Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Join me in Oxford April 1-8, 2017
"You do not write the best you can for the sake of art, but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as He sees fit." Flannery O'Connor

Inkblots talked about the O'Conner perspective on our purpose for writing, why we do it. If it was simply for our own gratification (good writing, making progress, overcoming glitches and literary ticks, ought to gives us a measure of satisfaction), but finally and ultimately for our usefulness to the King, for him to use or not use (it may seem to us) as he sees fit. May it be so. 

Eight writers out this chilly, half-moon autumn evening. Patrick leads off, reminding himself and his fellow 'Blots of the importance of writing not only to tear down (far easier to lob ordnance at your enemies) but to adorn truth and a redemptive understanding of the world. New Shiloh, accused of being radical preppers, purchased a Cold War missile sites--the setting for his latest work. Patrick has an imagination that goes where no man dared go before, at least in contrast to mine, so I feel when I hear him read. There seems to be quite a stretch of beginning exposition, maybe too much. I would suggest starting medias res where the conversation begins with Lenny about Billy, then fill in the back story. This will have the advantage of hooking the reader at the gate, then when their interest is piqued, the who, what, when , where, etc, is filled in a in pieces as the story unfolds. Soft green grass, works, but could you awaken my imagination to see, smell, compare it with something more tangible in the reader's mind. When they hear the outsiders, give us a snippet of their way of talking, instead of just telling us they hear it and it doesn't sound right. Let us hear what it sounds like. Reminded Sofia of The Village film, and others agreed. Alisa gave a vote that she liked it as it is, maybe consider tightening.

We discussed point of view and why shifting is so dangerous for a writer to do to a reader. The conventional wisdom, rule if you will,  is to stick with one dominant  perspective. Cliff hanger chapter endings are conventional (I like to think of it as a relay race and there needs to be a clean clear passing of the baton--or else it gets dropped, and so does the book). Patrick gave a really helpful rationale for breaking conventions, making sure that doing so also fits the movement of the story. Good stuff, Patrick.

Alisa reads from her second character, written in third person. This is an early draft (sounds pretty good to me for a first draft. Mine rarely feel this good in early draft). You narrate some of their words, what she hears from her abductors. I would suggest let the reader hear what she hears, and ramp up her terror, the pain in her wrists, where. Would she beg them not to hurt her? Would she try to threaten them with reprisal from her dad or the law? John agreed that there needs to be more dialogue. Bob does not think she would be rationale enough to threaten and bluff it out. A woman's perspective is needed, and Alisa has that in ways we do not. Patrick thinks there needs to be a moment when she realizes this is real, not just a joke. And wouldn't she pray in such dire straights, even as unbeliever. It won't sound like conventional praying, but how does an unbeliever pray when they are intensely frightened? John thinks it would help if the boys are trying to hide who they are, but she gradually begins to realize who they are, and her reaction, augmented fear. 

John invited us to pause and pray for our country, a thing we were eager to do.  John reads from Saving Grace where she announces to her parents. So he has been working on rewriting, this episode the next day after they have had a chance to sleep on it. Try, "Shifting forward on the edge of the couch, Nora..." instead of two simple sentences. You will get more cohesion by doing this. I think you might be over writing, please listen and hear us out and don't judge us until you have heard what we are about to say. Have Grace interpret her mother's imploring expression and deduce these things, but having her mom say it feels over written. You do more with what you don't write than with what you write. He could tell she was really upset... How could he tell this? Show the body language, the mannerism that conveys really upset to the reader. Good having the glass fall and break. What are they actually saying as they try to comfort her? Let us hear some of that. So why did they adopt? Did the mother get pregnant out of wedlock and have an abortion that made her unable to bear children. This would be a super helpful angle, in my opinion. The women in the room asked if John needs to have this in the story, the adoption makes it too complicated. Rachel points out that the tentacles of adoption and family photos and all the rest complicates this. Patrick weighed in that the emotional impulse to tell their daughter that she was adopted her, but her angst at them not telling her, is dispelled by telling her that she was hiding pretty important familial information (she was pregnant) from them, her parents. Lots of input in this story. Sofia wants to see another layer of connection, as in Grace nearly being aborted by her mom. Is this story too complicated, trying to cover all the angles abortion. What is essential to make the emotional impact on the reader. Doug Mac, father of four daughters, points out that a strong father taking charge of the situation is the way to bring order. But this is not a particularly good father. The author wants to create an emotional scenario whereby the reader longs for a good father, and sees the problem more clearly, and wants a solution. 

Rachel reads further from her Wall Street yarn. Morning after, wherein she implies that she and her ex husband slept together. Nicole or her husband's perspective. At first I thought it was his pov, but now I see, it is from Nicole's. Looked all about her as if to inventory the evidence... This is good writing. I missed something when the other woman came to the door, or what happened there? Maybe I was too busy blogging. .Martin takes her into the immaculate room. Who is this? Olivia's makeup, Walter's fiance. Good use of precise details like the tissue with the make up on it. Realizing that he didn't want her to be seen. She could think, Good call, for an idiot. What an idiot I am, or infer that it could have been him she was thinking of as an idiot. This is the journalist yarn. So Olivia is his current fiance. Patrick thinks that Rachel is writing in the antiquarian Mid-Atlantic stage dialect of in the hay day of old black and white movies. Cary Grant film an Affair to Remember, Rachel knows this stuff.

A congenial time, honest, constructive, encouraging. "You do not write the best you can for the sake of art, but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as He sees fit." Flannery O'Connor May we return our writing gift--however grand or modest--to the invisible God, increased by our rigorous interchange this evening. 

October 25 is our next INKBLOTS meeting  (and my patient wife's birthday)


  1. Thank you for elucidating something I already believed--that I don't write for myself. Like the thoughts on POV.

  2. Hi Lynne,
    Write for an audience of ONE! Keep in touch