Critics

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Seals on Chunks of Glacier, Tracey Arm Fjord, Alaska

Readers are probably aware that I am a fan of the book 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. I’ve reviewed the book on Amazon if you’re interested, although there are so many reviews, you may never be able to find it. Now the book has been adapted into a series and released by Netflix. And, of course, there are reviews of that popping up every day. I probably won’t review the series, because I don’t produce movies, but I can state, with just one episode left to watch, that I have enjoyed it greatly. I do want to talk about this one review of the series, however.

I’m honestly not sure who wrote that review. It says “revised by” or something like that at the top. But, it’s the review, which is a criticism, itself, that I am writing about. The reviewer liked the series, but not the book. And that’s fine. You can read the review to find out why, but for my purposes, I’m fine with anyone having an opinion, and offering said opinion for public consumption. No problem there. But, at one point the review states, and this is a quote, “It is not a good book.” Interesting. On the New York Times Bestseller list for years (literally,) bought by millions of people, recipient of eight (8) awards for excellence at last count, well, check out the Wikipedia page on the book to learn more. And thus is illustrated my problem with critics. Whoever wrote that review calls it a bad book, because I suppose they know better than all of those others who have loved it enough to garner for it all those awards and praise? Take a lesson, friends: remember that your opinions are your opinions, and everybody has one of those, right?

This is not the first time I’ve been offended by a critic, far from it. In college I read (as an assignment) a critique of Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Day by Robert Frost. That critique was by John Ciardi, who, I have to admit, has cred. And he didn’t badmouth Frost at all, but he did go into painful detail as to the meaning of every line, comma, nuance, and stanza of the poem. And I thought as I read, “How dim must one be to not see what Frost is getting at, here?” Really, he means that he’s got things to do before he dies? Wowzers! How profound! I imagine that the instructor was hoping to convert some people to a love of poetry, but I don’t think that boring them with a detailed analysis of a beautiful poem is going to do the job. A poem, it seems to me, speaks for itself. If you don’t see those chickens next to the wheelbarrow, that’s okay too. Do something else.

The moral of this post is that you should, as with anything else, take what you can from your critics, and leave the rest lie. That review of the series makes some decent points. Too bad they had to spoil it, huh?

Catch You Laters, A Word From Captain Andrew

“I’ve got to stop naming things.”  Leslie tells me as we drive North one last time to Whengerai. In the last couple of weeks in New Zealand, we are both feeling the nerves that come with upping anchor.  Leslie puts down roots easily and quickly.  Plant her in a spot longer than a week and she

Source: Catch You Laters, A Word From Captain Andrew

Again, Thinking Big

The Platz in the Altstadt of Frankfurt, Germany.
The Platz in the Altstadt of Frankfurt, Germany.

You remember last week’s post, don’t you? The title is “Go Big or Go Home,” and it’s about how I discovered how to restart a stalled idea by thinking bigger about things. Well, imagine my surprise when, in yesterday’s email, I found, in the latest installment of Writer Unboxed, an article entitled Is Your Fiction Big Enough? Hey, folks, I’m en avant, in front of the trend, setting the pace! Uh, sure, but my point is that the author of that post seems to agree with my post, and in fact puts quite a few illustrations up for consideration.

So, If’n I was ewe, I’d fer sure click on that there link and read what that other fella has ta say!

Okay, a few hints, in case your clicker won’t click, or whatever. The author is James Scott Bell, and he’s had some success with mysteries and historical fiction, and he knows how to use examples to illustrate his point. Examples from books where the action gets big, the problems get bigger, and the danger is overwhelming. Or not, because some of the examples are from the beginning of the hero’s journey, where the poor protagonist is, as it were, asking for it. And he recommends, as an exercise, writing page-long sentences to get a feel for the emotions of a scene. Heck, if you’re writing in German, that should be easy, I suppose. But, he’s right. As I started thinking bigger, my sentences got longer (no, not all of them, but some very important ones.) So, today, I say again, quit reading this (although the picture is nice, innit?) and click on that link to read what a master of the craft has to say. GO!

Go Big Or . . .

Sunset at the Mayan Palace Resort, near Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico
Sunset at the Mayan Palace Resort, near Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico

Go Home! A true story from my own recent past. Besides installing flooring and preparing to be a driver for Lyft, I have been messing around with my writing by producing things that are not the novel I’m trying to get off the ground. Until yesterday morning.

Yes, morning. As I was waking up yesterday, the solution came to me. I have had the basic idea for the book since last June. The first pathetic attempt at it now has the title, “First Pathetic Attempt.” There are more attempts nestled in the directory with that one. (I use a cloud service, Microsoft One Drive, and I highly recommend that if you use a computer to produce your work, you also use a cloud storage solution. One drive integrates seamlessly into my Windows 10 installation, but any one will do you, probably.) The others have such names as, “Il ne marche pas” and “Second first draft.” One file has the same name as the now, finally, properly begun, novel. Nope. Ain’t gonna tell you. Too early, but it’ll be a good one, I’m sure.

The thing is, I tried first person with one character, then a third-person approach, then, okay, first person with another character, which is the version with the French name, and now, at last, limited third-person wherein the POV does shift, but not often enough to make me dizzy. But the big thing is that I needed some sort of real grabber to start the story with. I was seeing it as a romance, but it just wasn’t working. I had a version where a male protagonist was in trouble at the beginning, which is okay, but not for a romance. I had a version where a female protagonist tells it all, but it seemed flat. I had a character disappear out of the story, which was putting too many restraints on the plot. And then, yesterday morning, as I was waking up, BAM!

The new version, the version that I think will stick, opens with a rape. Or at least non-consensual sex, for those who like to parse meanings. That’s the thing that will carry the entire story, always under there, always causing trouble, possibly ending/changing/starting relationships. And it will justify (when I’m done with it) some pretty nasty stuff happening to the bad guy. (The guy who rapes the girl, you fool!)

So, point is, I went big, and it worked! No, no vivid descriptions of exactly what happens. Plenty of that available for free, innit? But an emotional description from her POV. Not so much of that available for free. So, it’ll be months before this thing is ready to talk about, but stay tuned, because talk about it I shall. And so shall my characters, all of whom, of course at this stage, I love.

In conclusion, if you’re having trouble starting a story, try going bigger. It costs nothing (maybe some paper and ink) but it can yield some big rewards!