Writer Crisis #7258

How do you answer an existential question in your plot that you haven’t answered for yourself?

I’m doing some basic outlining on a story & have found the root of my conflict.  I’m working through the characters’ reasoning.  But then I hit a point where I’m thinking, “Wait, is that really the answer?  Is that the right answer?  Is that the answer I’m committing to?  Is that what I really think?  That’s what this struggle is & I’m going to try to sum it up in this way?”

If this was nonfiction, I would feel much more comfortable showing these insecurities, because the nonfiction I love the most touches on uncertainties in subtle, interesting ways & I want to emulate that.  But with this fictional piece, containing things I’ve thought about & carried around with me since I was a kid. . . I feel much more uncertain, unprepared, like, at nearly 37 I should have all these answers by now.  That some things shouldn’t still haunt me at this age, although I logically know better.

I really just need to finish this story so I can stop carrying it around & worrying over it.  This is not some great cultural epic—hell, it probably won’t make it into the world much past my friends.  Oy.

Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Dread Nation

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t wander over to the YA section that often, but when I do, I always keep my eye out for something interesting. Simply reading the jacket copy that mentions an alternate Civil War history with zombies & race exploitation screams “Pick me up!” Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation takes something like Guns of the South & turns it completely on it’s head. Jane is a biracial girl who’s sent to a school that specifically trains non-white Americans to protect white citizens against the overwhelming zombie menace. While helping a friend try to find his sister, she stumbles upon a plot to create settlements in the West that will recreate antebellum laws & norms & is shipped off unwillingly as a recruit for the new border wall. A harsh reality becomes grimmer as she attempts to survive & take advantage of the various alliances buried beneath the new “City On A Hill”.

The above premise takes a while to explain & there is a fair amount of world-building. Ireland takes her time showing some of the different fascets of this new America, but things really get moving once Jane gets shipped off to the West. Everything that’s been introduced takes on new stakes & new meaning, so readers would benefit being patient through the first section. Ireland also clearly has many ideas & hopefully more books on the way to explore them, but I was so ready to keep going! Once the action started, I was transfixed & didn’t realize just how quickly the end came. Definitely a recommendation simply because its story ambitions pay off.

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Off the Shelf: Sorry To Disrupt the Peace

Sorry to Disrupt the PeaceSorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A gift from a friend who saw the recommendation as “Kafka crossed with David Foster Wallace” & thought of me. I have to commend her instincts; this novel definitely kept me reading & left me pondering the human mysteries it brought up. Helen Moran has received a phone call that her adopted brother has committed suicide & she decides to travel home to mourn him as well as uncover what happened to him. Told from her point-of-view, Helen’s interior monologue eerily conveys a character teetering on an edge, although readers may deduce that this is not an uncommon state for her.

First, Helen’s voice & skewed perspective is compelling & while she purposefully sets out to “solve” her brother’s suicide, she often seems to contribute to the mystery of her family’s difficult relationships as well. She’s not unlike Jesse in Suicide Blonde, where the world & its workings have completely confounded her & she’s determined to figure out her own way through the chaos. But where Jesse is chasing her fragmented dreams from her past, Helen appears to have never been comfortable in this world & creates entire structures for herself out of her own self-justification & whatever is at hand.

There are some great moments of pitch-black humor & her increasing desperation at proving her good intentions despite her erratic behavior humanized her for me. Ultimately, Cottrell seems to be shooting for a Pynchon-esque ending, where nothing is really answered & I can appreciate that. I just don’t know if all the narrative strings are wrapped up as satisfactorily as they could be. I wanted to know more about this character & how she could even get through a day with these experiences weighing on her, but had to settle for where the book ended.

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Off the Shelf: The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A coauthored memoir/tell-all about The Room & Sestero’s friendship w. Tommy Wiseau.

Look, Sunset Blvd is one of my favorite movies & I’ve absorbed other media like Party Down & You Must Remember This so I know that Hollywood is full of weird, ambitious people. But Disaster Artist seems to unwittingly showcase just how self-absorbed someone can become after working in “the business.” The story alternates between Sestero’s acting pursuits & his changing relationship with Wiseau as well as the actual filming of The Room.

The authors seem to want to have it both ways: readers get all the bizzaro anecdotes about shooting one of cinema’s worst movies & hears how oddly sympathetic Wiseau’s personal story is. This approach creates a tension where the radar cannot put the book down but will feel like a creepy voyeur. It is not a fun read. I feel like I’ve been privy to a public confession from someone who just wanted some company any way they could get it.

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Off the Shelf: Angel Catbird, vol. 1

Angel Catbird, Volume 1Angel Catbird, Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Is it a man? Is is a cat? Is it a bird? It’s Angel Catbird!

Ok, it’s a little retro; it’s kind of cheesy; there are so. many. puns! But I kind of enjoyed just seeing Atwood play with the format & the comic ties into the Canadian conservation efforts so … I’ll give this one a pass. Do whatever you want, MA.

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