Writing in Someone Else’s Sandbox

I have had the honor of getting asked to write in someone else’s world. In early 2020, before the lockdown, Heads and Tails publishing was working with Michael Gallowglas, and he was going to get several writers to draft novelettes in two of his properties. Some of these potential writers are famous and well established, while others were unknown quantities like me. I was to write in his Dead Weight universe, which is about the US Marine’s response to a fairy invasion, told from the perspective of a storyteller.

By the time the pandemic hit, I had about a third of the story written. I started it right after I saw the first draft of the contract. Covid wiped out Heads and Tails, the publishing deal disappeared, and I continued drafting that story. It’s called Dead Weight: Air Superiority and it pulls heavily from my real-world experience in the Air Force, deviating from reality when a fantastical version of my old squadron is deployed to establish air control in a desert where dragons are dominating the skies.

The truth be told, I really enjoyed working on that story, at least in the beginning. I didn’t enjoy the work so much in the middle and the end, but that was because I was fighting depression like so many other people, as Covid changed the world around me. Pandemic not withstanding, I enjoyed diving deep into the world and studying it, getting the rules and mechanics of the setting in my head, so that I could play with those same mechanics in a way that honored the original work while still allowing me to tell a story that is from my heart and mind.

It wasn’t exactly the first time I wrote in someone else’s property. I played on the Star Wars MUSH for many, many years, and I often think of that more as writing fanfiction than anything. None of it is publishable, or even particularly good, but I learned so much from that experience about writing compelling characters with their own unique voices. There are ideas from that time that I want to pull forward and make into full novels, the way I brought Mel forward from a roleplaying game and created The Repossessed Ghost. But those novels will have to wait.

In front of me now is another opportunity to write in a shared world, The Truckstop at the Center of the Galaxy, published by Water Dragon Publishing. There are many stories written and out in the world already, and I’m looking forward to diving into them with the same energy I had when I worked on the Dead Weight story.

It reminds me a little of when WriteFightGIFClub worked on the Hotel stories. It was another shared universe idea, multidimensional, with certain characters and landmarks that could show up in each of our stories. I’m actually quite pleased with The Reluctant Apprentice, my entry for that series. I think if we were braver and a little bit more organized, we could have put those stories together into an anthology, but I think what we did was enough.

I used to think that writing a story for an established franchise was unappealing. I like my original stories, settings, and characters so much. Why would I want to give up any part of the creative process? Why would I want to be confined to someone else’s rules?

Now I see it differently. I still prefer creating original characters and focusing on those for my stories, the way Timothy Zahn did with his Heir to the Empire Star Wars novels. But I think the external rules encourage a kind of creativity that you don’t find when the canvas is completely empty.

I have some really fun projects in front of me. Tomorrow, I’m going to meet up with Mike and we’re doing to do some writing. Maybe I’ll make some more progress on the next Mel Walker story. Maybe I’ll reorganize my thoughts and outline on the sequel novel to The Repossessed Ghost.

If you’re like I was and you think writing in someone else’s world wouldn’t be fun, I challenge you to reconsider. Just for fun, pick your favorite franchise and try to write some fanfiction in that world. Keep the pressure off yourself and see what happens. It is a lot more fun than it appears, and it might expand what you know about creativity with boundaries.


Water Dragon Publishing

I have mentioned Water Dragon Publishing a lot, but I’m not sure that I have dedicated time to really introduce you to them.

The dry stuff would be to say, Water Dragon Publishing is small and independent, an imprint of Paper Angel, and focuses on fantasy and science fiction. Other imprints under Paper Angel have other focuses, with a potential new imprint coming soon which focuses on horror.

If not for Water Dragon Publishing, The Repossessed Ghost wouldn’t be out in the world. I am grateful, and I want to talk about Water Dragon a little bit more, to go beyond the dry stuff and reveal what it’s like being an author working with them.

I do not have experience with other publishing companies, big or small, but I know a lot of authors and have heard their stories. I’m not going to name names, but I have one author friend that had two of their series dumped by a major publishing company, before either series could be completed. Another author that has been a mentor to me has talked about struggles with their publisher, as one of their books came out around September 11th, and even though all book sales were impacted during that time, the publisher still dealt with the author as though it was somehow their fault that the book didn’t sell as well as projected. And still another close friend of mine partnered up with a publisher, and wound up having to buy back the rights to their stories when the publisher failed to promote their books in any meaningful way.

I went into my relationship with Water Dragon knowing all of these stories, and I sort of held back my hopes and expectations.

Instead of adding to the list of nightmare experiences, I found a community. I found a group of writers that are supportive, knowledgeable, and passionate about holding each other up. This was a lot like when I found the WriteFightGifClub. When you join a group of writers like this, you find shelter and support in the storm. There will always be uncertainty in publishing, and drama, and troubles, but a group like this offers hope and assistance when you need it.

Steven Radecki is the managing editor, and he wears a lot of hats. One of those is Small Publishing in a Big Universe, which is both a podcast and a marketplace for independent authors. We had a whole extra table in the dealer’s room at Baycon dedicated to the marketplace, where non-Water Dragon authors could sell their books at the con. We also interviewed authors at the con live and made them part of the podcast, and posted information on their books at the marketplace website. This might seem like a wild tangent; it isn’t, because this is all still part of what Water Dragon is and does. It’s not just a philosophy to help other writers, but a call to action.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the big publishers right now. Last I heard, there was some turmoil and a lot of layoffs, especially around genre fiction. There is a lot of uncertainty everywhere. Maybe it will mean more opportunities for smaller, independent publishers like Water Dragon.

To pull back from the shilling, let’s talk a little about the downsides of Water Dragon Publishing, which mostly amount to being small and independent. There is always too much to do and not enough people to do those things. Printing is outsourced, as you can imagine, and there is some kind of delay with the printing of hard covers for The Repossessed Ghost, so many of the pre-orders are unfulfilled. The prints are beautiful, but a couple of my friends and coworkers are getting antsy. These aren’t really criticisms of Water Dragon specifically, but more reflections of the publishing business on the whole.

If it’s not clear already, I like working with Water Dragon. I want to submit more stories and continue working with Steven and the other authors. There is a shared world project that I want to dip a toe into. Maybe I’ll even see if there are other ways in which I can volunteer and help.

If there’s anything I’ve left out, or if you have any questions, please let me know! And to cap this off, let me tell you about this:

You can read more about the details here. It’s 12 stories for around $20, and it helps SFWA, which does not suck.


Monty Python

At a certain point in my life, I quoted a lot of Monty Python. These days, I’m more likely to quote from Liar Liar, of all things. Even now, I’m on the verge of telling you the color of my pen, which is royal blue.

Monty Python is a wonderful combination of zany and dry humor. From the ministry of funny walks, to the parrot that was alive when it was purchased but has ceased to be, no one expects which direction Monty Python will go, much like The Spanish Inquisition. That’s just The Flying Circus.

Of their movies, I think mostly of Life of Brian and Holy Grail. The Life of Brian isn’t quite as funny as the other, but the name alone forced me to pay attention to it, and it ends with a song that makes me smile. Even while being crucified, always look on the bright side of life.

Holy Grail, on the other hand, is where most of the quoting comes from. From the very beginning, with the text written by people that weren’t actually sacked, to the end where the whole thing is taken apart for the farce that it is, the whole thing is completely quotable.

I enjoyed Monty Python when I was younger, but I’m not sure how much of it has aged that well. John Cleese was always my favorite, but I understand that in his older years, he expresses some less-than-stellar viewpoints. I’m not sure what they are and I’m not going to look them up, to be honest. I assume that when I’m his age, my viewpoints won’t be particularly pristine, either, and I’d rather just think of John Cleese as being a really funny man that delivered an amazing performance when he read The Screwtape Letters. If you haven’t heard that, find it and give it a listen, it’s amazing.

I think I’m a fan of British Humor. I enjoyed Monty Python when I was younger, and I really enjoyed all of Douglas Adams’ writing. There is some commonality there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one influenced the other.

There have been other comedy troupes that have done similar work as Monty Python, but I’m not sure that any reached the same level. Kids in the Hall comes to mind, and they were really popular for a while, but I don’t think people are talking about them the way people still talk about Monty Python.


The Most Common Questions I am Asked

When someone suggested this topic, I thought it was going to be fun! But now that it’s time to write it, I’m drawing a blank.

I get asked tons of questions at work, many of which repeat, but I don’t really get asked that many questions outside of work. I have a lot of experience as a writer, and I take my craft very seriously, but I don’t think anyone thinks of me as an authority on the subject. I still talk about writing all the time, but not because people are asking me.

Let’s just try this and see what happens.

How are you doing?

I’m fine, thanks! Even though my day job is brutally busy, I’m doing okay.

Where can I find your books?

I finally updated my books and stories page at the top. I currently have one book out, The Repossessed Ghost, which so far has been very well received. You can go straight to the publisher to buy it, in which case it will likely be sent to me first to be signed, or you can find it on Amazon.

I also have a short story in an anthology called Tales from the Goldilocks Zone, which is also on Amazon. Not a lot of people have purchased or seen that anthology.

I have a couple of other unpublished but finished novels, and I’m working on follow-up stories to The Repossessed Ghost.

What was the inspiration for The Repossessed Ghost?

Chronologically speaking, the character of Mel Walker started off as someone I played in a roleplaying game over 20 years ago. He had a fun voice, and I wrote a few short stories featuring him back then. The game didn’t last long, but the character stayed in my head for years and years.

At the beginning of November 2013, in the middle of binging The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, I decided I’d give Mel a shot at his own novel. I wanted to write something light and fun like The Dresden Files, and Mel was perfect for the job. Now if I could just borrow Jim Butcher’s fans for a little while, that’d be great.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I do not. Ghosts are fun to write about, but as far as an afterlife, I find that being turned in to a ghost to be the most repugnant.

Melissa believes in ghosts most of the time, so she can believe enough for both of us.

Why a ’74 Nova in The Repossessed Ghost?

The car featured on the cover of the book, and that plays a critical role in the story, is sort of a combination of two cars I remember from my late teens. I used to get to borrow my brother-in-law’s ’74 Ford Torino, and I loved that car. It was blue like the car in my book, but it was not fancy. It had rust spots, and honestly wasn’t worth much money.

My girlfriend’s Dad at the time had the mid-70’s Nova. It was dark gray, and the engine was so chromed out that you could lift the hood and use the insides as a mirror. I never drove that car, but like the Millennium Falcon, it had it where it counts.

What are you working on now?

I’m about 5000 words into a short story about Mel Walker on a jury. I’d like to get it finished before the summer is out, and see if there is a home for it with Water Dragon. Once that story is finished, I’m going to outline the sequel to The Repossessed Ghost, and then I’ll consider which story I want to work on next. I have a lot of ideas I’d like to pursue.

What’s your writing style?

People don’t actually ask me this in so many words, but the question comes up in a roundabout way when I talk with other writers.

I used to be a pantser, but now I outline. I do not outline as thoroughly as most plotters because I still like to have lots of room and leeway to discovery write. In fact, sometimes I’ll put in my outline, “You’ll figure this out when you get there.” And I usually do.

When I’m drafting, I wind up reading a bit of what I last wrote at the end, in order to recover the flavor and voice. As long as I can pick up my threads of thought, I’m good to go. When I have to reforge, I slow down.

My first draft usually comes out relatively clean, but I no longer share first drafts with anyone. Once I’ve finished the first draft, I’ll let the story sit. I’ll try to work on something else. When I come back to it, I want my eyes as fresh as they can be.

Revisions involve reading the story to Melissa. My ear catches more than my eye. When I’ve finished the second draft, I start looking at my critique group, in the hopes that I might be able to submit it and start getting external feedback. I miss things, and my critique groups are vital, because when I can see my story through their eyes, I find the things that are missing.

The two times I’ve worked with an editor, things went very easily.

Why do you write?

This is another question I don’t usually get directly, but the idea of the question comes up from time to time.

I write because I have to.

When I don’t write, the depression gets me. Writing is my favorite way of expressing myself. My writing voice is stronger than my regular voice. Writing brings me peace and fulfillment.

I want to entertain people. I want to connect with people through my writing.

It would be a dream to be able to write full time. Maybe it will happen, still. My dream had been to get one of my novels published, and that happened this month. Now I want to get another book published, and hopefully reach more people with my stories. If enough people gain interest in what I have to write, maybe this could become my full time job, and I would be very satisfied.

If you have any questions for me that I have not answered, please let me know!


The Rise of Queer Protagonists in Genre Fiction

I’m not the best person to tackle this subject, but I’m going to do my best, with empathy and respect. I’m a straight white guy, arguably an old straight white guy now, and there have been a ton of protagonists that have looked like me and sounded like me. Representation matters, and it’s easy for me to find a character in a book or a movie that is superficially like me.

Maybe I’m going too fast. Let me slow down and break down what I just said, one piece at a time.

What do people mean when they say, “representation matters”? It starts when we’re young. We look up to our heroes and we try to see ourselves. When a child sees an astronaut or a superhero that looks like them, it’s easy for them to imagine being that person. Our dreams as children are only as big as our heroes. I’m pretty sure I wanted to be Superman with a lightsaber at some point. Maybe Melissa wanted to be Wonder Woman.

If I had been something other than white when I was little, I might not have been able to see myself so easily as Superman or Luke Skywalker. It’s hard for me to say. I had the privilege of getting to grow up not really thinking about race. As far as gender and sexual orientation, it was a completely different time and what I was exposed to was neither kind nor compassionate.

Representation matters, and as I said at the beginning, it’s simple for me to find characters that are superficially similar to me. Why did I include the word “superficially”? Doesn’t that imply that representation doesn’t matter? Am I trying to hedge?

I don’t think so. Not every black person has the same lived experience. Neither has ever gay person. I described myself as a straight old white guy, but that’s not really my lived experience, either. I’m adopted. I grew up in a household with a mother that wasn’t always there and a father that was drunk most of the time, until my early teens. I was surrounded by people that made devastatingly difficult life choices, and like a lot of Gen X folks, I muddled through on my own. I had panic attacks in Junior High. I was afraid all the time, and I got into a lot of physical fights.

There are lots of people that look like me, but there are not a lot of people that are actually like me. Sometimes that’s for the best, because I can be a lot.

I think representation matters most for the younger folks. All kids, regardless of their race, gender, or sexuality, should be able to find heroes like them, and be given the opportunity to dream big and aspire to be anything. By the time someone is my age, they should have learned to look beyond appearances to discern what lies beneath the surface, where our true similarities may be found.

What about queer protagonists in genre fiction? Why is there so many now, and what is that about?

Let’s look at the history of genre fiction. Until the last couple of decades, it was on the outskirts. The world we live in today has been inherited by The Geeks, but before that, geek culture existed behind closed doors. It was nerd stuff.

Awards in genre fiction, such as The Hugo, The Nebula, and The Dragon, carry some clout these days. When The Hugos were first handed out, it was not quite so prestigious. Weirdos ran those conventions and attended them, and the weirdos were the ones selecting which other weirdos should get recognition for the strange and wacky fiction they all celebrated. Tolkien’s contemporaries even tried to shame him for writing fantasy, which was considered unserious and “a waste of time, only useful for escapism.”

Genre fiction has always been where societal boundaries are stress tested first. Genre fiction is where progressive voices get to practice. When the stories are exploring what could have been or what might be, sometimes the narrative dives straight into what should be.

Presently, there should be more queer protagonists. There should be more queer writers, writing queer protagonists, celebrated by audiences, queer or otherwise.

Will I write a story featuring a queer protagonist?


There are lived experiences that I cannot claim, experiences that many queer readers would expect from a story that is meant to speak to and represent them. It would be wrong of me to try and write a queer story. There are other writers that can write that, and we should make sure there is room for them to do so.

I can include queer characters in my stories, though. My main character can be queer, as long as I don’t make that the focus of the story. Some folks are gay. Some folks have dark hair. Some folks have gluten allergies. These are descriptors, and not necessarily character defining traits.

It can be a little confusing when a story is appropriation, and when it is representation. When in doubt, there are readers that can provide feedback and help the writer keep from doing harm with their stories. Misrepresentation and stereotyping can be extremely painful and continue a cycle that oppresses or mischaracterizes people that are already not well represented. So, hire a sensitivity reader, and listen to them if they tell you that you’re doing harm.


State of The Brian — 2023

Mr. Speaker. Madam Vice President. My esteemed colleagues.

The state of The Brian is strong.

Coming off the release of The Repossessed Ghost, I am feeling satisfied. A life-long dream has been realized, and now I’m developing new dreams to follow.

My health is stable. I’m taking hypertension medicine, but only occasionally, as my blood pressure is staying relatively normal. The low sodium diet appears to be working for me, and I have been exercising more.

I could stand to exercise a lot more, but progress is being made, and progress needs to be acknowledged. Continued progress will lead to a leaner, stronger Brian, the kind of Brian that will see many more summers, many more conventions, and will likely produce many more books.

I haven’t been drafting as much as I like, but I think focusing on the release of The Repossessed Ghost is appropriate writer activity, and it has taken some time and energy.

People have reached out and given me amazing compliments with regards to The Repossessed Ghost. Yesterday at Michael Gallowglas’s shows, he made my book available to his audience, and his support specifically has been life affirming. I feel spoiled. I feel appreciated. This is a good time to be Brian C. E. Buhl, and I’m trying to live in the moment and appreciate it all as much as I can.

We had some hiccups on the goal of writing a blog post every day in July, but as of this post, we are fully caught up and back on track. We have successfully talked about Shoes and Mashed Potatoes, and we managed to get to the other side of The Byzantine-Sasanian War of 620-628 AD. We have operated this platform with integrity, and we will continue to keep the light on in this place for as long as possible.

As far as my day job is concerned, I’m behind on some important work, and that has created a great deal of stress. With regards to extracurricular activities, I have been playing quite a bit of Project Zomboid, especially with Mike and Nick. That’s been excellent fun.

Tonight, I started a new keyboard, the keyboard I intend to make available for the giveaway at the next Writing Excuses Retreat on the Alaskan cruise. Melissa and I have selected our offshore excursions, and we’re both quite excited for them. The near future looks bright.

As I sit here tonight, I have never been more optimistic about my future. I just have to continue to remember who I am.

I am Brian C. E. Buhl and there is nothing beyond my capacity to accomplish, as long as I have the support and love of my friends and family.

May God bless us all. May God protect our troops.

Thank you.


Mashed Potatoes

Today’s topic is another one that I think I was given as a joke or a gotcha, but as I woke up this morning, I realized I might have a little bit more to say on this subject, and how I can tie it back to writing.

Mashed potatoes. You take your peeled potatoes and then you boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew, add milk, and season them for taste. People generally go for a smooth consistency, but I personally don’t mind mashed potatoes being a little lumpy. The texture of mashed potatoes can be extremely boring.

That “season for taste” can incorporate quite a bit. It can include salt, pepper, butter, possibly sour cream and chives if you’re freaky. A lot of mashed potatoes are served with gravy. If you were asked to describe the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever had, how much of your description would include the things that were added to the potatoes? “Season for taste” really means “turn this into a palatable food.”

No one’s mouth is watering over plain, unseasoned, mashed potatoes.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that potatoes are primarily a conveyance food. French fries are salty, sometimes covered in ketchup. If you’re in Europe, you might be drowning them in mayonnaise, according to Vincent Vega. Jack’s Urban Eats makes an entire meal of French fries, putting all kinds of stuff on them.

Fries and chips can get away with less because of their texture. Plain fries and chips might offer a satisfying crunch; what can plain mashed potatoes offer? If your mashed potatoes are crunchy, something has gone terribly wrong.

But who cares, right?

I think this ties back to writing in that as writers, we take our words, characters, various plots, and we boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew turn them into stories and poems, and hope that what we’ve made is palatable to a reading audience. The seasoning that makes our creation distinctive is our voice. That’s what we bring to the table. It’s the special ingredient that only we can provide.

Now I’m kind of hungry.


The Byzantine-Sasanian War of 620-628 AD

When I sought topics to write about in July, someone threw this one in, either as a joke or to stump me.

I didn’t know about this war (and I still don’t, really), but I read the wiki and came away with some thoughts.

This was the longest, bloodiest war between the Byzantine/Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran. It started over a matter of pride, and while one side dominated for most of the war, the other side came back, bringing the fight all the way to the walls of Constantinople. It ended with both empires depleted of resources, neither having gained much. Quite the opposite, actually; both empires were left vulnerable. Muslim armies invaded both empires shortly after the war, completely conquering the Sasanians and taking many Byzantine territories.

That’s a very basic summary, which I’m regurgitating from the wiki. A proper historical read would be better, but like I said, I have some thoughts.

It ultimately started from a murder, and what I believe to be a bout of pride. Was there a point when peace could have been achieved, before both empires were destroyed with their own squabbling?

The war achieved nothing but mutual destruction. Are we doomed to see something similar in our near future, as tensions continue to escalate between superpowers?

Of all the quotes about war, from both fictional and real, historical figures, I find myself thinking of Yoda. “War does not make one great.”

People have to stand up against oppression, tyranny, and the unjust. War may be justified and not merely justifiable. I don’t know that the war that is the topic of this post was completely justified, and any potential war coming from recent events seems to be of dubious merit, by my reckoning.

Maybe I’m just a big softy. I prefer love over hate, peace over war, and I just want people to get along and live their best lives.


Romeo and Juliet

If you were to ask me what my favorite Shakespeare play is, I would answer Macbeth. I love Macbeth! Romeo and Juliet might make my top 5, but the truth is, I don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about other Shakespearean works as I do Macbeth.

There’s some good stuff in Romeo and Juliet, though, and I bite my thumb at anyone that disagrees with me on this subject. Forbidden love across two warring families, saccharine sweet and over-the-top romantic gestures, followed by the kind of tragedy only a couple of lovestruck teenagers could manage. There is a lot to mine from this story, which is why there have been so many adaptations.

The more I think about it, the more I respect the portrayal of teenagers in Romeo and Juliet. It rings the most true to me, because I remember when I was that age feeling emotions so huge that I couldn’t fit them all in my body. I remember feeling like I could take on the entire world, because love is pure, and right is right, and the realities of the world didn’t matter. I can see a 17-year-old Brian acting out just like Romeo and Juliet. 50-year-old Brian has seen some shit, and while he loves just as large, he also loves with greater wisdom and caution.

There’s a hint of something in Romeo and Juliet that reminds me of modern YA stories. I wonder if YA authors would name Romeo and Juliet as their favorite Shakespearean play the way I so easily name Macbeth. Macbeth appeals to me because of the humanity of it, where ambition and opportunity is enough to overwhelm a good man’s loyalty and propriety. If the witches had not given Macbeth the prophecy, would Macbeth have killed his king? I can see how my stories are influenced by the ideas present in Macbeth.

Similarly, when I think of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, I’m reminded of the energy of Romeo and Juliet. The two stories are vastly different, but there’s something in the over-the-top romances between the characters, and the desperate teenage longing in Ashes that fits perfectly with the attitudes of Romeo and Juliet.

Am I onto something?



The best shoes are the ones you forget you’re wearing.

Have you ever tried to get around in shoes that were too small? How about broken shoes? You can try to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, but just try to walk any distance in shoes that are broken or that don’t fit, and you’re going to feel it.

Tonight, I moved a bunch of garbage to the curb for a big pickup, and I didn’t wear the right shoes for the job. They were running shoes, and while my feet are fine, I wound up having to walk through a bunch of dried weeds and urban jungle and wound up collecting a bushel of burrs. Steel toes boots would have been the correct footwear for the job, especially since I was moving some heavy objects. It was 108F out there, though, and I thought having breathable shoes would be better. I’m not sure how much breathing could happen when the shoes themselves were choking on burrs.

What else can I say about shoes? My favorite for the longest time were the boots I received during basic training. I don’t think I’ve ever owned another pair of shoes that fit me so well. I walked everywhere in them. They still fit fairly well, but the soles are so worn out that they’re no longer really practical.

Shoes provide clues about the wearer. The kind of person that regularly wears cowboy boots probably subscribes to a particular lifestyle. Combat boots can mean a variety of things, depending on how worn they are, and how the person is wearing them. Combat boots on a Hot Topic goth are going to look different than combat boots on a veteran or someone serving in active duty. Expensive running shoes might suggest a certain amount of disposable income, or at least, some priorities around that particular area of fashion. Generic, Walmart shoes suggests frugality or practicality. And then there are Crocs.

Armed with that information, including a description of a character’s shoes is another way of conveying information to the reader about the character without having to spell it out. What does it say about the antagonist when they walk into the scene, their shiny black dress shoes clacking sharply on the linoleum? What does it say about the protagonist when they pair knee-high leather moccasins with their denim duster? Maybe it’s nothing but affectation and flavor, but then again, there might be a plot point hidden in that detail.

Getting back to what I said at first about shoes, how the best ones are the ones you forget you’re wearing, I think there’s something similar with writing. The best stories, to me, are the ones you can fall into and forget that you are reading.

Not all writing is best when invisible. Poetry and flower prose is there specifically to draw attention to itself and dazzle the reader with all the charms it possesses. But when you fall into a novel and you’re behind the eyes of a character, trapsing through a world and adventure, danger and triumph, there is a disservice writing in such a way that the reader is pulled out of the story and forced to remember that they are, in fact, reading.

It’s something I think about when revising. Clunky sentences get in the way and pull the reader out, because they have to stop and focus on the writing in order to extract meaning. Overly clever sentences can do the same thing. And, as I alluded to in a previous post, unusual punctuation can cause a reader to step more lightly through the story, rather than fall into it and be absorbed.

That’s what I have to say about shoes.