Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Har' Down

Otherwise known as the Grand Canyon. ("Har' Down" is Drewbie-speak for a big decline, essentially.) It was a great trip, though a bit chillier than we were expecting. The first night, the temperature dropped down to 29 deg F. And we were in a summer tent. Yipes! I learned how to sleep with a blanket over my head, something I never thought possible as it usually triggers my very mild claustrophobia. I guess my brain decided it was better to risk feeling suffocated and trapped over freezing my nose off.

The trip up was nice, though uneventful. We popped into Red Mountain off of Highway 180 between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon so we could picnic out of the trunk and hike a very small ways toward the mountain itself. This site might feature prominently in the sequel to THUMB that's kicking around in the back of my head, so I snapped a few good pictures. One of these trips up to the GC, we'll actually hike the full route.

We hit our only snag (other than how wickedly cold it was) when we tried to pitch the tent. It's a big, complicated structure that didn't assemble quite as easily as the test run Mark and I did in the house after we bought it. So we were already a bit testy by the time it came to stake the thing. And nothing would stake. Mark was ready to keep wailing on a couple of stakes when I happen to look over and see a slab of exposed rock on the floor of our campsite. "Uh, Mark, I'm thinking that's not going to work." Note to self: do not try to pitch a tent on bedrock. We rigged the thing to stay upright with a bunch of large rocks in strategic corners of the tent. And it held, though it was rougher on the tent's interior than we would've liked for its first use.

We trekked out on the West Rim drive as far as we could go. They're in the process of shutting that entire side of the park down until November to revamp the road and route. Can't blame 'em as the ride was so rough on the patch of road still open that we thought the shuttle was going to loose an axle or something.

The Canyon itself...well, words are never quite enough, and pictures suck most of the vastness and complexity right out of it. Suffice to say, I never get tired of it and always find new things each trip.

Drew scared about half of the people who saw him gallavanting around the rim despite the tether and vigilance of whichever parental unit held the leash. At one point, I stayed up at the point while the rest of the party hiked down a bit to get to a different vantage point. As I watched the group climb back up toward me, I overheard a couple of people fretting over how even with the tether, they'd be too worried to let a little kid walk free at the canyon. I very good-naturedly fessed up that the kid was mine and shared how advance Drew is in all things kinesthetic. The ladies agreed he was destined to be a rock climber, then.

Our second day up, we drove through the East Rim and down Highway 89 back toward Flagstaff to check out the Little Colorado River Gorge and Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Parks. The Gorge was stunning. It had been seven years since Mark and I had seen it. And since it's on the Navajo reservation, there were a ton of booths with Native American crafts and jewelry. Mark picked up a couple of pieces for me as an early Mother's Day present. One was an awesome hematite and picture jasper choker, the other was a set with fired glass that looked like opal. I got a nice natural-wood inscribed pot for Mark as he's got a little collection going (not that we have it out at the moment; all of our knick-knacks are still packed away until the Drew Monster is old enough to know they are not toys). Mark's parents found a gorgeous vase in similar fashion for a dining table centerpiece.

By the time we got to Sunset Crater, it was clear that I neglected to put on any sunscreen and was feeling the pain, so I hung out in the car while the rest of the group wandered a lava field. I did 'screen and hat up for a quick trek to one of the ruins at Wupatki. It's quite amazing to see those structures and imagine what it must have been like to have lived there.

After surviving another cold night, we struck camp and drove the scenic route down to Sedona for a quick tour and lunch. It'd had been seven years since Mark and I had been there as well, and it was nice to see all of the beauty of the area even around the human presence.

It was a lovely trip full of stunning views and good company. Last year, Mark and I decided to make a trip up to the Canyon once a year, and this was a great occasion for the second year of that decision. Next year, we plan to go to one of the more western areas that are not in the park but on reservations. Eventually, when Drew is old enough and we are fit enough, we'll arrange to go to Havasu Falls, one of the most beautiful spots in the world, supposedly. It involves quite a hike to get there, though, so let the boot camp begin!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Progress: Back After a Break

I didn't report my two abysmal totals from last Monday and Tuesday before Mark's parents arrived. It was just too pathetic (306 words total). Plus no time, what with preparing for company and a camping trip. (A report on that should be forthcoming tomorrow.) And I was quite surprised I was able to write as much as I did tonight. I've been in blah down mode today and just doubted the story would come at all. Granted, I don't think much of what I got, but progress is progress toward a finished draft to then slice and dice into something actually resembling a novel.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 1,508
Total words: 63,728 (20,728)
Musical stylings: Tori Amos
Munchies: None, but I'm about to grab a granola bar

Researched via Quickie Wiki or the Google Boogie: Half-hearted search to find a cystic fibrosis factoid half-remembered through the fog of my undergrad years
Mean Things: Talking scientific jargon to a layman, nasty genetic reveal that doesn't harm anything but is freaky-deaky
Placeholder of the day: More vague hand-wavy stuff about the business of setting up the medical clinic because I don't want to be bothered with those details right now. I will research that later (that's another post, too).

Amusing Tidbit from Kellie's Day: This is actually from yesterday. I somehow got into a religious debate with the physical therapist as my appointment wound down. They had apparently been discussing it all day long, my therapist roped me into a bit, and I trotted out my theory that free will prevents the Bible from being the literal truth. Said theory did not go over well. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I offered that idea outside of the context of close, like-minded friends. I'd be more interested in hearing someone actually get into it with my logic rather than be offended by the entire concept and half-jokingly tell me my idea makes me Not a Christian. But that's not the amusing part. That happened when I got back in my car and the CD cued up the next song: "God" by Tori Amos (why, yes, I have recently resurrected my Tori Amos kick).

Physical therapy contortions: Done and done, though I still can't bring myself to futz with my scar tissue all that much on my own. This, I need to fix.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recent Gender Idiocies I Have Read

In the gender debate, I think the crux of the problem is that women are far less likely to be treated as people than men are. That is, society is more likely to have the following culturally ingrained and resistant to change: women are women first, not people while men are people first, men secondarily. (Where "women" and "men" means thought of in terms of their gender traits above all else.) It's a working hypothesis, one that I'm refining as I move about in the world and observe how others are treated and how I am treated.

So when I read items as linked below, I hold my hypothesis against theirs and get a few mind-boggling disparities.

The Open-Source Boob Project. How it all began: "This should be a better world," a friend of mine said. "A more honest one, where sex isn't shameful or degrading. I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful." I think it's odd that in pining for a world where sex is not shameful and degrading, someone thought a request to fondle would be an appropriate way to express esthetic appreciation of another's bod. Really, it strikes me more as a wish to bypass emotional intimacy and go straight to physical, which is hard to do without making physical intimacy objectifying, which is degrading.

A Rapist's View of the World: Joss Whedon and Firefly. Hard to know where to start with this one. It helps (for reading comprehension purposes alone) to know that the author considers any heterosexual intercouse to be rape because society has so conditioned women into thinking that their bodies belong to men and not themselves that they can never consent. I've heard about radical feminism and usually discounted the fear of it because it always came in the context of men calling the proponents "feminazis" which is not a good way to critique anything unless it involves actual genocide. However, wow. It's probably one of the most insulting things I've heard that by the very nature of my gender, I cannot think for myself in a sexual context unless I acheive the enlightenment of lesbianism. And that's saying something considering the next link.

Respectful Insolence Links to Someone Else's Misogyny. I can't even bring myself to link directly to the culprit in question or even directly state the man's real or fake name. He lives to run all over the internet with his fanbase and lay the smack down. I'd rather not boost my stats that way. While what this guy says is extremely misogynistic, it mostly boils down to a logical error, a conflation of correlation and causation mixed in with the refusal to discuss what lies at the heart of the trends he opines (see my introduction to this entire post above).

Note to Self: Gender Issues will outlast the cockroaches.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Drew: All American Athlete

The Drew Monster is developing quite a sports addiction. He has a blast playing "soccer" in big open fields. Mostly, the game consists of running around and kicking a ball willy-nilly. Sometimes he aims toward the goal. He will shout "Yay!" whenever he kicks does manage to score. Lately he's been growing adept at throwing a small plush football and catching it (as long as he's reclining a bit, the ball is thrown at his chest, and he can trap it essentially with his whole body).

He's also developing excellent jumping skills. He can jump quite far from a modest height. On Friday, he demonstrated that he can jump side to side on two pedestals of equal height. As Mark said, our son would easily win the Toddler Long Jump event.

We expect that soon he'll be rolling and somersaulting as well as any six-year-old. He's already started to experiment with that. Plus, he loves walking the two-feet high stone decorative fence thingy near the playgrounds like it's a balance beam. He still needs to be holding on to Momma's hand when he does it, but he has a blast.

Then, of course, there is his prediliction for climbing, which continues apace and manages to shock most folks who haven't seen it regularly. We might have more fun stories to share in that vein next week after our trip to the Grand Canyon later this week.

One thing all of this activity means is that Drew's shins are never going to be bruise free until he's in his twenties. Maybe.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Progress: ...And I'm Spent

Funny how getting to a college library at noon on a Sunday will not land you in the middle of rush hour for finals crunch. I nabbed a spot right next to an outlet for the laptop. Such areas, I gathered, were prime real estate. Later, lots of laptop-laden students wandered past me, looking for other places to plug in. In fact, my spot was snatched up just about as soon as I put my bag on the table and stood up to break down. I imagine this will be an excellent spot for me during the summer months.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 2,148 in 3 hours (which is not lightning fast, but still fatigue-inducing when it's not the norm)
Total words: 61,914 (18,914)
Musical stylings: The usual playlist
Munchies: Sweet&Salty peanut granola bar

Mean Things: Longtime friend becomes fortune-hunting scum while sharing the fun rumors the antagonist has been spreading about the MC; unrequited lust
Placeholder of the day: "As for what it was she stole, that's where the rumors start to vary wildly." (If only to keep me from coming up with a few plausible items that might have warranted all the fuss while still putting the MC on-notice that the antagonist is on to her.)

Amusing Tidbit from Kellie's Day: I miss the college campus atmosphere. Something about all those buildings and students going to and fro that makes me feel at peace with the universe. Plus, I get to hear conversations both fascinating and mind-numbing. Of the latter variety, I overheard two kids who clearly had some experience in higher math (they exchanged pleasantries about Differential Equations--DiffEQ) but were a bit lost when it came to the chemical nature of what I'm fairly certain was a thermodynamics lesson. Some highlights:
"Uh, this says 'liquid crystalline phase.' What is that?" (This would have been more entertaining had they been working on a laptop.)

"Do you know what a polymer is?" The partner's immediate response: "No."

Physical therapy contortions: Much later tonight, after steak dinner

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Progress: Squeaking in a Few Pages During a Family Day

Sort of an informal progress post today. Sneaked in 700 words while Mark and Drew were in the shower. We had a lot of family time today and now it's time for more time with the hubby. Tomorrow ought to be a red-letter day for me as I will abscond with the laptop and ensconce myself in one of ASU's libraries until I bore of the locale or the words beyond the hope of recovery (or until 4PM, whence I shall return home for family time and a yummy steak dinner with the hubby). Here's hoping my wrists don't freak out while having to use the laptop's keyboard for the first time in ages.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Progress: Ready to Steamroll Through Act 2

I was trying to start a pattern of taking Wednesday night off from writing to just play in the form of reading or video games, or perhaps using that night to go to sleep early and make up for the toll of the week. This was intended to give me a mid-week break (Sunday evening being another one, though Drewbie's naptime on Sundays is a writing time, so the day wouldn't be a total loss) to help me write the rest of the week. Didn't work so well for last night. Sat down to write and lost about fifteen minutes staring at the computer screen, mind empty, not even aware that time was really passing. Called it quits pretty quickly after the second trance-like state that sucked ten minutes away. I'm very excited I get to sleep in tomorrow morning.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 628
Total words: 59,066 (16,066)
Musical stylings: Same ol' playlist
Munchies: Still recovering from dinner out at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, but I'm going to indulge in my popcorn while I watch BSG after I sign off

Researched via Quickie Wiki or the Google Boogie: I finally had to name the character with the "Name Here" placeholder from before; since I had Greek on the mind, I went hunting for Greek names
Mean Things: Constant well-intentioned warnings that prevent my MC from just getting out the front door to start the day

Amusing Tidbit from Kellie's Day: The stretch of I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix is not exactly safe. While I see a lot of stupid driving that makes me tense up and examine the road from my avoidance routes on a regular basis, one of the least reassuring things I've seen occurred this evening. A big gas truck was hanging out in the left lane with absolutely no traffic to speak of in the right for a football field in each direction with his lights off during the darker side of dusk. And he swerved dramatically at least once. I passed him on the right as quickly as I could and kept an eye on him in my rearview until I was too far away to see him. I have no desire to gain first-hand experience of a big huge explosion or messy highway collision.

Physical therapy contortions: Will do tonight during BSG (and I know I will as the show isn't holding my interest as it used to).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Process Examination #19: Talking Heads

As I approach the 60K mark in the official first draft of THUMB (which excludes some 25K or more of backstory and an excised draft POV), I've come to sense a particular trend. This thing is about 80% dialog. Possibly more. My critique partners have consistently labeled dialog as one of my strengths (one of my weaknesses apparently being a knack for constructing sentences as if German and not English was my first language--my elementary school Host Nation teachers would be so proud), and seeing as how I rely so much on dialog in composing the story at first, I must at least feel very comfortable with that piece of writing craft.

I got to thinking about that a bit last night and today, thinking of the big conversations I've given my characters throughout THUMB, recalling how Act 1 drags because I was more likely to make my characters talk about something that had just happened rather than describe it happening. And I had a curious idea: no matter how visual and complicated and multi-layered the right brain creates the story, the left brain needs to have it verbalized, even if only in the proxy of fictional characters talking to each other about the story.

This creates two possible complications (well, two I can think of at the moment):
  1. Revisions are going to be an interesting balancing act of translating dialog into action and description. Will this scene work best as folks arguing, or will it work better as folks doing something in conflict and saying very little?

  2. My subtext is actually text, for the most part, in this sort of draft. I will need to bury the too-honest or too-straightforward lines into action, body language and different dialog.

I'm sure when I dive into revisions after completing the draft that I'll find all sorts of other problems with dialog-heavy prose. This might also explain why my drafts want to drag on forever. I can't have my characters just shut up and do something. They discuss, they fight, they whine, they lecture, they argue, they tease, they talk over each other. They should be doing all of this, ostensibly, while also moving the plot from Point A to Point B, but I'm not sure I've got that juggling act down.

We'll see. In another chapter or two, Act 2 is going to start ramping up the action in a cascade that should carry me through to the end of Act 3 fairly relentlessly. I'm going to pay attention and see if the action keeps getting delayed or drawn out in favor of my characters chatting each other up. I'll figure me out yet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Progress: Another Chapter Done

I took last night off to get all my ducks in a row for [redacted]. Hopefully I'll more news to report on that score within the next few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed. (Yes, that was cruel of me, wasn't it?)

I had anticipated writing one more scene for this chapter, but the scene I finished today went on a bit longer than I anticipated. Plus, I realized it made more sense to have the next scene in Elzie's POV.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 1,448
Total words: 58,438 (15,438)
Musical stylings: Halfway through I turned off the usual playlist and did some more wandering through Magnatune
Munchies: One square of chili-infused dark chocolate

Mean Things: Saying things that needed to be said at the wrong time and in the wrong place using the wrong tone, Hot encounter that ends in a solitary cold shower
Placeholder of the day: "Our next stop is Kerri's colony, right?" I might've finally named this colony which isn't actually a colony anymore but a boarding school on a somewhat remote space station, the location of which I still haven't pinpointed and keeps changing depending on what I think the story needs at the moment. Ah, the revisions will be a joy.

Amusing Tidbit from Kellie's Day: We're so on top of things that we (read: Mark) took care of our taxes over a month ago and have already received and spent our meager refund. This is pretty much standard operating procedure. April 15th is just another day for us. So much so that when I went to mail a package, I was hanging out in the suicide lane, waiting for a chance to turn left into the post office, wondering why in the hell everyone and their brother seemed to be turning right into the lot and thus ruining every single break in traffic I might've used. Then it hit me that it's Tax Day. So I pulled back into traffic and headed over to the UPS Store which was blissfully empty. And also conveniently located next to Cold Stone Creamery. I treated the Drew Monster to a kids cup of cotton candy ice cream (he marched right up to the counter and pointed to the bright blue confection and said, "Oh, mine!" Then he pointed to the chocolate and said, "Your.") which melted rapidly in the 90+ degree heat he insisted on sitting in instead of the store.

Physical therapy contortions: The left arm is starting to numb out on me, which means I need to focus on the neck exercises tonight. I will actually do the stretches tonight as I still have to eat a little something to take my pain med. I want to get back in the habit of doing the stretches after I finish my writing and before I do this post. Tonight, however, I opted against that in order to write more words. Unfortunately, it still translates into staying up later than I had intended. Of course.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Share and Share Alike

Having officially turned 2.5 years old ten days ago, Drew is keeping up with the growing and learning and general toddler thing. In some ways he seems to be beyond his age, in others not quite at average skill levels. But he's definitely got personality in spades.

Quite beyond the stereotypical Terrible Twos, our darling little toddler is exploring the world of sharing. He's gotten over dubbing everything "Mine!" and started pointing out that while this item right here may be his, that item over there is "Your!" Each night for the past week or so, Drew picks up the three books his godmother gave him at his baptism and gives the blue one to Daddy, the purple one to Momma, and keeps the red one for himself. Daddy and Momma read their respective books out loud, and Drew makes a few open the book and shut it gestures to show he's reading too. Then he collects the book in a pile and redistributes them as Momma and Daddy tuck him in. He gets upset if we don't take our books with us when we leave for the night.

He's also dubbed a big blanket (also something his godmother gave him, now that I think about it; way to go, Aunt Gayle!) Momma's (or Daddy's, whichever parent is around) and the blue blanket he's had since birth that his great-grandmother made is his. The blankets have to accompany us at the dinner table. He's very particular about ensuring that our respective items share in our daily lives.

I'm not sure others his age would be so keen on this concept, but Drew really digs it. Let's hope it lasts or fares this well when put to the test of another kid trying to play with one of his toys.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Progress: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Pardon the silence. I got lost in a few angsty wanderings this week, wallowing in the knowledge that not only am I not perfect, but I verily suck at various aspects of my life at the moment. Most of the mental gymnastics will be revealed to be the perfectionist in me lashing out, but some of it is real enough and needs to be improved. If the past has taught me anything, it is that my subconcious will sort out the real issues from the junk ones.

Onto the good stuff. I'm doing the writing earlier so as to enjoy another nice meal on the patio with the hubby. We're trying to make this a habit, and the hubby has graciously agreed to keep El Boyo Diablo out of my hair this evening so I could get some writing done. That might become habit on Sundays, as well.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 952
Total words: 56,990 (13,990)
Musical stylings: Again, the same ol' mix
Munchies: Just water, dinner's yet to come

Fun with typos: "Mushy vegetables and slightly dry tofu didn't make for a gourmet meal but made for an readily edible compared to the blackened catastrophe they had tried to swallow the last time Chelsea cooked when furious." This is the result of about three different ways I tried to write this sentence, and there is evidence of all three scattered about it.
Mean Things: Terse dinner conversation thinly veiled as something civil
Placeholder of the day:"I need to speak with you regarding a few maintenance issues that came up today, and I need to catch an expert before he signs off tonight if you greenlight my ideas." Now, there's a reason Rafe did not specify, as I'm pretty sure he's lying through his teeth to beat a hasty retreat from the Dinner of Doom for himself and two others, but I'm sure I can come up with someone that sounds better and that might actually be real. The Second Act, after all, needs some details to portray a ship in repair.

Physical therapy contortions: I have a confession to make. Each time in the past week that I've blogged I'd be doing my PT after signing off, I never did. I need to get better about this, and I will, but I might give myself tonight off. I did a lot of walking today, and my hip pain has flared up for the first time in nearly a month.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Progress: The Notes Helped

Getting all thinky about this chapter last night and throughout the day really helped me write it. I finished the first of the chapter's three scenes tonight, and it went well, I think. At least, well enough for a first draft that takes me to The End.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 1,342
Total words: 56,038 (13,038)
Musical stylings: The usual suspects
Munchies: Yet another home-made trailmix (yummy dry roasted almonds with more dried cranberries and chocolate chips; this time I added cheerios to the mix)

Researched via Quickie Wiki or the Google Boogie: n/a
Mean Things: More lies among friends, spacewalk with a distracted pal
Placeholder of the day: Pretty much every single detail about installing a communciations array. It went along the lines of this: "Three more wires, five diagnostics, and two connection optimizations later, Barrett declared the comm array successfully installed." Oh, and some vague hand-wavy stuff about magnetized boots and gloves to get from the tip of a ship's spire to the air lock in the middle. Just about everything except the dialog screams "RESEARCH THIS FOR REVISIONS".

Physical therapy contortions: Going to do those in bed while watching The West Wing (we're nearly done with Season 1; we've only got Season 2 after this as the show that was airing was irking me when Season 3 was released on DVD). I'm really surprised I got so many words tonight as it is. My shoulder is acting up to the point that I'm pretty sure my arm is going to be numb tonight or tomorrow. It's so achy and weak right now, and that's forty-five minutes after taking my NSAID. (As if on cue, the tingling just started. Friggin body.)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mathematically Unlikely to Happen Again

I didn't write any new draft words tonight. I did jot down the relevant bits of the chapter I just finished for my after-the-fact outline (keeps my head straight to know where I've been), and I figured out a few ideas for the next chapter. But I was a bit distracted.

For just about as long as Mark and I have been together, I've joined him and his brother John in their annual bragging-rights-only NCAA mens basketball bracket competition. I don't follow sports closely enough to have the first clue about what teams are more likely to win over any other, and whenever Notre Dame is in the tournament, I always without fail have them going all the way, no matter if Duke is having a near perfect season or whatever. Call me stupid, call me loyal--I figure if I'm so lost on the rest of the teams, why not root for the alma mater?

Well, this year, the competition came down to the last 18.2 seconds of tonight's championship game. Usually, someone clinches the win by the Final Four, and the championship game means nothing for our little bracket challenge. Last year was by far the most egregious example: John won with 95 points, Mark came in second with 67, and I brought up the rear with a very pathetic 35. This year, however, John and I were tied at 62 going into the championship game (Mark had only barely been beaten at 61 points). The winner would be determined by the tiebreaker of the game's final point total, which had to be picked before the tournament began, at the same time the brackets were filled in.

And that's where it got extra fun. I had picked a very high scoring game, with a total of 173. John had low-balled the game at 110. If Kansas and Memphis together scored 141 points or less, John would win this year's bracket challenge. If they scored 142 or more, I would win.

Point #142 came with 18.2 seconds left in overtime, and bobbled and teetered and bounced and rolled around the rim and drew out the suspense as if it knew it was deciding something for someone somewhere. Point #143, the last point of the game, was just gravy.

It's a shame statistics indicate such a close bracket challenge will not occur again. It made for a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Progress: Go, Speed Writer!

No progress yesterday, and I thought I was going to have to write off tonight, too, as the hubby and I needed some chill time together over a nice meal on the recently acquired borrowed patio set. But I knew what I needed to do to finish a chapter, so I raced back to my office while Mark and Drewbie did the shower thing and dinner was in an inactive prep mode and managed to finish that chapter. I so totally rock.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 646
Total words: 54,696 (11,696)

Musical stylings: The movie Robots trickling down the hall to my office
Munchies: Was in the process of marinating pork for dinner

Researched via Quickie Wiki or the Google Boogie: No time for that tonight!
Mean Things: An overly attentive computer system playing hair metal with relevant lyrics
Placeholder of the day: Vague interior decorating ideas that quickly turned to a conversation my MC tuned out so as not to reveal that I know nothing about such ideas at the present moment

Physical therapy contortions: Still to come tonight, after the delish meal

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Contract with the Reader

I recently finished a book with one of those trick endings. This one was a SFnal take on the "it was all a dream" line of BS. Well, let me clarify. The "it was all a dream" ending isn't always crap and it isn't always a trick, either. But those stories are definitely the exception rather than the rule. Why is this ending so hard to do well? Mostly because of the contract with the reader.

What is this contract? It's not really signed or verbal. It's more of a gentleman's agreement, if you will. An understanding--well, for commercial fiction, at least. When a reader picks up a book and starts reading, she does so with the expectation that if there's a mystery, she will be able to solve it as the hero does (or do a "duh, of course that's whodunnit, why didn't I see that" facepalm at the reveal). The problem that is presented in the first act will be mostly resolved in either a positive or negative fashion by the last act. In short, she should be able to find and follow narrative threads through to their conclusion. That's the deal.

When the author pulls the "it was all a dream" fast one without the appropriate laying down of that narrative thread (or drowns it in other far more plausible threads that never get resolved), the contract is broken. The threads the reader was juggling are severed or vanished all together. She sits back and looks at the book and wonders, "What the hell did I miss? Why was I even bothering to care about problem X?" And then the picking apart of the story logic starts, the hunt for those missing clues and explanations that maybe, just maybe might have provided for the reading she obviously didn't get the first time around.

This is not a good place to put your reader. It is not sporting to write a book that seems like it was designed to make the reader feel stupid.

To be fair, the author doesn't have total control over the contract with the reader and maybe deserves some exculpation. Cover art and copy are two things that can very easily con a reader into thinking she's reading one thing when she's actually reading something else entirely.

In the last three books I've read where the ending revealed that the story was something completely different than what I thought it was, the culprit in one case was the cover copy alone. In the other two, the cover copy certainly started me in the wrong direction, but the authors didn't do anything to disabuse me of that misunderstanding until the end. In one of those two cases, the established universe practically begged for the reading I gave it, but the author spun a whodunnit tale that dismissed the foundation of my reading as something merely coincidental. In the book I just finished, the author fed me three fascinating storylines that were just about to head into the fourth act when the trick ending appeared.

In the latter two books, better cover copy would have helped, but clues as to what I should be reading in the first chapter would have made all the difference.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Progress: Breakthrough

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 1,153
Total words: 54,050 (11,050)

Musical stylings: The usual suspects
Munchies: tangelo and vanilla almonds

Mean Things: The lengths some psychopaths will take to ensure a genetic heir
Placeholder of the day: I've referred to a character in a retelling of events as "the doctor" but I'm thinking this might be someone I already know and have a use for elsewhere in the story. It stays as "the doctor" until my brain sorts it out.

Physical therapy contortions: My appointment today was better than Monday's, though my therapist keeps finding new tight spots spreading out from my scar. Joy.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Progress: Eyes Fail Just as I Hit my Stride

I keep meaning to go to bed early, but I never do, and my body is starting to get irked. At least I'll be able to sleep in tomorrow night.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 499
Total words: 52,897 (9,897)

Musical stylings: More Magnatune wanderings, specifically their electronica offerings
Munchies: Trail mix with cranberries, peanuts and white & bittersweet chocolate chips

Fun with typos: It's nice how clean the writing is when you don't get much of it in a sitting.
Researched via Quickie Wiki or the Google Boogie: Still playing nice with the internets
Mean Things: A reluctance to elaborate beyond "yes" or "no"; more troubles for our intrepid MC, this time not hers
Placeholder of the day: Jasper's "rooms" (office? suite? game rooms? enquiring minds want to know! Maybe I'll hire US Weekly to do the line)

Physical therapy contortions: They are proceeding apace. Friggin' shoulder is acting up again, though, this time by making my pinky and ring finger ever so slightly tingly with the numbness. But at least tomorrow's PT session will at least be less painful than Monday's. Note to self: cancel scar tissue massage when you are suffering severe menstrual cramps in the future.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Progress: Better than Nothing

My eyes felt very droopy and pinched (still do) the entire time I tried to write. Drew's going to sleep better, but life hiccupped in other ways that, while not directly needing attention, are keeping my mind occupied and putting a ton of extra stress on my already pissy body. So I'm not sleeping well, and writing is something I haven't been very good at lately. Last night I was ecstatic to simply get my brain asking the right questions so I could write even the paltry amount I got tonight.

Deadline: June 30, 2008
Today's Words: 338
Total words: 52,398 (9,398)

Fun with typos: Amazing how I can't find any even with so few words.
Musical stylings: The usual Collide, ATB, Rhea's Obsession mix
Munchies: Just water

Mean Things: A preponderance of formal language instead of cutting to the chase
Placeholder of the day: Didn't have enough content for any such thing tonight.

Physical therapy contortions: Still to come tonight.