So this post is by way of being a test for myself. Back with the old blog, I wrote a series of posts on libraries, and despite a great deal of temptation, I managed to avoid calling down vast amounts of web traffic with the particular kinds of pictures of librarians that are quite popular, and are legion on the internet, settling instead of staid and educational photos.
I resolved to avoid library posts altogether after the last one, lest I give in and trade massive page hits for the integrity which you, my reader, have come to expect. But not long ago, a study on “Quantifying and Valuing the Wellbeing Impacts of Culture and Sport” was done in the UK, and now that I’m here in a new blog, I thought perhaps I could give it another go. After all, it combines two of my favorite things: libraries and quantifying stuff.
It will come as no surprise that visiting libraries is a great path to happiness, worth almost 1,400 pounds/year/person (happiness and libraries – you see how well I resist temptation?) Libraries are worth more happiness value to the typical person than taking in a bunch of art or playing sports, in fact. Not only does this tell us that readers are not only smarter than most people, but happier, it also lets us know what should be first on the chopping block when public resources are scarce. Sorry, museums and stadiums.
I’m a bit out of the loop, so it was only recently that I became acquainted with the “New Adult” genre, though I confess I don’t quite understand it. I guess it is for people who are over eighteen, but only want to read about people their age or something? Are there lots of them?
At any rate, since I tended to read regular old adult books as a teenager and even younger, I am more interested in children’s books, and specifically the intersection of children’s books and adult books.
And I’ve run across two sets of these intersections lately: Poorly advised amalgams of children’s books and literary fiction, as well as several classic children’s books retold for adults. Personally, I think this is the way to go, since it doesn’t talk down to anyone, and cashes in on nostalgia to boot.
Much of my writing, I do with a collaborator, and I think it may be time to find a better one. He considers himself quite the thinker – “I’m the idea man, he likes to say, sort of a big-picture guy.” He gets rather smug about the elevated themes he comes up with, and the clever ways he develops to weave together complex plot elements. And sure, I suppose without his help things would go pretty slow, and I might fall into my old habits of writing “and then” plots – just sticking a few characters in a room and waiting to see what happens.
But here’s how he works – he heads out to walk the dog, or drive to the store or whatever, and these ideas pop into his head. Then he comes back, all excited, and drops crumpled-up notes in my lap that say things like “Hey! That scene with the vicar would be better if he had some sort of connection to the Trambly estate!” or “Maybe cut out chapter six and replace it with something that ties into that scene in chapter four better!”
Then he strolls off, whistling a happy tune and content in his brilliance, and leaves me sitting in front of the keyboard saying “Yeah, but how?” Jerk.
All writers, and smarty-pantses in general, naturally need to have a good working knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays. There’s nothing worse than being at a dinner party full of literary types when someone brings up Shakespeare and getting confused about the difference between Henry V and Henry VI. Then everyone titters at you, and you try to recover by comparing and contrasting Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, but no one cares because neither of those guys are foundational writers of the English language and the whole evening is a disaster. We’ve all been there.
So, to avoid that, and to avoid your needing to read a whole hell of a lot of plays, I point you this handy reference, a retelling of Shakespeare’s plays in 3-panel, stick-figure comic form.
I’ve always been intrigued by character names, since I feel like they have a significant effect on a story. Not only that, but a person’s name can have a dramatic effect in real life as well. So as a service to anyone engaged in naming someone, I’ll link to this handy guide. It will help avoid accidentally calling your kid Compressed Flapwort, which is a good thing. As Penn Jillette’s daughter can tell you, a proper name will take you places.
It can be tricky, these days of slipstream and cross-genre fiction, to figure out exactly how to categorize a new piece of fiction. And of course, details of categorization can cause all sorts of kerfluffles.
But even as the question of where to shelve a given book has become arguably less important, there are still reasons to get the proper pigeonhole. On the other hand, HP Lovecraft got along just fine for years while being miscategorized.
If you are a writer, you’re no doubt familiar with beer and coffee, but I’m afraid it is entirely possible that you are doing them wrong. As we can see in this page, each has useful effects for the writer, but must be used carefully. As near as I can tell, the aspiring writer is best off springing from bed in the morning and downing a few beers. Then, as the ideas begin to flow, and before a general lassitude takes over, coffee should be applied to keep things cranking along.
Or, presumably, you could just keep downing coffee stout until that novel is finished.