Saturday, September 17, 2011

My stories

I envy people with obsessions; at least they’re able to focus.

I’m writing a little book, and it’s really difficult to stay on topic, or more exactly, stay on plot. Plots bother me, suspense most particularly. In books, in life, I’m entirely character-driven.

But save some experiments of the last century, no one wants to read about characters sitting around being characters. Your people have to do something, often a series of unpleasant or uncomfortable things, at least part of the time.

It doesn’t even matter if the author forgets who is doing what to whom and why, so long as folks move from place to place. A proof that honest effort has been made.

Writer friends of mine think they understand the misery of slogging through the plotting progress.

“I know,” they’ll say. “I’m stuck at 400.”

“What, words?” I ask.

“No, pages.”

How can you talk to writers like that? If you even try, then they’re liable to drop terms like “seminal” and “exculpatory.” Which gives me something new to google when I get back to plotting again.

So I just tell them I recently read on YahooNews! that sitting for long periods of time leads to an early grave and leave it at that.

In my young and impressionable days, I often traveled to Europe by myself. There’s nothing like the freedom of crossing an ocean when no one you know is waiting on the other side.

I have lots of notebooks from the time, and plan to poach on some real-life adventures and passages to pad my latest effort.

Arrived in Venice. Got lost, incredibly lost today. Venice is a series of circles and it seems your only choice is to walk around, forward, and back again. I either passed ten different cheese shops, or the same cheese shop ten times.

Rounding one corner, I met Claudio, who offered to take me back to my hotel. But first, he bought me a drink. Oh, he’s cute, mighty cute. Beautiful, really. I think he looks like someone in an Italian fresco, but I won’t know for sure until I see an Italian fresco. His English is good, but mostly he says, “Why not?”

Why not?

“Why not?” said Claudio, pushing me against the wall of the Campanile di San Marco. “What would make you happy?” I lied and said I’d like to visit a museum or two. We saw some tapestries and paintings. He took me to the Palazzo Ducale. He felt me up on the Bridge of Sighs.


  1. I think they must move around a bit. Yahoo News says they'll die prematurely otherwise. I heard that from a reliable source. Or maybe that's just an oxicab (wv).

  2. I'm intrigued and impressed - can't wait to read your "little book." More excerpts?

  3. No wonder it's called The Bridge of Sighs...

    wv misdo
    I think not.

  4. It was the same cheese shop. I know because I've been there.

  5. What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?
    Henry James

    There ya go, plotting in a nutshell.

  6. Henry James made many seminal statements.

  7. Claudio still lives there. My little sister met him this past summer when she was there. She's still sighing. Are you?

    Can't wait to buy the book!

  8. All my books of the genre (blogger mates) have been for free. All six of 'em.

  9. Heck, just include some misery. Have your character lose his/her job, get Cancer, take care of a dying mother, then their wife leaves them for greener pastures. Sounds like a best seller to me....!

  10. All you need is a Mcguffin. Maybe something involving those tapestries.


  11. I'll put a check in the mail today to pre-order your book. Based on this little blurb, I say poach all you can from your real-life adventures. I'd choose great characters like these over plot any day! Oh and if you need someone to do further research to confirm Brenda's claim that Claudio is still around, I'm free.

  12. I think you're memory about your boys is getting mixed up after all these years. Perhaps you meant that particular bridge of sighs happened in L.A. with Robin.

    Hopefully that is also included in your book. And if you need writing help getting unstuck, I recommend Kitty Kelly.

  13. "Whoever you may be, if the spirit moves you burn a few laurel leaves and, without wishing to tend this meager fire, you will begin to write a novel. Surrealism will allow you to: all you have to do is set the needle marked "fair" at "action," and the rest will follow naturally. Here are some characters rather different in appearance; their names in your handwriting are a question of capital letters, and they will conduct themselves with the same ease with respect to active verbs as does the impersonal pronoun "it" with respect to words such as "is raining," "is," "must," etc. They will command them, so to speak, and wherever observation, reflection, and the faculty of generalization prove to be of no help to you, you may rest assured that they will credit you with a thousand intentions you never had. Thus endowed with a tiny number of physical and moral characteristics, these beings who in truth owe you so little will thereafter deviate not one iota from a certain line of conduct about which you need not concern yourself any further. Out of this will result a plot more or less clever in appearance, justifying point by point this moving or comforting denouement about which you couldn't care less. Your false novel will simulate to a marvelous degree a real novel; you will be rich, and everyone will agree that "you've really got a lot of guts," since it's also in this region that this something is located.

    Of course, by an analogous method, and provided you ignore what you are reviewing, you can successfully devote yourself to false literary criticism."

    - Breton

    Would you believe this was my word verification?

  14. Bandit! How did you know Nadja is one of my favorite books. Your quote, though, is from his Manifesto of Surrealism? The question mark is because I read it in fits and starts (barely at all).

    Brenda and Katie, the world would be a sadder place without Claudios.

  15. Sure KB, leave us hanging. Have you considered shopping this to TV as a soap?

  16. Three words: "eat, pray, love." You don't need a plot to have a bestseller.

    I had to look up "exculpatory."

  17. Poach away, I say. And don't stop at the coddled stage. I didn't have anything like that in my travel diary from Venice. Oh, except for the being lost and walking in circles thing. That, I did, while hoping someone like Claudio might come along.

  18. Just great you are writing a book! Much success!

  19. Claudio sounds like a plot right there.

    You know how much I've wanted you to write a book. I'll be first in line at the book signing.

  20. Men....they're the same in any language. I loved my brief visit to Venice and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got to know my way around it. Also, the fact that I never stepped off a street into the canal. Yech.

    Good luck on the book!

  21. keep going...and make up the rest

    Why not?

  22. Why not, is it still an option?

    Everyone has a story to tell, but is it suitably for a book? The reprint will show your succeed, what readers really want.

    Find a story that have a touch to the mass, not an adventure in Venice, everyone has.

  23. One sitting for mod lit

    wv - whilymp

    willy is limp
    after all that
    something or other

  24. That is some delicious writing. I wish I'd kept a journal of my time in Venice. To make matters worse, I have a terrible memory but I do recall kissing a puppet maker in his studio. Regrettably, that's as far as it got.

  25. Oh my, a Hiker Hall of Fame entry, for sure! Maybe you've never been funnier OR more substantial. This is first rate.

    I guess Carver, Baxter, Faulkner, Munro, O'Connor do make their characters do stuff, but above all, they are characters (in conflict), and I bet they would be even if they just sat around. Movement might be way over-valued.

    On the other hand, I'll never try Proust again!

  26. Wonderful!!

    And the Claudios we have known!...Keep going...I could NOT stop reading!

  27. why not. or WHY NOT. where have all the why nots gone?!

  28. Your words make me sigh for a Claudio of my own.

  29. I've read it a few times in the past few days and the first sentence always makes me laugh.

  30. Well, thank you very much. I think Susan owes us a story about the puppet maker. (Puppet maker??)

    And Soup, you'll find him if you travel south. Germans are great, but there are just some things Italians are born to do.

  31. Good luck with your writing, Karin. I know we'll all be wanting you to autograph our copies when your little book comes out. And speaking of people needing to do "a series of unpleasant or uncomfortable things," we're finally getting around to Breaking Bad. For all the truly scary "unpleasant or uncomfortable things" Bryan Cranston's character goes through with some really bad people, that's less anxiety producing than watching him interact with his family.

  32. "How can you talk to writers like that? If you even try, then they’re liable to drop terms like “seminal”...."

    lol. [snort!]


    I think that comparing our work to that of others is deadly.

    I used to live with someone who was going to write The Great American Novel (and/or Screenplay) any moment --only -- every time he picked up a pencil, he began to compare himself to Proust, and he was paralyzed.

    To the extreme that in the 10 years we were together, the only pieces of writing that he actually *finished* were a couple of (very nice) letters.

    Had he actually written anything else, who knows how good it might have been.

    No one can do good work if they never, like, actually DO any work............... Comparing what we do to what others may or may not have done -- unhelpful, at best. IMH.

    And that is my seminal remark for today.

    (still lol...........................)

  33. More, but don't give it away here for free. Well, toss us an appetizer from time to time.

    WV courtesy of Claudio: unbud

  34. Hmmmm...I think I've figured out how the Bridge of Sighs got it's name....

    ps...I'll be right in line behind Laurie for that book!!!