(Installment 1 is here.)

So, a few hundred words in… Don’t look for installment two for at least a week. That few hundred words was pretty tedious. Now, I’m welcoming feedback of any size or shape but mainly I’m hoping for points on style. One more thing – I am going to close comments on the installment posts. Each will be followed shortly after with a separate entry for discussion. I’d rather have comments here than there… and certainly rather in one place than two for each installment. I’d like to keep the installments as book-like as possible… with one exception. I don’t want to turn it into a blog… but what do you think of an occasional hyperlink? Just for an interesting related note. Just for the internet readers?

Research. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the time to do much research outside what I already do out of sheer interest in the subject matter. I can’t go to Africa. I don’t count any northern Africans among my current friends. I knew one or two years ago, but not very closely. I can’t go to Asheville. I’ve been to Ducktown maybe twice. I rarely even get to Atlanta. I can’t travel back in time to 1980 to see the old small-s southern Baptist heritage with the eyes of an older man. I don’t know a thing about journalism. I’ve never been to an Orthodox service (but plan to if and before an Orthodox presence enters the scene). So, to whatever extent I can’t rely on personal memory, I’m going to have to be flying by the seat of my pants. I have it going for me that human nature is the same everywhere, and that I’m pretty well read across cultural boundaries. I read blogs by a variety of bibliophiles, apocalypse-watchers, and people with international perspectives. So that helps. And I definitely welcome corrections from readers who have an inside line on a subject I’m writing about. On the other hand, there aren’t that many readers – at least not now – so I can’t assume that I can get by on crowd-sourcing the research. I’ll do what I can.

So – back to style. This isn’t supposed to be great literature. I’ve read Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, (ahem) Tolkein, (cough, cough) Rowlings, Dickens, and a few others. I would like to think that – if I gave my whole life to writing – I might produce one work approaching their level. My goal here is to be better than Dan Brown. My goal is to get the story moving so readers want to know what happens next… but I also want them to feel a little more in tune with themselves and with other people when they’re done. And, of course that applies specifically to the area of religious thought, but more to human psychology in toto.

I’m going by my own reading experience here, but I’m trusting that most people will not be ready to give up at this stage of the story for lack of a compelling hook. I generally allow a writer at least a chapter to create a foundation before I expect to be pulled into the plot. For those who can set the hook on the first page, more power to them. But this story requires some context, so I am hoping that I am doing a good job of creating it while getting the ball slowly rolling toward a narrative. How am I doing?

As a reader, if I close a book at this point it is usually because the writer is just terrible. That’s what I wanted to do (but didn’t) with Left Behind. It isn’t that the story is no good – it’s that the word craft is so labored, the dialogue so fake and stilted, the scene so garishly painted, and without contrast – that I feel the author is riding a hobby horse of his own instead of working hard to make a story I can buy into. I can’t read my own words objectively. I *think* that they pass this test, so far… but I want to hear from somewhere else. If a friend loaned you this as a real book and you read this far, would you be ready to put it down at this point? Would you dread turning the page and slogging through another boring 1800 words? If the answer is no, then I’m satisfied. If, instead, you’re thinking something closer to “cool… I can’t wait or the next installment”… then I’m ecstatic. But, really – all I want is the truth. Do I need to start over? Do I need to spruce something up? Or do I need to keep going? Why?

Any way… That’s all for today. I’m not sure how much more discussion I’ll try to do on the subject before the next installment, but I have a couple of other subjects in mind or posts this afternoon or later this week.

And of course, links with your eye boogers never go away… so there’s always something to do here. Y’all come back!

9 comments to Fictive

  • The title of the book is enough to make me take it off of a shelf and open it up.

    After reading what I have just read I would definitely keep reading.

    It is very easy for me to get lost in a book if there are quite a few characters. I try to get down who is who right off of the bat and then sometimes struggle to keep up with it down the line.

    Maybe I am getting ahead of myself and asking the question too soon but who is Tony and why is he here? April is Rogers sister. April is divorcing Brad. Tony is at church with April taking notes. Is Tony a new lover? A lawyer? Another brother? Roger says that with Tony some things never change so that indicates that Tony and Roger have some kind of history.

    Of course I do not expect you to answer any questions like that in comments. I am just putting down some of the thoughts I had while reading.

    I have read great literature too. And sometimes it sucks worse in my opinion than some dime store novels I have picked up so I can’t really help you with style and stuff like that. But I do like the idea of the occasional hyperlink.

    There is a resurrection coming. Keep going. I’ll go with you.

  • RW

    Question from the ignorant one in the back: why the cough for Tolkein?

  • Buck… thanks… I had hoped to make it plain that Tony was April’s young son. That you didn’t see that helps me see where I can do a better job delineating the roles. Yes, Roger and April are affectionate brothers and sisters, but ones living in something of a different world from one another. So, maybe I’ll throw a few more words at Tony in the second draft – and watch that going forward. THANKS :)

    RW Because 1) he’s primarily known for children’s books, and 2) I consider it great literature anyway. And I don’t care much for Pynchon or Nabokov or any of the sophisticated big names. Herman Hesse and Bernard Malamud are about as “high brow” as I get.

  • RW

    I don’t consider LOTR (isn’t that his benchmark?) a kid’s book. I have it, it’s well over a thousand pages & has many maps/designs and varying plot-lines that this aging geek had trouble keeping up with. My daughter is in the 7th grade, a consistent honor student (made all A’s once again this semester) and she’s STILL not ready to comprehend the LOTR movie trilogy (which I, as resident nerd, of course own).

    I think LOTR is one of the better and original sci-fi pieces of work in history. Especially “original”; the guy was either a genius or a madman-in-waiting for having the ability to house that “world” and all that encompassed it within the boundaries of his brain.

    Anyway, thanks for the explanation. Since I haven’t read a novel in almost a decade (only political books & even most of them have been audio), I surely need extra help on this subject. :)

  • I read that thing 3 times and did not pick up on “little” Tony until you said he was a nephew. I always just read it as Tony. Little Tony scribbling in the margins of a bulletin should have been a dead giveaway :-)

    And for what it is worth I had a hell of a time keeping up with LOTR while watching it. I have never even attempted to read it.

  • For what it’s worth, Peter Jackson did a fantastic job on LOTR. The thing is that it is a lot to try to absorb from a movie screen. The 3 book volumes of >1000 pgs each (plus the Hobbit that provides context) gives you the luxury of taking weeks to absorb it all and makes it much easier to follow. Once you’ve done that, the movies make a ton more sense. My mother started me on Tolkein when I was 12 or 13, and I probably re-read them ten times, even into my thirties. I agree with RW. The man had a gift. I’m just grateful that he lived and did what he did. I still think of them as children’s books, but I will probably re-read them at least one more time if I live a few more years.

  • My high school English teacher who is now in his 80s has attempted fiction and is now a published author. I found some of the characters and plot line in his work hard to follow.

    I think you have a good start here. I particularly like the quotation from the book of Phillipians. Some of the characters may need to be more sharply defined and it would not hurt to have a budding romance hinted at in the first chapter of a book as part of the hook.

    For a praise song I cannot help but think of the one for which the chorus is simply OUR GOD REIGNS. I think there is a YouTube video of it out.

    I look forward to the next installment.

  • Mickbic! Ah… romance… I know you can’t write this kind of stuff without it. And I know it’s part & parcel of being a person… but I believe I may be the least romantic person I know. I fear whatever efforts I make will be contrived at best. But I have some ideas cooking none-the-less. Thanks very much for your input. I’ll be sure to check out Our God Reigns when I get home tonight.

  • Jerry, nice read so far. Yes, I will continue to read as my interest has now been sparked. There are some unclear relationship questions early on but heck, it only the first few pages. I was a little overtaken by the rapid introduction of so many characters. I think you are on the right track but maybe slow down a bit and give more elaboration on the character introductions. I am a bit suprised with the turn of subject matter but knowing a little about your agnostic backgroung, I feel certain that this has a great twist around the corner. I have tried my hand at writing a couple of books and I get 5-8 chapters together and run out of fluff so they end up being short stories. LoL! Keep it up. BTW, I really do like Dan Brown & Michael Crighton…and Edgar Allan Poe.

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