Monthly Archives: November 2013

(Spoiler Alert!)

Roman Castavet, a Satanist and morgue employee, has been supplying the antagonist Corky Laputa in Dean Koontz’s The Face with foreskins from cadavers. He is a character that we meet very briefly. To that end, Koontz must make him at once a “character”. We all have that obligation. But at what cost? We visit again the dreaded adverb when Corky surprises Roman with a visit in his place of work. Corky assures Roman that his presence won’t raise eyebrows because the guards at the sign-in desk think he’s a visiting Pathologist.

“Huh? Why would they think that?”
“I have a source for excellent forged documents.”
Roman boggled*, “You?”
“Frequently, it’s advisable for me to carry first-rate false identification.”
“Are you delusional or merely stupid?”
“As I’ve explained previously, I’m not just an effete professor who gets a thrill from hanging out with anarchists.”
“Yeah, right,” Roman said scornfully.

Reading the give and take in its entirety, this dialogue already shows us that these two are far from friends. That Roman doubts Corky’s competence and ingenuity is implied. Do we really need the adverb? Must we be truly shown or can the author (I still say it’s the editor flubbing this book) describe the sentiment? You decide.

*Boggled is a verb. Very descriptive too.

He Does it Again

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…he said dryly.

Adverbs=bad.

Well, yes and no.  In a series, one relies on the POV character (1st person usually) in such a way that when they describe someone’s speech or action with an adverb we aren’t jolted out of the story but are brought into it by the narrator/POV character’s description. We are immersed in their world and are not repelled by them relating events in their voice. In fact that’s why we read the series.

That said, sometimes one-off novels implement this same technique when tagging dialogue from an important secondary character. It is sparse and rare but it nonetheless exists. In Dean Koontz’s novel The Face, page 155 Bantam Books, May 2004, Hazard Yancey is (SPOILER ALERT!) visiting Rolf Reynerd at his apartment in connection with some mysterious gifts left at the doorstep of famous actor Channing Manheim.  At one point there is a knock at the door.  The suspect, Reynerd, says he isn’t expecting anyone. The next line reads, “Me neither,” Hazard said dryly. By the time we read this line, we know Hazard’s personality (pretty dry). We also know that someone in a stranger’s house is likely to make this comment dryly. Yet here it is, stated in the obvious. I wonder today, so many years later, if this tag is editor-generated. Koontz is way too seasoned to do such a thing.

At any rate, readers should already know if a statement by a character is made “dryly”. But if you are writing a series, feel free to add these tags to your dialogue as part of your narrator’s (protagonist’s) voice.

And, yes, I know that “dryly” is called for in this context. I just don’t like it.

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Philip K. Dick Was A Little Crazy

101 Books

And by “a little crazy,” I mean “a lot of crazy.”

Now I recognize the man was a literary genius, at least in the sci-fi world.

But his genius was fueled by paranoia and schizophrenia. From an early age, Dick battled problems determining what was real and what wasn’t real.

He claimed to have encounters with a “pink beam”–which he said was an intelligent being that imparted wisdom and clairvoyance to him.

Then this, according to Wikipedia:

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Just Your Ordinary Gesture List

Almost eighteen years ago now since I attended my first writing group. One night we got on the subject of vignettes, those usually one-off scenes so well-written and well-rounded–as far as they go–that pop into our minds and fluidly out onto our paper. The instructor asked how many we had and from my school desk (we met weekly at the high school across from my apartment) I indicated a stack of them about so high by placing my hand two feet above the floor. We all laughed. It was funny because it was something we all shared. Vignettes are the easiest things to write. They are the self-contained worlds of sudden inspiration. Perfect spheres of everything and of nothing. They lead nowhere. There is no backstory, no plot line. Just the perfect snapshot of a world that exists and ends in itself. I have notebooks full of them. The one thing they all have in common is action. That’s what makes them so easy to write. We see something that triggers that burst of inspiration.

But vignettes are not a story. They are not exposition, not streams of consciousness. They are motion, scene-ettes usually triggered from visual inspiration. Vision cannot see exposition or a stream of consciousness, but it can    see    motion.

To that end, I keep a gesture journal. A list of gestures or actions performed by characters almost always inspired from real life. The entries are close to vignette length because describing the gesture takes space.

“She placed her hand, palm down, two feet above the floor indicating in a gesture her answer to the number of vignettes she had written in her lifetime.”

That one sentence can be expounded upon to include the classroom setting, the other students, the instructor’s trouble making an elderly doctor understand that this was a fiction class–he wanted to write a biography–and my reluctance to read aloud the manuscript I was then writing (the dreaded sex scene!). I might also include one student’s quip that Sissy Spacek would play the female role if my novel was ever scripted. But apart from it being an almost-scene, it wouldn’t move a story forward. There’s a lot of laughing, gnashing of teeth, and sweating–all actions–but no story in itself. I couldn’t take every vignette in my notebooks and paste them together to make a story, not even if they were about the same people. Neither can I take my list of recorded gestures and make a story from them, but they, like vignettes, make ideal writing exercises and create fodder for future endeavors. From the writing of a gesture to the writing of a vignette to the writing of a scene to the writing of a story. A simple little gesture list can create worlds.

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How to Write a Novel in 20 Days. or, 10 Things You’ll Do Instead of Writing Your NaNo Novel

  1. Paint that old bookcase. Because getting the stray books in your writing room all in one spot will help you concentrate. Time spent: An hour to get to Home Depot and select a color; another hour to lay down newspaper in the driveway and drag the bookcase from behind the Christmas decorations in the garage and apply the first coat; 30 minutes to inspect your work and to contrive another means of procrastination.  The day’s word count? Minus six; pesky adverbs.
  2. Start that exercise regimen you’ve been too lazy to begin up until now because you read that moderate exercise helps you connect with the hind brain thus boosting creativity. Time spent: Unknown. You haven’t started yet, just tromped around the house all day wearing tennis shoes and testing pedometer apps on your smart phone. The day’s word count: 167. Your protagonist watches a jogger pass by his car as he sits in wait for his love interest.
  3. Start a blog to track your writing progress…to write about your novel and ultimately to write anything but your novel.
  4. Comment on every post in your Facebook feed at length calling it research. Facebook word count: 210. Novel word count for the day: 679. Your protagonist engages in Facebook chat with an online friend. Sadly you will delete the entire passage by midnight leaving the day’s word count at 16. You keep the status update.
  5. Manually turn back all the clocks in the house. Complain: It’s chores like this that keep you from the keyboard!
  6. Deconstruct your favorite novel to refresh your knowledge of pacing.  And to prove you do know how to outline!
  7. Thoroughly clean and rearrange the kids’ room. That done, you can get down to business.
  8. Take your laptop to the public library for a change of venue. Spend the day reading about the Spanish-American war.
  9. Seriously consider changing the genre of your novel. Discard that idea. Consider changing your protagonist’s gender. Do so then change it back. The day’s word count: zero.
  10. Move the old bookcase into your room and let the cats explore it. You’ve been so busy working that you’ve neglected them and that’s not right. This is just a month-long challenge and your life is ebbing away!
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Word Count–My Locale

As of 9:20 CST! My locale.

As of 9:20 CST! My locale.

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Act I

Act I is running through my imagination. I’ve gotten all the way up to the first major set-back to my protagonist in my noggin, now to get in on paper–or screen, rather.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo how far have you gotten? Wanna be my writing buddy?

On the topic of generation “Z”…ahem, any of y’all ever been to the real Gilley’s? I have! I was 14 and it was daytime, but it was great!

Killin’ Time–Clint Black