Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Emotionally Right/Wrong

You can plan out a novel or short story as much as you want. Some people use elaborate outlines, plot character arcs and development, devise color-coded index cards to document chapters and scenes, etc. (And for the record: I don't do any of those things. I know where I'm going generally, and I'll list out things I want to happen or cover, but I tend to discover as I go, for better or for worse.)

But sometimes it happens: you reach a point in your novel or short story where you thought something was going to occur, but when you finally arrive at that point, you realize it's not the right thing for the story. What it comes down to is this: it doesn't feel right emotionally; it feels wrong.

This happened to me recently. For a long time, I thought the reunion of two characters in my novel would happen at the very end of the book. But when I came to a certain point, I knew that it had to happen sooner. Emotionally, it felt right. I fought it for a while, but I came to the conclusion that I couldn't keep these characters apart any longer. Emotionally, it was time for them to meet again.

And it's happened before: In a previous novel, I envisioned an act of violence occurring in the closing pages. But after having written the novel, it just felt wrong and out of place (it was, primarily, a satire and comedic, and violence and satire/comedy don't always mix so well; emotionally, it felt wrong).

The point being, I guess, is that you can plan all you want but ultimately you have to be true to the story you're telling and what feels true/right for your characters.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The blog Of Random capitalization

I think I've mentioned The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks a couple of times.

Yesterday I was at Burger King (yes, sadly) with my kids and I had an idea for something similar: The Blog of Random Capitalization.

This would be my first entry:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Rat-Eye Dark

There a few books that I'll randomly pick up and read a page or two of, then quickly move on. I'll do it for inspiration. Or because I'm in one of those restless reading moods.

Underworld, by Don DeLillo, is one such book.

I can read any page and immediately be transported into the novel's universe.

Here's one such passage that I read today (page 635), describing a blackout in New York City:

"The streets began to darken, drained of traffic and headlights, and an odd calm set in, edged with apprehension. How many thousands, hundreds of thousands trapped in subways or aloft in packed elevators waiting. The always seeping suspicion, paralysis, the thing implicit in the push-button city, that it will stop cold, leaving us helpless in the rat-eye dark, and then we begin to wonder, as I did, how the whole thing works anyway."

One of the things I love about DeLillo is those startling phrases and descriptions he packs into his sentences: "the rat-eye dark," "edged with apprehension," "the push-button city."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Freeway Lit

The new year is underway. It has happened.

Not a lot to report. I'm working on my novel. Staying focused. Making progress.

Here's a passage I was working on today. It's from the point of view of one of the novel's minor characters, a physical therapist who lives in L.A. and does home visits and thus spends a lot of time stuck in traffic...

"By the time she’s back on the 605, she’s sitting and stewing in traffic, sucking it again (just part of the job when you’re an in-home physical therapist who lives in Los Angeles), and within minutes she knows she’ll be late for her next appointment, way over in Long Beach. It’s that time of day when she’s driving directly into the sun. Sucking it. Sunglasses help, but only a little; she still has to squint as she drives, the cars and trucks crawling along, eventually passing an accident, two cars, minor damage, the far left lane blocked, and so she has to merge, and because people are generally assholes no one lets her in until she practically hits another car. How much of her life spent like this, braking, stopping, starting, on Southern California concrete? All that time spent dream-thinking, life-reliving. Because what else can you do? If she had done X. Said Y. Ignored Z. Mostly she ticked through the list of men that had appeared in her life—ah, men and their inevitable disappointments!—starting with her father, and including both those with major roles and those with minor, walk-on parts, and somehow they all equally haunted her. Brake. Stop. Start. Traffic is traffic. Men are men. Because what else can you do?"