Wednesday, May 9, 2012

'Blots on Writing and Banding Cattle, no joke!

John when Dougie Mac is reading
INKBLOTS, May 8, 2012

We broke 70 degrees and had (for us) sunlight, you know, the big round warm thing we hear about but seldom see. Rain coming again. Ménage a trois and seven of us tonight. D Mac oriented new comers to our 'Blots routine, with reference to what we hope to accomplish together... and to what we hope not to accomplish: throttling each other when under the knife of critique.

John read an eulogy Jim P wrote for his father who recently passed away. I would have had another father if he had been killed in the war. He thought of his family first and this made a profound impression on Jim. Jim had an engaging prose style, with Brit wit, understatement down to a fault. Jim, who was brought to living faith in his early fifties, was the instrumentality used by the Spirit of God to bring his father to Christ. This eulogy has particular value in illustrating the beauty of the grace of God in the gospel. Tasteful, I think, use of potentially off color content, I think.

D Mac goes next, hey, it's his house. This is Doug's epic on a German family caught up in Hitler's World War II. Three brothers in WW I, with divergent paths eventually taking one of the brother to Africa, another to South America. Rudy's trip to Africa. I think the situational humor you wanted to create, i think, didn't quite come off. Close, but not quite there. He needs to endure the withering stare of the ticket taker a tiny bit longer. Maybe the railway official has a mannerism he always does when Rudy says he wants a ticket to Africa, also letting the reader know that Rudy does this. We need a tiny bit more to make this work. But don't over write it. Ha, it's tough to achieve the exact balance, but worth the careful attention to it. Good job putting description of the city and the church and the Elbe River into the perspective of the protagonist. You've avoided dangling description well here. Have him do something specific as he waits looking at the crane loading the ship, instead of hanging around wondering what to do. Show this with him doing something young men might do at the sea side or docks.  Eyes on him like an anvil... Not sure this metaphor works. Dickens character... Not sure that one actually lands either.

John said he couldn't see the train or the dock and couldn't make sense of why the captain asked him aboard. Good comments. Essentially John said, show us what's going on, don't tell us, and give us enough to be there. Adam noticed that he was excited and had a sense of adventure but then quickly fell asleep. Not what Adam does when he is filled with a sense of adventure. Usually hard to sleep when excited. Jim commented on the point of view being German, the enemy during both world wars. Good suspense created. Jenny felt drawn into the story. How many books planned. Four or five through world war II. With post world war Germany continuing the tale. Families broken up and scattering.

Let's talk about readership and publishability. Is this not maybe three adult novels, an epic trilogy. Just wondering about hooking a publisher to publish six volumes from the point of view of the enemy for young adults, might be a hard sell. I don't know. Jenny commented, as a mother homeschooling her children, that she would want assurances that to invest time in reading this to her children she would want to know that this book was not going to confuse her children about the moral issues at stake in the World Wars. Good point. The concern is that this might be too complex a drama for young adult fiction. Brilliant idea, and good writing, but is it hitting its target? Will it be accessible to a Christian publisher, like P&R, publishing books to be read by American kids whose grandfathers fought Germans, some died, and it cost so much. I agree that this is a unique and creative perspective, and therefore a likely best seller, but needs careful targeting. Jim wants to know what the redeeming purpose of the series will be? Several of the family characters will be converted to Christ. Carl D says this story resonates with his family. His mother in law was a two year old on the last train leaving Poland in 1939, Hitler snarling at the gate.

I think I want to smell the dockyard, here the screeching of the train wheels on the rails, his reaction to it all, anxious, timorous, a bundle of shivers, as Dickens terms Pip.

Adam reads for us. He just launched in. Birds coasting on the breeze overhead, good description. Tallis was a mouse. I love the way you confuse us, for just long enough, and then let it slip that Tallis was a mouse. I feel Brian Jacques and maybe an improvement on his much-loved Redwall series. Frederick is an aristocratic title for a mouse. Good reading too. Death by acorns, aahh. Giles who is nine would love this, just as he does the Redwall series. Eyes showing courage, how so? Showing us, not telling us. Put the history of the war with the squirrels into conversation, imbed it in the real characters. He will the biblical references work out with the fictional fantasy world you are creating. This was enthusiastically received, Adam, and thanks for reading it. Keep writing! John launched in. He wondered if the squirrels were too young to be in combat. Attributions were a bit much. You don't always need to attribute speakers if the reader would know who was speaking.

John reads, again! Sheesh, what a writing hog (Smile)! French Cousins, written by a loving grandfather for his grand kids, French ones and Yank ones. Gran gran said, this building used to be... I think you will find it more effective to start the dialog and then pause at the end of the first phrase and attribute it to grandfather. Good use of sound devices, bang, bang. Have the lady actually use the words as she describes how it all works with the balls and the valves. Good job having the kids chime in with who they are going to be. Really cool castle... How about a castle that looked like the one the French cousins had seen at Lac Leman, Chateau de Chillon. I think if it is French cousins, they should be teaching each other some language, don't you? Jenny suggest that the kids would be more excited when the train comes, and there would be train sounds, screeching, clanging. Introducing the rooms was a bit tedious.

Carl read a blog post he wrote about his dog, Polly. Dave Berry or John Piper? Possum chased by his dog, Polly. I like the way you interpret Polly's distaste for another member of the animal kingdom. A snippet of life. Is there a lesson to be drawn from this episode in redemptive life? Unexpected hostile encounters with sin, temptation, the unexpected disappointed?

Good analysis of the word stress, which rarely, almost never, appears in the Bible. Thinking biblically means sticking with biblical categories. Stress is not one of them, although the Bible does guide us in how to deal with trials and troubles.

D Mac asked Carl to pull further on Romans 8:28. Beyond just being a stoic, Que sera, sera? John pointed out that possum are tough dudes, hard to kill. They ' play possum.' John liked the story without needing any life lesson drawn from the piece. I mention Tim Challies' blog. He does a great job of thinking God's thoughts after him, in everything we are experiencing and observing in the world around us, possums to family transitions. Carl told us about a blog post yet unpublished. He was asked in his rural  community where he pastors a small congregation to help band cattle, which he didn't understand, until he was told to wrestle a young bull to the ground so they could 'band' the young beast, who, poor thing, will never have posterity going on a quest for their Scottish heritage.

Jim R read a poem to round out the night. About getting old. Crouching down and finding one is stuck. Atrophy of legs and back and spine (Jim doesn't seem that old to me). All remain the same. This occasional poem came from his own experience of getting stiff at a time when he desperately wanted and needed to be nimble, and found he was not. He talked about rhyming and the popular impulse to write free verse, what is in so many cases merely fragmented prose with a high brow attitude. He sort of apologized for rhyming. We assured him rhyming is good, can be, in any event.

Good discussion of writing and life followed. This was a good night, indeed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment