Saturday, April 14, 2007

I'm 39 today. Jack Benny's age. Crazy! I seriously feel about 10 years old inside.

Tomorrow I fly back to the city of my birth. I'm going to speak to a couple of classes at my old elementary school, visit both of my junior highs, and possibly my high school. It will be amazing to cross paths with my young self, to see whether the halls of those schools still look and feel and smell the same. If you're in the Chicago area, I hope to see you at one of my readings:

Monday, April 16, 7pm
Bookstall at Chestnut Court
811 Elm St.
Winnetka, IL

Tuesday, April 24, 7:30pm
Barbara's Bookstore in Oak Park
1100 Lake Street
Oak Park, IL

I also hope to finish up my new novel when I'm away (it's due to my editor May 1st.) Maybe I should try to follow Kurt Vonnegut's advice (RIP, Kurt):

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.


Kit Stolz said...

Happy Birthday, Gayle. I can't believe you're only 39. Whippersnapper! Go on now!

gayle said...

Thanks so much, Kit! :)


Tome Reader said...

Happy birthday!

I really dug the writing advice. Where did you find it?

Carleen Brice said...

Hi Gayle,
I'm shocked at the advice to forget suspense! Definitely something to think about. If you have anything more to say on the subject, I'd love to hear it.

gayle said...

Belated thanks for the birthday wishes, tome reader! I wish I could remember where I found Vonnegut's advice--it was linked from one of the many tribute sites after his death.

And yes, the advice about forgetting suspense confused me a bit too, Carleen. Suspense can be such a powerful engine to propel a story forward, keep the story interesting. I think that maybe what he meant--and this is just a guess--is to give readers something to hold onto at the beginning of the story. Give them characters that are clear and vivid and true; don't confuse the reader with uncertainty and muddied focus. I have no idea if that's what he really meant, though (and there is value in uncertainty in writing, as well, I think. It can be fun to play with reader expectation, to have unreliable narrators, etc.). As with all writing advice, take it with a grain of salt; I have a feeling he didn't see these suggestions as written in stone, himself...