The Bail-Out
With the Automotive Three begging a bail-out, following a lemming-herd of financial institutions, everyone, it seems, wants on the bail-out gravy train. So why not our own kind – so to speak?
Paul Greenburg, in the December 12, 2008, episode of the New York Times Sunday’s Book Review, asks: Why not bail out writers, too? It’s a humorous piece, of course, but stranger rationales have been put forward recently for bail-outs. If you have the Christmas Blues, here’s a bit of with pour vous.
Domaine Perdu and The Chapter as Organizer
In the December 2008 issue of Writer’s Chronicle magazine, two articles intrigue yours truly.
One, Novelistic Landscapes and the Domaine Perdu, lays claim to various tropes in creative writing that open the reader to the “magical-sensual world of extreme infancy.” In other words, a myth of sorts that urges a return to a lost, perfect world. One example that connected vividly for me, appeared in Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, in which he depicts a idyllic mountain scene which, we know will soon burst with warfare. But we also know that in the moment of its depiction it transcends our limited view of life in the “real” world.
It’s a tool to use in your writing – or to recognize in your reading – says author Tim Weed. But tread lightly – it’s easily abused.
Another article, by Paul Graham and Mary Stewart Atwell, offers four approaches to the chapter as an organizer for your novel.
First, mention upcoming characters parenthetically in early chapters as a way to ground them in the story and to spread out their effects and roles.
Next, in a rather static novel, you may worry about boring the reader. One way out is not to tell the story linearly, but to offer your “day in the life” in scenic chapters, perhaps, in which various aspects of this static character exploration are dwelled upon.
Third, create what the authors call negative space. Orchestrate significant breaks in time, jumping, say, from 1948 to 1957. Here, you’re connecting things that should be connected for your plot or characters, but not in evenly dispersed time. The chapters may refer to things already accomplished in the book, or bode things to come.
Finally, and similarly to negative space, the author might create a coda in a chapter, which refers – for emphasis – to something said in passing in a previous chapter. Here, the object is to add “narrative reliability,” or deeper significance to the story or character depictions.
These are quick and dirty descriptions of these chapter modes, and possibly not altogether accurate. But you get the picture of what a chapter can do for both reader and writer.
Going Electronic
Miz Hawks mentioned in a comment to one of my previous posts the possibility of going “Kindle.” For those hidebound to the paper page, Kindle is a contraption devised by the Amazon juggernaut to create new possibilities for both reader and writer. It can handle a large bookshelf’s worth of books, and operates similarly to a “real” book.
Am I ready? Yes, in theory. But many books I might want, particularly for literary reference or historical research, aren’t yet available.
How about you? Any thoughts?
‘Tis the season, as we all know. The Missus and I are winging toward Texas and Louisiana to visit kinfolks. Next post will be near or after the new year.
Have a Merry and a Happy!
Oh, and the long-sought MLA degree will be in my grateful hands on this December 20th.

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