Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Writing Better Than Our Literary Heroes--Inkblots

Writing like Victor Hugo tonight

New writers on board this evening. Welcome to you all. 

Sixteen-year-old Maya leads off with her French Revolution era historical novel. Protagonist a young apprentice in Versailles.Rain falling like the verse of Milton or Spenser. Wonderfully read, so appropriately inflected. All is wrong with the world, and then personified. Enter our story… Is your narrator a participant in the story? Maya writes like a 19th century novelist, a Dickens feel or maybe Stowe. Our solemn young man, whom we have attempted to sketch. I am assuming that the narrator is not the apprentice (no apprentice would likely have that level of vocabulary). They were desperately in love. Show this by subtle looks, by gestures, a hand placed, an act of service and show the devotion. Let the reader say to himself, they were desperately in love. The more I listen, the more I want to guess who Maya’s favorite author is. My guess, Jane Austen, or Charlotte Bronte. Rich narrative. But the narrator tells us what to think about many things; I would like to hear them talk, draw conclusions from observation.

Maya critiqued herself and said she feels like it is too much description.  But John liked the narrative but wondered if she uses any dialogue. This was the opening chapter. Patrick described how he had written extensive narrative like this but after critique went back and altered 90% of what he wrote, and it was significantly better. There is a tendency to feel that as a writer we have to show how well we can write. Telling rather than showing. We talked about the intrusive narrator. This creates an unreality for the reader. We don’t have someone at our shoulder telling us what to think about everything we are seeing. All description has to drive the plot forward and develop the character. We did not have a point of view to care about. Maya could create a first person narrator who is involved in the story, invested in it. Then the higher register language makes sense, given the 18th century setting. Maya, who is sixteen, writes with the vocabulary, the syntax and verbiage, of a well-read, mature literary enthusiast.

Sydney, Maya’s older sister, reads from her blog, sounds like a favorite genre. When God Writes Poetry. She proceeds to contrast propositions and poetry. Propositions are the voice of objective truth… poetry drapes beauty. Its power. We need both, propositions and poetry, God is the source of both. We are variously drawn to one or the other, but both tendencies are in error. We need logic and wonder. She creates a parallel with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. Entire world is a poem. We are not merely mater, and we are not simply disembodied spirits. This world is the ultimate proposition draped in poetry. I think the subheadings are helpful in a blog. Remarkably mature writing in this piece, appropriate language, and use of poetic devises embedded in and ably demonstrating her point. 

I would suggest a leading sentence at the end of one subsection that connects to the topic sentence beginning the next subsection, a sort of passing of the baton. Good use of appropriate quotations, Lewis, Piper. Spurgeon makes an argument for using imaginative devices, entertaining characteristics in our writing, commenting that another writer’s work was “most reliable, but dull.”

Jonathan reads, “This is weird,” he warned us, sort of sci-fi. Detonation Chamber, short story title. Jonathan begins medias res, a tense moment, a man with a gun in one hand, his other hand a fist poised over a red button. Why “the madman” rather than a name? Maybe I will answer that as I listen more. Dr. Hume’s asexual offspring is the madman. Got it. I’m not so sure that the backstory came in too early (though others commented that it came too early), but I do think it could have been trickled out in the midst of the tension of the moment, augmenting the suspense.

I have many literary heroes, authors that have shaped me in significant ways, whose writing inspires me, or something about their life and struggles prods me, goads me onward. I used to attempt to imitate them, their verbiage, syntax, imaginative comparisons, everything about them. I am learning, however, to glean all I can from what my literary heroes do well, but I have stopped trying to write like them. In fact, I intentionally try not to write like they do. That was Shakespeare, or Milton, or Chaucer, or Sutcliff, or O'Conner, or Bunyan. Not. Bond. Imitation is good just as crawling and toddling are good and appropriate--for infants and toddlers, but not for grown ups. We heard some amazing writing at 'Blots the other night. My advice to all of us, and all aspiring writers: Write with appreciation for your literary heroes, but press on to find your own voice. 

I was recently heavily edited, more so than I have ever been in my writing career, by an eager young editor. The result? I didn't even recognize the piece I had written. It was no longer my voice. It was the editor's voice, vigorously writing over mine. I'm not a good writer, but I am improving as a re-writer, presumably one of the reasons why I had been asked to write the piece for the magazine. 

My latest release: rewind 500 years with this one
My newest book, adult novel on Martin and Katharina Luther, is now available, free shipping, signed by the author, at bondbooks.net. I don't think you will be disappointed. Here's what one reviewer wrote about it: Luther in Love is a lovely book, a pleasure to read, a creative and astute project, a page-turner, faithful to Luther’s voice as a Reformer, a preacher, a theologian, a son, a friend, a father, and a husband.”

AIMEE BYRD, author of Housewife Theologian, Theological Fitness, and No Little Women

June 6 will be, DV, our next INKBLOTS meeting.