Start at the action

Now that I’ve got a bit of experience slush reading at our new magazine, I can say ‘start at the action’ with even more certainty than ever.

When you’re reading someone else’s story, who you don’t know, and have no preconceptions about, it is a lot easier to see faults. One fault being ‘I have no desire to keep reading this because nothing is happening.’ If your friend or family wrote the story, you want to see what happens because you are curious about the ideas in the head of someone you care about. But, most other people reading that story might get bored…

If your story is about a bank robbery, start at the bank. A detailed account of the afternoon leading up to the robbery is going to lose 90% of your readers, even if it’s really great prose. Short stories aren’t novels, people don’t know what they are about or what to expect, so you have to let them know what the story is about right away and give them a reason to keep reading.

I think I will learn a lot about writing from the experience with this magazine!

Stranger Things: Season 2, episodes 3 and 4

This show is getting dark.

There is something incredibly creepy about what is happening to Will, and I stayed up late to watch another episode I wasn’t planing on because of it.

This show really knows how to do creepy and dark, without having obnoxious jump scares or shocking blood and violence. That’s something I’ve realllllly been missing from movies lately!

Another thing this show handles better than Hollywood is nostalgia. There are so many references to 80s culture, but I still don’t feel banged over the head with it or pandered to. And it’s so nice to recognize a thing from my childhood and not want to throttle someone for re-imagining, remaking, rebooting or any other re-ing it.

Excited for whatever comes next!

Annihilation movie

Have you seen this trailer?

I’m excited mostly by the ‘writer and director of Ex Machina‘ which is one of the few good sci fi movies to come out in years. The concept and ambiance of this novel (Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy)) was very creepy, weird, and interesting, and if they can translate it into film it will be awesome!

It’s a big if, though. The trailer always looks awesome, but movies are experts at being piles of crap that look nice.

Every once in a while there is a gem though, like Ex Machina, or Arrival. I have some hopes that this could be one of those!

And if it is… maybe we’ll get two more with Authority (The Southern Reach Trilogy) and Acceptance (The Southern Reach Trilogy)!

Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

The end of this novel went in a different direction than I expected. I was drawn into it right away and was excited by the story and the ideas and the potential, but it feels like in the end it left much unexplored.

There was a lot of attention focused on the technical details, research, and visual details of the alien ocean. This did lend a lot to the realism of the world, but I think I would have preferred more about the effects on the characters. We never did get to find out who or what the other character’s ‘guests’ were.

I also wondered about the first version of Harey that was sent up in the rocket… what ever happened to her?

Over all an amazing book that left me wanting more, and one that I’m sure I’ll think about for some time.

Write about what you love?

I started reading IQ84 by Haruki Murakami recently, and one of the characters is a struggling writer. I am enjoying it quite a lot more than the previous Murakami novel I read, though it has a lot of similarities also.

I wonder, though, how many writers write about writers? How many characters in novels are writers themselves? The common advice is to ‘write what you know’, and every writer knows about being a writer…

Reading it though, has made me want to have a writer character. Maybe that character’s character is also a writer, too. How deep could you go before confusing the reader, I wonder..

To contract or not contract

What makes a writer decide not to use contractions? Especially in a story written in first person, they seem like a natural choice to make it sound more like a person speaking.

In Borne, the narrator doesn’t contract. Saying ‘could not’ and ‘can not’ and ‘did not’ etc, isn’t exactly distracting, but I notice it now and then and think ‘why is she talking like that?’ Though, it’s only in the narration, not in the dialogue…

Why not to use contractions? Other than the tired, eye-rolly reason of trying to signify that the character is alien or robot.

There must be a reason. I noticed that Octavia E. Butler didn’t use contractions much in her novels either, though they were in 3rd person so I didn’t think much about it, just a stylistic choice. But when it’s a person supposedly talking to you, in the first person, it seems a bit strange.

I wonder what it means either way, and how/why an author would make that choice…


When your viewpoint character is the least interesting character in the story, this might be a problem.

I’d rather read about Borne. I’d rather read about Wick. I’d rather read about ‘the Magician.’ I’d rather read about Morde the giant bear. I’d rather read about the mysterious scientists in the Company building. I’d rather read about any of the random scavengers she encounters in the wasteland.

I don’t know anything about Rachel, other than she had a nice dinner once when she was a child, and now lives in a wasteland. That’s the one bit of backstory I’ve got. I don’t know what her dreams or desires are, I don’t know what her motivation is. She’s just a pair of eyes for me to see the world through.

I don’t know why she became so obsessed with this alien blob creature thing. (did she lose a child and he’s a replacement? Did she always want a child but couldn’t have one?) But I guess I’ll try to accept it. But now Borne has left the picture, and she’s wandering around aimlessly feeling empty. The story feels that way too. Wandering aimlessly, nothing happening seems to matter to the character, or to me. Is this just filler?

When the character doesn’t want or fear anything it’s hard for me to care.