Margaret Atwood Quotes

Margaret Atwood“Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté.” -Margaret Atwood, novelist and poet

“In the end, we all become stories.”

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

“The darkness is really out there. It’s not something that’s in my head, just. It’s in my work because it’s in the world.”

“Time is not a thing that passes…it’s a sea on which you float.”

“God gave unto the
Animals A wisdom past our power to see:
Each knows innately how to live,
Which we must learn laboriously.”

Survival is a theme that weighs heavily on Atwood, and it’s in a lot of her work. And she counts the creation of alternate realities and fiction writing as survival tactics.

Mystery Dinners at Restaurants

man in fogHave you gone to a mystery dinner at a restaurant?  I’ve been to two in the last decade. My first experience was great. The dining room had booths on all sides with tables in the center. The actors walked around the diners, clearly advancing the plot with clues about “who done it” and a bit of humor as well. The costumes were normal clothes, not overdone or cheap looking. The professional performance engaged us in a mysterious setting. I ended up winning a prize for the first person to guess the murderer.

A week ago we went to a different restaurant, expecting a similar entertaining evening, especially at the $65 per person price. The dining room was huge like a conference room with round tables seating 8 to a table. The food, advertised as all you can eat prime rib was not up to the price they charged. Everyone left their dessert uneaten since it tasted like chemical fluff.

When the actors emerged, they wore what looked like Halloween costumes instead of regular clothes. The atmosphere turned into carnival-type chaos instead of intelligent theater.  Actors circulated around the room with faulty microphones that either skipped some words or blasted the voices so loud, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. I always carry ear plugs with me. I put them in my ears within five minutes of the show. It lessened the pain of the unreal blabbing from the sound system. Certainly not a relaxing dinner with all the cacophony going on. At the end, people at each table had to be a team and name the perpetrator. I didn’t participate since I didn’t hear the story. No one at our table knew who to accuse, and their guess was incorrect. Then the actors buzzed around the tables with tip envelopes for the show. The amateur performance and the actors’ attitudes had no heart.The evening wasn’t worth half the charge or a tip.

Would I go to one again? Yes, but I’d research the restaurant’s room and sound system first. Then I’d ask about the actors’ experience and hope the mystery evening would be better than the last.

Is Your Character Addicted to Being Right?

Wrong, I'm telling youIf any of your characters are addicted to being right, they would rather be right than happy. They have to have the last word in an argument and proving their point of view takes precedent over listening to others. Even after being shown they are wrong, they still search for ways to prove their point of view.

Characters that are always right are often eloquent, but they actually are stuck. Their focus is on making sure the other character understands why they are right. They explain over and over because they think the disagreeing character doesn’t realize why they are right. They need approval and appreciation. They have to be in control.

Low self-esteem and a lack of open-mindedness and willingness to listen to others’ beliefs underlie the need to be right. Contrary ideas frustrate them. Being right all the time is tiring. It demands an ability to distort facts, to make excuses, to delude themselves and to blame others.

never wrong cartonFriedrich Nietzsche said, “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”

James Russell Lowell said, “The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

In my multidimensional mystery novel, Norman in the Painting, Reggie, the antagonist, is addicted to being right and he will threaten and kill to be in control. Jill was attracted to his eloquence until, too late, she discovered his flaws.

Do you have a character addicted to being right?

 

Information from Louis A. Tartaglia, M.D. Flawless!

What Kind of Apple Does Your Character Like?

apples green and redWhat kind of apple does your character like? The preference might not seem important but it adds the sense of taste and personalizes your character. It’s a detail that can add  some depth.

Another point to consider is the popularity of different apple varieties over the last few decades. Red Delicious was the top choice in the 1950’s and 1960’s. If your character is living in those years, they probably would eat a Red or Golden Delicious apple. Because the Delicious flesh is often  mealy or mushy, the Gala became a favorite for it’s crisper and juicier texture. After the Galas, Fuji, with its dense, crisp, and sweetly tart taste was the biggest seller. Next came the Honey Crisp with a sweeter taste that has been my favorite. Today new varieties are available such as Jazz and Envy, although harder to find, Envy is equally as good as the Honey Crisp.

I consider my characters’ ages and personalities to pick a type of apple for them. Hada and Lev in Hada’s Fog, because they are in their 70’s, would eat Red or Golden Delicious and then complain that the ones they bought were mushy, but the couple resists change to a crisper apple. Jill, in Norman in the Painting, would prefer Honey Crisp and Reggie, the antagonist, would buy Jazz apples. Arctarius, the mysterious character, might choose a Fuji.

Apples may not enter the story at all, but they are an addition that could enhance it.

What kind of apple does your character prefer?

Catherine Brady's Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction

Story LogicA couple years ago, Catherine Brady spoke at the California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch meeting. She impressed me and I bought her book, Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction. I highly recommend it as an indepth study for the craft of writing. Brady is the author of three story collections. Her Curled in the Bed of Love won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and The Mechanics of Falling was a winner of the Northern California Book Award for Fiction. She teaches on the MFA in the Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.

In the writing class I  teach, we finished Wired for Story by Lisa Cron as a class text. I recommended  we use Brady’s book next and the members agreed. I’m looking forward to reading it again. Each page is a jewel of wisdom.

For example on Page Five, Brady states, “Plot is an attitude toward the subject as much or more than it is a technique—an instinct for selecting those moments in the story line at which events offer the greatest promise for provoking uncertainty in the reader. Meaning is only compellingly elusive when the reader must struggle to reconcile the tension that arises from plot.” A few sentences later she quotes Chekhov, “The writer, like a judge instructing a jury, ‘is obliged to submit the case fairly, but let the jury do the deciding, each according to its own judgment.’ Like a judge, the writer remains silent at critical junctures—but not silent on which information is relevant to judgement.” Brady then quotes Milan Kundera, “A novel does not assert anything; a novel searches and poses questions…The novelist teaches the reader to comprehend the world as a question.”

Catherine Brady

George Orwell Quotes

George Orwell with BBCGeorge Orwell (1903 – 1950) was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. His birth name was Eric Arthur Blair. The Times, in 2008, ranked Orwell second on the list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.

“Good prose should be transparent, like a window pane.”

“Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”

“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”

“Never use the passive where you can use the active.”

“I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in…but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.” (from his book, Why I Write)

“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

NaNoWriMo Participants

Nano over a typewriterNaNoWriMo Participants aim to write a 50,000 word novel in November. As the last week of NaNo approaches, how are you all doing? Have you gone to write-ins? Have you gone to the forums on-line? I look forward to the writing frenzy every year.

I missed a couple of years, but the five years I made it to the goal, I wrote five rough drafts. I’m a pantser so it was easy for me to type every day and meet the 50,000 word goal. But then comes the rewriting, turning the drafts into publishable novels. I’ve worked six years on one, Hada’s Fog. I have to put it away for a while. I found I wasn’t writing anything new and as much as I like revising (really, I do), I wanted to write something fresh.

This year I took one of the NaNo drafts, Norman in the Painting, used the four beginning pages, and most of the same characters, but I changed the antagonist and the whole plot. I’m happier with it and it’s great to be writing a new story, instead of the same scenes over and over to make them perfect.

Let me know your progress, I’ll cheer you on.

Smiles in Sophie Littlefield's The Missing Place

The Missing PlaceI’m reading Sophie Littlefield’s latest novel, The Missing Place. Colleen and Shay, the mothers whose two sons are missing, have frequent disagreements due to their different backgrounds. Littlefield contrasts these characters in a realistic, sometimes humorous, way.  On page 69, they argue outside about how to proceed with searching for their sons. Shay gives in and lets Collen try to get information her way. Colleen prepares to approach two young girls working for the North Dakota oil business. She “faked a pleasant smile and went back inside.” It reminded me of my post on November 7th about smiles.

A few paragraphs later on page 70, Colleen asks the young girls about the sons disappearances. She tries to contain her emotions and maintains the fake smile. Littlefield writes, “Her face felt brittle. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep it up. But she’d learned the technique—smile before speaking even when disagreeing—at a conflict-resolution workshop she’d taken back when she was on the PTA regional board, and it really did help. Something about tricking the brain, redirecting one’s impulses. “Did either of you know my son Paul? Paul Mitchell?”

Colleen is right. As babies, the brain is programmed to recognize a smile as friendly. She wanted to win over the young girls so she smiled before speaking to them (a fake smile since she was too worried to genuinely smile). Although Colleen’s face “felt brittle” from holding the smile a long time, one of the girls takes the risk to talk to her.

The Missing Place is tension-filled with interesting characters and an unusual setting. A good book to read this winter.

Writer Interview with Linda Todd

LT Headshot Linda Todd has a short story called “A Marriage Blessed” and an essay titled “Tuesdays with Julaina” in my anthology, Written Across the Genres. She helped me with the editing and prep of the anthology for the press.

The book includes two collaborative stories, “Dock Story One” and  Dock Story Two.” Both stories had the same beginning paragraph and then members of my two writing classes wrote a one hundred fifty word paragraph each to continue their class story. “Dock Story One,” written by the class with 10 members was easy since there were fewer people. The other story with 22 paragraphs was a mystery that needed clues along the way. We had to restart it a couple times and two other writers helped Linda and me with the ending. I appreciated Linda’s dedication to this story and to Written Across the Genres.”Tuesdays with Julaina” is about how we met at a writers’ conference.

Here is her bio:

Linda Todd writes short stories, personal essays, and has two novels in progress. She lives with her husband in Northern California and enjoys camping in their RV and traveling between California and North Carolina to visit her children and grandchildren.

And here is my interview with her:

Julaina: How did you get the idea for “A Marriage Blessed?”

Linda: It started with a request for art, photos, crafts, etc. for California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch’s Ekphrasis 2013 Winterfest. I searched through my photos and found one I had taken in Hawaii of an art studio decorated with bright colored banners and signs. Then I thought of the different things I had seen in shops on the island, like Koa wood bowls. I learned that the bowls were used in wedding ceremonies. So I wrote the story about a couple renewing their vows and the woman’s  desire for a Koa bowl, hoping to find one at the art studio.

Julaina: What is a writing day like for you?

Linda: I work out at the gym, eat breakfast, and have coffee before wandering into my office to pound away at the keyboard. Lately I’ve had to write on my phone when I ride Bart to work.

Julaina: What do you enjoy about writing?

Linda: Once I start working on a project, the story elements come together. I’m always surprised by what comes out. Sometimes it takes a lot of time.

Julaina: What is the difficult part of writing for you?

Linda: When I get stuck and need to find a way out of an alley or determine what could come next. It’s a challenge to work through the problem and find a solution.

Julaina: What are you working on now?

Linda: My short stories and I’d like to finish at least one novel this year.

Julaina: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Linda: Read, study, and write, write, write.

Julaina:  Thanks, Linda. I look forward to working with you again.