We end the Winter 2015 issue of Glimmer Train as we began it— with a globe-hopping look at how every life interconnects. And, would you believe it, it’s even more plotless than “Number 41” was! That’s not all bad. Like I said, some stories move along by theme instead of plot. And in a couple of those stories, theme’s all you got. I loved “Number 41” like a comfort pillow. “Transit”’s more like bubble wrap… fun and cozy, to be sure, but not as substantial or even as appealing as such a pillow.
In a previous “Have You Heard” post, I extolled all the great things Writing With Color provides. But if you want to create a story about a culture other than your own, then you’ll need some hard data. Do you check Wikipedia for factoids? Here’s a better option! You can look at the World Culture Encyclopedia (a.k.a. everyculture.com), which gives great breakdowns on cultures from Afghanistan to Zambia, from French Canadians to Afro-Colombians.
Each entry provides an overview of a country’s geography, language, national identity, diet, industries, class systems, social problems, family units, etiquette, art, and sometimes even more, depending on which nation you research. A well-cited bibliography caps off each section. All this information can be dense, so don’t expect to go though it all in one sitting.
Also, don’t try to put all your findings in one story! When I wrote “I Am A Mountain (y estoy hundiendome),” I began my research with this long entry on Mexican-Americans. Of the notes I wrote down, I used only 10% of the facts I listed. Lucha Corpi seems cool, but I don’t think she needs to get name-dropped in a superhero story. The World Culture Encyclopedia should provide you with a background for your story… not a prong for your thesis.
I mentioned on April 1st that I was reading Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov. I finished the book today. Mind you, the book only has 300 pages, and I started a good deal before April.
If you want to know what I thought about Pale Fire, you can find my review on my Instagram. Yes, the review consists of one picture. To find out what I thought, use your interpretative skills.
I like creating critiques of books through visual shorthand. It’s a weird hobby, but the practice helps me abstract my reaction to literature, record what I read each year, and create a type of analysis never seen before. It’s also in danger of ruining my reading hobby.
For each Trudge-Along Tuesday, I plan to show you what I did to advance my writing goals. Ideally, I present something concrete each week, like a new chapter for my novel. But throughout the past few days, my unconscious mind took over my musings on a problem. I wanted to say I finished Amal’s character sheet today. Until I solve this current conundrum, I can’t develop much else.
On occasion, you need to reclaim your love of reading. It’s easy to get bogged down in what you’re supposed to read, or what’s good for you to read. You forget why you even bother in the first place. Unlike other, good Glimmer Train offerings, “If She Doesn’t Answer” fills me with the urge to scream and tell the world how fuckin’ great this story is. That’s hard to do when writing a reasoned critique. So imagine me typing all this with my hair on fire, my eyes bulging, and my fingers quicker than lightning, if you want to get a sense of how this short story excites me.
I’ve been breaking some promises, and I’ve been keeping some too.
Many of you may have noticed the missing Tuesday and Wednesday updates. Well, guess what, I’m sick again. With what? I wish I knew. My doctor says it could be unknown seasonal allergies, could be a virus. Anyways, I spent the last few days just trying to walk around the house without collapsing.
I considered updating the blog anyways. Here’s what I concluded: I had nothing to say at the time, and I had no way of making that nothing worth reading. I still plan to write 1,250 words a week, same as I promised in the beginning. But, as I talked about here, I don’t want to waste your time. So if I’m a bit slow on the updates, know that I’m taking care of myself… and making this blog the best it can be.
Any writer will tell you how hard it is to make good art, but some aspects of the craft are easier than others. Let’s say you want to tell a traditional tempted-by-old-flame story, like “Dumb Down” does. How do you convince your audience that this hot lady is worth committing infidelity over? Simple: don’t describe the wife at all! Hard to get upset over the betrayal of someone you barely know. Allison, the wife of protagonist Dave, only has an arched eyebrow as a defining character trait. “There was a time when that was all she would have to do to get me to ravish her right there…” (Burkhart, 202) muses Dave. Now Dave has his eye on Kerry Pigeon, wife (former?) of college friend Hal. In our first look at Kerry, we see her “Barefoot in worn jeans and a T-shirt, blond hair tousled… she was more woman than any of the college girls I’d been with, sensual in a way they could never be,” (Burkhart, 204). Yeah, there’s no way “eyebrow not as sexy as before” can compete with that.