THE PLANET OR THE SHOE material on website including full text novels (fantasy, SF and military SF), short stories (horror, fantasy and SF), writing advice, autobiographical material and blog entries on eg Islam. Site also includes full text of medical memoir CANCER PATIENT. This website by professional author Hugh Cook, aka Hugh Walter Gilbert Cook, author of the CHRONICLES OF AN AGE OF DARKNESS etc. Site also includes poetry and flash fiction. This site features THE PLANET OR THE SHOE material about the art of writing: plotting, getting characters to act, proofreading and editing. Concise how-to-write advice by an expert. Read free online.

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THE PLANET
OR THE SHOE

Advice on elements of writing, including plot, some mechanical issues and the business of proofreading and editing. A compact guide to the art of writing fiction.

This section on THE PLANET OR THE SHOE is incorporated in the literary miscellany THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD: A HUGH COOK READER.

        This is a thought experiment, and it's designed to get you to think. All you need is the title of the piece, "The planet or the shoe". The extractable message — the lesson, if you like — is all there in the title.
        If you want, stop here, go make a coffee, think about the title, then, sight unseen, write out your thesis of what the message is, of what the implicit instruction set is going to be.
        There is going to be, unfortunately, no directing staff solution on offer. You either figured it out from the title or you didn't.
        If you've got time on your hands, and if just thinking about the title doesn't do it for you, then you might care to try the following steps.

Step one

        Write ten words about the planet Earth. (You can either write the words or imagine writing them. It doesn't really matter which.  Look at your ten words. How original are they? Do they take you anywhere?

Sample

        Planet Earth was a big lumpy place with too many teddy bears and not enough meteorites. (18 words already. Get started and just can't stop. Sorry.)

Step two

        Write ten words about a woman. Done?

Sample

        She had figured out Solitaire easily enough but this Freecell thing was significantly more complicated. She had spent all day with it and could still not decide who to kill next. (30 words. Don't know how to stop.)

Step three

        Write ten words about the woman's shoe.

Sample

        The hot tightness of the new shoes reminded her of that horrible brothers Grimm fairy tale, the wicked queen made to dance to death in her red hot shoes. She was afraid that Morgan was going to hit her full in the face. Then he did. (45 words. You can fine your students if they write more words than permitted. One way to get rich quick.)

Step four

        Write ten words comparing and contrasting the woman's shoe with the surface it is resting on.

Sample

        The laminated cockroach shell, mottled brown, contrasted starkly with the ice rink's surface of frozen cocaine. (16 words.)

Options

        Maybe the shoe and the surface are the same. Shiny and shiny. Or maybe it's shiny leather, a very bright blue, on coarse gravel. The gravel is bright in the sunlight. There are tufts of coarse grass growing out of the gravel, and on one tuft of grass there is a splotch of red stuff ... and now a reflection shifts in the woman's shiny blue shoe, bulk shifting, and a man speaks, and he says |  |

        Let's reprise the experiment.

Step one

        Write ten words about a city.

Step two

        Write ten words about a street in a city.

Step three

        Write ten words about a passenger on a bus going along the street.

Step four

        Write ten words about a bag that a woman is holding as she sits on the bus.

Options

        Maybe the bag is black and has a silky shine, and the woman's hand, resting on the bag, is very clean, clean and small, the fingernails cut short ... the odd thing is, there's a pattern of scabs on her left wrist ... a whitish scab in the middle of a bit of healing purple, not far from a bumpy bit of purple which looks a bit like a bruise ... not the kind of injury you'd get from being hit ... more as if she'd come off a bicycle, breaking her fall with her wrist ... only, when she scratches at her face, there's some flaking skin there ... it's not really clear whether the injuries on the wrist are from a fall or from the predatory attacks of the right hand ... the habits of the right hand can't be guessed at because right now it's manipulating the keypad of a cell phone ...

End of experiment

        If every writing exercise was equally easy, then you have total facility and nothing to learn from this exercise. If, on the other hand, something was easier to write than something else, then that is where the message is.
        Meantime, in my part of the world, it is coming up to one a.m. and I am feeling snacking, so I am going to eat that sausage which is waiting for me in the refrigerator.





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