Category Archives: Creative Writing

Articles, projects, theories, and processes.

A Bear on the Beach

In literature, there is a concept called to place “a bear on the beach.”

The origin of the expression is said to come from a silent film where the director wanted a couple of lovers to kiss on a beach, but in order to keep the kiss scenes from being boring, the director cut in shots of a bear on the same beach. The audience waited breathlessly for the kissing couple to discover the bear.

The technique of placing a bear on the beach is about displaying a threat or future problem that the characters are not aware of. This problem or threat then creates tension and makes it possible to lower the pace some and go into important details such as the background of novel characters, details of the story world or other background information.

You’re able to slow down the tempo without reducing the tension.

The reader knows that the threat is there and every delay until the confrontation becomes like pushing a needle against a balloon that refuses to burst.

The difference between placing a bear on the beach and letting the protagonist confront the bear is that when the protagonist does not know about the threat, it is possible to do other things than to wrestle with the bear.

Examples of “a bear on the beach”

The antagonist plans to kidnap, rob or murder the protagonist, while the protagonist is happily and ignorantly going through their everyday life.

The protagonist has tea with the killer, plans to go on a date with the killer, or visit the psychopath in his cabin in the forest for an exclusive interview.

Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs can be seen as a bear on the beach. Somewhere we understand that if he will continue to be imprisoned throughout the book, he will become a rather flat character. Will he get out, or will Clarice stumble into his cage? As the book progresses, Harris spreads more and more details about Hannibal’s ruthlessness, increasing the tension more and more.

In general, situations where the reader knows that the protagonist is unaware of a dangerous person or situation can be an example of “a bear on the beach.” Or the protagonist is entering a situation that is dangerous, preferably by deliberately planning to do something that for the protagonist does not seem so dangerous.

To consider when using “a bear on the beach”

This technique can create excruciating excitement if used properly, but there are a few things to pay attention to.

The more the reader is aware of the antagonist’s plans, the more urgent it is that the protagonist also becomes aware of these. Otherwise, there is a risk that the protagonist is perceived as stupid. But, if you want to do comics, there may also be one point in that.

However, this problem can be remedied with some subtlety. You don’t have to show the whole bear on the beach. Maybe it’s enough with fresh bear tracks? When the bear is more subtle, it becomes more ambiguous what is actually going on. It is not at all as obvious that the protagonist should know exactly what is going on because the reader may not be sure of it.

For example, we never get to know which flight plans Hannibal Lecter has in Silence of the Lambs. We never hear his thoughts and it is just before the flight that we understand that he is about to put his plan into action. Even then, Harris pushes the story even further, all the time not revealing more than that a deadly psychopath is about to escape.

Using a bear on the beach can definitely draw out the excitement, but it must be done with finesse. Just because you have a bear on the beach does not mean that you can spend page up and down with backstories, information dumping or other prose that lacks action. The story still has to move! But it can move at a somewhat slower pace.


Header image by Bering Land Bridge National Preserve – Grizzly Bear Tracks on the Beach at Cape EspenbergCC BY 2.0Link

How not to translate cinnamon buns to Swedish

I’m from Sweden. We’re known for being among the top consumers of coffee in the world (second only to the Finns).

We’re also, in some less particulate, places, known to eat lots of cinnamon buns while we’re doing “fika” (which, I’ve been told, was a 1700s construction of coffee “kaffi” used to circumvent the coffee bans of that time while planning to have some “fika”… however, the Internet disagrees, at least on the date (the early 1900s), and perhaps the cause… and why that may be is a long story with only Swedish references… so… moving on…)

With our fika we have cinnamon buns. Their spelling, however, is not at all as easy to get right as the “fika”, and, here are a couple of examples where the misspelling actually means something, I am sure, was not intended:

  • “Kanylbullar” (syringe buns) — if you ever wondered if you could get HIV from cinnamon buns… now you know
  • “Kanelbuller” (cinnamon noise) — this would be the noise traffic makes… or thunder… not the noise a stale cinnamon bun might make when you chew it… or, for that matter, the noise you make when you break a tooth on that stale cinnamon bun (not that it happens often, but still… not that noise…)
  • “Kanelbullar” (cinnamon buns, kanel = cinnamon, bullar = buns), right! The ones we’re always having with our “fika” (no, we’re not —  mostly we just have the coffee… it’s way easier to install a coffee machine than a cinnamon bun machine… — and the coffee will always be fresh longer… and the number of workplace accidents involving teeth will also be kept on a level that won’t excite the international rumor mill overly much…)

To Do List – buy Iceland…

To do list:

  1. Write bestseller
  2. Buy an… Iceland

No… that doesn’t sound right… hmmm…

To do list:

  1. Learn more English
  2. Write bestseller
  3. Buy a … whatever a piece of land surrounded by ocean is called…

I know, step 3 might indicate places like Britain… but then again… who knows how much it would be worth after Brexit…

I’m just saying… It could happen!

Thin and Narrow

She was thin and narrow. Her siblings called her ugly. I thought she was beautiful.

When the two-legged ones came they threw her to the ground. One of them even stepped on her, squashing her open.

I watched her for days, halfway buried there in the dirt. She started decaying. I feared she was gone for this world. And for what? Being thin and narrow?

After a week she sprang roots, digging into the ground, and not soon after she reached for the azure skies.

At first, she was just a twig with two leaves on top. She did not even reach above the high grass. I teased her and called her Sprout. She bent in the wind and I think she laughed.

Continue reading Thin and Narrow

Important question

Day 1

A: I have a very important question for you.

B: Shoot.

A stares intensely at B. After an uncomfortably long period of silence:

B: So what’s the question?

A: Thanks.

B: Eh? What just happened?

A: I was wondering if you could read minds.

Day 2

A: I have a very important question for you.

B: What? If I can read minds?

A: Ah-hah! I knew you were lying yesterday!

Don’t turn the Customer Avoidance Setting to max

Important notice regarding CAF in ACE4:

Please note. When configuring Automated Customer Experience 4.0.4 (ACE4) do not set the Customer Avoidance Factor to 100%!

Unfortunately, as of this writing, with a CAF-setting of 100%, ACE4 will scare customers away, in severe cases resulting in massive customer loss and possible termination of business.

Please rest assured we’re working on solving this issue as soon and as efficiently as possible.

Proper Configuration

A correct level of the CAF-setting for ACE4 depends on how vital your product is to the customer. For nonvital products (such as lawnmowers, hair shampoo, and higher education) you have to be careful not to set the level above 50% or the customer might just give up on it entirely.

On the other hand, for vital products (such as shoes and mobile phones) you can safely crank that customer repellant setting to 90% or even 95% and enjoy a glorious day at work with next to no hassle from all those pesky customers, and know that if the system does let a customer through, you and everyone nearby are probably best off if you take that call before something blows up*…

* Please see our separate guide for proper CAF-settings depending on the type of product and likely volatility of the customer.

Insurance and Legal Coverage

If you have our expanded support package hate speech, misogynism, and death threats are all covered by the insurance policy. Unfortunately, bankruptcy and certain types of fraud** are not.

See the legal attachment for a full brief on the legal coverage and all insurance policy questions.

** As of this writing, we do not know if the fraudulent behavior of some installations of the system is due to this setting, interactions with other systems or improper configuration or handling. Further investigations are underway. In the meantime, please make sure to inform all your customers that “Captain Ahab” is not an employee of your company*** neither is he a Nigerian prince.

*** If captain Ahab is one of your employees, please contact us immediately!

Other Incidents and Interactions

There have been reported incidents where ACE4 and the Automated Spouse Service versions 1.1 to 1.2 have interacted in such a manner as to cause undue distress and mental harm to customers.

Since this is a central feature of ASS1 and only likely to have happened if these two systems were inappropriately installed, these incidents are unfortunately not covered by the expanded support package insurance policy.

To avoid this problem, please do not install ASS1 and ACE4 on the same server, and make sure to configure firewalls properly to prevent ASS from gaining undue and inappropriate influence over ACE.

Writer’s block or revolting characters?

Tweet from the police’s external command in Södermalm (south of Stockholm):

Translation: Upset cries from apartment worried neighbors. Turned out the person was writing a book and was strongly influenced by the content

My question: was it due to writer’s block or was the characters revolting?


Header image: Attributed to the Nekyia PainterMarie-Lan Nguyen (2011), CC BY 2.5, Link

Chainsaw Murderer

“112, how may I be of assistance?”

“Yes, Hello? Is this 112?”

“This is 112, how can I help you?”

“Yes. I am sorry to disturb you this wonderful afternoon, however, we seem to have gotten a chainsaw murderer in our living room. We managed to lock ourselves in the bathroom but I fear he might start sawing the door any moment…”

“I think you’re a bit dramatic now. Chainsawers aren’t that dangerous.”

“He is sawing the furniture, and I’m pretty sure, if my nephew hadn’t been so quick on his feet he would have sawed him too.”

“That may be the case, but you shouldn’t be calling us for these problems.”

“I’m sorry, who should I be calling?”

“An exterminator. You’re taking up the line for life-threatening situations.”

“But, it’s a chainsaw murderer!”

“Yes, they are becoming more and more common. The exterminator knows how to deal with them. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No. Ah… Yes! Perhaps, a number for an exterminator?”

“This is not the yellow pages!”

Diary of a Twelve-Year-Old, 2036

Sometimes I bring out my crystal ball and look into the future, this time it’s the diary of a twelve-year-old girl in 2036:

Monday. Back in school. Another school shooting! Third this year. Jeeeez!

Dick (and I mean that in both senses) didn’t get an “A” and decided to “do something about it.” Such a total loser!!!

Tom & Bob got him alright. They were just like, no you’re not gonna eff-ing shoot up our history class! OMG! They nailed his a** to the wall with their AK-47’s!

Continue reading Diary of a Twelve-Year-Old, 2036