Sunday, March 12, 2017

March Newsletter With Many Links

There is a reason why this post is out slightly before the midpoint of the month. The reason is directly related to the first item of this newsletter:

1)      New Short Story Published By Perihelion
If you’re a new reader, extending your curiosity beyond that story and onto its author, that is myself, welcome! I hope you enjoyed “Natural Eyes”—it was one of my favorite stories to conceptualize and construct. I’ve got some more stuff under “Published Works” if you’re interested; a lot of those stories are shorter (and often stranger) than the one you just read, so breezing through my online anthology there shouldn’t take too long. Keep an eye out for more stories—and books, hopefully—as my writing progresses!
If you’re one of my loyal blog readers who hasn’t read the story as of yet…you need to get caught up on some homework. My latest story should be online now at Perihelion. That link will take you to the publication’s website, but you might have to poke around a bit to find the actual story; as I’m writing this, Perihelion’s latest update hasn’t been published yet. Rest assured, there will be a direct link on the “Works Published” page very soon.
Alright, next item of business…

2)      Fellow Writer’s Blog
A writer with whom I am acquainted has a blog of her own, and I have shamefully neglected to mention its existence here until…now. Quills and Needles is produced by a mysterious writer who never really mentions herself by name—so I shall refrain from doing so here—and, in the blog, reviews books, writing things, and facets of life in general, with bouts of blogger’s block. Basically what I do here, only better.
How well do I know this writer? She was one of the contributors in the “Story of a Writing Prompt”; I forget if she’s the top hat person or the $200,000 check person.

3)      All Hail The Glow Cloud
So it’s Lent, and I’ve decided that I need a break from time-and-laptop-burning computer games. On a recommendation from my girlfriend, I’ve found something to listen to while I invent new ways of wasting time: the YouTube series “Welcome to Nightvale”. What is “Welcome to Nightvale” exactly? Best I can describe it, it’s a hopefully fictional radio channel for the bizarre little town of Nightvale, reporting news and other mystical inexplicable happenings in a sonorous voice. The stories it communicates are even stranger than the ideas that I invent, or even the fact that I have a girlfriend. I highly recommend checking it out, but for your own sake, you won’t want to be in a dark and creepy place when you listen to it. Barring interdimensional malfunctions, the episodes take about 20 minutes apiece.

4)      A Writing Reflection
One of the college classes that I’m taking this year is a course in creative writing technique; that writer friend from item #2 can probably vouch for me. In a reading for that class, namely a section of the book Method and Madness by Alice LaPlante, the author advises that…

“Most of the time, you should use the word ‘said.’ If you can, drop it. But don’t worry about it being repetitive, as it is so much a part of fiction that it is virtually invisible. Do not—repeat, do not—feel you need to use substitutes like…[list of substitute words]”

By my reckoning, this is horrible advice. I’ve read a few stories where the only quotational indicator (aside from the quotation marks) was the word “said.” As a result, the scene feels pretty dry, like the speaker’s expression and posture is hidden by a whiteboard with some un-nuanced monologue upon it. Like a separate character in its own right, I like to know what that quotation is trying to do. Is it an idle mention? A pointed remark? Does it cut through the air? Is a variant of “said” even required—does the speaker’s posture say it all (“Bert leaned up against the truck, snorting a cloud of vapor. “Well, I think blah blah blah…”)?
Before you all start pointing out how many times I use the word said in my own stories—right now I’m too scared to go look for myself—I don’t mean to condemn all uses of “said.” The character had better have a lot of color around him before you even consider using that word, though; a decent amount of description, and “said” may even make the transition to dialogue easier. If your story sounds like “Bert-said-and-then-Bob-said-and-then-Bert-said-and-then-Utnapishtim-said…”, I’m just saying, you might need to demonstrate what sets their tones apart.
Tune in next time, when I shall have to come to the defense of adverbs in writing. Carefully, tastefully, tactically, usefully, and brilliantly placed, of course.

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