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Words and Other Things

My best friend, Liz, and my best-friend-in-law, Martyn, loaned me a bunch of books the other day.  I just finished one of them.  House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a book about a guy who finds a book written about a documentary that doesn’t exist, that features a house that doesn’t exist, that was filmed by a man who doesn’t exist.  House of Leaves is a work of fiction, so technically if you read it, you are reading a book about a guy who doesn’t exist, who finds a book that doesn’t exist, written about a documentary that doesn’t exist, which features a house that doesn’t exist, that was filmed by a man who doesn’t exist.

You should read it.  It’s pretty good.  But very intense.  Not for the young of heart or the young of age.  Ye be warned.

The next book is The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson.  I’m still working on it, but so far as I can tell it is about a porn star who gets into a terrible car crash after combining cocaine, bourbon, and driving.  The crash results in lots of fire burning him all over his body, and then he has a chat with a crazy lady while in the hospital.  The chat is the thing I wanted to quote here, because it made me giggle with disproportionate glee.

I indicated the little statue on the bedside table.  “I like the gargoyle.”

“Not a gargoyle.  It’s a grotesque.”

“You say oyster, I say erster.”

“I ain’t gonna stop eating ersters,” Marianne Engel replied, “but that’s a grotesque.  A gargoyle’s a waterspout.”

“Everyone calls these things gargoyles.”

“Everyone’s wrong.”

The Gargoyle, pg. 81

See?  It proves something that was never called into question in the first place.  I once did thirty seconds of research on Wikipedia and now, years later, I’m reading a book that confirms my research and I’m all, “Yay!  This makes me happy.”  I just thought I’d share.  It’s a good read so far.

Finally, my computer broke recently.  I have the worst luck with computers.  But this time I don’t mean it crashed or it got a virus.  I mean it literally broke.  It started coming apart at the seams.  It’s currently being held together with duct tape and binder clips.

So I got a Mac.

Good news: I came up with a new comic idea.  I was inspired by English class and Shakespeare, since lately I’ve been working toward getting my teaching certification so I can teach high school English.  Without meaning to, this comic became a bit of an homage to Kate Beaton’s comic, Hark!  A Vagrant.  Though it was not intended, I am in no way sorry.  Beaton’s work is some of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

Bad news: My copy of Photoshop Elements is for PCs only.

Results: I drew the comic and then took pictures of each panel.  Enjoy!

Writer’s Block
11/11/15

WB Panel 1_1
WB Panel 1_2
WB Panel 1_3
redo 2_1(1)
WB Panel 1_5
WB Panel REDO

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Defining a Genre

If you’ve been keeping up with my last few posts, you’ll know that I’ve been working on revising a book entitled Grotesque.  This book has been with me since 2012.  It has come so far since its first draft, but it’s not quite ready to be sent out to editors.  Why?  Because, as my agent, her interns, and I discussed, the book was hovering in an uncomfortable space between two genres.  It had adult themes and characters, but still read like a Young Adult novel.  In order to revise it, I had to take a step back and ask why the narrative voice wasn’t working, why it still sounded like it was aimed at teenagers.

Through extensive discussions with my husband, my best friends, and my siblings, I discovered that I was never going to be able to revise the current draft of the book to read more “adult.”  Why?  Because the content, structure, and plot of the novel were always going to be too YA.  No amount of aging up the narrative voice was going to change that.  At best I could have ended up with a YA novel that read with an incongruously adult voice.

This is how I decided to address the problem:  I gutted the book.  Took out the YA content and upped the ante.  I’m expanding the world, going into more details with regards to history and characters, raising the stakes.  And it’s working, though I’m only a few pages into the new draft.  My purpose for writing this post was to offer a quick, easy glimpse at the difference between a YA novel and a plain ol’ adult novel.  Here’s a handy Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram

You’ll note that I use a lot of words like “typically” and “usually.”  Why?  Anyone who knows me knows I hate blanket statements.  Obviously each genre has its own conventions – otherwise it wouldn’t be a genre – but there are exceptions to every rule.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a book that I would classify as “Adult” but one of the main characters is a twelve-year-old girl.  Similarly, Sarah Dessen has written a Young Adult novel about relationship abuse, which might be considered by some as an “adult” theme.  As for audience, there’s no set age-limit.  Adults read YA all the time.  Younger readers can find adult novels that they enjoy, or they might be exposed to adult novels through school.  I read Cold Mountain when I was thirteen years old (Summer reading assignment), and believe me that book is not YA.  It’s the Odyssey of Vaginas and it made me supremely uncomfortable.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Grotesque had elements of both genres.  Oftentimes it comes down to the way a story is approached.  You’ll note in the middle section of the diagram that there are several themes mentioned that could belong to either side.  The difference is that an adult novel will approach a theme of sexual abuse differently than a Young Adult novel.  I don’t know why I always capitalize Young Adult, but not adult.  Just go with it.

With that in mind, I began rethinking GrotesqueGrotesque deals with a main character who has only been alive for a few weeks, yet his body is that of an adult… monster.  He’s an adult monster.  His love interest is an adult with a child of her own.  Interestingly, a common theme in YA is the transition from childhood to adulthood.  This theme is present in Grotesque, but in a different way.  Again, it’s all about how the content is approached.  The statue that comes to life starts out with the mind of a child, but he is exposed to the horrors of the world, and that causes him to age rapidly.  He is overwhelmed by the complexity of life, the gray areas of morality, etc.  These are adult quandaries.  And so that is the direction I am taking.  I am going all in with this.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Can you believe I did a comic?  It’s been forever, right?  Enjoy!

Writer's-Block-Strip-45

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It’s Alive!

A few weeks back I met with my agent and her interns to discuss my book, Grotesque.  One of those interns told me that the manuscript reminded her of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and suggested I read it for inspiration.

So I did.

Boy, let me tell you, I was way off base about how this book was going to play out.  Turns out the various movies about Frankenstein and his monster may have exaggerated certain details.  As a result, this was what I thought the plot of Frankenstein was:

Wrong-Frankenstein

And here I thought Mel Brooks’ interpretation of the classic tale was super accurate!  (If you haven’t seen Young Frankenstein, you’re missing out).  But no.  As it turns out, the plot of Frankenstein actually goes something like this:

Frankenstein

That being said, what did I think of the book?  Well, it definitely resonated with me.  The subject matter Shelley touches upon is exactly what I want to do with Grotesque.  In a slightly different way.  I mean, my book has just a little bit more action, for starters.  Plus, a happier ending (spoiler alert).  But the themes are all there – loneliness, playing God, desperation for approval and acceptance, the juxtaposition of a humane(ish) monster and monstrous humanity.  It was a really interesting and inspiring read, and I have to thank the intern who recommended it to me.

Shelley also has a way with words.  I particularly enjoyed this sentence:

“I never beheld any thing so utterly destroyed.”

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?  I can’t begin to describe the impact those words had on me, especially within the context of the book.  They are perfect in their simplicity, yet they say so much more than you’d expect.  “Utterly destroyed.”  It’s almost foreshadowing, too.  The way so many lives are so utterly destroyed over the course of the book, including those of the creator and the created.

I also underlined a couple vocabulary words I love.  “Indefatigable” and “Purloined.”  Those are great words, aren’t they?  The former means “incapable of being tired out,” and the latter basically means “stole” or “pilfered.”

I’ll wrap up with a line I marked that pretty much sums up everything I want to encapsulate with the character of my Grotesque.  It was spoken by Frankenstein’s monster.

“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”

Such beautiful words coming from such a horrid creature.  Shelley really could use words as an art form in a way that I can only hope to accidentally achieve from time to time.

Now all that’s left is to take what I have learned from this book and apply it to my newest rewrite of Grotesque.

Wish me luck!

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