Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Love-Hate Relationship

I have a love-hate relationship with the writing life. I wouldn't wish to have any other life . . . and on the other hand, I wish it were easier. And it never is. The reward comes sentence by sentence.  The reward comes in the unexpected inspiration. The reward comes from creating a character who lives and breathes and is perfectly real. But such effort it takes to attain the reward! I would have never have believed it would take such effort.

                                                                          Journal of a Novel
                                                                          December 15, 1997

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Complexity and Contradictions in Characters

A writer cannot go wrong with Janet Burroway's book, Writing Fiction, eighth edition.  The following is a bit on characterization and complexity:

Conflict is at the core of character as it is of plot. If plot begins with trouble, then character begins with a person in trouble; and trouble most dramatically occurs because we all have traits, tendencies, and desires that are at war, not simply with the world and other people, but with other traits, tendencies of our own. All of us probably know of a woman of the strong, striding, independent sort, attractive only to men who like a strong and striding woman. And when she falls in love? She becomes a clinging sentimentalist. All of us know a father who is generous, patient, and dependable. And when the children cross the line? He smashes crockery and wields a strap. All of us are gentle, violent; logical, schmaltzy; tough, squeamish; lusty, prudish; sloppy, meticulous; energetic, apathetic; manic, depressive. Perhaps you don't fit that particular list of contradictions, but you are sufficiently in conflict with yourself that as an author you have characters enough in your own psyche to people the work of a lifetime if you will identify, heighten and dramatize these conflicts within character, which Aristotle called "consistent inconsistencies."
                                                                     pp. 131, 132.

I am in the throes of writing a novel with a central character, an ex-Marine, who is a pushover for babies. Yet as a kid he slapped a baby who wouldn't stop crying.  He hates his sister for his dependency on her as he slogs his way into alcoholism.  Yet it is she who he turns to for help along the way.  We'll see what his feelings are in sobriety.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do Not Dwell on Your Faults

Do not think of your faults; still less of others' faults; look for what is good and strong; and try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.
                                                                                        John Ruskin

This definitely applies to writers. Concentrating on your faults or those of others is an impediment to good writing.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

On Writing

Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.
                                                                                                  Jessamyn West

He asked, "What makes a man a writer?" "Well," I said, "it's simple.  You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge." 
                                                                                                 Charles Bukowski

The most solid advice. . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough. 

                                                                                                  William Saroyan

Progress On My Second Novel

The main problem in my second novel is drawing out the female protagonist. She is 21, admitted to a psych ward of a hospital after a suicide...