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13 August, 2009 / Erik

The Thirty-Six Chambers of Literary Bak-Mei

Okay, so chapter seven is late. Sometimes a scene isn’t baked until it’s baked. This is especially true when one is writing a scene more about mood than plot. Consider that a teaser.

In the meantime, the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded of my half-hearted attempt to build a writing course not built on the old saw, “follow your voice.” While this is important in the introductory levels, it hardly helps a more advanced student. In my experience, creative writing instruction was allergic to the word “discipline.”

I am aware that seems counter to on-going lateness of chapter seven.

Utilizing the imagery of Shaolin inspired martial arts movies, I called the course “Literary Bak-Mei” after the white lotus priest seen in many of these films and highlighted in “Kill Bill” as Pai-Mei. Continuing on that theme, I considered the rules to be chambers of instruction. Each can actually be broken out into their own class as a beginning writer must pass through these things in order to survive. At this point, there are definitely not thirty-six chambers. However, there is a thirty-sixth chamber: pass on the knowledge.

Chamber One: Everthing you write is gold, otherwise, you will never write.

Chamber Two: Everything you write is shit, otherwise, you will never re-write.

Chamber Three: Your life is not your story. It can only suppliment, but never substitute.

Chamber Four: Imitation must eventually give way to your own style.

Chamber Five: Fiction is the lie that illustrates the truth.

I’m sure along the way I came up with other chambers to address other minutae of the storytelling discipline and there is the joke chamber: “No vampires. Ever.”  The major breakthrough, however, was looking at it as that must be drilled, praticed, with much of the work discarded in order to advance.

Maybe, when I’m done with chapter seven, I’ll invest some time in discovering more chambers. Certainly one of the later ones will be: “A story will tell you when it is done.”

One Comment

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  1. Erik / Oct 13 2009 2:08 pm

    Chamber Six: Nothing is original. Free yourself from the worry of novelty.

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