Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back on Track

I solved my problem with Wraith of Talera and am back on track. I realized that I’d started too “late” in the story and needed a new chapter 1 that takes place before the original chapter 1. I had the idea for the scene already in my head so it practically wrote itself. Today I’m going to go through the rest of the completed chapters and tweak here and there to fit the new stuff I’ve added. That should be pretty easy.

I have a question that mainly is directed at those who’ve read Swords of Talera. In that book, primarily as an homage to previous Sword & Planet writers, I put in fictional “footnotes.” These were little tidbits of information that were separated from the text like regular footnotes. So far, I’ve heard from one reader who thought these were actually pretty awkward. I used fewer “footnotes” across the three books and am trying to decide whether to include them in this new book. I certainly don’t have to do so. Did anyone else find them troublesome at all?

Another thing I’m doing, which I always figured I’d do if the series ran more than three books, is I’m leaving out the introduction where “Charles Allen Gramlich” comments on his meetings with Ruenn Maclang. I used this as a frame for the first trilogy but I think it’s served its purpose. So in the new book we kick right in with Ruenn from page one, although I do have a “What Has Gone Before” piece of two paragraphs telling the reader basically where this book is starting from.

I’m reading an excellent book by Joe Lansdale called Rumble Tumble. For those of you who know something about Lansdale, it’s one of his Hap and Leonard stories, which are straight suspense tales without any overtly fantastic elements. This is one of the better ‘uns in that series.

I also read my first ever Raymond Carver story, “Feathers,” and I have to say I didn’t care for it. The dialogue rang false to me, though perhaps I’ve just never met folks like these. I thought the reaction of the characters to a peacock was all out of proportion to the fact of the bird itself. And nothing really happened. Such stories are always more about subtext than surface text but the subtext here wasn’t really that interesting to me. The style is very simple and unadorned, which I’m sure is intentional, but man it makes me pine for the beautiful prose of someone like James Lee Burke or Cormac McCarthy. I know there are some folks who really love Carver so it’s more likely me that’s the issue. Just not my horn of ale. But I will reserve full judgment until I’ve finished the story collection I’ve started, called Cathedral.
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30 comments:

cs harris said...

I frequently start books too late, then have to go back and add a chapter or two--. Most people have the opposite problem, and end up cutting their first one or two chapters. It would be interesting to investigate the differences between the two types of writers.

Travis Erwin said...

I actually liked the footnotes. I didn't find them distracting or awkward. Glad you have gotten back on track.

Shauna Roberts said...

I enjoyed both the footnotes and your brief appearances. But I can see that having yourself in every book could start to feel artificial and contrived.

H.E.Eigler said...

Ah I knew you'd find a fix, and quickly too. Glad you hear you're back on track and moving on!

laughingwolf said...

just finishing 'cold in the light' [superb], so have yet to tackle 'swords'... but i gloss over anything that makes my reading of a tale troublesome, like footnotes, and the introduction of invented words i have to look up in the glossary... but i get back to them, eventually

grats on getting back on track!

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Charles,

Nice to see you. I have to play catch up on all your stuff. Seems you write faster than I can find time to read.

Given that, I will not leave a note on your questions because I think that would make me look and feel ridiculous. But I will let you know I have no doubt that you write well and I look forward to catching up.

T

Bernita said...

Having been indoctrinated by H. Ryder Haggard, I found the footnotes a charming addition.

BernardL said...

I agree with your take on dialogue. If it has a tinny ring in my head while I'm reading a book, I begin noticing the words rather than having the conversation flowing through my mind.

Steve Malley said...

Ah, and here I just asked in an email which Lansdale you're reading...

Footnotes of Talera: they worked well in book one, but I was glad to see them decrease in book two. You've a deft hand with the action, and I don't like to pause, even for a minute!

Steve Malley said...

Footnotes of Talera... that sounds like a future title!

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, yes it would. This is the second time it's happened to me. I had to do something similar with Wings Over Talera.

Travis Erwin, I'm thinking I'll try to do "Wraith" without any footnotes and see if anyone notices. I will probably include a glossary, though.

Shauna, I deliberately decreased the portion of "me" in each book as well so now I'll try none.

H.E. Walks do wonders for me for thinking.

Laughingwolf, very glad you liked it. Swords is not near so gory, but the sequels are bit gorier.

Tara, good to see you around. Haven't heard much from you of late. I hope all is well.

Bernita, I definitely think they added to the atmosphere in the first one but maybe I don't need them anymore.

Bernardl, it was definitely that ring of insencerity to it. Something not quite right in the story.

Steve Malley, I'm gonna leave 'em out for this book and see how it flows. Maybe they've outlied their usefulness in the series. Footnotes of Talera? Hum, I'm trying to figure out how I could make that threatening, but maybe I could.

Sidney said...

Glad to hear things got back on track.

Mimi Lenox said...

I came to see if you were still warring against the funk today.

I have this quirk about reading a new book. Even if I don't care for it, something makes me read it to the end. Perhaps I'm waiting for surprises or a sudden revelation tha will hook me. However, my first instincts are usually right.

Lana Gramlich said...

I didn't mind the footnotes. I find such things helpful, particularly in fantasy novels. I hate having to flip around in books to try to remember what that strange word means again!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, thanks.

Mimi, I'm feeling much better today. Some work went well and I had time on the deck to read. I'm the same way with a book. If I make it more than ten or 15 pages in I will usually finish the whole thing.

Lana, you are a sweetheart.

the walking man said...

Carver. You have to like minimalist dialog.

Jon said...

Hi Charles - I just finished Witch so get a move on with Wraith! ;-)

I quite like the idea of footnotes but think they can be difficult to handle smoothly and consistently. Sometimes they can actually add to the flow of a book.

eg...

Less than five dhorrin* had passed

* About wenty minutes

Is better than...

Less than five dhorrin (about twenty minutes) had passed.

If you're going to replace them with a glossary, I think that's fine, but make sure you resist the temptation to write them into the main text!

I think they work best when they look like your (the editor's) additions to Ruenn's manuscript.

I'd agree that you can drop your own part in the novels now. Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't always use that format and John Norman quickly dropped it. Having said that, one thing that always bugged me with the Mars series was that Thuvia (which was a good story) was written in the third person with no explanation of how the it got to us, so I'd really like you to keep writing in the first person.

As always, thanks for reviving this genre!

laughingwolf said...

i'm well into 'swords', having completed the superb 'cold' :)

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

I'd suggest Where I'm Calling From (the collected stories). It's a stronger collection overall. Never much cared for Feathers as a favorite --except the last part about wishes and remembering being a bad thing. My favorite Carver stories include "Careful," "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and some early ones from Will You Please Be Quiet, Please. But most of all, I love Carver's poetry.

Greg Schwartz said...

I read a story by Carver in a college writing class, and it didn't impress me, either. Other people seemed to think it was "important" and "deep," but I just didn't get it.

Heff said...

When all else fails, backtrack to get back on track, lol.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, so it would appear.

Jon, I'm enjoying it, and I'm hard at work on Wraith, though it will be awhile. I was always put off by that third person Barsoom book too. Or at least it just really didn't seem to sing like the others. Right now I don't intend to do anything not in first person. Even if I eventually tell a story from Bryce's point of view it'll still be first person.

Laughingwolf, I'm glad you enjoyed "Cold." As you can see, these two books are quite different.

Michelle, Carver's stories are defiitely interesting stylistically but "Feathers" was certainly not very strong. But I still have a fair number of his tales yet to read, and have to try some of his poetry.

Greg Schwartz, maybe there was something deep in how the two grown humans were as scared of a peacock as if it were a tiger, but having grown up on a farm I was laughing at the characters, and not in a good way.

Heff at least it seemed to work this time.

laughingwolf said...

indeed... thx for writing them!

Scott Oden said...

I enjoy footnotes and the like, myself. Some of Michael Crichton's best books are the ones where he incorporates footnotes into the text . . . most notably in Eaters of the Dead (filmed as The 13th Warrior); while Congo the Movie blew absolute chunks, the book was decent . . . and it, too, had footnotes (as well as a bibliography that, among the real tomes, listed "The Necronomicon of Abd al-Hazred") :)

So, footnote it if you feel it needs it, but absolutely include a glossary. Love me some glossaries . . .

ivan said...

Ive only read snippets of Swords of Talera, but as a sometime fan of Stanislaw Lem and his SOLARIS, I find that Lem uses the device of a fictional Burton, who had "amazing powers of observation."
No footnotes, no tidbits of information, just Burton's journal to keep us up to date as to what is going on in the book and on Solaris.

.....

Bernita: Ryder Haggard and his "She Who Must be Obeyed"?

Anndi said...

I haven't had a chance to read your books yet, but... I rather enjoy footnotes,it feels like little "insights" into the story, characters or the universe in which the story unfolds.

Glad you made so much headway!

X. Dell said...

Uh-oh. My fiction style is full of unadorned and simple prose. Guess I won't hire you as a reader, huh:-)

I should be getting Sword sometime this week from the Amazon, so I'll let you know. Otherwise, I love footnotes. I think I'll probably enjoy these.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey Charles,

that's another elegant solution (earlier chapter) and a yes on footnotes. If a reader doesn't want footnotes, s/he can skip them, but they're cool and useful.

I actually like "Feathers," but then my parents have peacocks patrolling their yard (owned by a neighbor) and there are peacocks nearby in Detroit, also on guard and causing trouble.

Plus, I think the ending is pretty brutal. Which is not a bad thing, considering. Strikes me as very realistic, believe it or not.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, ;)

Scott Oden, I thought Congo was a pretty good book and a horrible movie. Eaters of the dead and the 13th warrior film are among favorites of mine. I remember enjoying the footnotes in "eaters."

Ivan, you know I've never read Solaris. I should have. A personal failure on my part.

Anndi, the last couple of days have been pretty productive.

X-dell, it depends on the story. A truly exciting story doesn't need to be dressed up in exciting prose, but an average story about the kinds of things that I know and experience every day needs a little oomph to keep me interested. Hope you enjoy Swords.

Erik, the ending of "Feathers" is definitely brutal. As soon as the woman decided on a baby, though, I pretty much figured how it was going to end. I think Carver must be an acquired taste. I also wonder if he's more of a writer who would appeal to northern and more urban dwellers than southern rural dwellers.

Barrie said...

I pretty much always start to early. :)