Emotional Biographic Imagery in the Mind Cave

My work is emotionally autobiographical. It has no relationship to the actual events of my life, but it reflects the emotional currents of my life. I try to work every day, because you have no refuge but writing.

Tennessee Williams


Cave Walls


The Mind in the Cave

Barcelona’s Gothic’ February 2013

You can see Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind at the British Museum. The fiction writer paints both temporal coordinates (state of mind, emotional circumstances,) while specifying place, character and situation. All of this on our modern day cave walls. The talented writer has a knack for understanding emotion. We trace a scene step by step, building a readers sense of the truth by nailing the state of mind. Once we’ve developed a character the reader comes to expect them to be consistent and of course the whole game is to force the character to make the unanticipated choice. If you trace what the character in a story confronts and then what action they take you are looking at the author’s emotional biographical mind. This is our shared humanity, the same humanity we glimpse on the cave wall.


 “I am not a sacred type being,”

“Fletcher McCrea,” Keefe argued, “You are just what the good lord needs.”

“I don’t even go to church,”

“Everybody knows that,” Keefe said. “What’s even better there isn’t a soul in town less likely to invoke a sense of the divine.”

“I should stick to what I’m good at.”

“The last thing we need is someone actually pretending to be truly sacred come out here and muck up everything.”

“My talent is in talking a woman into bed.”


The New Narrative is a Comedy

I set out to tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is shocking.

Tennessee Williams 1981

Writers desk


The Writers Desk


Time comes up again and again in conversation. We reserve in this go-go era a respect for original, finely crafted narrative. As it stands we are at a humanitarian crossroads. Ancient myths are vaporizing before our eyes. Science allows us to see out to the edge of the Universe or if we look the other way into the realm of subatomic particles. The ancient religious myth is crumbling and in its place a more durable story is being born before our eyes. In this era we see mankind’s dominion over nature crumbling. We are being forced to incorporate into our narrative answers to climate change, or the inability of political systems to serve humankinds needs. We see that the elites clinging to whatever gives them power. A compelling narrative gores the sacred. To survive so many misguided fallacies of the past we must soon replace these ancient beliefs with fact. This is the crossroads of a more informed narrative.



“Look at Mr. Keefe Kenny,” Dotty said greeting the men.

Keefe hopped down off the running board, shoved the door closed. “Thought it was time I stop wasting all of my hard earned money at the clinic, come on down and surrender the rest of it to you and Gage.”

Dotty smiled big. “Oh, come on Keefe, we’re town’s best bargain,”

Most of what the town of Meadowhawk was; most of how the thing got held together; was something about how folk in town found everything they might need or not need here under the roof of this one place.

“Like going on a carnival ride” Keefe teased. “Turn you upside down and shake all that change right out of your pockets.”


The Truth of the Thing

“I asked Norman Mailer which of the other art forms he thought being a novelist was closest to. “Acting,” he said.

Under the Influence, Andrew O’Hagen.  April 27, 2013 Financial Times

Petaluma Turning Basin

Following the River, Guided by the Light


Most of us are familiar with the list of elements that the novelist utilizes in the building of a story. Here and there the best of the writers point at one element or another. How a character reads off the page influences our sense of the truth of the thing. Their behavior allows us to be swept along trusting that what will happen corresponds to our understanding of humanity. And so the actor/writer feels their way into the scene. We inhabit the scene and stake out what a character would do if placed in circumstances such as those we find in a story. What may not be as obvious is that regardless of the premise, the plotting, the outline, character sketches etc… there remains the task of entering into the realm of the situation. We net out the truth and dispose of what rings false. Most of it is by trial and error. Sometimes we nail it on the first attempt while at other times the task eludes us completely and we are forced to reconceive the entire circumstance we’ve concocted. Story proceeds by characterization. From there anything can happen so long as our expectations of how that person might act or speak rings true.


“Hazel Harwood! I aim to peel you like an apple, lick you like a lollypop.”

Hazel froze in her tracks. She knew that voice. She slow turned and bent down picked up first thing she could find. It was a rock.

Keefe smiled and waved his arms wild like over his head.

She threw that rock at Keefe as hard as she could.

Keefe was so excited that she’d noticed him. “Ain’t she something…”


When Time Stood Still


Speed as Histrionics

I set out on the outline of Hot Spring Honeymoon on January 1, 2012. I’d finished Bankrupt Heart in June of 2011. By finish I mean the manuscript was completed and the only thing left was to scrub the thing for errors in spelling and grammar. I rested my imaginations muscle for six months until on that first fateful day seventeen months ago I embarked on this latest novel. I’d wrestled with the outline and settled on April Fool’s Day as the best day to begin writing my first comic novel. We count the words of this current effort at forty thousand headed to 60 thousand at the finish. I am a pace of 3000 funny words per month, a hundred funny words per day, somewhat longer than a tweet, somewhat less than prolific. Of course for every three grand I make I’ve spent three times that amount getting there. This is not a lesson, it is an experience. If this is going to be what I say it is, a comic novel, it is going to require a vastly greater effort than any other writing project I’ve attempted. Here is where the practical limits of the creative process meets the modern worlds sense of pace. A book of this type takes as long as it takes and not a moment sooner.


“Morning,” Keefe said.

“God you scared me,” Dusty replied as she came out the front door. “How are you Mr. Kenny?”

“I don’t have the whole of my life in front of me like you, but what I got left will do.”

“You got a long life ahead.” Dusty said as she loaded sheets and towels into her arms.

“Got honeymooners coming in this afternoon.”

“Newlyweds…” Dusty said, “Vow your whole life away for two weeks of hot fun.”

“You’re not ready to settle down.” Keefe said.

“Making love to the same person for rest of your life?”

“Right partner could make for a happiness that runs deep.”

Dusty wasn’t having any of it, “Only thing I’ve learned about getting married. That’ll make a life seem long.”


Close Your Eyes and You’ll Miss YOU…Tomorrow I’ll….

Dress in Window



 Blinded By the Light…


What is your narrative? How much of the story do you know by heart? How much of your narrative remains hidden from you? Thought experiment! “I’ll never get that job. I’m no good at math. I’m always late.” Some of our narratives are harmless while others are not. Writing fiction is an opportunity to endow characters with a narrative, part of which they are caught up in and part consisting of the things that they believe to be true, but in fact are simply false. Characters trapped in this web of self-deceit offer an author a means of advancing an improbable plot because readers are smart enough to know that even brilliant characters can be blind to the things they claim to know about who they are.



“Keep yapping Sal, might just get a notion to put that up to a test.”

“A test? You’re self-centered, get angry, yell, never close doors, don’t seem find much of anything that makes you happy, hell you don’t listen to nobody about nothing; got more problems than most and almost nothing about you that anyone thinks they can make a friend out of.”

“Aren’t you a sweet talker…” Keefe was looking dead into Sal’s tirade.

“Boss, sometimes I think it might be just me making things up,” Sal tap tapped his steel spatula against the grill.

“Making things up?” Keefe said.

“Yeah, but then it hits me, como un toro, like a bull.”

“What’s that?”

“What a king-sized pain in the ass you really are,”


Economic Tragedy Played as a Comedy

The formation of the eurozone and a half-century of relentless globalization have altered the global economic landscape, rendering once-proven policies ineffective.”

Kaushik Basu


Doug revised small size

aka…Doug McKechnie

The comic novel is an exploration guided by discovery. The author hunts for the funny side of phenomena. We can’t tweeze out the least preferred parts of life and place only the most preferred parts up for consideration without placing our thumb on the scale of reality. How we might fold uncomfortable truths into comic fiction and still hurl the reader joyfully along on a romp of human folly is quite the challenge. For the work to be redemptive there needs to be somewhere in the work souls who’s actions are wholesome and skillful, that hold in their hearts a sense of what it means to seek for the common good. From start to finish the author is testing a hypothesis and running a fictional experiment and the consequences will result in some measure of reading pleasure. The global financial crisis has no such luxury. Instead its authors no less certain than a comic novelist must live with the results of the implications derived from their experiments. I think it safe to say that we now have a global financial system without an effective global financial sector. We have neither the institutions nor the regulations suited to where the nations of the world have arrived. This is human folly on a scale that dwarfs the hubris of even the most rigid ideologue.



“An angry man’s a dead ender… got to learn how to appreciate what you have, stop bellyaching…”

“I got a good life,”

“If you had a good life you’d be getting out of folks way and allowing men coming up behind you to take the helm.”

“Not a man in Meadowhawk can do what I do,”

“…Time to get out of the way Garrett…Time for next generation figure things out.”

“I got a lot of life in me still,”

“Garrett,” Doc tried to be sincere, “you have to open your eyes, love the things you find right here, right now, before time god gave you ends up being spent on things won’t add a lick of joy to your sour puss…”

“Well, what do I do when my chest starts to hurt?”

“I took the Hippocratic oath. If you were my mortal enemy I’d still be duty bound to treat you,”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to put you on low dose of aspirin, and if I’m right you’ll be fine and if I’m wrong, won’t matter, you’ll be dead before your head hits the ground.”

Garrett said, “You don’t have to sound so happy about that,”

“It would be lot easier to show some remorse if my patient wasn’t the most obstinate man in the whole of Meadowhawk.”


Trial and Error in the Comic Novel




 In the Distance the town of Meadowhawk, Nevada

I soon discover whether a situation is inherently funny. If it isn’t funny it becomes clear that the scene will depend on characterization. If character and circumstances fail next is to write a funny line to try and carry the scene. Then, after being dissatisfied with that I’ll circle back and try and approach the scene from another point of entry. Might be a different character, might be a different place, a different circumstance, so long as it contains the necessary plot points needed to carry the story along that’s all that matters, at least that’s all that matters after you have found a way to drive the comic novel forward. Again, there is a lot more trial and error in this type of fictional prose.



“Hazel said a divorced man can’t know how annoying they can be.”

“Maybe a woman’s annoyed because of how she feels about the man.”

“Her being annoyed is not in her imagination,”

“What is it then?”

“Women get annoyed because we give you everything we got,” Lark said. “At least that’s what Hazel and Gretel say.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“Just about the time we give ourselves to the man, the man stops appreciating it.”

“I’m out of my mind crazy for that woman.”

“And she’s afraid the first time she’s nice to you… that’ll be the end of that.”

“You mean for us to be mad about each other we can never be nice to one another?”