Writer’s Mail for October 7, 2010
by Pat Edwards
“The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews.” William Faulkner (via Michael A. Simpson)
Reading Recap: October 5 at the B&N
Ten First-and-Third members met at Barnes & Nobel West at 7:00 p.m. to hear six colleagues reading their recent work.
Jen Wilcher read the introduction to Chapter 1 called “Hibiki’s Point of View” from her as-yet unnamed novel. Jen’s story takes place in a fictional hogoshiro or “protection castle” of feudal Japan. Characters include the protagonist, the girl Hibiki, and Rin, a mythical, fox-like kitsune who is 299 years old. Pat Edwards praised Jen’s depth of characterization established so quickly in this opening chapter. Pat said the story was very interesting and she wanted to read more. So, she recommended that Jen “write on” rather than re-write again. In regard to Hibiki’s emotions, Elijah Meeker suggested Jen could employ the “anime effect,” such that Hibiki’s actions would more directly relate to her speech in dialogue. This effect would demonstrate specific emotions in the dialogue, rather than in narration. Pat praised Jen’s depth of characterization. Clayton Gill suggested that Jen maintain consistency in her use verb tenses. He thought it was important for two reasons: For the reader to know whether the story was a “real-time” description (present tense) or a recollection (past tense), and for Jen during the writing because the tense – present or past – also could influence her vision and imagination in telling the story.
Greg Spry brought us the prologue of his science fiction novel Beyond Cloud Nine. Jerry Peterson warned that many readers – himself included – probably would skip the prologue. Jerry recommended making the prologue the first chapter. Also, in one instance of the main character’s thought shown in italics, Jerry pointed out that any such thought question would not need the attribution “she wondered” which would be redundant. Clayton noted that the prologue or opening chapter used third-person narration, whereas the next chapter would be narration from the main character’s point of view. Would subsequent chapters use first-person narration? Greg replied no, that the whole novel would use third person narration, which Jerry agreed should not be a problem for the reader. Elijah commented on the challenge of “language in transit,” especially when the novel tries to forecast English in the 24th Century. Greg could identify his colloquialisms of the present day – especially in dialogue — and invent some new ones for his novel’s future time. Along these lines, Pat liked Greg’s very human characters but suggested that he make their forms of address more futuristic or related to careers of the future (e.g., “Space Commander Davis” for “Ms. Davis”).
Pat Edwards read three poems, the first of which – “The Last Time I Hit a Person” – generated much comment among Tuesdays members. The poem opens with the question “Would you believe…?” and closes with a question “Do you believe…?” In between the questions, there is the action of the poet (presumably a woman) in bed who strikes a man who strikes back and knocks her off the bed. Elijah suggested that the poem’s early tone is too light for the subject of domestic violence, noting the short, catchy line length. Clayton suggested that the short line length succeeded in producing “freeze-frame shots” of the action, while the longer lines show thought and analysis of the action. Judith McNeil appreciated the poet’s literal questions about perception, story telling, and memory. Commenting on the second poem – “Too Much Gravity” – Elijah admired the concept that we all inherit adaptations to gravity. But he worried that the narrator’s presence in the central stanzas “gets in the way of the poem.” Clayton asked the group, “Is there any a single word that is a synonym of ‘gravity’?” No one came up with a one-word synonym, which is one thing that adds to the beauty of this poem. Several members commented on exquisite images, such as “DNA trickles down” and “the marionette gene.” Pat’s third poem – “Window Cube” – also garnered praise from the group. Elijah noted that the poem works very well, despite the “lists of things,” which other poets have not used so effectively. Members noted the powerful contrast of the poet’s prosaic work cubicle and her recollection of other peoples’ office space burned out and exposed to the elements and the view of strangers.
Clayton Gill read from Chapter 14 of his juvenile adventure novel Fishing Derby, focusing on a passage at the beginning of the chapter which describes the attack of frankenfish protestors on the Zooper Aqua pontoon boat. The young protagonist Miker, the boat’s pilot, freezes in fright during the attack as he remembers an incident from his past. Then a command from another character – “Mind the boat, Miker” — calls the boy back to the present. Clayton asked the group, “Does this passage work?” There was general agreement that the flashback and “call back” succeeded. However, Greg wondered whether an attack with paintballs, bottle rockets, and cherry bombs could be sufficiently threatening or dangerous to warrant life-or-death, action-thriller narrative. Also, he recommended that the reader be reminded every now then about the purpose of the current adventure and the role or personalities of the other characters. Jerry and Pat noted that it should not be necessary to remind readers of solid details from the previous chapter (e.g., the “bass boat” as a small, high-powered, two-place boat). (more…)