Friday, December 18, 2009

Old Age

I know I’m getting old. The other day I dropped a dirty tissue not into the toilet but the clothes hamper and my boxer not into the hamper but the toilet.

I could no longer retain ideas by just the power of my brain and had to jot them down as part of my to-do list for my writing. I forgot names of some of the authors I meant to read. Sometimes I went to a bookstore and just as I hit the shelves the names were just blanks.

I thought how awful it was to be in old age.  At this pace, I knew I could be any of these people you’re about to read  here.

You get old, first you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to zip your fly, then you forget to unzip your fly. –Branch Rickey

Three sisters, ages 92, 94 and 96, live in a house together. One night the 96-year-old draws a bath. She puts her foot in and pauses. She yells  to the other sisters, 'Was I getting in or out of the bath?'             
The 94-year-old yells back, 'I don't know I'll come up and see.' She starts up the stairs and pauses, 'Was I going up the stairs or down?'    

 The 92-year-old is sitting at the kitchen table having tea, listening to her sisters. She shakes her head and says, 'I sure hope I never get that forgetful, knock on wood.' She then yells, 'I'll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who's at the door.'

[Image from]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Scenes

What makes a novel interesting?

It’s the scenes. Each scene must have drama. Or it must set up drama. But more importantly, you have to be excited about the scenes you write. If you don’t feel excited about them, do you expect your readers to get excited when they read them?

Scenes that don’t have much drama are filled with trivialities, tepid dialogue, which neither show much about characterization nor advance the plot. Consequently, they don’t sustain the story line. What is the most frequently cited reason by agents and editors for their rejection of a manuscript? The pace or intensity flags in several places. In other words, the novel fails to hold interest.

Whenever you start struggling with a scene, it’s a good indicator of a potential problem. The next thing you do is try to get through such a scene. Then, unavoidably it will be there like a blank sheet in your manuscript. Many novelists tend to write certain scenes for the sake of keeping the novel alive rather than giving the novel the vitality that sparks it. They hope readers would read everything they wrote. Many novelists spend so much time and efforts in researching the materials for their novels, and consequently they fall victim to these materials. When too much of researched information appears in a novel, it’s non-fiction taking over fiction. The novel bogs down. The readers start skipping pages. A skilled novelist, on the other hand, uses his researched materials discriminatingly. He only uses tidbits of such information in places where they belong. He uses them where they can enhance his characterization, the pacing of his story line, the mood of his chosen scenes.

Next time when you don’t feel like getting up in the morning to face a lukewarm scene, ask yourself: does it really belong?