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In this surreal road novel, Anthony searches for the father he’s never met: Andy Kaufman, the legendary song-and-dance man from the ’70s. There’s a few problems here, of course. A) Andy Kaufman died in 1984, and B) Thanks to a recent cancer diagnosis, Anthony doesn’t have much longer to live, either. However, new evidence has come to light that questions whether or not Kaufman is actually dead. Could he be in hiding, after all these years? Anthony is determined to discover the truth before his own clock runs out. During his travels, he will encounter shameless medicine men, grifters, Walmart shoppers, the ghosts of Elvis and Warhol, and the Devil himself.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Writing True Love is Writing Agony

“A chill in here tonight,” I said.
“My body burns when it snows,” she said. “I go out into the street without a stitch. I love the way my nipples get hard.”
“It’s snowing ash,” I said.
She took my hand, leading me to the rubber mat. We slow danced, first ones on the floor that night. None of the other lot looked up from their tables, from the wells of their chipped teacups.

—Dancing at Albies at the End of the World by T. Fox Dunham
Published in Torrid Literature Volume II

When I write of agony, I write of love. And all my works are about love, even if they’re about zombies or human-eating lions. It’s the most elusive force that humans seek, and when they finally take love, it burns in their hands as if they were holding embers. All the great holy books are really about love—and its inverse, hate. Authors write of nothing but death and love, and usually death is a component of love. I refer you to the collective works of one of the greatest authors of love, Ernest Hemingway.

In my experience—and the only way you can really understand love is if it pierces you through the chest and leaves you bleeding—love is not a path to happiness. That’s how most humans I know define it. Love is about being happy. It’s function is to make us joyful, content and alive. Yet, it does anything but. Love is the path to devastation, because it will always be lost. This is the truth of love. It’s the loss that makes it real. This is Hemingway’s gospel. Now here’s mine:

Love is its own emotional need to be fulfilled, not the path to fulfill happiness.

I write of this because my story, Dancing at Albies at the End of the World, was recently published in volume two of Torrid Literature, an excellent magazine of articles, poetry and stories. It can be found for purchase online or hard copy at the web address I will post at the end of this entry. In the story, my character has lost his name when he lost his wife, killed in the London Blitz during World War II. He wanders as a soulless man looking for a bomb to fall on him, and he discovers a makeshift pub built under a bombed-out factory full of the living soulless like himself. There, he inflicts on himself a passionate affair with a soulless woman. She tastes his pain. She drinks his tears. And he reaches back from the darkness. He may actually come home.

Fiction authors write of conflict. Our sustenance, our fuel is the relationship gone wrong, the bad marriage, the lost love never to be realized. Our protagonists either repair their love affairs or they make a daring escape to a better place. We thrive on this conflict, making our plots compelling; thus, we are articulate in the execution of pain. I believe these heart-grinding tales to be the best of human stories—tales of love and glory. So if you’re going to write a love story, and really that’s all we ever write, don’t base your plot on their love:

Base your plot on their fear, on the forces conspiring to keep them apart.

That’s the glory of love, two people fighting all odds to fulfill that need in their souls. All souls come with pieces missing.

Love shows best in writing when it is based on a setting of fear, of loss, like silver clouds painted on black canvas. Your job as an author is to make lovers suffer, to do everything you can to keep your lovers apart, to attack, to create insurmountable odds. You are the fiend, the force of forlorn fate that fights to destroy their love. Hurt them like you’ve been hurt. Defy them like you’ve been defied and denied. Break their hearts and your readers will weep to the very last word.

Also, if you wish to write truly of the human experience, then most of the endings to your love stories will be loss. We carry with us a chain of broken chains. In literature, the most perfect loves are the loves lost. The pain keeps them alive. We don’t forget, and neither will your readers. They will relate. They will feel a direct link to the characters, switch places with them, and you can’t succeed more than that as an author.

I’m not a cruel man by nature. I’m an author. I’m writing stories about the human condition, the emotional self. Fiction must reflect core reality, though we dress it up, set it to logical composition, and paint its nose blue. The true love of your characters will come from their trials. This is so even if that love is lost.

And so I invite you to read Dancing at Albies at the End of World, published in Torrid Literature volume II.

And cheers to all my mates who will be published with me in the Quick Bites of Flesh Anthology, a collection of flash zombie stories to be printed by Hazardous Press.


  1. Very true, Fox. The stories that endure are the ones with tragedies and loss. Would we remember Scarlet and Rhett if he "Gave a Damn?" :)

  2. There is something here to this that is not brought out enough by today's storytellers. So many people are fixated on 'happily ever after' that are set in places that are so far removed from people's experiences, that reading something that hits people right where they live, right where they are, comes as a shock to the system. What distinguishes good literature from everything else is those tragic tales. Like a master conductor, an author needs to understand how stories affect their audiences, and how all the elements of a piece work together. When the author is as good as you are, it becomes effortless. Play on, maestro, play on. :)

  3. I DO think that love brings happiness, having lived very happily for 25 years with my wonderful husband, but to define happiness you have to have known tragedy. And, of course, even the most perfect love carries with it fear of loss.

    1. Well of course Jenny. What I meant was that happiness is not the ultimate goal of love. It is something that comes with it, but we don't love to be happy. Love is it's own need but it can make us happy.