Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’

The Life She Wanted

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

I wrote this short story quite a few years ago in between edits of Conduct in Question. Sometimes I think that for a novelist, writing short stories can be similar to a painter making sketches for a large canvas. Have a look around the site. Enjoy.

The Life She Wanted

Martha Myles dusted the flour from her hands and wiped them on her apron. She found the beaters at the back of the kitchen drawer and pressed them into the electric mixer. Her new cookbook was propped open on the counter. With reading glasses perched on her nose, she stared at the recipe. Endless fine print ran across the page, obscuring what ought to be a simple task. (more…)

THE SECOND DRAFT AND MORE

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I sometimes say the first draft of a novel is the most satisfying to write. When the creative spirit gallops free as a mare in the fields, kicking up its heels, you know the work is going splendidly! But when it’s not, your spirit [creative or otherwise] drags along like a lame donkey hauling a cart of manure. Life can be unmitigated hell. (more…)

THE FIRST DRAFT: One trick to get there.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

It’s a marvellous “high” seeing those three hundred pages stacked up on your desk-the first draft! How long did it take? Three months, a year, a decade? I remember when the last page chugged out of my, by then, wheezing printer that I gazed at that first draft in awe for at least ten minutes. It was the first glimpse of my new-born.

But how did it get there? It’s important to give that some thought, especially now that the real work of revising lies ahead. What did I learn from completing it? (more…)

What I learned from William Makepeace Thackeray

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Only a week or so ago, I posted a blog here entitled, what I learned from Ernest Hemingway. In it I said that Hemingway was good writer because he let the dialogue of the characters do most of the heavy lifting-that is the writer could convey emotion, mood, feeling etc., to the reader. To do otherwise was tantamount to having an annoying stage director come out in the middle of a scene to comment on what the characters were thinking and feeling. (more…)

Wishing every one a very Merry Christmas and a great holiday

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Right now, where I am, it’s about 2:30 in the afternoon on Christmas eve day. What I really like is the quiet which sometimes descends at this time after all the running around for food and gifts. Just a moment for quiet reflection before celebrations get going.

I’m going to start posting [today]some articles on writing and assorted topics and so, I hope you drop back in soon.

What I learned from Ernest Hemingway.

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

A quick Google of the title The Sun also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, brings me pages upon pages of articles. With scads of information and opinion out there, what can I possibly add?

But before I answer that question, here is a photograph of the River Seine in Paris which I took in 2004–just to set the mood for the book set in Paris in the 1920’s

Most critics discuss at great length themes and characters of this novel. But my question is this:  how does a writer create such a palpable, all pervasive mood in a novel.

What is that mood? (more…)

EDWARD HOPPER: CAPTURING PRIVATE, SOLITARY MOMENTS

Friday, December 19th, 2008

AUTOMAT, by Edward Hopper

I have a fascination with the paintings of the American artist, Edward Hopper. Somehow-whether by technique, imagination or subject matter-he is able to create the most compelling and evocative scenes, which stir my imagination.

One of my favourites is Automat an oil painted by him in 1927.

A young woman with a yellow felt hat sits absolutely alone in a barren restaurant drinking a cup of coffee. I look at this and immediately feel her isolation and loneliness as if it were my own. Is she running away? What thoughts are in her mind as she stares into the cup?

Right away, Hopper has got us speculating, as he does with all his paintings. Where did she come from? Where is she going? You’re caught right in the middle of a story which you can “read” backwards or forwards in time. I was so taken with this painting that the woman in it became the inspiration for a character in a short story, The Thief, and now a novel which I am writing. Struck by her isolation and self-containment, I called her Celia.

I search the painting to see what emotions Hopper creates and how he does it. Behind the solitary woman is a large window, blackened by an impenetrably gloomy night. The lights or reflections of lights recede into the background giving a murky, tunnel-like effect, leading to nowhere. The radiator, crouching at the left of the painting, seems just as isolated as the girl in the composition, but almost looks more communicative than her.  The lonely,solitary moment is caught in time-permanently engraved on my mind.

Just think how many stories could grow from this one painting! Will someone, a boyfriend or family member enter that door, hoping to bring her back? If no one comes, where will she go as soon as she drinks her coffee? To a dingy hotel room? Onto a train to New York? That would be just like so many other Hopper paintings, which so often depict hotel lobbies, motels and railway cars. Or maybe she will change her mind and go back home.

Perhaps this painting speaks to me of the apprehension of the unknown as we proceed moment to moment through life. So often, we are unsure and tentative, fearing to venture out into the unfamiliar. Then again, maybe the girl is incapable of reaching out to others. After all, for me, Celia-the character in my story who was inspired by this painting- grew into a character that was desperate to get free of her self-imposed isolation from the world. And so, for me-art, painting, sculpture, and photography are so often an inspiration for writing. Of course, all art [whether it is painting or writing or music] speaks of its own time-that is, the time and place in which the artist lived.

Hopper painted much of his work in the twenties, thirties and forties of the last century, when rapid industrialization and urbanization were forcing people from their old dwellings and old ways of living. Consequently, so many people felt lost and displaced. And yet, the emotions evoked by his work are universal, whatever the time and place. Great art transcends time and place and touches a nerve in us all, which communicates those universal emotions and ideas to us. Just like a photograph, Automat is a permanent moment in time existing in a world which, at the same time, seems so transient.

And that is why such a painting as the Automat inspires me even today.

No Man’s Meat by Morley Callaghan.

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Writers always want to write a better novel or short story. And so, we naturally turn to writers we admire. I like to use images in stories and so, I often wonder how a writer can develop an image which governs the meaning of the whole story and breathes life into it. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a mental “word” image must be worth at least five hundred.

No Man’s Meat is a novella written by Morley Callaghan, one of my favourite Canadian authors. But no commercial house would touch it. It had to be published privately by an avant-garde house in Paris in 1931. And soon, I will tell you why that was so.

But, first to the story. Bert and Teresa Beddoes are a reasonably well to do married couple from the city [probably Toronto]. Frequently they stay at their cottage somewhere up north where the farming is poor and the farmers live a hard-scrabble existence. The Beddoes are laughed at as city folk.

Their marriage [they say] is one of peaceful contentment, loving and respectful, but it is clearly lacking in any sort of passion. They sleep in separate rooms in the cottage. (more…)

ON THE MAGIC OF TRAVEL AND WRITING

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Magic in travel? You must be kidding! All we hope is to get there and back safely. When we consider the long lines, the cancelled flights, the rude security staff and the cramped seats on planes, don’t we all feel a lot like cattle being pushed and prodded from A to B? Now you’re asking for magic? Isn’t that a bit much?

Perhaps it is a tall order, but I’m thinking of those moments-and they may be few and far between-when suddenly, on your travels, you see or experience something that makes you view the world in a new way, from a different perspective. The world opens up and that, in itself, may be magical. Isn’t that the real purpose of travel-unless we’re talking about business trips? (more…)

Does Your Hometown affect your writing?

Friday, November 28th, 2008

I’m planning to write a series of articles about writing and the love of travel–which I do love. The first couple of articles start at home. All of us are affected by where we grew up and where we presently live. If we try, we can use that sense of place in our writing. Here’s the first article. Please come back soon for more.

DOES YOUR HOME TOWN AFFECT YOUR WRITING

Starting Out At Home

Before I launch on travels to “foreign” parts of the world, I want to think about what I am leaving behind-Toronto, Canada-and how it, my hometown has affected me as an individual and a writer.

I’m one of those people who, for the most part, has lived in one city, Toronto, all my life. Definitely, Toronto, of today, is not the city of my early days in the 1950’s where most of the population was descended from immigrants from the British Isles. In the intervening years, Toronto has benefitted hugely from the influx of immigrants from every country on earth so that now it is full of life enhancing, vibrant contrasts. And still, it remains a pretty peaceful place. In my lifetime, the city has changed dramatically. (more…)