If I may steal a witticism from Twain: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” 😀
In fact, life has been very good to me these last few months and, excepting a conspicous lack of internet access which has so rudely and inexplicably interrupted my online life (as you dear reader have no doubt already noted), I have absolutely no complaints.
On the contrary, our new life here in sunny Sicily has taken root, truly. The road to and from work is well travelled, beds made, candles lit, boxes unpacked, books and parcels placed, pictures hung, floors swept, mopped, made to shine in the lavalamp glow of our wondrous Mediterranean light, produce markets explored, fresh vegetables pawed and purchased, wines and beers sipped and savored, bedtime stories shared, and all the indescribable little things that make life worth living have been appreciated. It’s been an amazing kind of miracle, really; the kind that’s hard to talk about without breaking into a knowing grin.
I have much to share with you and am excited to be “alive” again. We have found a solution, though imperfect, to the internet access problem and so I will begin posting regularly, and will be around to your blogs in a jiffy to see what you’ve been up to. In fact, let me pose the question: what have you been up to? You see, I missed you–terribly!–and, like a distant cousin or long lost friend just returned from an extended journey, I feel the need to curl up next to the fire and bask in the stories and tales you no doubt have to share.
The writing, you ask? Well, let us talk more about that in due time, shall we? Suffice to say that though my word count is low–strike that! Virtually nonexistent better describes it–I have done much which I think counts toward the overall goal of perfecting my writing craft. Trust me on this one. Sometimes doing something looks alot like doing nothing.
So I pledge there will be more to follow–the proverbial end of the story, we’ll call it. And one last thought before I get down to business: it’s good to be back!
It’s always been my opinion, when reading a great book, that there comes a time when the reader stops seeing the words. He or she stops noting the interesting use of adjectives, or the choice of dialogue tags and starts seeing in their mind’s eye the images the author has painted. He or she watches the hero climb the stairs into a forbidding darkness, sees the heroine huddle nearby, feels nervousness as the villain watches them both on a fuzzy close circuit TV screen.
This effect is not an easy one to pull off. It means that the fiction is working on every level–structurally, philosophically, grammatically, narratively–and there are no distractions which draw the reader away from what John Gardner calls the fictional dream. Any distraction, like a wedding band drummer who thinks he’s playing in a sixty-thousand seat stadium, will draw the reader’s attention, and cause them not to “see” the vision the author is trying to paint.
Almost anything can be a distraction. For example, a writer I knew liked James Joyce a lot, so all of his dialogue used Joyce’s two-dash convention, instead of quotes, thusly:
–Heavens, no! James spouted.
–You heard what I said. Renee said.
While stylistically, use of this convention may be avant garde and cool, it still represents one of those bumps which causes the reader to pause and have to think. Other distractions include over-describing, overuse of adjectives or adverbs or problems with narrative voice.
This is why readers and reviewers are so important, and also I think why putting a piece aside for some period of time can be extremely critical to a writer’s vision of his own work. Waiting for awhile helps you see the fictional dream in a way you can’t when you’re too close to it, but more importantly, it helps you identify those choices in your writing that distract from the seamlessness of the whole.
In other words, if your fiction is a rock band, make sure you don’t have one of these guys playing drums:
Have a groovy weekend and thanks for stopping by!