Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Christian Writers: Fools Confounding the Wise

Small gathering for Inkblots this warm summer evening, AC in the Scriptorium feeling pleasant and comfortable. We morphed into a discussion of the decadence of our society, trans-phobic, trans-perversion, trans-insanity, trans-depravity, trans-rebellion against everything God is and has ordained for the good of his world and humanity. God designed his world to work according to his will and way; defy that and it devolves into deeper decadence and decay. It won't work because it can't work.

I read from Elephants of Style (Bill Walsh of WaPo), getting the difference between affect and effect, a and an (not the article to use with the word historic, the consonant is pronounced, hence a not an). We discussed the irony and incompatibility of rules of grammar and style coming from writers who are vein-bulging champions of moral relativism on every other front (except their teeth-grinding intolerance of Christianity). But should we be shocked? No. Jesus said the world would hate his followers, as it hated and hates him. So what does the Christian writer do? Write to please Jesus, not to please the world.

Jonathan picks up where he left off on his "this is weird" story, sci-fi, madman yarn. Ingrid and the madman going at it. Pushing the button. There is such a fluidity to Jonathan's prose; I love hearing him read. Ingrid offers herself to the madman if only he won't push the button. He is unmoved. It would be immoral, wrong. Why would it be immoral, wrong? Because it just is, stammers Ingrid. Here the madman is the wiseman. Jonathan always is on a mission when writing, here apologetics, defense of the faith, exposing the fallacy of declaring something immoral without a first cause authority over right and wrong. The madman does it, pushes the button. Still nothing happens. Blow after blow on the button, yet nothing happened. Madman falls asleep and seems to persist in sleep. Ingrid and the rest settle back into the banal normality of their relativism. I ask Jonathan about his idea mill. How does he come up with these ideas, Poe-esque darkness, but purposeful, intentional. Allegory exposing the fallacies of secularism. This story came to him when North Korea's nuclear test failed. Hence, nothing happens when the madman pushes the button. Patrick commented that Hume believed that knowledge was unverifiable. And then some discussion of Immanuel Kant followed. Henry Allison, Kant's Transcendental Ideal.

Sydney brought a work of fiction she has been working on for a long time. Set in 1110, Anglo-Dutch War context. Odd creature gnawing on his fingers, wretched creature. Fluid narrative, setting up the scene. I'm hearing "appeared to," often. "Dusk at last." The first dialogue. Her evident (the qualifying adjective, overused, can weaken prose) discomfort. The higher register narrative works in the medieval setting, to my ear. Minute description of human expressions and actions. I love your "He remains" string of syntactical parallelisms. Is it the mother we are to be concerned with? Or whom? Sydney's reading of her work is riveting, engaging. It feels like a psychological exploration, searching, inward. But what is missing is an inciting moment in the story, enter conflict, exerting pressure. The narrative was intriguing, mature vocabulary, complex syntax, but we didn't know who to care about or what the real problem is.

Jonathan commented on the writing style being spot on. What about the characters? It felt like an info dump. He missed the opening hook. There is a great deal of beginning exposition, but what seemed to be missing was the inciting moment. We learned a good deal about the history of this family. Patrick commented that he had a hard time entering into a perspective. Was it the sister? The mother? Jonathan wanted to attach to the wretched creature, but Sydney didn't develop the tension. Sydney told us that the story is going to be about the family, a family member not yet introduced in this opening chapter. We should meet the protagonist in the opening lines. Right at the gate, give the reader the lens for the story and the person to care about. I read opening lines from chapter one and chapter two of The Revolt (Grace Awards finalist along with The Battle of Seattle), where, though I have two points of view throughout the story, I root the reader in their characters in the first lines of each chapter.

Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne, Jonathan has found helpful. Every scene has to have a turn. If the scene begins positive, then there is movement to negative, and visa-versa.

Sydney asks a very good question. She reads and loves the English classics. Which of the classics does this best, sticks with single perspective, avoids intrusive narrator, and begins medias res, right in the middle of the action, then adds backstory as needed throughout the story? Dickens in Great Expectations, medias res, "I'll eat yer heart and liver out!" But Shakespeare does this in almost every play. The inciting moment is the opening scene, then comes the setting and back story.

Join me next March 23-30 (2018) in Oxford for my Creative Writing Master Class.

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