clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Clarity of Weather

Left, trees in Colorado as photographed by Tim McCabe for the US Department of Agriculture. Image hosted on wikicommons. Public domain image.

A little change in the weather here and things become clearer. I don't have quite this much snow but it is a Christmas Card out there this morning. Roads are almost clear. Snow clings on grass and trees.

It'll be gone as the sun rises and the slightest breeze comes past us.

The snow acts as a filter bringing the deep shadows of the trees into sharp focus. It's a neat trick.

I've had to break a chapter into two.

I hate doing that but there are things a reader must know and putting all in one chapter can be a tedious slog.

Re-write for the absolute barest details relayed in the sharpest of dialog interspersed with narrative summary, Split into two related settings as an excuse to split the chapter.

It isn't a technique I use with the greatest ease but I've read it in the works of better writers. I use the inspiration.

I'm looking at snow and contemplating summer writing workshops. I'm focused on the deeper shadows.

In the interim, the season of snow and ink. The seasonal confinement brings into focus the need to write while the call of other activity is low.

So, to snow, to snow. It's off to write I go.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Old Friends

Image at left from Rodrigo Paredes of Argentina and hosted on wikicommons.

I encountered a group of old friends today and was struck at how easily we took up conversations suspended for years. Helps that they're my countrymen and in our part of the world, this is how things go.

We'll probably end up in the same hermit colony.

It occurred to me that introductions and new interactions are frequently the stuff of commercial fiction.

When was the last scene you remember coming across where the characters had a great deal more history and context behind the encounter than the reader knows? How was it handled?

I recall a business encounter with a close friend also in the business ... she kissed me on the cheek. My subordinates were shocked. I was a little shocked, too. That doesn't happen much in my world.

Would make a great scene, though.

Unexpected familiarity makes a great bit of drama on the page both for the reader and for the other characters in the scene. Yes, we have to provide context; but, we don't have to tell the reader everything.

Old friends make a great encounter I haven't used enough.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Scene I Have to Write

A public domain image at left of a first folio edition of Shakespeare's plays. Image hosted on wikicommons.

I'm sure it happened to the bard. There are scenes don't work well in the end and are cut or changed or mashed into some other scene.

We have to write them in the draft.

I call it "hamming it up" -- where there seems to be a payoff scene I want so badly to write but I know that in the end I'll probably cut or re-craft it to a fraction of what I desire to compose.

I have a story about a Madoff-style grift in action. We never see the end as the payoff in the story is a relationship change between two principal characters. 

For years, each draft included the beautiful explanation of the intricacies of the fraud. The story suffered for it. In the final draft, the fraud is just a passing thing described as if a baseball game. There's "Tiger's won 2-to-1 in the eleventh" and there's the detail description of every pitch in the last three innings.

I find scenes I have to write. I have to get them out. They're close to the pitch-by-pitch business above.

I hope now that on the "second pass" I will clean-up all this indulgence because I know when I start out on the page the first time that I'm wasting the ink.

These scenes make us happy. I at least have to write them. They encourage the longer work.

I wonder at what scenes Shakespeare "had" to draft that he later discarded as indulgent?

I wonder if he had any? Did he tell himself the story over and over until he'd pared down all the fluff before he took up the pen?

I'd like to know.

He paid more for his ink than I do mine. Did he place a higher value on committing it to paper?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Placing the Clues

At left, public domain photograph courtesy the US Forest Service.

Here, two experts discuss the optimal placement of the second body in the plot map of the story.

We know the first body comes in the first act. Duh.

I have a holiday story that I've played with for a few years now. Ugh.

I hate writing that.

Anyway, cute opening (for a holiday murder)  as my former police detective makes his way to an all night diner where the investigating officer devils him a bit. We learn the officers married sisters and only one marriage took. Only one career took as well.

Guess which one?

Anyway, the story just never works in the last two thirds.  I'm two slow on the second body and the whole business drags.

I'm not Chandler. I cannot delay the complication indefinitely. I can't have my character drive around blithely in the car engaging in an internal monologue.

I need an action event.

Now, my second body is going to be immaterial to the primary case -- or so we think until the twisty bit at the end. That's beside the point.

I have to get the reader to the end of the story for any of my slight of hand cleverness to matter.

I don't know why I haven't realized the second murder comes too late in the story before now. In some versions, I don't even have the second murder.

I mentioned it is a holiday bit, didn't I?

I'll make some notes over Thanksgiving and box it for next spring when I'm letting the long-form project cool on ice. This holiday diversion is a short story.

I can't believe I didn't see that the action was dragging.

I honestly thought it was the language. I thought the tone was too noir.

I can be an idiot sometime. Where'd I put the body map?