INKBLOTS – 4/17/2011
At the Bond’s place, just three of us tonight, the founder of the ‘Blots working 12s at the shipyard, shielding subs, helping keep the wolf from the door (when he’s not writing, that is). John S brought along a Celliers des Dauphins French blend, Grenache, syrah (his daughter married a Frenchman, for real).
I read some of D M Kaplan, Revision, chapter on stylistic revision of glitches. Read about replacing vague language with specific and concrete, general nouns with concrete: “something heavy” replaced with “rock,” and active verbs, “picked up” replaced with “snatched,” all more specific. All this creates verisimilitude, readers then feeling like they’re there, can see, smell, touch, taste—be empirical.
Discussed Ned’s Africa story ideas. There’s no one with more material from first-hand experience than Ned who grew up in Africa as a missionary kid, then returned as a young adult to lead safaris. We’ve got to get this guy writing. He’s at ‘Blots, so that’s good.
John is reading an expanded version of a chapter that he says, I said, “What did you put that in there for?” I don’t remember asking it nearly that bluntly, gracious, longsuffering—that’s me, right? I recall asking (graciously, of course) “How does this chapter advance the rising action of your plot?”
I think John needs to find original names for people; avoid using names of people we know; it’s disconcerting; I see the faces of real people we all know, and sometimes not in a good light (sometimes it’s me). Easy to replace with find-and-replace function on Word. I felt like the story dragged with the wet clothes after the dousing when fly fishing. It’s critical that these details be tight, advance the story, and not derail the momentum of the plot. “Strikingly beautiful,” in dialog from guys from Oregon sounded to my ear too high register (sorry anyone reading this from Oregon—same applies for Washington, where I’m writing this). Dialog is the “greatest hits” of real conversation. I ask myself how these unique characters would actually say things, and keep the best things they say. Kill the rest. Replace “tears of joy flowing down her face,” an overworked cliché, with a fresh description of this phenomenon.
“Just exactly what does this have to do with the story,” one of your characters asked. I felt like that made sense here, and you felt the same in your writer’s gut, didn’t you? That’s why you wrote this, I think. All of which, alerts you to tighten and move the pace forward with intentionality. Your reader should not be encouraged to ask this about what you’re writing, and here it makes sense. All of which, means be concise. Write with more intentionality to your plot objectives. Connection to Emma’s secret about being pregnant; maybe she can be reacting (over) to listening in to the conversation, thus, keeping the thread of the big story before the reader’s imagination. She should be worried that they know, that their conversation has implication to her indiscretions, and condition.
We talked about historical fiction and how much fiction when the real history is happening. For example, could I have Alexander be the sniper? I read the chapter entitled, The Assassin, which Ned thought was too long, too many different elements going on. Then Ned came up with the most helpful solution to my problem. I’ll add it as a separate post. Way to go, Ned! Thanks heaps.