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Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse


April 29th, 2014

A New Installment and other News @ 10:24 am


So, first off, I proudly present the next installment in the continuing adventures of Alex Connor, Hughes County Coroner and magical detective: Part 6: A Dragon's Confession. The teaser this time: "In this chapter, Valentine makes a startling confession..."

Oooooh, what could it be? Go find out!!

In other news, I got asked to participate in an SF Signal's Mind-Meld again, so I'm going to be composing my answer to that soon. When it's posted over there, I'll link here. This one is actually kind of meaty, so I've been doing a lot of thinking, pre-writing. Hopefully this will NOT mean that I'll be scrambling the day before it's due (which is Sunday).

Speaking of this weekend, I'm also going to be making an appearance at the Ramsey County Library not as a page... though in a PAGE related way! I'm going to be the presenter for the Loft's "First Pages Program."

Here are the details from my website:

On Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 2:00-3:30 pm I'll once again be the Loft's "First Pages" instructor for te "Read to Write" program. This time it will be a little closer ot home at the Roseville Library (where I work as a page!). The library is located at 2180 Hamline Avenue in St. Paul, MN. For more information call (651) 724-6001 or check out: http://www.rclreads.org.

The description for the program (which is a repeat of the one I did in Chanhassen) goes like this:

Can reading The Hunger Games teach you to be a writer? You bet it can! By reading as much fiction as you can get your hands on, available right here at your public library, you can become the writer you've always wanted to be! Come learn what Harry Potter can teach you about world building in fiction; what Neil Gaiman can teach you about creating memorable characters; and what Veronica Roth's Divergent series can teach you about plot! After this 90 minute session you'll be inspired to write your own mind blowing fiction.

Which isn't AT ALL DAUNTING as a the instructor...

Last time in Chanhassen, I had a blast, but I can't say we stayed 'on topic.' I think in preparation for this event, I may solicit ideas from other people about which books taught them what. I tried to do this with the students I had on hand at Chanhassen, but that conversation petered out really quickly. We ended up having fun talking about other writing challenges and trying out some bizarre story prompters, but it wasn't 'as advertised' and I feel a bit badly about that.

So... thoughts? Are there books that taught YOU something specific about writing?
 
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From:bibliofile
Date:April 29th, 2014 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Reading the whole Harry Potter series shows how Rowling learned stuff about writing & got better at it, though with that many pages I should certainly hope so.
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From:lyda222
Date:April 29th, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
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That's an interesting thought. I wonder if anyone has actually gone through and methodically shown where Rowling improved as she wrote? I wonder which things she got better at? Did she develop a better ear for dialogue? Characterization? Plot... though, no offense to the master, but she never really did learn the art of foreshadowing.

I'm a HUGE fan of all the books, but I was always annoyed when, right near the end, there would be some long infodump that would end up explaining some key mystery in the book. As a result of this tick of hers, I never really bought into Snape's 'good guy' status. I never felt like she SHOWED him to be a hero. She just kept TELLLING us. (In fact, the things she did show, like how he became the worst Hogwarts headmaster of all time, and, at the very least with his willingness to look the other way, allowed UNDERAGED CHILDREN to be tortured.) For me, that falls into the "unforgivable" pile, much like Ankin Skywalker's part in the destruction of an entire planet. (For my money, Vader never deserved eternal ghost life just because he finally tossed the Emperor into the pit.) However, my nit picking aside, I'm sure she got better at a ton of things.

Plus, Rowling is on the official list of books that can teach us something. One thing I totally believe Rowling can teach a writer is that sometimes a SENSE OF WONDER can trump almost any other skill. I think if people are taken in by your world and your characters, a lot of the rest honestly becomes secondary to a reader's appreciation. I know Rowling's critics liked to hammer her for some her actual writing skills, but, while I noticed them reading out loud, I thought they were VERY MINOR for all the fuss, and I was far more willing to forgive because I was so captivated by her universe.

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From:naomikritzer
Date:April 29th, 2014 06:52 pm (UTC)
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ITA that what you can really learn from Rowling is that with sufficient shiny awesomeness, people will just not worry too much about whether stuff actually holds together.

Pern is the same way. DRAGONS. TELEPATHIC DRAGONS. THAT CHOOSE YOU WHEN THEY ARE ADORABLE DRAGON BABIES. What's not to love about this?

Harry Potter is overflowing with cool details, all of them rendered with incredibly vividness.
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From:bibliofile
Date:April 29th, 2014 07:31 pm (UTC)
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ITA that what you can really learn from Rowling is that with sufficient shiny awesomeness, people will just not worry too much about whether stuff actually holds together.

Reminds me of whoever reviewed Martin Millar's werewolf books. The Publisher's Weekly reviewer gives them low marks for technical issues, but if you like Millar's stuff they're highly entertaing.
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From:bibliofile
Date:April 29th, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
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Don't know of any online sources that discuss Rowling's work this way. My comment comes from personal observation plus a conversation with another writer of fiction (me, I write nonfiction).
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From:brerandalopex
Date:April 29th, 2014 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Hmm... I am fond of "Watership Down" as an example of both good anthropomorphic storytelling AND a good examination of the "natural born leader" in fiction. It is also one of the few that I have re-read time and again throughout my life and it holds up every bit as well each time.

Also I would toss out Charles De Lint's "Moonheart" as a nice example of urban fantasy/magical realism. Some of his stuff can be a bit of an overgrown thicket and a touch overwhelming, but that one struck just the right balance for me.

It is funny, in a way, how writing ages. Obviously Tolkien has a lot going for it, but I would be hard-pressed to point to LoTR and tell new writers "write like that". It's a classic because of what it was THEN, and certainly parts of it hold up even now, but the writing by modern tastes is clunky.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:April 29th, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC)
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Watership Down can teach a lot. I'd also add that it's a great example of sense of place, action set-piece, readers understanding more than the characters, foreshadowing and set-up, and circular structure - the first sentence and first scene echo the last sentence and scene. Also a brilliant use of epigraphs.

It's one of my very favorite books.
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From:naomikritzer
Date:April 29th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yeah. One of the things I absolutely love about "Watership Down" is that the author is so thoughtful about all the ways in which the fact that the characters are (almost) all rabbits affects who they are. The rabbit mythology is one of those things that will pretty much just stick with you forever, I think; I haven't read it in at least 20 years and yet I remember that El-Ahrairah means "Prince with a Thousand Enemies." There's such a plausible, rabbit's-eye-view of everything from roads to boats to seagulls, KWIM? It's a fantastic example of how perspective and world building can feed on each other, because the setting itself, an English countryside, is thoroughly ordinary, but it's rendered fantastic by the perspective it's seen from.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:April 29th, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
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what Veronica Roth's Divergent series can teach you about plot!

How not to. Divergent is terribly plotted. I'm sorry.

Actually, I've learned a lot by seeing how other writers screwed up - that's often easier to see and learn by than what other writers did right. But probably too liable to cause argument to be useful.

George R. R. Martin's early space opera stories taught me a lot about creating the sense that the world is much larger than what we're seeing via offhand mentions of events long past and cool-sounding places far away.

Louis Sachar's Holes can teach you the puzzle-box structure, in which a number of seemingly disparate stories assemble into a unified whole.





Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse