All posts by matthewledrew

It’s always been there.

20120220-101433.jpg So some things, even though we see them often, we don’t really notice them.

Malls in St. John’s are a weird thing. In Newfoundland as a whole, even. We seem to have different (read: lower) standards of what counts as a “mall”. Our biggest is the Avalon Mall, which is impressive until you step outside the province and realize it’s basically the equivalent of what other provinces refer to as “the lame mall,” and that our “lame malls” are really lame.

Individual stores within the mall are fine or even flashy, but the mall itself is dated and weird. Last term I did a course in themeing and anthropology and now I notice themeing elements within the mall, but they’re all alone. Elements of attempts to theme by each generation of management, ending in a cluster-duck of themes that clashes badly.

One of them is pictured above.

It’s an old three-seater merry-go-round. We’ve all seen them. They’re not special. What is special is how long it’s been there. This ride has been in this spot since before I was born. I used to bug my dad to let me ride it, he even let me once. Now Jess’s daughter H has even outgrown this ride.

I wonder if it works but won’t waste money to see.

To put it into perspective: this ride was put in when the Smurfs were popular the first time. It remained all through their obscurity, and now that they’re popular again this ride is at least relevant.

In that sense, leaving the ride is almost prudent planning.

Almost.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Newfoundland Iceberg

An iceberg has been hanging out very close to the port-town section of St. Johns lately.

Makes me sad. If I’d realized this was here the other day when Jen and Travis came down from Hal Con, I would have taken them to see it. :S

Either way, Ellen and I went down to see it. A piece had broken off, and I felt the need to retrieve it. Success!

My domination over nature is complete.

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Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process: A Dialog Excersize

Alright, back from Sci-Fi and back to work. Good times had by all.

Today’s topic is dialog. I love dialog, to me it’s what holds a story together. Some of the most enduring fictional concepts are held together with nothing but dialog. Think about it: Kevin Smith’s Clerks has little plot, but the dialog holds it all together. The Garfield comics are little but dialog, and they’ve endured for years. There’s tons of examples, depending on how far you stretch it.

But I can’t really train you to write good dialog. Either you do or you don’t. But I can give you some options on how to write said dialog, because it’s not as straightforward as you’d think.

Here’s a fairly straightforward bit of dialog between Xander and Cathy a la the Black Womb series:

“Where do you think you’re going?” Cathy asked, holding her side.
“Out,” Xander replied, “Is there an issue with that?”
“Hey!” she spat, holding the door. “You can’t just leave.”
He stared at her for a long moment. “Watch me.”

Not the best dialog in the world, but it’s hard to write out of context. Anyway, not the point.

But you’ll notice some things. Like how after Cathy said “Hey!” the ‘she’ is still lower case. Pay attention.

This is how I used to do it:

“Where do you think you’re going?” Cathy asked, holding her side.
“Out.” Xander replied. “Is there an issue with that?”
“Hey!” she spat, holding the door. “You can’t just leave.”
He stared at her for a long moment. “Watch me.”

See the difference? I used to use periods in the dialog attribution. I knew it was wrong but still tried it as a certain style. You’ll see it all over the first Engen Books. But too many people thought it was an error, so I succumbed to public pressure. :(. Now I write in the above example.

Then there’s a different sort that has been in vogue lately, not using the quotation marks at all:

Where do you think you’re going? Cathy asked, holding her side.
Out, Xander replied, Is there an issue with that?
Hey! she spat, holding the door. You can’t just leave.
He stared at her for a long moment. Watch me.

To me that’s fine, but runs the risk of confusing the reader. I’m not sure why you’d make a choice that could do that.

Anyway, that’s my little rant on dialog. With every novel there’s a choice to be made with how you’ll present the material, and dialog is an important part of that. So think it over.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process: Editing Aloud

Of all the writing tips and tricks I’ve gone on with, the easiest to write about have been the editing.

See, for most of the writing tricks I’ve been doing them so long that they aren’t “tricks” anymore. They’re second nature. Just a happy part of the act of writing. For instance: I would find it very hard to talk about foreshadowing as a trick. It’s just a part of storytelling for me now.

But the one part of the process I can speak of a lot is editing. I don’t think it will ever become “second nature”. I think it’s always going to be a bit of a task, partly because it simply doesn’t come naturally to me.

My Editing process goes through many turns. I read the story over and over, focussing on different aspects every time. One of the key and most time consuming is to read it aloud (yet alone). I really feel this helps to identify problems in pacing and narrative.

(It’s also great practice for readings at conventions, but that’s another story altogether).

Not much to say. It does work, on multiple levels. I also find it helps relieve writers block for whatever I’m currently writing.

Not sure what else to say. Perhaps I should have thought this out more.

This might be a good time to remind everyone that if you have questions, ask. It’ll help me write these! 🙂

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process: Cursing!

Let’s take a trip back down memory lane. I was in grade six, so I figure we’re going all the way back to 1996. To Norman’s Cove Elementary. For whatever reason, someone had turned me on to the novels of Kevin Major.

For those of you who don’t know (and this is the Internet, so I’ll wager there’s a bunch of you), Kevin Major is likely the most acclaimed Newfoundland author. He is to Newfoundland what Stephen King is to Maine. Except that Major doesn’t make Newfoundland look like a place filled with drunken hicks and apathetic parents.

Hold Fast - Kevin Major
Hold Fast – Kevin Major

Anyway, his two most notable works are Blood Red Ocre and Hold Fast. While Ocre is more popular, it was a little above me at 11, so somebody gave me Hold Fast.

And I was blown away: they were cursing in this book!

Not long after my Principal, Mr. Osborne, came in. I was big into Spider-Man at the time so he always sounded evil to me, but he was a great guy. Anyway, he was doing some kind of lecture encouraging kids to read. There was a real push for reading in schools at the time. I guess there always is, but at this point they didn’t have “reading levels”. It was just read anything. Comics? Fine. Soup labels? Fine. Whatever you wanted to read, just so long as you did.

Which I happen to agree with, but I digress.

Anyway, I (being me) wasn’t sure if I “should” be reading a book with curse words in them, so I asked.

To his credit, Mr. Osborne responded by saying: “If you can read it then you’re mature enough. But if you’re running around the class going ‘Oh look! Swear words!’ Then you aren’t mature enough.”

A fellow student and I exchanged a look, because I had done that the day previous.

So that was my first introduction to the idea that one could curse in literature. And now it is my favorite thing to do ever. I pepper curse words all throughout my stuff, but never needlessly. I like to write to way people speak, and people curse. So my characters do as well. A lot.

I think maybe the point of this post is unclear, but this is mainly for young authors who maybe sensor themselves. Don’t. It’s just not worth it.

I remember my mother stumbling across an early draft of one of my books when I was 17 and just being horrified about the subject matter an the cursing. I think it was a flashback to a main character being molested. So while I understood her outrage, she failed to understand that that was the desired response. You should feel outraged. And that should make it all the better when the character gets over that. Or all the worse when they don’t. Either way.

Off topic again. Cursing where appropriate is good. Don’t let people stifle you. If you’re that kind of author you’re that kind of author. If you’re not you’re not. It’s just that simple.

Never Look Back, Motherf***ers 😉
Matthew LeDrew