Monday, October 29, 2012


Now Playing: LANDSLIDE by Senses Fail
Just Read: THE MANY ASPECTS OF MOBILE HOME LIVING by Martin Clark--A fun read. I was three-fourths of the way through and still didn't know what was going to happen, and didn't find out for sure until the last page. But I knew! I swear I did!
Reading Now: THE LOST WORLD by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Articulation: The action of putting into words an idea or feeling of a specified type. 

Lately I've really been into how good writers can say exactly what they mean, how they use the perfect words in a situation. I'm not talking about analogies, where you're reading about a situation and the writer compares it to something so you, the reader, can more easily relate.

I'm talking more basic. Vocabulary and syntax. I've been reading stories lately by Ken Liu and Margaret Maron and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (big spread there), and all three are very good about articulating their thoughts. It's a gift, I think, but mostly it's hard work--you know those writers have put in a lot of practice to get so articulate.

(By the way, I think British authors might be a little better at this--Doyle, Gaiman, Rowling, they're all great at saying precisely what they mean, and nothing else. Just an observation.)

We've all tried to tell someone something that happened and hit a brick wall: "I can't describe it. You just had to be there!" Well, as writers, you pretty much have to be able to describe it, and your job is to make sure the reader IS there, to transport him away for a moment. What I've noticed, the writers who are really good at it can make the reader anticipate the sentence, so that once I start the phrase I'm expecting, I speed to the end of it and think, "Yes, exactly, I know exactly what you're talking about."

This is my goal.

 I believe articulation is one of the most important skills as a writer. It helps you be clear, concise, and say exactly what you mean in as few words as possible. It translates well into real life, too--all this election hype as made me appreciate politicians' ability to orate. With a little more practice at the keyboard, I'll never be tongue-tied again!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fairly Good Times

Now Playing: INSIDE THE FIRE by Disturbed

It's that time again: the height of fall. Beautiful weather, changing leaves, pumpkins and corn mazes and front porch swings occupied by zombies or mummies or giant spiders . . . oh, and the North Carolina State Fair!

I went on Friday evening with my girlfriend, and as soon as we had our ticket she made a bee-line for the fried pickles. Man, were they good! Fresh and hot, dipped in a little ranch . . . mmm! We really set the bar high right away with our fair food.

We saw 500-lb pumpkins and gallons of honey and watermelons the size of large lambs, which we also saw, in competition, being led around the ring with enough pomp and circumstance to remind you of the poshest Medieval royal court.

Every few minutes, we heard the roaring of some of loudest engines to ever be built that weren't meant for space travel--souped-up tractor drag racing! Each roar lasted, oh, ten seconds or so, but the plume of black, roiling, oily smoke that rose lingered over the vendors and carnies for several minutes. We got a good view of them from the window of the the hobbies and crafts building, and then again while sipping piping hot apple cider and looking through the glass at curing tobacco.

It was way better than "fairly" good--I just made that the title of this post because I love puns. We left with full bellies and the smell of autumn stuck in our noses and lot of affection for each other.

But you have to admit . . . there's something sinister about the fair, something slightly unsettling about how fast the rides are set up, how the carnies advertise deals and prizes and try to guess you age or weight with uncanny accuracy. There are clowns and freak animals and people made to look deformed for your enjoyment. Is there someone, or something, behind it all? Something wicked coming this way?

There's a story there.