There are people, I realize, who ask “Why would you read an old book?” but they are not of our tribe. Rereading a great book is one of the great pleasures in life. Reading a new book, on the other hand, is fraught with possible disappointment. It takes a brave person to read a new book. I read a new book last month. It was one of those books I wasn’t sure about all the way through, but I never stopped reading. It came THIS CLOSE to being something I’d recommend and then went off the rails at the end, possibly in part because it was setting up a sequel I probably won’t read. Then I went back to re-reading Catherine Aird. But inspired by Read a New Book Month, I am going to go back through the recs here and read some new books, probably starting with The Goblin Emperor. That gets a lot of love here.
Read a new book this month, Argh People. Then show up on Good Book Thursdays and tell us about it.
It’s way too short, it’s missing a lot of information, and it ends abruptly (Discovery Draft!) but this one stays, too, with much rewriting in it’s future. There’s the scene in the apartment with Lily, then the non-scene with the marriage chat, and then Nita goes to work and this stuff happens. Can I get some agreement now that marriage chat has to go because nothing happens in it? Thank you.
We’re coming up on the end of summer in the Northern Hemi, folks. Then it’s serious back-to-school time. I’ve been plowing through everything Catherine Aird wrote, classic mysteries that are full of digressions. She can get two pages out of a single line of dialogue because she muses on things practically between each word. You can do that in omniscient, but it’s starting to drive me buggy. Not that I had far to drive to get there.
We’re having a heat wave here in NJ, so I’m working inside today: writing Act 3, cleaning the kitchen (no seriously this time), setting up my new office, trying to get the mini-split to work before I call in the pros. Oh, yeah, and putting up the Working Wednesday post which I forgot last week. Sorry about that.
I feel guilty showing you the marrige discussion scene only to tell you it’s too bad to keep; that seems rude. So here’s a discovery scene I will be keeping. I’ll cut the hell out of the first chunk of this, the stuff before Nita gets out of the shower, that’s just me following my nose again, but after that the scene works until the end. It needs an end. It’s also going to need tightened, of course, because it sprawls (discovery draft!) but once there are two people with conflict in the scene, it moves story and shows character change, so it’s legit.
A famous screenwriting guru once said that every scene had to have conflict or be funny. I threw his book against the wall. I don’t think being funny is enough of a justification for a scene in the movies, but I know it’s not enough for a novel because while moviegoers watch, novel readers participate. You can be a passive watcher, but you can’t be a passive reader. And that means that at a subconscious level, a good reader is going to try to make that scene fit into the puzzle of the story. I think good readers can keep a lot of plates spinning in a plot as they read through, but if there are still plates spinning at the end, they’re going to feel unsatisfied. So every scene, in my humble opinion, must be crucial to the story, must fit into the plot arc and character arc, and must stop spinning at the end, must finish the puzzle. Anything that doesn’t fit is going to be a broken plate, an extra puzzle piece. That’s bad.
So another chapter in that how-to-be-happy book is headed, “Don’t think ‘what if?'” And I thought, “Why not?” I mean, I think “What if?” a dozen times a day. “What if I put basil in the frittata?” “What if I just mulched the beds along the fence?” “What if I had Nick and Nita get married?” Then I read the paragraph that explained it and saw that it was only about the past, as in “What if I’d done that instead?” Okay, with that I agree wholeheartedly. The past is prologue, and you know how I feel about prologues.
I have to admit, I don’t see the appeal here (give me extra credit for not putting “a-peel”) here but then the only way I like bananas is in banana bread. Why mess up good ice cream with blah fruit? But then I remembered I like Chunky Monkey, so never mind.
Since I opened that can of worms by mentioning Las Vegas, here’s the discovery draft of that scene. You’ll notice that it’s completely unstructured, starts abruptly, rambles, and then just stops; that’s because it’s a discovery draft. I know it’s terrible. I haven’t revised it even once. This is raw Crusie. And I may decide to cut the whole thing and write a new breakfast scene (there are a lot of breakfast scenes, six I think) with no proposal, so it’s just a placeholder for now. But this is what happened while I was writing, and why I researched Las Vegas and then discarded it.
Elizabeth asked me if I was researching Las Vegas weddings because Nick and Nita were going to get married there, and I posted a long reply that made me realize that they weren’t going to because that would disrupt my closed setting. And I like closed settings, I think they add immeasurable to a story. This is one of the many reasons I love Argh: you ask questions and in answering them I figure out what I need to do. And in this case, I need the claustrophobia of a closed setting, so, no, Elizabeth, they’re not getting married in Las Vegas. There’s a bullet dodged.