INKBLOTS, December 15, 2011
Doug McComas leads off with a chapter from our new adult biography on Savonarola. He broke off a few times to express his frustration at the challenges of the new genre, adult non-fiction. Reading aloud is like sweeping a dusty room on a dry hot day—dust flying everywhere. “Wow, I’m starting to break into a sweat here.” Was this Lorenzo or Girolamo who said this? Oh, it was McComas. Some very good specific description of Lorenzo’s banking and lavish lifestyle. Remember to keep the Savonarola thread as you establish the Florentine context. Especially with a 30,000 word count, which goes so fast.
I read the introduction to our Savonarola biography. McComas suggested that I tighten up the part about the Duomo. Ken observed that whatever the genre we need to be telling a story. Avoid great information and facts but not conveyed in story. Story is what everyone loves.Good point always.
Ken reads a play he and his wife collaborated on writing. Episcopalian priest, boys school, taught by Father Flye, St Andrews, Sewanee. WW II with letters, taken prisoner by Japanese officer who had studied at Cambridge and knew Latin, and so conversed with Alice’s father who had studied under Father Flye and had learned Latin. Saves Alice’s father’s life by getting medicine to him. The officer later died on Okinawa. Alice and Jun (guy) at 60’s nightclub. Romance scene between two very incompatible people, dog and monkey. Love triangle motif. Though it is a bit hard to follow—not the fault of the writing, but of the medias res entry (midway in drama)—it is engaging dialogue, authentic, fast-pace, true-to-life. Then Ken let it out that he originally wrote the dialogue in Japanese and translated it to what it is. A friend of his told him that no Japanese would have ever written this. I’m afraid of trying to write live theatre. But Ken told us all that we should try our hand at it. It seems to me that there is such a multi-faceted deal with drama, the drama text itself that the playwright pens is only one component. Ken promised to read us more (at our insistence). Fun material.
John S up. Re-wrote chapter after reading the blog from the last ‘Blots meeting. Emma, protagonist of John’s contemporary fiction, reflecting on her life in Lyons and her circumstances, now pregnant, the father a race her own father had no time for. Aaron drowns a fly in his soup. The kids had just heard that they were not natural born, but adopted. Would it be realistic for her to have forgotten the shocking news she just dropped on her family: that she was pregnant? Is this important to what you are trying to do here? This is much improved, I think, over the first reading of it. I feel like it is dragging when you bring in Confucius. I feel like it is stalled here, a bit. I think you need to keep the pace moving, shorter flashes to her inner thoughts (important to keep these) but tighten them. “Sigh of relief” is awfully overused; try an alternate description of this common phenomenon. Fun joke with dog and wife, though I think you have to be a husband to get it. Vary sentence and paragraph beginning; the first seven paragraphs began with “She.” Write with point of view integrity, so that you deduce that the parents were exhausted, rather than just saying that they were, which would be a shift to their point of view.
John S read a bit of Hemmingway, who he has made in no uncertain terms that he does not much like Mr. No-Adjective. Ken jumps back in with comments about the importance of not stating that someone was angry, but show them anger. Show, don’t tell. Back to Hemmingway, Big, Two-Hearted River. This title from the guy who says to use no adjectives! Lots about grasshoppers. Virtually no dialogue, all narrative. John finds him repetitive and redundant and says things over and over; did I mention that John thinks he repeats himself? Just goes on and on like that. Meanders along. Old Man in the Sea, D McComas liked. We talked about how old films seem too slow now, and that may not be a good thing, benumbed as we are by action films with clipped dialogue. Not necessarily a good thing, we all agreed. Though the reality is that some old novels would never be published today. There are some genuine improvements in standard of writing and story telling.