I have wondered for some time about the
presence of the Golden Segment in literature. Those of us who like literature
certainly recognise that stories presented in literary form have a shape that
includes a beginning, a middle that follows certain conventions, but not too
strictly, and an end. If these are out of balance we notice. But is this a
learned response or is it natural?
The presence of the Fibonacci
series in nature tends to suggest that we are dealing with something natural
here. This series of numbers can be traced in the patterns of sunflower seeds,
in rabbits breeding and in branch formation in plants and trees, to give just a
handful of examples. In this experiment I have set out to work with this series.
One might sub-title this novel “Writing by Numbers”. The first chapter is one
word long, the final one is 28,657. I have labelled each chapter simply by the
number in the series it represents.
In doing this I’ve not
completely ruled out my normal way of planning fiction. Distilled from various
story theories I find work for me, and in particular that of Robert McKee, the
shape I favour is:
Growing complexities (usually
Climax (This is actually the
gap between the crisis and the resolution and generally where all the
excitement is. From this point onwards life can never be quite the same again
for the protagonist, however the story resolves. Everything up to now was a
rehearsal for this big moment.)
A more complex novel – and Fibbin’ Archie is complex – will have
sub plots. How sub plots relate to the main plot is also to do with the Golden
Segment. Andrew Melrose identifies a plot pyramid in Write For Children and I build upon that work in Writing for Young Adults.
The Fibonacci series anyway produces the Golden Segment. We see this in
the ratio of any two adjacent numbers in the series to their sum. That is there
in the formula described above. There are echoes of it in the three act
structure and the five act structure from the world of film and television and the
slightly different version of this in stage play.
This is how I worked the mathematics out for Archie.
Note that the crisis point happens at about word 60019.So there is a build up to it and then we come
back down to the resolution. Once I reached word 46,368 I knew I had to make
the stakes higher.
Christopher Vogler suggests that sometimes we can follow a formula too
rigidly. He identified what works for the film industry and based his
suggestions for story on Joseph Campbell’s work. Vogler suggests that it is
often more satisfying for the consumer when that formula is skewed slightly.
The formula is skewed slightly in Archie.
Content spills round the edges of word count. It could be, perhaps that
numbers aren’t accurate enough to pinpoint exactly when events need to occur.
What I have stuck to rigidly here is the word count per section, and then
shaped the content to the section.
At the end of the book I’ll be giving you some more information about
what it was like writing this way. I welcome commentary on this project and for
once this is a book I don’t mind you giving away for free; the more people who
read it the better. By all means put the usual reviews on Amazon and Good
reads, good or bad. I’d also welcome direct commentary which I’ll like to
publish verbatim or collated in summary if there is a huge response. Please
send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read Fibbin’ Archie.
You must have noticed the pun by now. It is, of course, deliberate.
First off, she
greets me in a bright royal blue tunic covered in glittery sequins. It was an
incredible outfit. It had great pleats
in the body of it and the sleeves as well. Mind you, it really suited her. And
her make-up! I mean, I’m wearing make-up all the time now, but I try to do it
so that it doesn’t show. But Louish! Long curly eyelashes. Thick eye-liner.
Bright blue eye shadow that matched her tunic. A huge beauty spot. And lipstick
so red it almost looked as if her lips were bleeding.
Then there was
all her prodding and poking – trying to get things out of me. So much so that I
ended up telling as much about Julien as I dared.
“Well, my dear,”
she said. “You’re looking well. Any sign of any new romance?”
At that point, I
felt my cheeks burning.
“Ah, I see there
is,” she said. “Well, do not fear anything from me, sweetie. If that nutcase of a grandson of mine can’t
appreciate what is right in front of him, what’s offered to him on a plate,
well then he’s even more of a fool that I thought.”
She stroked my
hair and then gave me a huge hug. I don’t know why exactly, but that set me
off. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Was I still sad about Kaleem? Was I
pleased she accepted the idea of Julien?
defined it herself in the end.
She sighed. “I’m
sure he’s a fine young man, whoever he is,” she said. “But he’ll take you away
from our family I expect.”
The lunch was
superb, of course. Louish is always so cheerful and she tells such funny
stories. But as we had coffee afterwards she became deadly serious.
“I want to
arrange a meeting,” she said. “A secret meeting. Between you and Razjosh.”
I couldn’t begin
to imagine what Razjosh might want with me.
“Oh?” I said.
“Yes, he wants
to discuss the whole switch-off thing with you. Making sure it becomes
“Ah,” I replied.
I couldn’t think that that was going to be easy. He had just had such a narrow
escape from switch-off himself. “What
does Elder Frazier think?”
“He’s all for
it, my dear. In fact, he’ll be at the meeting too,” she replied. “You will
agree to it, won’t you?”
How could I not?
Louish is such a well-meaning person. I nodded.
said, and beamed.
The rest of the
afternoon was lovely. We went for a walk together. She told me all about what
she and the other elders’ attachments get up to. Despite this rather heavy task
she’s landed me with, it always does me good being with her. I really can’t
believe she’s a grandmother and that her grandson is grown up. .
“End and delete,” said Kaleem. That was definitely the
last time he would read Rozia’s glog. Now that his grandmother knew about the
new man in her life perhaps she would stop nagging him about getting back
together with Rozia.
Rozia. She was obviously happy with Julien. That had
been the plan. Leave her. Allow her to find someone else. There was no place
for romance in the life of a Peace Child. He’d even told her that he approved,
even made it sound as if he didn’t care.
Yet still she was producing her glog in Wordtext. She
was doing that for him, he knew. He doubted whether Julien could read Wordtext.
And every time now that he read her glog, he just hoped that she still wanted
to be with him. But she was with Julien now. Just as he had planned. No point
hoping it was otherwise. What was the point, then, of her writing this glog in
Wordtext? Was she trying to torment him?There was certainly no point in him reading it anymore.
He sighed. What was there to look forward to now,
The door to the apartment swished open. Kaleem tensed,
hoping there would be just one set of footsteps and no voices.
“I’ll get some coffee on the go,” he heard Marijam
say. “Then I’ll go and get Kaleem.”
“Great stuff,” he heard Nazaret reply.
He could do without this. The sooner he got his own
apartment, the better. It had been good at first, finding out that he had a
father who was still alive. He actually liked Nazaret, for goodness sake, but
he just couldn’t feel comfortable when he and Marijam were together. He wasn’t
sure why. Perhaps it was because he’d lived for all those years with just his
mother. Perhaps it was because Nazaret had abandoned him and Marijam. Or did it
come down to Rozia again? After all, Nazaret hadn’t had any choice in being
taken from Terrestra. He hadn’t known that Marijam was pregnant. Perhaps you could
you say that what he’d done to Rozia was worse? Leaving her when she was so ill?Or was he jealous because Nazaret and Marijam
had carried on being in love over all those years of separation; neither of
them had found another partner. And Rozia had found Julien. In just a few
Then, even if he could argue himself out of all of
those points, he and Nazaret were always awkward around each other. He longed
to have the same easy relationship with his father as he had with his
“Hey, sweetie,” called Marijam, bouncing into Kaleem’s
room. “Your father’s got something really exciting to tell you. Will you come
and join us?” Her eyes were shining and her cheeks were glowing pink.
It was so good to see her so happy and full of fun
these days. She had always been so serious when they lived on Terrestra in the
“I’ll be in in a minute,” said Kaleem. It was so
stupid how he always had to brace himself to be in the same room as
“I’ll call you when the coffee’s ready,” said Marijam,
That was why he kept on staying with them. His mother
was so happy having both of her men under the same roof. And it wouldn’t, after
all, be forever. At some point he would have to go off on another Peace Child
He supposed he ought to check again on how Project
Acorn was going. The dataserve whirred into life before he as much as made a
voice command. He ought to be used to how the dataserves here seemed to read
your mind. He’d spent enough time on Zandra, but it was still disturbing, not
least of all because he couldn’t work out how they did it.
Movie clips of the Supercraft in London Harbour
and Zandra Dock 1 started loading and a voiceover began reading off numbers. Kaleem
frowned. He would prefer this in Figurescript as he could read it. It would be
quicker and he could just look up what he needed to know. He opened his mouth
ready to give the command. The screen flickered and suddenly rows and rows of
I wish it
wouldn’t, thought Kaleem. But this is
He’d hardly had time to think than when the screen
“Receive message from Don Edmundson?” asked the
machine. A static picture of Edmundson, the coordinator of Project Acorn,
appeared on the screen.
What now? thought
Kaleem. He sighed. He’d better speak to him he supposed.
Edmundson immediately went live.
“Good morning, Kaleem,” said Edmundson. He was
frowning as usual. “I need to arrange a meet with you. I take it you have no
He doesn’t give
anything away, thought Kaleem, looking carefully at Edmundson’s face for
any clue about what he might be thinking or feeling. It was expressionless
apart from the frown.
Always the same neutral face.
“There isn’t a problem, is there?” asked Kaleem.
“Hope not,” said Edmundson. “Three tomorrow afternoon,
Gengis Hall 231?”
“Yes, of course,” said Kaleem. There was no point
prodding Edmundson. If it was something he could have said by a dataserve link
he would have said it. There must be a really good reason why he wanted them to
meet in person. Kaleem dreaded what that might be.
“Good,” said Edmundson and the screen snapped back to
the Figurescript pages.
“Coffee’s ready,” shouted Marijam from the lounge.
It just gets
worse, thought Kaleem.
Marijam was pouring the coffee herself as he walked
into the lounge. Even though she and Nazaret had every modern convenience
including the state of the art house droid, Marijam often preferred to do her
own catering. She beamed at Kaleem.
“Hi, Kaleem,” said Nazaret, a little stiffly “would
you like to come and see this?”
What did he want now, Kaleem wondered. He sat on the
comfisessel next to Nazaret, who was looking at a small portable dataserve on
the coffee table in front of them.
A movie clip started up. It showed some woodland with
trees and all sorts of grasses and flowers growing under them. Kaleem supposed
it was from Terrestra, but did notice that most of the trees were very
“These are young oak trees on one of the new Zandrian
plantations,” said a voiceover.
“And those flowers are all native to Terrestra except
that little one there,” said Nazaret, pointing at the screen.
The screen zoomed in at once to a small flower Kaleem
had never seen before. It had papery ivory petals with delicate thread-like
streaks of very pale pink and blue woven through them.
“The Zandrian ice-bell,” explained Nazaret. “And those
there-” He pointed to what Kaleem recognised as bluebells. “Are native to
Terrestra, but only one variety is appearing. This is the one which has white
pollen. The stronger one, the one which grows so viciously that it tends to take
over, is not appearing at all. Then there are all the usual fungi and mosses –
everything that you would expect to find in Terrestran woodland.”
“How?” asked Kaleem. He did not feel quite so
uncomfortable with Nazaret when they were talking about things like this.
“A bit of a mystery,” replied Nazaret. “We would
expect a few spores and seeds to get mixed up with acorns. But why the type one
bluebell exclusively? It would be more understandable if it were the type two,
the hardier one. And the ice-bell is a real mystery. It is not one of those
plants whose seeds lie dormant until the soil is turned. There were plenty of
those around before the deforestation disaster. Why is it precisely this one
that has come back and not the others?”
Nazaret was beaming now. Kaleem wished he could feel
as enthusiastic about his father’s work.
“Even more exciting,” Nazaret continued. “All of the
plant life has adapted extremely well to the Zandrian clock and season
rotation. At any one time plants at all stages of their cycle are present.”
“Come on you two,” said Marijam. “Drink up your coffee
before it gets cold. And you should tell him your most exciting news.”
“Aha!” said Nazaret, taking a sip of his coffee.
“Guess who is going to head up the research into all of this?” The man’s eyes
were positively shining. He looked like a child with a new toy.
For a moment Kaleem felt content. He could be proud of
his father taking on such an important job. He could be happy that he was so
happy. He did like the man for goodness sake. That was never the problem. He
wasn’t really sure exactly what was.
“That’s great,” he said.
“Isn’t it?” said Marijam. She got up out of her seat
and made her way over to Nazaret. She put her arms round his shoulders and
planted a brief kiss on his cheek.
But Nazaret pulled her face back to his and kissed her
full on the lips. He lingered a little too long for Kaleem’s liking.
Oh for goodness sake. Why shouldn’t a man kiss his attachment?
Even if it was your father kissing your mother? Get a grip, Kennedy-Bagarin, thought Kaleem. It’s not as if they’re about to have sex.
He gulped his coffee down.
“I’d better get on,” he mumbled, getting up to leave
“Don’t work too hard,” called Marijam, pulling herself
away from Nazaret, who seemed reluctant to let her go.
Kaleem sighed to himself as he made his way out of the
room. He wished he didn’t have to be like this.
‘Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about at
all,’ said the doctor at Health Centre 215. ‘It’s just this year’s grippa
virus. Though I must say it’s a bit more tenacious in your case. I’d like to
give you a full scan.’
‘Why?’ asked Kaleem. ‘Might there be something else as well?’
If it were the Starlight Fever back again, it would be
better if they didn’t find out. He had hesitated to come, but Alistare had
nagged him until he had given in.
‘I very much doubt it,’ said the doctor. ‘I just want to see
that nothing’s damaged inside. These stethowands are marvellous at diagnosis.
They’re useless at spotting inner problems. I shouldn’t think there’s anything
to worry about. You’re normally fit and healthy aren’t you?’
‘I try to eat well and get plenty of exercise,’ replied
‘There you are then. Nothing to worry about, I’m sure. I’ll
just give you a nubin shot and you’ll feel better in seconds. Then we’ll get
that scan arranged.’
The dataserve in the small consulting room sprang into life.
A drawer opened from which the doctor took a small pistol-like object with a
Kaleem felt a strange tingling sensation as the doctor
pointed the nubin gun atthe top of his
arm. Seconds later he was beginning to feel better. The ache slowly began to
melt away from his muscles. His temperature gradually returned to normal.
So, if that’s all
there is to being ill, he thought why
did we make such a big deal of it?
The Health Centre 215 was much busier than the one and only
health centre on Terrestra. The Zandrians seemed to accept illness as a part of
everyday existence. It was just something to be dealt with as efficiently as
possible, so that life could carry on. It was not the great evil that the
The scan was not at all unpleasant. Kaleem had expected
something like the tests he had had on Terrestra. This was totally different.
All he had to do was stand for a few seconds totally naked, in something which
resembled a shower cubicle. A light then passed over his whole body. There was
a slight hum. He didn’t feel a thing.
‘All done,’ called the assistant outside. ‘You can come out
and get dressed now.’
It was just a short walk back to the doctor’s office. He was
already looking at the results when Kaleem walked in.
‘No,’ he said. ‘no problem at all. You’re a fit and healthy
young man. It may be that you’re a bit too healthy. Your immune system is not
used to fighting, that’s all. Just carry on as normal. Eat plenty of fruit. Get
lots of sleep. And not too much frega juice.
‘You’ll be fine. I don’t expect to see you here again.’
By the time Kaleem was walking along the corridor to the
main entrance of the Health Centre, he was feeling as if there was nothing
‘Hi, Detran,’ somebody called from behind.
He recognized the voice, even before he turned round.
‘Hey, you,’ said Tulla. ‘You haven’t replied to our invite
to the permanent attachment ceremony! Are you going to come?’
He ought to go. He ought to have replied by now. He just
didn’t want to. That would be another aspect of life on Zandra he would
experience for the first time. But he didn’t think he could bare seeing this
beautiful creature becoming attached to someone else. Not even to Petro who he
actually liked. Such a nuisance, these stupid feelings. Why did people have to
Tulla’s eyes suddenly reminded him of the children in the
dream. There was the same questioning and the same expectation. Of course, he
would have to go.
‘Yes, I’ll be there,’ he replied. ‘I’ve just not got round
to answering your invite.’ He would now have to research Zandrian attachment
‘Why are you here, though?’ asked Tulla. The look of concern
in her eyes was almost killing Kaleem. ‘You’re not ill, are you?’
‘Just grippa,’ he said. ‘The shot’s working already.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘It’s a tough one this year. It took them
ages to get the dosage right.’
‘Well, at least you try,’ said Kaleem. He was suddenly
thinking of the chaos on Terrestra.
‘We all do our best to get rid of disease,’ replied Tulla. ‘But
it’s better to have disease than the isolation of Terrestra. That’s why the
project on Planus 2 is so exciting.’
Kaleem suddenly felt tired. Perhaps the grippa was still
pulling him down. Also, part of him wanted to shout and scream that not all
Terrestrans were bad, that not all of them wanted to be kept apart at all
costs, that not all of them wanted to be at war with Zandra. Well, there was at
least a handful he could think of.
‘Hey, Detran, you do look down,’ said Tulla suddenly. ‘That
looks like a bit more than just the grippa. What’s on your mind? How about
coming with me for a chofa? They’re not as good here as in the Refreshment
Park, but it would still perk you up. Then you can tell me what’s bothering
She started leading the way towards the cafeteria. He was
going to have to follow her. Besides, what could be nicer that sitting drinking
chofa with Tulla - if he couldn’t be the one she was becoming permanently
attached to. No way, though, could he tell her that she, Terrestra and the
Peace Child mission were the matter. He would have to blame the grippa.
‘So, what gives?’ she asked.
‘It’s just the grippa,’ he said. ‘It can do that, can’t it,
make you a bit depressed?’
‘Well, the shot should take care of that as well,’ said
Tulla, frowning slightly. Kaleem suddenly noticed that she looked a little pale
as well. He was being so self-centred. There he was feeling sorry for himself,
and she’d had all these weeks of worry. It was only a week ago that she had
found out that her parents had not been on the Supercraft bound for Terrestra.
They had been on another top-secret mission, and were now safely back on
Zandra, and helping Tulla with the preparations for the permanent attachment
ceremony. She was, of course, ecstatically happy, and her eyes shone with
excitement. Yet the weeks of worry had taken their toll. She had become very
thin and her skin was dry as well as pale.
‘I’m so glad to hear that your parents were okay, after all,’
said Kaleem. ‘You must be so relieved.’
Tulla beamed at him. A little pinkness came into her cheeks
and she looked even prettier.
‘It’s fantastic, isn’t it?’ she said. ‘And they’re so
pleased about the attachment. They really like Petro.’
‘Well, well, well,’ said a voice suddenly. ‘What’s this
Tulla Watkins? Playing the field a little before the big day? Now, what can you
do for me, so that I don’t tell Petro? Why in Zandra are you doing drinking
chofa with such a handsome young specimen?’
Tulla laughed and stood up.
‘This is a friend of Petro’s - well of Petro and me,
actually,’ she said. ‘Detran Malthus. Detran, meet my boss, Lana Gylson.’
Lana held out her palm for Kaleem. She was dressed from top
to toe in silvery grey which matched her hair. She looked about the same age as
his mother, though she was a little taller. Her shoulder-length hair seemed to
catch the light and positively shone.
‘Detran Malthus?’ she said. ‘My, I am honoured. I have heard
so much about you and the work you are doing. However, will you excuse me if I
talk shop a little to my young assistant here.’
‘I’ll get on my way, then,’ said Kaleem.
‘You’ll do no such thing,’ said Lana. ‘You finish your
chofa. Anyway, you may find this extremely interesting.’
She sat down at the table and propped her head up on her
arm. She leant forward towards Tulla.
‘We have been doing some research about the Poison Cloud on
Terrestra which suddenly disappeared,’ she whispered. ‘We now believe that
there was something strange in the gases which affected the psyche of the
Terrestran. That, combined with years of living underground is what has made
them so xenophobic. Keeping disease free is just an excuse. They’re actually
rather agoraphobic as well. Even now that they can walk about outside, most of
them prefer to stay indoors.’
Lana leant back in her chair and folded her arms across her
chest. She smiled at both of them
How on Terrestra do you know that? thought Kaleem. It’s not
true anyway. Lots of us go out. Those of us who were born after the cloud went.
He was beginning to feel dizzy. Was the effect of the shot wearing off?
‘Gosh,’ said Tulla, ‘that is quite a thought. But how did
you find out?’
‘Well,’ said Lana, ‘you know my brother …..’ She stopped
‘I think you can trust Detran,’ said Tulla, ‘it’s really his
thing, bringing people together.’
Kaleem’s heart was beginning to beat really fast.
‘Well, he was sent on a mission to Terrestra and almost
There was a loud noise in Kaleem’s ears. He could see Lana’s
and Tulla’s mouth moving, but he could not make out what they were saying. He
felt really hot now. The room was beginning to spin round. He had to get out.
‘Can you imagine how horrid it must have been, living
underground?’ he managed to say as he stood up. ‘And I think young Terrestrans
really like being up on the surface. They were glad to get rid of the Poison
It began to get dark. Just before he fellto the ground, Kaleem registered a look of
concern on Tulla’s face. In Lana, he saw something else, something almost like
horror and then a type of coldness. As he plunged into the blackness, he
realised that not only had he defended the Terrestransand spoken as if really knew something about
them, he had used the Terrestran word for poison. It was similar enough to the
Zandrian one, though it was stressed differently. Is that what Lana had
It had just been a faint, caused by an unusual
reaction to the shot. The doctors had never seen anything like it before, but
in the end, the shot had still done its work. Now, two weeks later, he was
completely fit and well, and was beginning to relax about Lana. Nothing had
happened to suggest that she suspected anything. The doctors at the hospital
had put the strange reaction to the shot as just a part of the virulence of
this particular grippa.
It was a good day. He had done his research carefully. He
had his best dark blue tunic suit on, the one with the award fused on to it,
and the permanent ceremonial scarf. He had charged a love token with the right
number of credits. He wondered what they would spend it on and whether when he
visited them some time – if he ever did - would they have his name on whatever
item it was.
He knew what to expect at the ceremony. He was actually
looking forward to the completion dance which took place at the end and he had
rehearsed the steps well. He had no fear there. It was a simple dance, and no
one was expected to be brilliant at it. You just followed the person in front,
He could only wish Tulla and Petro well. She was lovely, no
doubt about it. Petro was a good friend. He would have his chance one day,
wouldn’t he, when all of this was over? The Zandrian sun was shining. It was
going to be a great day.
The dataserve told him that there was a someone waiting
outside his apartment.
He’s a bit early, thought Kaleem. He had arranged to
go to the Executive
Palace with Alistare. He
supposed it didn’t matter if they got there half an hour before the ceremony
was due to begin. They’d get a good seat then, to watch the Domestic and the
Legal Executive fuse the attachment.
Kaleem didn’t bother asking the dataserve to show him the
visitor. He just grabbed his sachet of flower petals and the charged love
token, and made his way to the door of the apartment.
The door opened and Kaleem’s heart missed a beat.
Two security droids were standing there.
‘Detran Malthus,’ said the one on the left. ‘We arrest you
on a charge of being a Terrestran spy. We shall immobilise you and record all
The other droid placed the control capsule on his forehead.
AND THAT FOLKS, IS THE LAST I'LL BE POSTING FROM THIS NOVEL. If you want to reqd more you'll have to buy the book.