Wednesday, October 28, 2009

after the fall

One suggestion for the prewriting this week is that I  list What Makes A Good Novel for Me/ What Bores or Depresses Me in Novels.  In the hopes, you know, that I don't go and write what bores or depresses even me in the mistaken  desire to be Impressive or Relevant or Publishable.
So -

what Makes a Novel Appealing to Me
  • wild geese (not that all books/poems with wild geese are worth the imagery, but a surprising number are)
  • survivors
  • longevity
  • play ~ room to
  • self-deprecating characters
  • plucky and optimistic protagonists
  • small lovingly detailed scenes of  lost folkways - (think Natasha dancing with the gypsies, Levin and the reapers, Kitty and Levin skating, the hustings in Middlemarch, the dance at Meryton, winter hunting at Colcorton, the general store in Eyes Were Watching God, Ishmael trying out the spermaceti, Ma making cheese, the bell ringers in DoomsDay)
  • whole villages
  • understated sentiment
  • courageous underdogs
  • all varieties of generosity
  • attainable felicity ~ redeemable failures
  • also unfulfilled yearning
  • the necessity of bowing to the seasons
  • necessity
  • witty banter & snappy dialog
  • true love, unlooked for
  • help from unexpected quarters
  • finding another way around
  • people who do things ~ esp. women who do things (Maria Reiche and the Peruvian Nazca lines, Amelia Earhardt,  Catherine Velis in The Eight)
  • slyness, wryness (think Izak Dinesen)
  • journeys
  • outwitting evil
  • beautiful and expensive clothing (I know!  This is so not me, but I realized I do love the tactility and spectacle of clothing in wide variety of novels - think "Eve of St. Agnes," Georgette Heyer, and (blush) Little Lady Agency)
  • English characters set in England by those who are English (so not particularly possible for me)
  • fully realized exotic locations ~ maybe just fully realized locations - where the place itself, the land, becomes a character (like East Anglia in Dorothy Sayers Nine Tailors, but not like the prairie or the Southwest in Willa Cather whose craft I admire but whose overall effort I find yawny ~ too hollow, too earnest ~ sorry!)
  • quiet anguish but not silent anguish, in fact, I think I prefer grim jokes and gallows humor sort of anguish or if it must be silent the beautiful, persevering and courageous anguish of Carlo in Captain Corelli's Mandolin
  • redeemable endings

what Bores or Depresses me in Novels ~ though after the first item certainly any of these are possible in a great novel to some writer, just not often and not me ~
  • wooden writing
  • cutesy or idealized characters
  • trailer trash settings/ characters (maybe from overexposure to this subset)
  • idle suburbans paralyzed by their ease
  • idleness and paralysis in general
  • male bashing/ misogyny
  • specious mumbojumbo spirituality
  • supernatural duels and/or Disneyfied supernatural pyrotechnics
  • in-depth anatomical and/or gory descriptions (dripping body fluids - you get the picture)
  • misunderstood protagonists who are really far more enlightened than anyone around them and are in fact The Chosen One and don't they know it
  • everything always turning out just right ~ though probably satisfying done well
  • nothing ever ever turning out right ~ though probably funny in the right, light hands
  • self-congratulatory protagonists (I think I've said that already)
  • preaching ~ on any topic: enviro, religio, politico, interpersono, ~ with the possible exception of culinary or sartorial by them that know (which would not be me)
  • shallow insistence ~ or narrow
  • cowardice, rationalized
  • rape scenes, child molesting, torture, . . .
  • vampires and so forth ~ but I don't mind ghosts
  • long descriptions
  • lists longer than seven items (oops!)
  • grimly hopeless i.e. consciously-realistic-&-grown-up endings
Plus, I've always wanted to write a story with the scent of the Adam and Eve story.  Like this one, told in the pictures that begin . . .

 . . . and end this post.


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

What a great list of likes/dislikes. I have never thought to list things like that, just been mildly disgruntled/excited at the end of the pages.

This is truly a great list. And the picture/caption? Brilliant.

Mrs. Organic said...

That seals it, no novel for me (It would be full of wooden writing, agh). I think I'll commit to catching up my journal - I haven't written since July.

I adore funny writing but I also enjoy writing rich with description, not the kind that goes on for days but the kind that puts me right in the middle of it.

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