Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Inkblots, children's story--15th century biography--WWII historical fiction--and some poetry

INKBLOTS January 31, 2012
Washington rain not snow, Edna Valley, CA Pinot Noir, crackling fire, four men ready to read, critique, and then head back to the drawing board.

John Schrupp (pictured at left) started a new book! I had suggested that he work on a children’s book for his grandchildren: French Cousins. I like the title already. I really like his title for his contemporary fiction novel, Saving Grace (he had to change the female protagonist’s name to achieve the double entendre). French Cousins (John’s daughter is married to Lionel Jauvert, a true blue Frenchman, so he has Franco/Yanko grandkids, adorable ones too). 

I think you should add some dialog. Good straightforward narrative, but kids like to hear other kids talking, being excited. Show how kids talk when they are excited. I also think it would be improved by telling the story from the point of view of one of the children. Maybe you could switch from book to book, keeping a balance between each of the kids as you go. The dominant point of view makes it more real, immediate. Instead of ‘they took a nap,’ ‘they visited the canals in Amsterdam,’ ‘they saw this or that,’ you would write ‘Ruben crammed his croissant into his mouth, Nutella smudging his chin.’ Then show the world through Ruben’s eyes, the other children involved but not dominant, until their turn later in the series.

Better fifth chapter, with more dialog, including French, but translated. Maybe you could have the children asked about why Uncle Lionel pronounces things with music in his voice or if you want to be mean you could call it something else—don’t.

Doug McComas talked about our work on Savonarola and the need to eliminate unnecessary words, particularly valuable is writing in active voice, more immediate, and fewer words needed to say what you’re trying to say. Active voice is when the subject doing the action; passive voice is when the word order has the subject receiving action. For example, “The luggage was carried by the children.” That’s passive voice. “The children carried the luggage.” That’s active voice, and it is two words shorter. If in seven words you lose two, imagine in a 30,000 word biography how many unnecessary words are eliminated by writing in active voice.

Doug McComas went back after working on Savonarola and edited his Monte Casino WWII historical fiction, getting rid of lots of unnecessary words. His protagonist is meeting Christians, different flavored ones, including Roman Catholics. His friend has blast lung, and is recovering, but painfully slowly. Give me a bit more of the volume of sound, the rattling of windows, and the unsettling feeling it produces in the pit of the stomach. It sounds too relaxed for the proximity to the battle.

The description of the Hindu didn’t land in my imagination; what was he doing? The six inches lost me. New Zealanders are not as snobbishly refined as you seem to make them, in my experience with them (just on the phone with a gaggle of them last week—wonderful folks, gotta love ‘em). They tend to be easy going, scornful of snobbery, proud of their ruggedness and hearty life.

I read my Hymn to Synergism, just for fun, I guess. Then I read part of the last chapter of our Savonarola biography, due at Evangelical Press in the UK tomorrow! Several helpful critiques from the men. Thanks Brendon Welch! Then we talked about the importance of varying our syntax, with appositive phrases, for example. And we talked about how much they are our friends, crisp, clean noun descriptive phrases.        

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