Tuesday, August 31, 2004

this is what happens

when I don't take care of myself. I haven't been eating well, I haven't been exercising or taking my vitamins. I had terrible cramps yesterday. (Thanks for sharing, Holly.)

Yesterday, since I was home and largely immobile, I picked up Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, a book that I pounced upon when it came out, then let sit in my bookcase, unread, for three years.

Margaret's a great writer. She packs her sentences so full of imagery, and her metaphors are dead-on. I generally prefer her short work to her novels, but I guess this book was a stiff dose of what I needed. It was a relief to be reading again. I guess I haven't totally lost the ability, after all. It seems more likely that I have simply been bored with what I was trying to make myself read. Still, it's a very lit'ry novel (take that, PNH) and I find myself skimming at times, wanting to get on with the story, already.

Also yesterday, I wrote a 4400 word crit on a 10 thousand word story. I was both general and specific, critical and constructive. Joy wrote me back a nice, polite thank you note. I can't imagine that she loved and agreed with every line of my crit, but I know it's nice to have someone lavish that much attention on your work. She's got a decent concept, I think: a cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic Little Red Riding Hood.

I keep getting crits on Galatea, too. I think I'm up to ten, now, which is respectable, considering how long that story is. So far, I have been told:

  • Master Tan's broken English is great, very authentic/is stereotypical and inconsistent
  • The conflict between Justin and Quinn is great, well done/there is no discernible conflict in the story
  • The development of Quinn's character is moving and believable/she's a horrible, unsympathetic person
  • She's a rip-off of Supergirl/Dark Angel/Kill Bill/Le Femme Nikita
  • It's a strong, character-driven story/nobody's motivations make any sense.
I had to check to make sure I wasn't reading the Buffy message boards by mistake. The only thing they all agree on is that the writing is great. (Aside, I always worry about people who say that they don't understand the characters' motivations--I imagine such people as social cripples, unable to form stable relationships because they can't read other people. They certainly have no business writing fiction. The guy who complained the loudest is, according to his bio, a writer of computer programming manuals.) I sometimes get the feeling that these people get in there and try to tear down my characters or punctuation(?!?) because they're jealous of my style, which is certainly very strong. More often, I can tell that a critter has missed something (they often will admit that they're new and don't know what they're doing), and my instinct is to help, to instruct, but I can't exactly tell somebody they've missed something in my story without sounding defensive. At least five of my critters have raved about the story and want to know if there's more. Most of them are also catching on to the fact that this is a piece out of a larger story, but so far everyone seems to agree that it is complete, whether they like the ending or not. It is a difficult ending; essentially, Quinn gains self-confidence and inner strength by realizing she is good at killing people--and she likes it. No moral ambiguity there.

But I sha'n't worry myself about whether people like Quinn or not. Love her or hate her, but you can't ignore her.

Monday, August 09, 2004

the stomach is weak

I can't do it. I just can't. I've been trying to write ten crits this week, to get "Galatea" bumped to the top of the critters' list.

I've done seven. Out of thirty stories, only seven of them are bearable enough to read top to bottom. What is it with people--gamers, at a guess--who insist on writing these muscle-by-muscle "adventure" stories in which some thief or elf or warlock or whatever is standing, or sitting, or creeping, or lying in bed with insomnia, contemplating the last twelve years of campaigning and never doing anything or talking to anybody?

It's unbearable. Simply unbearable. Some of these people are such tyros that the most helpful crits I could give would consist of a series of links to articles about how to write. Character, dialogue, mood, theme, plot, scene--how can you put so many words on a page and not manage to get any of them in the right place?

One of my favorite books is by a guy named Christopher Derrick, and he lists five qualities that a person must have in order to be a novelist. The last one is, "You must be interesting." Tough to take, but true. There are a LOT of boring people out there, and for some reason they all want to write.