Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Kurt Vonnegut's suggestions for writing and writers

Kurt Vonnegut Jnr was an interesting writer, mainly of satire but also SF and black comedy. You can read more about him here:

Kurt Vonnegut

His guide and tips for aspiring writers are also informative and useful. He has seven rules, which he elucidates here in entertaining style, appropriately:

Kurt Vonnegut's advice to writers

1. Find a subject you care about

2. Do not ramble, though

3. Keep it simple

4. Have guts to cut

5. Sound like yourself

6. Say what you mean

7. Pity the readers



Vonnegut also came up with these further eight suggestions for writing fiction:



  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    Thursday, 10 May 2012

    Circalit and Shortbread Stories

    To follow up my post back in March about my homes elsewhere on the web, here are a couple more links for subscribers and visitors to this blog:

    Here is my home at Circalit, where you can read some of my short stories for free:
    Steven Mace - Circalit

    Here is my home at Shortbread Stories, where I have published stories available to read, review and comment upon:
    Steven Mace at Shortbread Stories

    Thursday, 3 May 2012

    The Golem

    'golem (גולם; English pronunciation: /ˈɡoʊləm/ GOH-ləm)
    In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being created entirely from inanimate matter. In modern Hebrew the word golem literally means "pupa" but can also mean "fool", "dumb" or even "stupid." It meant amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing.'

    Golem

    The concept of the Golem in Jewish folklore inspired this short film/animation/stage script I wrote a couple of years back. I thought I'd publish it online and share it with readers.


    THE GOLEM

    SCENE  1  Aaron Goldstein’s study, in his luxury city apartment, 7.30pm

    (In a darkened study within a city apartment, a bespectacled man sits at a desk, chanting softly and leaning over a large pile of what looks like sand, mud and stones. He is a tall and slim man, wearing a black suit. His hair is full and white, and he wears glasses. He also had a white beard, which is pointed. The lights in the apartment are dimmed for his task.)

    OLD MAN: (eyelids fluttering, as if in a trance. He waves his hands slowly over the heap of dust and rubble in front of him. He whispers softly) Come to life…to life…come from the dust… (He continues to whisper  inaudible and mysterious incantations softly)

    (The dust and stones begin to float upwards from the table. They begin to swirl and form a shape like a tornado. The chaotic clouds swirl around the old man and then centre in the room behind him. He turns to stare at the shape appearing in front of him, his expression both amazed and delighted. The tornado starts to form the shape of a hulking human figure. Eventually, when it is complete, it is a seven foot tall man, his flesh the texture of earth. His jaw is thick, and his torso and limbs look heavy and powerful too. His face is very basic, a flattened nose and smudges for eyes and mouth.)

    OLD MAN:  (shocked and surprised) It has worked…I cannot believe it worked….

    (There is a loud knock at the door to the study. The handle is turned. A female voice calls from behind the door.)

    FEMALE VOICE: Father? What was that noise? Are you alright?

    OLD MAN:  I…I’m fine, Mischa! I just knocked something off my desk. You can go back downstairs.

    MISCHA:  (from behind door) Are you sure you’re okay, dad? You sound a little strange.

    OLD MAN: Everything’s fine! Don’t worry about me.

    (There is a pause while the old man listens for his daughter retreating from the door outside. Then, cautiously, he approaches his creation where it stands impassive and still in the middle of the room. He picks up a stool and stands upon it so he can reach its forehead. On its forehead, he inscribes the word ‘Emet’ *)

    OLD MAN: Who could believe it…that I…Aaron Goldstein…have summoned a Golem! (speaks in shocked voice)

    (Aaron examines the creature’s facial features intently. He peers over the rim of his glasses to see it closely)

    OLD MAN/ AARON: Can you speak, Golem?

    (Slowly the Golem shakes its head)

    AARON: But you are under orders to do my bidding? (eagerly)

    (Slowly, the Golem nods)

    AARON: Excellent! Now…

    (Aaron Goldstein steps down from the stool and rushes to his desk. He takes out a sheet of paper, on which there are printed instructions. He walks to the Golem and holds the sheet of paper to the Golem’s mouth. The Golem tilts his head slightly to place the paper in its mouth and swallow it.)

    AARON: Now you know what to do…your mission is to kill Seth Weinberg. Soon, I shall be the one who has control of his empire! (speaks with greedy ambition and anger)



    ------------------------------------------------------



    SCENE 2:  The Weinberg Building, corporate offices, 8.00pm

    (Another middle-aged man sits at a large desk in a corporate office. This man is short, plump and balding, and wears a white suit. He is examining files at his desk. As he examines the files, a secretary dressed in a white blouse and blue skirt walks into his office)

    SECRETARY: Working late, Mr Weinberg?

    SETH WEINBERG:  I’m afraid so, Caroline. It was a busy day of meetings today. We’ve been working hard to close the Bennett-Charleston deal. Beat Goldstein to the punch yet again. Not only that, but increased our holdings in Goldstein to twenty-one percent. Not long before we’ll be able to buy him out. Old Aaron Goldstein won’t enjoy that! (rubs his hands with glee)

    CAROLINE/SECRETARY:  (smiling) I’m sure he won’t, Mr Weinberg. I’m afraid that I will have to call it a night. Robert is taking me out to dinner at nine.

    SETH:  Of course, Caroline. Thank you for your hard work today. I know it was under trying circumstances. See you tomorrow morning.

    CAROLINE: Thank you Mr Weinberg. See you tomorrow morning! (speaks cheerfully)

     (The secretary, Caroline, departs from the room. Five minutes passes. There is a window behind Seth Weinberg which is slightly ajar. Outside it is evening.  Suddenly, small grains of sand start to trickle in through the open window. Seth Weinberg, does not notice at first. As the sand starts to pile and build, he does notice. He stands up in shock. The sand and dust builds and builds, increasing in speed, until the Golem summoned by Aaron Goldstein stands there in the office)

    SETH: (Shocked) What the…. ?  (stares in disbelief at the intruder) Incredible…!

    (The Golem takes a step forward and swings its arm toward Seth. Luckily, the Golem is strong, but it is not quick. Despite his advancing years, Seth manages to avoid the blow. The swing of the Golem’s arm breaks the desk lamp on the businessman’s desk.)

    SETH:  (shouting desperately) So you have come to kill me…who sent you, Golem? Who sent you? Who could have the power…Elijah Rosenthal? Ah…was it…Aaron Goldstein?

    (The Golem is advancing upon Seth as he is speaking. As Seth speaks the name of its Creator, the Golem abruptly halts)

    SETH: Aaron Goldstein? He is your Creator?

    (Slowly, the Golem nods. Seth runs to his desk and retrieves a piece of paper from one of the drawers. He picks up a pen and scribbles on the paper for a long time, writing several sentences. Then he takes the paper and walks toward the still, silent Golem. He feeds the paper into its mouth)

    SETH: Now you know what to do, Golem. Destroy your Creator.

    (The Golem bows and begins to disintegrate, crumbling back into sand in a structured, controlled movement and trickling along the floor before out again through the open window)

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    SCENE 3: Aaron Goldstein’s study, in his luxury city apartment, 8.30pm

    (Inside Aaron Goldstein’s darkened study. He is sitting at his desk, looking at information on a laptop computer. There is a knock at his study door)

    AARON: Come!

    (Aaron Goldstein’s daughter Mischa enters. She is a petite, pretty young woman with long jet black hair and a slim body. She is wearing a jumper and a pleated skirt. There is a photograph of her in a frame on Aaron Weinberg’s desk)

    AARON: (turning around from his desk and smiling warmly) Darling! I suppose you’ve come to tell me that dinner is almost ready.

    MISCHA:  (Cheerfully) Yes, daddy. Henrietta asked me to tell you that she will be serving the starter in about ten minutes.

    AARON: Very well. I just have some more business to attend to, I’ll be there soon. (warmly reassuring)

    MISCHA: Okay daddy. Mom and I will see you at dinner! (bright and happy)

    AARON:  Okay, Mischa. In ten.

    (Mischa  exits the room. Aaron turns around on his swivel chair and resumes attention to his work on his laptop computer. His study window is open. Suddenly sand begins to trickle through the window. Aaron notices and stands up. He waits for the Golem to form, his face eager with anticipation. Slowly, the Golem assembles itself in the room until it stands before its creator, seven feet tall in height.)

    AARON: Well…Golem, is it done? Seth Weinberg is now dead? (speaks eagerly and excitedly)

    (Slowly, the Golem steps closer so that Aaron is within reaching distance.)

    AARON: Well, come on…is he? (irritated and impatient)

    (Suddenly the Golem grips Aaron by the throat. Its powerful hands are immovable like stone.  Aaron struggles desperately, wheezing and rattling his feet against the floor of the study. The Golem tightens its grip, slowly strangling Aaron and eventually crushing his windpipe. Once it knows he is dead, it releases its grip and drops his corpse to the floor.  At that moment the Golem notices the photograph of Mischa, Aaron’s daughter, on the old man’s desk for the first time. He picks the photograph up, still within its frame, and examines it closely. Suddenly, there is a shout from somewhere in the house)

    MISCHA:  (from outside the room) Father! Father, are you alright in there? We heard something! (shouting with panic)

    (Upon hearing her voice, the Golem retreats from Aaron Goldstein’s dead body, but still carrying the framed photograph of Mischa. It presses itself against the far wall of the room, hiding in the shadows. The door handle of the study is turned, and this time the door had been left unlocked. Mischa Goldstein enters. She enters the room nervously and upon seeing the body of her father, runs to him in shock. She kneels down beside him and turns him on his front. Upon seeing his open, fixed eyes and realising that he is not breathing, she knows that he is dead and screams.)

    MISCHA: Daaaaaaaddy! (a hysterical scream)

    (The Golem steps forward from the shadows of its hiding place, feeling somehow drawn to the young woman and recognising her from the photograph it has taken. She looks up and sees it. Upon seeing its powerful and strong physical form, and despite not understanding what it is, she realises this must be what killed her father. Mischa’s eyes widen in shock and horror and she screams again. Now the Golem decides to retreat, and its ordered disintegration begins, crumbling to sand that slides across the floor and trickles out of the window. A Hispanic maid in her late 20s, wearing a blue uniform and her mother (Jean Goldstein), a woman in her early 50s and wearing an elegant green dress and with curled white hair, rush into the room but too late to see any traces of the Golem )

    MISCHA’S MOTHER, JEAN GOLDSTEIN: (Hands to her mouth) Oh…oh…my!

    MISCHA: I don’t know what happened…I found him like this…there was someone here…. (sobbing and hysterical)

    (Jean Goldstein stares at the dead body of her husband, lets out a horrified shriek, and then faints, collapsing in a heap. The maid immediately kneels beside her and attends to her, attempting to bring her back to consciousness by fanning her face.)

    MAID: (to Mischa, in calm voice with Hispanic-accented English) Miss Goldstein, we have to call the police.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    SCENE 4:  The next morning. A garden somewhere in the city, in the first light after the sun has risen, 6.30am.

    (The Golem is in its material form, standing alone in a garden. It is walking slowly across the grass. As we see a close up of the Golem we see that it has something in its hand which it is examining. It is the photograph which it has stolen from the house of Aaron Goldstein. It is a photograph of the daughter of his Creator whom it has murdered, a photograph of Mischa. The Golem is looking closely at the photograph.

     As the Golem crosses the garden, it approaches a bed of flowers. The flowers are roses. With its giant hand, the Golem plucks a rose, breaking its stem. It holds the rose close to its basic,  flattened nose. Then it looks again at the photograph of Mischa.)

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    SCENE 5:  Three days later. A cemetery in the city, at 2pm.

    (A crowd of people in black suits and outfits have gathered for the funeral of Aaron Goldstein in a large, open cemetery. A rabbi is giving a reading before he is buried. Mischa Goldstein, her mother Jean Goldstein and Seth Weinberg are present. A friend of the family, David Jennings, approaches Jean and Mischa Goldstein at the end of the ceremony.)

    JENNINGS:  Hello Mischa. I’m very sorry for your loss. (sombre and serious)

    MISCHA: (wiping tear away from her eye) Thank you, David.

    JENNINGS: I think your father will be greatly missed. He was a great man, and a wonderful businessman.

    JEAN: Thank you, David. The family appreciate your kind words.

    (Jean Goldstein turns away to speak to another mourner, leaving Mischa and David to converse together)

    MISCHA: (laughing bitterly) You know, I hardly saw my father during my childhood. Business always came first for him. I was not close to him, until recent years. Age and ill health took their toll…he was at home more often, and finally we had a father and daughter relationship. I never thought I’d miss him when I was a teenager, if anything ever happened to him. Now…I definitely will. (sobs quietly)

    JENNINGS: (quietly) I am sorry to hear that. If it’s any comfort…I know that he loved you and thought a lot of you. You were his only child, his daughter.

    MISCHA: Thank you for attempting to comfort me, it’s sweet…but I am not sure you are completely right. (wipes away tears with her handkerchief)

    JENNINGS:  Oh I am sure that…

    (David Jennings is interrupted by Seth Weinberg, this time wearing a black suit for the occasion, who approaches both of them in the cemetery grounds)

    SETH:  Miss Goldstein…I was very sorry to hear about the death of your father. I offer you my sincerest condolences.

    MISCHA: (coldly) Thank you.

    (Seth Weinberg nods and walks away. David Jennings turns to look at Mischa with curiosity.)

    JENNINGS: You were not very friendly to that man. (questioningly)

    MISCHA:  That’s Seth Weinberg. (flat, emotionless)

    JENNINGS: Oh, of the Weinberg Corporation? Your father’s business rival.

    MISCHA: (with bitterness) My father hated him.

    (Rain begins to fall.)

    JENNINGS: Oh, we’d better get to the cars!

    (Jennings and Mischa begin to run to the cemetery gates and the cars that are waiting there. However, as she turns Mischa notices something out of the corner of her eye. She stops to get a closer look. She glimpses a large black shape moving underneath trees that border the cemetery grounds in the distance. She tries to get a better look, but the rain falls more heavily and she cannot be certain. But Jennings grabs her by the wrist and pulls her to the gates. At the gates, a man in a brown suit carrying an umbrella approaches Mischa. He is in his mid-30s, with thinning brown hair and piercing grey eyes. He is of stocky build. He shows Mischa a policeman’s badge.)

    POLICEMAN:  Miss Goldstein? I’m Detective Williams. I’m sorry to be here at this emotional and difficult time, but we need to ask you some questions about your father’s murder.

    JENNINGS: (consoling Mischa with a hand on her arm) I’ll wait with your mother in the car.

    MISCHA: How can I help you, Detective?

    DETECTIVE WILLIAMS: There are a lot of unexplained issues surrounding your father’s murder, Miss Goldstein. (He flicks open his notebook) Now, your maid said that you reported seeing someone in your father’s study, when you found him…

    MISCHA: I saw something…but it was very dark. I am not sure…I was so shocked at the time, maybe I imagined it. (uncertain and cautious)

    DETECTIVE WILLIAMS: What exactly did you think you saw, Miss Goldstein?

    MISCHA: I…  (shakes her head) I don’t know. Something…a movement. I don’t know. I really don’t know.

    DETECTIVE WILLIAMS: Miss Goldstein, I’ll be completely frank with you. There are several things baffling us. The first thing is that there is no way anyone could have been in that study when you entered the room, and escaped without you, your mother and the maid seeing them. The second thing is that when the forensic examiner and coroner investigated your father’s body, they found that his neck and windpipe had been crushed by an impact of considerable force…if a human being was responsible then they would have to possess superhuman strength to do that. We really cannot understand what happened or who was responsible.

    MISCHA: I’m as mystified as you, Detective.

    DETECTIVE WILLIAMS: (closing his notebook) I don’t like cases that baffle me, Miss Goldstein. Let me assure you that I’ll get to the bottom of this, one way or the other. One more thing…

    MISCHA: Yes?

    DETECTIVE WILLIAMS: There was a photograph of you, missing from your father’s study. Your maid told me that she noticed it was missing from his desk. Do you know if your mom or one of the staff took it?

    MISCHA: No…I’m sure it was there the last time I was in dad’s study…weird… (distracted and worried)

    DETECTIVE WILLIAMS: Strange indeed. I’ll keep you updated.

    MISCHA: Thank you Detective. (relief and gratitude shown)

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    SCENE  6:   Late afternoon 4pm, 2 hours after the funeral, a quiet riverside walk in the city suburbs.

    (Mischa is walking alone along a pathway that runs beside a river. She has changed from the funeral. She is wearing a patterned summer dress. She is sobbing quietly to herself. She wipes at her eyes with her handkerchief. Suddenly, as she is walking along, the Golem steps out from a group of trees ahead of her. It stands on the pathway, blocking her way. Mischa stares at it and recognises with horror the creature that she saw in her father’s study on the night he died.)

    MISCHA:  (screaming and taking several steps backward in shock) Noooooo! Get away from me! (hysterical)

    (The Golem slowly steps toward her and holds out the rose it plucked from the garden for her to see and accept.)

    MISCHA: What? What is that? Killer! Killer! You murdered my father!

    (Mischa  runs to the Golem and beats her fists against it, hitting its torso as far as she can reach. The blows have no effect. The Golem simply stands there and does nothing. Eventually, Mischa gives up. Wiping tears from her eyes, she turns and runs back down the river path. She reaches for her cell phone and calls the police. The Golem watches her go. After several moments it drops the rose on the ground. Its basic facial features form an expression of sadness, and then contort with rage.)

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    SCENE 7:  On the city street, not far from the Weinberg Corporation building and plaza, at 6.30pm, four hours after Aaron Goldstein’s funeral.

    (Seth Weinberg, now dressed in his white suit, steps out of an expensive car and on to the pavement of the busy city street outside his corporate offices. His chauffeur, a man with dark hair in his early 30s with a cap and grey uniform, winds down the window and speaks to Weinberg)

    CHAUFFEUR: Mr Weinberg, are you sure you wish to walk the rest of the way? I can drop you off at the plaza.

    SETH: No James, you are quite alright. I think I’ll enjoy the fresh air and the brisk walk.

    CHAUFFEUR/JAMES: As you wish, sir.

    ( The chauffeur drives away. Carrying a briefcase, Seth Weinberg starts to walk toward the plaza outside the towering office block. As he walks down the street he passes an alleyway. He glances down it and sees a familiar shape standing there, watching him from the gloomy shadows. It is the Golem.)

    SETH: Ah! The Golem! What are you doing here? The task you were set has been done.  I have attended Goldstein’s funeral. Your Creator is dead, your commands were fulfilled. You may leave. (speaks decisively)

    (The Golem does not move. Feeling curious, Seth approaches the creature, walking deeper into the alleyway.)

    SETH: Did you hear me? Did you understand? Your task is complete. You do not need to be here any longer. You may leave. Met. Met**. Do you understand, Golem? (showing anger and impatience)

    (The Golem remains still. Seth walks closer to it. The sounds of passers-by and cars from the street seem far away.)

    SETH: You big stupid lump. Your tasks are done, Aaron Weinberg is dead. Go! (anger and signs of fear)

    (Suddenly, the Golem turns away and strides to one of the dumpster containers that are parked in the alleyway. Seth follows it down the alleyway, curious to know what it is doing. It throws open the lid. Inside there is rubbish and detritus. Abruptly the contents of the dumpster begin to rise and swirl out of the container. It attaches itself to the Golem. Seth watches in shock as the Golem increases in size, assimilating the rubbish to its physical form. Realising he is in danger, Seth turns to run. But he is slow, aged and unfit. He is too late, and so he is doomed. Now twenty feet high, the Golem lets its spirit fly from its body and it topples forward. Seth is buried and crushed under the swollen mass of the Golem’s body, which kills him instantly.)



    END

    *Hebrew for ‘truth’

    ** Hebrew for ‘death’

                                                Mischa Goldstein encounters The Golem (by Alena Mananskaya) 

    You can check out more of Alena's artwork here:
    Alena E Mana- Illustrator