INKBLOTS -- May 31, 2012
South African Springbok red, four diehard 'Blots. David shared with us about final editing frustrations, thinking he'd caught everything, then his fifteen-year-old daughter picked up on thirty plus typos. John opened with a Shakespeare polka, that didn't make much sense to me tonight (got my fifth jury duty summons in two years this evening, smack in the middle of my writing summer, too cruel). Then John read a piece from his blog (Writer's Block) on using descriptive language. Good exercise to warm up the imagination for using the senses when you're preparing to write, and written with a feeling of ease.
John reads Road to Heaven, by Alisa Wise (former student of mine). Make that five men, Andy S strolling in the door after we had begun. Always glad to see Andy (UW English Lit major in college, perceptive critiques come from his informed imagination). Instead of telling us that he was reminiscing over old feats in battle, let us hear him do it in some dialogue. I felt like the hook was missing, heavy on the narrative, but I couldn't feel and see the characters as clearly as I'd like to. I didn't get the clear sense of who I was supposed to care about, from whose perspective I was supposed to see the world. Give me somebody I get connected to, whose problem I want to be fixed, someone who demands the reader's attention. Great potential, and amazing that Alisa first wrote this half her life ago, almost.
David is working on a sequel to his futuristic thriller, in the final stages of the editing process with Winepress. Somebody is going to get shot and somebody is going to get kidnapped. Militia coming in hot pursuit. Splintering nations.
We talked about outlining the whole story, mapping where you think you are going or just let the story unfold. I'm of the opinion that we need to do as much careful mapping and planning at the early stages, but with no rigid obligation to stick with the original plan as the story unfolds. Nothing is more delightful than when inspiration hits and you feel like you are along for the ride, and what a ride it can be. But this is hardly the stock and store of good writing. No substitute for the hard work of planning and plotting, but be prepared to deviate when the characters and real life world take over, if you have created an authentic world, this can happen. Though it is not absolutely necessary to writing a good yarn.
When is description gratuitous and unnecessary? Flowery description, sentimentalized goo. Mahogany paneling only if needed for atmosphere, or connection to a character whose father died mysteriously in a Honduran rain forest, and he can't abide mahogany. It enrages him, the smell, the texture, the blood-red streaks in the grain. Mahogany madness ensues. You get the idea. Keep it connected; make sure every word has work to do.
D Mac is reading from his World War I tale, November, 1914. On the Elbe River, Rudy is a cabin boy, taking over from one who lasted little more than a few days. I thought your line up of what he liked and what he didn't like about Germany was effective. Chapter three of twenty five chapters, 90,000 words. So just beginning, but off to an intriguing start. Seasickness could be felt more by the reader, the rising in the innards, the relentless swallowing, the lurching in the stomach, the mounting dread.
I read the last half of chapter one of Grace that Works, a manuscript that explores the reasons why the church relentlessly departs from the gospel. We discussed why Christians are constantly fighting with each other. The point of the book is that Satan works to corrupt the gospel, and he has a jolly time getting the visible church in wrestling matches--or is it back-alley brawls--while he does it.