Random NVDT – Writerly Concerns 4

Pardon me, your writer is showing

Here it Comes – Show Don’t Tell – My Take – For the most part a society that Googles everything from forgotten salad dressing ratios to what does guacamole taste like hasn’t got a clue. I looked it up for us. The takeaway?

“Show, don’t tell” should not be applied to all incidents in a story.

Why not? Because it would take forever to write. Or read. There are successful writers out there who ignore this and write and write and write. And others attributed to the same style write very little. Here we are again with a RULE that means nothing. Dial it up, dial it down, ignore it altogether. Properly applied I believe, as I do about dialogue, it all has to do with rhythm and pacing. Musicality.

The first of two approaches to “show don’t tell” involve using flowery, evocative language. Exercise: Put the reader in the stinky bathroom of a desert gas station. No, just kidding. To what end? To prove you can write about rust stains and dried turds and warped mirrors and peeling paint on cinder blocks and decades of dried urine in the grout for two and a half pages? Maybe, if it was a guy who got beat up by mobsters and left for dead in the desert and you want to put the reader’s face on that floor with him when he crawls in out of the sand. But to me that’s writing to prove you can.

The other approach is drop a few nuggets, let the reader fill in the blanks. Truth – You know we don’t see in color with our peripheral vision. Our brains fill it in for us based on context. That’s the iceberg concept. Hemingway, etc. So if I say to you “a porch twenty feet from the bayou on a humid summer night,” I might offer “pungent” and a mosquito swat that yielded blood and maybe a sweaty bandanna wipe but the rest of it is on you. Because there’s a story being told on that porch and all that flowery sense of place crap is background and there’s no reason to waste a John Williams theme on crickets and frogs and foley work. Personal opinion only. Unless of course you write like David Foster Wallace and then, by all means, watercolor it all together and knock it out of the park for us.

Narrative – Narrative is great to get from impact scene to impact scene, as above. Personally I shorten narrative to it’s extreme cutoff point. Example: Deanna stepped through the steam and the mist, boarded the train more homesick than she ever imagined possible. Done. She gets off the train and the story continues. Narrative is a great device to get some story told from point A to point B and is necessary to kick the story along without the minutia of Deanna brushing her teeth that morning and giving five pages of flashback about why she’s homesick. A decent author would have put us in her shoes chapters ago. Which brings me to –

Narrative excess – An equally wordy writerly option to show, don’t tell excess and a way to show off your research and waste a LOT of time that isn’t show, don’t tell. Unless you want to write about the texture of deciduous tree bark, like the restroom floor example above. Example: I have been reading this damn book that is both a good story and well written and a humongous PIA. I mean the main character gets up off the bed in a motel room from a conversation with a girl (not a sex scene, just dialogue furthering the story ) to go splash water on his face. We are treated to two and half pages of dense, blocks of text backstory. Which could have been easily condensed to a paragraph, or had it been me, three lines. It would have made a great ‘insert backstory video clip here’ in a movie. Maybe. And the whole damn book would have been at least 30% shorter had it been written in a linear time line. The flashbacks and backstory are worse than any Noir film. Like Timothy Leary moments. Exercise: Person sees reflection in sugar dispenser top. Now, jump out of mid dialogue getting the story told into deep reflective space for 600-800 words and then jump back into the convo with other person saying “Are you OK?” “Yeah, just thinking.” Just thinking my ass. Maybe the thought flew by but just reading it my coffee got cold and I’m still in a red vinyl booth in a diner no further along than I was three pages ago.

I don’t call the rules into question or try to sell them or even justify how to avoid them. All I want is for everyone to see that style is everything, and to write like we mean it. Regardless of what it is or where you find your voice. Tell your story. To the best of your ability. Every time. Turn it up. Or turn it off.  Remember, when your fluffy fill up space writer is showing…

And neither should we. Get to the red ‘Vette of your story. Leave the Volvo in the dust.

 

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Random NVDT – Bad “Poetry”

Got another one of those followed you follow me back follow harvesters. Must have been the Tractor Girl that brought them. Guess what? Yep. How much it sucks to be me on WP – I’m surprised he’s not selling his own line of lip gloss or Hop Frenzied beer… So #BadPoetryMeToo

WordPress Depression and the Sidewalk Pizza Reflex

Depressed pussies
Weak one liners
My pain! My Confusion!
I could puke

Phone in some
Technicolor
Sidewalk pizza for the
Poets of personal gloom
So seen
So rewarded
Pussies

Confusion, fools,
Be our epitaph
Phony clip art
Beat wannabes
Trust fund tough guys
Surfing on the economy
Of sell outs

Whining – I tell you this
Two things in our world
Are their own reward
Neither eternal
One is said to give you warts
Make you go blind
The other will make you beautiful
At least
To yourself

I say to all who
Cuddle a Social Media tit
While threatening the precipice
With dirty laundry
Put on your big kid panties

Or, follow true tortured
Brilliance, Please
Go ahead, make my day
Put us all out of your
Feigned self-indulgent
Misery

There is no pity here
For how much it sucks to be
You
Misogynistic
Out of touch
Misunderstood
Drunk
Fucked up
Lonely
Heart Broken
Pussies
With money in your pocket
A place out of the rain
Grieving like widows
In perpetual Black veils
For yourselves

Grieve instead for what has passed
Like Ex-Lax generated verbal
Excrement from your hand
Grieve for literary Diarrhea
Spewed into the cosmos
Realize
There is only choice
Then
Make one
Fucking Cry Babies
Shit or get off the pot
Already

Oh yeah, I forgot – Your “poetry” sucks
Buncha whiny assed
Pussies

Random NVDT – Writerly Concerns 2 & 3

Handling Time – I read another book. Very noir-ish. Well mannered hardboiled. The author used a device for handling time that I got chastised severely for early on by several editorial types. I asked if there was a literary device like the old film trick of calendar pages flying off at high speed. Nobody knew of one. My solution, like this award winning Harper Collins author’s, was to put dates and location in the chapter header. Examples –

11

Burger King on Sunset Blvd, Tuesday February 14, 2005

12

Gus’s Grimy Gulf Station, Needles California, June 2000

 What? Those are out of sync! In the book I caught myself reading right past those tags as I wasn’t used to looking there. Because there were no chapter titles. I’d turn a page out of a Hollywood cocktail party and I’d suddenly be seven years in the past with people I’d never met. A third of the way into the book.

Say you open a story in 2005 and you meet the players wherever. Party, little league game, barbeque. And you develop a story line. Then you want some big motivational or deep backstory for a character, bigger than a couple of lines, so you do the example above, say five years earlier. Character x working in a gas station, 2000. Then you go right back into the “current” time frame of the story with Character x interacting in some event. This all sounds like I’m dogging flashbacks, but those are often internalized and much shorter. This was blatant, here’s a get to know X chapter, out of sync. X’s story is a subtext and crucial, but rather than weave everyone in from the beginning, we are abruptly shuttled back and forth through time. I found it to be an attack on my (elderly) readerly equilibrium. As I’ve been told and told by editors it would be, and DON’T do that. But Harper Collins signed off on it.

Dropping in backstory and flashbacks are an art in themselves. Enough to inflate a character and put heat on them in a moment, not enough to take you out of the story (techniques this author also used very well). Those things are melded into a scene, we watch the character sweat or understand the how/why of their behavior(s). But surprise, Time Machine! Full blown didn’t see it coming silent evil Jack in the Box reads like riding with someone learning to drive a standard trans. I could see the effect the author was going for, like a film effect. We see what’s now, we back up and see what was heading for now. It could have been done with that chapter that was about a third of the way through the book instead tacked on the front end and we follow these people. All in all it read like watching Double Indemnity or Please Murder Me time shift noirs. First person right now action that keeps backing up to tell another story leading up to first person narrating from now story. It sounds clumsy and it is because visuals can clue you any number of ways. Books don’t fade to black and pop up a happy Norman Rockwell moment obviously in the past because of visual cues like the age of cars or fashions or architecture or horse drawn buggies. I’m so gun shy of the time shift technique, after having tried and my hand slapped, I won’t do it again.

But here are those nasty rules that drive us all crazy. Don’t write preludes, drop in backstory when you need it. Okay, but what if there’s an important bit of backstory that is bigger than “Burger King always made Dan sick”? Tell it early, skip a couple of years to now? Don’t start a story with characters in a situation that finishes what you develop before you get there. Okay. In now time we’re talking to Albert, that we don’t know is really Dan with a name change, out for revenge on Burger King. We drop a chapter on why Albert/Dan is pissed a hundred pages into NOW if we can’t write preludes? Well, I’ll write a prelude if I have to. It was good enough for Faulkner and Steinbeck. So there’s my writerly concern number one. How to handle time. Any ideas without breaking a rule, sing out.

Writerly concern two –  LinkedIn is another SM joke like WP and FB and all the rest, but I saw an article fly by the other day. “Don’t make people feel stupid. Drop the Jargon.” Talk about selling me out of reading your story with the title, hell yeah, thanks for the free time. Seriously, there’s only a certain amount of slang and/or vocational or subcultural vernacular people are willing to handle unless you want to narrow your audience to people who work the graveyard shift in dog food plant 17 in Farmersville. Even editors. “Did they really say ‘suck’ in 1979.” I don’t know, and you’re the only one who has asked, so…

I get the need for academic or cop or conspiracy or forensic or history procedural buffs who require their minutia fix. But by and large is it necessary? Like me and Moby Dick as a whaling how-to. I don’t care. Get to the whale. I ran into this issue writing about musicians. No way did I get off into a band futzing with the minutia of setting up, or brand names of things. Why? A very long time ago I learned, as a synthesizer clinician, all most people wanted to do was have fun. “Is that not the wettest, fattest most badass bass sound you ever heard?” “Check it out. We just wrote a song using nothing more complicated than an eighth note!” “Dig this!” I did a clinic tour of Mexico (more than one) and before I went the first time they asked, explicitly, that I NOT be another one of the legion of El Lay shit-jazzers and make jokes about how some sound was used in a US car commercial. So I wasn’t that guy. I played a couple of top Spanish language radio tunes and had them find me a chick singer in every town we hit who wanted to be Gloria Estefan and we tore it up.

Yeah, there will always the pocket protector guys in the back who want to discuss quantize resolution on the knobs or the sequencer, or what sort of quark drive did the Foonblat’s use to get to Boredom Outpost 417-a, but most people just want to make noise or read and have fun. Which is why, even in dystopian made up worlds, ease off the jargon. “Set your phasers to stun” is plenty. The fact that it fits in a holster and stops naughty aliens (most of the time) is enough. Have the creepy mechanic look under the hood, fan the steam, lick his lips and say “May take a day or two to get the parts. Ma’am.” Instead of going off into alternators and muffler bearings. My .02.

Standards update – These two things communicate the same information. The USB obviously communicates all sorts of information.

For size and the cost of a plug a majority of new tactile music controllers/input devices only come with USB. Because of course you’re going to use a computer, numb nuts. Everyone does. Let your computing device sort it out for you. What? You just want to plug this USB only controller into a MIDI device and play. No computer/phone/tablet? Even if the MIDI device is a computer masquerading as a musical instrument? Sorry. You need a host to MIDI box. Sixty to a hundred bucks. One unit at a time, no hub. Why? Computers sort out hubs, fool. Until – Thank God for someone paying attention to the market – This bad boy.

Not only does it host USB to MIDI, no computer (up to 8 devices) it plugs into a PC, a MAC and an iOS device and tells them all about it. All three at the same time! Or three of the same thing! Incredible! I watched a video of someone I trust using it, and I looked at the busier than hell breakout graphic above and BAM. It’s not free, but at least instead of shoving us into a box, it rips the flaps back and says “Outta the box, make noise any way you want.” Way cool. Too bad we can’t write like that and get away with it. Or can we?

 

 

The Heels of Winter

Death come knockin’
Cold
On the heels of winter’s hangin’ on
Too long a comin’ she cried
He agreed at last
Goodbye’s long final act
Save soul’s last gasp
A faintest wisp of what was life
Entwined with Reaper’s chilly fog

Death come knockin’
Slow
On the heels of winter’s hangin’ on
Too long a comin’ she collapsed
Ugly questions come hard answered
How to cry for what was or wasn’t
Or for a tomorrow
In need of comfort –

Death come knockin’
Done
On the heels of winter’s hangin’ on
Too long a comin’ she cried
Tears, confusion, backed up dreams
Flooded screams her
Next cold winter’s morn
What they were or hadn’t been
Wouldn’t be, nor matter

Death come knockin’
Cold
Slow
Done
On the heels of winter’s hangin’on
Too long a comin’ she sighed
We never can imagine
What the dream
Should look like
Now

WordPress and the Poetry Tag

I
Wonder
oft
what Byron and the Bard
Wordsworth, Longfellow, Chaucer,
Emily and Christina,
Sylvia too. Ezra, Geoffrey, Burns,
and both the Brownings.
Oscar, Goethe, Dante
and anyone named Dylan,
Maya Angelou
Langston, Hayes, Yusef,
Alfred the Lord,
Percy, Frost, Coleridge.
Blake or Keats, Sandburg,
Cummings, Eliot,
Ginsburg, Burroughs and all the beats. Neruda, Rumi,
Mary, Henry David, Ralph Waldo, Maria, Heather,
Louise, Edna, Marianne and Edgar with their rules
and metered effortless rhyme would think of Internet “poetry”
most no more than decent prose cut up, stacked like a heart or
A staircase, a candlestick or an expensive layered cupcake?
Or worse! Beauty lost in arrogant, erudite obfuscation trailing
obsequiousness like a kite’s tail in a vacuum. Pain is understood
As are the pentatonic canons of Aristotle so here’s a picture of a subway
in France where I was bummed and a dirty old man playing saxophone stared at my tears click on the social icons tell me how you liked me I’ll be your BFFF if you’ll just buy my damn lip gloss which is all my way to say why I don’t write much poetry and stick to
fiction
Because it’s a damn site easier than making ascii art out of prose

Apologies to all the internet poets and word slingers who take themselves and their word art too seriously.

DID I SAY SERIOUS! YES! A SERIOUSLY WEIRD MURDER, MAYHEM AND CHAOS COLLAB IS GOING ON AT:The Art of Drowning

Hosted Courtesy of The Perilous Reading Society and Ash N. Finn

Take a step outside and check them out

 

Vinyl Wallet

I am constantly being reminded here in the blogosphere that it is Mental Health Month. I found the first part of this, originally written in 1976. Yes, it’s sophomoric. I added the last bit today. Help people if you can. Early. Or someone buries them. Early.

A boy married young
Rebelled against the norm
In his desire to be different
He kicked up quite a shit storm
Her parents were wealthy
Considered him beneath their station
They honeymooned in Hawaii
He was supposed to find work but
They got high and it was simply an extended vacation

They sold clothes and pianos, waited tables, built houses
Those were a bomb
They pulled an acre of thorny grapevine down
Burned it for her Mom
Her Mother paid to keep them eating,
Sheltered and alive
They laughed and partied
Spent mom’s money
Ignored her father’s sermons and jive

That first Christmas
Her parents gave him
A vinyl wallet
Gramma and the sisters, old Aunt Helen
They all laughed, agreed
Said out loud that was all he’d ever need
That was the last Holiday
He’d drop spaghetti on their oriental rug
Mom made sure they were done
With no more than a shrug

He was forty minutes North
Forty years away
When he learned their daughter blew her brains out
Livin’ in a postcard just south of L.A.
Didn’t matter who it was
Or what theirs was made of
Did it
Come end of that day

R.I.P. Deborah Eloise Kendall-Juette
10.12.1953 – 5.4.2004
Too many senseless decisions are made with alcohol and a hand gun. Do your best to keep them away from people looking for the wrong answer.

Them’s Some Fine Lookin’ Shoes

That Woman there
Got her
Some
Fine lookin’ shoes
Strutted through
Momma Rue’s
Stepped out of one
Fool’s
Heartbreak
Right into another dude’s
Blues
Curious how
Every woman in the
Room
Crazy for
Her shoes

Wished they’d found
Some
On sale
On line
Even if they hurt
‘Cause all that
Heartbreak
Yesterday’s men all
Ashes and
Dust
In the wind
They all knew
Girl had it goin’
On

Not too gimmicky
Not a real
Bitch
Knew what she wanted
Rich
Would do nicely
Loved you for
Dinner
A movie
A weekend
Maybe two but
Slummin’
Forever
Won’t never
Do
Every woman in
Town
Crazy
For Her shoes

Get over it
Brother
Can’t you see
Move
Or move on
Girl’s got it
All
Goin’ on

When she’d shuffled
Enough Fools
One offered
Fingers full of
Jewels
More to come
But
Here’s
The new rules
Listen
Up
Man said

This many
Pretty children
Where I go is
Where
You stay and
What I think is
What you
Say
Keep it that
Way
Country Club Hostess
Mama
Maybe even a
little whore
Time to time
Be fine
On call
Night or day
Whatta ya say

Still
Every damn woman
In the
County
Crazy for
Her shoes

Miss somethin’
Darlin’
Someone
Little people
Little minds
Gotta get over it
Darlin’
Ain’t no
Easy way
Out

Get over it
Move
Or move on
Girl don’t you
Know
No?
Hey
You got it
All
Goin’ on

Wasn’t never too gimmicky
Managed to find
Bitch
And rich
Oh Yes
Indeed
She never stepped
Out of
Her own heart
Locked up
But
Never broken
Blues
Maybe a little
If so she
Sung them
Quietly to
No one

Get over it
Sister
Move
Or move on
Girl you got
All of
Too much
of everything
Goin’ on

Can you
Fathom
Imagine
Believe
That still
Most every
Damn woman
Most every
Damn where
Still
Crazy for
Her shoes