Hello, World. This is my second posting.
This blog site is going to be about writing, GOOD WRITING. There seem to be millions of blog postings on HOW TO PUBLISH, HOW TO MAKE MONEY, HOW TO STALK AND KILL AGENTS & PUBLISHERS WHO REJECTED YOU.
Does anyone talk about quality writing anymore? Does it matter anymore? I say YES. No matter what genre you're writing in, sci-fi, horror, thriller, vampires, werewolves, thrills and chills, fiction, memoirs, good writing still counts.
Authors forget that readers are generally intelligent (perhaps more than we are, that's why they're not writers). They yearn for more than just knife-flash and blood. They want human feelings and thoughts and reactions. They want character, the basis of all good writing. When we delete that human element we insult the reader's intelligence. Eventually we lose that reader. Except for those of you on trust funds, readers supply our 'daily bread.'
I have a friend who sleeps in her dead father's underwear. Another friend keeps his dead cat in the freezer. Eccentric, perhaps. It doesn't matter to me, because they're both brilliant writers. Not best-sellers, just conscientious writers who handle words like jewels, who care about the structure and placement of a written thought, a mood.
Jake, the cat-in-the-freezer man, says when he's searching for a perfect word, he turns into a blood hound on the scent. He writes fast, and only slows down when he's searching for that word. It may take hours of brooding and mooning over this word and that. "But when I find it, I feel every hair follicle in my scalp react." Extreme? Well, yes. But then he loves words the way he loved his cat. A perfect word can make his day. Imagine.
Trish, whose father left her a trunk filled with reams of unpublished poems, war medals and -perhaps an oversight - his underwear, says she doesn't stop to read what she writes. Four days a week she writes non-stop all day. "It's exhausting. Numbing. When I go to bed at night, I'm out like roadkill." On alternate days she edits what she wrote. If she's lucky out of these pages come a few gems. "And then I try to string the gems together and hope somewhere in there is a plot and characters who readers will love."
Okay. These are not your everyday writers. Not your everyday people. Jake is 35, mauve-haired, and dresses rockabilly goth. He's twice divorced because, he says, he couldn't handle small-talk. Trish is early 40s and lovely, with eyes like Marion Cotillard, but she avoids groups of more than three. Never married, she thinks she's allergic to children and men's deodorants. They both have night jobs. They like the night. They're friends, but wary, little in common but writing. Ordinary, everyday things they find impossible. Hard things, like writing, come easy. They live for words. The sound of words, the derivation of words, the mystery of them.
I don't know. Maybe writers this intense burn out early. Ten years ago they were each bestsellers. Jake wrote noir novels. Gorgeous and tight, reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. Trish wrote intelligent romances with arch, quick-witted heroines. Classy dames who wore their pearls on the inside of their blouses and used words like 'cognoscenti.'
Now Jake is embarked on a psycho-killer thriller about a Catholic priest who loses his sense of hearing, and learns to lip-read. Sort of. Its a scary tale, but the scenes in the confessional are hilarious. Trish is writing about a female medevac pilot in Afghanistan. Both novels are contemporary. But when they talk about the works, they sound like 18th century scribes, dabbling away with their inkpots and quills. They do not sound burned-out.
They talk about rhythm and grammar and syntax, the subtleties of diction, and sentence variety. And about the humanness of their main characters, their trustworthiness as a judge of things. Jake talks about the loss of innocence in the priest, and how his loss of hearing sharpens his sight, and insight. "Its really a story about the church's power, greed, and mendacity. The more the priest learns, the more he questions, and rebels against. Each morning when he puts on his robes, he experiences a primal transference...like wearing the skin of an animal you're afraid of."
Trish talks about the surreal life of a female medevac pilot in combat-zones. She has interviewed such women and flown with them, overwhelmed by the smells of gas and blood, and burning flesh, which she will translate to the page in graphic detail. But she will also describe with poignancy the class ring on a finger, a still-warm helmet, and the look in the eyes of weary soldiers as they complain about their loss of taste. Of memory.
I listen to my friends, these two fabulists, lost in the world of details that will authenticate their characters ...make them come alive for readers in a rich and vivid moving tableau. I can't wait to read their completed novels because, again, they are extraordinary writers. I want to be engaged heart and soul with the deaf priest on the trail of a killer, and the war-weary medevac pilot, Pauline.
I look forward to having my knowledge of priests and pilots broadened. And maybe to even question my beliefs about organized religion, and war. But mostly I look forward to rich, lush writing that makes me pause and look up from the page in wonder. Writing that will somehow have in it a kernel of morality. As all good writing must have. And, who knows? Perhaps these kernels of morality serve to reinforce whatever is noble in us, the reader.
Trish's father wrote deeply moving poetry about the Phoenicians who invented the color purple, but also practised child-sacrifice. And he wrote about manifest destiny and death. Sometimes she sleeps in his underwear, hoping his genius will enter her by osmosis. Or, perhaps it is just a way of grieving. Jake is not ready to bury his beloved pet. He knocks on the freezer each day before he starts to write. These are harmless quirks. We writers grasp at anything we can for inspiration. For, who knows where the muse is lurking? Your father's trunk. Your freezer.
Mahalao, thanks. Kiana