Writers on writing

I was writing this morning, wondering about how random thoughts (like journal entries) become complete works. I’ve read some of the journal entries of Thoreau, and letters of Alan Watts. But I started looking at which other writers kept journals (many did).

While I cull through the list I’m compiling, I have these rules from Vonnegut for writing fiction I thought I’d share:

Eight rules for writing fiction:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

— Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

The Amy apologist

Last year I was in a production of Little Women, the musical with book by Allan Knee, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland, adapted from the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Admittedly, Alcott is an author I’ve never read (with Senior year English Lit possibly being an exception – I don’t recall), though her contemporaries and acquaintances I’m quite fond of – Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow. In the show I was Professor Bhaer.

There is a scene in the show where, after feeling left out by her sisters, Amy burns a story that Jo has been working on. Most people feel revulsion at the act, and Amy’s excuse that Jo has everything and she has nothing comes across as spoiled and bratty.

From my view, though, Amy is nearly a middle child, and shows very little talent of her own. The youngest (who later dies from illness) is loved by all and a budding pianist. Jo writes, and Meg is a proclaimed beauty. Amy therefor feels out-of-place in her own family and thus acts out. It isn’t right for her to do so, but it can be understood.

So, I was labelled an Amy apologist and have been trying to defend my stance for nearly a year. Then I saw a production of Little Women: The Musical just last month, and I thought Amy was a complete brat.

Reorient yourself

Been a weird few months. Not sure how long, or what went off the tracks, but something shifted. Me, the Universe, or something else, I don’t what.

Lots of strange occurrences. Dreamt of my ex twice, even ran into her sister a couple of times. Then I ran into her. I’m not sure if uncovered any still lingering traumas, but it too left me feeling off-kilter.

Job changing, instances of synchronicity – the right words at the right time, I’ll either come across or be told. Zen in action?

Was recently introduced to the works of Alan Watts. This was a name at the edge of my periphery for some time, but I began reading his collected letters just a couple of weeks ago.

I love reading the correspondence and journals of prominent (or even eclectic) individuals. Thoreau, Kerouac, and Van Gogh have been among my favorites.

My journals are mostly rambling things. Nothing clear. Too many distractions. I think that’s been an issue in my blog posting as well. Too many distraction. Reorganizing my life now. We’ll see how it goes.