Posts tagged ‘Mark Twain’

December 3, 2011

Where is the balance in a novel between telling and showing?

One of my first-draft readers of Tesora sent me this note:
“The concept of your story is very promising . . . what draws me in is the promise of adventure. The first chapter reeled me in because it had a nice amount of action but afterward I felt like the story was being “told” rather than “shown” so I had a really hard time getting into the story.”

This was my answer to her:
Yes, I know my novel does not sustain the level of action that Chapter 1 shows: it’s a book with a full range of rhythms. Some are dramatic, of course, but many are psychological or meditative. To me, the thought-process of a main character is important action. The story was never intended to be only an adventure: it concerns slavery and racism and an accurate historical context. Also, the whole conceit of the story is that it’s a book adapted from the journals Ronan (its main character) keeps aboard his boat. After Ronan’s arrival in Puerto Toque (page 50 or so), there is also much dialog—and that is a form of both action and contemplation. For me the best reading is in stories where I learn the depths of a character, in mind and history, as well as action. When I was young I read and re-read books to rediscover not just events in motion, but what Borges calls “emotion in books.” Huckleberry Finn opens with a recitation of the plot of the novel, Tom Sawyer. At the bottom of page one of Mysterious Island by Jules Verne reads an extended weather report. Notes from Underground is 95% internal monologue. I find stories with ceaseless action to be dreary. I’d rather sit and watch Rodin’s Thinker think for ten minutes, than watch 1,000 marathon runners go by. While I don’t think novels have to compete with movies for action, nevertheless, I am reexamining my story to better dramatize the story. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning about writing, nor will I want to stop.

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September 4, 2010

Tardy Son Synopsis

When a 12-year-old California boy’s attempt to run away from his abusive home is thwarted, he defies the police, and wages a war of words against his father. At first he escapes by jumping onto a freight train bound for San Francisco. He wants to start an imaginary baseball team, go to an imaginary school, and become a real writer. But when cornered by the police and angered by the lies his father tells to the newspaper, he uses his wit and humor to fight back and he publishes his own truth for his teammates, his girlfriend, and his father to read. He’s a polio survivor and a Mexican adopted by a white family in the 1950s, so his fight for his truth becomes more than a struggle to survive life on the street—it becomes a struggle to find his own identity.

July 15, 2010

The Adventures of Tardy Son Finn

My novel-in-progress, Tardy Son, is in no direct way an homage to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I do, however, refuse to read it again until my novel is finished because Twain’s story is lodged deeply in my own subconscious. Freedom is a theme no American writer can avoid. The Concord Public Library, however, once tried to avoid that theme and the one about free speech. See below.

“The Concord (Mass.) Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain’s latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The library and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people.”
—from Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn. Duke University Press. pp. 2. ISBN 9780822311744.

Today the Concord library lends forty-four versions of the novel including digital, tape, DVD, and a manga/graphic novel version.

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