Doyle and I often use research to write our stories. Recently we’ve had to learn exactly what Victorian streetwalkers said to their would-be clients to entice them, who was the Bishop of Denver in 1934, and what color was the General Electric Pavilion at the “Century of Progress” fair in Chicago.
Because the past is another country, but sometimes you can visit it through pictures:
The CARLI Digital Collection, “established in 2006 as a repository for digital content created by member libraries of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI) or purchased by the consortium for use by its members.”
English pronouns are a mess, and there’s no getting around the fact.
We’re missing a second-person plural in the standard dialect, which hinders translation into and out of languages that have it. All the possible alternatives – y’all, youse, yez, yinz and so forth – are strongly marked for region, or social class, or both, and using one of them would inject unintended meanings into the text.
We used to have some dual pronouns to go along with the singular and the plural – pronouns for “the two of you” and “the two of us” – but those were gone by the late Anglo-Saxon period. (We know English used to have them because they turn up in Beowulf, in the passage where Beowulf and Unferth are having their disagreement about what actually went down during Beowulf’s youthful swimming-match with his friend Breca – Unferth says “the-two-of-you…
There are a lot of reasons – ours isn’t a job famous for encouraging a sense of security at the best of times – but this sort of thing is one of them.
A middle-school teacher in Maryland has been placed on administrative leave and “taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” based – if the news reports coming out of the town are to be believed – on the fact that he wrote and published a science-fiction book involving a school shooting some 900 years in the future.
Is it a good book? I don’t know; based on the fact that it appears to be either self-published or published by an exceedingly small press, my guess is probably not. But dammit, if we’re going to protect art from oppression and restraint, we shouldn’t get to throw in an “only if it’s really good art/the kind of art we approve…
The Scots poet Robert Burns wrote, famously, of being able to look at oneself as an outside observer:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion…
For writers seeking to create believable and well-rounded characters, however, another important question to ask is, how does a character see him-or-herself?
This question has more than one side to it. The more obvious side, perhaps, deals with a character’s secret self-doubts and hidden shames: the heroic leader who is inwardly convinced that he’s making a bombastic fool of himself every time he has to make an inspirational speech; the charitable volunteer who secretly hates the good works they do out of a sense of duty.
On beyond that, however, is another question: what is the character’s heroic self-image? That is, when they’re…
No, I’m rendered peevish by the sort of romantic over-writing in which characters never have blue or green or hazel eyes – instead, they’re graced with sapphire or emerald or topaz orbs. Pity the poor character with brown eyes, who has to deal with chocolate orbs instead.
(It is probably fortunate, both for the characters and for the reader, that this particular school of over-writing tends to bestow evocatively-colored orbs only upon the sympathetic characters.)
‘Tis the season for muggy, oppressive weather, the kind that saps the energy and destroys the initiative . . . not the best kind of weather in which to be doing revisions, but still, revisions must be done.
A few of the things that get taken care of in revision, at least by me:
Turning a suitable number of semicolons into either periods or commas, as appropriate. I am, as I’ve admitted here before, one of those writers with a tendency to love semicolons not wisely, but too well, and getting rid of at least one in three isn’t going to hurt the story and will probably improve it.
Double-checking the continuity, in order to make sure that characters don’t refer to things other characters have told them before they’ve actually been told, and similar stuff. When you’re the bead-stringing, rather than the linear, sort of writer, this is a…
Coal mines tend to be a long way from where the folks who use their products live, and the miners tend to be ethnic minorities or the underclass.
Famous coal miners include Nikita Khrushchev: compared to going down the mine what was the Czar going to do to him?
One of the things about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie that broke my suspension of disbelief (Hey, mag-lev trains? I’m good with that! Kids forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses? Sure, why not? The upper class’s hair styles? Seen worse….) was when the Evil Government sends armored vehicles along one-lane dirt roads, in mountainous forested terrain, without infantry support, against miners. Miners. These are guys who (a) know all about, and have access to, explosives, and (b) have nothing to lose. If I were telling that story….
More people die in coal mines every year than have died in nuclear power plants–ever.
So, there I am over looking at MSN (yeah, that’s how sunken in sin I am) when some of their click-bait, “15 Classic Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Know” fell under my eye.
Since I was engaged in Writing Avoidance Behavior (AKA “Waxing the Cat”), I clicked. And I spotted, at #7 on the list, the Moscow Mule.
2 ounces vodka
½ ounce lime juice
6 ounces ginger beer
Lime wedge for garnish
Fill a lowball glass with ice. Add vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer; stir. Garnish with a lime wedge.
“Fill a lowball glass….” Fill a lowball glass???!!! What the frick! Everyone knows that you serve Moscow Mules in copper mugs. If you search on Moscow Mule Google auto-completes with copper mug. Search Amazon for “Moscow Mule” and you get twenty pages of copper mugs (and a few CDs by a group called the “Moscow Mules”). The copper mug adds a certain distinctive flavor to the concoction that some describe as, let me see, oh yes, “coppery.”
Have you gotten your flu shot yet? Jim Macdonald (my husband/co-author) and I got ours last week, as part of our prep for teaching at the Viable Paradise workshop a couple of weeks from now. A gathering of writers from all over the United States and, in fact, the world — the last time I […]
My co-author and I finished a short story the other day. We’re mostly novelists, so every time we successfully finish a short story, I feel the pleasant glow that comes from having carried off something that doesn’t come naturally. If you’re one of the novel-writing breed, writing a novel is a lot easier than writing […]
Because the past is another country, but sometimes you can visit it through pictures: The CARLI Digital Collection, “established in 2006 as a repository for digital content created by member libraries of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI) or purchased by the consortium for use by its members.” You can find […]