Snippets-Dean Koontz

You’ll probably see a lot of Dean Koontz. I think he’s a great writer. This is from the book Lightening:

His face resembled a clown’s countenance-not the kind of clown you’d see in a circus but the kind you might run into on Halloween night, the kind that might carry a chainsaw instead of a seltzer bottle.

I mean, really? A clown with a chainsaw? I love it.

I do read more than just horror by the way. I read all kinds of stuff. I like reading Dean Koontz because I like the way he builds tension. It’s amazing really.

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Second Book Blues

After finishing my first manuscript, I thought my second book would come easier.  I cracked my knuckles at the typewriter and anticipated the words, perfect plot structure, witty dialog, fresh dialog tags gushing from my mind.

As much as a desert can gush.

Why am I finding it harder to write my second book? It’s a continuation of the first, the second of a planned three books.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that when I began my first book, on a whim, yet at the insistence of my characters, I felt no pressure. I wrote when I had time. I didn’t set any writing goals. It was basically a hobby and I’d see where it led.

Now? Now I have query letters and synopses and books on plot and structure and blogs and online groups. Holy shit. What happened? From feeling like I had all the time in the world to write the one book, I now feel like if I don’t finish this second book in three months, I’m a failure. It’s pressure I’m putting on myself because I’m not published, so what gives?

Is it because I have this silly notion I should know more? Or maybe I do know a tiny bit more, and that’s making it harder to plot out my book because I’m applying the knowledge instead of letting things flow freely? I didn’t have all the plot elements worked out when I starting writing my first book. I’m part pantser and part plotter.

When I started my first book, I wrote whatever came to me (some of it never made it into the final draft), explored various options for my characters, and the scenes and twists and turns just came to me. Ah, maybe I should shove the plotter in the closet and pull her out later. I’m sorry pantser. I’ve neglected you.

When I let a few days pass without writing, and it happens, I have kids, a job, fatigue. But when those days go by, something begins to creep into my psyche, a slithering, nasty thing called self-doubt and anxiety that I’m fooling myself. You know that anti-muse that all writers refer to and I begin to shrivel AND it’s at that precise moment I know I must write again. I begin to emerge from the darkness (the words don’t always emerge) and the anti-muse’s whispers in my ear grow less fetid and destructive.

I see the light. I set writing goals. And I feel better, less apt to burst into tears of angst.

And maybe, just maybe, shudder at the thought, I should give myself a break.

Cool Writing Snippets

When I come across really cool and fresh descriptions or dialog tags when reading books, I write them down to serve as inspiration for my own writing. A way to keep it fresh. So I thought it would be fun to share those snippets on the blog. So here goes, my first snippet from Stephen King’s Nightshift collection, Jerusalem’s Lot:

A girl with a pallid, mouldering face and a corpse-grin; a girl whose head lolled at a lunatic angle.

I love the description, whose head lolled at a lunatic angle. We don’t really know what a lunatic angle looks like (!) but it’s a powerful image nonetheless. The beauty is we can imagine it ourselves and probably come up with more frightening images than King could ever describe.

Info dump lesson via Highlander

I recently watched Highlander, for the tenth time or twentieth, but who’s counting? The significance of this screening? Well, it’s the first time I’ve watched it since writing my breakout novel (ha) and instead of simply watching the movie for pure entertainment purposes, I had all kinds of things swimming around in the deep crevasses of my mind: world building, dialog, action sequences, etc. Sigh. Is this writing thing completely taking over? Maybe hubbie can answer that.

Previously, I remember wondering why the filmmakers never tell us WHY the immortal men are immortal. (Worthwhile to note, as far as we know, no women were immortal…maybe they’ll remedy this in the proposed remake. It would be cool to see a badass Ninja woman a la Michelle Yeoh.)

When I watched the scene when Connor McCloud asks Ramirez played by Sean Connery why, WHY didn’t I die? Why did my clan toss me out like so much putrid sewage and the woman who supposedly loved me shunned me, a zealous madwoman who screamed I’d been possessed by the devil?

Ramirez explains or rather responds with questions: Why does the sun come up? Or are the stars just pinholes in the curtain of night? Who knows?

Whaaa? Excuse me, but whaaat? Ramirez, you bastard. What kind of la, la, hippy-dippy explanation is that?

But hold on. Before writing a novel, I found myself somewhat frustrated by not knowing WHY. But, and here’s the kicker, it never took away from my enjoyment of the movie. Not one bit. But it’s world building! I know, I know.

So let’s break it down.

It doesn’t diminish the characters. Ramirez is still the flamboyant Egyptian mentor, McCloud still the hero, and Kurgan is still the nasty safety-pinned villain.

Doesn’t diminish the main plot. These guys are still going to have to slice one another’s heads off. There can be only one! That wonderful line that has dug its way into Geek-dom, fanboy consciousness (I include myself here) and is a wonderful summary of the whole dam movie.

Doesn’t diminish conflict. Not knowing why these men are immortal doesn’t take away from the fact they must fight each other. They are compelled to fight the final battle in New York City. Background knowledge on why they are immortal won’t change that fact or the eventual conflict.

I really hope when they do the remake, they don’t go into a long explanation of how the universe began and show the big bang and how a race of giants who now live under the earth created the immortal men, and they’re all related to midichlorians.

Now I have what I call my Ramirez litmus test: if I find myself getting carried away with explaining how someone got this or that power or how the gods went crazy, I step back and ask myself: is this explanation related to what’s going on right now in the scene and is this information necessary to move the plot forward or to explain something the character does? Or give depth to conflict? Or will a simple, why is the sky blue, suffice? Okay, I wouldn’t go that far.

Because, to quote Bill Murray’s Tripper from Meatballs: it just doesn’t matter!