I think I just rambled, On Writing

tenses: a conversation with myself

I sit at my desk, frowning at my laptop screen. (Contrary to my imagination’s offering, my laptop does not glare back at me.)

“Which tense,” I ask the room, “is best for this tale?”

No one replies. I am alone. (‘Forever and ever and ever,’ chants my Muse.) My sorrows are drowned in a gulp of cold tea.

I look at my nails (the paint is chipping yet I have vast hopes that it makes me look professional and efficient. I am delusional. It does neither.) “First-person, present tense is more intimate. You really get into the character’s head. However, it’s very constrictive. At least, it is when I do it.”

(A moment is spent in resenting writers who breeze through life with marvelous ease and appalling grace.)

“What about the third-person, past tense?” Ness lent back in her chair and sent a questioning look at her soft toys. They did not answer. Ness knew crushing disappointment.

She tapped her fingers on her desk. “It’s more freeing but it can seem … dry?”

“And yet, I like using first-person point of view,” I admitted, feeling a strange mixture of guilt and pride. “But it can occasionally seem immature and childish. And yet I’ve got to choose something or this Writing Stalemate will last forever and ever and then flop horribly and die.”

(‘Like your dreams,’ said my Muse in my head.)

“All right,” Ness says, brightening. “What about a compromise? What about third-person, present tense? The best of both worlds!”

She thinks about it for a moment, but soon enough, the glorious vision collapses in on itself and she sees a stark future, trapped in a tense she doesn’t want, with a story that tramps along like a lame dog with halitosis.

“That’s it,” you say with malice and a terrible look at all your books with all their smug, perfectly written tenses. “I’m doing second-person, present tense.”

You make a cup of tea. The tea brings clarity. You frown. You flounder. “Bother!” you exclaim. “But third-person is so … and first-person could be … and … and …”

“I should just write poems,” you say, staring at the gloomy wasteland of your decaying future.

“Please don’t,” your Muse pleads.

You don’t listen. “Or to-do lists. Or telephone books. Or obituaries – it would be impossible to choose the wrong tense with those.”

Your Muse snorts. “Actually, knowing you …”

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

Characters, On Writing

Waiting for Trains

Now, I’m going to admit that this is a bit of a long post. But if you have a few minutes to spare than please do read on. The theme for this month’s Chatterbox is ‘Waiting Fulfilled’. And so below is a small story about a woman who is waiting for her husband and would rather not have ‘death by bench’ on her obituary.

And you may have noticed the new header of this blog. It is winter and I feel the need for warm wood and polar bears.

– – –

She had waited for oh so long. Both for the train and for him.

Though, to be perfectly truthful, she had waited only two hours for the train. For the man on the train, well, she had waited much longer for him.

Three years, five months, two weeks and six days. And, if she truly applied herself, she could work out the hours and minutes as well. But she was quite done with applying herself and besides, maths was never her forte.

Oh, she thought, very well then. I may as well be truthful with myself.

❄ Winter Wonderland ❄ PLEASE NOTE: this  image is a GIF - Animated Pin ❄ Please click on the play button to view ❄It had been three years, five months, two weeks, six days, ten hours and- she glanced at her watch and moved her hand to catch the light of an overhead lamp- thirty-six minutes.

A long time. Too long, almost. But she often thought that it was too long. She had thought it too long when his car had driven off in a cloud of black smoke that heralded a need for a mechanic. She had thought it too long when his first letter had come a week later. When that first lonely month had dragged so unwillingly by.

And then there was that awful first year.

And that perfectly dreadful second one.

She shivered and pulled her coat about her. It didn’t help much. She was going to sit on this cold bench and wait for the train even if it killed her.

She hoped it didn’t though, she had much too much to live for.

And besides ‘death by bench’ didn’t have a nice ring to it.

Suddenly she stilled. Because-? Could she-? Was that-?

It was.

His train – his long delayed train was coming with an impatient huff and a piercing whistle. She could hear its approach.

It was coming. He was coming.

She stood up and began to pace, up and down. Up and down. Puffs of her breath showed white in the air. Up and down.

Here it came.

Standing very still, she watched as, with a screech of the breaks, the iron monster came to a stop.Smoking train (by: Ralph Graef)

(It wasn’t a monster, she told herself. It was a dear, dear machine that was bringing him to her. And that also made her wait for two hours in the bitter cold. Yes, it was a monster. A dear monster, but a monster nevertheless.)

Smartly dressed passengers dismounted. Bags and briefcases bashed each other whilst their owners took sharp breaths at the sudden cold outside.

She stood and waited.

And suddenly, suddenly he was there.

Tall, dark hair messy (because three years, five months, two weeks, six days and bother the hours later and he still forgot to brush it) and with those kind brown eyes glinting in the lamplight, he stood there. In front of her.

“Hullo Vivian,” he said.

“Hello,” she said staring up at him. He really had a marvellous chin, she thought irrelevantly.

He joggled his briefcase and cleared his throat.

“You look …” he started, and she wondered how he was going to describe her. ‘Wrapped-up Cornish Pasty’ she had mentally described herself this morning. Though if he said, ‘Wondrously Beautiful Beloved of my Heart’ she wouldn’t complain.

“… like …” he was fumbling for words. It was rather strange really. He had never fumbled for words. Not even on their wedding day when she had come down with a nasty cold and sneezed during his wedding vows. He had squeezed her hand and smoothly carried on with ‘through sickness and in health.’

She couldn’t bear it anymore. Three years and all those months and weeks and days and a delayed train were much too long to wait, so she did the sensible thing and flung herself in his arms.

He caught her and she didn’t hear the ‘thump’ of the dropped briefcase.

He drew back after a few moments, holding her at arm’s length (though, she noted that he held her quite tightly even then) and staring down at her. “You look,” he said. And stopped. Cleared his throat.

She nodded encouragingly, much too full of everything to speak.

“You look like home.”

Oh,” she replied eloquently as their breath curled white and delicate together in the winter air. “How lovely.”

Books, I think I just rambled, Life, On Writing

The Proof has come – and I have proof!

So this is a post which I meant to post on Friday. And then I moved it forward a little. ‘I’ll post it then,’ I thought. But then I didn’t. Because reasons. So now I’m posting it late. Oh well …

Do you ever have moments of ‘Squee!’? I do. And I did last Friday morning.

The Proof … has come.

quote2
… and here is proof of the Proof.

I’ll admit it – I’ve not mentioned Our Intrepid Heroine in a post before. But I’ve been steadily working away at it and now, after weeks of waiting, the Proof has come.

The first moments of holding your book in your hands are beautiful. Disbelief and wiggle-squeals take hold of your emotions. And then you flick through the book and see your words upon a page, your story told in actual ink. It is quite wonderful …

quotereally2But I’d better back-track a little because I’m sure that you have some puzzled questions. (Or perhaps you haven’t, but I’m going to answer your not-so-puzzled questions anyway.)

Our Intrepid Heroine is a short story of eighty-seven pages. It is the tale of a Heroine who sets off to obey the command of a King. Namely, to kill a dragon. Things don’t turn out quite the way she expects them to.

She wanted to slay a dragon. In peace. Was that too much to ask?

Yes, apparently it was.

Narrated by a scatter-brained, scholarly-minded gentlemen and divided into tips (not chapters), I vastly enjoyed writing this completly unorthodox tale – and the characters within its pages.

Particularly the Hooded Person of Unknown Gender. And the Female, ah yes – the Female.

“I’ve waited every day and stared out into the horizon just like my stories say. But,” said the Female, “I don’t think I’ve got the longing look right. Does this look longing enough?”

So while I work gallently away at the paperback version of this short novella, I have the proof beside me and I’m not at all ashamed to say that I pick it up and flick its pages often.

And while the backcover may prove to be tricky to format, the final product will be worth it. Because having an ebook isn’t quite the same as holding a Proper Book in one’s hand.

However, it is still the cheaper option I suppose.

suddeninspiration

Life, On Writing

-Edit-

Reforming sentences, scratching out words, replacing those words, staring at plot holes, attempting to fix those plot holes, despairing, hoping, enjoying … and the cycle goes on.

Editing.

Wonderful, isn’t it?

I love it. I hate it.

I’m a wonderful writer. I am a terrible writer, wallowing in typos and badly formed grammar.

That sentence sounded beautiful. That sentence a four year old would disdain to use.

Some things are a breeze to edit, others are akin to forcing your way out of a collapsed mine.

Generally, I like to think that I enjoy it – The Dragons We Hunt, my now complete (!) novel, is a breeze to go through. My pen and I have wondrous fun striking off a word here, changing a word there, and twiddling with a sentence over yonder.

Yes, we get on splendidly.

And then there was another story – a short one. That was horrendous. In a month, I’ve experienced two sides to editing – the good and the bad. Enjoyable and akin-to-teeth-pulling.

But, I’ve survived.

And I suppose that is the moral of this post – don’t give up. Yes, it may take a while and, at times, be horrible to do … but you can get through it. Wade in, roll up your sleeves and grit your teeth. Take one paragraph, one sentence, one word at a time.

You’ll get there.

… and listen to music. It helps … and because of it, I’ve found a new composer – Brian Craine, everybody!

Life, Story Time

… And then I fainted [Story Time]

I’ve never fainted before. Not when I fell off that rope swing and broke both of my wrists. Not when a friend nearly died from anaphylactic shock. Not even when I woke up to find a burglar at the end of my bed with his hand in my jewelry box.

No.

You see I saved my first faint for a much more auspicious occasion: my debit card being denied in a little store, in a little town in America.

Caught in a terrible moment of ‘oh, no!’ I was first overtaken by a ‘brain freeze’ which was a sort of roaring followed by a white fuzzing around the fringes of my vision. Valiantly fighting this feeling I stood stock still and didn’t move, but alas! The war was in vain.

For a first swoon I did it quite gracefully – if I do say so myself – I leaned heavily onto the counter and slid onto a friend, who thought that I was being rather rude. Really! If I wanted to see the jewelry beneath the counter next to her, why didn’t I ask her to move instead of … sliding on top of her?

I am told that I whispered something softly about my legs; legs that were swaying like a puppet’s wooden appendages. This alerted my companions to something being wrong. For myself, it was all rather perplexing for I wondered why my legs were moving like that – for I had most excellent control over them and they were wobbling. Why were they wobbling?

Everything was fringed with white and grey and my friend’s voice was both distant and close as I was assured that everything was going to be okay. (Another perplexing thought – why wouldn’t it be okay?)

I’m told that I didn’t speak. I have no recollection of being able to speak as most of my world was taken up in what I call ‘blinking surprise’.

kinda like this
… with an incy bit of this.

I was somehow lowered to the floor. And when I was there I tucked an arm under my skirt (for I didn’t want anyone to see my underwear. One has to think of these things, you know) and leaned my head on my knees (that’s what fainting people did, wasn’t it?).

A purse was on the floor in front of me. It looked strangely li- oh, yes. It was mine. How on earth, I wondered with serious consideration, did it get there? Last time I had checked it was in my hand. A bottle of water was offered me with its lid off – this struck me as very strange. Did Americans’ sell their bottled water without lids? No matter, I drank it gratefully.

I tried to get up, but was told to stay sitting.

I sat.

A lollipop was offered to me (though brandished comes to mind as a more appropriate word). Three in fact. All given to me by a kindly new acquaintance of my friend (who looked up from kneeling next to me and exclaimed ‘I know you’ to the woman, who then offered the lollipops).

Finally I was allowed to get up and go outside to a bench, leaving the jewellery shop behind me. I polished off two lollipops, drank the bottle of water and then was taken to a cafe where I consumed a bagel, a banana and another bottle of water. This was my ‘Fainting Feast’ so to speak.

Then we sat on another bench and waited to be picked up. We’d locked the car keys in the car, you see. Oh yes, because when it rains, it pours.

Now, I’m sure that there will be quibbles as to whether I actually fainted or not – fainting, after all, is losing consciousness for a brief portion of time. I’m not certain I did and I’m not certain I didn’t. I do know, however, that everything went white and grey around the edges and I lost control of my body.

I also traumatized my friends.

… And now the moral of this story?

I would like to pretend that I did it all for research – heroines can often faint in books, and as an author, to know what it is like to faint would be useful. But in the end, even though I didn’t intentionally do it for research, I can use it for the same purpose. Life experience, you know. Useful stuff. Useful and traumatizing stuff.

Perhaps, for a brief moment in time I actually did lose consciousness. And if I did, I now know that everything doesn’t always go black – it goes grey and it goes white. But as I’ve only done this once and am not, in any sense of the phrase, a dab hand at this fainting business, I can’t honestly say for sure.

… and I don’t really wish to repeat the experience.