Beading and Writing: What Books Don’t Say

Given my druthers, I’ll take a knot over a stop bead, any day.

…Long story short. In many tricky beading designs you need to maintain thread tension. When you’re trying to construct defined shapes out of flimsy thread and colored bits of silicon dioxide, keeping the beads pulled together at specific angles can be the deciding factor in whether you get a pretty, practical result, or an ugly morass of beads that makes no sense whatsoever.

The two ways I know how to start this are a knot – physically tying the thread into place to create a solid anchor of beads – or a stop bead. Stop beads are an extra, hopefully differently colored and sized bead you wrap the tail of the working thread around so you can maintain thread tension while leaving open the option of loosening the thread as you work.

A lot of beading books demonstrate their patterns with stop beads. If you have excellent manual dexterity so you can deftly maintain their position and nimbly weave the tail thread in later, stop beads are fine.

If, however, you’re as fumble-fingered as I am, and have enough trouble just trying to sort the directions into a viable set of “what movements do I do next”, stop beads are endlessly frustrating.

I prefer knots, whenever and wherever I can use them. That defined, solid base gives me an anchor I can pull everything against as tight as I have to, to make the structure work. Pull too hard and I may break the thread, sure – but at least it’s more likely I’ll get far enough to figure out how to work the design, without worrying about constantly collapsing beaded webworks.

I suspect this is also why I prefer genre fiction to free-floating “literature”. If you pick up a work of literary fiction, you may get anything from endless second-person POV (Augh!) to “experimental” works that torture the English language in ways that would make Torquemada blush, to nihilistic forays into “life means nothing and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool”. Maybe it can be done right; too often it seems to collapse under the weight of its own pretensions, and leave you with wasted hours and a headache.

Genre fiction, in contrast, gives you solid things you can rely on. Fantasy? Magic and monsters. SF? What-ifs based on the best science of the time. Mystery? Cue the dead body. These basic elements of the genre let you anchor the story. Your hard military SF is not going to have a unicorn-riding half-naked priestess show up spouting prophecies about a Chosen One. Not without a lot of genetic engineering and future-predicting AIs involved. Likewise your fantasy is unlikely to have pump lasers, and your murder mystery probably won’t have nanotech resurrections unless it’s cross-genre to begin with.

Knowing what you definitely won’t have makes writing the rest easier. It’s something to consider, if you’re just starting off writing or trying to build your skills. If you’re going to build something complicated, a scaffold is just good sense. And you don’t get much more complicated than a novel!


22 thoughts on “Beading and Writing: What Books Don’t Say

  1. Thanks.

    I’ve just woken up, and am not together yet.

    I’m finding myself mentally drafting some ravings on how to implement a tournament arc in a fusion of xianxia with epic fantasy.

    In conclusion, I need to work on taking better care of myself.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I would definitely say that art is defined more by what it isn’t than by what it is.
    Even if they choose to establish some boundary, then break it in some specific way, that’s still playing with the limit.

    My problem with surrealism isn’t that I can’t come up with an interpretation of what they mean, but that I can come up with too many interpretations.
    If there’s thousands of possible meanings, then it’s meaningless.

    It really annoys me when they say something like “interpret it however you want.”
    To me, that comes across as laziness.
    Either they didn’t have a clear idea of what they were doing, or they were too sloppy to express it clearly.
    They might as well generate something randomly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Contra to what most people are taught about art, limits enable creativity.

      After all, if you can do anything you want, in any way that you want, there’s no reason to do anything other than the first thing that comes to mind.

      Usually abstract blobs.

      It will always work, because there’s no reason why it wouldn’t, and there’s not reason for anyone to criticise it, because there are no standards.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s an interesting way to set limits!

        Definitely! And the way you do it respects both of the things you’re crossing over.

        That “roll a d20” technique is objectively awesome, by the way. It was a lifesaver for me when I did my graduate project.

        I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t decide what anything else should be, so I listed terrain type, resources, and a whole bunch of other features, and just rolled for them. That gave me almost all the limits I needed for the project, and enabled me to find a real world location that pretty much matched the rolls, which gave me the rest of the limits I needed, like elevation and USDA crop zone.

        … my professors may have though I was a bit crazy.

        And for anyone else who has trouble making decisions between two equally reasonable options: flip a coin to decide.
        If you hate the result you get, do the other one.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. My husband uses a modified version of that where he has the option of going “No. Just F No.” to any result of the dice– the important thing is that it makes a decision that you can then go from.

        (We realized the same thing early on with the traditional “want to go out to eat?” dance– the purpose of making a suggestion in the form of ‘how about X?’ is that it’s something you can stand, and ‘Ooh, I’m really craving Y!’ takes MUCH more arguing against it; there are enough options that someone has to make a choice somewhere, so get going.)

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had looking at art I’ve done has come from using black and white paint, and a series is pencil sketches I did of a flour sack walking around I did in an animation class.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Gods yes, I can’t stand a lot of so called literature, especially the nihilistic crap. It’s never life has no inherent meaning so let’s make the world a better place with actual meaning, my kind of nihilism, but always life is meaningless therefore everyone being awful is entirely justified. I wish there were two different terms to differentiate between those people and the kind of nihilist I am.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I suspect those books are written by the experts. You know, the ones who create beautifully complicated things on a whim and wonder why others find them difficult?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. a) creating complicated things on a whim is good way to create garbage. Okay, skill levels seem to be possible such that enough prior experience allows one to handle a lot of complex interactions with little obvious effort. Hitting that skill level would require continual effort at improvement, which usually means that you always see flaws in what you did.

      b) the only experts are those who make dealing with them less of a hassle than the consequences of not dealing with them. People who are harder to make use of than to ignore may be frauds.

      c) Art is a subjective utility. The meanings you see are the meanings that exist for you, and the ways it is useful for you. Creator’s intent doesn’t automatically become creator’s execution, and creator’s execution is not automatically viewer’s understanding. If a creator is seeking to improve, they understand this to a degree.

      d) In conclusion, a good creator of complicated art may understand that listing aspects of intent does not make the final work any better. Additionally, giving people a checklist to understand an artwork by is much more trouble than looking at the thing, or ignoring the thing.

      e) Yeah, the art most important to me is a really weird category. It isn’t a performing or fine art, what people usually think of as art. And has a continuing problem with scammers trying to pull ‘respect muh authoriteh’, and delivery of garbage that obviously fails to meet requirements.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. The great thing about a strong foundation is that the stronger it is, the more you can build on it and the greater freedom you have– to borrow from something Fulton Sheen said, you have to have the idea of a giraffe before you can modify it.

    Picture the work that goes into forming the idea of a short-necked giraffe.
    “There is a creature with a body like a car, and a neck like a lifting crane cut short, with cow-ears and not-horns that have a knob at the top; double in length to the neck are four long, knobby legs that end in cleft hooves, it is tawny with chocolate spots.”
    “There was a giraffe with a neck about half so long as it should be.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. This is where I bring up the archaic definition of Art again. The problems everyone’s been commenting about here only _exist_ because of the modern definition being useless for actually conveying objective meaning, while simultaneously being used to define an entire category of stuff for objective analysis of what fits. The modern term is self-contradictory in its very nature, even aside from the basic flaws in its use. Of course, the modern use is _purposely_ flawed, since it was created for an Emperor’s New Clothes scam, and to enable future ENC scams. Which is why it focuses on both feelings and interpretations, and _explicitly_ aims for the subjective forms of them.
    The archaic definition, by contrast, focused on objective factors, or on factors that could be measured objectively even if less inherently objective. “A trained skill (which can be verified, and was listed as a distinction from natural talent), and the appropriate application thereof (which can at least be measured by the metrics of the skill as it is taught).” No relying on personal interpretation, and every “subjective” factor is one that at least has a fixed external metric by which it can at least be measured in a fashion that is effectively objective regardless of who is measuring. And it also neatly avoids all those other problems with “but what does it _mean_ to _you_?” and similar stuff that cannot be made objective.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. A pox on unclear, vague, or otherwise unhelpful instructions . . .

    Haven’t read much literature outside of the stuff they made me read for English class . . . through I do find it amusing that certain amount of “classic literature” would be published as genre fiction if it was published today.

    Abstract art has never really caught my interest . . . during my art classes, when I go assigned an abstract project, I would doddle random lines and fill them with whatever colors seem good for that spot. Mostly to get it done as quickly as possible so I could work on something I liked better. Like still lives of flowers or landscapes. Started painting again recently and all of it has been either landscape or still life.

    Found that surrealistic art speaks to me better if I can see the actual painting in person instead of a photograph in a book. Discovered this when I visited the Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. I wasn’t aware of how big some of his paintings were either. It’s a nice museum if any of you are ever near St. Petersburg (and it’s the largest collection of his work outside of Spain).


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