Magical Realism and My Blog

I am a very vivid dreamer. My dreams are long, surreal, and I always remember them when I wake up. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that many of my story ideas come from dreams I’ve had. When people ask me what I like to write about – what genre – I’ve always had a very hard time putting a name on it. I usually try to do explain myself by listing a bunch of books that are similar in nature, usually books they’ve never read or even heard of.

I made perhaps the greatest discovery in my writing career this past MFA residency. This time, when I rattled off this list of books to multiple readers I received the same response: That’s called Magical Realism. Now I know what I like to write. Even better, I have a huge list of authors to read and learn from.

Now that I’ve really discovered what path I’m on as a fiction writer, I wonder if my blog should begin to reflect the fact. I’ve often thought about keeping a journal in which I intertwine the happenings of my real life and the surreal strangeness of my dreams. I didn’t realize it until recently, but this would be a practice in Magical Realism itself.

When I woke up this morning I had an epiphany. I’ll make my blog this Magical Realist’s journal…and not only will it tell these stories in word but in picture as well.

So what do you think? Each post will appear in part like your standard blog, interesting things happening in my life, my reflections etc. Mixed into this realism will be the fantastical, but not fantastical for fantastical’s sake. My goal is to bring more insight and depth to each post with these magical elements, as such elements do in MR literature. With each post I’ll include an appropriate photograph or picture that is equally strange and intriguing (I’ll be putting my digital artistic skills to work for these). The blogs will require a little more time and attention and will therefore be less frequent, maybe every other day instead of every day.

I feel like such an approach to the blog will serve multiple purposes. Ideally it will be more entertaining for the readers. In addition, it will help me create a more focused platform as an aspiring Magical Realist.

Please let me know what your thoughts are on this. If a shift in focus kills my audience than it’s probably not worth it.

Published in: on August 2, 2010 at 10:53 am  Comments (2)  

I’ll take Plagues and Earthquakes over Your Opinion

Today I’d like to spin off of my remarks yesterday. Someone in the comments section mentioned description. I wrote about one aspect of writing that I think goes a long way toward making a good story: making every sentence count. Bringing up description as it applies to this concept triggers a worth while discussion. When is description too much description? When is it not enough? Isn’t all description doing work? It’s giving us more information about the story, right?

I don’t think there is a solid answer for this. The usefulness of description offered in a story can only be determined by considering it along side the other aspects of the story. Why is the description there? It may be giving us information, but how important is this information? What is the authors purpose for including it? What are they trying to create and deliver to the reader…and how is their use of description helping or hindering them?

I could probably sit here for more than an hour writing questions like these. Actually, as I write this my mind is considering what this discussion is leading to…what is my gut reaction to this? In my opinion – and this is a topic that I could write a months worth of blogs on – what every aspect of the craft comes down to is TRUTH. Is the writer telling the truth? What is the fulness of this truth? And by truth I’m not referring to the fact or fantasy…is that creature real or not. The truth I’m talking about is best friends with authenticity and genuine. Let me try to clarify by asking more questions. When reading a story consider these:

Would real people in situations like this act like this?

Is that character’s action authentic to the person the author has created?

Does this character feel real, or does she/he feel like flat and stereotypical?

Is the plot moving in a direction consistent with it’s surroundings and players?

When I read a book I look for the plot, the characters, and the setting to combine and create an experience with depth and authenticity. Description is a huge part of this. Description in a story can be judged as strong and effective at proving authenticity or counterfeit. Whether or not there can be too much good description or too little is largely a personal preference in my mind. Some people are so in love the world the author has created that they can’t seem to get enough. Others feel it bogs the story down. I think as readers we can arrive at an absolute concerning whether or not description is successfully doing it’s job or not…but we can’t arrive at an absolute over whether or not there’s too much of it. That always comes down to opinion.

And as Voltaire says, “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes.”

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s a Zombie Blog

It’s a zombie blog because it’s back from the dead.
Hello everyone and if you’re still around, thank you. I’ve finally begun my MFA program in writing. Does this mean I’m finally taking writing seriously? I’ve always taken it seriously, but this marks a new direction and a renewed vigor in the craft. I’ve just finished the beginning of a new work of fiction, code name F-4.
There’s a lot to blog about in the days ahead. Expect story and poetry reviews, guest bloggers, and best of all, more Salt Shaker Claw Man. You wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 4:12 pm  Comments (1)  

Words to love and hate by.

Short post today, so please participate!

I’m going to guess that everyone has a list of words they loath and love to hear. I can think of a lot of words that I love. Here are a few that immediately come to mind:

  • vittles
  • skip
  • Worcestershire
  • supose

As far as words I hate, here are a few of those:

  • warsh (the improper enunciation of wash)
  • ambiance
  • biscotti
  • lolz

How about you?

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 3:03 pm  Comments (3)  

Watch your mouth!

How do you feel about foul language in your books? I’ve heard it said, several times, that a writer should always be honest. If you’re writing about a family that doesn’t get along, there should be some arguing. If you’re writing about a ruthless and violent killer, his crime scenes should reflect it. If you’re writing about an old, crotchety sailor, he should have a foul mouth.

If you’re writing about a ninety year old vampire, he shouldn’t be attracted to a sixteen year old…oops, wrong tangent.

So how do you handle a book full of foul expletives? Does it bother you? Does it make you want to put the book down? Should the author withhold the ‘truth’ to keep the book clean? Can the story and characters have the same potency, are there other ways to do it?

I generally steer clear of books with loads of swearing. Not necessarily because I don’t like reading the F-bomb every other word, but because I generally don’t like reading about the kind of people who choose to speak that way. I do read a lot of Stephen King, and some of his stuff is full of it. I don’t mind a character or three in a story having an issue with their mouth, the world is that way sometimes. That’s my only beef with Mr. King. He claims his characters speak the way they do because that’s the way real people are. But if that’s true, then my dentist should be dropping cuss words left and right while I’m in the chair, and the officer who pulls me over should be literally cursing my name. That’s not realistic, at least not where I live.

What do you think?

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 11:59 am  Comments (1)  

Digital publishing, yes or no?

This may or may not be the Apple’s new iSalte, but that’s a discussion for another post. I’ve been thinking a lot about the digital distribution of books. It may be far off as a means of main stream publication, but I think it’s inevitable. My question is: if this is the future of book publication, should I consider digitally publishing my novel, on Amazon.com or the like? I have some experience in internet and social marketing, and I think I could do a good job of getting the word out. However, doing so will likely mean death for my chances of getting the book published by traditional means? What do you think?

On the subject, the more we see books moving towards digital distribution, the more we’ll see pirates hoisting their colors and setting sale to loot and pillage. I think this could be a really big problem for publishers in the future. The music industry has taken a big hit in this regard. But digital distribution is not inherently bad. It can give unpublished writers like myself the chance to generate hype and build a fan base.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)  

I like things weird.

Some of you might remember the late 70’s and 80’s. I would sacrifice a lot if I could travel back in time and visit. I really feel a connection with the creative minds of the 80’s, especially Jim Henson. His creations always had this dream like, even nightmarish, tilt to them. When I dream, these are the worlds I visit.

Take The Dark Crystal for example. What a brilliant yet strangely horrifying movie. If you haven’t seen it you MUST, even if it doesn’t interest you, you’ve got to at least experience it. This is a world full of giant turkey vultures and twelve foot tall mutant rabbits. When I look at those rabbits, I feel like I’m losing my mind. Here, you try it:

They just don’t make them like this anymore. Some of you are probably grateful. Why am I blogging about this? These are the kind of stories that I love to read and write. When people ask me what kind of books I write, I have a hard time articulating myself. I usually end up asking them a question. Have you ever seen The Never Ending Story, The Labyrinth, Time Bandits, or The Dark Crystal? Yeah, they’re kind of like that.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s time to ban some things.

Here is a list of things I’d like banned immediately. Reader, if you can make it happen, do so.

  • Blue Cheese
  • Dance Clubs
  • Telemarketing
  • Beets
  • Sweat
  • Vince Vaughn

Agreed? Good.

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

2010 Resolution: READ MORE BOOKS!

I tend to read in cycles. I go from voraciously reading as many as five books at a time, to taking a month to read a medium sized novel. I don’t like either extreme. I guess I’m just really moody. If a book can hold my attention from cover to cover and keep me from peeking into another, than it’s a REALLY good book. Stephen King does a good job at this, as does Cormac McCarthy, and Charles Dickens. Robert Jordan not so much…

Speaking of Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series, the latest book, The Gathering Storm, has been out for a bit now. Having slogged through all eleven of the previous books at least three times, and enjoying much of them, I find myself excited to read the latest. Only there is one problem, I can’t remember what they’re about. It’s hard to keep track of 7000-plus pages of plot. As a result, I’ve commited myself to re-reading each one before starting the latest. Perhaps I’m setting my resolutions a little high?

There are several other books on that list. McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Sherman Alexie’s War Dances, and the entire Harry Potter series, to name a few. I’d also like to discover some new authors. Perhaps you can help me in that regard.

What are your reading plans for the new year?

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 7:34 pm  Comments (3)