Tag Archives: Writing

NaNoWriMo 2016 is here – Time for Another Bout

2016-11-01-18-25-29Yes, I may have neglected the blog for months, but I did move countries, change my career path, injure my back and encounter the wonders of Belgian bureaucracy. All excellent distractions and apparently kept me too busy to remember that I had a blog (or several as it turns out) to write for. But now NaNoWriMo is back for 2016, so why not revive the blog in the flurry of activities we call the “Write 50.000 words and don’t have a heart attack” party that is NaNoWriMo in a nutshell.

This year is going to be a bit of an experiment. I will be writing my own work, the progress of which you can follow here and add me as a writing buddy, while simultaneously starting a collaboration with my partner, the very talented Andrea, to write our own contemporary fantasy murder mystery.

And I haven’t been entirely inactive since my last post. I started a sister blog that pokes fun at corporate vernacular, that I have thoroughly enjoyed compiling and creating content for. You can find here should such shenanigans tickle your fancy.

Anyway, I am off to frantically type out the opening scene for my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. Best of luck to everyone out there. And if you need a reason to participate, you can find 5 reasons right here!

But what do you think? Is NaNoWriMo worth the time and effort and stress and pain and fun and excitement and other feelings both good and bad? Let me know.

And now… The NaNoWriMo song.

A Scourge of Clickbait on Thee

16ooj0Why do people still engage with clickbait? Wait wait wait, hang on, let me rephrase that. Why do people persist in engaging with headlines that are obviously designed to appeal to our most basic level of curiosity, to our emotions, our greed and our sense of schadenfreude, instead of relying on our intellect and not giving it traction and traffic? Clickbait is a terrible thing. It’s objectively terrible. It promises a reader something life changing but instead gives you a hamster eating miniature burritos. Which is great in and of itself, but it’s hardly worth a line like “Chef cooks meal for his favorite hamster. What he cooks will blow your mind”.

A good headline is essential for attracting readership and clearly my own needs work, but for me a clickbait header is a de facto statement that you have nothing of value to offer me. It means you’re a scam, a fraud and you have nothing to say. A good headline is simple, informative and direct, leaving plenty of room to be creative and entertaining, and generally refrains from being too inane, deceptive and/or unnecessarily hyperbolic.

A clickbait headline includes a cliffhanger to bait the reader and an emotional trigger to push the reader to click. It deliberately excludes information you need in the decision process and nudges your curiosity bone Clickbait headlines are so lacking in content that you can make a headline clickbait generator. This one thrilled me with results like “19 Unusual Psychological Experiments That Can Be Explained By Duran Duran B-Sides” and “55 Life Hacks Only German Men Should Never Be Ashamed Of” which sound fascinating without giving me anything of substance. Clickbait reminds me of pop-up ads from the nineties or the phishing e-mails which occasionally grace my inbox. Bait the reader with A, then push to click B, get screwed by a conman C. Rinse repeat, appeal to simpler natures, make a profit. Unwanted and unneeded.

And that’s probably also the problem, it has become a numbers game. Get shares, likes, clicks, sneezes, whatever and hope your content (regardless of quality) goes viral so you make a profit on ad revenue or distributing swag or whatever floats your boat. The monetary incentive is strong and the market remains open to clickbaity content, to the extent that some major news outlets have used clickbaity headlines as a way of boosting traffic, apparently not understanding that it drives away more discerning audiences (like me).

And it’s interesting because on the other hand we do live in a (more) golden age of writing. And I mean that literally. More people than ever before have the ability to read and write, and the opportunity to publish their words of wisdom in whatever form, be it social media, print or laser print on cutting boards. The sheer volume of content is both forcing writers to be more creative and experimental in their work, and creating a need to sell. And what sells clicks are headlines and images. A strong, well crafted headline, usually paired with an image can make or break a piece of work. Timing, interest and some luck also plays a part in its virulence.

In short, please don’t propagate clickbait. It feeds a system where content takes second (or third or fourth or…) place in favor of clicks.

What do you think? Does clickbait have a role is modern writing, be it in blogging or journalism or something completely different? Or is it just utterly terrible pathos-based garbage? It is. It really is. But let me know if I’m wrong.

Let me know and do like, share and subscribe. Stay tuned!

Has it been written? – Library of Babel

LibraryOfBabelSnapshotI came across the Library of Babel some time ago, yet it continues to intrigue me and allows me to indulge in the more philosophical aspects of my brain. In short, it’s a system that allows for mathematically generated text to be created and destroyed and recalled instantly. It’s a gem of literary creativity, even if isn’t technically a human literary achievement. As taken from their website (which you should really go explore, if only to marvel at the very concept of mathematically generated text), it states that:

“The Library of Babel is a place for scholars to do research, for artists and writers to seek inspiration, for anyone with curiosity or a sense of humor to reflect on the weirdness of existence … completed, it would contain every possible combination of 1,312,000 characters … it would contain every book that ever has been written, and every book that ever could be …  At present it contains all possible pages of 3200 characters, about 104677 books.”

This means that every book, blog post, tweet, facebook update, article, etc. ever written or consumed exists out there. Which means everything that can possibly be written already has been “written”, regardless of whether it’s ever been committed to paper or even conceived. Which reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s L-space or Neil Gaiman’s Lucien’s library or any other hypothetical space where everything written simultaneously does and does not exist, just like that concept you wanted to work on, that poem you wanted to write about your last date, or that next entry in your diary. It’s in there… It just hasn’t been generated and exposed to the world. Not yet at least. But the concept also creates a lot of questions.

Are there be masterpieces of poetry hidden inside, waiting to be discovered rather than written? If I found one, can I publish it as my own? Or is that already someone else’s intellectual property? Or would the act of finding it bring it to existence? Furthermore, can I ever hope to be original? If what I’m writing has already been written, does it mean I plagiarized it, even if I wasn’t aware of its existence or it wasn’t written by a human or at least with human intent? Is the Library of Babel art? Should the entire idea or concept be considered an art project, or a mere exercise of mathematical magics? If so, what does it mean?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions, nor do I pretend to have any. Most art comes from, or references, other art and the Library of Babel certainly references other pieces of work. In fact it references every piece of work, real and in potentia, but not explicitly so. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the creative process or a maybe it’s just a machine that recreates something that does or doesn’t really exist yet. I don’t know. But it makes me wonder.

What do you think? What does this project say about creativity, about writing in general and about plagiarism? Does it say anything at all? And just to be clear, this blog post already exists/existed in Babel.

Let me know and do like, share and subscribe. Stay tuned!

Archi’s Diary is going on hiatus!

ARCHISDIARY_CoverArtBlog_ByPatrickCrookerToday I decided to put Archi’s Diary on permanent hiatus. It’s been a hard decision for me, but a lot of things are changing in my life and truthfully, I’m having trouble deciding on a direction that I’m willing to commit Archi to. If the story is going to be written I want it to be the right story, instead of writing myself into a corner.  

Although I left Archi on a cliffhanger, trapped in an air vent without food or water or a plan, fear not, I’ll keep working on his story. Hopefully he’ll be resurrected in the future, with a more elaborate story, but for now he’ll have to stand aside to make room for new projects and new ideas.

The diary format was supposed to be an experiment in episodic storytelling, and for me to find a way to build a writing habit by posting an entry every week. And it has done its job perfectly. I’ve consistently posted for 21 weeks (and I aim to keep that habit going), however I feel that the format no longer works for me. So for the time being I’ll go on without Archi.

While this may feel like a partial failure, this experience has taught me some very important lessons about myself and my writing, and I am looking forward to bringing you new content very soon.

End of Archi’s Diary?

Did you like and follow Archi? Let me know what you thought of it. About the story, the writing, the posting schedule, all of it. Whether it’s good, bad, ugly or strangely attractive. Let me know and stick around for weekly posts on reading, writing and life in general.

And do like, share and subscribe. Stay tuned!

Archi’s Diary – Episode 21

Welcome to the next episode of Archi’s Diary, a weekly entry in my favorite amnesiac’s journal as he tries to adjust to a world he doesn’t remember.

Episode 21 – May  2016ARCHISDIARY_CoverArtBlog_ByPatrickCrooker

Last week has been full of pain and bad decisions. I arrived in Cancun on Sunday and rented a cheap room on the outskirts of town, planning to do some research, maybe get a tan and meeting with the reporter Susan Sanchez. That turned out to be more difficult than expected and came with spectacular unintended consequences.

On Monday I went to her office downtown to get a meeting, or maybe get access to a recording or something. Seems to work in the movies, so why not try. The bruises on my arms testify to the lack of success in this endeavour. When I got there I asked for Miss Sanchez. The receptionist, a nice lady in a frilly dress told me to wait, and was replaced by a humanoid mountain of steroids wrapped in a black suit. I say wrapped, since he couldn’t have dressed himself with his gorilla-like appendages. He gestured me to leave and when I reacted slightly slower than he fancied, he grabbed my arms, pushed me to the floor, punched me in the face and dragged me outside by my legs, clutching both with one hand if it matters. Outside he proceeded to kick me in the ribs a few times. That really pissed me off, but what could I do about it? He was big and ugly, smelled bad, was probably unloved by his mother and yes I’m bloody angry! Who does that? Who punches and kicks somebody for merely asking a question? It’s not like I offended him or anything.

Afterwards I returned to my lodgings to weigh my options and decided that I should break in and see if I could find Miss Sanchez’s office or an archives room, where they might keep the Chichen Itza footages. I’m blaming that particularly bad decision on watching Oceans 11 with Alvarez recently, and on getting punched in the face. Could have a concussion. I spent most of my time Tuesday and Wednesday planning my little ‘heist’ and procuring the tools of the trade in form of a roll of climbing rope and a crowbar. Not exactly up to scale with Ocean’s replica vault, but I figured it’d do.

A quick online search gave me the office layout. Also on my last visit I noticed that the building had an external fire escape, and I felt a plan taking shape. First, get to Susan Sanchez’s office, then the archive; I’ll leave the media room last if the other two don’t have anything. There seems to be some renovation going on on the fourth floor, which means I can use the scaffolding to get up and inside unnoticed. I noted that last night the building emptied around 10 PM. The guard-shaped Hulk who drives a red muscle car (go figure) was the last to leave, and only the occasional offices remained occupied. If I dress casually and stay calm I might be able to move freely. If I ignore that I’m white, and most people are usually familiar with their co-workers, I’m sure I won’t stick out as a sore thumb. In any case, turns out that wasn’t what caused my downfall.

Thursday I broke in at 23:22 assuming the place would be empty and went to Susan’s office directly, where I had my first surprise for the evening. Completely cleaned out. A desk, a chair and a lamp was all that was left. Cursing, I headed to the archives, which took me on a nerve wrecking elevator ride to the basement with the cleaning lady. She attempted small talk but was turned off by my lack of response. At least she didn’t call the police. Must be used to people working late. Didn’t ding anything in the archives either, so I used my laptop to connect to the network and started looking around. Zip. Absolutely nothing. AT that point I figured that hanging around was a bad idea. Found a stash of microfilms, but nothing relevant for my search (still, microfilm, how cool is that!). The media office was my next stop, located on the top floor along with the editing bay, which is where everything went wrong. Turns out, that’s one of the few places with very expensive equipment behind secured alarmed doors. I managed to get my crowbar in the frame before an ear-splitting ringing broke the silence. And I panicked.

I don’t mind admitting it, that in my panic I didn’t think straight. Instead of running down and out onto the scaffolding which might have given me an opportunity to escape, I decided to stay and hide. Where would you hide in an office building you have never been in? Well, I personally opted for the nearest air vent and climbed inside. And the air vent happened to be temporarily blocked off because of the construction. Fuck me.

Now it is Friday morning and I haven’t been able to escape because the office was crawling with guards and police after the alarm went off. Small piece of advice: DO NOT EVER SLEEP IN AN AIR VENT, if you can avoid it, that is. All the time I was scared that somebody would hear me snoring or I get discovered in some other way, and I really need the bathroom.

What was I thinking? What did I expect to find here? All I knew was that the reporter had been at Chichen Itza, nothing more. Not if there was footage taken or a report filed or anything. I have made an ass out of myself, based on a stupid assumption that I would find some incriminating evidence on her desk, like in the movies. This was stupid and dangerous and now I’m stuck here. I was desperate for any kind of information, and I put myself in harms way. Maybe I’m too stupid to know better. This would be hilarious, if it were happening to somebody else.

As of right now I have very little water or food left and I can hear construction workers starting work below. I don’t know what I should I do.

End of episode 21. 

If you like what I do and know others that would love to get a weekly dose of Archi’s Diary and the occasional post on reading, writing and life in general, then please like, share and subscribe to follow. Stay tuned!

Archi’s Diary – Episode 20

Welcome to the next episode of Archi’s Diary, a weekly entry in my favorite amnesiac’s journal as he tries to adjust to a world he doesn’t remember.

Episode 20 – May  2016ARCHISDIARY_CoverArtBlog_ByPatrickCrooker

This past week I’ve been looking at the files quite a bit to see if there was another event about to happen in the near future, but alas it was mostly for naught. Any Dee related events near me are about a month off and I would have to make my way to the US for that, New Mexico to be specific. For now I’ve tried to get all the info I can about this place, but Alvarez remains stoically silent on the Chichen Itza incident, so I’ve decided to pursue the only other avenue of inquiry I have available: the news crew that was here. They came from Cancun International, a local newspaper with their headquarters in Cancun, so I guess that’s where I’ll have to go. The reporter that I saw that day, a woman named Susan Sanchez, was listed on their site. I called her, but I couldn’t get through, and she hasn’t answered any of my emails either. I’m going to try and catch her at her office. Hopefully I won’t have to jump through hoops to get to her or see their footage of the incident; they might be videos of angry soldiers telling her to piss off for all I know.

Also been wondering about the naming… I mean Dee is a weird choice for a project name, unless it’s an abbreviation like the Funny Business Incorporated or whatever alphabet agency that might actually exist out there. The D.E.E….  

Department of Energy and Expenses?

District of Excitement and Ecstasy?

Dumb and Extraordinarily Exhausting?

Denmark Exhilarates Eels?

If it’s a name, then what’s the reference? My best guess is still John Dee, a historical figure associated with spying and dark magics. And apparently a central antagonist in a bunch of young adult books that I subsequently purchased out of sheer curiosity. Don’t think it might be relevant, but who knows. Maybe I learn something new from the books. Of course the name could refer to the lead researcher, or could have been chosen by a computer at random. But what else can I do than try and make sense of this madness, see a pattern, any pattern and try to piece my own story together; have my brain sort it all out.  

Now that I’ve stayed at the cafe for another week, I think I better get ready to leave. It’s been fine, I suppose, considering I came here with no actual plan or any real resources (not a great idea for sure). Serving tourists was fine and Alvarez has been more than generous with his time and hospitality, but just the other day he asked me nicely, when I expected to continue my journey (his words, not mine), and how he could help me along. Point taken, my good friend, point taken. This is not a hostel, but a business and you want me out of your hair.

I promised him I leave today, which he seemed very happy about; not in a negative way, but happy that I had a goal and a willingness to move forward with something. So I got my pack and left this morning. Still pretty sure he was keeping something from me, but that’s up to him. Every time I tried to broach the incident, he’d become sad and changed the subject or left the room. I left him my email address and told him to keep in touch.

So now I’m by the coast not far from Cancun, debating my options. Funny, how I ended up by the sea again, but then I started thinking that most cities and transport hubs are near rivers and oceans, hinting heavily at our dependence on in now and historically, which seemed to calm me with a sense of destiny. Anyway, it’s nice to be by the ocean again, it’s so tranquil here. Willy once mentioned that we all came from a primordial ocean an incomprehensible amount of time ago, how we adapted and overcame, even recommended some books on how we started our evolutionary journey. Life moves forward. Sometimes fast, other times painstakingly slow, but it does.  

So I realise that moving forward is my only real choice right now. I’ve made my decision to move forward with my life, looking for more information about all that’s happened and hopefully find something of value. It’s not in my nature to give up. Especially not now.

End of episode 20. 

If you like what I do and know others that would love to get a weekly dose of Archi’s Diary and the occasional post on reading, writing and life in general, then please like, share and subscribe to follow.

If you happen to be at Comic Con in London over the weekend, hit me up on Twitter on @wordsarecrooked. I’ll probably fire off the occasional tweet as well. Stay tuned!

Archi’s Diary – Episode 19

Welcome to the next episode of Archi’s Diary, a weekly entry in my favorite amnesiac’s journal as he tries to adjust to a world he doesn’t remember.

Episode 19 – May  2016ARCHISDIARY_CoverArtBlog_ByPatrickCrooker

And then life went on for a few days. Didn’t know where to go and this whole Chichen Itza event boggles my tiny mind, so I decided to stay. Alvarez is a godsend. He offered to let me stay in the cafe in exchange for helping out. He has a few tables and a basic kitchen setup and serves overpriced snacks to tourists with too much money, so I thought… sure, why not? It’s simple and straightforward enough, nothing to worry about, except burning the food during the day and mosquitos at night. There is some serenity to it.

Which is what I need right now. I feel a bit lost, with no idea of where to go now. I don’t even know why I came here, what I expected to find or why it mattered so much. The Koldberg personnel probably had some general idea of what they were sent here for, and all they found was death and pain. I had no idea what to expect, I’m just some guy with amnesia reacting to things around him. I have no past, and as things are going, probably no real future. Even a simple plan or objective would be nice, just a little hope of knowing where to go or what to do. Ever since Steve tried to kill me, it’s like an alarm went off in my head, telling me to run and never stop. I still have no real idea what I’m running from or why it’s even dangerous. I don’t like feeling like a victim of my circumstances, but I can’t help wondering why this is happening happening to me. There are simply too many questions for one guy to answer. But at the same time, do I have a choice, really?

Anyway, the blockade is now gone, so is the news crew and any sign of the disaster that happened here. Someone cleaned up the mess and left nothing to indicate any danger or the troublesome events had transpired here. I’ve been on site in Chichen Itza every day since last week and it’s like nothing happened there. Even went online on Tuesday to see if there was anything about it in the news but I couldn’t find anything, even with Alvarez’s assistance. He seemed very reluctant, like he knows more than he’s letting on, which is suspicious as hell, but I don’t know what to make of it yet. I also looked up the reporter and her crew, but couldn’t find anything about their visit. Yet I saw it very clearly that something had happened here, so this whole thing looks more and more like a cover-up. Might try and contact the news crew later. I think I should also keep an eye on Alvarez.  

I have many questions and some of them are quite scary. For now, I’ll try and distance myself from this whole mess, of everything that has been going on around me and get some perspective. Maybe dig into the files again in a while, but I want to give myself some time so I can look at it with fresh eyes. Another tourist bus is coming now, so I’ll be in the kitchen most of the day. I like making food for others. Didn’t think I would, but I actually enjoy working with my hands, it feels good to create something, even if it’s cheap and simple

End of episode 19. 

If you like what I do and know others that would love to get a weekly dose of Archi’s Diary and the occasional post on reading, writing and life in general, then please like, share and subscribe to follow. Stay tuned!

Archi’s Diary – Episode 18

Welcome to the next episode of Archi’s Diary, a weekly entry in my favorite amnesiac’s journal as he tries to adjust to a world he doesn’t remember.

Episode 18 – May  2016ARCHISDIARY_CoverArtBlog_ByPatrickCrooker

What if you were suddenly told:

“Look (*insert-fantastically-improbable-phenomenon) really exists and you will have to deal with it right now, or you might die”?

I would probably panic, at least freak out a bit, maybe run away and observe it from a distance, but most likely just run away without looking back. Luckily nothing like that happened to me. But I did find some remnants of one, I think… it’s kinda hard to tell.

It’s around midday right now and I’m sitting in a small cafe with a thatched roof by the road leading up to Chichen Itza. The owner (his name is Alvarez) saw me coming down the road and was nice enough to take me in. I must have looked like I was about to collapse from the heat (which I totally was), so he took pity on my poor dehydrated lobster-red form and gave me a meal with a cool coke on the side. Let me tell you, getting to Chichen Itza wasn’t an easy feat. I hitch-hiked part of the way here, but I had to hike the rest, since all the tourist services had cancelled their tours indefinitely. The place being “just around the corner” turned out to be 15k in the roaring sun. Lesson learned, when hiking, always bring more water than you expect you’ll need. Like thrice as much as expected. Just in case.

Anyway, I can see further up the road from here. There are uniformed guards (probably military or police) with a lot of firepower and an aggressive demeanor, and there’s a roadblock ahead. There is a local news van not far from the blockade with a small crew, but other than that the place is pretty much empty. They probably evacuated the area, whatever happened here. I probably should’ve mentioned that the sky above Chichen Itza has a purple-orange hue, like something inside the ruins is projecting lights into the sky. It’s dark, yet everything is still perfectly visible, kind of what you experience during a solar eclipse. And while fascinating, this is not the *fantastically-improbable-phenomenon* though. That would be whatever happened to the local Koldberg personnel.

Across from the cafe are three flatbed trucks parked with the remains of white Koldberg vans. I recognise the logos on the side from my time at the institute. Or rather what’s left of them. I was considering sneaking closer, but the trucks are heavily guarded. What I can see from here, they will never ever drive again. I can’t really explain it, it’s like they’ve been crushed from the inside; like some massive force was generated inside them and then pulled and pulled until they collapsed inward. Even their metal frame buckled. I try not to think much about the people inside, since I saw the dark rivulets of matter running off the wrecks, forming dark red puddles underneath the vehicles. I think I need to go to bathroom for sec, the thought alone is making me si….

Ok, I’m back. Had to take a short break, so no more food for now. I’m going to hang out at Alvarez’s for the rest of the day, see if I can spot something interesting. He has nothing to do anyway and doesn’t seem to mind the company. I’ll update if I manage to get more information.

Update one: It’s evening now. The purple/orange hue might be diminishing. It’s getting darker now and while it’s still visible, it appears to be less bright. There might not be anything left to see tomorrow. Going to try and get inside the perimeter during the night. Alvarez told me via a creative use of gestures, that he knows a back way into Chichen Itza, or he might be fond of pointing and saying “aha” a lot for no reason. I’m kinda hoping for the former.

Update two: It’s night time now. Whatever lights caused the purple/orange hue are gone. The ruins appear abandoned (like normal I suppose), but strangely there is no military presence either. The place is completely empty. In front of the main temple (is it a temple?) however, there is a roughly circular cordoned off area. Whatever happened here, happened in that space. The ground is flush with debris and remains, probably of Koldberg people that were outside the vehicles when the incident occurred. Not sure why it hasn’t been cleaned up. I mean, it’s been more than a week since the incident supposedly took place. Or maybe the date in the log is wrong. Who knows… It’s very quiet here. Completely quiet. Chichen Itza is surrounded by jungle and the jungle is not a quiet place. It’s very eerie, like the whole area is terrified of what happened here. Going to see if I can take some pictures, then get out of here. The stars should give off enough light for the pictures.

We made it back to his cafe without incident. And no, the star light does not seem to have been sufficient. I sneak back in later. Alvarez seems to be taking all this in stride, but I don’t want to freak him out. I’ll try and talk to him before I leave, he might know more about this incident, or the one from last year. Our conversations are a bit sketchy, as we don’t speak each other’s languages well. He set up a hammock for me in the back of the cafe, and I think he tried to convince me to stay. I’m considering to stay for a few days and help him out, see what I can learn from him.

Personal note; I don’t know entirely how to deal with this. People have clearly died here, but why and how? Were they looking for something or testing something? Were they observers or experimenters? Innocent bystanders even? The equipment and the remains left little for interpretation, so it’s anyone’s guess what happened. I feel all jittery, but exhausted. I really should get some sleep. Hopefully no nightmares this time. I really don’t want them back.

End of episode 18.

If you like what I do and know others that would love to get a weekly dose of Archi’s Diary and the occasional post on reading, writing and life in general, then please like, share and subscribe to follow. Stay tuned!