Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Falstaff character and creating sympathy for a jolly jerk--INKBLOTS

Laughing and fun with Lewis tonight
Five 'Blots this frigid January evening (ice on the stock tanks this morning and a dusting of snow), but warm and cozy in the Scriptorium.

After chatting for a bit, Patrick leads off with more of his longing to write redemptively but without it being cheesy and superficial. He has written his yarn so that the reader thinks Gabe and his clan are just preppers, planning out an imaginary apocalyptic compound but nothing to worry about. It's all in fun. But what is really going on is a real zombie apocalypse.He reads the beginning of the next section of the book. You are narrating material that I would like to see, hear, feel, instead of being told it. Have the reader hear Junior's father give him chores, and what is his reaction? Is he resentful, eager, insulted at the demeaning task? Prayer request in family worship. Gabe or Junior? Who are we supposed to be tracking with, head we are supposed to be getting into (I realize we are putting in and it can be difficult to equally jump into the right head)? This does seem to be sort of dropped into the story, helicoptered from where though? When the dad interrupted and tried to get them back on the track. Suddenly Junior wanted to become a spy after discoursing on the Donatist controversy in church history. Bob wanted to clarify who was the returnee. Junior or Gabe. Patrick clarified that this historical discussion is going to play an important role later in the story. That is good. I think the reader needs to feel that this is somehow relevant to the whole, even if they don't know how at this stage in the story. Patrick likes to play with audience expectation and give them an unexpected reversal. John pointed out that there was several repetitive uses of verbiage, stunned, stunned. 

I asked Jonathan to explain how he brings in the redemption of a character, He referred us to his heroine, Flannery O'Conner (so like this guy for his literary heroes) who never gives us a tidy pat redemptive starburst untying of the knot. "I see all things through redemption in Christ Jesus," she said and, for her, that meant spending more time showing the fallen condition of her characters and their great need, thereby, creating longing in the reader. Increase the sense of awkwardness by playing against each other, letting the reader feel the tension.

Jonathan gives us a cold read on a short story, beginning medias res, right in the middle of things. Blood on the Snow. Jeff and old man haunted by a ghost. I hear faith right up front, which is a subtle way to prepare your reader for your priority. I like the description of the man's beard but it does not keep him warm in the snow. Dialogue, description from Mr. Duguld. Ghost in the room, but where, and would anyone else see his ghost. Good tactile description of him running his hand along the stone heath stone, leaving an impression in his fingers. Specific description of the logistics of his door and apartment. Ghost had arrived a week ago, cold fingers on his forehead while sleeping. Terrified, his body quaked with fear. It is a good exercise to avoid using the word terrified if you want your reader to be so.  

"Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please will you do my job for me." (CS Lewis)

He wanted to remain with the ghost and he wanted the ghost to stay with him. We don't know why but we sure wonder what he is thinking. Jonathan has us on the edge of our seats. Very still in the Scriptorium at the moment. Great line of reasoning on him trying to work out if he was sane. John catches stuff, repetitive verbiage. So much easier to catch when reading orally and to others. Patrick pointed out a clarifying moment to the light in his eyes. Using short clipped sentences when creating intrigue.   

Bob reads from his Hot Tub Homicide, but his wife Sharon won't let him use this killer title. Sigh. Then he told us why. Got it. Set in Soap Lake Washington, at a hacked-up health spa. I just love the chatty down-home, Barney Fife wit on display in this yarn. Bill is scheming his con, coming up with the right spin verbiage to bilk his clients, New Age nonsense on steroids, and Bill has the jargon down like he had memorized the Terrestial-Energy Cliff Notes. Bill does not sound to me like the kind of shyster who would be willing to give three years of his life in a wacko monastery preparing for his con? Have him read a National Geographic article about another guy who gave up the three years, and sponge his experience for his con. Which started a discussion of creating backstory that raises the reader's sympathy with the plight of the crook, the John Falstaff syndrome, jolly jerk, but lovable. Give Bill a higher motive, a great aunt dying of cancer, an illegitimate child (there's a restraining order against him) who needs a kidney transplant and a pile of money to get it, something that complicates motive for his con, so the reader can't just despise him, feels torn.

John reads from chapter three of Violetta, 1917 Revolution, Stalin's thugs breaking into the palace. John has done unique research for this Russian novel, interrogating fellow employees at the hospital where he worked for many years, getting an intensely Russian angle on this fascinating moment in Russia history. Down in the passage that Violetta and her governess Coletta abhorred. I like the stacking up of her fears. Creepy monsters, try using the Thesaurus and finding better synonyms for these overused words. You give us tactile sense, lots of feel, but smells, sounds? Have her hear something farther down that makes her wonder if they were plunging into a worse horror than what they were fleeing, a rock dropping, clunking against the walls of an abyss, silent falling, more clunking, echoing, reverberating throughout the passage. The skin on the back of my neck.... Good job of creating a sense of ominous impending disaster farther on, the irony of fleeing from one danger into one far more terrifying.  Alisa thought that Violetta could find comfort from Coletta her governess, grounding herself in the older woman, finding the will to press on into the darkness, the unknown abyss, but going back is worse. She needs a bolster to go on.

I didn't read tonight but "finished" LUTHER IN LOVE today, including some final cleaning, copy editing, formatting, more to go. I printed out the first hard copy for my local readers. Please do not read into "local" that they are lesser, not the real editors, not the professionals. In my experience, my local readers are absolutely amazing, so many grand ideas and noble discoveries. I could not do it without my mother, first and last, the Spear clan, John Schrupp, and my fellow 'Blots.

"Youth is wasted on the young," the concluding line to a productive and enjoyable evening (thank you Jonathan).

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