The Power of Resonance (and Tailbone)

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Yesterday, I had a wonderful time at my humorous grandmother’s funeral. I enjoyed sharing good memories about her with my relatives. People handle grief in many ways, but it has the ability to turn gradually transparent as time passes, bringing new spiritual lenses through which to view the world. For me death is the most important event in life, but unfortunately we tend to ignore its inevitability and make it seem unnatural. But because I like to see everything from the perspective of storytelling, I’m going to dig deep to the bedrock of life and death with my new power tool—resonance.

This is going to be BIG. It will make the skeleton of your story structure to kick off the coffin door and jump out to ROCK! This is as big as tailbones are for Muslims— according to their belief the tailbone doesn’t decompose completely in the ground, so that on the Day of Resurrection it will regenerate into the complete human being. Cremation isn’t allowed for the dead; it would make the resurrection impossible.

That big.

Let’s break down one tailbone with the GREAT HAMMER OF JUSTICE into different parts, analyze them, and try to put them back in the right order, so that we don’t unleash some freakish creature with ninety-nine eyes staring at us from its forehead. These parts will be your resurrection files that, once put together, will make your story dance the rumba and samba inside the jelly of your reader’s skull like a living thing—and you’ll get the attention your story deserves.

First, I’ll share a little memory that will also define what is resonance. My grandmother was someone who knew endurance; she was pure dedication, working herself to the bone each day. My grandparents’ cottage never had running water. But she was the running water—she fetched the water from a well with buckets, to cook and do the dishes, et cetera. Every time we finished eating at the table, my grandfather yawned and announced his moment of rest with sort of a laughter: “HE HEeee…” He always went to lay down on the sofa for an hour nap or so. She was left alone, but she always cleared and cleaned the table and went to do the dishes. I can still hear the snoring, and the dishes clinking against each other in the kitchen. After she was done, she went to rest next to him.

How does this relate to resonance?

My grandparents’ daily ritual reflects their life together, and their last times. When my grandfather died, my grandmother was left alone. When he was buried, her name was also written in the gravestone. Her place would be at his side. Because they had been in marriage for almost seventy years, they were a team, albeit with stiff gender roles of the past world. Despite the fact that my grandfather died one year and a half before my grandmother, it all resonates: he dies and she would come after him—AFTER finishing everything that needed to be done.

Now they rest side by side. Together. Like they always did, eventually.

Here’s another example of resonance in play. Let’s say Harry and Barry meet in a heavy rain. They fall in love, live a happy and long life, with roses and spikes and thorns, and everything else that’s included. Later Barry dies. At the funerals, when Harry has lowered the coffin into the grave and thrown sand on it, the sky suddenly tears open and it starts raining, heavily. Harry looks up and sighs peacefully, saying: “This is exactly how it was supposed to happen.”

The lesson? They met in the rain only to say farewells in the same kind of conditions. Harry will surely hold that special moment of resonance very dear and close to his heart for the rest of his days.

The benefit of resonance to any storyteller lies in learning to draw upon existing stories. Everybody does that intuitively, but we can also do it consciously.

Let’s take The Bible for example. I instantly remember the mysterious beginning where the world was created in seven days. Everybody knows that story, the basic idea of it. But the great thing is that you can harness its structures, the way it suits your needs. Maybe you want to divide the story of your book into seven parts and put your hero through hell just to put him to rest on the last, seventh day, like God did. Maybe you’ll put your main character doing something evil, like spreading a MEGA insomnia virus, so that on Sundays nobody can fall asleep in the whole world. [add evil laughter].

Why do you need to weave resonance into your story?

1) Resonance satisfies the reader’s subconscious mind. It’s written in the blueprint of the human brain. Resonance is the very thing how we have passed on information since we started walking upright, pushing ourselves up the ladder of morality and reason. For example, the reason why we don’t know much about Adam, Abraham, Moses, and so on, is because of oral storytelling and its limitations. Myths were the only way to pass and preserve important knowledge. The limitations of human memory yearns for resonance: simple stories put into rhythm and poetry takes less effort to learn than dry facts. Behold the dawn of technology: the myths that were full of resonance and repetition, were the very first hard drives for storing information. This is why we remember catchy songs and nursery rhymes so easily. Or the Teletubbies:

Tinkey-Winkey (Tinkey-Winkey!), Tipsy (Tipsy!), Lala (LALALLALAA!!!) …

2) Resonance is love. It creates the right conditions for the right mood and impact, because it takes emotional needs into consideration. Resonance has the power to humanize your story, you, and your characters. It draws your readers into the story, allowing you to speak to them more deeply. I dare to claim that resonance makes readers feel that you care about them.

3) Without resonance in your cover art and story title you are shooting off the hip with Random Revolver. The worst thing that can happen is that you lure the wrong kind of people to review your work. Even if your story is great, failing to meet the expectations of your target audience can cause you unnecessary heartaches and nightmares. People in general like what they’ve liked before. Study the covers of your genre in Amazon for example, before getting sucked into the vortex of being over-creative. The cover is always art, yes, but not a place to be creative.

4) It allows you to grow as a writer. I base this to my personal experience, but once I understood that resonance is universal everywhere, in every form of art, my eyes opened. I could dig deeper into my personal experiences. I didn’t have to plan my stories guessing what might resonate with the readers. With the resonance in my mind, I can even write more powerful dialogue. I understand the voices of my characters better, as well as their background and motives.

Take care of your tailbone. It might seem a useless body part, but to some people it resonates with a divine tune.

In Quest for the Most Beautiful BLURB

perho.jpgPull up a tree stump and hear me out. Here comes the secret to the Gandalf’s moth-catching trick at the top of the Tower of Orthanc, where he was held captive. Since not many of us has the master’s degree in Elvish and Mumble, here’s the translation: “Writing blurbs is like chasing butterflies, trying not to crush them.”

Fortunately, the moth was a night-time poet, and because he dreamed of being an overnight sensation with commercial success, he wanted to hear more and called for the Great Eagle Rescue Team.*

So, if you want to get some serious Wind Beneath Your Wings à la Bette Midler and skyrocket your sales up to 600%, let the eagles on steroids butcher your weak scrawlings.

Let’s soar, shall we?

The basic structure to your blurb is simple. You’ll introduce your main hero and his normal businesses. Then you establish the stakes for the hero, and escalate the tension. After that it’s all raising the stakes higher for the hero, until you put him/her in the ultimate danger of what your story is about: losing love, dying professionally, breaking bad, etc.

Now it’s time for rolled-up-sleeves attitude!

1) Read it aloud. Seriously, do it. Find your inner Barry White for your piece of romance or try imagining him how he would sound like with a direct baseball hit to the groin—that’s where you’ll find your thriller or horror voice. Of course, when you’re reading out loud it should at least feel fluid and compelling. Do you hear each new sentence raising the stakes? Does the very last line end with a BOOMerang bang to the head?

If thinking Barry makes you all weak-kneed or you somehow happen to scare yourself witless, don’t worry. There are countless free text-to-speech apps where you can paste and listen to your spells with Australian accent. Like Voxdox.

2) End as many lines and paragraphs as possible with an evocative word. Put the stress on the last word. Ensure it’s hard enough to make the emotional impact. That will sell the line to the next, and to the next… Consider which of these two sentences has more power?

  • Harry and Barry stumble into the crosshairs of a shadow war.
  • Two big jarheads follow Harry and Barry wherever they go.

3) Vary sentence length and don’t forget conjunct words completely. If all your sentences are ten words long, it’ll reduce the tension and lull your reader to sleep. If you lose your reader’s’ attention or force him to frown and stop, it’s game over. Conjunctions (for, and, but, or, yet, so…) are the snorkel, flashlight and flip-flops for your reader to get through your breath-taking deep dive of words without losing consciousness, direction and speed.

 4) See the forest for the trees, and then look the other way. Get creative. Sometimes the story itself demands that you don’t explain the plot. Whatever you do, attack the emotional range of your reader. The more you manage to evoke emotional reactions, the better. Be aware of your plot, but don’t explain it. It’s not your goal.

5) Simplify and remove everything that slows the reader down. Yes? What are you waiting for? Hack and slash, baby. Aim somewhere between 100-200 words.

6) Get feedback. Show it to your friends and their friends and to your dentist, who might have a Pulitzer Prize in his closet and is willing to excavate the rot in your work. Ask opinions. Does your blurb reveal too much? Also, hit the forums of your genre and look for the ready made topics around blurbs, or create a new one (just to annoy the moderators).

7) Go to library. Be greedy like a caffeinated hamster. Collect every book and sit. Study the structures of the blurbs. Draw inspiration. Reshape your blurb.

OR

8) Delegate the migraine. Avoid the butterfly genocide and the risk of massive eagle poop landing on the top of your head—send the work to someone else. There are lots of wordplayers who know their stuff on Fiverr, for example. They work for a slave salary. If you get too emotional, you can always leave a tip.

Follow these techniques and you’ll catch your unique butterfly with Gangnam.. Gandalf style!

Capeesh?

*In the shady taverns and back alleys of Bree, where every shadow hides a secret and a passed out drunk, the tower rumour has it that Gandalf threatened to whoop the poet’s ass and reverse all butterflies’ life back to caterpillar for all eternity. But that’s a different story.

The young – a threat or an opportunity?

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Children go through various growth spurts, but soon everything gets bigger, faster and more dangerous. And annoying. The young people can only snooze and booze and swear, right? They are disrespectful and oblivious that age and wrinkles equal experience and wisdom, and before they do reach maturity, they don’t know nothing about anything and less about life. Better yet, as lazy as they come, no young would recognize a calloused palm if it were slapped across the face in slow motion.

Sounds familiar?

While misogyny is insidious as the world’s most oldest prejudice, I think young are equally bearing the same burden of structural violence. They are being dehumanized in various ways deprived of work that meets their skills and interests, for example  but can’t really speak for themselves. They haven’t yet developed the skills to communicate their deepest thoughts and feelings, so we easily take their output for being evil. And because of that powerful word, it prevents us adults from thinking. We just see them problematic, selfish, revolting, and lost in physical and emotional change – unproductive until properly educated.

“The young today are always horrible” was stated in Suomen Kuvalehti, in a Finnish high quality magazine just recently. It made me see red. This is just one example spinning in the media, but how wise is it to promote thoughts like this? Could it, perhaps, make the young people to sink to meet the expectations given to them?

We all know that youth comes with a heightened potential for both positive and negative outcomes. But the challenging transitional years, however, are something that the society fears and shuns away from confronting by keeping the young out of harm’s way, instead of consistently guiding and mentoring and empowering them. We hold their hands and guide them into negativity. Or actually we don’t. We don’t dare to touch them even though it’s one of the fundamental elements of human wellbeing.

Peeling back the grimy layers shrouding the truth is truly important, because every young is nothing less than a substantial reservoir of creativity and energy. All that needs to be recognized. We need to think how to channel their energy toward purposeful directions. It requires a few basic catalysts: love and respect. Being genuinely kind and open-minded is a good starting point. But what does it mean in practice?

If you have deep desire to connect with people, then everybody counts. You have to take risks and talk. Your mouth is not meant to be pursed as tight as Uncle Scrooge’s wallet, so open it. Don’t get discouraged or offended in case you hear something unexpected. Distant yourself from yourself, so to speak. Step out of your comfort zone. Be the example, because being outside of the comfort zone is where all the true development can take place. Be human, be the young at heart. One of the best ways to discuss the young today is to go out to the streets and talk to the ones playing Pokémon. The young like to explain a lot about the game, but you can go beyond that. Steer the conversation to a meaningful one. Start from a simple question, like “what would you do if you won in a lottery?” and “would you be still playing the game?”

Observe, listen, and adjust. And you have provided an opportunity for a balanced growth, a spiritual growth spurt. Look no further. You have found the true Fountain of Youth.

Otherwise, if we fail to meet the needs of the young people, it’s the same as putting a lid on their potential. Why else would they feel unappreciated, aimless, and isolated? It leaves them no other choice than to act within the given boundaries. Contained and restricted, unable to resist the destructive and prejudicial forces of society, the young easily surrender themselves to the modesty of not giving a f***.