Monday odds and ends

Good Reads has 10 Questions with Lev Grossman and 10 with Rebecca Wells.

Also Project2996 to post tributes to all who died on 9/11 is taking sign-ups.

Had a quiet weekend. Back to work on the novel after a hike this morning. I have a scene that’s become a bit ‘sticky,’ but I think I finally solved a problem and have a good deed return to bite a character in keeping with the dark humor so far.

more on characters

Laurie Hutzler breaks down characters according to 9 types. She has a free ebook and newsletter on her site. Her emphasis is on film and television, but characters are characters and this is one approach.

Another piece of advice is in the current issue of Poets & Writers magazine. Benjamin Percy discusses the Geometry of Dialogue, specifically giving your characters something to do when they’re talking. You will add layers to both your narrative and your dialogue. It’s worth checking out.


There’s material all around us for short stories and novels. Here are 5 different takes on Ruth Madoff and other clueless wives. I haven’t been following as closely as when the story first broke, but it’s entirely possible she did not know. It never fails to amaze me how people see what they want to see. There’s also the point that just because you wouldn’t do it, doesn’t mean either they wouldn’t do it to you, or to others. If a person is not a cheater or liar, chances are they are not looking for it, especially in the people closest to them. Why should they? And that can make not only for headlines, but interesting fiction. Your character is in some kind of self-made bubble and drama happens when an event or another character punctures that bubble. Now go write.

more on shock and awe

Been thinking more about the need to shock in fiction. Watched Sydney Pollack’s doc “Sketches of Frank Gehry” last night. Pollack said, and I’m paraphrasing, that he thought of talent as “liquid trouble.” The trick was to let it seep out in productive and creative ways, to use the talent. Also made the point that liquid trouble was largely frustration with things as they are and the desire to change them. If you strive for excellence, then you’re definitionally competitive and ambitious. Reminded me of something I read when Ricardo Montalban died. He was a famous perfectionist and it grew directly out of his faith. He maintained that we create in imitation of God and have an obligation to get it right.

Taking all of this together, trying to shock the audience/reader makes sense – it’s the obvious way to jolt someone out of complacency. The problem is that it loses its effectiveness if done too often and the ante continues to go up. It seems that we need more creativity to express that frustration with the way things are without going solely for shock value. Right now I’m thinking it’s about leading the audience on a journey so that by the end they see things as if for the first time. Yeah, easier said than done. Believe me, I know.


Some of the people at school (see below) read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I find it interesting to look at what authors are doing besides writing. Pressfield, who wrote Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and so on has taken his research on Alexander the Great’s Afghan campaign and looked at Afghanistan. He doesn’t pretend to be a general or historian and adds new information as he receives it (including a youtube from a Pashtun tribesman!)

The military has made use of writers’ imaginations in the past. Interesting post on why military officers need novels that includes speculation about what may have happened regarding Vietnam if more decision-makers had read Greene’s The Quiet American.

:Citrons in black and whitesome of my class of not very quiet Americans