Confessions of a Writer

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I spent an hour at an antique bookstore booth and bought absolutely nothing.  I couldn't find a single thing I wanted.

Which is true.  But I could find about twenty-five things I wanted—and even that was hard to narrow down.  It's quite pitiful, really, that my love of pretty much all the beautiful old books kept me from getting any.  Oh well.

Also, said antique bookstore booth was featured at the FPEA homeschool convention, which really just goes to support the "You Know You're a Homeschooler If...".

So now, it's the end of yet another week, meaning that I've only been home from college for two weeks!  I think that the older I get, the more time flies by.

Well, it's now a good time for an update.

Reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  
I've had my eye on this book for quite some time.  When I got home, my sister had bought it and it was sitting, still unread, on our library bookshelf.  I must admit, I was nervous to read it because of all the buzz about the story and the new movie.  Usually, I find that when books are too hyped up, they don't live up to expectations.

This one does.  I can honestly say that Zusak's writing style is one of the best I've seen in quite a long time.  It's a style I normally see in short stories, but it's not as common in novels.  If you haven't read it, do.

Writing: The Time Racers
Still.  The manuscript greatly improved this week, I will say.  I'm becoming more comfortable with steampunk as a literary aesthetic and I've done quite a bit of extra research to meticulously check my facts.  (Did you know they didn't use forks in 1666? Neither did I.)

So, good news!  The proposal is done. The synopsis is (finally) finished.  And the manuscript sits now at 96,000 words awaiting word.  I'll keep you all updated!

Fun Project: Life in the Gray
Another confession: Short stories used to be my arch nemesis.  I hated them.  My mind conceived long books, with backstory and detail.  Write a whole story in five pages?  Impossible.  But I have fallen back in love with the short story and the ability it gives you to step into a world and jump right back out.  It's rather refreshing.

So my new short story is called Life in the Gray.  It's about a guy and a girl who meet in an art museum and learn more about each other as they explore the exhibit halls.  I began writing this while sitting in an art exhibit called "Visualizing Suffering and Sacrifice" which was a viewing of Roualt's Miserere Series.  Needless to say, the paintings were depressing.  But it was somehow beautiful.  This is what I tried to tackle in the story.

Short excerpt:

The walls were all gray—but not charcoal, more chalky like dimming clouds—and the floor was an inky granite.  All along the walls there were prints and paintings, each one similar in tones with graphite pencil or blotches of paint blurred to make different hues.  One after another, they created a line around the room in a monochromatic tapestry of art.

“I like this room least of all,” said Demetria, surveying it all. “But I always come here.  It means everything to me.  It’s oddly inspiring.”

Drake looked more closely at the art pieces.  Most of the subjects were distorted and grotesque bodies, anguished or tortured souls.  Depictions of death or hell, or at least his version of hell. The faces were abnormally shaped, as if Picasso had given the artist a personal lesson, and the bodies were disproportionate with heads too big, arms too long and muscles limp.  They looked passive and hapless.  “This is you,” they seemed to say.

He was about to ask why she liked this exhibit so much, but Demetria spoke without prompting.

“It’s like a prayer,” she said simply.  “The art is.  It’s the desperate praying to something divine to make sense of our mess.”

“It looks sad,” said Drake.  “Depressing”


For such a spritely girl, Demetria was strangely intrigued by the melancholy.

“Do you pray?” he asked.  What an absurd question.  But she was staring at a painting of a crucifix with a hungry earnestness.  

“To what?”  She leaned forward.   Her cherry nose was only inches from the thick globs of paint, ashen gray, in layers that merged to create a mangled corpse hanging from its wooden post.
“Look at this,” she said.  “What does it tell you?”

Drake saw nothing but ugliness and he told her so.

“You don’t see it then,” she said simply, stepping away with a light dancer’s stride. 

People in stories become real to me.  It's like they whisper the narrative of their lives into my ear and entrust me to write it down.  I can't quite describe that feeling, but it's the honest to goodness truth.

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  1. Gah! The Book Thief is one of my favorite books ever. So glad you are reading it now! Zusak's command of language is stunning. I love to read a sentence then sit back and savor it for a while. If I could write half as well as that...

    And yes, characters do become real to me too. I have had characters revolt and take over a story to the point where the original protagonist gets booted completely out of the story. The farther I venture into the writer's life, the more I realize that I am discovering the story, not creating it.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I am so enjoying this book and I am constantly amazed by his use of language in ways I would never expect.

      And I love what you said about discovering the story, not creating it. That's so true!

  2. I totally feel what you said at the end! It's like the characters are just begging me to write their stories, so I do.

    I'm reading the fifth Harry Potter book right now, and Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. They're both pretty good.

    Alexa Skrywer

    1. I feel the same way!!

      And I've never read any of the books by Riordan...but I know I really should!