Thursday, May 28, 2009

Synopsis Redux

If you haven't already checked out my post on writing the synopsis over at our team blog, Adventures in Writing, stop by.

It's not the post that's so fascinating, it's the dialogue in the comments section that you might find interesting, even helpful. And, truthfully? I'm looking forward to whatever further thoughts or insights you might add.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why Do You Storytell?

Why do you write? No, really. I'm not talking about your need or your addiction. I'm talking about storytelling. Why do people tell stories? and why do we listen to or read them?

There are many reasons, it seems: the passing down of traditions, getting a message or lesson across, entertainment, even the act of helping a reader heal.

Brian McDonald, filmmaker and storyteller extraordinaire, maintains that we navigate our world via narrative. Without stories, we wouldn't know what to do, how to react, what to say. According to McDonald, we tell stories, essentially, for two reasons: survival and medicinal.

Stories that have survival information will replicate, spread like wildfire even, because buried within them are the key ingredients to our world navigation.

Medicinal stories send the message that you are not alone, you will get through this, and here, let me tell you how. Okay, so it's actually a survival message, as well, only a slight variation.

So really, most of our initial "reasons" could fit under the category of survival or medicinal. And entertainment? McDonald says that entertainment is merely the "taste" -- the true nutrients lie tucked within the depths of a survival story. The stories that continue to live are the ones that somehow teach us.

What about you? What do your stories tell or teach? What bits of survival information have you tucked into your plot? Do you show us how to navigate junior high lunch duty? survive basketball tryouts? persevere through vampiric nibbles? Do tell!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Last Sentence I Just Wrote

Jess Walter, author of Citizen Vince among other novels, spoke at the Write on the River keynote. He made us laugh and cry and think and consider our own definitions of success. And he encouraged to set our own standard and to live up to it, ignoring the world's version of "making it." Uppington has a great post on his thoughts and tips for writers here.

I looked Citizen Vince up on Google, intending to only read the first several pages. It sucked me right in, the voice gritty and hoarse from too many cigarettes but tinged with freshness, like this layer of oblivious innocence had sorta settled over the top of it.

And I read about "solitary figures beneath thought bubbles of warm breath and cigarette smoke" on page 6, and then "Vince looks up to the bar, where Beth is staring at him; she gives him a half smile, then looks to the ceiling, as if she's just let go of a nice thought and is watching it float away like a kid's balloon" on page 11 and I'm thinking, Wow. that is beautiful. simple. and beautiful.

And then I'm reminded of something he said on Saturday that was equal parts simple and beautiful, profound and quirky. He said, "I tend to like the last sentence I just wrote."

And it clicked for me. You have to love this vocation, but you also have to pour yourself into it, scratch out the imagery and carve out the sensory impressions and sift through thoughts for the perfect word or phrase or syllable. There's more to writing than simply telling a good story. There's a way of writing, a style, a slant that is completely your own, chock full of literary goodness, that must be written. We have to remain true to what sounds right. And smells right. And feels right. Maybe Patrick's right: maybe we call it Litstream.

Note: Citizen Vince is not only written in present tense, of all things, but it also won a 2005 Edgar Award for best novel. Go figure. :)

Splendid People

I'm a solitary person by nature. I think a lot of writers are --> we observe, ruminate, critique, consider, write. And write. And write. And write. (Unless you're a meta-dork, as recently unveiled in Anthony Pacheco's latest team blog post.)

But I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with Uppington, Patrick, Dave, and unblogged John at Wenatchee's Write on the River Conference this past weekend.

I've lost five minutes of time just sitting here thinking about the conversations and laughs and dinner we shared. And, of course, the critical levels of insight...

I have no deep thoughts to offer you today (not that I do any day, now that I think about it) -- just a shout out to awesome and talented people. I'm a better person for meeting each of you. Thank you for that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Certain Slant of Loss

It's funny how we often define ourselves externally. I watch my students parade by, all looking exactly like the friend behind and beside. These same students are the ones who claim they want to express themselves and be unique and pierce this or tattoo that or wear these rags or those name brands. And they claim they want to do it in order to be different. I think we are many times responsible for creating the box others place us in.

I am no different, I suppose. I am conscious about the name brands I don't buy. I choose fashions that are more timeless in nature so that I don't have to shop for new clothes until the old ones are bare thin. I gravitate toward earth or jewel tones and seek modest lengths and cuts. I wear fabrics I love to run my hands along. And my hair is long. Very long.

Or was.

It's funny how we often define ourselves externally. The graceful sweep of amber-burnt mahogany created a mask of sorts. The sedate lines hid my more exuberant self; the uncut, unbanged, unlayered edges hid the more modern straight-edge parts. I liked the person people thought they saw because it always reflected their innermost thoughts. I learned more about how they thought in how they chose to see me: hippy or traditionalist, tree-hugging liberal or cowed fundamentalist -- it didn't really matter, because I was a mirror instead of a painting. As a writer, I've always been more interested in how people think, what they see, how they perceive the world around them. Observation is key to capturing details.

Fourteen inches to Locks of Love. But my stylist didn't stop there. She clipped and snipped, razored and scissored. When she finished, I didn't know how to turn my head anymore. Or wash my hair. Or style it. My head felt foreign, a different shore I'd only landed on, my newly shorn locks an exotic species I didn't have a language for. I've never had short hair before.

It's been a month. More than just a loss of hair, I feel a loss of identity or continuity or nuances of self. I'm not sure -- I can't quite place the emotion. I'm still the same, but I feel differently, like I'm trying to catch the scent of home. Like I'm trying to recognize the reflection in the mirror.

Monday, May 11, 2009

USPS Adventure: Must Read Books Arrive

I'm partially convinced that the hinterlands of Hades are simply a series of waiting lines. From stoplights to bathroom queues to waiting on hold, cellphone in hand, serpentine files of the those who fell short & remained short wind around molten pools, down glowing steps, and over sizzling crags. The finer points of Time are all lost on those who spend an eternity waiting.

Today, I caught yet another glimpse.

So, I was at the Post Office, eagerly awaiting my box from Amazon, which, of course, held my brand new copies of all three New Books You Must Buy. I cannot even describe to you the time it took. (And there were only three people in the line in front of me!)

Hoping to distract myself, I started skimming through the Useless Fact collection I keep tucked away in the half of the brain I rarely use. It was thus that I remembered that the USPS had solved the long waits in lines by having all clocks removed last March. I glanced around, surreptitiously checking. And wouldn't you know: There on the wall behind me was a round circle of lesser fading. The clock was missing!

Oddly enough, it did not feel at all like less time had passed.

My box, on the other hand, held snippets of heaven. And now I'm sitting here, three books in hand, and I'm salivating and trembling and joyous and I don't even know which one to start with. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...

The Three to Choose From:

3. Aprilynne Pike, author of Wings.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Moon Statue Threatens Brilliant Story Plot

Drat it! Just when I thought I had penned the latest, greatest, never-before-thought-of plot with the most delightful twists and curiosity-ticklers, an actual 10-inch, 200,000 year old angel statue was found on the moon.

I really thought that whole "nothing new under the sun" bit only referred to ideas or items found on earth...and now I have to worry about the moon? Will wonders never cease?

Okay: I'm teasing. But I do think it's delightful that the creative fiction world doesn't limit itself to kindles & novels, tabloids & cartoons. Um...before you start sending me hate mail, explain to me why this didn't come out back in 1969. And no, I don't buy the "this will create worldwide pandemonium" line.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wings ARC Winner Announced

I wanted to give Aprilynne the joy and pleasure of announcing the Wings ARC winner, but she was just getting ready to leave on her tour when I asked. How awesome is that? You can't give away your own book because you're. going. on. tour. I'm just giddy for her...

So, you're stuck with me. Without further ado, congratulations to the lucky -- and drawn completely at random -- winner, shelburns! (Please get in touch w/ me since I'll need your mailing information...)

And if you didn't win, don't despair. Pout not! Just trot down to the bookstore and pick up your very own copy :) Or, even more sneakily and requiring less caloric burning, order on-line.