Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ramble On

By Keith Fisher

I wrote three blogs this week but I couldn’t get excited about the subjects. Tristi Pinkston tagged me for the Moaning Meme but I couldn’t get riled up enough to rant. (Perhaps next week.) I’m still recuperating from the huge family reunion we hosted a couple of weeks ago. The ladies in my family had girl’s night out, and they went to Lagoon for two days. I was left alone for a night.

I’ve heard a lot lately about the new Harry Potter book. I can’t wait to read the book she writes next. It should be a great test of her writing abilities. After all, how do you top the success of HP?

I know I’m rambling, but it’s been that kind of a week.

I’ve been getting great feedback from the proofreaders of one of my manuscripts. One of those readers pointed out an error in tense that I began to fix. Then I remembered why I wrote it that way.

In his book, Stein on Writing, Sol Stein suggests some ways to give exposition and back-story without making it sound like an endless flashback. He said to write in the present and give the story immediacy. Try to tell the past in the dialog that happened then. If you must write a flashback, segue into it, then write like it’s happening now. He said to avoid the words had or then. According to him, the cardinal sin is to use the word had twice, such as: Evelyn knew she had had enough.

Using had in that way is grammatically correct, but it sounds funny—it often puts your writing into the past tense and into the realm of flashback, back, back, back,
(Is there an echo in here?)

The point is to keep the reader in the story. He suggests that if a reader senses a flashback, they tend to read past it in order to stay in the immediate story.

So I’m debating with myself. Should I keep it the way it is? Or should I bite the bullet and do it the way my English teacher wanted it? Send your comments and tell me what you think.

On a related note, one of those wonderful appreciated, tremendously helpful, kind, thrifty, brave, reverent . . . proofreaders, is a blogger and offers writing advice. I expect my mistakes will be part of a blog soon. I’m biting my nails.

By the way, remind me to tell you about the appreciation program I’m developing for my proofreaders. I can’t tell you about it now, because you’d all want to read my manuscript and I need to get it finished.

I’ll keep you in mind for the next manuscript though. It should be done in a month or two. If you want to be a proofreader, send me an email and I’ll put you on my list.


Andy Lemmon said...

I personally don't like reading stories in the present tense. It sounds weird to me. So, I would tend to agree with your proofreader. If you put the flashback in present tense, its going to seem all the more obvious and painful to read.

Stein does have some good comments on putting in flashbacks, such as avoiding "had" and "then." Perhaps what he means by "writing it as if it's happening" is to tell the flashback in the same voice and the same way that you're telling the current events in your story.

Of course, feel free to take these thoughts with a cup of salt, since I haven't published anything yet, nor have I read Stein on Writing. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting Andy. I can use all the help I can get