Friday, July 24, 2009

Books About Writing

No, not the instructional books that every single follower of this blog probably has overflowing on their bookshelves. I'm talking about fictional books about writing. I absolutely love when an author dares to delve into the world of writing.

Three books that come to mind:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moer
The Angel's Game by Carolos Ruiz Zafon

These books will not teach you how to write, but the second two talk about the love of writing. The central character in both of those books is a writer chasing the elusive dream of publication. The first book is just a really good read, a mystery, and it's all about books.

The Angel's Game - I read the description of the book on and thought, hmmm, very intriguing. Since I have a Kindle I have the option of downloading the first chapter free. Woo-hoo. So, I do the whole download thingy, read the first paragraph and . . . .yes, I'm going to buy the book. Forget reading the first chapter. Why?

A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price. (first paragraph, locations 10 -16 - sorry, no page numbers with Kindle).

This paragraph alone grabbed my attention and made me want to read more. It also created the first question: do we sell our souls for our writing?

Let me explore that question a bit, with a bit of rephrasing: do we write what's currently hot, versus what we really want to write? Ahhh, different angle, deeper question. I mean, how many books about kids and magical abilities suddenly appeared after Harry Potter became hot? How many vampire tales after the success of Twilight? Surely, there were not that many aspiring authors just waiting in the wings. Did some of those authors (please, I don't begrudge them their success) write something similar because they knew it would sell? Did they pass on their dream to write another type of story just to get their foot in the door? Would any of us do the same thing? Hmmmm . . .

Okay, away from deep questions. It is Friday after all. I just want to point out a few more things I loved from this book . . . so far.

Don Basilio was a forbidding-looking man with a bushy moustache who did not suffer fools and who subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency.

OMG, I absolutely laughed out loud when I read this line. Oh, just in case you're wondering . . . I have a vitamin deficiency!!!!

So, Don Basilio hates adjectives and adverbs. I just know the author was making a dig at the adjective/adverb misuses, and the rule not to use them. Well, how funny is this . . .

A few lines later the following sentence appears: "Did you call me, Don Basilio?" I ventured timidly.

Oh, yes he did. Timidly. Too funny. I guess the author is saying it's okay to break the rules every now and then.

Lastly, another great line when the narrator is talking about a character he created:

The Mysteries of Barcelona gave birth to a fictional starlet in installments, a heroine I had imagined as one can only imagine a femme fatale at the ripe age of seventeen. Chloe Permanyer was the dark princess of all vamps. Beyond intelligent, and even more devious, always clad in fine lingerie, she was the lover and evil accomplice of the mysterious Baltasar Morel, king of the underworld, who lived in a subterranean mansion, staffed by automatons, and full of macabre relics, reached through secret tunnels buried under the catacombs of the Gothic quarter. Chloe's favorite way of finishing off her victims was to seduce them with a hypnotic striptease, then kiss them with a poisoned lipstick that entirely paralyzed them so that they died from silent suffocation as she looked into their eyes, having herself drunk an antidote mixed in vintage Dom Perignon.

I just love the bolded line. Heck, I love the whole paragraph. To me, brilliance in motion. To me, the author was in the throes (don't ya just love that word?) of the Orm.

What is the Orm, you ask? Okay, so maybe you didn't ask, but I tell you anyhow as I close out this long blog post.

The Orm dear readers is . . .

You'll understand the instant you sense it. Yes, you can sense it. There are moments when ideas for whole novels rain down on you in seconds. You can sense it when you write some dialogue so brilliant that actors will recite it on stage, word for word, in a thousand years' time. Oh yes, you can sense the Orm! It can give you a kick up the backside, transfix you like a shaft of lightning or turn your stomach. It can rip the brain out of your head and reinsert it the other way round! It can sit on your chest in the middle of the night and give you a frightful nightmare - one from which you'll fashion your finest novel. I've sensed the Orm myself - oh yes! - and I wish I could sense it just once more. Moers, Walter. The City of Dreaming Books - p. 406

That, dear readers, is the Orm. It is the inspiration that is so intense we (me, once up on a time) are thrown into an obsessive state where all we can do is write.

So, if you have a spare moment or two, grab one of these books, settle down, and experience an author's view of the writing process, sometimes dark, sometimes light, sometimes filled with humor, and other times filled with sadness. Let the words embrace you and encompass you as you drift away with the sentences and paragraphs of the writing process.

Have a great Friday!!



ElanaJ said...

Those sound like great books! And I've always subscribed to the philosophy of writing what I like to read, no matter what's hot or selling.

:) Have a great weekend!

Jarmara Falconer said...

Thank you for sharing these book with us. I shall have to look them up.

Robyn Campbell said...

Hey Scott! I will check these out. Thanks for sharing them with us. Especially The Angel's Game. I don't own a kindle though and probably never will. But I shall buy the book. :)

Scott said...

Elana, Jamara, and Robyn - The Angel's Game is fascinating and intriguing. There are so many quotes I need to share on some other blog post. The main character is an aspiring/struggling writer. The author really conveys so much that I - another aspiring/struggling writer - can realte to on so many levels.