I was out at a karaoke bar recently and someone sang ‘What It’s Like’ by Everlast. This somewhat cheesy, quintessentially 90’s song came out when I was a teen, and I’ve always known all the words but somehow I’ve never really heard them before. Or maybe it’s that, being older and having a bit of experience in the world, I can identify with them in a way a 16 year old cant. Because, hearing them sung, off key and in a cracked voice by a tipsy stranger, was somehow as if actually listening to the words for the first time, and I almost wanted to cry.
What could have changed in my brain to cause this song I’ve heard a thousand times before and never really thought about, to suddenly have an emotional effect on me?
Brains… are strange…
When in the process of splashing out words for a new story, we all find ourselves writing words we don’t need, repeating words, and being hacks in general. I’ve composed a list of these ‘filler’ words that I’ve found most often in my own work. Search for, and delete!
Very: Delete any that aren’t in dialogue.
Almost: Delete unless it is specifically necessary for a thing to almost be, instead of just being.
Nearly: same as above
Really: Delete if it’s being used as an adverb, unless in dialogue.
Still: When used to show something is continuing, you can delete it 90% of the time. To show something is motionless, often you can use a better word. (I bet you’ve used ‘still’ a dozen times for that already.)
Toward: Can almost always be changed to ‘at’ or ‘to’ or be removed.
Turn: My characters are constantly turning this way and that (even turning toward things!) and most of it is unnecessary.
Feel/felt: Jane felt the water lapping gently at her feet. versus The water lapped gently at Jane’s feet. The only reason to say feel/felt is if the character wasn’t feeling it before and now is, otherwise it is sort of taken for granted that they can feel it…
Watch/see/saw: Same as above. Unless there is a real need to make it clear that the something is visible to your character, it is kind of assumed that the viewpoint character can see what you are describing. Jane saw and heard the waves splashing, and felt them lap her toes. Seems silly now, right?
Love, death, ghosts, and history. What a sad, funny, interesting and heart-squeezing novel.
Many years ago, during a visit to Washington DC, my wife’s cousin pointed out to us a crypt on a hill and mentioned that, in 1862, while Abraham Lincoln was president, his beloved son, Willie, died, and was temporarily interred in that crypt, and that the grief-stricken Lincoln had, according to the newspapers of the day, entered the crypt “on several occasions” to hold the boy’s body. An image spontaneously leapt into my mind – a melding of the Lincoln Memorial and the Pietà. I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt […].
What must that feel like… to not only finally complete a project you’ve been thinking about for decades, but to also have it be so acclaimed?
I hope he feels proud, because it is great. I never would have though a book written in such a strange way could evoke such strong feelings, but it does. After a few pages of it, you don’t notice the strangeness as much. Or, you do, but it is no longer a hindrance. It blends into the feeling of it. The idea of dozens or hundreds of viewpoints coalescing into a single story of a single night.
I think anyone with an open mind could enjoy this book. The only people I’ve seen saying bad things about it are just complaining about the way it’s written, not what’s written.
The only minor complaint I had was how short it was. The 360 or so pages it claims would actually be probably half that, if each page were covered with words instead of having them spread out as it is formatted.
Read if you want something fresh and interesting and heartfelt!
With this post I have gone 1 full year in a row of posting every day.
And that, is the result.
I’ve had almost double the number of views this year than I had on my last highest year. And I’ve had more LIKES than I had views last year.
And… I don’t see a reason to stop! Though, I admit after passing the one year mark I don’t feel as much pressure to keep it up, but in reality it hasn’t been that difficult at all… so why not?
I’ve also read more books this year than any in recent history, and written more too… probably, though I haven’t kept close track of that.
All in all, a good year for the written and read word!
Thanks to all who read my words, and I hope to read more of yours, too!
Schadenfreude–pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Nabokov, I am coming to find, is the master of this.
The key to it, is to not identify too much with the person experiencing the misfortune, otherwise it becomes uncomfortable, cringy, awkward… but this, is not. You find yourself laughing with the most perfect satisfaction.
And I want more!
Good thing he has many novels left for me to read…
Buy more things shop spend hurry deals quick!
What a stressful time of year.
Don’t forget to take some time each day to think about your family and friends, and what they mean to you–much more than however many dollars you spend on them…
I’ve started a new short story, and am also editing my novella… what new super power is this?