Category Archives: craft
not based on a true story
So I read more fiction than non-fiction. It’s a moral failing, I know: I prefer the make-believe. Too, though, I mean I write fiction. Makes sense to read it, yeah? Where else am I going to learn technique, cue into little narrative shuffles this or that writer pulled off, all that? To take it a little further, if I want to be part of the ‘dialogue’ of fiction, then I need to be listening to what the other writers are saying. But this starts to feel like rationalization just real fast. Really, with me, I think it’s just that contemporary non-fiction doesn’t deal much in werewolves or aliens or zombies, all elements I think pretty vital to a good story (here’s the recipe: alien werewolf beams down to earth, dies, then comes back as a zombie. sprinkle liberally with laser guns and cool music). Which is itself probably just a leftover from the fifth grade, when stories were or at least had the poetential to be cool, whereas essays were inherently boring, as they felt just a suspiciously lot like learning. Nevermind that, if there was a girl on the cover, the chances of her wearing a chain mail bikini were exceedingly low.
Doing a reading today, a Dead Authors thing, where we all take turns reading stuff from writers who died this year. I’ve got David Foster Wallace, and’ll of course be doing the aloud thing to some Infinite Jest. Too, it was cool: I wrote a friend, asked him what I should read, and one of the two passages he got back to me about was one I already had marked. So that one it’ll be.
Anyway, paging through again, and I remember buying this book. I was in Tallahassee at the time, deep in grad school but about to jet north to Montana for a week or so. However, first stop before the airport was this little bookstore I’d never been into, a long hall of a place, no clue about the name. I wasn’t there for Infinite Jest, though — I was late for that, really (I’m thinking this was 97) — but Mason & Dixon. Which I quickly nabbed. On the way to the counter, though, there was this blue cardboard fold-up little display stand thing, with this big brick of a blue book on it. With clouds on the cover. I couldn’t help myself, I had to read it a bit. And then it was like, I don’t know, is ‘kismet’ the word that means something like ‘serendipity?’ Then why not just say serendipity, yeah (because it always reminds me of dragons, that word, I don’t know why). Anyway, either on the dustjacket of Infinite Jest (I don’t know; first thing for me is always getting rid of the useless, useless dustjacket, so I don’t have that anymore, now) or from talking to somebody at the same shelf, they told me that this David Foster Wallace, he was outPynchoning Pynchon. Which of course had to be a joke. But of course, too, I had to see for myself. So I charged both of them, am probably still paying for them. Happily. Too, I was lot tougher back then. I slammed through Mason & Dixon in something like three days, then spent the rest of the week in Infinite Jest. Good times, good times. I was stuck in Bozeman with it, I think. Snowed in close to a McDonald’s. Charged some excellent boots that week as well, which I would have paid for twice over.
If only I could. But this would definitely be in there, right along with the TOTALL RECALL/2001 saga:
“The ‘Road to Perdition’ novelization was a nightmare, frankly,” Collins says. “I went after it for obvious reasons — I didn’t want a ‘Perdition’ novel written by someone else out there. I proceeded to write the best novelization of my career, staying faithful to David Self’s script — which was already fairly faithful to my graphic novel — but fleshed out the script with characterization, expanded dialogue scenes and just generally turning it into a quality novel of around 100,000 words. After I submitted it and had the New York editor say it was the best tie-in novel he’d ever read, the licensing person at DreamWorks required me to cut everything in the novel that wasn’t in the script. That I was the creator of the property held no sway. I was made to butcher the book down to 40,000 words.”
Though, to be honest, I don’t even think there’s links yet for just all of this:Right before Valentine’s Day 2009, I’m in Chicago for the AWP Conference. The panel I’m on: “Digi-Analog: Bringing Together Print, Online, and Alternative Delivery Methods for Literary Journals, led by JW Wang. You may know him from Juked.” Don’t which day that panel is yet. I think I said this earlier, but can do it better now: March 18-21, 2009, it’s FC2’s annual Writers on the Edge. This year in Ceurnevaca. Not sure if I’m released yet to post the workshop descripts for the other writers doing this, but I’ll post mine anyway:
ANAEROBICIZE YOUR PROSE
So one argument and I don’t necessarily disbelieve it is that punctuation is just a parasite that all it is is the side effect of writing words down in these lines that it’s just a clumsy visual approximation of the natural rhythms of speech that in prose fiction are pretty much exactly what’s supposed to lull the reader into a state where the story can work or or a better way to say it maybe is that that unbroken patter and burble and spike of words is what transports the reader not off the page but into it face first ankle deep and evermore. But yeah, sometimes a comma sure is nice, right? Here we’ll talk about this, both in terse, nervous, over-punctuated sentences we try to laugh off and in long unbroken fragments that wander and forget themselves and then find each other in surprising ways. And we’ll do some writing as well. And never stop
Though The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti‘s not officially released until early September, it looks to be slipping through Amazon already. And that seems to me to be a good time to explain it a bit. Or, not explain it, but explain around it. And not like this, but with this running journal-thing (my first ever) I kept for the seventy-two hours it took me to write it. That Three-Day Novel Contest, yep. Which, if I could find a way to make a living doing one of those every weekend, then I guess I’d do pretty well for about a year, at which point I’d of course have to die. Anyway, the week after that contest, I read this journal-thing, and my knee-jerk reaction — pretending, say, I was reading a journal-thing somebody else had been keeping — was that something wasn’t right. At some very fundamental level. And also I kind of knew that I shouldn’t show to this to anybody.
So far, too, this is getting the award (derision?) for shortest post ever.
Anyway, lost in the surf of Duma Key right now, and looking forward to snagging The Plague of Doves afterwards. Writing this novel too all the while, which I just keep expecting to self-destruct. But somehow it just keeps unfolding. And I guess that’s good, but, too, I’m about the last person in this situation who’d know, either.
So a while back, I started a list like this but it got all out of hand, yeah, turned into that House of Fiction thing, which was really just a version of this other post, I suppose. When all I really wanted was something short, to pin up by my monitor, help me keep it between the lines, all that. Except of course writing ‘rules,’ I mean, Vonnegut‘s laid them down, Elmore Leonard‘s done it, Twain‘s got them, Palahniuk‘s messed around with it, and Orwell has too, and of course Stephen King has. And then there’s stuff like this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and of course this, and I agree with just about all of it (except the bad talk about mutants; sand mutants rule), even down to stealing some of them (‘incorporating’), but still, I guess, am either vain enough or blind enough — and I’m thinking vanity and blindness aren’t that unrelated, really — to think that I have to have my own list. Maybe just for me, for that little empty space by my monitor. Something like this:
Working on a new slasher right now, and leaning towards making it a screenplay, mainly so the form can keep it reined in for me, somewhat. Too, this time, I’m doing what I’ve never done: thinking it all through ahead of time. Which has involved a lot of re-watching, a lot of thinking. And, on the idea that reasoning from first principles (or at least memory) is somehow a pure way to get to something at least in the area of truth, I’ve been intentionall ducking Carol Clover and all the other slasher analyses out there. Just because I want to figure out what the slasher is, not simply agree with people smarter than me. And, here’s what I’ve got so far — those pieces without which a slasher isn’t really a slasher, and in no really good order :
Third installments of a franchise the audience is in love with are very difficult to pull off. Nobody says Alien3 or Return of the Jedi or the third Scream are their favorites of the series, right? Even Godfather III, as good as it might be, is overshadowed by the first two. Granted, by the third installment, the success of the original and its sequel have given this latest incarnation a serious budget to work with, and all the marketing is in place, and some of the principal actors are probably even still signed on, but—for this sequel to the sequel to capture instead of divide the audience, it has to walk such a tightrope of formula and originality; it has to do what the original did and find a way of doing it which isn’t tired. This is why the two follow-ups to The Matrix, while pretty brilliant in their own right, at all levels—story continuity, effects, series escalation—still paled in comparison to the original. What The Matrix did, which just blew the audience away, was show how this reality we’d bought into was a construct. The next two installments could no longer surprise us with that, but instead had to assume it, and try to pull the carpet out in some other, more subtle way. In fact, the only ‘third’ that might have done for the audience what the original did was Friday the 13th’s, the one where Jason got his mask. Which Terminator 3, following the unapologetic slashers Terminator and Terminator 2 were, might should have paid a little attention to*. But yeah, I know: without James Cameron’s story sense, that is, with him saying the story was already told, what else could have happened, right? I mean, Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, what it is essentially is an extension of everything Cameron laid down in the first two installments. So how could it have gone wrong?