Sunday, April 30, 2006

Got mono?

Monologues that is!

I think I've remarked on it before, but it's funny how you can know a rule in your head and still break it so easily. I know to avoid big expository chunks of information, long monologues where a character outlines everything you want the reader to learn. Despite that, I still slipped one into a recent chapter (well, actually it was there in prior drafts, but I significantly reworked it without considering whether it belonged there).

My critique group gave me some excellent advice on how to fix it though:

  • Make it a conversation. This doesn't solve everything--you don't want a "So you know, Dr. Bob, that quantum physics is fundamental to our experiment" spiel, but having other people react is more realistic and varies the scene more.
  • Ask questions. In my case, the speaker has information of interest to both the reader and my main character. My main character can get active by pressing for details, asking deeper questions that the reader probably wants to hear answered too.
  • Get emotional. Does the speaker's words evoke any emotions in the other characters? Does it make them curious? Angry? Frightened? If there isn't any reaction from the others, then there might be more work to do, because people respond when they're talking.
In my case, the monologue speaker is an old, senile man spouting off about dangerous topics, subjects that could get him killed. After this advice from my critique group, I see how I can take it from a stiff monologue into a great scene where my main character delves into the old man's knowledge, while the tension mounts from the uncomfortable people listening around him.

Word delta: I'm going write right now!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Heather Sharfeddin's blog

One of the writers in my critique group has started a blog that is well worth checking out:

Heather writes contemporary western fiction, and her second novel, Mineral Spirits will be coming out later this year. Although not my typical genre, everything I've read from her has been top-notch. The characters and stories really grab your attention, making it unimportant exactly where the book would be in the bookstore.

She's also started doing a series where her agent, Robert Brown, has agreed to answer questions from aspiring authors. Cool stuff, check it out.

UPDATE: As of fairly recently, Heather's blog (which had moved anyway) has shut down. She accidentally deleted it, and a spammer hijacked the name. Stink! You can still check out her website, though,

Monday, April 17, 2006

Favorite Authors: Jonathan Carroll

Jonathan Carroll is one of the most superb fantasy authors you've probably never heard of. Some of that might come from the difficulty in categorizing his work--it's all quite fantastic, but never in the typical magical sense. He paints amazingly vivid pictures of the everyday world, and then spices it up with some of the strangest images and juxtapositions I've ever encountered. I've seen his stuff put on the shelf in sci-fi and the literature section, depending who's running the store.

And his descriptions... oh, he has such a way of capturing those gorgeous details of human interaction. Which brings me to another of my favorite points about him--his blog! He writes regularly, and his posts are as much in his voice as his fiction. He puts up descriptions of odd scenes he's witnessed in Vienna, strange and interesting people he's met, questions that cut to the meat of relationships and character. He occasionally jots down thoughts about writing (not too often), and when he does they are always worth reading.

If you love good writing, you owe it to yourself to check it out:

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Untouched pages

It's such a nice feeling when you're editing away, tearing your "masterpiece" to pieces, dropping whole chapters left and right and suddenly you reach a page that just works. No nasty blue-ink scribbles. No arrows to other parts of the sheet where you've got enough room to enact the changes. Just crisp white paper with black letters printed on it.

Haven't seen too many of those lately, but I found a patch in my most recent chapter that I read through, liked, and left just the way it was.

No such luck on the rest of the chapter, but you've got to start somewhere.

Word delta: +250 words.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Don't be so judgmental

In my last post, I mentioned two different scenes that I was working on, and my belief that one of them was likely to get cut. Well, things don't always turn out the way you expect.

I ran the chapter containing these two scenes by my critique group, and they resoundingly liked all of it--some of the most positive reaction to a chapter that I've had in a long time. It had been a week or two since I had been editing the scene, and listening to their comments on it I could see that my concerns over the scenes being too similar weren't really the case.

It's an interesting situation, and one that needs to be kept in mind when writing--your opinions of a piece when you are in the middle of writing it aren't always necessarily accurate. Getting some space, stepping back for a while before making too many sweeping judgements is a good idea. If I had gone just on the basis of what I thought, I might well have chopped a section prematurely that does build yet another layer to the world of the book.