bookmark_borderInside, outside?

I’ve read some very nice stuff from Alice Gray lately. No, that’s not quite right; it’s not stuff that came into existence lately, rather I only discovered her recently and have been reading some of her writing.

Reading her writing makes me aware of the fact that I tend to write from the inside, meaning that a character will be thinking or feeling something as they do something, as opposed to describing the situation and the action from a 3rd party perspective or from the outside. I might write “Dorian wondered what he should say in response as he fumbled for his cigarettes,” whereas another author might write “The man shoved his right hand into his jacket pocket rather than respond and retrieved a packet of cigarettes.” Or something like that. Both the emphasis and the larger portion of the words are focused from the inside out rather than watching like a movie and determining what the characters are thinking from their actions and words.

Part of this is because I’m a people-writer. I don’t get much out of long descriptions as a reader, and while I don’t mind Tolstoy running on about the movement of the tides of humanity I enjoy Jane Austen’s characters “politely” snipping at each other with little description of the woods that they are walking in, or D.H. Lawrence’s long sections of description of the thought process that has been going on in Birkin’s head.

And I write by defining characters, their relation to each other and then design a rudimentary path that they will travel, or in the reverse order; a target event, then define the characters. To write I simply throw them together and just let them interact, in my head, and write about it as if I’m the audience. It’s kind of like watching a movie except that I get to direct it, and, I can go inside the characters’ heads when I chose to do so.

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That all being said, of course, implies that I should do some writing the other way, from the outside. It’s not that I haven’t done so, but rather that I should force or challenge myself to do some writing with a strong focus on writing from the outside perspective.


If you’re on Twitter you know how this works. The “#” indicates a theme that people quote if they want to participate in the discussion.

In this case a literary agent, going by the username of @SlushPileHell started a contest. To enter the contest, you tweet a title using the #badkiddybooks tag. To vote, you re-tweet someone’s entry.

I went there, thinking of entering, but the ones that I read there were just too good and instead I spent my time reading, laughing, and voting. I don’t even know what the prize was.

I asked SlushPileHell if it was okay with him if I posted my own list of favs, so here they are:

  • gr3b0: “‘Do Babies Bounce?’ and other science experiments for
    older siblings
  • weirdlucy: Hitchhiking, a Guide for Girls Daddy Never Loved
  • GeneDoucette: Rachel Has Seven Mommies: A Childrens Guide to
    the Book of Mormon
  • LisaLOwens: “Santa Is Watching” and Other Lies Your Parents
    Told You
  • alc417 Anorexia: How to Avoid Being the Girl With the Good
  • SesshasWorld: The Hunt for Harriet’s Hymen
  • SesshasWorld:  Your Ass – The Final Frontier
  • hmmille: Everybody poops: now with photos
  • AngieLedbetter:  Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of Strange Noises from Your Parents’ Room
  • tedopon: Bi Curious George
  • Calbion: Charlotte’s Bed
  • tedopon: The Scat in the Hat
  • taojoannes or: One Fish Two Fish, Black Fish Jew Fish
  • midos_mom : The Velveteen-Corsetted Rabbit and Her Leather Whip
  • lkblackburne: The Very Hungry Flesh Eating Bacteria
  • Buddhapuss: Dick and Jane Discover Coke, A Scratch and Sniff
  • darrenpardee: Hop On Pop (Mommy’s Version)
  • timdonnelly: Green Eggs and Botulism
  • Scionical: Green Eggs and Ecstasy
  • AVgrl: Ashley Has Two Daddies. And They’re Both Going to Burn in

And my personal (twisted) fav:

  • ianthealy: Willy Wanker and the Chocolate Highway

As of right now, I don’t know if the winner has been chosen or indicated, but I think all the readers were winners!

Update: He’s putting a list of top 25 on his own site later.

Update again: Official winner:

  • MJsRetweet: Daddy Has an Itch. Mommy Smells Like Fish: A Child’s Rhyming Guide to STD’s

bookmark_borderReview: Digital Fortress

Just finished reading an old Dan Brown novel, Digital Fortress: A Thriller. For those who don’t know, Dan Brown is the author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons which spawned the  movies of the same names.

Some months back I had read another of his earlier books (of which “Digital Fortress” is another, lest you rush out hoping it’s a new Dan Brown novel) all of which have found renewed interest and reprinting as a result of the big ones and the movies. What became more and more obvious to me is that he is a writer of plots, without a lot of character development or straight ahead writing ability. If you read “The Da Vinci Code” you get a sense of this, but it really becomes obvious when you take a step back and read some of his earlier books.

I don’t know whether he got better as a writer by the time he wrote “The Da Vinci Code”, or he just got a better editor who improved his books more as time went on. In any event, I sped through “Digital Fortress” by reading only the first line of each paragraph, and later on by only reading the first lines of the first two paragraphs in each chapter.

Nice plot, not particularly well written, not particularly interesting characters.