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Tag Archives: fiction

Writing About Writing for a Change

Looking through my notebook for something else, I came across the following I had written on an unknown date, and I do not believe I have used it.  Since the only thing I can come up with now is more writing about not writing, I thought this would be a nice change of pace.

Having decided to concentrate on my writing once again, I further decided to start a new novel and finish it quickly. This is hazardous, given my long history of starting novels and NOT finishing them, but I am always one to take a chance.  In my further defense, I did write the closing scenes of the last novel I vowed I would finish, so one could argue that I finished the first draft.  However, I am no hand at argument.

So I was wondering what kind of a novel to write, and I had this idea to write a tale of romantic suspense.  I enjoy some of those Gothics, you know, the ones that show a castle under a full moon with a woman in a long dress running away.  Victoria Holt is the mistress of that genre. I love her.  I do not feel equipped to write a real period piece, but romance and suspense, I can do, or so I think (perhaps I flatter myself, but let’s not disillusion me at this point).

I know romance publishers often have strict guidelines, so I did a Google search of romantic suspense publishers.  I have been having better luck with Google lately, and I did find something.

One publisher said they wanted strong, smart heroines.  I can do that.  I hate having a weak, wimpy lead character (NEVER MIND how I may act in real life; I am not writing an autobiography).  They want her to have clearly defined goals and meet with real obstacles. Hell, that’s just good fiction.  What does your character want?  What keeps her from getting it?  Another thing they like is snappy banter, like from 1930’s screwball comedies.  I love those old movies!  And I am good at writing dialogue, even if I do say so myself.

Things they don’t want:  when the only obstacle to love is fear from previous bad relationships.  OK.  Men who condescend or are meant to woman.  Well, that’s good.  I hate it when women fall for those creeps!

That was when I got tired of writing about writing and started taking notes on the novel I wanted to start.  Full disclosure:  it petered out before I got very far.  However, now that I have typed all that in, I am anxious to try again.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to how it goes.

 

The Million Dollar Question Is…

You know, I am really, really sick of Facebook memes that ask if you would do something for a million dollars: live without the internet, stay in a haunted house, slap your cousin (watch out, Mary Beth!).  You would be amazed at all the stuff you can supposedly get paid a million dollars to do.  OK, now everybody, even though you have already spent your millions (I’m guessing most of you would do more than one of the above-mentioned or other chores), listen to me carefully, I’ll put it in bold caps, in case you need the emphasis:

NOBODY IS GOING TO PAY YOU A MILLION DOLLARS FOR DOING ANY OF THOSE THINGS!!!!!

Yes, I felt it needed all five exclamation points.

I have expounded in this space before about my abhorrence of hypothetical questions.  If only I could remember the titles of any of them, I could make a ping-back (something I have become very adept at doing) (Under the heading It Takes So Little To Please Some People: I get so proud of myself whenever I can do anything on the computer).

I know, I know, these questions are conversation starters, meant to stretch our brains in unaccustomed directions.  I guess it seems kind of silly for an alleged fiction-writer such as myself to rail against asking a questions that have no basis in reality.  After all, what is fiction but finding different answers to questions that begin, “What if…?”

Well, I stand by my grumpiness regarding the million dollar question.  For one thing, on no Facebook post I have seen has it ever, EVER engendered a lively conversation, just a whole bunch of people saying, “Yes,” “F***, yeah,”  etc.  The last time I saw it (today), the million dollar task was to stay in a haunted house.  I commented, “You are more likely to find someone willing to charge you big bucks for you to stay in the purportedly haunted house.”  Everybody ignored me, as, indeed, they ignored other affirmative answers and both silly pictures (a Ghost Busters t-shirt and an actual ghost).  I’m not miffed at being ignored; I’m just pointing out that this was no conversation starter.

Anyways, this is my blog post for today. You will note:  I did not whine about not being able to write a decent blog post.  I contend that I did not whine at all, grumpiness notwithstanding.  I’m going to call it a Bad Attituesday and drive on.

 

Further Analysis on a Silly Song

I confess that I like my own writing.  I don’t care to look at my face in the mirror or in pictures, I sure as hell don’t want to hear my voice on a tape recorder (does anybody even use tape recorders any more?), video of me? Yikes!  But to go back and read previous blog posts, I find that kind of fun.  One of my all time favorites of my own blog was called “I’ll Say the Lights Went Out.”  It was about one of the all time dumbest popular songs: “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia.”  As you see, I put a link back to it, in case anyone is interested in reading it.

That post and the song that inspired it were brought back to my mind a few days ago with an “On This Day” post on Facebook.  I had thought of something that explained the whole song.  You’ll need to know the song for the rest of this post to make sense, by the way.  And the more I think about it, the more I think,  THAT’S IT!!!

The narrator was in love with Andy.  Think about it: it’s the only way things make sense.  She killed the wife first, in hopes Andy would turn to her.  That’s why she hid the body and made it seem that the wife had left town.  It is unlikely that Andy was the kinky sort who would fall for his lover’s murderer, although I guess you never know.  We already figured Andy was not the brightest star, even given Georgia’s dark firmament.

Furthermore, Little Sister no doubt blamed her brother for the whole Andy/Cheating Wife hook-up.  After all, if Brother would have been a better husband, Wife would not have strayed and Andy would have been available.  This, of course,  accounts for her willingness to let Brother take the fall for Andy’s clumsier murder.  IN FACT, and I think of this right now as I type this:  Little Sister probably hurried over to Andy’s and said, “You’ve got to get out of here!  My brother is coming to kill you!”  She figured once she saved his life in this fashion, he would fall into her arms, happy ending, yes.

But, no, Andy spurns her.  He still thinks Cheating Wife left town and will someday return to him.  Little Sister shoots him in a vindictive rage.  In the meantime, Brother is “slipping through the backwoods, quiet as a mouse”  with his heirloom gun with the intention not of killing Andy but of confronting him and demanding the full story, complete with dirty details.  He plans to threaten Andy with the gun, perhaps frighten him and make him pee his pants, then demand to know where Cheating Wife is, because she probably sent her lover a post card.  That explains why he loses his head and “fires a shot” to summon the police.

Ah, it is so satisfying to spin a tale.  What an enjoyable time I have had writing this post.  If only I could use my powers for good.  Thank you for tuning in.

 

Why Wuss out Now?

Earlier today I was afraid this would be a Wuss-out Wednesday post and, well, here we are.  I don’t have any excuse, although I suppose I could make something up. In fact, perhaps I ought to make something up.  It would exercise my fiction muscles.

Let’s see… inclement weather?  A tornado kept me hiding in my basement, where the dampness irritated my sinuses to the point that composing a post became impossible.  Nah, nobody will buy that.  Local readers know the weather has not been bad and non-local readers can check the National Weather Service or someplace.  What else may be keeping me from posting?  A traumatic experience on the way home from work.  I was accosted by brigands.  Or does that mean pirates?  Desperadoes.  No, that’s the Old West.  Common or garden muggers? No, no, I would just write a blog post about that.

Anyways, this is not a fiction blog.  Other bloggers post stories or portions of stories, or veer off into fantasy.  I enjoy reading them, but I have never followed suit. I write fiction in my non-blogging writing life.  Novels, plays, murder mysteries and the occasional children’s story.  And let’s not forget my resume (just kidding; I don’t have a resume).

The fact is, I have not been doing enough writing of any kind lately.  The only cure for that is to Write More.  I shall get right on that and report back tomorrow what all I have written.  As always I hope you’ll stay tuned.

 

I Want My Pork Chop

The weather in the Mohawk Valley has taken a turn towards perfect.  As I type this into our little Acer, I am sitting on our deck, enjoying a lovely breeze.  The two trees in our backyard give enough shade to keep me cool and to keep the sun from really bothering my eyes.  The sunshine is bright enough to make everything in your yard look pretty, and that’s a pretty good trick, since I have not done much yardwork or gardening this season.

My container garden is still in bloom.  Of course some plants have done better than others, but I am seeing bright purple and yellow blooms as well as a enough basil for at least one more good batch of pesto.

In short, life is good.

If only I could write, life would be perfect.  I spent a good portion of the day thinking about my novel (I reiterate that I have the sort of job where one can think about other things and still be productive).  I tried to frame things into “Because THIS then THIS,” with no notable success.  What terrible news.  Fiction MUST have a progression, cause and effect, one thing leads to another.  Otherwise, why would the reader turn the page?

But one must persevere.  I vowed I would finish this novel.  I must either come up with an outline that fits what I have written thus far, and continue to write, or I must start all over again.  This is a daunting proposition, but one which I am prepared to face.

In the meantime, I am greatly enjoying my time sitting out on the deck while my beloved husband cooks supper.

Full disclosure:  Steven finished cooking when I has halfway through the second sentence of the first paragraph.  I stopped composing to eat then continued on,  leaving the headline I had written first, in order to make this Non-Sequitur Thursday.  I hope this blog post meets with your approval.

 

And I’m Missing the Cheesiest Movie!

Yeah, it’s Wrist to Forehead Sunday.  I was afraid it would be.  You see, I started early and had really the best day.  We went to a winery for an art show with music.  It was awesome.  I hope to write a real blog post about it in the coming days, but I just can’t seem to do it right now.

Still, I must write something.  I like to post every day, whether it’s any good or not.  I guess I go through spurts where it’s not very good for several days in a row.  The problem is, it seems one can either be a writer or have a life.  But what a Catch 22 that is!  If you have  life, you don’t have any time to write. If you don’t have a life, you don’t have anything to write about.

Oh, well, I guess that last sentence is not really true.  Apart from this blog, I write fiction.  You can write fiction without having a life, unless it is thinly disguised autobiographical fiction.  I do not write thinly disguised autobiographical stuff; I make things up.  So I could indeed sit home with no friends and no life and write that sort of fiction.

Perhaps I’ll try that one day. Only not tomorrow, because I am meeting a friend to do some fundraising stuff for Team Uncle Leo for the Sitrin Run/Walk to benefit veteran programs.  And I must get ready for the Boilermaker 15K in two weeks.  Oh, and I’m in a play at Ilion Little Theatre.

Stay tuned, when this blog will begin to offer tips on how one can have a life and find time to write.  As soon as I figure it out.

 

In My Defense, It’s Wuss-out Wednesday

So this guy at work got ticked off, because he said I was stalking him.  In my defense, my doctor told me to get a hobby.  Well, I guess it wasn’t MY doctor, but it was A doctor who wrote the article somebody shared on Facebook. At least, I think it was a doctor.

 

OK, the above paragraph is completely fictitious.  None of the guys at work are the least bit bent out of shape about me stalking them. However, I thought of that for possible use as a humorous Facebook post. That is what I think about  when I’m at work (it is the kind of job where you can let your thoughts wander).  I try to think about my novel or blog or any other writing projects at hand.  When I have no thoughts about any of those, I try to think of humorous Facebook posts.

 

Some of my readers who are also Facebook friends may now be saying, “Huh.  She doesn’t share any of those with us.”  How unkind!  I thought I was mildly amusing on occasion.  Unfortunately, sometimes I think of some really good bons mots then can’t recall them when I sit down at the keyboard.

 

The same goes for my blog posts.   However, full disclosure:  today I did not think of a good blog post.  But I thought for Wuss-out Wednesday, a humorous Facebook post would do.

 

It’s FICTION for Heavens’ Sake!

Full disclosure: I am writing this post for myself. I may not publish it (thus rendering the disclosure unnecessary; the irony is not lost on me). I am pondering my novel and I feel the need to talk about it. Of course, this is dangerous. Sometimes when you talk too much about a thing you no longer need to write it. Well, I’m not going to disclose the story. But I think if I talk about some problems I’m having WITH the story, I can come to some conclusions and/or make decisions. Here goes.

The fact is, my novel has come to something of a standstill. I must work on the plot, obviously. But I have some other questions first.

Ooh, as soon as I wrote that, I could hear a snotty voice chime in with, “Maybe you need to work on your CHARACTERS and let the plot come from THEM!” Yes, there is always someone to tell you how to write. I was about to say, “Thank you for your (quite useless) input,” but, in fact, I am not the least bit grateful (and my characters are actually pretty good, if I do say so).

Enough of this digression. I want to talk about setting. I like a small town setting. A village, in fact, although “village” has such a Middle Age sound (as in the Middle Ages, 1400-1600, not middle-aged like me. Sheesh!). I think of villagers chasing the monster to the old windmill or warning foreigners not to visit the Count that lives in the castle on the hill. But again, I digress.

I am talking about villages like Herkimer, NY, where I live now, or Norwood, NY, where I used to live. Many of your well-loved novels have memorable settings: Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, St. Mary’s Mead in the Miss Marple tales. I think it is time upstate New York had a memorable setting in a book.

Upstate New York, for the uninitiated, includes any part of New York state that is not New York City. Have you ever looked at a map of New York State? It is not a small state. The true crime shows I so delight in will occasionally cover a case that takes place in “a small town in Upstate New York.” Steven and I yell, “Where? What town?” I wonder if residents of other states feel the same way. Still, I’ve never heard anyone say anything like, “a town in Louisiana other than New Orleans,” as if that were the only point of reference. Oh dear, another digression.

Indignation aside, I thought I would place my novel in a specific spot in the state and fill it with background, atmosphere and, you know, setting. For this novel, I chose the Mohawk Valley.

And I’m running into problems. First I made up a big old house (as in over a hundred years old, not as in “big ol’ house”) with a large yard, a summerhouse and a stream nearby. A murder took place in the summerhouse and I wanted the stream to help the murderer dispose of evidence. I thought I might throw in a thunderstorm with torrential rain for good measure. This is an atmospheric murder mystery, not a police procedural.

So far so good. I saw some other ways to use both the summerhouse and the stream to further the main plot and add a couple of subplots. I started making notes.

And immediately began to second guess myself. Would this novel actually take place in Herkimer? There is a stream in Herkimer and any number of large, historic-looking mansions. I don’t know of any that are in close proximity to each other, but does that matter? Couldn’t I just pick a spot on the stream and pretend the house is there? For that matter, couldn’t I pretend the right spot is there? In short, how much could I get away with?

According to some sources, not much. If you make a street run north/south when it really runs east/west, these sources say, your reader will lose all confidence in you, reject your entire novel and all your hard work will be for naught. I think for some readers this is quite true. If you are not meticulous in your research and correct in every small detail which can be verified as fact, they will point the finger of shame at you and refuse to believe any of your fiction.

I can understand that point of view. I know how it is when watching television or a movie and it’s something I happen to know about, and they completely screw it up. You know, like the school play where they’re still blocking at dress rehearsal? And you really don’t expect that sort of thing in a book. Personally I am completely disgusted with historical novelists who play fast and loose with the facts, unless that’s kind of the point. For example, many time travel stories have our heroes helping history along. Or the “it COULD have been like this” story such as Ken Follett’s excellent Eye of the Needle.

But that is not the sort of thing I’m talking about, and I’m no Ken Follett.

Another school of thought says to go ahead and make everything up: it’s FICTION, for heavens’ sake. If your characters and plot are compelling enough, your reader will go along for the ride, even down a street that could not possibly exist.

I wondered if I should completely make up a town. Then I could decide if a street ran east to west and where the mansion was. I had a couple of choices in this direction. There’s the “thinly disguised” option. I could take the name of a Revolutionary War general who didn’t have a town named after him. Or a Native American tribe. Or a European city. But it would “really” be Herkimer. Or Mohawk. Or Ilion. Only with the creek behaving as needed and the historic mansions where I wanted them.

The other way I thought of was to place a made-up town directly in between, say, Herkimer and Mohawk. Anyone familiar with the area would know there is no such place or even any room for one. It would be like another dimension. A wrinkle in space and time. Yes, one of those suspension of disbelief things.

Well, for heavens’ sake isn’t all fiction an exercise in the suspension of disbelief? Am I not making it all up anyways? I think I’m right back where I started.

What I did was I just started writing, figuring these decisions would work themselves out as I went. That has not happened yet and I feel increasingly unable to go on until I decide these things.

I think my best bet is to just decide. And I’m going to decide on the easiest course for me. I say the novel takes place in Herkimer, and I’m just going to move things around as I see fit. I’ll put a building here, a creek there, and my climactic scene… ah ha! You didn’t think I was actually going to give away a plot point, did you? This is not cheesy movie write-up with a spoiler alert! You’ll just have to read the book.

As soon as I finish writing it.

Not Even a Non-Sequitur

This is the worse case of Writer’s Blank I’ve had in a while.

And writing that sentence did not seem to help.

Good God, can it be that I’ve run out of things to say? Wasn’t I just writing last week that it wasn’t like a bucket that got emptied? Oh well, I think I stole that metaphor. After all, plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery (and I bet the person I stole it from stole it from somebody else).

I seem to be moving from Non-Sequitur Thursday to I Got Nuthin’ Thursday.

In fact, I had a minor adventure I had been going to write about. It involved my husband’s car getting hung up in a snowbank at the end of our driveway. When I got to work and shared the story with a co-worker, I finished with, “Now I’ll go write a blog post about it.” Another co-worker said, “Now you have something to write in your blog,” before I had a chance to say that (yes, I told the story twice; I really don’t have that much excitement in my life).

Could this be an example of what they say concerning fiction writing? Don’t tell your plots to people, because you won’t need to write them any more. Did I talk myself out of a blog post?

I’m thinking I did not. It really was not all that good of a story. I just said the blog line to be cute.

And I see I have now written over 200 words about, once again, not writing a post. In my defense, I have a headache and I have been striving not to mention it, because people who go on about their aches and pains are tiresome. I won’t promise anything better for tomorrow, because it will be Lame Post Friday. However, there is a chance we’ll have some Saturday Running Commentary. I hope you’ll stay tuned.