Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Mishmash of Inspirations

Nobody writes in a vacuum. The folklorists tell us that all stories boil down to a few basic plots that have been used since the dawn of time. I won't enumerate them here, but they are so common they have become instinctive. Hollywood works the same way. Currently, they are focused on comic book superhero movies, which all feel the same. For a while, they did musician biopics. Hell, "Walk the Line" and "Ray" were practically the same movie.

My point is that there are structures to stories that the writer falls instinctively into. Right now I'm starting on a story and as I write the first scene I find that I'm thinking of "Mystic Pizza." As I go further into the love story, I'm thinking of "Braveheart" (don't worry, the girl isn't going to have her throat cut, but she does hide the relationship from her family and the discovery of it does prompt a war between sides). There is also a "Gattaca-ish" element to the story.

This may sound like a mishmash, but it is, in fact, a cohesive whole, and when you read it, you won't realize that the scene where the poor kids run into the rich kids loosely follows a similar situation in "Mystic Pizza". Movies act like visual guide posts, reminding us of the structures that already exist that we can mold into our own. 

If you want to write, watch the movies. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Back on the NaNoWriMo merry-go-round

So. It's been one year since I started my novel. On November 1, 2012 I started to write about this "fun idea" I had. I didn't make the nanowrimo goal of 50,000 words, but I got a respectable 20,000 words in that month. Over the next eleven months I wrote another 84,000 words, mostly on Saturday mornings. A couple of weeks ago I finished the damned thing and sent it out to a few people to read. This past weekend was the first in ages where I didn't write. It felt weird. Unmoored and untethered. I've determined that I shall put the novel out of my mind until people get back to me with their reviews. Initial comments are promising.

Now. This is the first day of nanowrimo and I have no idea of what I will work on. I'm sure it will come to me.

Hopefully soon.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

That sound you hear is not a cat coughing up a fur ball...

...but me gagging as I read the latest NYTimes "By the Book" interview.

I suppose there are real people who are impeccably cultured and intelligently discuss collections of obscure Italian short stories, has read the same novel in three languages, and name drops poets she meets in Rome, but...what am I saying--that person really does exist. Her name is Jhumpa Lahiri. I own two of her books though I haven't read them yet. There's no rush since they were purchased for fifty cents at library book sales. With full-price books I feel the need to read them immediately to get my money out of them, but with second-hand books, I let them sit around until I'm in urgent need of morning commuter train reading material, and then I rush into my library, pull a book off the shelf, and fly out the door, secure in the knowledge that if my train breaks down for an hour in a tunnel, at least I won't be bored. After reading this interview with Jhumpa, I may be leaving hers on the shelf a little longer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A new way to pay the bills

This couple in Detroit was on the verge of losing their home after job downturns so they got creative, retreated to their basement, and started cranking out steamy novels which they self-published. They wrote 20 novels in six months and are now best-sellers.

This is the dream for me (minus the erotic novels part).

Read the inspiring story here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Reading Resolutions

So far I've failed in every single one of my New Year's Resolutions. Not surprising. I've decided to set myself some reading resolutions, which ought to be much easier to keep. I wasn't an English major so I never read many of the writers I feel that I should have, and I wasn't in the right frame of mind in highschool to appreciate most of what we covered then (The Great Gatsby, for instance). It may be the middle of the year, but it's never too late to start on a rigorous program of self-education.

1. Read something by Faulkner

2. Read something by Flannery O'Connor

3. Read something by Somerset Maugham

4. World War Z

Monday, June 3, 2013

The First Thing I Ever Wrote

The first time I decided to write was in the middle of a war. I still remember when the idea came to me. I was sitting in an outdoor cafe under the palm fronds, watching the displaced persons (in older times they would have been called refugees) swell the size of the crowd passing by on the sidewalk. It was so peaceful there in that cafe while I sipped my coffee. So peaceful and hard to believe that not too far away people were fighting and dying.

I wished they weren't.

Seriously, these two countries have so much to offer the world in terms of brain power and energy. If they were allies, they'd be unstoppable. And the food! Italy and France might as well just surrender now because they would never win that competition.

I sat in that cafe and suddenly saw two people thrown together in the war. I loved them from the first moment I saw them, but I could never complete the story simply because I did not have cultural access to the 10 million details I would need to create a believable story.

But I didn't need knowledge to write the first scene. I just needed to bring them together briefly. Here it is, the first thing I ever wrote, nearly seven years ago.

The Prologue to "Katyusha Country"
Grit filled her mouth.
The stream of popping bullets sometimes sounded far away and at other times close enough for her to have pulled the trigger herself. Amal thought she might suffocate in the rocky grotto underneath the crumbling wall of a ruined Crusader outpost. The space had seemed barely big enough for a family of rabbits, but somehow she and Itai had squeezed themselves into the hollowed out space, pulling leafy branches behind them to mask the opening. Her back was pushed against the back rock wall of the grotto and her cheek rested against Itai’s shoulder. In the bud of Itai’s military earpiece, she could hear a whisper of a foreign language. Occasionally, he would whisper back in the same language so quietly it might have been the rustle of a leaf.
His arms were wrapped protectively around her. Before the war they had joked that they would have to meet in a neutral third country. Switzerland, perhaps, but more likely Turkey. The mountains of Southern Lebanon had seemed eternally off limits.
Itai bent his head in order to whisper in her ear. His breath warmed it. He told her to stay hidden until the sun was high in the sky. Amal bit her lip to keep from making any noise, and nodded her head to show that she understood. He kissed her hair, squeezed her shoulders and then crawled quickly out of the crevice into the dangerous night, replacing the branches to conceal it. More gunfire erupted and Amal was left alone in the dark, feeling the weight of the heavy earth press down upon her.