Saturday, September 30, 2006

For God's Sake, Don't Say 'Hello'

Written dialog is special, meaning it's absolutely nothing like the blathering we usually do day-to-day as human beings. For every thousand sentences you utter in life, perhaps one could earn itself a place in your novel.

Your co-workers and I expect you to say Hello and Goodbye during the course of a business day, but they beg you--and I beg you--not to bore us with that crap in your novel, or short story, or poem.

Why?

Simple. Fiction is conflict. Fiction is drama. Fiction is not workaday chatter.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Tree Being Ignored



Just yards away from this spot, a class of perhaps twenty people assembled in their room to learn photography. Not one of them stopped to look at, never mind photograph, this great view.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ty's Dream Girl (The Middle)

Ty faced the now-empty beach with a blinking incomprehension. It wasn’t possible for Kit to have walked--or even run--down to the water in the time he’d been submerged. And even if it were possible, where was the chaise?

Despite the impossibility of it, the evidence--a long slash-mark in the sand--pointed waterward.

Feeling stupid even before he began to move, Ty took a deep breath and dived under. Eyes open and alert, he took several slow underwater strokes toward shore.

Directly ahead, in the knee-deep shallows, he thought he could make out a cloud of dirt, the aftermath of some soon-to-be-forgotten disturbance. But when the impression failed to prove itself, he eased himself back to the surface.

Without really knowing what he was looking for, he turned around in the water, glancing off in all directions for some sign of help. The only visible activity was the sailboat he’d seen earlier, unreachable in the distance.

Some part of him--the hopeful, mystic part--felt that if he just stayed there, dog-paddling long enough, Kit would reappear, that she would come walking out of somewhere, and that her reappearance would make sense of her disappearance.

In a strange bargain with himself and with this girl he’d never even officially met, he decided to give her a count of 100 before taking any other action. But almost as soon as he began to count, the dog-paddling grew hard. An act that had been easy and natural just moments before grew labored now that it was being measured.

Despite the struggle, when he broke 50 his counting slowed in an unconscious effort to give Kit more time. But even then, the numbers seemed to come too fast.

He had just settled on an even slower count when something underwater grazed his leg. A whispered number “73” died on his lips and he instinctively jerked away from the touch, tucking his legs up toward him. Squinting down into the water, he waited for the next contact, sure that he would scream when it came.

Nothing happened for what seemed an eternity. He had just decided to swim for his own beach when, just a yard away, something floated almost imperceptibly to the surface. At first, the brown strands rolling gently in the water confused him. But almost immediately his brain made the connection; he was staring at a tiny island of dislocated human hair, floating long and brown there on the surface.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ty's Dream Girl (The Beginning)

Twelve-year-old Ty Austin lay face-down on the dock, head resting on an inflatable life ring, a barely perceptible breeze rolling over him from the north.

For the last half hour, he’d watched a sailboat--the only movement in sight--gliding down the opposite shore.

But now, he grew aware of a new movement. On the beach at the next door cottages, the new girl--he’d heard her mom call her Kit--pulled up a folding lounge chair and lay out in her bikini. Ty watched her with his one open eye, hoping that she wouldn’t sense his attention.

She was thin and pale, and the vision of her first stepping out on the beach a few days before had echoed in Ty’s head ever since.

Now that he was aware of her presence, he quickly grew self-conscious, feeling, without really knowing it, that he had to prove himself worthy of existing in the same space as Kit.

With a move he hoped looked smooth and nonchalant, he stood and stretched, stealing a glance at the girl. For a moment, she appeared unaware of him. He tried to will her to look his way, tried, through some undiscovered telepathy, to convince her he was worth noticing. He had nearly given up when she did, finally, turn toward him. With a nervous flourish, he executed a jackknife dive off the end of the dock.

His heart raced as he pulled hard under water, driving himself to the bottom before pushing off with his feet. He felt at once proud and stupid. Would Kit be impressed? Or would she think him a showy fool?

When he broke the surface again, he sucked a deep breath and wiped the water from his eyes. Dog-paddling now, he turned slowly around to spy her beach. For a moment, he was disoriented, facing an empty stretch of sand. He looked left and right to orient himself, but it only took one steady glance--noting the stand of three birch and the granite outcropping--to realize that he was, in fact, facing the right beach.

A nervous confusion blossomed in him. He took several tentative strokes toward shore to get a better view before an odd pattern resolved itself in the sand. In an instant, confusion turned to realization. The jagged lines from mid-beach down to the water were a signature, the final words of a lounge chair being dragged to nowhere.

A short story coming next

The next three posts are the components of a short-story written in three installments for a friend's writing newsletter.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Peaceful Time



Just back from vacation in New Hampshire (the first in a long, long time).

I'm reading Elizabeth George's Write Away--my second attempt--and enjoying it more this time around. It's much more detailed (at the nuts-and-bolts level) than Stephen King's On Writing.

I'll have more to say when I've actually finished it.