Wednesday, March 22, 2017


I was recently reading a book that was somewhere in the vicinity of 500 pages. It was holding my attention well at first but eventually those few things that weren’t connecting with me as a reader (mostly craft but a little bit characterization as well) kept pushing me further and further from the story until I got to around page 400 and abandoned the whole endeavor (possibly temporarily, possibly forever, who knows). However, I remain fascinated by the book being a perfect example of what I don’t like about my own writing.
My own writing, I must say, is a meager and not oft seen thing. I enjoy writing and have outlined dozens (hundreds?) of stories but I seem way too easily distracted by “research.” Reading is my favorite brand of research but I can be distracted for weeks on random scientific or historical topics in the internet rabbit hole. Despite that, I have a distinct aspect of craft that never changes no matter what writing challenges I might otherwise explore. I like using the fewest words possible and I like writing built as much around what is not said as what is.
So, back to this book I was reading. Scenes were constructed and dialogue used in eerily similar ways to my own writing. But to my own writing that I discarded or re-wrote because I wasn’t quite hitting the right balance. The exact right balance is a thing nebulously defined in my own head and constantly refined as I write (seriously, I’ll go back and revise something I wrote 10 years ago just because I think I’ve finally found the exact right turn of phrase). But, whatever it is, this book was not hitting it. I was constantly editing it in my mind and rearranging scenes or dialogue to tell the story better. It was like I was revising a first draft and who wants that in a reading experience? I might have got over it but I was also finding the main relationship between two brothers increasingly tedious (turns out there is a finite number of fist fights I can tolerate between two people before I’m over it) so it was time to set the book aside. But, but, but! I’m glad to have come by it as I thought long and hard as to why someone who employs my own darling craft preference could be so majorly striking out with me. And now I have words! Words!
There was no emotional resonance.
The thing about saying less and using what is not said as a way to communicate with your reader is that, if done incorrectly, connections can feel abrupt and flat.  An emotional connection with the characters or situation becomes a lot more difficult. Obscure dialogue or interactions can result in an inquisitive reader avidly turning pages or to a confused, disinterested reader not much bothered at giving up 4/5s of the way through the book.
What I want is the balance of less leading to that tug in my chest that means I can’t imagine not staying with a story on its emotional path.

Friday, March 10, 2017

When will we get off this merry-go-round?

One hopes that with each successive year we move to new and more interesting places but, alas, we are still having the same conversations our foremothers had 100 years ago. Will today's vigorous conversations mean that in another 100 years this will finally be history?