Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Commercial Interruption

Last night I put up a plug for something I'd written, but I woke up in the middle of the night and thought "nawww." So instead let's enjoy the pretty work here by an artist named Eduardo Risso.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Doing battle with narrative tension. Don't worry -- there are flamethrowers and everything. But how long can you stay with one set of characters before the others need to show up again? You can quick-cut every five pages, but then the scene never gets a chance to build. You can do 30 page segments, but that means you'll spend 60 pages away from a character (too damned long, unless that person is so well defined the reader won't forget).

I think it's about seeing how things layer together until an overall mood sets in. And here's the mood: Hoo-ray Hoo-ray. Thank you.

The next book will be 22 pages long. With one main character and lots of drawings of bunnies.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Years ago a friend from a writing class scared the hell out of me with a problem of what seemed like insoluble distance. Like this: when you write you draw on specific images that should be evocative. And they're evocative to you. I remember his example was something like this, "And by my childhood bed was a thick blue book with gold leaf lettering. Its spine was cracked 2/3rds of the way through and it smelled like coffee."

And you present that to a reader for whom that has no association whatever. Or blue book equals blue book. No emotional content. They can tell it's important to you but there's no reason for them to make the leap. So, on the next draft, you go on, "the dustjacket was long gone, the cloth of the cover was worn at the edges so that hanks of fabric hung down and the cat batted at the threads. The text was in German for some reason. I never read the book, and it had no pictures in it." And -- well, for you, that's it, no one has ever evoked a specific feeling so well.

And no one gets it. Why should they?

I am currently sweating that little spark between God's finger and Moses's. Is there one? And if so, can I have some? I read (or I'm making up) that analogy is one of the best measures of intelligence. By that, I think they're counting those tests that say "Catnip is to a kittycat as Politics is to ________" and you put in "the disenfranchised" or "chocolate Easter bunnies" or "Amy Winehouse" and then food pellets come down a slot or something. But it also speaks well of the human desire for metaphor and seeking to close an open thought. "Electricity is to stereo equipment as Gatorade is to __________" Shriners? Sallie Mae? Utopia? The rebel alliance? Stereo equipment?

How do you trust that gap? I know: you just DO, but still, it's a mystery. Every so often, you throw yourself into a heartache of an image and it ends up being that blue book by your bed. You know, the one with bunny rabbits on it and no one ever felt about it the way you did. And, apparently, you aren't very good at explaining it yet.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

-- 1144 --

Seeing all the territory you're responsible for. Sure there are coyotes howling at its perimeter. Sure some idiot decided to plant turnips in the middle of the barley field. And why is there a burning pile of automobile tires where the plans clearly called for a sedan chair piloted by mermaids? But it's all yours, congratulations.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


Getting close. This photo was taken on La Brea, facing north from the east side of the street. It was taken with color film rather than being hand-colored after the fact, as far as I know.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This image is by Mervyn Peake and I find it hypnotic. And so metaphorical you can't actually get all the way to its end.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I don't mean for these posts to sound cryptic -- or not. This has been an experiment in using the form as a kind of bridge. I think that your first draft is for you and your final draft is for the world, if all goes right. A blog seems like something in between, a curiosity I'm trying to understand. While I've been finishing a novel these last months, daily (or almost daily) notes are helpful as markers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I have just thrown the containment boom upon the sound. The first 3/4th of this seems to have its own gravity and momentum, as does the last 40 pages. In between is a shaky sort of place where my eyes seem to have rolled back in my head, and that needs to straighten out. But for the first time I see the whole oil slick and I know where it went and where it didn't go, which is a milestone.

I can think about shape. A little. Here, it's early, start with that little bit:

It begins with landscape and ends with a smile.

Friday, January 11, 2008


A: Causing, via omission, the reader to participate.

Reinforced today, by actual readers.


Potentially urban legend, but maybe otherwise: Back when there was this mysterious thing that the kids liked called "grunge," the New York Times sent someone to Seattle to penetrate the in-crowd. And they printed a lexicon of all the hip stuff the youngsters were saying. But reporters got -- what's the word -- jived. As I remember, one clue to this was that the Seattle informers claimed that when something bad happened, lovers of grunge were said to cry "O Evil Planet."

Friday, January 4, 2008


I don't know how the other 260,000 are working, but these words made me laugh: "Shooting at the truth will not stop the truth, comrade." But that's just me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


A calm. Reigning things in a little, a thousand-yard sailor stare, not because he is empty but because he is roiling and has learned not to let it show. "I never cried. It wasn't worth it."