A to Z Theme Reveal – More Haiku Puzzles!

More haiku puzzles!
They were lots of fun last year,
so I brought them back.

This time there’s a twist –
The words are from fantasy
and science fiction.

Nothing that demands
serious fan knowledge, though.
I bet you know them.

Join me in April
for a little poetry
and some fun puzzles.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge happens every year in April. Each of the 26 letters in the alphabet gets assigned to one day in April, and bloggers who participate post something that relates to the letter of the day. I had a ton of fun doing the challenge last year, and I’ve decided to do it again. Each day will be a haiku, a little poem based on a Japanese concept, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line, and five in the third line. The haiku of the day will somehow suggest or relate to a word that begins with the letter of the day, just as I did last time. The difference this time is that all the words relate to something in fantasy and science fiction. The challenge is to figure out what word I’m thinking of, based on the haiku. I’ve picked ideas that are in the mainstream, things that most people will know, so even if you’re not a diehard FSF fan you still have a good shot at knowing the word. We’ll find out how well I did as April goes on. Join me! 

Looking Down

This is the cafe where my daughter works, looking down over the balcony from the floor above. I took this shot just a year ago, when the unusual perspective struck me. Also – does anyone else feel a strong need to go down there and put that one chair in? It doesn’t match all the others, and IT REALLY BOTHERS ME!

(pant, pant)

Okay, I’m all right now.

I guess.

Posted in response to the WordPress Photo Challenge: Atop

Wishing

The WordPress photo challenge this week is about sharing wishes with the world. Of all the things I wish for, here’s the one I’m putting out there: a wish for my country. May the divisions, the bitterness, the invective, and the hate be washed away in a commitment to do the hard work of finding common ground and moving toward a better nation for all of us. I see the same problems writ large on the world stage, and writ small in the places where I work, so this wish is not only for the US. Let us put people before party and others before self, and open our hands to those different from us.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: Wish

 

Pond

pond

Last August, I had to travel to one of the farther buildings at my college campus to deliver a batch of keys that had been returned by a retiring faculty member. It was hot, and I was annoyed at having to walk all the way over there on what seemed like a pretty mindless mission. Then I walked by the pond. This little body of water is tucked away at the back of the campus between parking lots, and its main purpose is to manage water runoff when there are large rains or snow melts. On that day, though, it was just beautiful. I stopped to take a picture of this unexpected gem that’s been outside my window for decades but never appreciated before.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: The Road Taken

Harmony

piano

Music. It’s made up of individual notes that may be lovely by themselves, but when you put the notes together, and combine them with rhythm and silence, it creates something entirely new. Music is all about making things match up. Notes join together and people join together to make harmony happen. There’s all kinds of research showing that making music in community produces enormous benefits in terms of health and social connections, and I’ve talked about this before, but you don’t need the science to know this. Music brings us together.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: A Good Match

Time Travel – Skipping Through Time in a Story

Weekend Words today were inspired by a recent post in the Pub(lishing) Crawl blog by Jodi Meadows: The Weight of Time (In Your Book). Jodi pointed out a mistake lots of writers, beginning and experienced, make in first drafts. The issue is how to get from this scene to that scene without dragging the reader through the entire time span in between. Go ahead and read what Jodi says, because she’s got it right.

In a story, words are time. The reader spends roughly the same amount of time reading per word throughout the whole book (yes, it varies a bit, but not significantly). So when deciding how to cover a period of time, what we need to be focusing on is how much time we want the reader to spend with that experience, not how long the actual experience takes. This is part of what is meant by pacing. We want to slow the reader down when a lot of important things are happening, so we need to spend more words there. When nothing important is happening? Fewer word. Even no words at all.

Here are two examples from great stories by skilled authors.

The Deep Blue Good-by (1964) is the first of the splendid Travis McGee stories by the incomparable John D. MacDonald. Nobody can create characters and settings as vividly in as few words as MacDonald. He also handles time and pacing very well. About two-thirds of the way through this book (p. 149 in my copy), narrator McGee finishes up with a conversation with one character and leaves her to visit another character, Cathy. Cathy is in the hospital, following a severe beating from an ex-lover, and McGee needs information from her to find him and bring him to McGee’s form of justice. Here’s how MacDonald handles the transition, with the closing dialogue of the previous scene (with the character talking about the pants she’s wearing) and the start of the new one:

“I bought them today. I don’t feel very secure about them.”

Cathy was in a six-bed ward. I pulled a chair close, kissed her on the forehead and sat beside her.

See how much time MacDonald spent on the transition? None at all. We hear the last line and then, blink! We’re in the hospital. No need to walk through the whole process of getting there.

Pattern Recognition (2003) is an all-time favorite science fiction novel by William Gibson. Cayce Pollard is someone with an unusual sort of mental power who finds herself embroiled in an increasingly confusing and dangerous world as she tries to avoid kidnappers and soviet-era spies. The disconnected, other-worldly feel of the story is reinforced by Cayce’s frequent sleeping and waking up in new places, and having to remind herself of where she is and how she got there. (This book contains a wonderful description of jet-lag.) The up-to-the -minute atmosphere is also strengthened by frequent references to current technology. Here’s one transition, as she goes from flying in the first-class cabin to another country and connecting with Bigend, the person she’s going to meet. This is the last line of one scene and the first line of the next:

Decision out of the way, she closes Taki’s jpeg, puts the iBook away, and returns to bed-mode.

When they exit immigration, Bigend is waiting, the only smiling face in a scrum of glum chauffeurs holding hand-lettered sheets of cardboard.

Once again, there is a discontinuity in time. We don’t see her arrive, deplane, find her luggage, and go through the immigration line. There’s nothing there the reader needs to see, so no words are wasted there.

My lesson. I really need to learn to do this. When I looked at my work in progress with this in mind, I found no examples where I went from one scene to the other without at least skimming over the time in between. Things like, “After dealing with all the aftermath of the disaster, I was heading down the road…” This is going in my revision checklist. Where can I cut through that whole transition cleanly, like a film cut, jumping straight from one scene to another with nothing in between? I have to make each of those transitions prove to me that they’re worth it, or out they go.

What do you do when you need to go from one scene to another? Do these transitions give you trouble, as they do for me?