Writing is Listening

25 04 2014

Writing. A cakewalk some might think. Sit down with a cup of warm milk and a box of chicken flavored dental treats and pound the keyboard. For one who has inflexible toes, and no opposable thumbs, it’s an impossible scenario. To the canine writer, the closest comparison might be the paraplegic. Let me tell you why: it’s all about listening.156059336-124599_238x238

I propose a different point of view (I’m a dog): Writing is not a cakewalk, it’s a “dogwalk.”

A dog pulls the master along, pausing here and there to sniff a clue––or drop one. And so the writer leads the reader, imagining clues to add along the way as a path is created, hoping the reader will recognize, however subconsciously, the ones they’ve deposited.

How?

The written word of the author, as recited in the mind of the reader.

Ruh. You don’t have to be a canine ophthalmologist to know this.

Within those neat little sentences fashioned on the page should be everything that must be known about the story at the precise time it needs be known. To garner the information, the reader must pay attention, and here the writer is the master to its slave. The whip is micro-tension, akin to scattering a handful of liver snacks on the floor, and setting a cat on one side and a dog on the other.

How does one see the other? Micro-tension provides this insight through showing the friction between the two. Even if they are friends, there is bound to be some conflict in the above example. Let me tell you, it usually starts with a growl on one side or the other–––even though, of course, I LOVE the cat.

The two characters are at odds, resisting, undermining, attacking, either directly or in the sub-text of the scene. In exposition, emotions are in conflict and ideas at odds. The reader seeks relief by turning the page. The authors greatest hope.

The reader hears the words in his mind. If the writer has done his job, the words trigger a thing called emotion: the literary Pavlovian response. imagesWith a little luck (and a lot of skill), the feeling isn’t resignation, leading the reader, shoulders slumped, to put the book down, and shuffle off to the library for something new.

I know the importance here. This is my struggle. I may be canine, willing to give my heart to most passersby, but words can stump when used to evoke emotion. All my life, a wag of the tail, or a bared tooth, has done the job. Words on a page, free from vocal intonation, are difficult for me. But I think I’m getting closer.

Example, from Clara’s 3rd person POV:

Max said, “I love you.” The glass of ice water rattled as he set it on the table. He looked out the window as though he’d said the words to himself. Released. Clara slipped on her coat, left her key on the table next to the frosty glass, and walked out the door leaving it open to the frigid Christmas air.

or

His words were like a warm bath. “I love you.” The glass of water Max held materialized on the table, his arms around Clara like magic. Max’s eyes in the mirror above the Christmas fire were golden in the light, but he had the look of a man being led to hang.

***

 

Okay. Not Hemingway. images

But do you know how Max feels about Clara in each of these sentences? Do you know how Clara feels? Do you care? do you want to know what the problem is between them? Do you wan to turn the page? Please tell me you do.

I’m working on another novel (5th draft geared to micro-tension. Next draft: emotion…without any wagging tails). I take notes (recorded digitally, of course), I fashion metaphorical sentences––so many that my dreams are all in 3rd person narrative, no longer images, but echoes. I awaken to fragments that make me feel something.

 

Because I listen––and pay attention to the way words make me feel.imagesChow.





The Seven Day Fog

22 01 2013

“It all started with a wrong turn in the velvet fog of Venice.”

Chapter one, line one, new autodogography.

I am off to the City of Water to do some research. Venice in January: like an iceberg in a snowstorm and tourist-free.

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Steamy bars laden with the scent of tobacco and milk chocolate. Trattorie packed with bodies warming to a plate of squid-ink pasta or creamy truffle risotto.

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Gondolieri standing in their boats, wrapped up like winter hams, waiting for business. Ice between my toes. Frost on my snout. Pregnant mist pushing its long, fleshy fingers between the towers and canals.2292218586_e546c44060_m

I know only roughly (or ruff-ly, as is the case) my plot. Certain things have to occur: suspense, romance, danger—and magnificent meals. Truffles will take part as it is winter in northern Italy. And a French-African Chihuahua I once met will play in.1159578853_5864672ff8_m

 

 

Write what you know is what I say, until you no longer know. Then make it up. It’s fiction. All life is a type of fiction, after all. And the living, nothing more than writers. Comforting to know one can always change the ending. All dogs understand this.

The ending is always owned by it’s writer in more ways than one.8381306661_3b58d2eccf_m

Chew on that.

Chow.





Writing With No Opposable Thumb

29 05 2012

The process gives new meaning to “hunt and peck”.

My nose is sore. The space between my ears (high cranial area known to contain the Great Knowledge of the Terrier) aches from the nose-tap concussion of putting words to paper each day. But I am finished with the feat.

I stretch out Under the Tuscan Sun (I am in author-mode, after all) and warm myself on summer’s fringe, thinking of the agent process. 

Query letters come to mind. Tag-lines run through my small but efficient canine brain: Mayhem ensues when the family dog discovers his master’s infidelity…or is it, his masters infidelity. Possessive AND plural. Oy.

Punctuation is not my strong suit, after all, dogs do not usually put words to paper…paper is saved for puppyhood deposits.

But it HAS been done: A Dog’s Life, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Timbuktu, Mr.Chartwell…all to some success.

Why not a real autodogography, by a real dog.

Great hook, no?


Nap-time is over. I trundle back to the chair, stacked with multiple pillows, and raise myself to the keyboard.

Dog seeking representation.

Chow.








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