Monday, August 27, 2018

Hoffman #3

Question 4.

"If you are told a man is sitting in a chair, how much is your curiosity aroused?'

I'm a little curious. I'll keep reading.

"He gets up and walks to the window."

Still a little curious.

"He runs to the window"

Actually less curious.

"He does so because smoke is pouring up past it."

More curious but also more jaded. This may be interested but it also may be boring.

"He sits in a chair, reading a book, with his back to the window."


"He does so while smoke pours up past the window."

Very interested.

We like to see action and if I were writing action I would have him run to the window. But if I want to generate tension having him sit with his back to the window is an effective way to do that.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hoffman Chapter 4: Examining a Sentence

I hear the murmur of conversation from the mezzanine and take a step forward out of the stairwell. A soft red carpet muffled my steps.

Analysing my writing process:
1. It took me time to find a sentence to write. I started with nonfiction but switched to fiction so I could continue a story I've been working on.
2. I restarted the sentence a few times because it was too generic and didn't really set the scene like I wanted it to.
3. Initially I thought the library should be quiet, but a truly quiet library can be frightening and I wanted my character to feel happy in the space.
4. I struggled not to write multiple sentences. Generally I would have cut it off after 'mezzanine' and started a new sentence. Whenever I use uncommon words I tend to make the sentences shorter and then start off again. I think it is to avoid being too colourful in my language. I'm not sure if it is useful or not.
5. I edited the sentence quite a few times to capture what I wanted. Initially I just said 'a murmur' but I wanted it to be more concrete.
6. In the end I added a second sentence.

I almost bumped into a tired grey haired man in glasses as I stared four stories up into the library, towards a grey sky. I touched his shoulder to steady him. "Are you ok?"

The tiredness and some of the grey disappeared in a moment and he smiled at me and whispered back. "Yes, I'm fine dear. Are you new here? The library is certainly the best part, and it isn't just for looks either! What do you study dear?"

"I am new, how did you know?" I lowered my voice. "I'm in the medieval studies department. I have class in an hour so I thought I'd find the library."

"And did you?" 

"I think so. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

"Me too. Come let's stand in the stairwell where we won't interrupt people. You can tell me your name."

Evaluating a character
1. This character feels a little stilted, but I think he grows with writing. I based him on the sort of people I meet accidentally, particularly kind old folks.
2. I started simply with the idea that it was someone who wasn't a student . I think it may end up being her teacher. 
3. It seems a little suspect that everyone is as enthralled by architecture as the protagonist, but there you go.
4. I feel like the protagonist is starting to get her own voice. She started as simply 'what if I was in grad school right now?' I'm interested to see how she will develop.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hoffman Ch 3 # 3

We arrived at the cafeteria. I know some would have stayed with this crowd of friendly chattering girls who seemed perfectly happy to accept someone into their ranks, but I wanted a moment alone before my first class.

"Which way to the lecture hall?" I asked. Once I had convinced my new friends that I wanted to be there early and was ok finding it on my own and didn't want them to skip their breakfast and would definitely see them there, they told me. Next to the library.

I left through the sliding doors and stepped out into a windy September day. It was warm but the wind promised rain and cold nights and I was glad. I looked around and was immediately lost.

I called out to a couple walking by holding hands, "Excuse me, do you know...Library?" I called loudly. I could feel myself blushing. I'm awkward. I accept that.

"Pardon?" Said the girl, turning to me. I blushed again. This time it wasn't exactly embarrassment. She was probably the same age as me, but a tiny creature, with big eyes and cheeks red from the wind. Her hair was black and curly and so soft I wanted to reach out and touch it. Her companion held her hand in a proprietary fashion. That's ok, I thought, doesn't mean I can't think she is cute.

"The library. Which cay?"

She laughed. "Oh! You're new! Come with us. We can show you." She caught my arm and linked arms with me. Her companion, no it's her boyfriend. Boyfriend! I need to stop mooning. He was silent. She smelled nice.

The usual pleasantries passed between us. I said I was from the West Coast. I told her my wife and I had arrived last night. She was away. She introduced Colin, her boyfriend. I eyed him jealously. He didn't talk much.

We arrived at the library and I thanked her. I was a little dizzy and felt it was time to get away so I hurried inside and took the first staircase I could find. The main floor had been an atrium, but the second was different. It was beautiful. I stepped back against the wall to avoid getting in anyone's way and looked up and up. It was like a conservatory for books, metal railings and glass. The flavour of the great exhibition. Trees, entire trees growing in massive puts reaching for the ceiling. Orchids in their branches with beautiful smells. And so many books. And silence.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Hoffman Ch 3 # 3

Staring out over the buildings I can make out the campus woods just behind the tech park. Later I would go there and explore. But for now I needed to find my classroom. I usually find them ahead of time but I had been so tired. Usually I would not have arrived the day before my classes but planned much further ahead. But the honeymoon hike had been our priority. And we were happy and muddy now that it was over. I had done myself the service of printing off my schedule so I tucked it into my shirt pocket and packed my bag.

I walked out of my room, locked the door, and was lost. A glass wall looked across to a stairwell in an adjacent tower, probably the one I wanted. To my left down the hall was another stairwell and an elevator. To the right the hallway took a sudden turn in the other direction from the opposite tower, so it was probably no good to go that way.

I pressed the elevator button and as I waited I heard talking. A girl caught my hand. "Hey, I met you yesterday! No, don't take the elevator. It goes to the basement. Come on. Are you in the Digital Processing Class? Grad students generally have to take that one now? Yes, ok well I found the room yesterday. Come on, we have to hurry so we can get breakfast first." She looked at me critically, "at least I need breakfast. You do eat breakfast right? Because the breakfast here is worth eating. They have good cooks, and a good budget which matters just as much!."

I tried to reply to call of her questions at once and laughed instead. She took this as the general good will it was and suddenly we were surrounded by four other girls, all dressed smartly and talking about eggs and salads and workload and thesis work. I followed the happy crowd, wondering how they all knew each other already.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hoffman 3

You wake up in the small dorm room bed. It's a double room and the other bed, as per your request, has been swapped for a king sized so that you can share it with your wife. She is your wife now. You married last summer. But she was away last night for a workshop in Montreal, so you slept in the little bed so it wouldn't be so lonely. A king sized bed is very large for one person.

For you it is the first day of classes. It's 7am and classes start at 9am. It feels very early to have classes start.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hoffman CH 3

Louise Hubbard enters the subway just as it is leaving. She is on her way to the factory. She has never worked anywhere before but lived a life of luxury. She had left her boarding school just two days before when her family learned they were ruined. Her mother was sick, very sick. Louise could have worked somewhere that required less strength. But this place paid the best. Her former chauffeur got her the job. His brother works at the factory. Prior to their fall he had been working to convince the family to hire his brother also and to take both away from the factory. The chauffeur is a kindly old man. When Louise arrives at the factory she learned that his brother is 30 years younger then him, a handsome and cheerful young man.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hoffman Ch6 Exercise

Exercise from 'the writing of Fiction'

14. Forget you are a writer and sit down to enjoy a story.

I am a writer. I am sitting at a little wooden desk. I add a bit of fantasy to add to the pleasure. It's raining. It's early autumn and the leaves are changing colour. I am at a university in Ontario and my wife and I are living on campus high high up in a student residential tower. The previous occupants of this room were artists and they left their watercolour pencil crayons and some paintings. I asked them when they were leaving but they said I could have them. A gift.

I stretch and then sit back down at my desk. It is cluttered with art supplies. But that's ok. I'm not going to write. I'm going to forget I am a writer and just enjoy a story. Should it be a story from the school newspaper? I could also read one on local mysteries and ghost stories. But the instructions for the exercise say it shouldn't be mystery or detective stories. So I choose the newspaper. There is a story on renovations of the residential towers where I am staying. There's just as much bickering here as back at UVic. The writer is angry about the failure of the university to address marginalisation. But I'm not clear who is being marginalised. I agree with the writer, I'm sure I do. Or I would if I knew what they meant. I turn to a different story, because I'm supposed to enjoy it and I'm not. I'm just confused. So instead I read something about alligators in the sewers. I'm not sure that this is much better. Finally I give up. I go to my box of books and take out the Left Hand of Darkness. I know I'm supposed to read something that I haven't read before but this way at least I know what I'm getting into. I know I'm supposed to read a short story, but I haven't had much luck finding one. Maybe that's the skill I'm supposed to perfect in this, just read and enjoy a story. I'll give it one more try.

I search online for a story about the mars expedition. I find a diary of one of the women living in the mars station. She talks about what it's like to make food in space and how simply being on mars feels less alien because there is gravity. I start wondering how much gravity there is on mars but I ignore it and focus on the details of dried foods and the pleasure of chocolate and the complexity of restocking. She talks about experiments they do in their free time to improve their electrolyte heavy drinks. It sounds like fun. I start to think about mars.

The instructions say once I finish I can become as critical as I please. I can see that I will have to practice not being critical ahead of time. It's definitely difficult. I think the student newspaper was a hard place to start because of the vague controversies that invite you to participate. The ghost stories always invite you to both believe and to doubt at the same time. But reading a little about mars was fun. Maybe next time I'll try fiction.

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