INKBLOTS – November, 2010
Wind is blowing hard, rain, dark evening, fire crackling in the sitting room at the McComas’ home, and while I was reading chapter five of The Thundering, a novel on John Knox, branches, good-sized ones, fell on the roof and everything suddenly went black--power outages all over the region, including chunks of Tacoma, especially northend where we live. Crossing the Narrows Bridge in it was reminiscent of November 7, 1940 when Galloping Gertie galloped into the deeps of the channel. I'm happy to report that the new bridge held out as we drove home. All of which made for a mysterious and memorable evening. John brought along a fine bottle of Canoe Ridge, 1999 merlot.
Dougie Mac led off with his new tale of 1950 era, Korean missionary kid, comes home, gets married, finds himself in Marine Corps in Korean War, desperate to find his lost missionary parents. That’s the summary. Dougie read chapter one. Opening with protagonist tinkering with his beloved car, sniffing engine oil—good opening scene, giving us insight into what makes his protagonist tick. Thomas, protagonist and interaction with his dad; father and son at seventeen, curious observation from a guy who has all girls! But it brings up a good point about how important being a keen observer of people, especially ones whose lives are different from our own. Some favorite lines that made us laugh: Just me and the guys, Dad (after asking if he could go to the drive in). (Dad’s laconic reply) Exactly. Doug has a good grasp of the nuanced interplay between different players, cars, even Baptists and Presbyterians (written by a guy who’s been both, either, or, and). This is boy/girl candidly romantic story from the point of view of Christian-raised church guys feeling the pull of the world’s view of sex and romance. A bit over written, in a place or two, though after I had you reread it, it sounded pretty good, so be careful as you edit and revise here. Stands out to me that Thomas’s thoughts about his friends baiting him, and going too far in conversation about girls, and wishing he didn’t always go along with them. Dave pointed out that Lester and Frankie seemed like the same character, different name, a good observation. John kept saying, I liked it. You do a really good job.
Dave read a rewrite of part of his futuristic thriller magnum opus. Cory sitting by himself reading his Bible. Josh asked his uncle how he can know that God loves us. Mom, Mommy, and tears. This seems to be a bit out of the blue, but that may be that I have not kept the big picture together. A witnessing scene is difficult to pull off with authenticity—hard to write what is true and good without trivializing the very thing the well-intentioned author so wants to convey. The danger is actually doing the opposite of what one intends to do: the grand and glorious becomes the sentimental and banal. I’ve had to confront this many times in my writing, it seems. May I suggest going inside Josh’s head (the unbeliever) and make him scoff internally, show him being two faced, being nice and polite to his uncle but in his mind hating him, thinking he’s an ignorant simpleton, thinking he knows better than his uncle and all Christians. Work toward helping your reader see through the fallacies of the critic of the gospel. By showing his unfair scorn, his irrational rejection, his mocking of the witness his uncle, you the writer, thereby, help the reader shift to a more serious consideration of the truth of the gospel. John was pretty blunt about not liking the non-chalance of the killing scene, killing three guys after some effort at evangelism, then drinking a milk shake together. Be careful not to tack on evangelism and Christianity to legitimize your tale. Look for a key phrase that epitomizes the protagonist’s problem: Enemy of God… Weave it throughout, developing it as you go.
John reads new first chapter. “Think we’ll have any trouble tonight?” Dougie when he heard this said, “He’s dead.” Careful of being too predictable. This is a police bust of a gang deal going down in a warehouse in Detroit inner-city. Music softly playing… kids and music softly playing. Softly? Andy’s left eye began to twitch. Shooting, getting shot, being confronted by vengeful gang banger. Good work with the cop talking to the gang member, buying time. Make the officer who’s down, go inside his pain, what does that feel like, so your reader feels the downed officer’s agony from gunshot wound. And more family reflection of his wife, personal things, his kids, his horror that the gang banger is threatening to kill his wife and children. Have the partners earlier chatting about kid’s birthday party next day or that evening. Have his partner down be able to fire, save Andy’s life from the execution style shooting about to happen. Chapter one ends with gun shot, Andy thinks it was for him, all fades to black. Chapter two begins: it was his partner that he thought was dead who shot the gang banger.