Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fiction Errors

I am reading (correction: trying to read) a contemporary thriller (best seller, might I add) on the recommendation of a very earnest and misguided student. I can't. I just can't. Here's why:

Mistake # 1

In this scene, the protagonist is worried a man is spying on him from outside of the house. In response, "Kevin rushed over to the window and quickly lowered the miniblinds." First of all, the word rushed is sufficient in helping the reader understand the urgency of Kevin's actions. Actually, I would argue that the scenario itself is sufficient and that even the word "rushed" could be removed without any damage to the text. That makes the use of the adverb "quickly" not only mind-numbingly repetitive, but also offensive to my intelligence.

Secondly, when in this type of situation would anyone close the blinds in any manner other than "quickly"? Does the author actually think that without the word "quickly" I would envision Kevin sensually sauntering to the window, taking the miniblind cord and running it through his fingers (perhaps testing the delicate nylon against his cheek...anyone?), and, finally, throwing his head back with half closed eyes while the blinds whoosh into place? Nope. I think it's safe to cut the "quickly."

Mistake # 2

During the cursory assess-my-physical-appearance-in-the-mirror scene (please just stop, I'm begging you), the following occurs: "Somewhat attractive if he was any judge, but generally average looking. Not the kind of person stalked by a psychopath. He grunted and hurried to his room." He did what? Yes, you read right...he grunted. When was the last time you stood before the mirror and then, to conclude, grunted? Oh, that's right, never. I suggest, however, that you try it because it will give your spouse or significant other a good laugh. Cheers to the random and inappropriate ascribing of actions to characters!

Mistake # 3

I admit, this is arguably a preferential stylistic pet peeve: the freaking fragment. I understand. That occasionally it can be used for dramatic effect. But to abuse the privilege. is just so annoying. especially. when. the. lines. aren't. important or profound or even lovely. Equally obnoxious: the fragment that is so special it deserves it's own paragraph.

Example: [In reference to the travel posters hung throughout Kevin's house] "An unknowing person might think he ran a travel agency, but to Kevin the images were simply gateways to the real world, places he would one day visit to broaden his horizon.
To expand his understanding.
Even if Slater had been here, there would be no way to tell..."

Just found another good one. Can't help myself from including it. "Kevin looked at the pink ribbon trembling slightly in his hand and sat slowly at the dinette. The past. So long ago. He closed his eyes. [end chapter]"

Mistake # 4

Weird, impossible to imagine sensory details / descriptions. Example: "The silence felt thick." (Also its own paragraph in the text). This detail is such a "stopper" for me as a reader. I try to imagine silence feeling thick. I think of thick things: thighs, glue, water. Yes, the silence felt like water...viscous and wet. Beach. Summer days. Summer nights. Bikini contest! Oops...

Mistakes # 5-7

Outdated language: "He preferred to spin through the channels on the huge Sony picture tube...He flipped the station." It's a T.V. It's been a TV for like the last thirty years. It's a channel, not a station. P.S. this story is set in the "modern" day.

Characters who speak to themselves for the obvious benefit of the reader (because the author couldn't be bothered to find a better way): "The news. He stared at the aerial images, fascinated by the surreal shots of the smoldering car. His car. 'Wow,' he mumbled. 'That's me...I survived that'" What's particularly annoying about this example is that all that information is stuff the reader already knows because it was explicitly acted out for us in THE VERY SAME CHAPTER. No need for a recap already...or ever.

Trying to make profound statements about things that aren't profound or in moments where the narrative does not lend itself to these types of musings. While Kevin is watching the news, he sees a story about his recently bombed card. Suddenly, the author interjects, "The TV was yet another window into life--a wonderful montage of the world in all its beauty and ugliness. Didn't matter; it was real." I'm not even sure what this means, but it sure sounds deep.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Your resume is so sexy

Here's a little something I found the time to write amidst the frenzy of job hunting. Who said resumes are uninspired?

Your resume is so sexy
The symmetry of it
The neverending straightness
Lines in rows like ducks
You section your accomplishments—experience, education, etc.
Like I imagine you part your hair
When I scrutinize the paper, hold it to the light
The watermark appears, aligned in the printer
So it all faces the same direction
I bet you never need to ask for directions
There are no surprises here
Dates included, addresses listed
Reference list attached—nice touch
You understand how I hate to request the obvious
Your information is accurate
You are complete
How wonderful that you’ve anticipated
Everything I could have wanted
You’ve left nothing undone and
There are no questions for me to ask
Except you’re perfect
When can you start?

The One

One morning

You will be the reason he slides out of bed

Shuddering at the hope of perhaps slipping past

Only a slash of your shoulder

In a too tight hallway

The gravity of your small body

Smoldering between his love and the linoleum wall

A whispered payer, rehearsed confessions

Aroused once more

By simply the scent of your strange hair

That reminds him hopelessly of sea foam and silk kimonos

A sigh wrestles silently in his stomach

Which seems to have soared

A substantial space higher than he usually remembers

A thousand butterflies

The color of your eyes

(like milk or mystery novels or magic tricks)

Rousing themselves from delicate dreams

To drum the thin air

With crepe paper wings

Making music like the sound

Of you laughing or weeping out loud

And waltzing suggestively

Sexy and slow, antenna to antenna

Hot sorrow streams down upon him

As the small of your back

Swings past the eggshells of his heart

In perfect cadence with your thrilling step

He sees you ambling down the hallway

Not as a woman

But as the woman

A swan neck in moonlight

Shedding feathers and tears and pearls

With the fingertips motionless in his pocket

He strums your infinite grief and beauty

Loving you in the way one loves oxygen or salt water:


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Writing Inspiration--Old Photos

These photos were given to me by my grandmother. They were taken just before WWII, when she was an art student living in Holland.

I like to use them as writing prompts or just as inspiration to keep writing. They make me believe in art again.

For Writers & Romantics


I'm Jessica Jo. Poet, aspiring novelist, grad student, and eleventh grade English teacher.

I think my hope in having this blog is that it be a place to explore and archive my writing process. To share it, to grow in it, and to get something back from the world-wide writing community.

I love fragments. I love the leathery feel of old pages under my fingertips. I love cutting up old books and finding poems hidden in the pages. I love my Dad for showing me what it is to love stories. I love living a thousand lives in one.

My favorite punctuation mark is ...