I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It is a murder mystery that is wrapped in a story about nature and female empowerment. The protagonist is a young woman who grows up in abject poverty, living in the marshlands of coastal North Carolina. One by one her family abandons her because of her worthless abusive father. He drives them all away until in the end only she is left. She learns barely enough to survive on her own before her father abandons her as well.
The story alternates between two timelines separated initially by seventeen years and they slowly intersect as Kya grows up. The murder timeline is set in rural 1969 Barkley Cove, North Carolina. One of the town peacocks, former football star, Chase Andrews, has fallen off a tower with no solid evidence as to how, but the town sheriff thinks something nefarious has happened, due to the lack of fingerprints or footprints in the marshy land.
We learn a lot about the marsh and how Kya survives, but also how profoundly lonely she is through much of her teens and early twenties. This part was not a hard slog, but it was uncomfortable to see her living in these conditions and very few willing to help her.
The writing is colorful and despite a lot of detail, Owens holds my attention. We pity the young woman, but I didn’t have any real emotional moments until the end of the book. The courtroom drama is well done and the verdict brings all the emotions into a rolling boil.
I won’t spoil the finish, but suffice to say it is not a run of the mill ending. It was satisfying.
Another thing to mention is the poetry that is sprinkled in. It is wonderful and stark and extraordinary. I am not a poetry aficionado, but the poems really struck a chord with me, enough that I wanted to look up the writer. I would buy a book of poetry by her. In actually I already did. I will leave that for you to puzzle out.
The finish is so strong that I can give this book my recommendation.
This is from April 2011. I had been on a writing hiatus here for some reason. I noticed a big slowdown in posting here as well. I have learned a lot since I wrote this, and realize that relying on the muse is not something a professional writer can afford. When things aren’t sparking and you have a deadline you still have to write. There is where understanding how the craft of writing comes into play. The are no hard fast rules for writing, but understanding structure and story design are a must.
Writing regularly does spark ideas. Think of it as a lubricant. It does create a more fruitful mind for creativity.
Not writing has been a weird place for me. I think about the act of writing during most of my free time now, but my muse has been strangely silent. I think about the fact that I am close to finishing and know I have a few scenes left to put together, but there is no spark. This leads me to believe that writing, the actual act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard actually sparks the muse and keeps the creative juices flowing. The more you write the more these creative pathways open up and tap into that right side of the brain and free the little fireflies of imagination.
I have often heard people ask writers where they get their ideas. I’ve had people ask me that very question, but from everything I’ve read or every time I talk to other writers they all say the same thing, ideas are the easy part. Writing seems to snap into place a cable in your mind that lets the creative side of your brain be heard over all the stuff the left side of the brain is dealing with on a daily basis, trying to get you through your work day. (unless you are an artist of some sort of course).
The answer to where do the ideas come from is, they come from the writer’s brain. It’s almost like a muscle though, it needs to be exercised. You need to read…a lot! You need to actually write, not just think about writing or talk about writing. You need to actually do it! World building is fun and is a nice creative outlet, but don’t stop there. Create some characters and give them a problem to solve and write some scenes. You will be surprised what your mind will come up with if you give it a chance. The more you do this the more other ideas will pop into your head, stuff you never dreamed of. Then you get to connect the dots or rearrange the puzzle pieces to make a story outline. It’s really that easy to get started.
Good luck with your writing!
This is our rescue. He was born feral and hit by a car. Some kind person brought him to the vet where my daughter was interning. We took him home after all his surgeries. He is an awesome boy! He has been with us for about 5 years now.
I made the mistake of downloading World of Warcraft Classic late last week. My boys started playing, then my wife got an invite from an old friend that was in our original raiding guild, that they were putting the band back together. It was enough to draw me in.
I had great intentions this weekend of putting the finishing touches on a piece that I had received feedback on. I had plans to write a bunch of post for the blog.
None of that happened.
I played WoW Classic all weekend. Pretty much nonstop. I think we will be doing our first raid either tonight or tomorrow.
In order to finish my first novel I gave up playing these types of games. I didn’t play during my MFA program either. It is a time sink.
I will say that going back to classic reminded me of why I played it. It is fun. You earn everything you get and there is something intrinsically good for the endorphins you release. I am going to have to step back from it . . . well, maybe not today. But at some point, if I ever want to get any more writing done . . .
Anyway, it was nice seeing you all again, I have some ears to collect.
These hang on our back porch. We like to decorate with things that bring us joy or make us laugh. I hope you have a joyful rest of the week!
I am doing a triple 5 things day for Labor Day weekend. So 15 of my favorite movies of all time. I don’t think I could actually pick 5 out of this group. There are so many good ones to pick from and I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but these all resonate with me for one reason or another. In no particular order:
- No Way Out – This is one of those movies that wasn’t a big hit, but it has a great cast and a great twist at the end. Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young play the leads. This movie has been on my list since it came out in 1987.
- The Matrix – Keanu Reeves and the amazing story of the illusion of life. This first movie is perfect. It is in my top 3 all time.
- The Quiet Man – A John Ford masterpiece. Won the Academy award for best director and cinematography in 1952. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in her prime. This is a rollicking comedy set in Ireland and it is a hoot.
- Star Wars: A New Hope – Were you born under a rock? This movie changed science fiction movies from campy to awesome. I was in junior high when this came out and it had a major impact on me. It’s one of the reasons I became a pilot.
- Tron – This 1982 gem starred Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. A software engineer creates a virtual world and then is captured by it. The CGI is pretty dated now, but the concept and story still hold up.
- Twister – Two of my favorite actors in Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. Made in 1997, it is one of those movies I will watch if I catch it channel surfing. I have seen this movie probably more than any other. It’s all about crazy tornado chasers in Oklahoma.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark – Harrison Ford in the first of this series and amazing adventure films. Nuff said.
- Aliens – This best of this series IMHO. The original is a masterpiece, but this one is scary and funny and a helleva ride. Bill Paxton in another memorable role, along with Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn, from Terminator fame.
- Back to the Future – Michael J. Fox accidently goes back in time and ends up almost sabotaging his own parents, then he has to fix it so he can be born. Hilarious fun all the way through.
- Bull Durham – My favorite baseball movie of all time. Kevin Costner plays the perennial minor leaguer at the end of his career, who is called on to help coach a young pitcher with a wonder arm and little sense. Tim Robbins plays the young phenom and I think this is where he and Susan Sarandon met. She plays Annie Savoy, whom both players fall for. It’s a brilliant look at life and love in America’s pastime.
- Groundhog Day – Another movie that I will watch whenever I see that it’s on. Bill Murray is living the same day over and over. It’s heartwarming and hilarious.
- Up – This one hit me right in the feels. Pixar won a crap ton of awards for music and animation. It was best animated movie of the year in 2009. An elderly gentleman is trying to finish off his bucket list, but accidentally ends up with an unexpected stow away.
- Wall-E – Another heart-tugger. Short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, WALL-E is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying up the planet, one piece of garbage at a time. But during 700 years, he has developed a personality, and he’s more than a little lonely, until he spots EVE, a probebot looking for life on Earth.
- The Incredibles – Another Pixar masterpiece. Superheroes somehow became a liability and have to lead normal mundane lives. One family can’t seem to manage it.
- Guardians of the Galaxy – A comic book hero movie that is not what I expected. It’s balls out hilarious and action packed. I loved every second of it. Chris Pratt leads a team of misfit badasses.
Tell me about your favorites!
I hope you all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!
This goes back to March 2011. I was pretty tough on my own skill. I have improved. I can write a nice scene, even a descriptive scene. They don’t come naturally to me, but there is this thing called craft. I am working on trying to write descriptive snippets, in the style of William Gibson. Snippets are fine. They are good in my humble opinion, but there is a point when the description goes overboard. I have seen wonderful writers, whose work I admire, go off the rails. Well, you can read this for yourself.
You know, I have a lot of respect for authors that can write wonderful prose. I know I’m not one of them, but not for a lack of trying. I think they have a gift for using picturesque words and putting them together just the right way to evoke an image in your mind. The really good ones make it so it’s hardly like reading at all, more like experiencing the story. Then there are those that have a great gift for creating imaginative and off the wall ideas that mere mortals just shake their heads at in wonder and amazement. Some are actually gifted with both and they are the great ones we all admire.
I just finished reading a book by one of my favorite new authors and he has a gift for dialogue. He has some amazing ideas for setting and his characters are layered, complex and interesting. His plots are full of twists and turns too, he is really very talented but I have a nit to pick. Way too much description! I mean WAY TOO MUCH. Paragraphs of detailed minutia. I actually skipped entire sections because I just didn’t care. I started in, but the things he was describing were so complex that I wasn’t able to see it clearly in my mind’s eye. After a while I just quit trying. If he started off on another wave of informative adjectives I just escaped to the next paragraph, and then the next one often times. They were superfluous to the story, but he apparently felt I needed to understand how many great ideas he had that he was compelled to share with me. I understand this desire. Authors fall in love with the worlds they create and the more different from normal they are, the more the desire to describe increases.
This is a lesson many of us need to heed. We just spent an enormous amount of time building that world with all kinds of cool environments that nobody has ever thought of before and we are just dying to share them with you. But the only description we should be sharing with you is stuff that is germane to the story and the character that is carrying the perspective. Some description is of course necessary, but the trick is not going overboard with long paragraphs of stuff that will have no impact on the character or affect the flow of the story. If anything I tend to be too sparse with my descriptions, so it really bothers me when someone goes the opposite way and loads up on the description. Where do you fall on the description scale? I know I’m way on the side that has very little.
Something I’ve been working hard at in my writing is getting rid of filter words. Filtering is using words that put space between the reader and the protagonist to remove you a step from the point of view. Think of words that are basically internal sensations or ways that you would connect to the external world, words like thought, felt, saw, heard or realized. They may keep the reader from connecting with your protagonist.
Not a big deal to include these in your first draft, but you need to look for them on the editing phases.
They should only be used when they are critical to understanding the sentence. Notice I used “should.” There are no hard, fast rules when it comes to writing, but you take a risk of pushing your reader back a step or slowing down and possibly even pulling them out of the text so it feels more like reading instead of experiencing the story. It might be that you want to add in a few syllables for pace or poetic use, but you need to understand the risk you are taking. Sometimes you can simply move the offending word into dialogue.
Tom had the impression that it was reaching out for them.
It seemed to reach out to Tom.
Or with dialogue: “Is that thing reaching out to us?”
Hopefully that gives you the idea. It can be quite insidious. I find myself doing it all the time. See? I did it right there.