Friday, February 28, 2014

Nearing the end of the vampire novel

This winter has sapped my energy level, but I'm nearing the end.  Finally.

It's been getting slower and slower, my word count has dropped steadily.  I finally figured out why.

I'm going to the badlands.  My wife said the book wasn't that dark, but as it nears the end, it goes so past dark that you can't even see dark in the rear view mirror.

When everyone has died, when all hope is lost, how can you soldier on?  It's a good question for my protagonist, Sam.  What will motivate him to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  What difference can he possibly make?

We're going to find out.

Monday, February 24, 2014

David Foster Wallace as an instructor?

Having DFW as an instructor wasn't exactly Chicken Soup for the Soul.  He didn't care about your feelings, as he told one girl.  She said, "I'm having a real hard time in my personal life right now."  He responded, "This isn't psychotherapy.  Nobody cares about your personal life.  We're going to talk about your writing, and if you have a problem with that, drop the class."

Dave was a grammar Nazi, no doubt about it, and he used to teach a grammar boot camp before the start of class every week.

He once told a girl, "This fails at everything fiction tries to achieve.  Scene, setting, dialouge, POV, and next time you write a story, make sure it has a point.  Don't just write some shit that happened to you."

Having said all that, after 2 classes, he suggested to me that i stop taking classes, as it was damaging my psyche.  And, he was right.  I just couldn't write for almost fifteen years. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Class with David Foster Wallace

Let's set the way-back machine for 1994, the first day of advanced creative writing class with David Foster Wallace.

Hmm, are we there?  Good.

First impression.  Who's the guy in the doo-rag and the NKOTB t-shirt?  And, why is he chewing tobacco like a fiend?

I'm in trouble.  I don't know what otiose, fecund, or inchoate means.

Why is this guy leering at all the girls?

He keeps saying if we don't want to be here, drop the class. Maybe I should seriously consider dropping?

This guy's average grade is a D minus?

He's going to be the flamethrower to our ass?  Sounds unpleasant.

3 hours later, I knew for a fact that I was in trouble.  I was from what he called a "back-woods" county.

I had never heard of David Foster Wallace, but apparently he was a "big deal" writer and I should drop the class so a more worthy student, of which there were many waiting, could take my spot.

I didn't drop the class, and I did better than a D minus.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Word Count

Sometimes my word count comes easy.  Other days it's pure torture.  An interesting thing I've found is that my writing when I'm inspired doesn't read any better than my writing when every word is a bloody victory.

It's all about BIS.  Butt-in-seat.  If you can get your butt in the seat and get your word count, all is good in the world.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Oedipus the King

I love a lot of ancient literature, but there's a special place in my heart for Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King.  Some may know of the Oedipus Complex, old Sigmund's idea that a boy will grow up learning male behavior from his father, until he figuratively slays the father and supplants his father and marries the Mother figure.  Unlike some of Sigmund's other ideas, this one isn't a just true, it's axiomatic.

But, back to Oedipus the King.  The story is, in my opinion, not about Oedipus marrying his mother, but whether a man has free will or whether his fate is predetermined.

In the story, Laius is warned by the Oracle at Delphi that his son will slay him.  So, he asks his wife to kill their son, but the wife passes the job off to a servant who instead gives Oedipus away.

Later, Oedipus is told by the Oracle that he will marry his mother.  Thinking he is the son of the local king, he heads out, confronts his true father and kills him.  Then, he dispatches the sphinx that is plaguing the kingdom and wins the hand of the former King's wife, his own mother.

Both Laius and Oedipus suffer the very fate they tried to avoid.  Lesson?  Don't tempt fate by trying to avoid yours. 

Or, never trust an Oracle.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Writing about writing

So, what to say...  I'll start simple.  I learned how to write from David Foster Wallace.  He called me Mr. Swaim and I called him Dave.  He'd return my stories covered in comments from his red pen.  I'd tell him what I was trying to achieve and he would tell me how I failed.  But, he never told me to stop.

In fact, he told me I had the potential to be a commercial fiction writer.  I told him that while he meant it as an insult, I took it as a compliment.

Here's the funny thing about Dave, though.  I'm not sure if he meant it as an insult.  One thing he liked, he said, was to read and suddenly fall into the chair, forget he was reading a story and just BE in the story.

He told me I was doing that in my stories.

I miss him.