Small Talk with a Wave

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Our neighbor came over last night to offer us some fresh peaches. We were grateful, because we sure do love peaches. I answered the door, and if it had remained a conversation between the two of us, it would have been a pretty straightforward exchange.

“Would you like some peaches?” My neighbor would have asked.

“We would love some peaches!” I would exclaim.

I would take the peaches, thank my neighbor, and call it a pleasant conversation.

But my wife came to the door with me, and once the peaches passed from my neighbor’s hand to my own, the small talk commenced.

I am not an expert on small talk. I seldom, if ever engage in this alien form of communication. It baffles me, actually. If small talk is a muscle in your body, mine is woefully undeveloped. My wife, however, has a small talk muscle of Herculean strength. So, when the small talk commenced, I exited the scene, because that is what I do. Someone who doesn’t small talk is usually uncomfortable around those who do. I just sit there, trying to think of something to say with a constipated look on my face from the strain of exercising mental muscles I do not possess.

I don’t think I’m an unfriendly person (well, I’m at least not openly hostile). I just think a good conversation can normally be condensed into one word: “Hey!”

H = How are you?

E = Everything’s fine.

Y= Yes, we should definitely talk again soon.

The beautiful thing about the “Hey Conversation,” is that you don’t actually have to say the words. A wave is the sign language version of the “Hey Conversation.” And if your hands are busy, a nod of the head accomplishes the same thing.

It’s a benefit in a relationship to have one person without the ability to engage in small talk. It makes getting things done much easier, like going to the grocery store. I can make a run to the local market three and a half hours faster than my wife. When I arrive home, my wife will ask me if I saw anybody while I was there.

“I saw Bob.”

“Bob? What did Bob have to say?”

“He said, Hey!”

So while my wife and our neighbor engaged in small talk, I went to our bedroom. I napped for a time, clipped my toenails, then fished the lint out of my bellybutton and used it to knit myself a nice pair of socks. After a while I thought I would step outside and watch the moon come up. I stared at the stars, meditated and contemplated the meaning of life.

I listened to the crickets and in a moment of deep insight I comprehended what they had been trying to communicate to humanity all these ages: “The end is coming. The end is coming. The end is coming.” Or maybe it was just “Hey.” It was hard to be sure.

Eventually my wife came out to find me. Her small talk with our neighbor had ended.

She sat beside me, smiled, and said, “Hey!”

Which is why I love her so.

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Putting Papa Out to Pasture

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My wife and I had the chance to spend most of the weekend with two of our granddaughters while their Mom and Dad were in the hospital to welcome their new sister into the world.

The oldest of their girls, Paisyn, isn’t quite three-years-old, and she reminds me of her mother so much it hurts. On Saturday she was riding her stick horse all over the house. She would gallop into the living room; rub the side of her stick horse’s head and say, “Whoa, boy, slow down. Settle down.” Then she would gallop away.

Later that morning she walked over to me with her stick horse in her hand. She propped it up beside the couch I was sitting on. She had attached a lead rope to its bridle and she handed it to me. “Hold onto him, Papa,” she said. Then she went to her room to play.

Whenever she came back into the living room, if I wasn’t holding onto the lead rope, she would put it back in my hands and sternly say, “Hold him, Papa.”

In the afternoon she came back to me with the lead rope in her hand. She wrapped it around my left wrist, slipped it into a knot, and pulled. It cinched tight (I asked her parents who taught her to do this, and they said she taught herself).

“Come on horse,” she said, and gave it a tug. So, being an obedient horse, I stood up and let her lead me. She led me into the kitchen, where my glass of ice water was sitting on the counter. She let me have a drink, and I was grateful her parents didn’t keep hay (or a curry comb) in the kitchen. Then she led me back to the couch.

She removed the lead rope and smiled, and I smiled back. “Thanks for putting me in the field for the night,” I said.

She looked at me quizzically, raised her eyebrows, and reattached the lead rope, only tighter this time. The circulation in my hand was being cut off.

“Come on, Papa,” she said.

I let her lead me again. We were heading for the back door. “Where are we going now?” I asked.

“To the field,” she said.

“I don’t really want to go to the field, Paisyn,” I said (it may have been a plea).

So she led me back to the couch and removed the lead rope.

That was a close one. I know there’s hay out there. Maybe even a curry comb.

World Building, One Brick at a Time

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I’ve been taken to task by readers for not providing enough information about the world I’ve built in my novel. It’s a point well taken and one I struggle with when I force myself to sit down at the keyboard and starting spinning a tale.

Personally, I don’t like a whole lot of “info-dumping” in a novel. Give me the basics, tease me along the way, and I’ll figure it out (or not). It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but, as for me, I’d prefer the “not enough” to the “too much.” I’ve put down a number of novels because I couldn’t put up with page upon page of narrative (or pointless dialogue) on why the world the characters live in works the way that it works. I got it, move along.

When my youngest son was a teenager he read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and loved it, so I gave him my copy of The Lord of the Rings. He brought it back to me a couple of weeks later and said he gave up. He couldn’t get past page upon page describing how, what and how often a Hobbit eats. And that was Tolkien!

I remembered that when I finally stopped dreaming about writing and actually started writing. I’m far from being an expert in anything, especially writing, but I wanted to give my take on the process of World Building and ask for ideas/arguments/pointless rants on the subject.

As for me, when I imagine the world I’m trying to build, I put the story first and the World Building second. It’s about the story, not the world I’ve imagined it taking place in.

The story comes first.

I remember as a teenager sitting in a dark theatre watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those first 10 minutes changed everything about what I expected an action movie to look and feel like. The story grabbed you by the throat and drug you along and you’d better move your feet if you wanted to keep up. I loved it. Still do.

I look for the same thing in a novel. Tell me your story. I’ll jump into the deep end of the pool on whatever you’ve written and you keep me from drowning by throwing me a life preserver of information so I can tread water. Don’t send me a battleship of information overload, because when you do, I’ve lost your story.

I was once part of a novel critique group with other aspiring authors who read the first chapter of my novel and told me if I didn’t give details on the technology I explained on page three by the end of the chapter, then I had lost them. I let them be lost. It wasn’t about the technology, it was about the story.

For me the goal is to provide enough information to keep readers from being confused about the world I’m presenting them. By the end of the book, they should understand how this world works. If they don’t, I’ve failed. If I have more than a couple of paragraphs explaining a particular detail of the world I’ve built, I also consider myself to have failed. But that’s just me.

What do you think? At what point in World Building do you need to part from the story and build your world?

Go Write a Book

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I am a middle child. Well, actually, my older brother is the middle child, but he is also the oldest of the boys, so I inherited the title and all the benefits that come with it.

Because of that, I spent a great deal of time fading into the background. I became pretty good at it, actually. It’s a talent I still try to use to the best of my ability. I became an “Observer.” Back when I was a little boy I spent a great deal of my time under the couch (I was pretty small), listening to what the rest of the family was saying and doing.

When I became a teenager, because I could no longer fit under the couch, I became bored rather easily. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had an abundance of overactive imagination.

The summer of my 13th year, I must have been driving my Mom crazy with my questions and moaning about being bored, and my Mom yelled at me, “Go write a book.”

So I did.

The first one was longhand in a notebook (I’ve still got it, somewhere). After my parents realized writing was occupying my time, my Dad brought me a Smith Corona typewriter to use, and I spent every minute I had pecking away to get the voices out of my head. He worked in a typewriter repair store at the time, so it wasn’t long before I got an electric one for Christmas. And I pecked away even faster.

I came up with an idea for a story when I was 15 that has occupied my mind for the past 37 years. It started as a simple fantasy, then turned into a horror and much later into a science fiction story. But the story was always pretty much the same, just the time and place changed.

I finally got the first part of it out of my head and into my hands a week ago. I’ve been reading it this week as a reader rather than a writer or editor. It’s not as perfect as I had hoped, but I’m satisfied that at least those voices aren’t screaming in my brain.

Looking back on it, I wonder if my Mom told me, all those years ago, “Go write a book” as reward, or punishment. Either way, thank you Mom.

That is all.

A Roadmap to the Rages

 

The Rages – Castaway will be published tomorrow, and as the hours tick away there was one item I wanted to provide on my website that I have neglected. It is right next to my “About the Author” button at the top of the page and is called “The Seven Realms of Man.”

On this page you’ll find an explanation of the people, places and things that make up The Rages and The Book of the Shepherds. I’ve disclosed no spoilers within, because that would be bad.

I created the page because I’m not particularly fond of page upon page of “info dumping” in a novel. For this novel, if I were to have done so, it would be biblical in proportion. I know some readers enjoy the experience of reading “world building” by authors, but I’m not one of them, so I try to keep it at a minimum in my writing. Two of my sons enjoy the occasional “info dumping” in science fiction and fantasy, but they’re electrical engineers, so I’m not sure they’re entirely human anyway.

I have done some “world building” or “info dumping” in The Rages because it’s a fairly complicated place and I didn’t want to keep everyone in the dark. But I’ve always preferred that an author give me a little tease and let me figure it out as they guide me along the path. I’ve tried my best to do that with The Rages.

Consider The Seven Realms of Man a road map for those who like the information up front, versus a tease. I’ll add to it from time to time, as the journey continues. I hope, in the words of Harley Nearwater, the protagonist of The Rages, that you find it “Int’restin’.”