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Benjamin Obler

An account of some introductions made at a party

Hey, Karl. Come on in. Good to see you. Hey, you remember Denise, whose ham salad went viral last year.

You remember Joan, the dental assistant with the really successful autism blog.

You remember Augustine, the former bank president who wears a crooked brown mustache.

You remember Harold, the graphic designer renown for his regular use of neon green in his logos and layouts.

You remember Lyle, the neighbor of that guy from Shreveport who won the lottery last year but then blew it all on boats, each of which he sank in a series of successively more gruesome accidents…

A writer’s journey from point to point

A result in a search for the two words that comprise the article’s title, identified as a “yellow and black fly.” I’m more of a purple and black man myself. Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash.

Part 1, Bullshit Self-Esteem

October of 2019

Day Zero

Where else could I have been when I spotted Ken? At the bookstore, of course.

The memorial was underway. Bookstores are where recently passed poets are remembered these days. Across the room, on the other side of the History shelf, a tastefully dressed woman was speaking into a microphone.

Tiptoeing like a thief across the room, Ken passed between two shelves, History and Fiction. He seemed to be slipping out at the very moment when the reverence of the crowd was just building to a somber crescendo.

“Ken!” I whispered.


A poetic adventure

The clawfoot in question. Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Hail to you, gray-haired gentleman / on that summer porch. Let us put down / our fishing magazines and nod / sternly to your valor

You have met her eyes, there on the wicker davenport / with a curtain of lush hemlock and hard / ash behind you; Trickling / between your eyes is the elicit promising of imminent love-making

You have stepped up behind her and, broadly / but not desperately, / filled the saucepan of your square jaw / with the curving bratwurst of a smile

Now we understand

Under cover of night, you supervised / the hired…

Fiction writers sometimes employ pernicious secrecy in the telling of their stories

Gretel and Hansel laid their own trail. How’d that go for them?

A common pitfall for the beginning fiction writer is The Breadcrumb Effect. This is where the author conceives of a plot — a murder, a jealous lover, a stilted artist — and goes about relating things in such a way as if daring his reader to surmise what exactly is happening.

What is the nature of the lover’s jealousy? What has made the artist stilted? Readers can’t say.

Usually murders are sufficiently transparent (barring Whodunnits), but not always. In workshops, I’ve been in a student’s narrative rowboat crossing an inlet under moonlight, unaware (because I was not told) that the…

It's been a long time since I've come back to an article a second time to read it just for the pleasure. This one slays. Nice job.

Part of the Spring 2021 collection

Ennui in cloth form, shapeless like your life. The Pandemic Pant. [Copyright © 2021 Aspiring Writer Syndrome.]

The Pandemic Pant returns to the spring lineup. Back by loathed demand, and sponsored by Doritos, this classic is literally timeless. As in, all recollections of sanity and personal grooming will be sucked into the void of something called a “distant past.”

Available in Melancholy Gray, Cobweb Light Gray, and an all-new tone, December Sky Medium Gray, these pants bring new meaning to the word comfort. That meaning is hideous, but it is undeniably new and undeniably a meaning, and that’s the bargain these lightweight polyester/cotton sweats strike with your lower half.

Do you…

A plan for compartmentalizing your creative writing tasks and responsibilities

Something complex, multifaceted, and beautiful — like you. Photo by Valentin Lacoste on Unsplash.

I want to introduce you to something I call “The Editorial Department Schema.” It’s a way to think about your fiction writing, or other creative writing work.

What’s a schema? Let’s have a look.

In a future where Willful Elimination is legal and encouraged for the survival of the species. A fiction excerpt.

Photo by Tom Claes on Unsplash.

Hello, readers, writers and followers. Since the start of 2021, the AWS crew and I have been putting out various how-to’s for fiction writers, looking at technical craft elements, inspirational ideas, and gray-area stuff like closeness in point-of-view. This week: something different! It’s time to walk the walk and (hopefully) show some of these skills in action. So without any ado at all, here’s an excerpt from a fiction-in-progress, titled The Killing Place. It’s told from the point of view of Bernell Jackson, an employee at a franchise of the future where customers can seek Willful Elimination.

* * *

I don’t know…

Can we transact between creative and financial accounts?

A nebula, monetized. Photo by NASA on Unsplash.

On June 6, 2014, I heard something uncommon: a novelist interviewed on a Wall Street report radio program. The novelist was Mona Simpson. Forgetting the supernatural suavity of host Kai Ryssdal’s voice, let us look at these wise words from his “Marketplace” guest that day. This is my transcript of the end segment titled (with classic Ryssdalian aplomb) “Here’s the Thing.”

For best results, please put your feet up when reading.

Ryssdal: Here’s the thing about numbers—economic numbers, anyway: You gotta put ‘em in context. In context in the economy, of course…

Express Yourself

A fiction lesson in a one-act play

Person in water mid-motion from rear view of their neck.
Person in water mid-motion from rear view of their neck.
Photo: VV Nincic/Flickr

SETTING: A dark, bare stage. Beaten wood floors, well-trod. Two chairs are set out at oblique angles to one another.

YOUR CHARACTER: Can we talk?

YOU: Sure. What’s up?

YOUR CHARACTER: I feel like we’re growing apart. Like we don’t know each other anymore.

YOU: Oh. (scratches chin) Okay.

YOUR CHARACTER: Don’t get defensive.

YOU: No, I’m not —

YOUR CHARACTER: Don’t make excuses either.

YOU: I —

YOUR CHARACTER: Just hear me out.

YOU: Okay, okay! You got it. What’s this about? What can I do?

YOUR CHARACTER: Thank you. This means a lot to me. Because this is…

Benjamin Obler

Instructor at @GothamWriters, NYC. Ed.-in-Chief of, where fiction is the focus and inspiration is the goal. #Javascotia @PenguinBooks

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