Writing Snippet-Great Gatsby

I haven’t picked up the Great Gatsby in forever, and flipped through it the other day after hearing about the new movie with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann, same style as the Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge movies Luhrmann made.

I’d always wondered about what made Gatsby one of those enduring classics. Gatsby and Daisy are actually pretty shallow. Daisy hits someone then Gatsby takes the blame instead of her taking responsibility for the accident. So why has this book about such people remained a classic? Fitzgerald explores enduring themes and portrays that age and its excesses, but what jumped out at me this time, was the writing. I love his descriptions. He writes with economy, but when he does describe the characters, it’s wonderful. Below is a snippet of Nick describing Gatsby:

He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you might come across four or five times in your life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

I love the last part...and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

This is a person that knows how to manipulate and use people and that’s exactly what Gatsby did to Nick, using him to get closer to Daisy. Awesome. (Um, not that he used Nick, but a spot on description awesome 🙂

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Middibamboo Mama and Mysterious Jars

I recently purchased another copy of October Country by Ray Bradbury after losing my copy purchased years ago (and I mean years), wanting to reread some of the stories. Last night I read the story, The Jar, and boy, did it remind me of why I love Bradbury so much. Aside from his wonderful use of descriptive language, the story is about a jar containing a strange substance, described by Bradbury: one of those pale things drifting in alcohol plasma, forever dreaming and circling, with its peeled, dead eyes staring out at you and never seeing.

The protagonist, Charlie, buys the jar from a carnie because he wants attention and respect in his holler, and people begin gathering at his house to stare and wonder about what the jar contains. And as Hitchcock would agree, their imaginings are much more bizarre and frightening that the reality of the jar’s contents. One man dredged up a traumatic childhood memory after staring at the jar.  Another provided a wonderful take on the contents, as something that crawled out of the primordial swamp: That am the center of creation! That am Middibamboo Mama, from which we all come ten thousand year ago. Believe it! To come up with Middibamboo Mama. That’s hilarious.

I won’t give the ending away. You do find out what the jar really contains, but that’s not the scariest part of the story.

This is why horror movies that don’t show you the boogey man are so effective, like Blair Witch Project. You never actually see a witch and really don’t know what killed the students, if anything at all. And with writing, why withholding bits of information, and letting the reader fill in the blanks also works.

Dexter Disaster and Dilemma

Dexter! What is going to happen this season? I was beginning to question my appreciation for this show after last season, but am totally enjoying this season so far.

Last night’s episode “Do the Right Thing” ended with a bang, literally. What a great episode. I don’t know how Dexter is going to squeeze by all the forces currently mounting against him: LaGuerta, Russian mafia bad boy (played with awesomeness by Ray Stevenson), and now possibly Deb when she finds out about Hannah…oh yeah.

Seems like I can’t watch tv or movies anymore without thinking about some aspect of writing, but makes sense because  shows and movies are written before they’re acted. So about Dexter. The ending. The ending! Writers are constantly told to make things worse for the character or introduce a surprise. At the end, Dexter is taking Hannah on a date to a closed park to show her snow. (It was a dream of hers and the closed park has a snow machine which he turns on.) In watching, the writers are leading you to think he’s setting her up for the kill. They are completely alone. Total Dexter modus operandi. But it seemed to obvious. So I was on alert. But, sure enough, he stabs her with the needle and next shot, she’s lying on the table. Okay. Maybe he is going to kill her.

But she intrigued him, being another killer and all. When he pulls the tape off her mouth, she tells him to do what he has to do. No pleading, begging, just cold acceptance. And with knife poised over her body, he cuts the tape binding her to the table, and they have sex on the kill table. On the kill table! Talk about surprise, although we knew he was attracted to her. But he has his code and she is a baaad woman. It’s a complete disaster in the writing a scene sense, altho Dexter probably doesn’t see it coming, not yet. The new crime writer character told Deb that he has proof Hannah has killed people, but Hannah negotiated immunity for helping find the dead bodies murdered by her and her ex-boyfriend.

It would be something if Deb asks Dexter to take Hannah out. Oh dilemma! Dexter should take her out, according to the code, but Dexter is sleeping with her. She is also quite capable of taking Dexter out herself, and she may try. So what will Dexter do? Will he kill the one woman who completely understands his Dark Passenger because she has her own?

Great story mashup. Loving it.

Snippets – T.S. Eliot

This is more an excerpt from a poem with some wonderful imagery. I try to read poetry often to help my writing. The obvious, reading the wonderful use of words and imagery, but the cadence, reading the beats, helps with inserting that in your writing to make it flow and bounce in the right spots.

Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door

Which opens on her like a grin.

You see the border of her dress

Is torn and stained with sand,

And you see the corner of her eye

Twists like a crooked pin.

 

A twisted branch upon the beach

Eaten smooth, and polished

As if the world gave up

The secret of its skeleton,

Stiff and white.

(From Rhapsody on a Windy Night)

I love the corner of her eye twists like a crooked pin and the entire second verse, twisted branch, the world gave up its skeleton. Fabulous!

Zombies…who knew?

When I wrote the first draft of my first novel…in my head, it was definitely about Vampires. I love Vampires, but the bad ass kind. The first actual written words involved a werewolf. This was going to be the hero. I always had a necromancer in mind as the heroine because I wanted to explore an urban fantasy heroine that had a “bad” power. I mean control of the dead is not glamorous like casting spells or drinking blood or exceptionally powerful in the traditional sense. She can’t slam people against walls and can’t really walk in stilettos. But she has this crazy, rather gruesome power and I was very into exploring how a supernatural character dealt with such a power. Does it twist her? Yes! Yes, I say. It’s how she transcends the badness or will she???

But zombies.

I’ve always enjoyed, well not enjoyed because the Romero movies are way too disturbing, but appreciated the Romero zombie movies and really, yes, I enjoyed Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, but never thought I’d write a book that dealt with zombies. Wasn’t my first choice for Urban Fantasy. But it’s been great delving into the horror aspects with my writing because zombies are horrifying. I’m waiting for that perfect horror story to pop into my head so I can write it! But there’s a lot of fun mythology you can write about zombies from the legends of necromancers, revenants, Haitian voodoo, etc.

So yes, zombies. Bring ’em on.

Keeping the momentum

The writer Carla Neggars said about writing and whether to plot: “I do best when I focus on…forward momentum of the story versus forcing myself to write a certain way. If forward momentum means stopping and outlining, I stop and outline. If it means going back to page one and rewriting, I go back to page one and rewrite. If it means writing in a whoosh without pausing to revise…that’s what I do. I’m disciplined as a writer but not regimented.”

Whew. I read that about five times because it made me feel less like  a slouch on the days when I did some research on my book, or spent time outlining, or editing, etc. Forward momentum. Yes. I may not always be writing although I try to do some writing everyday, but I’m moving forward. Not static. No steps backward.

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.