The Fiction Grind

With this last rewrite of my current project, I'm realizing more and more that writing a novel is mostly moving people from point A to B in a reasonably interesting way, and that a big part of rewriting your novel is finding an even clearer, more direct way of doing that. Moving characters from room to room and scene to scene is the legwork of writing, especially if its a story that involves a great deal of traveling and action and general physical movement (as opposed to My Dinner With Andre or something, though I suppose there must have been a lot of micro-movements in that text like: He touches his napkin wistfully.) and a writer has to do it so much that when you finally get to the higher levels of the story, stuff like description and metaphor and stuff like that, you're a little relieved to be doing something, anything, other than "I went into the house and looked around and there was a guy sitting in a chair and he looked at me and I looked at him and he shrugged so I shrugged back and shot him in the foot ...."

One of the masters of describing physical movement is Cormac McCarthy. No matter what else you think of his writing, the man knows how describe the shit out of something and show emotion through physical details. Also Ray Carver's story, "What We talk About When We Talk About Love" is a great one for this. Also, the textbook gold-standard Hemmingway story "The Hills Like White Elephants".

So the next time you read a book, I implore you to pay attention to all that hard work the writer's doing just to keep the show running, and not just the fancy icing on the cake sentences that usually get all the attention like: After I shot him in the foot, he said, "I suppose I had this coming for a long while now. A good long while." And then he keeled over and wept like a baby.


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