Writing with the Pomodoro Technique

I used to spend a lot of time stressing about my weekly word count on my current WIP because that’s how first drafts get done, right? Cram 10,000 words into a week and you’ll surely finish the book in no time. Ten weeks and it’s a wrap says the math.

My habit was to look at the coming week on Sunday evening, and based on what I had going on with work and family decide what a reasonable word count goal was for the week. I’d often settle on something like 8,000 – 10,000 words.

Then I’d divide up what I’d need to complete per writing day. 2,000 words per day for each of four writing days this week, for example.

Tuesday would roll around, I’d sit down to write, and of course the words wouldn’t come. I’d end up frustrated with only 500 words to show for having forced myself to sit at my keyboard for hours.

After months of writing this way with some weeks going well and other weeks completely stalling out, I realized the issue was my outline. I’d get to a part of the story that wasn’t as thoroughly outlined as was called for but because I was on a word count goal, I felt the need to get words on the page. My thinking was that if I spent a writing day outlining, than on Thursday, when I was supposed to write 2,000 words I would now need to write 4,000 words to stay on track to hit that weekly goal. Then on Thursday, I might get 2,000 words but then stall out because once again what I really needed to do was plan the next few scenes. I kept getting to the end of the week and feeling unaccomplished and oddly guilty for outlining, which is super important and work to be proud of, because it wasn’t a success as defined by the parameters I had set for myself.

So I began shopping around for a new method to make sure I was staying productive. My writing buddy mentioned that he was trying a technique where you write for thirty minutes, take a break for five minutes, and then write for thirty again. I had heard of this model once before from a play-writing teacher who used this method and had some fancy term for it. After Googling about for a while, I had found what was called the Pomodoro technique (which isn’t actually that fancy, It’s just named for a kitchen timer that looks like a pomodoro tomato).

The method as my buddy described it is basically what the structure is in its entirety. There are variations on it but, the main idea is that you start a thirty minute count-down, get as much as possible done, and then take a five minute rest, and repeat. Some variations say after four cycles you should take a longer break, which I think makes sense.

Using this method, I still look at my calendar every Sunday and map out what I expect to get done throughout the week based on how much I think I can get done. But instead of setting a word goal, I schedule my Pomodoro cycles into my Google Calendar. I can usually fit about one thirty minute work period in the morning each day, sometimes more, three or four cycles two evenings during the week and four to six cycles on weekends.

This completely changes my frame of mind when I sit down to write. Before, I would always be writing with some anxiety that it was possible to fail a day’s work simply by not reaching an arbitrary goal which, as I said before, can be especially hampering when working with the first draft and you’re still telling yourself the damn story.

Now, I sit down, start the timer, and work on whatever needs doing. If outlining is what needs doing, great! I’ll work on that for thirty minutes. After a quick break, I can sit down and decide if I should spend the next thirty minutes outlining, or writing in my main draft doc.

And at the end of the week, even if I have been doing a lot of outlining, I find that my word counts are much higher than before. Typically, my word count per half hour falls somewhere between 500 and 900 words. (I wrote the draft of this blog in one half hour session and it’s over 950 words.)

There’s also something about the finite nature of the Pomodoro technique. Working in thirty minute chunks eases my ADD. I find that with Attention Deficit Disorder, it’s really challenging for me to stare down the barrel of four hours of work and get started. I end up procrastinating instead. But for some reason, if I implement the aritificial structure that tells my mind, ‘no, don’t worry it’s only thirty minutes,’ my brain can roll up its brain-sleeves and get focused.

I’ve become so enamored with this technique that I tracked down an actual dedicated Pomodoro technique timer. It works like a speed-chess clock but for focusing. You hit the reset button and the timer on the Play side sets to five minutes and the timer on the work side sets to thirty. There are no other options, this is the only thing the timer is good for but I prefer it to setting a timer on my phone because obvious distractions live there.

There’s also an official Pomodoro website with a neat copyright and lots of new-agey corporate lingo-filled extolling about all the benefits of a work-force that embraces the Pomodoro technique and blah blah blah. I love this technique, but the official literature goes too far. It helps me get work done, and it’s simple. That’s good enough. Doesn’t need to be any deeper than that.

This last week in particular, I’ve actually only got about 1,000 words down but I’ve done so much critical outlining that will make it so much easier to get further in my actual draft that I know next week I’ll get far, far more than that. It felt just as rewarding as any 10,000 word week. It probably won’t work for everyone, but if the word goal structure isn’t working for you, definitely give the Pomodoro technique a look.


Trying Something New: Shoe-boxing

Story tellers are often gifted with a steady drip of new ideas that could become stories. The often discussed issue, of course, is when that drip of ideas starts to become a distraction from our current project.

I love when often my brain fires off a concept that makes me think, ‘oh that’s interesting,’ but I love it less when I’m in the middle of probably the most complex part of the first draft of my current novel. It’s not always easy to put aside the shiny new idea that looks so perfect and full of potential in its undeveloped infancy to push through and finish my current story.

But at the same time, these ideas are valuable to me as possible future projects so I’d also prefer not to banish them so far from thought that I forget all about them.

So how does one preserve these ideas and perhaps even let them incubate in storage while maintaining momentum on their current project?

I think the answer might be a story-building method I learned about at Narrativity (No, I’m not yet done talking about Narrativity, and at this point I’m not sure I’ll ever stop).

I met a writer named Stephen T. Vessels*, who had this sort of desert-sun-soaked version of Leonard-Cohen-coolness about him, and one afternoon I had an opportunity to have a quick craft chat with him. Somehow we got on the subject of how to put a story together.

The way Stephen works (and I think I remember him saying a mentor of his had given him this method, but I unfortunately can’t remember who that was) is to simply let ideas come to him about a given story, write them down on a small card or a slip of paper, and put them in a shoe box dedicated to that story. Then, when you’re ready to start that story properly after accumulating plenty of these idea cards, you pop open the lid, poor out your ideas, and lay them out in front of you. Next, you slide the cards around and try to group them to see what sort of ‘fits.’ These cards can contain concepts for theme, setting, characters, scenes, any of the parts of a story.

Eventually, something resembling a whole will emerge from the different parts. Some cards will get used, others will not. But through this spatial exercise of arranging these small items into a story, one will then be able to start their story or outline.

I really like how open and organic this approach to story development is. Often, when I’m trying to tease out an idea into an actual outline it involves several hours of sitting down in one go, trying to get a rough structure out of just a few concepts. When I outline in this fashion, I usually end up committing to a lot quite early in terms of what I expect the story to become.

This method of saving up ideas in a shoe-box allows a writer to continue to accumulate material while staying away from committing to a specific plot, arc, protagonist, antagonist, whatever. More importantly, it allows the author to not say ‘no’ to anything for quite some time. All ideas are valid and can be dropped in the box. All of those decisions can come later when you’re sitting down to construct something out of all these small parts when you have, ideally, a wealth of ideas to work with.

In her book “A Director Prepares,”** Anne Bogart talks about how every decision an artist makes in the process of creation is one of violence. Her idea is that a commitment to an idea means striking out of existence all the other options that could have been committed to. When outlining via spreadsheet (as I usually do), I’m often writing in only the ideas that seem like reasonable extensions of the preceding beat of the story. And I end up saying ‘no’ to a lot of ideas just because they don’t fit as a natural extension of whatever the last beat I’ve written down is.

My hope, is that if I sit down and start with a whole shoe-box of ideas that have been collected over time, I’ll have all of these interesting ingredients that can be considered fully and might be applied in an interesting way when combined with other concepts.

I write using the Pomodoro Technique*** and in the variation I use; I work on a project for 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute rest, then I repeat. Often times, after a more difficult 30-minute session, I’ll spend 5 minutes day-dreaming about one of those shiny, yet-to-be-troubled-by-the-actual-process-of-writing ideas and come up with a neat characteristic for a person in that story.

I suspect that jotting that idea down on a card and shoe-boxing it to revisit later will be both satisfying in the present and beneficial in the long run.

And it’s that short-term satisfaction that is important in addressing the question of how to effectively give time to new ideas while maintaining focus on the current project. After having shoe-boxed a new thought, I’ll ideally be convinced that I’m doing great work to set my future self up for a fun project and be able to return to the task at hand.

For my own purposes, I’ve decided that no actual shoe-boxes will be involved in this process. Shoe-boxes are pretty big and I like to (try to) keep my work-space uncluttered.

So I’ve decided to use envelopes with the title of the story written on the outside and I’ll be using these blank business cards to write my ideas down on. I’ve picked up this slick little business card holder that I’ll keep in easy reach on my desktop so that when an idea strikes, I can quickly scribble it out and then pack it in its “shoe-box” which will be kept in my drawers for easy access.

I’ve got two stories that I’ll be accumulating cards for in this way. One’s a very short story I’m calling “Husker” right now that I’d like to submit for an upcoming anthology. The other is for the novel I hope to write after I finish my current book.

“Husker” will be unpacked on 8/15 so that I’ve still got a while to write the actual story with. This will be sort of an accelerated test to see how this goes for me. Later this month, I’ll revisit shoe-boxing to talk about how the process felt after collecting more idea cards and attempting to actually build an outline from those cards. I am really, really looking forward to trying this out.


* Stephen T Vessels has some books available that you should absolutely check out. You can find them and his visual art on his website.

** Anne Bogart’s “A Director Prepares” is a collection of seven essays on art that apply to far more than just the theatre. Everyone who likes to make things should read it.

*** The Pomodoro Technique rocks. Find out more about it here.

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Participants Join in Following Pre-Joycean Fellowship’s Playfully Judicious Fervor for Popular, Jaunty Fiction: Narrativity Report Part 2

It’s Saturday, July 13th and I’m eating dinner with new friends at the India Palace in Plymouth, MN. We’re trying to hurry dinner along because we’ve all got to get back to the Crowne Plaza West for the “Pre-Joycean Fellowship Recruitment Panel.” It was the last and only panel for Narrativity’s second evening and it was the only panel in the program without a description.

Rather, it lacks any description beyond a list of its participants: Steven Brust, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, and, as moderator, Jenphalian, all folks who were involved with conceptualizing and running Narrativity. Noting this, I had assumed this would be a centerpiece for the convention. Besides, “Pre-Joycean” and “Fellowship” are big words. How could it not be important?

A cursory Googling led me to a Wikipedia entry on the fellowship where I learned that Shetterly had coined the term and modeled it on the “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” and that Brust had described it as “in large part a joke, and in another large part a way to start literary arguments.”

The Wikipedia page is brief and I don’t really have the literary background to judge the group’s thesis, but, it being at least partially a joke put me in a frame of mind to expect something silly or ironic.

And so the storytellers of Narrativity gathered in front of the panel of speakers to hear the good word of the “PJF.” Will, Emma, and Jenphalian waited patiently to begin. Brust sat in the center wearing a madcap grin.

Emma Bull was tasked with sharing the genesis of the PJF and as she tells it, the Pre-Joycean Fellowship had begun as a response to the extravagances of contemporary literature and this very modern idea that literarture is for the educated and that fiction is for the common folk. It was decided by the founding members at the time that James Joyce was a prominent author during the era in which the division between popular fiction and literary fiction began and so his name was utilized in the expression of the fellowship’s admiration for writing in the style of novels published before this division. (Note: If I understand correctly, I don’t think Joyce is at all blamed for this division. I think his name is used more as a mile marker for the sake of clarity.)

In Part 1 I wrote about how one of the defining features of Narrativity was that its attending body of storytellers was made up of artists of all backgrounds and mediums. So this very academic description of the PJF, which is also self-described as a joke, led to some confusion. A convention that had been grounded and approachable for anyone was now seemingly on the verge of wading out into dense, academic waters. A great many of the Narrativity attendees had voiced their love for contemporary writers. I felt there was some anxiety in the air that perhaps we were about to be told to put down our Ann Leckie, NK Jemisin, and Scott Lynch, and to bury our noses in dense Russian novels where they belonged.

In fact, the dread caused by even discussing literature shows the need to erase the division between academic and popular fiction and the need for the happy manifesto of the PJF.

At some point, concern was voiced that this attitude of holding up the merits of classic literature as a model for contemporary writing was snobbery. I felt a similar concern myself. After all, one of the great joys of the most timeless of stories is that they are universal, and if our stories mimic those stuffy old books won’t they be less accessible and therefore less universal?

Steven made an important distinction here that I think is at the heart of the PJF. The point is not to write your story so that it will be written about by all of the smartest critics in all of the top literary journals. The point is not to write a rip-roaring but disposable story, either.

The point is to try to write something that pleases the casual reader and rewards the close reader. The hypothesis is that what thrills the reader most is a book that excels as entertainment, but also does something more to take advantage of the form in which it exists, whether that’s wordplay, pacing, structure, whatever tool the author uses.

So this love for Pre-Joycean style does not at all exclude our popular contemporaries. John D. MacDonald, author of the hard-boiled Travis McGee novels was brought up as being in line with PJF values.

And so, one could argue, that accessibility should be and is a feature of any successfully Pre-Joycean novel as the entertainment doesn’t happen if the reader has to work too hard to find it. Conversely, a book that might be entertaining might fail to rise to Pre-Joycean standards if it’s so focused on being entertaining that it fails to do anything special.

I find it very hard to disagree with these ideas. Why would an author spend all this time writing a novel if not to create a story that entertains and does something extra to impact the reader? Surely, we can have both just by trying to write the best novel we can.

With this revelation, the whole structure and presentation of Narrativity as a whole sort of clicked for me. This whole gathering was about celebrating really good stories and the acknowledging the continuing effort that we, as writers, must put in to tell our own really good stories. What could be more PJF than that?

So where’s the joke? You might read this post and say, “Joe, you’ve just spent a lot of time describing the literary aspirations of a group that was supposed to be largely a joke and yet all you’ve described is the literary aspirations” and you wouldn’t really be wrong.

I think the joke is in the name of the group. “Pre-Joycean Fellowship” sounds decidedly academic and yet it’s all about creating something that’s inviting to any reader and extra-rewarding to the close reader. Academics enters into it but it’s also sort of egalitarian. And so giving the group this overly-serious name, I think, is a reminder to not take oneself to seriously in the pursuit of the PJF manifesto.

On the Wikipedia page for the PJF, there’s a quote from Tappan King that states “the Pre-Joycean Fellowship exists to poke fun at the excesses of contemporary literature while simultaneously mining it for everything of value.” In this spirit, I can imagine Brust, Bull, or Shetterly flipping through something like Gravity’s Rainbow or The Satanic Verses and rolling their eyes a bit at the try-hard-ness of those works while still finding bits they kind of like and pocketing them for future reference. (They might not like Pynchon or Rushdie at all or love them completely. I’m not sure either were discussed in any detail. Just an example.)

So this having been a recruitment panel for the PJF, how would an interested author go about joining the PJF? Membership is easily granted. To join, an author must simply put the letters “P.J.F.” after their name in the byline or on the title page of something they’ve written.

Like so. (It seems the collected editions of the early Taltos novels unfortunately lack the PJF.)

To be honest, I was kind of hoping a special signet ring or a wax stamp would be the mark of this little fellowship but that’s probably due to the fact that I’ve been reading too many books with secret societies. PJF’s own membership requirements are appropriately modest.

What should one read if they are so inclined to find something Pre-Joycean? Chris Olson, one of the con’s attendant readers and a killer vocalist, suggested Brust’s and Bull’s epistolary novel Freedom & Necessity which uses the elaborate structure of letters written back and forth between the authors as the stories characters to tell their story. Having just finished it, I can confirm that it is both thrilling in its story as well as in its execution of its structure.

Have I joined the PJF?

I’m still thinking about it.


-Joe Heaney, P.J.F.

P.S. I will never apologize for that brutal title.

Oh THIS is what a con can be: Narrativity Report: Part 1

I’ve attended a few writing conventions in my life and come to the conclusion that they really weren’t for me. Some were too geared toward fandom for them to be what I wanted them to be, and those that were craft-oriented had been marred by a lack of focus and ended up unwieldy.

Besides getting the opportunity to meet a couple of authors I really admired, I just wasn’t getting much out of my con experiences and I stopped looking for cons to attend.

Enter Narrativity. I’m not sure where I first heard about it but I’m guessing it was in a tweet from Steven Brust. Here was this little convention that would be gathering writers together for its inaugural session just fifteen minutes from my home city of Fridley. The cost was next to nothing compared to other cons I had attended so I looked deeper.

What really caught my interest was the single-track programming, the idea being that because there would be only one panel going on at any given time there would no reason for conversation to not carry over from one panel to the next. Conversation could go potentially deeper because each panel would be part of a continuous over-arching conversation and not contained within the boundaries of its sixty-minute time-frame.

There were two other notes about the intentions of Narrativity that I thought were quite cool: 1. The con was about craft and improving at the craft of storytelling specifically. 2. Storytelling was the broad craft to be discussed and all disciplines of folks who tell stories would be welcome to participate.

I’m tipping my hand here by cutting from the decision to sign up to the end of the con, but I feel it necessary to lead in to the “Con Report” portion of this post with the framing that Narrativity was an absolute, unmitigated success and that I left Sunday night feeling so completely in love with stories and determined to tell some really good ones.

The programming was important in realizing the success of Narrativity. We had panels on “message” fiction, how to keep growing as a storyteller, the “chewy” bits, “competance porn,” knowing when you’re done, and others. There were a couple of panels where the invited panelists were non-writers who talked about reading and what effect good writing had on readers. The number of panels hadn’t seemed like a lot when reading them off on the online agenda, but in practice they were plentiful and, to borrow a much discussed term from the con, “chewy.”

The one bit of programming that I had kind of arched an eyebrow at was the little paragraph at the bottom of that page of the website that mentioned there would be ‘music circles’ at the end of each evening. This didn’t really surprise me to see because I knew that the one doing the programming, Steven Brust, is also a musician. The reason I was at all feeling dubious of it was that I’d been to theatre school and I’ve seen many a music circle in my time. Music circles that I’ve attended have often tended towards unfettered self-indulgence and wanton belting of show tunes (Nothing against show tunes, I just can’t handle continuous wanton belting).

But the music circles were excellent. I, surprising myself a bit, joined in sing-alongs of “Barrett’s Privateers,” listened to sea-shanties, and took in some lovely, earned performances of a couple show-tunes. It was good, warm, welcoming fun (the warmness caused in equal parts by good songs and good scotch).

And that warm, welcoming feeling was perhaps the strongest feature of Narrativity. There was no ego, no stratification, no ranks expressed in the three days spent at the Crown Plaza. We were simply storytellers all, sharing our experiences and trusting that the experience of others passionate about our common art form would aid us in our own growth.

On any given panel, you might have seen an author working on their first romance novel, a neuro-scientist who works in the realm of poetry and fanfic, a self-published urban fantasy author, a small press publisher, and an author published by DAW or some other household name. You might even hear from a painter or a photographer.

And the panels were better for it. The varying viewpoints and levels of experience only served to deepen the conversation. (I know I’m leaving out the specifics of what I gained from listening to the panels but this post is getting long enough and I still have enough to chew on in that subject that I think I’ll reserve that for another post.)

Just by virtue of the books mentioned, and generously tracked by con attendees and con organizer Liz A. Vogel, one can tell what an astounding range of discussion took place.

It was an incredible experience and one that I’m really looking forward to repeating in 2020.

Across the Swans: Revenge of the Sith and Squid Lake

Production on Revenge of the Sith is well under way when George Lucas decides there are far too many scenes taking place in the Chancellor’s office. He has an important scene to film and setting yet another conversation in Palpatine’s high-rise work-space will diminish its significance.

So essential is this scene to the Star Wars Saga at large that George has the idea to set it within an actual in-universe event, a grand aquatic ballet of sorts which he names Squid Lake.

Lucas makes a call to Ryan Church, a concept design supervisor for the film, and makes a request for the scene’s new backdrop. As Church tells it:

“My now-wife and I were going out to dinner and I got a call, which I rarely did, asking me to develop ideas for a scene that George wanted to change. He wanted the scene to take place at a ballet or an opera. He said, ‘Think about it being Swan Lake, or Squid Lake with squid guys.’ So I was thinking that we could do a space twist on a water ballet and have this giant ball of water in zero-gravity.”

Concept Design Supervisor Ryan Church, 2005

When put that way, the choice seems outlandish, even a bit silly. But the scene, of course, is now emblematic of Anakin’s descent. It’s Palpatine testing the waters to see if he could bring Anakin Skywalker under his influence as a potential Sith Apprentice. We see how easily Anakin takes the bait.

Seated at the ballet, Anakin learns from Palpatine that the Sith are said to be able to stop death. Anakin has been plagued by visions of Padme in agony during childbirth and fears she won’t live through it. This revelation from Palpatine gives Anakin the oppurtunity to succeed where before he failed: he could save Padme, and never lose anyone again the way he lost his mother.

And in his hubris, Anakin believes he can open himself to the dark side to learn this power and save his wife and that everything will be fine.

What could possibly go wrong?

Lucas’ use of an in-universe stand-in for Swan Lake as a backdrop for this scene is apt. Anakin’s story is a thematic parallel of Siegfried, the knightly protagonist of Swan Lake and Palpatine could easily play the part of Rothbart, the antagonist. And that makes Padme Odette, the Swan/Squid Maiden.

Swan Lake tells us the story of Siegfried, a newly-knighted prince and how his own noble ambition brings the destruction of his kingdom, the woman he loves, and ultimately, himself.

The story begins with a celebration held in honor of Siegfried’s new rank. He has come of age and is rewarded with prestige, not unlike Anakin who in Episode III has just returned from serving in the Clone Wars and is to be awarded medals for his exemplary service.

Siegfried, though, is uninterested in all of this frivolous pomp. Even though everything in his life seems to be going well (he has nobility, prestige, friends) he is melancholy. He knows that however successful he may be he will never be able to follow his heart and marry for love. It is forbidden. As a prince, he will be married off for the sake of growing his royal family’s power.

While Anakin may not be a prince, he is the chosen one and a Jedi knight despite being far too old to be taken on as a Padawan when he was brought to the temple years ago. He has a great master and is respected by his soldiers. And yet, Anakin is made miserable at the thought of being without Padme. He, like Siegfried, balks at the idea he should not be allowed to marry for love and so he has.

In an attempt to rid Siegfried of his depression, his friends take him off into the woods on a hunt and they come upon a flock of swans swimming on a lake. Somehow, Siegfried is separated from his friends but finds a lone swan. As he aims his crossbow at the swan, it transforms into a beautiful woman named Odette.

She recounts to Siegfried how she was transformed into a swan by the evil Rothbart and that his spell can only be broken by a virgin youth who swears to marry her and remain faithful to her. Luckily for her, Siegfried is just such a virgin and is already madly in love with Odette. He immediately promises to marry her. Before he leaves, Odette warns him that if he should betray her, she will be left under this evil spell and remain a swan forever.

But Siegfried would never betray Odette. That would be like Anakin betraying Padme. They’re happy. Why should anything change?

Enter evil wizards.

Rothbart is very attached to the idea of ruining things for Odette as well as Siegfried’s kingdom. So when he hears that a dance is being held in the prince’s home, he decides it’s the perfect opportunity to trick Siegfried into betraying Odette.

How does Rothbart know about Odette and Siegfried? This is sort of dependent on the specific production of Swan Lake. He finds out one way or another, but what’s important is that he’s found out; in the same way that Palpatine casually reveals that he somehow found out not only that Anakin is secretly married to Padme but that Anakin fears for Padme’s life.

Rothbart’s scheme involves transforming his daughter Odile into a seductive likeness of Odette. When Odile arrives at the dance, Siegfried is overjoyed that his love is in attendance. They dance and everyone in court can immediately see how truly overjoyed Siegfried is by this woman.

When Siegfried and Odile dance, he falls entirely under her and Rothbart’s spell. As the dance concludes, Siegfried proposes to Odile.

When he does, the kingdom is shrouded in darkness and swept away by floods. Siegfried, now alone, rushes to the lake to find Odette to beg her forgiveness for betraying her.

But if Revenge of the Sith is Swan Lake and Padme is Odette, then who is Odile? The answer is also Padme. Or rather Anakin’s idea of Padme once his temptation to the dark side has begun.

Troubled by his visions, Anakin’s fear of losing Padme causes him to act selfishly. He takes it upon himself to protect her through means that he has chosen without input from Padme. Anakin now sees Padme as his to protect. This idea of Padme as a possession is Anakin’s Odile.

Palpatine leading Anakin to believe that only through the dark side can Anakin save Padme is his Rothbart-esque way of encouraging Anakin’s changing perspective of Padme.

Similarly, Siegfried allows himself to be seduced by the deceitful Odile, a glorified image of Odette conjured by Rothbart designed to prey on Siegfried’s vulnerabiltiy, his insatiable need for companionship.

The ending of Swan Lake depends on the production but generally Odette is doomed to remain as a swan. What happens to Siegfried varies greatly, but the ending chosen by the Bolshoi is particularly interesting.

In their production, Siegfried is swept up in a battle with fate incarnate, summoned by Rothbart. Siegfried fights bravely trying to escape his fate but in the end “is made weak by his single combat with fate” and “finds himself alone on the empty banks of the lake of his dreams.”

Fate, in Revenge of the Sith, is represented by Obi-Wan Kenobi. While Kenobi’s presence on Mustafar serves mostly to satisfy the inevitable conflict between the master and his former apprentice that was first referenced by Vader in A New Hope, he is also there to represent the Jedi as a whole as it is the order of the Jedi that, through misguided action, set Anakin on his path to the dark side by taking him from his mother.

Anakin’s combat with Obi-Wan is then symbolic of Anakin confronting the entire Jedi for their original sin against him. He rages against his former master but as in Siegfried’s case, it is too late and his fate is sealed.

Obi-wan defeats Anakin and leaves him alone on the empty banks of the fiery lakes of Mustafar.

In that opera house on Coruscant, Anakin sits disinterested in what Palpatine has to say until Palpatine mentions the tragedy of Darth Plagueis. Anakin is roused from his boredom. There’s a cut and the camera now takes the viewer behind Anakin as he turns and looks at Palpatine and wonders why the Chancellor of the Republic is speaking of Sith lords.

It’s the very start of Palpatine’s temptation of Anakin to the dark side. And as Anakin engages Palpatine and seals his fate, we see between them the Mon Calmari swimmers playing out our hero’s impending fall.


  1. https://www.awn.com/vfxworld/otherworldly-concept-designs-ryan-church
  2. https://www.bolshoi.ru/en/performances/36/libretto/
  3. Revenge of the Sith Director’s Commentary

Dreaded FAQ

What’s Dreaded Center?

Dreaded Center is a work-in-progress hub for projects by Joe Heaney.

What kind of content can I expect?

Expect blogs about writing, storytelling, Star Wars, more Star Wars, and updates on Joe’s writing projects.

When do you post?

Look for new posts every Sunday.

Where did the title come from?

It’s derived from a Campbell quote, naturally:

The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center.

-Joseph Campbell