Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Can we Tawk?

I'm inspired this week to talk about something that shouldn't be controversial, but with writers sometimes is -- honesty.

Writing is such a personal endeavor. As writers we pour bits of ourselves into our work and then shove it out into the world for little pieces to be hacked off or smashed by others. It's just the nature of the beast. I doubt there's been a piece of writing, ever, that was universally loved. On the same token, not everyone has the same career goals or will go about attaining those goals in the same manner. While those of us lucky enough to find companions on this journey have company on our writing paths, we aren't always going to agree with the choices made by our writer friends.

So, how do we cope?

I think with a combination of honesty and tact. And because everyone makes mistakes, also with forgiveness.

I often marvel at the miracle that is my main critique group. (I'm working with two groups right now... a bit overwhelming.) My first group has been together, more or less, for over five years now. That six women can meet once a week for five years to criticize each other and still survive is seriously a miracle. Not that we haven't had problems. To prevent the total collapse of the group we've had to prune a couple members and that was tough. Tough for the prunees, I'm sure, but tough for us, too. We've also recently added a member and that too was tough. New personalities, new ideas, change. All hard. But we're sticking it out because it works, because we make each other better, because we're all in it for the writing and not for the weekly social call, and because we keep each other honest -- I hope.

I've heard stories of hurt feelings and misunderstandings that have blown up in so many other writers faces. Old friends never talking to each other again. Offense taken where none was meant, escalating into all out wars.

We all want to avoid these blow ups. Is the solution to always be nice? To never say the hard things? To continue a relationship that clearly isn't working instead of cutting it off? Gee, I hope not.

I don't want my critique partners to lie to me -- ever. Sure some things they've said have hurt. And I'm *sure* I've said things that have hurt them. (I can be a bitch.) But I'm a big girl (and I'm not just talking bra size). I can take it and I hope they can too. The thickness of my skin has increased about 100x since I started seriously writing and I think I'm a better person for it.

And each day I thank whatever higher power there might be for sending me critique partners who can be brutally honest, with tact, and who can forgive each other for the occasional and inevitable lack of tact and hurt feelings.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The information reveal.

Officially Life is my favourite new show of the Tv season and the only one I’m going to continue to watch.

I have finally given up on Bionic Woman. It was only pigheaded stubbornness that kept me watching this long anyway.

Why Life? It has it’s weaknesses, the case of the week isn’t terrifically imaginative and the lead character’s zen can be wearing. But as it goes on, the writers are doing some really, really smart things.
Well, the smartest thing they did was cast Damien Lewis in the lead role. Even with all the zen, he’s been able to project a sense of ruthlessness behind everything and this week, it really came forward and in a good way. We got a real sense just exactly how 12 years in prison had changed this guy and as much as he’s tried to hide it, he’s a different man. And not for the better and Lewis can convey that the character knows it.

The writers are taking their time revealing everyone’s demons. They’ve been doing it in quick scenes. One of the better ones was when the lead character’s partner gets covered in heroin during a bust. Her reaction tells us exactly what she is, a recovering heroin addict. And four episodes later, we find out she fell in love while undercover and he was a heroin addict also. And it was almost a throwaway line, not a huge reveal and not an information dump. Just enough to really whet my appetite to know what happened.

The Lewis character has this mission, that in some cases, the writers only hint at, and the times when his ruthlessness comes to the forefront are usually underplayed, and perfect. Each episode we learn something new about his character and the writers are trusting the audience to be intrigued enough to continue watching and patient enough not to want to know everything up front.

I really like that trust. I don’t like to be told everything about a character up front, be it movies, tv or books. It requires more trust between the audience and the writer, but as long as the payoff is worth it, then I’m in all the way

And in this show, I believe the payoff is worth it.

And I’m taking notes, because the writers are making all sorts of smart choices about what and when to reveal in terms of the overall mystery of who framed the hero and about the main characters.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gone Baby Gone and Ben Affleck

My relentless love of Ben Affleck has been redeemed. I knew he was worth my appreciation - through Pay Back and Sum of All Fears and Surviving Christmas I knew there was a reason why we should just be patient while he got the Bennifers and Daredevils out of his system.

That reason being -- the guy is clearly an amazing storyteller/director and the incredibly tense and painful to watch Gone Baby Gone just proves it. I had heard all these rumors about Good Will Hunting, that a script doctor actually did most of the heavy lifting of that screenplay and the boys took the kudos. Gone Baby Gone totally dispels that rumor. Now, granted Dennis Lehane's novel provided the bones for this movie -- and man are they good bones -- but as we all know - it can harder revising something to suit a new purpose than it is to start from scratch - which is why they have a best adapted screenplay oscar. But the dialogue in this movie is SO real. It's SO authentic. It's SO of character and not of plot necessity. And that has to be Affleck, right?

And moreover - the themes of the movie - right and wrong. The difference between moral and just? Lawful and criminal? Which could have been beaten to death (like a few characters in the film) - weren't. Everyone was good, everyone was bad. Choices were hard and harder. And Affleck handled it deftly - thanks in large part to Casey Affleck's acting. The guy is a cooler smarter Ben - without Ben's looks he clearly has had time to hone his chops in supporting parts and it really really shows. The guy is pretty darn riveting.

Ed Harris - of course - is amazing. Morgan Freeman does the same thing he always does and I'm more than tired of him. Amy Madigan (Ed Harris' wife and it's so not fair that he is aging the way he is and she is aging the way she is) steals the screen every time she's on. But the real delight is Ben Affleck. I will quietly go back to my now totally justified lusting....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Contest Winner!!!

Hey sorry this post is so terribly terribly lame but I am sick like a dog. A sweaty dog with the flu. And a headache.

Anyway our contest winner from last weekend - is Heidi The Hick!! Congrats! Please email me Heidi and I'll get your address and box of goodies out the door.

As a question -- where does the term Black Mariah come from? Anyone?

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm rambling and its the wines fault.

I’ve had two glasses of wine, so this post is going to be short and not all together coherent.

Friday night lights is over for the week. God, I love that show. I love that almost every time they show the coach’s wife, she has her newborn sleeping on her. (so true to life) I love that they’ve focused in more on Tim Riggins this year. All the better to get that female, 18-65 demographic and the way the coach furrows his brow almost all the time. The dead body storyline, well the show has earned my trust. I’ll follow them almost anywhere.

But this post is not about our collective Drunk Writer’s obsession with Friday Night Lights, or that Razor( a sort of spin off Battlestar Gallactica movie is supposed to air Nov 24th and oh, does it look amazing), nope, been thinking about Maureen’s post, and publishing and choices and most of all persistence.

I think a lot of writers feel left out in the cold. (remember now, two glasses of wine, which at this point in my life, make me seriously tipsy) they’re banging on doors and getting rejected, or worse, completely ignored.

It’s stupid hard to take a rejection and smile through it, worse still, go on to write the next book. Sometimes we just want to hear yes, something I completely understand.

And the one phrase that keeps coming up(I know, I’ve used it) is write a better book. Which I do agree with. Everyone, published, aspiring, and anyone in between, we need to get better with each book. So sure, but if writing a better book was the only answer, than Judith Ivory would be so much bigger than she is, Connie Brockway’s historicals would have been bestsellers, and Laura Kinsale would own at least three publishing houses.

Sometimes a better book isn’t enough. You need luck and timing as well. Two things that increase exponentially with the number of books completed and queries on the market.

So what kind of a drunk writer post is this. The truest kind, where the writer is maybe a little drunk. But hey, write the best book you can, because really, the next book might be the one.

I love wine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Myths, Lies and the Publishing Industry

Okay, I know this is bad form. But I forgot to do a blog today and was reminded of one of my very first posts on my other blog, so I decided to repost it here.

Updates to this since I wrote it last year? Sadly very few. :-)


A couple of recent posts on writer-lists I belong to have prompted me to do something I swore I’d never do with this blog (but already broke in the first week). I hadn’t planned to use this blog to foist my opinions about publishing on the world. Enough people already do that and do it well… But sometimes, it appears, I just can’t help myself…

So, at the risk of having cyber-tomatoes tossed my way, I find myself wanting to voice a few opinions about small pubs, e-pubs and (gasp) self-publishing.

I’m still very early in my—what I hope will be a—writing career… but, except for about ten minutes after one particularly disappointing bit of news, I haven’t even considered an option other than shooting for a contract with a major NY publisher.

Why? For me, it’s about knowing what you want. It’s about setting goals and sticking to them even if it requires a little harsh reflection and honesty—not to mention a lot of hard work on your craft and probably tossing a few early manuscripts into the trash bin.

Not that I think there’s any one right way to get published—or even a best way—I just know what I want and based on some things I read on the loops, some (emphasis on some) writers end up at e-pubs without much forethought or because they weren’t honest with themselves about their writing or about the industry.

In other words, if a writer decides to target a small press or e-pub, he/she should be very clear about why they've made that choice.

In my opinion, it comes down to goals. Writers (I hope) write because we love to write… So why do we want to be published? That’s a whole other question. Some writers may be happy just to see their name in print on a book cover. Maybe it’s being able to use that elusive title "author". Maybe they just hope a few people who don’t know them will actually read their stories. On the other hand, some writers have different goals. For example, seeing their book in major chains, reaching for or hitting bestseller lists, reviews in major publications, possible movie deals, having thousands of people read their books, earning a modest living…

If those latter goals sound like you… Then my advice is to stay focused on getting that contract with a major NY publishing house.

What saddens me most, I suppose, is when I see writers falling into the trap of believing certain myths about the industry that get perpetrated amongst we pre-published authors. Yes, it’s a tough business. Yes, the odds are against a new writer. Yes, it’s very subjective. Yes, there’s some luck and timing involved, but some things I hear out there just aren’t true. For example, I’ve heard people claiming that to get a major NY contract or even land a reputable agent:

  • You have to know someone

  • You have to be pretty

  • Your book has to fit into some kind of cookie-cutter mold

  • You have to learn a secret handshake no one’s willing to teach you

Yes, these little lies writers tell themselves can help take the sting out of the inevitable rejections that come in this business—but they are lies. Believing that you need an "in" to get published by a NY house, or that the major houses never take chances can lead writers into a world of delusion. Yes, small presses and e-pubs have launched certain fiction sub-genres -- they can take more chances because the costs are so much lower... But once those barriers have been broken and it’s proven a market exists (say with erotica or paranormal right now) NY starts clamoring for those types of books and if your writing is good enough, your storytelling gripping, your voice strong, you will find an agent and get a publishing deal with a NY house.


This is what I believe.

Am I the one who’s deluded?

I don't have a book contract yet. It took me 3 completed manuscripts to get a great agent and I recognize that it might take a few more manuscripts to get that contract... Don’t get me wrong… it will break my heart if the book my agent is shopping right now doesn't sell... But I'll recover. I also know each book I write gets better and for me (emphasis on for me) going with a small pub or e-pub is a compromise I'm not willing to make. It’s just not compatible with my goals. Your goals might be different. Just be honest with yourself and don't buy into the myths.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Guest Blogger: Michele Ann Young author of No Regrets

Exciting day for the drunk writers! Michele Ann Young - one of our critique partners and an excellent author - has her debut this month with NO REGRETS from Source Books. What's truly exciting about Michele's book is her twist on the expectations of the genre. Her heroine is A typical. Her hero is not what he seems. And her plot takes us out of the Regency ballrooms and into lots and lots of trouble. It's fun. It's smart. And I'm not just saying that because she's my critique partner. Or because we've had a lot of white wine together.

She's got a great take on research and what it's like to work with publisher on a new line AND we're running a contest this week. We'll randomly pick someone who comments anytime this week and that person will get some books and treats!!!! So be sure to check back!

I put Michele's feet to the fire in the following Q and A -

Okay, Michele, first of all thanks so much for joining us - and now what we're all really dying to know - What is your tipple of choice?

Chardonnay, or a malt scotch, depending on the time of day.

I understand totally. Chardonnay is really more of a breakfast drink. You are always off to exciting locales. So, what is your vacation of choice?

Hard to choose, because I do like a short break anywhere warm in the winter. But give me any place with buildings more than 200 years old and I really don't care what the weather does as long as I have a camera and no one is bugging me to hurry up. We went to Venice and Rome this past summer. It was like time travel, if one ignored all the other tourists. And the local people were so friendly and helpful.

I know you do a lot of research. What is your take on research? What has been particularly helpful to you as you research your novels? What recommendations would you make to people regarding research and using it effectively in books?

For me there are two kinds of research, the general kind, learning about the era, reading historical non fiction on one topic or another, biographies, or diaries, even other novels about the Regency -- sort of getting a feel for it. Then there is the detailed research on minutia. That happens when I hit a question about something my characters are doing or that I want them to do. For example in No Regrets they had to go from one side of the River Seine in Paris where my heroine was living, to a cafe that would have been in existence at the time located on the other bank. I had to stop writing and get that information in order for the scene to work. However, when I needed the hero to visit the British Embassy, I was quite happy simply highlight the spot and wait for the British Embassy to reply with the relevant information while I moved on with the story. It all depends on how pivotal the information is to the story. The most important thing is for your characters to move through your world in the most natural way, whether they are Regency Bucks or Navy SEALS. Don't have them wax lyrical about things they would take for granted just because you spent hours researching Chinese wallpaper, or Queen Ann furniture, or how a fire truck rolls up hoses. It is a fine line to walk, but as soon as you move from story into detailed descriptions, you become self-indulgent and risk annoying your reader. I thought the TV series Rome really put this in perspective for me. Rome is not my era, and I watched in fascination as the characters moved through their world, no one ever explaining anything, just one visual after another, but it all made sense because the characters interacted with the world as the story went along.

You've gone out on a limb with a publisher putting out a new romance line. What has been your experience with Source Books?

I am enjoying working with them very much. They are an independent publisher, but too big to be called small press. They are launching their new Casablanca romance line this fall with No Regrets and another book and have done everything possible to make these books a success. It is very much a team effort. Their marketing and promotion has been far more than I could ever have expected and they are very responsive to suggestions, comments and questions.

What made you start writing romance?

I always loved Georgette Heyer books, which are romances, and I thought I would like to try my hand at something similar. I like the relationship aspect, I like strong heroines and a bit of an adventure, and I love happy endings. So once I decided to write stories, which I sort of did by accident, I guess romance was a no-brainer.

We talk a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a writer. What is something that you feel like you struggle with in writing?

I feel I know my characters, when I am writing, and I am certainly emotionally involved with them and their story, but I think it is hard to put that kind of emotion on the page so that the reader can empathize with them too. Actually I think it is all very hard.

Favorite books?All of Georgette Heyer, Flowers of the Storm by Laura Kinsale, The Da Vinci Code, Outlander. To many to mention. I read anything and everything, including the serial box. If there are words, I will read them. All.

What actors would play your characters in No Regrets? Renee Zelwigger or maybe Drew Barrymore and Matthew Macfadyen. Or perhaps Ioan Gruffudd. Fun thinking about that one. I could spend quite a bit of time daydreaming about that.

Ha! I think Matthew Macfadyen would play a lot of your heroes. You're a little in love with that guy. Now, lastly, as a person who has been writing for a number of years and spent the last few being very close to publication (a very frustrating place to be) a lot of new writers read this blog - what would your advice be to authors who have been working hard but the rejections have been piling up?

Take a look at the market, see if you are writing to a trend that is past. Try sharpening up your voice maybe? Enter some contests and see what sort of feedback you are getting. Maybe write something new, a new book or even a new genre. Sometimes a new project will rekindle some of the joy that editing seems to drain away.If it is a book you believe in, keep sending it out. Persistence is an important ingredient of success.But do write something else while you are waiting. It seems to me from my limited experience that publishing is mostly about waiting for someone else to decide. And the only thing a writer can do while that is happening, --is write the next book.

Smart words Michele! Thanks so much for being here! Check out Michele's website for more information on her books and her fantastic newsletter.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More New TV and why mystery is so important

I’ve kind of being looking for this years Friday Night Lights, so I tuned into a lot more new shows than I normally would.

Some, because they looked cool. That’s my excuse for Bionic Woman and I’m sticking to it.
Some because they were recommended by TV critics, Chuck, Reaper and Life and the rest of the new shows, I’m waiting to see what stands out as the TV season progresses and perhaps I’ll just buy the DVD.

Nothing so far has come close to matching my old favs, including FNL, or Battlestar, (as an aside, entertainment weekly had a season 4 preview from on it’s pop watch section a few days ago. Looks AMAZING)

Chuck and Reaper I’m giving up on. Both shows are remarkably similar - nerdy guy, in a career slump is thrust into an unbelievable situation and he has to rise to the occasion every week. Each one has a funny sidekick/best friend and a love interest he’s too shy to declare his feelings for.
The best thing about both are the supporting characters. In Chuck it’s Adam Baldwin, amazing in FireFly, and in Reaper it’s the Devil. Both almost make the show, but not quite.

To be honest, I find the shows boring. We know each week, how the show is going to go. Each main character is sweet, and in their own way, heroic, and their character arc is slim to none, and there’s no discernible mystery, other than who is going to be the bad guy each week.

Then there’s Life. The weekly case has proven weak, but the main character, there’s a lot of mystery there. The over all mystery of who framed him, and they are doing a delicious job of feeding small clues in to each episode about what happened.
There’s the mystery of his relationship with his lawyer, what happened between him and his accountant in jail, and why he trusts his accountant(a man charged with fraud). We get glimpses into the rage underneath the zen mind set he’s trying to adopt and small glimpses into how jail changed him.
It could be due to the actor, but there seems to be so much to the character simmering under the surface, so much complexity and I love that the writers didn’t feel the need to spell everything out in the first episode, unlike Chuck and Reaper.

So that’s it. The one new show I’ve added to my list, unless anyone has any other recommendations…

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Genre Bending

So, fair warning, this isn't going to be a well thought out post.

But I'm watching The Bionic Woman right now and think I've come up with at least one reason why this show just doesn't work (in spite of the amazing Katee Sackoff as "bad bionic woman").

I think for any kind of story to work, whether it be TV or a movie or a novel, it needs to know what it is. Now this doesn't mean it can't blend genres, but if it does blend genres, it has to do it purposefully and artfully. Does the Bionic Woman do this? Not so much. Not yet, anyway.

The original 1970's series was cheesy in the same TV vein as other hits on the air at the time like Charlie's Angels. It was a show as much aimed at kids as adults. It was a bit cartoonish. (Anyone remember the sound effects when the original Jamie jumped?) This new version of Bionic Woman wants to be darker, to be taken more seriously... but then they throw in these really bad jokes that not only aren't funny, they don't fit the tone of the show, nor are they consistent with the characters. "That's right, Sir, we did talk about an attitude adjustment." Not funny and it completely undermined the Miguel Ferrer character who's still being established. In fact, it made a joke of the whole whatever-the-hell-organization they're all supposed to work for. Within the five minutes of the same episode they try to establish Ferrer's character as a cool customer who can fool lie detector tests (along with another bad joke attempt, "How do you do that?" "I was married.") and then they cut down that characterization by having him cave on something so key as keeping Jamie safe. Made zero sense to me. I'm all for character complexities and sometimes that means inconsistencies, but I think you need to establish important character traits fully before you contradict them. With BSG we knew Starbuck was super tough before we saw her be vulnerable. We knew the President was sensitive before we saw her be cut throat. We knew Adama was cool headed and tough long before we saw him let his emotions take control of his decision making. That's good complex character development.

I can't understand how the same people who darkened and deepened BSG could have blown it so badly with this one. OMG the writers just made Katee suggest to Jamie that they form a union because the guys watch them in the shower. ARGH. Not funny and so stupid. It seems like they want to poke fun at the premise, like the writers don't know whether to take the show seriously or not. Not working for me so far.

Oh, and it doesn't make any sense to me why Jamie's trusting the people who created her over bad bionic woman. They haven't done a good job of making me believe Jamie trusts the people she works for, and she has plenty of reasons not to trust them. It just doesn't make sense that she wouldn't listen to Sarah. Maybe they should have waited a few episodes before introducing the Katee Sackoff character (although she's the only good thing in the show, so that might not have worked, either.)

In contrast, I saw the second episode of another new series this week based on Alli's recommendation. (Thanks, Alli!) Pushing Up Daisies seems to know what it is. It's blending genres and doing it well, from what I saw in one episode, anyway. My personal jury is still out on this show -- I fear the narration could become tedious -- but it seems to be holding true to its vision -- an odd blend of detective show, fairy tale and quirky romantic comedy. Has promise.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New Jersey Conference and Harlequin Changes

Hey all - sorry for the late post. I was strung out on pumpkin pie yesterday and sweating too much to sit at the computer. Hottest Thanksgiving on record -- our poor planet. Anyway -- I got back from the New Jersey RWA conference this weekend - always a fantastic conference. If you are considering going to a conference but don't want to commit to the zoo that is national - this is a great one to try. Well run. Lots of big authors and agents and editors. Fantastic chocolate buffet on Friday night - seriously, what's not to like?

Of course everyone was a buzz about the changes to Harlequin NEXT and LOVE EVERLASTING. If you haven't heard - those lines are no longer going to be published as they are. Love Everlasting will be a book a month series under the Superromance Imprint and they are looking into NEXT as a trade paperback - though they are making no promises.

So, at the PAN retreat there was the usual Harlequin-doesn't-know-what-it's-doing-the-world-is-coming-to -an -end conversation. And usually I get real swept up in this hysteria - as a person with two lines that have closed - it's easy to do. But this time - thanks to the FABULOUS Eileen Dreyer -- I kept a cool head. Eileen's whole vibe was -- it takes a long time to get perspective on your career. It takes years to get to a point where you can look at the changes in the industry and the great big teeth it has that chews up authors all the time - and go "Meh."

We say it all the time here - or in that corner book at the Duke - but it was the total theme of this conference. Keep writing. Keep getting better. Listen only to the people you love and trust. Keep one eye on the market, trends and industry and remember if you just hang in long enough everything is going change. Good and Bad. Sherrilyn Kenyon was there and she seconded it -- being as how she couldn't be more on the top of the world she understands it's not going to last. At some point she will have problems selling books -- hard to believe looking at her line up at the book signing - but she's right. Everything changes.

Which - despite the drama at Harlequin - makes me glad I write category. It will be a long time before there is NO category published at all - and if I just stay flexible within that house - I could go anywhere.

It was also a major theme that as authors you need to play nice. Do revisions. Listen to editor feedback. Stay quiet on the loops. Keep the pontificating to that back corner of whatever bar you love and don't get distracted by Facebook and Myspace and promotion that gets you exactly nowhere.

Writing a good book is still the best thing we can all do for our careers.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

POV and secondary characters

Been thinking as well since the last bout of Drunk writer talk and Maureen’s great post on Wednesday.

In romance, or women’s fiction, where deep POV is a given, how do we underwrite the big emotional scenes? Especially those wonderful black moments.

Sometimes the most affecting black moment is when we see the devastation, and the emotions, but we aren’t in the character’s head. Which sort of goes against one of the more simple POV rules. The POV of a scene should be the character who has the most to lose.

But those big dramatic scenes, if the writer has done their job effectively, we know how the character who faces the black moment will feel. We, as readers, have been anticipating this moment, and seeing it, slightly removed, rather then going through each and every thought in the character’s head, can be more powerful.

So how do we do this?

One thought I have is through our secondary characters. They can give us a POV that is slightly removed. They can show us the devastation.

But this only works if the setup to that big scene has given the reader a really strong understanding of the stakes for the main character, what they have to lose, and how it will affect them.

Then we don’t need to tell the reader what they’re feeling. We just need to show the reader and she’ll fill in the blanks, doing a much better job of it.

Just a thought. One I might try and play around with more in the next WIP.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

POV, grilled cheese sandwiches and Friday Night Lights

So, I just saw the grilled cheese episode of Friday Night Lights that Sinead mentioned in the comments when we were talking about perfect scenes a few months ago. I agree with her. That scene, that entire episode, was a work of art.

I’d already teared up twice during that episode before the oh-so-lovely grilled cheese scene. There were several big moments in that episode, but here are the two that particularly slayed me. First, the actual fight scene between the two brothers. That scene just killed me. There’s so much hurt and guilt and devotion between those two brothers and it makes me wonder if I could do the right thing, the unselfish thing, if put in the older brother's situation. And then Tim wants so badly to blindly love his father in spite of his desertion. This character trait is such powerful way of showing that, in spite of his toughness (and oh-so-hunky-good-looks), Tim's still a little boy inside. The second moment for me in that episode, was when the congregation started digging into their pockets to give money to Smash, not knowing it’s to pay for his illegal steroids. The look on his face. Unbelievable. Yet he says nothing. Does nothing.

But back to writing, POV, and grilled cheese sandwiches. When this episode was mentioned before, I commented that the scene sounded much like one from the movie Big Night, and after seeing the scene, it still does. It’s the TV version of the same scene. Somewhat shorter, somewhat less subtle. But it does its job just as beautifully, showing the viewer everything without one line of dialogue.

What I’m pondering after watching it, is how to do a scene like that in a novel—particularly in commercial fiction. It’s not that hard to imagine it in a literary novel because of the omniscient point of view. To me, a lot of the beauty of that scene is that we aren’t in either brothers’ points of view. I think that makes it more equal, less like one of them “won” or “gave in” or even apologized. Tim coming back and simply sitting down is in many ways his apology and the older brother offering half the sandwich is his. And accepting the sandwich and sip of beer is an acknowledgment of sorts that Tim knows how his big brother looks after him.

Would this scene be as powerful if we “heard” their internal thoughts? If their emotional thoughts were spilled out all over the scene in garish display? I personally don’t think so. And this is why, in my opinion, the idea that all books need to have deep points of view all the time is wrong-headed. I think we have to choose when to pull back from our characters and just show the scene without necessarily writing down all the thoughts that go with it. If we’ve done a good enough job of creating characters, then the characters’ actions will speak for themselves. (A girl can dream, right?)

My fellow drunk writers both write romance and I started out writing romance, too. And in the romance genre, deep point of view is considered a powerful tool -- like the key one must hold in order to unlock the great novel door. And for good reason. I mean, most readers of romance want the experience of being in the characters’ shoes, in their heads, in their hearts. And deep point of view is a fabulous way to create this vicarious experience for the reader. So, what I’m wondering, is a subtle scene like the grilled cheese scene in Episode 8 of Friday Night Lights possible in the romance genre? Forget romance, in any genre/commercial fiction book that uses focused points of view? This is what I’m pondering right now.

Thoughts anyone?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Community: Word On The Street and Words Alive!

I was going to write this blog about community and then I reread the blogs about TV and it was so fun so I thought I'd blog about Dexter but I passed out on the couch and missed everything but the end -- thank you PVR - thank you. So - back to community - which is a better post anyway.

Big weekend for writers in the Toronto area -- Word On The Street on Sunday and the first ever Words Alive! North of the city on Saturday. I was asked to speak on Saturday and so I ditched the kid with the in laws and spent the whole day. Fantastic event. Beautiful location - the Sharon Temple and all the chopped egg sandwiches I could eat (I love hospitality rooms). I saw two amazing speakers - both Toronto writers with new books. Prisoner in Tehran by Marina Nemat - an amazing woman with a shocking story to tell. Check it out. I don't think I breathed the entire time she talked.

The other Canadian author was Robert Hough talking about the voice that told him to write a book about the Russian/Chechen conflict and when Robert balked the voice told him it was going to be funny. The Culprits was born.

Next year the event will be bigger and better so I really urge everyone to check it out. Thanks to the familiar faces that came to fill the Cookhouse for my talk.

Word On The Street on Sunday was as usual an exhausting, inspiring, exciting day to be a part of . Toronto Romance Writers had a both and I was stunned by the number of women who are writing romance and haven't heard of us or checked us out - I hope all of them come to a meeting and realize it's so much nicer writing outside the vacuum. I was also stunned by the number of very creepy and smelly men who took the opportunity to tell us any number of strange and inappropriate things about themselves and their romantic inclinations.

I did a signing at the Harlequin tent and - my theory that readers of category romance don't come out to events like signings or Word On the Street was utterly and totally trashed. It was a mob scene. My wrist hurts today. It was wild. Of course it's always good to catch up with Margaret Moore and Kate Bridges before the mob sucked them in too.

Bev Katz Rosenbaum did a reading of her second YA novel - Totally Cool. I so recommend any parent of a young reader pick up this book. It's smart and funny and totally plugged in to right now. And I got a chance to talk cover art with Danielle Young Ullman - and seeing the cover art I have to say WHAT A LOOK!!! Fantastic cover.

It was a good weekend to be a writer. It made me very glad that I got out of the vacuum and so, walking around these events I didn't feel like an outsider or a pretender. I felt like a writer among writers. Which is such a good feeling.
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