If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino

Maybe you’ve been watching my videos on this book, or maybe not! I have gotten tired of making them. I think writing is more my style than talking. But this book is definitely my style, and is one of the best things I’ve read, ever! I think it might be in my top 10 favorite books ever.

Why do we write? What is story? Why do we read? What are we after in each story as a reader or as a writer? All of these questions are a focus in this book.

This is a book made of beginnings, and interruptions. In short, it is a series of shorts that are framed as various books that you, the reader, keep getting interrupted from reading. But really it is a question about what makes a story a story. Does a story need to have an end?

Every page of this book was gold and I wanted to highlight all of it. I bought the kindle version even though I was listening to it, so I could do just that.

Read it if you have an interest in strange story structure, prose over plot, or just like things that make you think!


Mirrors, everywhere

Strange writing styles

I’ve started reading ‘Out’ by Christine Brooke-Rose. This one is described as an ‘experimental’ novel, and it certainly reads that way. The writing style is very strange so far, with repetitive descriptions of the surrounding environment, with characters left in a sort of confusing fog. I’m finding it very interesting, and enjoying how I have to sort of think and puzzle out what the heck is going on.

The focus often falls on the very small, while things that are probably important are ignored by the character. In the opening for example, he watches two flies ‘making love’ on his knee, while people are talking around him. Later he’s watching a square of light on the table, or thinking about how the way people are standing form different chemical bonds with their feet.

Some of it is so beautiful, and I feel that the writing is more important than the story for me these days, so I’m liking it a lot so far.

Ideas on how I want to write a future story are appearing…

What is the point of creating?

I’ve spent a bit of time the past few days wondering if anyone will ever want to read my stories, or enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them. Am I the only one who enjoys the sort of thing I want to write? Surely I can’t be… I’m not that special or unique or smart or dumb. There must be people out there who like similar things to what I write.

But what if there wasn’t? What if, somehow, the exact thing I enjoy reading and writing, was not popular with anyone… would I still write it?

Would I change my ‘style’ to please someone–anyone!–or, would I keep on trying to satisfy my own tastes and preferences.

You might ask: what’s the point of writing something no one wants to read?

But, what is the point of writing something that doesn’t say what you want it to?



Increasing excitement… oops, I jinxed it

I have three stories out at various magazines waiting for a response, and two of them are past the time I normally should have been rejected by. It’s getting me very excited and I keep checking my email, it’s been years since I sold a short story…

Of course, now that I’ve blogged about it I’ll probably get all three rejection letters in the next ten minutes…

An opening I’m tired of

John Smith did something as another thing happened. “Unexpected statement that sets the tone of the story,” he said. 

Stories that open this way somehow lose my interest in an instant, no matter how interesting the things John is doing or saying are. Why? Because the structure of the opening is so familiar it induces a sigh regardless of the words? Maybe…

Turk Johnston vomited vampire bats out his glowing mouth while the gates of hell crashed open behind him and released a hoard of demons. “What a day to quit my addiction to summoning demons,” he said. 

Is it possible to write an opening in that format that is good? Somehow that structure just tells me the story is going to be schlock.

Debbie Wilson sighed at the crinkled photo of her husband as tears trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s been a century and I still love you,” she said. 

Better? Maybe? But somehow, the structure saps everything out of it. I think it is the  name that really does it. Is it so important in any way that her name is ‘ Debbie Wilson’ that it has to be the first words we see?

She sighed at the crinkled photo of her husband as tears trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s been a century and I still love you,” she said. 

Why is that suddenly so much better? But still, it could be improved to not be trapped in that simple structure of ‘here’s what’s happening everyone.’ Must everything be so direct?

Her withered finger hovered over his fresh, vibrant face, and she wished that version of him could rise above the crinkled, creased and torn surface–weathered as her own hand–that trapped him. 

Now I’m not being directly told ‘she is looking at an old photo and being sad.’

I guess that is really what it comes down to. Show don’t tell.

And now I know why I dislike that kind of opening!

How is Nabokov not everyone’s favorite author?

Just curious…