August 3, 2012
I don’t know about you but I do not care for stories where vampires can get by on animal blood — sometimes termed vegetarian vampires. I believe it’s a conceit that undermines the nature of the vampire. Vampires are immortal, can heal from just about anything, have beguiling powers — there should be a price for all that. In my novel, vampires must feed on human blood, though they need not kill, in fact they seldom kill, their donors.
Now, it’s not to say stories with veggies don’t work, it’s just often the stories I have read (or watched) they comes across as a way to garner sympathy for the vampire protagonist. But doing so skirts something that intrigues me. If you have a sympathetic vampire character, how does he or she go about obtaining a donor? What are those moments like? Especially the first bite. It’s an intimate, sometimes violent, act – what is that like? He or she is drawing the victim’s essence into him/herself — how does that effect the character?
I don’t see keeping a half-dozen white mice in the house like a six-pack of blood as anywhere near interesting.
July 24, 2012
I had gone to Barnes & Noble to purchase Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush, the Criterion Collection edition. The sales clerk pleasantly upsold me on the Criterion Collection edition of Harold and Maude. I had seen this movie on basic cable and enjoyed it — it’s the right amount of absurdity for me and, bonus, stars Ruth Gordon. I like her voice. Not beautiful in a musical way, but nonetheless she speaks with this cadence, this resonance that just captivates. Maybe it’s just me. (ahem)
The basic story centers on Harold (Bud Cort), a young man living with his wealthy mother. When not being set up on dates by her, Harold fakes many theatrical suicides and attends strangers’ funerals. It is at one such funeral that he meets Maude (Gordon) — a woman 60 years his senior. They fall in love and steal cars while Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) music plays.
The Criterion Collection edition offers a lot material about the film. There are commentaries, interviews and a substantial booklet with more. I hadn’t known (or perhaps hadn’t remembered) that director Hal Ashby also directed another great movie, Being There, starring Peter Sellers.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?
July 21, 2012
This year I had gotten into listening to podcasts, though I don’t listen on a consistent basis. One of the shows I like is called Typecast, A Podcast About Writing, presented by Kevin Pang.
The particular podcast (episode 9) I’m mentioning here features Steve Padilla, a LA Times editor and writing coach. Editors of course are very important allies in your writing (though often I’m sure writers feel the relationship is more adversarial) and Mr. Padilla discusses his best tips for sharpening your writing.
One theme that he discusses throughout is the importance of meaning. In fact, Mr. Padilla argues that meaning is the most important element of writing.
“You should be obsessing about what you’re going to say, not how you’re going to say it.”
At one point in the podcast, Mr. Padilla reinforces a lesson that I have kept with me since college. I kick myself for not keeping the story the professor had us examine, so I can’t attribute it and I must paraphrase. It was a short story that opened with the female protagonist taking a bath and experiencing a heart attack. “It was my heart, it stopped.” Something like that. The professor called attention to how the sentence ended with the word “stopped.” Sentences can be structured in many ways, so choose the one that gives the most impact to your readers.
Mr. Padilla argues that simple rewording can transform a sentence from acceptable to extraordinary. “Put the best stuff at the end.”
This ties in with his point about meaning. Meaning will help shape your sentences so that you can determine what to emphasize. And a strong end will propel you into the next sentence. If you are stuck on a sentence, it’s because the previous sentence wasn’t strong enough.
What do you think? What writing podcasts do you recommend?
July 20, 2012
The Times-Dispatch reports that the Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln will be opening November 9 this year. I hope there’s a local premiere event. I took some pictures during the filming and look forward to seeing the movie.
How about you?
July 18, 2012
My Bemused Writer friend mentioned to me The Grimace Project — a Flash-based application that displays facial expressions based on you adjusting sliders for six emotions. http://grimace-project.net/
July 18, 2012
I really enjoyed this book and I am in awe (read: jealous) of how expertly author David Liss places the reader right beside the main character in eighteenth century London. Rich detail, natural dialogue, compelling characters and intricate plots all make for a delightful read. I will certainly pick up another Benjamin Weaver tale.
July 15, 2012
As I await word from the critique group on the novel, I’ll share what it’s about. I won’t get into the specifics of the novel as I’ll save that for posts concerning the query letter I am now working on.
It’s about characters, most of whom are vampires, set in the real world, which is largely unaware of their true existence. What I’m attempting to do with the story (the first in a series, I hope) is get back to the fundamentals of the genre and go my own way. Vampires for adults (adult in mature themes, not explicit scenes), as I phrase it these days.
Since childhood, I have read countless vampire novels and only enjoyed a handful. (Lately, I’m finding better stories in the short fiction form.) Generally, so many seem to miss great opportunities to explore this powerful literary figure, the vampire. In future posts, I’ll cover more on the specific elements I take issue with.
So I’m writing stories for myself that I hope will appeal to many. Among the things I am exploring is how becoming a vampire changes a person and how it affects those around him or her. In my story vampires had chosen their new existence rather than been forced into it. For me a price must be paid, so what did each of the characters lose in becoming undead? What was worth their humanity? Did they get what they want or not?
Do you read vampires novels and if so, which ones did you most enjoy and why? Mine are here.
July 12, 2012
Following the previous post announcing the completion of the novel, I received many messages of support, taking me by surprise (who reads this stuff anyway?). So a big thank you to all.
I plan to post more in the coming days and weeks and I appreciate the encouragement!
July 11, 2012
It has finally happened! I have a complete first draft of my novel today. Now I entrust it to my critique group. Hopefully when we meet next month the faults they find are reparable!
From their earlier critiques on portions they had read, they suggested structural changes to improve the flow. That was addressed among others.
While they’re on task, I still need to research a bit more to ensure details are accurate. My biggest concern at the moment is book length. I’m striving for novel-length, but my word count is shy of the threshold of 80,000. I’m sure the feedback will provide ideas for addressing that.
As to what the novel is about, I will discuss that in future posts.
May 20, 2012
This year’s turned out the best yet. Even the crust came out better and more uniform than prior years. Love it.