What Writers Can Learn From Watching “Fargo”

Alan Sepinwall reviews a screening of FX’s Fargo:

“…the level of suspense that Noah Hawley‘s script and Matt Shakman’s direction create is almost unbearable, and that tension was palpable and powerful throughout the screening….

“…That there isn’t any violence in between the elevator massacre and Linda’s murder only illustrates the power of making your audience wait for something to happen, assuming you’re a good enough storyteller to make it feel like something more than just the marking of time.”

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-fargo-a-fox-a-rabbit-and-a-cabbage-apple-pie-a-la-malvo

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How to Stop Saying the Word “Like”

Every language has its own vocabulary of vocalized pauses, which are meaningless words used to keep the conversation flowing smoothly.[1] In English, these are usually “um,” “er,” “ah,” or “you know.” In North America, especially among young people, it’s common to use the word “like” as a vocalized pause. This became popular with the rise of “Valleyspeak,” which is a stereotypical manner of speaking that originated in Southern California in the ’70s.[2] If you’re, like, totally hooked on using the word “like,” see Step 1 below to start speaking more professionally and stop being (like, so) annoying.

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No Winner For Pulitzer Prize For Fiction in 2012

In 2012 nobody was good enough.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is one of the most prestigious awards in American literature. Previous fiction winners have included Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Jennifer Egan and Philip Roth. Publishers submit works according to published guidelines; winners for the literary categories must be U.S. citizens, except for the History category, where the subject of the book must be U.S. History.

The jurors for the 2012 Fiction prize were Susan Larson, the former book editor of The Times-Picayune, Maureen Corrigan, book critic for Fresh Air on NPR, and the novelist Michael Cunningham. They submitted three unranked finalists to the Board: David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King”, Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia” and Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams.”

But for the first time since 1977, by failing to come to a majority decision, the Pulitzer Board’s conclusion is that no book is worthy of the prize.

READ MORE ON TheHuffingtonPost.com

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Weird Writing From Published Authors

roll your eyesOn The One Hand … ‘”There is one datum I can adduce, I believe,’ said Lebret, scratching his beard with his left hand and manoeuvring a cigarette out of its case with his left …” (Adam Roberts, Twenty Trillion Leagues under the Sea, 2014)

Eyeballs in the Sky. “His eyes seemed to disconnect themselves.” (Robert Moore Williams, To the End of Time, July 1950 Super Science Stories)

Easily Amused Corpse Dept. “For half an hour they left the man on his bench. His dead eyes were open and seemed to smile slightly at a photograph of the Minister of Rest and Culture.” (John Blackburn, A Scent of New-Mown Hay, 1958) Okay, okay, the era of the editorial three-martini lunch?

Dept of Guilt. “… This planet and its creatures! The erection/detumescence of each instant he’d shared with them lay on his awareness with scalding pressure. He felt like a bivalve at the tide-edge of the universe. History was collapsing within him and he could only remember the ages of his crime …” (Frank Herbert, The Heaven Makers, 1968) ) Oh no, not the Dune author, Frank Herbert– oh well, twas the 60’s–did he drink three martinis also, with his editor?

More from The Gap into Madness: Chaos and Order by Stephen R. Donaldson, 1994

“The Gap into Clench and Aura.”
“Angus’ heart clenched in a grimace which didn’t show on his face.”
“Her shoulders hunched into a clench of disgust, which she deflected into a shrug.”
“Nick let out a clenched laugh.”
“Above his open mouth, his eyes blinked like cries.”
“His aura yowled of furies that didn’t show on his face.”
“The smears on his lenses refracted his blue gaze into streams of hope and apprehension.”
“His eyes slid off as if they’d lost their grip.”
“The air had grown viscid with mortality.”

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Thinking of writing your novel in omniscient point of view)? Forget it.

If you’re thinking of writing your novel in omniscient POV (point of view), forget it. Writers who use omniscient POV don’t challenge themselves to write in a more intimate style, which takes more work and thought.

In first person or third person limited the reader lives inside the head and heart of the character “on stage”. With omniscient the reader is an onlooker, in the audience, trying to identify with the character at a distance.

Some storytellers are so great at their craft, like Dickens and others from the past, you don’t notice the distance. But today’s writers, using today’s writing convents, must use the most intimate first and third person POVs with interior monologue if they want to get published. The writing needs to seduce editors in publishing houses, and then the readers.

Renni Browne and Shelly Lowenkopf, both of whom have extensive experience with book publishers, appear to regard the use of omniscient point of view as a combination of being dated and offering potential confusion to the reader.

Shelly has come forth to suggest that omniscient sends a signal to the reader that you’re going back to the early days of the twentieth century and such tropes as the HIBK, or Had I But Known times. He argues to his students that omniscient produces speed bumps. Close first, third and multiple POV get the story told.

Renni, who was once senior editor at the great literary house of Norton, claims omniscient tends to build a wall between the reader and the character, making it too easy for the author to slip in the occasional hand-held sign that is in fact a stage direction.

I so agree with them. When deciding to write in omniscient POV, the author takes the less challenging path. When I pick up a published novel that’s written in omniscient, I’m immediately disappointed. Why did the writer take this path and who let her get published if this is a first novel? Who’s speaking? The author of course.

I don’t want the author to speak to me. I want the characters to speak to me, to let me know what that character hears, sees, smells, tastes, guesses, experiences, doubts, believes. I want the character to “show me” not “tell me.” As though I, the reader, lived inside the head of the POV character.

The camera is inside that character’s head. Not the author’s. The author must be invisible to me, must not intervene. When I read a query from a writer who wants my agency to represent him and I discover they’ve written in omniscient, I stop reading. I know that writer must master more skills. Next.

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The Burden of Your Novel’s Opening Scene by C. S. Lakin

Think of your novel as a gold mine, with a mother lode resting deep in the heart of a mountain. In order to get to that treasure, you have to build a sturdy framework as you dig into all that dirt and rock. You don’t want the mine to collapse on your head—that would spell disaster.

Now think about the entrance to the mine, which is particularly important to attend to. All the bracing and construction that follows will be built off that initial structure. So if it’s flawed or built with flimsy materials . . . well, we’re back to disaster.

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David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—Telescoping Penetration

“One book that I frequently recommend for writers is Orson Scott Card’s Character and Viewpoint. I do it for a number of reasons. First, Scott looks at such issues as whether to write a novel in first person, second, or third; he also looks at past, present, and future tense…” READ MORE

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