With a Critical Eye

I’m doing an Internet binge, the name of the show isn’t important, but my reaction to a plot pivot is—because it makes me think about my own writing in a constructive, critical way. Readers have no idea where the plot is going in The Betty Chronicles, in large part because I chose to not plan it out in advance and had no idea what the twists would be until the words formed on the page. The show I’m watching just lost me, the writers took a sharp turn that didn’t feel true to the character’s previous actions. Usually, I just stop for a random period of time and watch the rest of the episode with fresh eyes. I’ve also completely abandoned shows because of these awkward devices, even when the overall story and acting is stellar.

So, back to me. Have I done the same thing? Have I been guilty of using an ill fitting plot device? Ultimately, that is for the critics and readers to decide. I’m too close to the subject matter. My editors never hesitated to mark in red ink poor writing or ill advised angles and I only declared STET when it really mattered to me, so if there is such a stopping point in my books, it will be because of the individual reader’s tastes. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m looking too closely at the show’s writing and not just enjoying the entertainment, which would be ironic since I tend to live in the moment. The people behind this series are smart and extremely talented. Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental. What do you think?

I Was Physically Assaulted Today

I was physically and verbally assaulted today. It’s OK, other than a stiff neck, I’m fine. A 6’ 2”, 225 pound guy in his twenties, apparently autistic, was having a violent episode at a convenience store I happened to stop at to check the air in my tires. He left the side of his caretaker and called me a rude name as he walked past my car. I could tell he had some sort of handicap, and chose to ignore the insult and turned my body away from the individual to reduce the possibility of conflict. What I didn’t expect was to be hit in the back of the neck while I was bent over filling my tire.

As I tried to make sense of what had just happened, the caretaker appeared at my side and explained the autism and violent episode. I said no problem, I understood, but was thinking, guy—your skills need some work. While he was trying to make sure I wasn’t upset, his charge tore the mirror off of an old SUV parked at the farthest pump from me. I was thinking the caretaker was being way too passive in handling his charge. Why didn’t he yell out to me that I was about to be attacked? Why was he trying to make sure I wasn’t going to do something in retaliation instead of preventing his guy from destroying other people’s property. It made me think of a body man for a powerful politician trying to contain the damage he had no control over stopping.

This was all relevant to me because my nephew is autistic. While I’m aware that some autistics can act out in rage, I have never experienced it with my nephew. I cannot say enough about the care he received after being born and he is engaged with the world around him because of that care. He still doesn’t know when I’m pulling his leg, but by god, he went from a diagnosis of not being able to walk or talk to being one hell of a guy. He swims with the Mission Viejo Nadadors, is a musician, finishing high school, has a great sense of humor, and an active intellect. My sister Carrie and her husband Zach have fought all these years to get him the help he needs and it shows.

I don’t know the story behind the guy who attacked me today. I hold no ill will or hard feelings toward him. I understood before it happened that he was leading a challenging life. I hope he gets the help he needs to deal with his anger, to become a more engaged member of society. In the meantime, I hope the caretaker learns from this incident and seeks better tools for handling his charge. The next victim might not be so understanding.

The ironic part? I watched Fight Club last night. I should have seen it coming. The good news is that someday you’ll find this incident in a future story I’ll write. I’m not one to waste a scene.

To learn more about Autism, go here: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

Something Different

I have written 3,500 words in the past eighteen hours, roughing out the ending of my first stand alone novel, Severance. These characters have been stewing in my mind for several years and they are ready. It feels like I had them in a crockpot, simmering away. All of the ingredients where in there, I guess I just needed to stir it around a bit, before I could write the first paragraphs—really getting the flavor of the story right.

The end came to me recently, I was playing around with it in my head for the past couple of weeks, waiting impatiently for the words to come, but after kayaking on the Cedar River yesterday, soaking in the sun, feeling the frigid snowmelt water with my bare hands and feet, I was ready to write it out. Tears welled in my eyes as I typed the final lines. I could feel the survivors’ pain, joy, and heartfelt desire to make something new from what had been lost. I wish I could share more with you, but it will be some time before it winds its way through the edit process and publishing. I will keep you posted.

Gideon’s Looking

I am working on the manuscript for Control, Volume III of The Betty Chronicles. Like Lee Child, I do not plot out my novels in advance, though I do think of major points that may or may not end up in the story depending how the writing goes. To be fair, after writing my initial thoughts of a story, usually a 2,000 word essay on characters and conflicts, I rarely look over the notes again.

I just finished a chapter that is a major pivot point in several relationships. I would say more, but it would be a spoiler. I sit here with a smug smile on my face knowing that a couple of threads that have been hanging loose for a very long time are now woven properly into the story, at just the right point. You will know it when you read it. #Betty #Tom #Howell #Ernesto