The Fragments of Once Whole Things

A guest post by Art Holcomb

“The beautiful thing about a mosaic is that it is best when made up of the broken fragments of once whole things.”

Your characters are very much like thatWhether we want admit it or not, each of our characters is such a mosaic, made up of those conscious pieces we assemble and those unconscious fragments that we bring to the work.  And how could it be anything else? We are always the real source of all the tools and raw materials for our stories. We bring each character to our stories like a comet, seeing only the fiery tail, but knowing that it is the unseen – the fireball of our imagination and experiences – that is the real cause of that streak in the sky.

But how do we access that?  How can we really get in touch with what we believe?  How can we come to know ourselves?

One way is to look at our writings for quotes from our characters.  Their words are our words too, especially when they seem to disagree with who we think we are, or when they say something unwittingly profound.
If we believe that someday people will be quoting lines from our own works, why not beat them to it, and see what you can learn about yourself.

Let me serve as an example:  In preparing this post, I combed through my personal writing for quotes by my characters that, while seeming natural when I wrote them, now seem to reveal something new about how I might actually feel.

Here are a couple of examples:

From F8 – A Shade Story:

“Circumstances are revealed in the crime; character, in the cover-up.”

“The defining moments in the history of Mankind lie not in what a person CAN do, but in what a person Will or Will Not do.”

“A slap is just a very fast, very hard caress.”

From A Siren of Turbine

“Life is collaboration with victims.

“Beneath every desert, at some reachable depth, lies a spring.”

“Your wounds are like the knives you carry. There’s the one that you’ll show them, the one that you’ll let them find and the one they’ll never know you have.”

From Perfecting Your Premise:

“There has to be a High Country in every story where the derring-do is done.”

“Plot only matters when it is the means to transformation.”“Every character has that one core value – that one unshakable belief – that is their impediment to growth.”
- – – – Through this second look, I found deeper meaning in these quotes than what they meant for the story. Why not pull some out of your own writing and give them a second look. And feel free to share them with us here through the Comment section.

You might just learn something new.

Art Holcomb is a screenwriter and comic book creator.  His new writing book is entitled RE-BOOT YOUR STORY: How to Resurrect Your Abandoned Story and Get It Written NOW!

Thanks to Art for another great contribution.  I sat down with him in Los Angeles recently at writing conference, and we swapped writing stories and philosophy over $26-a-plate hotel fish tacos.  The guy really knows his stuff.  Notice, too, how his headlines always offer a nuance of elegance, sign of a total pro.
And, he’s the only writer I’ve ever met that I’m not sure I could pin in the first round.  Guy looks like a retired 49ers linebacker.  Just sayin’… this is a guy people listen to.
On another, final note…
An update for those of you who opted into the FREE “Deadly Faux” deconstruction ebook… getting there.  Hope to have it out in another week or so.
If you missed that, or would like to get in on this workshop-like opportunity, click HERE for the post (the offer is in the last third of the article)Speaking of DF… you can read the Publishers Weekly review HERE.


Filed under Guest Bloggers

9 Responses to The Fragments of Once Whole Things

  1. Great post, Art. Thanks!
    One of my fragments that comes to mind is “thought” by a character who is remembering her glory days as an athlete before injury forced her retirement:
    “Half delight and half torment, the visions held a siren-song pull on her senses.”

    I think a lot of us have those reactions when contemplating past performances we can never duplicate. Especially as we get older…

  2. @Larry. I’m happy for you that you got a good review at Publisher’s Weekly, but the line about “comic escapade” surprised me. Smart-ass, yes. Witty, yes. Sometimes humorous, yes. But “comic”? I think “thrilling” would have been a better adjective.

    I’ll add a review when I have time to do it justice. I’m embroiled in other pursuits at the moment, but I always check out Storyfix for an informative breather.

  3. @Art. It helps to be just a tad bit of a philosopher. Clearly you are!

    I checked with Uncle Wiggly on this. What he allowed. “It can always be something better, just add imagination.”

  4. One of my own favs: “The goal of their marriage was to embrace the ridiculous with complete and utter seriousness.”

    @Nann — yeah, I noticed that PW comment, too. My wife says Wolf is just too funny, and that overshadowed the dramatic tension for that reviewer. It’s all good, though, I’ll take it… but as you say, not completely on the mark.

  5. I hadn’t realized how much the elderly Mrs. Wright says things I don’t believe (or at least, don’t let out.)

    Here, she’s chatting with her new tenant, a young lady named Jade, who speaks first:

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    “Well, sure, I’d be a liar if I said he wasn’t, but, well, I’m not looking for anyone right now.”

    She leaned in and lowered her voice. “You don’t have to be looking for someone to be looking at someone, now do you?”

    The look on my face must have been priceless. She flopped back against the bench and laughed, head back, mouth open, arms clutched across her stomach.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    But then, in some ways, Mrs. Wright is me all over.

  6. @Art.

    Bravo on taking the esoteric (the inner life) journey. Most people stick to only the exoteric (the outer) life in which we only care about what’s outside of our body (materialism, accomplishments, “everything is a resource”)–nothing we can take with us when we die so to speak. The esoteric journey is all about the meaning, how we grow–that we take with us as we “die”.

    Both are important. The exoteric and esoteric are the infinity loop. Story involves both, at least a fully constructed story. Stories that are only exoteric are described as shallow or light. Esoteric stories are described as being deep. Theme is all about the esoteric.

    Joseph Campbell wrote about myth relative to the human journey:
    “The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies…”

    Story IS about the esoteric journey of the character across an exoteric stage. More significantly, our lives are supposed to be lived in a fashion where we learn esoterically through our exoteric adventures. However, our so called advanced civilization has become obsessed with the exoteric, and hardly anyone has noticed. The main reason for this is because most people believe we have only one life to live and we’re never coming back (if we were coming back–then we’d be concerned for how we are shaping Earth). That’s the biggest mistake one will make, and the result of such thinking creates a “consumable” mindset where everything on the planet is a “resource”, and it’s a game of musical chairs to “get yours” before the music stops (out of resources). Sure plenty will call me a preacher here, and that’s evident of the exoteric mindset: forget the inner–it’s all about what you can GET, not what you can “understand”.

    Art you said it best: “How can we come to know ourselves?” Didn’t Socrates say that? (In the first Matrix…sign on the Kitchen wall: “Temet Nosce”). ”

    This esoteric journey is HARD work, and takes time. We’re conditioned NOT to take this journey and the conditioning starts at “school”. One can learn a lot about this world and what type of people run it (no, it’s not run “by accident”) by the deliberate stifling of our inner Spirit, the Spirit of Rebellion (Google that and Tsarion).

    And why is all this important to the Writer, the Author? Fiction writing (should) is something where we go within to create something others can imagine what they would do –if put in that position, that framework of choices–the exoteric landscape and the esoteric (hopefully) character arc.

    Assuming a writer wants to write something GREAT–they need to wrap their heads around–well their head, but their inner head…what drives their beliefs. Take the inner journey.

    As Art has shown and shared.

    Well done.


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  9. MikeR

    To me, one thing that written-fiction always has, over any sort of visual presentation of it, is that “you get to have a glimpse of the writer himself.” Especially if you have read and enjoyed several works by the same author, and if you’ve maybe read the books more than one time, there is “that deeper level of communication” that does inevitably take place. Even though I don’t care too much for the “author’s soliloquy” … don’t really want ‘the illusion to be broken’ however briefly … I’ve spent many hours with those people, nonetheless. They never spoke to me directly. They did speak to me.