Saturday, December 29, 2007


1. Just as police are often injured when they respond to domestic violence calls, the writer needs to be careful about jumping in too precipitously when the characters progress beyond the name-calling stage.

2. An anthology composed of family meal and/or wedding scenes. Think about it.

3. A clock in the background, ticking off critical time, if used with care, adds a precious note of tension and vulnerability. Early in your publishing career, this was brought home when your company did the paperback version of James Grady's novel about the moral ambiguity of the CIA, The Six Days of the Condor, in which an operative is through no fault of his own caught between rival government factions. We're pretty sure they both want him killed. The lesson to be learned was that the movie people thought six days was too long to let Robert Redford dodge about; they changed the title to The Three Days of the Condor.

4. I
knew I wasn't going to get Logan's Run even though I'd done a number of books for one of the two writers, and liked the idea, even though they started out with the concept that because of population explosion and ecological disasters, people were not allowed to live past age thirty. By this time I'd learned a few things and suggested they cut the age down to twenty-one. They both looked at me as if what does he know and in many ways they were right. But somewhere along the way, the age was cut back to twenty-one and within a year one of the two writers was driving a Porsche and the other was still a horse's ass, neither factor being relevant to the way the twenty-one-year age limit spoke to readers.

5. I suspect that I could have used Google to track down his name but as a matter of pride, I spent nearly three weeks trying to remember it on my own. I'd after all read a novel and two collections of his poems. Apparently he began talking to me again later this afternoon. Albert Goldbarth. I could have tried poet U of Kansas. I could have even tried Who Whispered Behind Me, because I knew that, but when you play with memory, there are issues on the table you don't even know about not to mention the ones you do, as in how accurate was the thing you remember in the first place?

6. Speaking of which a character I don't know is telling me that his kids are giving him the pitch about moving him to an assisted living facility, and he has assured me that the business with leaving the gas on under the kettle was not his fault. I don't know enough about him to know whether or not to trust him. He says his name is Phil.

7. It is helpful to eavesdrop on conversations--particularly arguments--between characters you are thinking of signing on.

8. Jerry, a classmate and pal of Lew,one of my ongoing characters, showed up this year as the vegan equivalent of the disabled person who does not need to be in a wheel chair. I think there may be a story brewing because I never thought of him as a vegan and he always seemed pretty trustworthy.

9. Lew, who is normally trustworthy, went to great lengths to steal Jerry's dog, concoct an elaborate plan to disguise the dog, and raise her as his own. But conscience got the better of Lew.

10. At one point in real life, I assisted two Hindu nuns in an elaborate plot to kidnap a dog we suspected of being ill-treated by a wealthy Bengali couple living in Pacific Palisades. The dog's name was Lulu.

11. A beat is a dramatic event that sometimes may be a long pause; everyone connected with it knows it has consequences.

12. Consequences are things that are said, felt, or done as a result of something having been said felt, or done earlier.

13. Without consequences, there is no story.

14. Rae has reached the point of being tired of coming home from work to discover her boyfriend, Harmon, curled up asleep on her new futon with his ex, Meredith.

15. Sometimes, particularly with Sally napping away on her pad, it is difficult to maneuver through my study without getting enmeshed in a good deal of behavior I am trying to understand.


R.L. Bourges said...

Between your blog and Lori's, my reading pile is getting way out of hand. I don't know Albert Goldbarth's writing at all. But the trusty google brings up a page from with an article called "The Mode Not Taken" in which I read the following: "Cecil's missing hand is unfinished business:/ His hook is a question mark that never relents."
And there goes the "print" button again.

Oy. So much to read. So much to write. So little time.

(oh. and this eavesdropping business has got to stop - your friend Lew must have dropped in on my thinking the last time I crossed the path of the mini-Lassie of Graulhet)

Lori Witzel said...


I'm glad you and I are becoming a burden to LeeR; it's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

Now for the particulars:

#2 made my head almost explode with the sheer awesomeness of the idea. Good gosh, has no one done this?! And, in what may be gilding the lily, one could take on the family meal idea and cross-genre the thing with recipes as random chapter dividers.

#3 -- Given the tendency to pander to real or imagined ever-decreasing attention spans, if the movie was made today, it might be "The 30 Seconds of the Condor."

#6 puts me in mind of some metafiction, with you (or a version of you) as one of the characters. (Opps, excuse me, Sputnik and Joss are playing tag around my ankles, YIKES!)


#10. You rock.

#15 -- I assume the low snorty rumble I'm feeling through my laptop is Sally snoring. No other explanation for the slight doggy-breath quality I sensed when I read the last of this list.