'm weird wouldn't escape a sleeping sloth high on cocaine with two heroine needles stuck in each arm after binge drinking Everclear. If her intuition didn't pick up the signal that I was weird, then good luck in life, girl.

A part of me thought that she was a dinner collector. A woman who goes on dates just to eat. But on our second date, she ordered only an appetizer, the entrees had been a bit pricy. That's not dinner collector behavior.

Then the guy said, "You didn't even go all they way up..." and stopped himself.

I know there's a chain. Lemme alone

I know there's a chain. Lemme alone

One of the hikes in Zion ended at a place called Angels Landing. It's a trail that averages about 3-4 feet wide, I was told, and rises 2,000 feet above sea level. I'm afraid of heights. I told the group that when we had gone on this hike. Having a choice of falling off to my left or right to certain death wasn't something I relished. So I decided to wait, while they finished, and had a good conversation with the woman I would be going on the dates with. Obviously she told him I hadn't gone up onto Angels Landing. And the fact that he harped on that meant he thought I wasn't a man because he followed up by stating that my ex wore the pants in my last relationship. He witnessed all of three minutes of it because she didn't like hanging out with him. So I'm not sure what he saw, but he never told me the reason for his assessment of me.

This from a guy who had told me that he could do way better than his ex-girlfriend and broke up with her. Then he tried to get back with her only to find out that she had moved on with another guy. He then educated me by saying Asian women are like a five out of ten, but white women are like a fifteen. Apparently math is not his strong suit either. And if he ranks Asian women lower than whites, then why do I see him date Asian women? Does that speak more to his own self image?

The Death of a Butterfly

I like to ask uncomfortable questions. Especially when people are in relationships. You can tell a lot about a person by how they date. Just like you can tell how a person will treat you by how they treat the waitstaff. But if your lovers tip you after having sex, then that might be kinda awkward.

When I meet people, I naturally start thinking about what character traits they may have if they were to be written in a story. Character traits shape how they see the world. So if someone is insecure, then they'll value themselves below everyone else, for example.

A friend of mine is seeing someone that lives out of state. I think her character traits look like this:

She works with kids, loves them. She's insecure, and I'd imagine because she doesn't know herself well. She has lived a sheltered life, but is trying to stretch her wings and explore the world and, as a result, herself.

Now I've met her man once at a get together at a bar. But we didn't have deep conversations because he was withdrawn, uninterested. However, from what little I've gathered, this is his character chart:

From a writing standpoint, this triangle would collapse on itself, making this person seem very one dimensional. Someone who is autistic might not like being around people he doesn't know.

So how does a writer separate this autistic trait from shyness? They tend to look the same, making it hard for the writer and reader to separate the two.

The better question is how would I make this character more interesting? I could make the third character trait be charming. That's the last thing people would think an autistic person would have, so the distance between charm and autism feels huge.

image.png

Dimension in the physical world can be measured. If I say you have to sprint one mile, you may feel that's a great distance for a full max effort. There's an inherent understanding there. With character traits, measuring the distance between them is difficult, so doing something unexpected like coupling charm and autism can give a character depth. Or imagine coupling kindness and hatred.

Now, here's the story: The girl has lived a sheltered life, and she realizes this. She wants to explore herself in the world by doing weird and crazy things. Her guy is afraid of people due to his autism, despite being high functioning, so going out into the world isn't the most comfortable thing.

Will their relationship work out? I mean, opposites attract, right?

I'd imagine their love story has a lot of push/pull in it. For example, she has to give in to his fear and plan things for them to do, which is to stay in and make many a Blockbuster nights. You youngens might not know what that is. He has to compromise by going out and meeting new people. The end scene would be him not talking to anyone and running away, alienating her and her friends. Of course, this being 'Merica, after much tribulation, they end up living happily ever after.

Yay. Boring.

But since this is a real life couple, could a relationship like this work? My knee jerk reaction would be No. However, I've seen some crazy couples, and they seem to be doing fine. I think the more interesting question would be why an attractive woman is working so hard to be with a man who seems to be resisting moving here and meeting her friends? That character study would make for a better story. Too much energy is placed on the end story both in real life and writing, which isn't the purpose of life. Looking at the why we do things is definitely more engaging. So...

If we look at her character chart, we can see that insecurity plays a big part. Does she not see his unwillingness to participate in her life says something about how he feels about her? No, because her insecurity blinds her to the truth, and she thinks that this guy is the best that she can get. Here we begin to understand why she can't move on. Now let's put a small twist and have them take a break from the relationship.

She goes on endless dates. Show montage of crazy dudes being idiots. We can deepen the story by writing about her co-dependency where her desperation to be married forces her to have sex with any guy that will have her. And this causes issues like self-loathing, the loss of connection with friends and family, an unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drug use that leads to a miscarriage. And if you thought we were too nice, then we hit her hard with the death of her grandmother who had taken care of her when her own mother was on the fritz with her life.

At this point, our story can become a tragedy. After all this, how can it not be? Well a tragedy is when a character fails to become the person she should become. In this case, she fails to realize that her insecurity is something that she believes herself to be, entrenching herself deeper into worthlessness, depression. In other words, she's like a caterpillar who never becomes the butterfly. She tries to break free of her cocoon, but the man she's hung up on comes back into her world. She attaches her self-worth to him, never giving herself the chance to bloom. We see this as her not having her own thoughts, opinions, but being controlled by a man who needs to keep her down so he can feel better about himself. And his worsening treatment of her forshadows her life. 

Obviously, this is just an exercise of light character study. My friend still has her whole life ahead of her to grow, which is what people naturally do when they don't think they're worthless in any way.

Pull Me Inside

Can a man truly understand what a woman experiences in life? Or at least know enough to write a fleshed out female character?

Hollywood sure has a hard time of it.

Writing is difficult. You have to be technically sound with your structure and logic and grammar, while artfully using words to build and submerge your reader into a three dimensional world that feels real, and then do a little thing called evoke powerful emotions. A small task.

I decided to attend a writing group because my current one is still on hiatus, but I was out of it. I wasn't paying much attention. But a discussion about an excerpt that had been read caught my ear.

The writer was male and wrote in third person limited from the perspective of the female main character. That in of itself is a tall order.

My girlfriends had described what having painful periods felt like. Not that I asked. I'd even seen some of them coil into the fetal position from cramps. Migraines thumped the inside of their skulls with ice picks. So a whisper from me was enough to end my life. None of their clothes they had worn the week before fit. The world boiled like a hot plate. But I can confidently say that I'll never truly know what having a period will be like. I'd probably forget to wear pads and ruin countless panties. Not that I ear panties.

So never having had female issues, how could a writer of the male persuasion write from a female perspective? I don't know.

Is it possible?

Yes.

I remember reading Memoirs of a Geisha and completely forgetting that Arthur Golden, a man, had written it. It's been years since I've read it, but I still remember how the geisha hierarchy had created so much drama for Chiyo, the geisha. Details like the flick of her eyes, the color of her lipstick, the lush kimonos still swim in my mind. Everything felt very feminine. Even the experience of having her virginity taken away was horrifyingly memorable.

At this point in the writing group, I had heard about three excerpts from this particular writer in a span of a month. And there were two basic issues with his writing. He hadn't set who the point of view (POV) character was. And the mere mention of her doing something wouldn't work:

  • Marcia set her jacket on the chair.

This doesn't bring us into her mind, her perspective. And this action can be observed by anyone. If a POV character hasn't been set, then it's still vague on who is observing this sequence.

The writer has to pull us in:

  • She remembered...
  • She felt...
  • She found herself...
  • Feeling the cold hard table, she noticed...

These verbs pull the readers in where we see the world from her eyes, her mind, her senses.

The second basic issue could be due to me being exposed to very little of his writing. However, outside of her dialogue, I didn't know what she was thinking. What's rolling around inside that noggin? Telling us what she's thinking would reveal character traits that the reader is starving for. Another writer suggested italicizing her thoughts. But that's not necessary. Let the narrative do the hard work of internal thoughts.

Marcia gazed into the mirror, marveling at how silky her long blonde hair was. Brushing it, she fantasized about this dreamy boy who had passed her by in the hallway. She'd hoped he noticed her because she had washed her hair the night before with a special shampoo that strengthened the individual strands. Breakage during the winter months had always been annoying. Looking at her hair now, she didn't know why he hadn't come and said Hi. Her hair gleamed in the bedroom's light.

Here we know what Marcia is thinking without explicitly indicating that she's thinking.

Just my two thoughts.

Backstory

When reading a passage in a book, readers need some sort of framing to give them context as to what is being said. In art, the common word used is structure. To show what I mean, here's a picture I painstakingly drew:

If I told you that this represented something, you'd be hard pressed to figure out what it was.

Here's another picture that took me many hours to come up with:

What is it? You don't have to look real hard to figure out it's a tree. The only difference between the first picture and second is structure.

Writing stories require structure. It's the foundation of good storytelling.

My writers group is taking a small hiatus due to the holidays, so to get my kicks I've been going to another writing group. I know. Drugs would be more fun, but I tend to react pretty badly.

After getting settled at a conference table, a woman took out pages from her fantasy and read, laying down a lot of backstory. Sometimes backstory helps to explain the motivation of a character. But too much of it can slow down the pacing, overwhelm the reader by asking them to remember too much, or make it feel like nothing is going on because no one's really at risk. I mean, the events have already happened.

What if the backstory is essential to the current storyline? And what if there's a lot of it?

The basic strategy is to just give enough backstory when the storyline needs it. Otherwise, writing more of the backstory isn't going to do any good because the reader will not likely remember it. Backstories for fantasies tend to be long and complicated because they deal with fantastical characters and histories. So that's a lot of unconventional names and events that the reader has to memorize.

One thing my fellow writer wasn't doing was structuring her scene. There's a beginning, middle and end, but that's not what I'm talking about. One of my first books on writing was from Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of a Selling Writer, where he talked about MRU's: motivation reaction units.

A man slaps a woman. She gets pissed off. She wants revenge. Then she kicks his nuts hard.

The motivation is the slap. From there, her reaction is anger and wanting revenge, which are feelings and thoughts. And then action is needed, her kicking his nuts in. This in turn can be the man’s motivation, which leads to his own reactions, followed by action. I do want to point out that action could be dialogue because not every book in the world is going to involve nut-kicking.

Backstory can be placed within the thoughts, the reaction part. This helps structure our understanding. So when the woman gets slapped, her initial shock is something that should be shown. Then we can go into her backstory of being slapped by the love of her life, which was the start of her worsening abuse. Having learned from that experience, she promised herself that she'd fight back whenever a man abuses her, and wham, foot flattening the nads.

This is not the best example, but it gives you an idea of where to place backstory. Still, everything is now contextualized. We see the slap, her shock feels natural to us because we'd be shocked as well, and her backstory fits into this context, so we don't question her resulting action, but cheer her on. We're rooted to her now, and that's important in keeping the reader interested.