My Potential Future & A Third Party Interpretation Problem

by Shelt Garner

I’ve always been…different. I just have never quite known what I was supposed to do to fit the conventional wisdom. As such, as I continue to work on my Hail Mary Pass of trying to write a breakout hit novel, I find myself contemplating how people who don’t know me might interpret my life to date.

My fear is, of course, that the moment I make it big should I somehow manage to write a popular first novel that I’ll be “canceled” for some drunken thing I did at some point in my life — probably while in South Korea.

On a macro scale, I’ve been pretty innocuous even at my drunken worse, but I also know that everyone on social media has a hair trigger when it comes to destroying people, so, lulz? I’m not perfect. And, what’s more, I’ve pretty much been a drunk nobody loser for way too many years.

If I do manage to do some sort of hattrick and sell a novel that pulls me out of oblivion, I have a hunch that things just aren’t going to work out the way I want them to. Over and above my fears about being “canceled,” I have to contend with the cold, hard reality of ageism.

If I become as successful as I believe I should be, the first thing any interviewer is going to ask me is, “What’s it like being a such a success later in life?” Even though that is an extremely speculative fear on my part, just the prospect of having to deal with that type of questioning requires me to manage my expectations for the consequences of writing a novel that is anywhere near as successful as what Stieg Larsson wrote.

I just have to accept that even if I get what I want, I won’t get what I want. Even if I stick the landing with this novel, I’m probably going to be in my mid-50s before the novel is actually on bookshelves. And that doesn’t even begin to factor in the potential for some sort of political “Fourth Turning” happening just as some sort of technological Singularity makes a human-written novel seem quite quaint.

The ‘Barry’ Problem — Managing ‘Spicy’ Scenes In Third Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

So. I have a little bit of a problem on my hands at the moment.I’m very leery about having any “spicy” maternal too soon in the third draft of my first novel. But that, unto itself, has caused me to struggle with how to drag things out with interesting scenes.

I have a few ideas, but it’s really difficult at the moment to think of how I can convey what I want to convey without things getting spicy. You see, my heroine is very much a “Barry”-like character in that she had two widely different elements to her life.

On one hand, she owns an alt-weekly and on the other…she owns a strip club.

Because I’m doing all of this in a vacuum, I have no idea if the audience will really like this dramatic dichotomy or if it will only cause them — especially women — to throw the book across the room.

But that’s where I am at the moment. The second draft only alludes to this unique situation, while the third draft really gets into the implications of such a surreal bifurcation of a woman’s life. And, yet, of course, the issue of why even have this as an element of the novel in the first place is another thing that the fucking woke cancel culture mob critics will bring up.

Well, to that, all I can say is, if you think like that — fuck off.

Anyway, I’ve decided to punt the sexxy scenes down the road as far as possible because I want to establish in the audience’s mind that this is a serious journalist we’re talking about. And, besides, if I rushed into things on the sexxy front, the first thing that the “woke cancel culture mob” would bitch and moan about is I was sexualizing my heroine from the get-go.

Ugh, sometimes you just can’t win.

But I’m very pleased with the state of the third draft. I just have to do a lot — A LOT — of brooding about how to make the “filler” scenes interesting enough that people will keep reading, not realizing that I’m biding my time to give them the mental images of T&A they want so bad.

Of course, given the nature of marketing, if I do actually manage to sell this novel, it’s not like people aren’t going to already know what’s going on as they start to read the novel.

Yet Another Attempt To Understand What The Fuck ‘Woke’ Means

by Shelt Garner

The issue with the term “woke” is it is so loaded now — and so defined by people who use it for whatever they need it to mean — that it’s really hard to pin down an exact meaning. In general, relative to my point of view, to be “woke” means you are a cultural Leftist who has such a ridged orthodoxy on certain issues that you would rather the United States become a MAGA fascist state than give centrists some wiggle room.

But that’s just me. I suppose in the minds of ambitious Republican politicians, “woke” is a nebulous catch-all of far Left agendas that scare your voters. But because being against the “woke cancel culture mob” polls well, you slather the term over anything — and I mean ANYTHING — that it in anyway seems “liberal.”

Because the term “liberal” has become so hated, so loaded within Republican ranks that you can’t use it at all for any reason. You can’t even use it to describe what the United States is — a liberal democracy.

There is no denying that younger generations have different social expectations that can leave old coots like me at a loss. And, yet, at least I’m willing to admit and acknowledge that just because I don’t understand what the youngins think, doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong.

But the obsession with this or that thing being “woke” in the minds of MAGA Republicans is part of a broader macro problem — the political center no longer exists in the United States and the two sides are receding from each other at an astonishing rate.

Neither side understands the other and the MAGA Right seems determined to either establish a fascist state in the United States or force the issue of a National Divorce.

In the end, once things grow far more existential in nature, the very notion of this or that thing being “woke” will seem rather quaint.

A Lazy Review of ‘Oppenheimer’

by Shelt Garner

I almost didn’t go see Oppenheimer because I felt I knew enough of what happened in the movie from Tik-Tok videos that I didn’t need to. But I felt compelled to see it and I’m really glad that I did.

My key takeaway from the movie was that Christopher Nolan wanted to keep the audience off kilter in an effort to reflect what happened in real life with Oppenheimer. There were some pretty big twists in the confirmation plot line that I just didn’t see coming.

And, what’s more, the issue of if the United States should have dropped the A-Bomb was another interesting moral conundrum. It’s kind of sad that the dropping of the A-Bomb is one of a number of loaded historical issues that is almost impossible to talk about honestly without risking being “canceled.”

Anyway, in general, I really liked the movie. It is definitely a “dude” film in that it deals with “dude stuff.” I’m not suggesting women won’t like it or that women can’t do “dude stuff,” just that the audience for the film is obvious men who want to see other men do “dude stuff.”

The seemingly ever-growing number of issues that are taboo to even broach in our “woke” modern world is enough to make one just want to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. I still think, though, that it’s at least possible that the existential nature of so-called Fourth Turning may cause all our notions of “woke” discourse to seem rather quaint.

‘Go Woke Go Broke’

by Shelt Garner

One of the alarming similarities between the 1850s and the modern age is how both sides seem obsessed with boycotting this or that thing. Usually, the ones that work are very simple to understand.

Take, for instance, the boycott of Bud Lite that happened as part of the overall Gay Scare of the last few years. It’s a very simple type of boycott — don’t drink Bud Lite unless you want your guy friends to think you’re gay or supporting the “gay agenda.”

This is a very simple message to convey and I can tell you from personal experience that this boycott has really resonated with the people who live around me in BFE Virginia. So, of course, one of the main proponants of this boycott would be seen with, you guessed it, a Bud Lite in his hand.

It’s clear that the entirety of the Republican worldview is done in bad faith and specifically designed to “own the moment” no matter what. It’s thinking like the “go woke go broke” campaign that is probably going to lead to uncontrollable global climate change.

Things suck and there doesn’t seem to be any solution. Though, of course, the astrology for dudes known as The Fourth Turning would suggest that in 2024 we’re going to decide matters one way or another.

Well, Women Will Either Love or Despise My Heroine

by Shelt Garner

I’m definitely taking a risk with this new direction for my heroine. She’s a far more interesting and complex character, but because I’m doing all of this in a vacuum — I just don’t know.

I don’t know what the reaction will be. The idea of my heroine having a very Barry-like sharp dichotomy to her life is, on its face, really interesting and provocative. And, yet, the case could be made that, by definition, a smelly CIS white male creating such a character is exploitive in such a way as to give female readers “the ick.”

In my defense, the whole point of this new direct for the character is to keep people distracted while I build up to something actually happening. The first roughly 30 scenes are just an effort to lay out the groundwork for what is about to happen to these characters.

My hope is that by the time the Inciting Incident rolls around, the audience — especially women — will be invested enough in the story that they will care enough to finish the novel. That’s the hope. That’s the goal.

I imagine my heroine looks like a younger version of Nicole Scherzinger.

But I *am* a smell CIS white male — and a drunk loser middle aged one at that. So, the anger over having my heroine own a strip club pretty much writes itself.

And, yet, I’ve really been struggling for a way to make my heroine really, really interesting and unique and this seems to be as about as good as I’m going to get, all things considered. And, I think, if I am very careful and self-conscious about the dangers involved that I might — just might — manage to pull this particular situation off.

Of course, I’m not getting any younger. It definitely seems that even if I stick the landing that I’m going to be in my mid-50s before I get anywhere near having this novel on bookshelves. And that doesn’t even begin to address the rise of AI which may make all forms of human-produced creativity quite moot.

But, I create because I have to, not because I want to.

It Seems Inevitable That My Novel Will Pass The Bechdel Test

by Shelt Garner

There was a version of the first scene of the third draft of the novel where the novel passed the fucking Bechdel Test. I unfortunately(?) had to re-write it to add some tension the scene.

And, yet, given how many women are in this novel it definitely seems inevitable that there will come a point when it passes the Bechdel Test. I wish I could feel some satisfaction in doing so, confident in the knowledge that I have passed an ever-so-important metric of the woke cancel culture mob.


I AM a smelly CIS white male and, as such, according to the woke cancel culture mob, by definition, I have no write to do anything. I can’t even give them the representation they claim to want because, lulz…I’m a white dude. That’s why I always get angry when I’m attacked online by people to the Left of me.

“I’m on your side!” I think.

I don’t know what to tell you. The two sides are receding from each other at an alarming rate. There’s just no middle ground anymore. Sometimes I am astonished by how self-defeating the woke cancel culture mob can be. While, in general, I’m pretty center-Left, too often “woke” people seem so consumed by their ideological goals that they miss sight of how they’re driving a lot of people who believe they’re “centrist” into the arms of fucking fascism.

Well, I’ve At Least Come Up With An Interesting Heroine

by Shelt Garner

After years of dwelling on the nature of my heroine, I feel as though I’ve finally managed to come up with a woman who is really, really unique. Because I continue to do all of this in a vacuum, I am at a loss as to what people’s reaction to her might be.

My heroine of my first novel looks like a younger version of Nicole Scherzinger

Remember, by definition, because I’m a smelly CIS white male there will be members of the woke cancel culture mob who dismiss my right to tell the story I want to tell. I’m supposed to just stick to writing from a male POV and otherwise shut up. This happens, of course, in the context of “intersectional feminists” complaining about not enough representation in fiction.

In fact, I listened to an entire Slate podcast where two women were angry about how not enough women, POC and LGBTQ+ people were in positions of power in Hollywood. That’s all well and good and I validate those concerns, but I found myself growing a little insecure — what if a CIS white male like me makes a good faith effort to tell a story about a POC woman?

Is that “representation” or is that “exploitive appropriation?”

I am really self-conscious about that potential criticism being lobbed at me. But it’s too late now. I had no idea of the cultural minefield I was wondering into when I decided I wanted my heroine to be a POC. And, what’s more, I only relatively recently realized there was some sort of woke taboo against against a man writing from a female POV.


But, having said all that, I do think I’ve come up with not one but TWO heroines (over the course of six novels) who are just as interesting, in their own way, as Lisbeth Salander. In the end, you just can’t please everyone, especially not members of the woke cancel culture mob who have all these weird ideological demands for any art they consume.

I’m Really Struggling With The Specifics Of My Heroine’s Appearance

by Shelt Garner

Oh boy. I know, in general, my heroine’s phenotype, but when it comes to her hair I’m having a real struggle. There is so much I can do with what she does with her hair that I find myself at a loss as to what I think would be the best option.

I vacillate widely from moment to the next about how she does her hair as the story opens. In this third draft, I’m really taking how I introduce my heroine a lot more seriously. I don’t want to sexualize her in any sort of gratuitous way because if I did anything like that there would be “woke” portions of the audience that would that would pitch a fucking fit.

They would say I’m just another horny CIS white male who is wants to fuck my heroine and is obsessed with boobs. As such, I am really self-conscious about how much I talk about my heroine’s appearance. And, yet, at the same time, I want to give readers a clear understanding in their mind’s eye of…her appearance.

My heroine kind of looks like this in my mind’s eye.

As a CIS white male writing from the POV of a female POC it’s kind of a no win situation. Woke people just want me to drop dead, not try to give them the representation they claim to want in their fiction. Only transgender, undocumented Mexicans can tell the type of stories I want to tell. Forgive me, I’m a bit grumpy and tipsy at the moment.

Anyway, you have to give me credit for at least understanding the sticky wicket I’m wading into. I get it. I’m a CIS white male, a member of the patriarchy and I should just shut up and let women and POC tell stories. But I’m an asshole and have a story to tell.

I’m trying to be as empathetic as possible, all things considered.

The Struggle Is Real When Writing Female Characters As A Male Author

by Shelt Garner

I’m extremely paranoid and self-conscious when it comes to writing the female characters in this novel I’m working on. My greatest fear is that I’ll somehow get some element of being a woman wrong and I’ll be held up by some Tik-Toker as yet another example of how men shouldn’t even write female characters at all.

My heroine looks like a younger version of Olivia Munn.


Just in the last few days, I’ve had two notable instances of this situation come up.

One was I have a very specific vision of what my heroine looks like and, as a part of that, I want to convey to the reader some sense of her bosom. Now, some context — Stieg Larsson spent an entire scene going into detail about Lisbeth Salander’s relationship to her breasts, so it’s not like it can’t be done. My fear is that in my quest to give the audience a clear understand on that front, that some of the squeaky wheels reading will think I’m obsessed with boobs. (But, in all honesty, who isn’t?)

I’ve managed to figure out a few ways of indicate what I want to show the audience without wallowing in gratuitous verbiage about breasts.

Meanwhile, the other issue I’ve had to address dealt with periods. I have a really interesting provocative scene that talks about that issue head on, but I’ve kind of been stressed out all day about it because I was afraid that there was some aspect of it all that I just was missing. I finally talked to a woman about the specific plot point I was concerned about and she assured me I had it right.

Anyway, I fear that, by definition, any attempt on my part to write about women will be poo-pooed by some of the more “woke” elements of the audience for no other reason than I’m a “CIS white male.” If I had some other, more exotic background they wouldn’t blink an eye.

But, lulz, slings and arrows and all that.