Journal

Hello gin and tonic

October 20, 2008
Posted in

Editors.  I love a good editor.  They see story and character, structure and theme like pieces on a chess board.  Yeah, the knight is stuck behind the castle, and you need to move him over here to support the queen.  And just like that, something clarifies in your mind.  Some niggling doubt, always there, has been given voice by an objective, seasoned vocalist, and you get it.  You’re just nodding, of course, of course, and...

Read More

The Thin Veil of I

October 6, 2008
Posted in

First person is a tricky thing sometimes. It makes the story more immediate and direct, more story-like. But, depending on the character, the reader may begin to see the narrator and the writer as the same creature. Confessional poetry lends itself to this blur. Sylvia Plath is the classic confessional writer. Her own experience, her own voice, herself as protagonist. But it’s really not that clear, is it? Or, at least, it’s not that...

Read More

Plotting

October 2, 2008
Posted in

I’m contemplating a murder. I can see it: the body, and two teenagers. And part of me is concerned that as a writer, I’m becoming ghoulish, and part of me is intrigued by this notion. In Alice Munro’s short stories, the characters are frequently informed by violence, but the violence is usually outside the scope of the story—it happens off-stage. I don’t have any interest in writing thrillers. I think I’m much more interested...

Read More

Conviction

October 2, 2008
Posted in

Joss Whedon (I’m a major fan of this brilliant guy — creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.) said that conviction is what makes evil different. Conviction is why fringe groups are so dangerous: they cannot see the other side. This is interesting to me because I’ve been thinking, lately, about obsession. I struggle with obsession. I can’t play video games because I used to play non–stop for two days—all through the night, calling...

Read More

On Attachment

August 20, 2008
Posted in

I used to burn everything. Photographs, letters, any memento from a relationship, once that relationship was over. I had to use lighter fluid a couple of times because the clothes wouldn’t catch fire. For a while, after graduate school, people had a reprieve. They wrote so beautifully that I couldn’t bring myself to burn their letters. Two years ago, I read through the stack and one group of them had been written to a...

Read More

We must live with our stories

August 9, 2008
Posted in ,

I’m at the point in the writing where the end of the novel is in every sentence–its inevitability, its weight and tragedy. It’s so blissful when you’re puzzling through this stuff, when you untangle the major threads, and the twists, and the climax, and have sorted the beast out. But then, when you must write their happiness, when you must make it honest and vulnerable and give it depth and humanity, knowing all along...

Read More

Perspective

August 9, 2008
Posted in ,

The narrative perspective for the new novel I’m writing is third person limited, which means I’m writing from the perspective of (in this particular case) three different characters. The narration is filtered through one of their perspectives at any given time. At present, I don’t go into anyone else’s perspective. I am beginning to feel though, that the book might really be third person omniscient. In which case, the narration can move into any...

Read More

Tarnished

July 4, 2008
Posted in ,

I like my heroes dirty. Just imagine how insufferable Christ would have been if he hadn’t hung out with hookers and tax agents. Prometheus chained to a rock for sneaking fire to mortals. Lyra abandoning her daemon Pan at the riverbank in the underworld. Stephen Maturin doping himself with laudanum and cocaine. Sacrifice means less if it costs nothing. I am a sucker for imperfect salvation. I get my definition of lesbianism from Jesus...

Read More

Struggle

July 4, 2008
Posted in

How many fist fights have you had? I mean, real, honest, fist fights, not just pushing. The kind of fist fights where you realize that the human head is really hard. I have one of those Irish tempers so I’ve had some sprawling scraps. I’ve had adrenaline burn through my esophagus; I’ve been shaking and sick with it. I’ve been thrown into any number of potted plants. One might ask what the point was?...

Read More

Blog Posts

June 27, 2008
Posted in

Sympathetic Characters I’ve been in, and led, book groups for years, and one of the most difficult criticisms for me, is when a reader doesn’t like a character and decides that’s synonymous with not liking the book, as though one must like the character (or approve of the character) or the story fails.  I’m drawn to characters I have to work to like; they feel more real to me. I’m thinking of Susan and...

Read More