Posts tagged ‘Stories’

July 17, 2012

How Colm Toibin Uses Memory in Fiction

Here’s a fine article about how a writer, Colm Toibin, uses memories of real events, places, and people in his stories—how they relate to reality, how they relate when they’re changed by a story, and how important a true sense of memory is to getting a story to be “right in the mind” and on the page. It’s called “What Is Real Is Imagined.”

He writes: “The story has a shape, and that comes first, and then the story and its shape need substance and nourishment from the haunting past, clear memories or incidents suddenly remembered or invented, erased or enriched.” —Colm Toibin

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July 3, 2011

Except from an Interview with William Giraldi

“It doesn’t bother me [that my students do most of their reading on screens] all that much, actually. Harold Bloom very sensibly talks about saving those students who are saveable, teaching to that minority who have the potential to be transformed by Whitman and Blake, who already suspect that betterment is to be found in books, not in electronic illumination. We writers and teachers don’t change lives, and we certainly don’t make lives. We nudge them. We nudge the nudgeable. Let’s not let anyone tell us that the Internet is going to murder the book, because the automobile has yet to murder the bicycle. The book, like the bicycle, is a perfect invention, and perfection dies hard. What object is more beautiful than a book?”
—Except from an Interview with William Giraldi, writer of the novel, Busy Monsters, by Steve Almond in “Poets and Writers,” July, 2011.

June 9, 2011

The music in writing flows from the story itself

I don’t stand in line to buy an album of music I already own. Also, I don’t look for books that read exactly like Chekhov, as good as he was. I want something unique, a story that is specifically a new tune with a different use of harmony, and most of all: with a different rhythm. The only way I know to create such a thing is to find it in myself. My own mind is what I trust to synthesize all those elements in a story to make it all work together. The music comes from the imagined story itself, the words come from that same place. The intellectual mind is important, but not any more important than the sub-conscious or even unconscious parts of the brain. The more of myself I can access to add to a story, the better it will be. Listening to music can help (I listen to Afro-Cuban music while I write my Caribbean story), but writing is its own music so it helps me to hear it aloud . . . and to listen.

June 3, 2011

Tesora and Actual Pirates of the Caribbean

My novel, Tesora, is based on as much research into the facts of the era in which pirates roamed the seas of the Caribbean as I could find. Here is some of that information:

David Cordingly, from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, is author of the definitive book on pirates, Under the Black Flag.

He says that in the years between 1715 and 1725, there was an explosion of piracy in the Caribbean that was comparable in some ways with the recent outbreak of piracy in the seas off Somalia.

In contrast to the fictions displayed in the movies, the majority of the eighteenth-century pirates were working-class sailors: naval deserters, redundant merchant seamen, and former privateers. They were not the heroic, romantic characters portrayed in the movies by Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow. They were hard men notorious for their foul language, heavy drinking, and casual violence.

Also, it was true that “Negroes and mulattoes were present on almost every pirate ship, and only rarely did the many merchants and captains who commented on their presence call them slaves.” Kinkor even presents examples of blacks who were leaders of predominantly white crews.

Yet, Cordingly also wrote that conversely, “pirates shared the same prejudices as other white men in the Western world. They regarded black slaves as commodities to be bought and sold, and used them as slaves on board their ships for the hard and menial jobs.”

Information for this article from:
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May 9, 2011

How to Write the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I have to agree with Jennifer Egan about how spending too much energy on a project in any one day can affect the rhythm of the prose. I’ve found it can, too, but a good nap can start you up all over again. But then I don’t have two children to raise—I’m so lucky for that.

She, the writer of “A Visit From The Goon Squad,” attempts to hand-write five to seven pages a day. Some days she writes that much in an hour or two, sometimes it takes as much as four. She usually spends the extra time avoiding getting those pages written. She refuses to write more than that total because she finds it drains her energy too much and that badly affects its rhythm.

May 9, 2011

A Few Words about Good Writing

The spoken and unspoken seconds of speech make writing real. Its reasoning and its opinions and its judgments make good writing come alive: it’s intimately personal to the reader that way. It’s the sarcasm and wit and sparring and opposite emotion between speakers which displays the most precise and appropriate words. Each dialogue or monologue must be one that’s awesome to read and awful to end, so that whatever follows pales in contrast for some time: “I remember every word he said, so I forget everything I’ve heard since we spoke.” Write speech that is as vivid as live action.

May 5, 2011

Progress is progress every day

I’m happy to say that all is going well with my new novel, Tesora. Hopefully, I will complete its rough draft by August 1st at 1:00 p.m. This will be my third novel in as many years. I love that feeling of confidence knowing I can succeed every day by making progress on it. My ultimate plan is to finish another forty before I’m done although by then, I’m sure the number of planned novels will be eighty. I can’t stop coming up with new ideas: one problem is deciding which one. The main goal is really to excel and improve with each new day of writing—it’s not a goal of perfection so much as the goal of opening up to the world in my imagination and trying to join a wider world full of imagination. Thanks, readers.

April 10, 2011

How to learn to learn to write

Two Girls Invent a Spring Day
(for Charlotte)

A mommy, a doggie, a soccer ball, and two three-year-old girls.
One kicks it to the other and she runs away as if chased by it.
One kicks it to her again and she jumps over it twice as it rolls.
The other, tired, says new rule: kick it to yourself so I can sit.
New rule: I kick the ball to the doggie and I sit, too.
New rule: you stand on your head. I stand on my head.
New rule: the doggie should stand on his head.
Look at the doggie and giggle. Look at the sky and giggle.
New rule: when the doggie runs away, I kick the ball at him.
New rule: you have to giggle when you run.
Uh-oh, Mommy calls. Kick the ball to the far corner so
she has to run after it. Laugh at Mommy as she kicks the ball.
Kick it back to the corner again. Laugh at Mommy again.

If I could imaginate like these girls, I wouldn’t
have to walk across a park to a library
to get a book full of it: I’d kick a ball. I’d run.
I’d stand on my head. And I would laugh at Mommy.

April 9, 2011

The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Novelist

Is there a lonelier task on earth than writing novels? On days when the reality I’ve invented no longer serves to fill the space in my life, I feel more than empty. And other times, compared to my imagined characters, real friends and lovers sometimes appear pale. I hung out today with four people of excellent accomplishment, talents, and wit, yet I found myself habitually going home alone and being all right with that. I often feel that only the famous and dead writers I’ve read understand how I feel, yet they are no longer a comfort to me now that I inhabit a world of my own words. Their worlds are now places in which I can no longer live, only visit. I get the impression I’ve dreamed myself into a life others envy, yet they understand only the slightest amount about the solitary place into which it exiles me. It is a weak joke to me that my main characters so often find themselves alienated and desperate to throw themselves into the life of others, yet fail to do so successfully. Perhaps that alienation is the fuel that drives me to create new work after new work. How pale is that?

March 17, 2011

The rough draft sticks to my skin

For me a novel’s rough draft can sometimes devolve into a landslide of research, for use beneath the surface of the story and beneath the surface of the writer. How do you know when too much is too much? Sometimes it freezes me up, prevents me from zooming ahead on the opening-up to a fast-write first draft. I do love the spewing forth of the story without too much control: the elements of discovery that occur only at top speed when the imagination and my fingers are rocking at an allegro pace. Or speed punk. But I also want so much to get the story right. Get the geography right. Get the motivation right. The character’s mind and heart. For me? Perhaps, in tribute to the Japanese I’ll do a little Shinto purification, Misogi, with waterfalls . . . write in the bathtub.

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