INKBLOTS – November 29, 2011
Blustery, cold, wet night—rain pounding on the windows. Feels like we should be writing mysteries set in moldy old castles, with hounds slavering and wailing down below. We talked about why people pierce and tattoo themselves; John concluded, “I guess we all have done dumb things.” The youngest among us, Aaron asked a workmate, “So what’s that going to look like when you’re 70?” Dougie introduced us to his new computer and his challenge converting Works to Word. Pinot Noir… nice, for a pinot. And Dougie Mc has a book contract. Real deal, UK publisher (they like gun-toting hicks from South Kitsap).
John reading 2nd chapter from the end of his contemporary novel on abortion and sanctity of human life. Done lots of work on the chapter but left his flash drive at work… at work? What? John writing at taxpayer’s expense? Read solemn passage, revealing that the kids were adopted by an uncle. Andy as he felt his heart drop at the news: hmm. Is that the best way to convey this? Don’t over write about distrusting parents; maybe go deeper into the head and heart of Emma and her reaction. Good defense of adoption. I was asked to review Rescued, a feature film on adoption done by the Wintons, great folks in California, family bluegrass band, extraordinaire, and filmmakers too. Tilting her head, shaking her head, wiping hand across her forehead, giggles all around—can you deepen these motions? Aaron suggested more violent reaction, a glass knocked over and breaking. You’re right to want to show reaction and emotional response, but dig deeper. More pauses, silent unbelief, go inside head and describe her turmoil at the revelation. Group hug? What? No way? You didn’t really put that in there, did you? Small tear in his left eye, good effort at being specific, but can you show this without using the word tear? “Well, little lady,” he said, giving his best impersonation of John Wayne, then finish the quotation. Very large sum of money—give that scale: She offered me enough money to retire with your mother in Maui—place on the beach, with cash to spare. Try something more like that.
Now is when we throw off the gloves and hit him. Good plan to connect adoption as a corrective to abortion, but I wonder if you need to show the connection a bit more clearly. Don’t be too overt, but I think the reader needs to see a dawning realization of the connection. If Emma was adopted, is it too much to have Emma’s birth mother to have been planning to abort her. And I didn’t get a real sense, and keep that sense, of place while all this is going: get up and walk to the window, looking out on what and thinking what about it? The cat tries to cuddle up with Emma, gets shoved off her lap, squeaking of the rails of a rocking chair, the sizzling of burning pitch in the wood stove—more of the context, heard, seen, felt. Fly circling overhead, jake brakes from a semi, grumbling along the highway out the window. Give me place and tension as the news settles in.
Dougie next. The bombing of Monte Casino. Getting to know Maria’s family better, after saving them from the lecherous Algerian soldiers. Meets French friend. Abbey south of Rome, bombed by Allies, February, 1944, strategic site, bombed to get Germans out, who weren’t there but moved in soon thereafter. Can you show homesick without saying it: I found myself thinking about my mom, and my dog Adolf, and the one-eyed rooster crowing out back, and the [favorite meal, details]. She’s not such a nice woman after all—does this mean Maria isn’t nice? I wasn’t clear here. I too have used the *** to indicate a break in episode, but I have begun to reassess using them more in recent writing projects. Most of the time when I have used these in the past it was because I wasn’t writing as cohesively as I ought to have been. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for them, but much less often than I used to think. Consider recasting to avoid too many of these. Turn, turn, turn. Why are the soldiers so eager to see the abbey bombed when they know it has no Germans in it? Residual frustration with anything Italian, since they just switched sides a month ago. I don’t see as clearly the actual devastation of the abbey by the bombing. Can you describe it with more structural specifics? How far away are they from the bombing? I had a hard time positioning them in relation to the abbey and the bombing. Can you give them place? And I also didn’t get a sense of the noise and the feel of bombs as they hit. Specific dislocations from the bombing, window breaking, roof tiles falling, or other specifics, including smells, smarting in the eyes, cries of onlookers, wails of women, beating of the breast.
A bit more turmoil of mind over Maria; she’s a Catholic; he’s a Presbyterian; she’s Italian; he’s American, far from home, lonely, longing for life, progeny, is this real love or just infatuation with a beautiful, dark-eyed woman, smiling down on me, far from home? Have him recollect the ridiculous liaisons that soldiers entered into under the intoxication of war, the putting together of lonely man and attractive woman.
I’m up and reading from recent rapid-fire biography on Augustus Toplady, written for Evangelical Press in UK. Dougie wondered what the purpose of the intro was and if I had not explained clearly that Toplady has been largely misrepresented by history. He also suggested that I bring in a few other cross-references to history beyond British history, more on American colonies, continental Europe, creating a wider appeal to broader cross-section of potential readers. We talked a bit more about the Savonarola book contract with EP, John having been to a number of places related to his life in Florence.