Many Bloody Returns is now available on Amazon.com for pre-order. My short story "Fire and Ice and Linugine for Two" is featured in this anthology. Reserve your copy today!
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
I’m still enjoying the book with the smoker [ See: Tate Hallaway's Blog: Personal Habits and Reader Sympathy], by the way, though I’ve run into something else that this author does that knocks me out of the story.
It’s a strange phenomenon, and, I realized, one hundred percent related to my reaction to the nasty-details of the smoker’s habit. Because, if I wasn’t clear, the thing that most lost sympathy points for me as a reader wasn’t so much the smoking, per se, but the intimate details about it. Things I “saw,” like overflowing ashtrays, added just a bit too much realism for my comfort.
I wouldn’t think that it would be possible to knock a reader out of a story by writing a detail that’s accurate, but it happened to me twice in this book. Once, in the scene I previously described, and again in a moment after sex that was just a touch too real. Later, after some consideration, I ended up liking the later detail, but my initial reaction was “ewww!” which inadvertently knocked me out of the story.
Knocking a reader out of a story isn’t the same as making them uncomfortable in a self-actualization kind of moment. When an author stretches my mind, it’s not usually a painful jarring, “whoa, I have to put this book down for a second,” moment, it’s often an “ah-ha!” Either it’s an ah-ha that makes me look at something in a new way, or it’s an ah-ha, “so this was the author’s agenda” thing. Either way, getting knocked out of story is usually a fraction of a second when my reader brain tilts -- when I’m no longer IN the story, but suddenly aware that I’m reading a story.
This is often death for a story. Too many moments like that, and the book goes back on the shelf.
What’s weird to me about my experience with this particular book is that the knock-out moments I’ve experienced aren’t ones that “ring false,” (which is what usually kicks me out of a story), but those that are simply too graphic. I’m getting too much information about stuff I find kind of gross.
This realization distresses me. One of the things I always tell my writing students is that the way to universality is through truth in details. If you describe a scene with unflinching accuracy, your readers will feel it, the scene will become real to them, I tell my students. Now, I’m thinking that I might be wrong about that. There may be such a thing as too much realism.
Perhaps you have to be careful regarding details. Pick the things you expose with accurate description with caution. Too much perfect imagery about garbage is going to turn your readers off, which might be okay if the story is supposed to do that – like in a horror story, for instance. Ah, perhaps I’ve hit on the key. The details need to be appropriate in tone to the story you’re telling. Don’t linger on the gross bits in a story that’s meant to be a romantic, light-hearted romp.
The devil is in the details, indeed.
Monday, March 05, 2007
When a planet goes direct, it's always a noteworthy occurrence. When the event happens during an eclipse, it's even more intense -- and this time is no exception! And as if that weren't enough, Uranus, the planet of change, is in the vicinity of the lunar eclipse with a conjunction to the Sun. The message? Revolutionize your life!
Lunar eclipses are like extra-intense full Moons: emotionally charged. In Virgo, a sign of work and health, this lunar eclipse indicates that you need to cast a spotlight on how you're tending to your emotional and physical needs. Are you due for a gym membership, or do you need to eat more vegetables? Perhaps your working conditions could use an upgrade. Take some time before the next new Moon on March 18 (also a solar eclipse) and get a plan together to improve your body, mind and spirit. Make changes that will make you feel more comfortable. Apply yourself to a goal, a project or a cherished dream. This is a 'work Moon' -- encouraging you to accomplish your goals. Analyze, plan, get organized and implement!
As Mercury turns direct in Aquarius, make sure to incorporate everything you've learned since it turned retrograde on February 13 in Pisces. As this communication planet has traveled from a sensitive water sign back into a logical air sign, it's been necessary for you to go back to old conversations with a more detached perspective. At times you may have felt that you were straddling two worlds: the emotions of your heart and the intellectual perspective of your mind. Now, with Mercury direct, you can confidently implement the changes that you desire.