August 26, 2010

Who Knows

You get a bonus if you know what happened inside the building pictured on the right. I don't know what you get. Maybe cheese. Maybe a break. Who knows.

"I'd been dying of a heart attack for three weeks and decided to figure out what to do with all my money once I croaked, and all I can say is that the whole thing was just one great big pain in the ass."

OK yeah... tah dah! The opening I decided on when I told you I decided on an opening some time ago. It's lasted more than a week so I figure it'll be there when I'm done. Well maybe. Who knows.

Somebody said the only psychological disorder connected to writers belongs to people who can't write but keep doing it anyway. A kernel of truth in there I guess. but also sounds like someone is trying to just be a hard ass. Who knows.

I can't write anything unless it's first person any more. I blame blogs for that. There's a lot of people who hate hate hate first person fiction. But most everybody did it from time to time. Ernie sez you can tell it's good when people come up thinking it actually happened to you. I think I'm stuck in this mode now from my long ago experience acting where you get inside the character's head and you don't "say lines" you just have the guy talk. I can't conceptualize it any other way anymore. I think when people don't like first person fiction it's because the writer didn't develop the character's voice enough. If they really made the character a whole thing it's easier. otherwise it comes off really stupid, and I've read shit like that. It's shit. How it gets published I'll never know. Anyway that's my take on first person fiction. Here's the rules; You write first person fiction like this... 1.obviously the protagonist doesn't die because he's talking. 2. then just go from there. Pretty simple. I think. Who knows.

I can't even tell you how many words I have written to get to the words I'm sure are done at this point. A few weeks ago I think I said I have 15,000 "presentable" words. Today I'm only sure of the first 9,000. Not only that but I took the order of events and changed it. Four times. I have three endings now. I still don't know what to use. The ending has to match the first line, not in words but in what the hell is going on. Aaaaaand I've got three that do that. So there I am. I don't see this going more than 26,000. Just barely a novel. Anything more and it's just stupid useless padding. I don't care, let the story write itself. It's been doing that all along... every version. I've written maybe 135,000 words for this in the last year. Yes it's still my best, but that's like 14 writes and 24 re-writes and then some of the re-written stuff is just pitched. I don't even remember some of the places this story has gone. It's a humid summer in a dirty city. Before that it was a half-dead city in the middle of winter. Maybe by next month it'll be a bucolic small town in Nebraska. Who knows.

I'm not complaining, mind you. This is what I call fun. The problem isn't that I can't get the engine going, it's that I can't get it to chill. Everybody I know in the business says that's a good thing. But every week I'm a different kind of writer than I was the week before. So I go back and change a word or two or forty back on page six or twenty. Or one. I don't want to put a foot wrong. i want it to be one whole thing. No wasted fol-dee-rol. Don't include all the stuff people skip over. Big thick paragraphs (like this one?) are out. Dialogue. Dialogue! People talking tells the story dammit. I find myself going into the gas station in the morning to get my coffee and listening to people talk. Listen to how they talk. Nobody speaks in complete sentences. Nobody. It's fits and starts and use only the important words...

"Guy said ninety-eight today."

"It's ninety-eight for a week."

"Already Luis's melting over here."

"How they know it'll be exactly ninety-eight? They don't even know when it's raining."

"It's like baseball. Be wrong seven out of ten you're a fucking millionaire."

The problem is the pastiche for the viewpoint character. Once you start down that road you're done. You can't drop the g's or sound out the words in writing because down the road it's a trap. Screw up one time and it sticks out. You just talk as the character and let the reader fill it in. Like describing what a person looks like. I can't begin to list the classic fiction that's been done that never told you what anybody actually looks like. And yet there are also classic descriptions. So okay so there aren't any rules. So sue me. Who knows.

Never think for a minute any of this is a complaint. This is the fun part. This is just how it is. Welcome to my world. Or my ruin.

Who knows.

12 comments:

Avitable said...

The best fiction I've ever read is Robert B. Parker, and that's 90% first person. It's so taut, though, that I absolutely love it.

RW said...

Right! It's the flummery that kills it. The digressions into something else that reminds you of something else. First person has to be in the moment. The philosophical explanations. Bull. When it's done right, it fuckin SINGS.

RW said...

Put a question mark after "explanations" up there. I think faster than I type. hence the un-capitalized first words and why I need a MacSpeech Dictate.

sligo said...

that second to last paragraph could've come right out of Elmore Leonard's head.

RW said...

Because that's exactly where I stole it from.

B.E. Earl said...

Andrew Vachss is one of my favorite writers and he has only written in first person.

As for what happened at The White Horse Tavern, this one time on Halloween night a few years ago I was dancing with two lesbians and some old drunk woman was pelting us with peanut M&Ms from one of those hand-crank 25cent bubble gum machines.

Oh, and Dylan Thomas most likely drank himself to death there. Well, I think he made it home after 18 whiskies or so (that's the unofficial record at The White Horse), but he died the next day.

RW said...

Earl gets the prize. Whatever it is.

B.E. Earl said...

I'd gladly accept a break. :)

sybil law said...

“An alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do.”
~ Dylan Thomas

Damn Earl, for beating me!!

Anyway, and again - I have no doubts that your story will be excellent, but I want to read it NOW, so I'm impatient.
Love the opening, and first person doesn't bother me in the slightest, as long as it's authentic.

Brian said...

Damnit. I also knew it was Dylan Thomas. FWIW. (Not much, probably.)

RW said...

sybil and brian you guys get the warmth of knowing that I know that you know that I know that you knew. isn't that great?

SK Waller said...

I've been listening to people too, and you're spot on about how we speak. Not always easy to put into writing, but it's fun.