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Posts Tagged ‘Quip’

Writer’s Mail

Tuesdays with Story
January 1, 2021

The first word . . .

“The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, which belongs also to the child, and as such it appears to be inconsistent with the principles of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth.” –Carl Jung

When last we gathered . . .

That was back on December 16. A goodly number of us peered at our screens, at our colleagues, as we worked through the chapters and poems of those who had posted. Here is some of what was said:

—Kashmira Sheth (Chapter 23, Journey to Swaraj) … Kashmira shared a chapter of her novel, Journey to Swaraj.  The readers felt that the grief scene after Dadima’s death was too long. Jack wanted more details about the work Veena did with Taraben and Lalubhai. Also, most readers wanted to have Veena involved with the police after they beat up Lalubhai and other satyagrahis. Thank you all for your comments. 

—Huckle Rahr (Chapter 31, Wolf Healer)… This week most people had things to say on the first half of my chapter. The general consensus was that I needed to add more action to the argument. There was a lack of physical tension in the scene. I also needed to give more weight to Mr. Schneider’s side of the argument. The fight seemed to lack in intensity for something so serious. There were some suggestions on cleaning up some sentences and paragraphs as well as clarifying where characters were at different times. 

— Jack Freiburger (2 poems, “Barbara Salisbury” and “Burning Prairie”) . . .

—Amit Trivedi (Poem, “Looking through the Window”)… Poetry was well received by the group. A few word changes were suggested. Jack gave detailed feedback and Larry was very encouraging. Much appreciated. 

John Schneller (Chapter 32, Broken rewrite)… The discussion of chapter 32 focused on elements (music/mountain whisper occurrences….size of the character, SouthWind) that are easily interrupted by our fragmented reading schedule in TWS. Action was deemed slow by some. Can an eagle really cradle a lamb within its talons? All dynamics that earn a second look by this author.  Thanks!

— Jerry Peterson (Christmas stories, “The Christmas Angel” and “The Last Goodbye”, part 1)… The critiques were limited to “The Christmas Angel.” While Jerry thought he had posted the second story, he hadn’t. There was much discussion about whether the dishwasher at the Tiny Towne Diner truly was an angel—what caused her glow, what was the lighting like at the live Nativity, was she a miracle worker? Jack suggested a better line for Reverend Joe to The Fish. Rather than “your friend there is a miracle worker,” “your friend there has the touch.” John argued for keeping miracle worker as more appropriate to a Christmas story.

Who’s up next . . .

As, yes, January 5. Next week:

Kashmira Sheth (chapters 1-2a, Nina Soni, Book 5)

Jaime Nelson Noven (Chapters 5-6, Outsleep)

Mike Austin (???)

Amber Boudreau (Chapters 1-2, The Dragoneer 2)

John Schneller (Chapter 33, Broken rewrite)

Larry Sommers (Chapters 31-32, Dizzy on Wry)

Our editor . . .

Kashmira Sheth takes on the editorship for our two January issues of Writer’s Mail. If you have something you’d like her to include in the next issue, do email it to her.

Oh, for the really good quip or insult . . .

Few were better at coming up with them than Dorothy Parker, book critic, columnist, and writer at her peak in the 1920s and ’30s. She was a member of the then famous Algonquin Roundtable.

Literary Hub ran some of Parker’s best a couple years ago, and the article was reposted this week. It’s worth a read. Here’s the link: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/a-dorothy-parker-quip-for-every-occasion?utm_source=pocket-newtab

And now a sample, Dorothy Parker on being asked for writing advice: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second-greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first-greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” (originally published in a review in Esquire, 1959)

The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered . . .

Those of us on the call last meeting got to hear Larry read Clive James’s poem “The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered.” If you’d like to read it for yourself or pass it along to a friend, here it is in full.

Writer House Rules: Questions in Publishing . . .

Q: Should I go with Publisher A or Publisher B?

A: There are many considerations when choosing a publisher (the advance and royalties, marketing promises, etc.), but one thing you should do is check up on how they might present your book within the book industry.  

Did you know that you can look at the way your (prospective) publisher presents its books to booksellers and librarians? Log onto Edelweiss Plus (free to sign up) and do a search for one of the upcoming or recent books in your (prospective) publisher’s catalog.

Make sure the publisher is representing their books properly to the bookselling community: Do they have a full description, author bio, cover image, and comparable titles? If the listing is missing these basic things, that could be a red flag.

Do they have an illustrated banner ad above the book listing, at least for its biggest books of the season? If so, this could indicate they have some kind of marketing budget, as these placements, though not expensive, do cost money.

If you’re looking to compare publishers, have a look at their marketing plans on Edelweiss. They may even have downloadable sales material, such as a sell sheet or pop chart. Have a look at several of the publishers’ new books and make comparisons. Which publisher seems to be putting in more effort toward getting booksellers the information they need to make their purchasing decisions?

The History (and Myth) of Show Don’t Tell

An excerpt of the essay “Thoughts on Exposition” by Kim Stanley Robinson, as printed in Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer:

Nineteenth-century fiction contained more exposition than twentieth-century fiction. Often a prominent narrator would comment on the action, detail settings, or histories, direct the reader’s responses, ruminate philosophically, judge characters, report the water, or in many other ways generalize. One of modernism’s reaction against all this was to remove the narrator as a character and present stories without comment, as if by way of a “camera eye” (plus its audio recorder). This narrative stance meant that many kinds of exposition could not be done at all, and the usual work of fiction in this mode was made up of a string of dramatized scenes, which readers interpreted by following subtle or not-so-subtle cues. This was the moment when Percy Lubbock advocated “show don’t tell” (in The Craft of Fiction, 1921). Hemingway’s popularity might have helped spread the mode, Dashiell Hammett possibly helped it along; in science fiction, Robert Heinlein famously dismissed all the old-fashioned exposition of the Encyclopedia Galactica with his sentence “The door dilated.”

For a while after that, “camera eye” and its dramatized scenes dominated. Then One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel with no dialogue or fully dramatized scenes, a tale told by a teller, was published and celebrated. “Show don’t tell” completely failed to account for its greatness, and there was a paradigm breakdown in that failure, and now we live in more open-minded times. Fiction still contains many dramatized scenes, but narrative methods have gotten a lot more flexible and various. Some writers have flourished using expository forms as frameworks, including Calvin, Lem, Ballard, Borges, Russ, Le Guin, Guy Davenport, Cortazar, and Coover. Stories have appeared in the forms of indexes, scientific reports, prefaces, glossaries, tarot readings, abstracts, constitutions, Post-it notes, encyclopedia entries, book reviews, racing cards, you name it.

The last word . . .

“Dialogue gives you the illusion of moment-to-moment sensual experience—after all, these are the words this character is speaking aloud in the moment—but in bad dialogue, all you’re getting is the information, exposition, or emotional declaration; and that’s where your summary, your generalizations, your abstraction, your analysis run and hide in plain sight. Beware of that as you work to get that unselected, unironic, there-for-information stuff out of your writing: it’s going to try to find a new home in the mouths of your characters.” –Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction

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