Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Best Writers Seek Perspective From Other Writers--Inkblots

WWII French Resistance, downed B-17 flyer, SOE agent
Chit-chatted together, glad to be in the clean air of the Scriptorium, breath of fresh air from the BC smoke clogging lungs and breathing passageways throughout the region.

Inkblots this evening was an enactment of the importance of having other serious writers listen and critique what we are writing. I am a firm believer that every good writer needs this and will take pains to seek it out. That's what we did this evening. It cerainly helped me.

Rachel leads off with more cheese. Do we have a working title for this yarn? I gain weight listening to Rachel read this work in progress. I do hope when it is published (and the sooner the better) that Rachel Ng will immediately do an author-read audio book. This is evocative of a bustling kitchen in a high-cuisine restaurant in Russia. "I'm not a man for paperwork." Love this evasion. Makorov in hand. Can we hear rounds being chambered? Bob commented that to his ear there seemed to be too many adjectives in the opening paragraph. We had Rachel reread it. I liked it, but we do have to be careful of over modifying. Concrete nouns and active verbs, the stock and store of good writers. You might try dividing the compound complex sentence into two sentences. Rachel wanted to overwhelm the senses with the opening paragraph.

Alisa had a tough editor who she asked to help her with racial perspective that Alisa did not have, She will read The Emblem, set at the Brick Tavern, the oldest bar in Washington State. She warns us that there are many things going on in this scene. Too much? She warned us that there is swearing and they had prostitutes in Roslyn, Washington in 1930s mining frontier town. Not interested in the indulgences she might have to offer him. He had a wife and several kids back in Seattle. Be specific. How many kids, boys or girls? He recollects some specific thing about them. The son's illness is an important detail. They're beyond my pay. Could you say this in a more colloquial fashion? Doctor tests, they costs money, don't they? At the front of the Brick. Weather-worn miner who should not have come up from the underground today. Can you expand the tactile and sensory context? What does it smell like in the bar? Sound like? Is there music, oddly grinding out its merry tune while the brawl is underway? Slamming a beer mug onto the Douglas fir countertop. Alisa went to the pioneer picnic and learned that negroes in 1930 went to a different tavern. A friend thinks she needs to include backstory from the 1880s strike. We talked about ways to do this without losing the flow of the story. Create a narrator character who loves telling stories, and his good at it. Then flashback from their retelling of the past events.

French Cousins, John reads from his children's stories for his grandkids who have French cousins, his daughter having married a French pastor. This is a grandfather's labor of love, charming, nostalgic, a delightful read. Creative non-fiction genre. Very handsome indeed. Can you give this more specific visual substance so the reader can conclude that they're very handsome indeed. It seems like you jump from the south of France to Switzerland too quickly. Is it possible to create episodes in both so you don't have to describe France then switch to Switzerland. And honk her horn, is active voice, whereas, the horn would honk, is passive voice. Your writing will be more vigorous if you primarily write in active voice. Good description of cathedral and night sky. I feel like I'm hearing some late attribution; be sure the reader knows who is speaking early on in what they are saying; otherwise, the attribution is less helpful. Best way to do this is to break quotations early with a mid-sentence attribution. Amsterdam, a small town? This reads like a warm children's travel adventure. John does a good job of writing from the perspective of the children.

Bob reads from the second book in his Sinbad series. Last reading his protagonist is in India for the tenth anniversary of his coronation. This is a bridge chapter, the next having more adventure and potential danger. Bob writes from first person, Sinbad. Bob addresses the dear reader. Is there a better way to do this? Or is this Bob's voice and method, like CS Lewis does in Narnia, oral story telling genre? Bob claims to be lazy and that's why he likes writing journey stories. The yarn can unfold as it unfolds. I'm looking forward to this book in print. Read The Crescent and the Cross for the first installment. Adventures on the high seas await!

I read chapter nine of The Resistance (working title). I'm working on chapter twenty three now and feel like I have good forward momentum, though always far too many interruptions (cows on the loose, guests arriving, my not-so-latent ADHD, you name it). Chapter nine is a shift from French Resistance Normandy, downed flyers trying to stay one step ahead of the Waffen SS hunting them down, to 1 Dorset Square London where 1000s of SOE agents trained to go behind enemy lines and work alongside the French Resistance. I enjoyed creating this chapter. Maybe I should post it for a sneek preview.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Anatomy of Fiction: Overturn the status quo (Inkblots)

Create round characters with real problems,
like readers have
Seven of us for Inkblots this fine warm summer evening in the Scriptorium, cattle lowing in the background.

I led off reading from Augustine about how our love of our own opinions bars us from accurately interpreting a text: "For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author who he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one; and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself. And if he should once permit that evil to creep in, it will utterly destroy him.” – Ch. 37, Book 1 

Bob leads off reading from his second adventure of Sinbad and Silassie, the first volume, in print, The Crescent and the Cross (a very good book, I might add, having had the privilege of reading it at verious stages of its creation). This yarn will feature a Christian critique of Hinduism, whereas the first volume exposed the fallacies of Islam. This is a sailing yarn, a journey story genre book, delightful, with an obvious Christian perspective, no apologies. Bob writes in first person, almost journal like in its tone, to my ear. Bob has obviously done a great deal of research on Middle Eastern religions and culture and history, though the tales are what I would call historical fantasy, Jules Vern step aside. The opening scene begins in the midst of what appears to be martyrdom, then flashback for much of the story. Rachel commented on Bob's evocative description of the sea and ships. I agree it was solid and appealed to multiple senses. Cheyenne chimed in on Bob's reading: loved description of the sea and boat, felt like I was right there; there were parts that seemed a bit choppy, maybe hard to follow for a younger reader, but loved ending of chapter. This is the opening chapter of a new book. Bob uses semicolons as opposed to comma conjunction structure. Cheyenne felt like it was jumpy.

I read my furthest in chapter (at Bob's suggestion for me to read my least refined chapter) and received some very helpful critique and suggestions from 'Blots. I particularly appreciate Alisa and John reading the whole thing (as far as I've gotten) and offering valuable perspective before this evening. I'm looking forward to absorbing the critique and recasting and rewriting tomorrow morning. Thank you! I wrote a while back that I was having significant trouble with this manuscript. I was. But I took my own advice and kept reading, writing, rewriting, rewriting (did I mention rewriting?).

Alisa tells us about The Emblem, an interracial love story set in the 1930s. She was invited to Roslyn's interracial picnic, but doesn't want to crash someone else's party. But they invited her so we all seemed to agree she should go, and eat! She is struggling with sorting out the historical accuracy of the sources. There are inconsistencies in the history. Should she go to the picnic? This is research with integrity, made all the better by the fact that Alisa isn't finally doing it just for research to make a good book. "It's not about me anyway; its about telling a good story." And writing a good story means getting it right, getting it the best that she can. Alisa feels that she is torn by having drafted the book eight years ago, first draft, and then the heightened racial tensions of the moment. Write for what is timeless and enduring, not shaped by the priorities of the moment. That's not a call to be careless about racial issues, by no means. But to have a perspective that rises above transient verbiage and ideas, popular spin and opinion filtering and dictating how we are to think (unless we want to have hateful vitriol hurled at us for not being in lockstep with the current narrative). Write what is timeless, characters that rise above it all. Oppressed, downtrodden, abused, but who find grace and true strength, and who are able to look for ways to love their neighbors through the pain and deprivation.

Cheynne has pulled up a manuscript from her trip to Japan a few years ago and is reworking things. She is getting help from an editor. First chapter. Dystopian fantasy fiction base loosely on things she experienced in Japan. The forest stretched... around me. We have a character to care about in the opening line. Amanda is the main character? Juliette, is she the main character? Roots sprawling into the air instead of into the ground, not dying, but thriving roots. Very good description of falling. Can you give us sounds, feels, smells, more senses involved as she was falling? Back to the roots like Medusa's hair. I, so your are writing in first person, but who is the first person perspecive? Amanda, or Julliette? I could have missed this, but I am not clear from whose perspective I'm experiencing the irreality. Maybe I missed it. I realize it is dystopian so there is the dream-like, hazy, ethearial atmosphere, but I think you will need to give your reader a normal, a status quo, a hard reality from which the dystopian irreality can be compared. You do a good job of visual description. Can you beef up other senses, smells, sounds, tastes, from the old west town you describe otherwise so well. Can you give us a clearer problem for the main character? What does she want but can't have? What is she afraid of most? Where is she going?

John suggested more dialogue and Alisa agreed. The first chapter is where you need to set the hook, says John, questions to be asked, make it more intriguing. I would strongly suggest that there be a status quo, a beginning epsposition of the normal, then an enciting moment, that launches forward the rising action, the protagonist trying to solve the problem. I'm not hearing at this reading, granted it is a fairly brief reading, a rooted normal that gets changed by some force acting against the protagonist, who then has to try and solve the problem, hence the plot to follow.

Great time this evening, iron sharpening iron. I was benefited by hearing the readings and the critiques of fellow 'Blots. I've got work to do and will get at it in the morning. I will post after this post tomorrow, a sample chapter from La Resistance. Promise!