2016 brought some pretty dramatic changes for me, not the least of which was that I started home-schooling my 13 year old son. In doing research on homeschooling, I found several resources on classical education, including the book, The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s a guide to giving yourself a great books education by reading a representative sample of fiction, non-fiction, history, drama, and poetry from all eras of human history.
In looking through Bauer’s lists, and others, I had the wonderfully exciting idea to build my own Great Books library inside my home. Because I can’t just do something simply; I always have to turn it into a project. So there is a sitting room off of the master bedroom that I currently use for sorting laundry. It has no furniture, no decor, and basically, no utility. I have piles of books leaning against the wall in cardboard boxes. It’s a complete waste of space. If I put in built-in bookshelves along the far wall, I could use them to store my great books as I acquired and read them. In the end, I would have 1) a beautiful bookshelf displaying 2) a world-class library in 3) a non-laundry-filled sitting room.
I think this is going to be my goal for 2016: A Great Books Library.
Yesterday I blogged about using Coursera to become an expert in a topic you might need to know for your latest fiction (infectious diseases, anyone?) But what if the topic you want to learn about is fiction writing itself? Where can you find a good, free course on honing your craft?
Here’s a hypothetical situation: you’ve written a zombie apocalypse novel involving a scene that requires more detailed knowledge about epidemics than you currently have. Maybe one of your characters is an epidemiologist but you don’t know enough about the topic to write her dialogue credibly. You could contact a real epidemiologist and ask them to help you write your character, but chances are they’d be too busy fighting the next strain of superbugs to answer your questions. What do you do? Continue reading “Free Resources for Learning a Subject- Coursera”→
Back in the late 40’s, hopeful writers could purchase a small book called “The Said Book” by JJ Rodale, whose sole purpose was to offer alternatives to the word “said,” which Rodale deemed too repetitive and boring. It’s not clear what his authority on this matter was that he could make such a proclamation, but he took it upon himself to publish his book filled with suitably spicy said substitutes.
In the book, “Lolita,” Humbert Humbert describes his little nymphet with “lips as red as licked red candy.”
How gorgeous is that description? Can’t you just see the deep red and glossy sheen of a wet lollipop? The fact that he’s describing a 12 year old girl’s lips makes it all the more provocative and disturbing. Perhaps that’s why it works on so many levels. When I heard that line for the first time (I was listening to the audiobook) I stopped and rewound it four times just so that I could appreciate how utterly amazing Nabokov’s writing was. And then I set fire to my current manuscript in a fit of despair as I realized I would never come close to the level of descriptive mastery that writers like Nabokov showed. Continue reading “Color Tools for the Writer”→
My main character, Roland, goes through quite a transformation over the course of my novel. He cleans himself up, stops acting like a dick, and quits smoking… all for a girl. He also loses a bit of weight and starts exercising. This is a painful process for Roland. He’s never exercised a day in his life.
As the author, I owe it to Roland and the readers to paint a picture of Roland’s roller coaster ride of ups and downs as he goes through this transformation. Part of me can use my imagination. I watched my dad quit smoking so I can draw from that, but I’ve never successfully quit a bad habit myself. I think it’s time to put myself to the test, all in the spirit of getting inside my character’s head.