The past month was kind of hectic due to a new project at work coinciding with my girlfriend and I, after three years, finally contracting COVID. It wasn’t serious for either of us, thanks to both of us being fully vaccinated and boosted, but it was a boring two and a half weeks of being stuck in the house waiting for the home and PCR tests to come up negative.
Fortunately, we had the cats to keep us entertained.
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group question for March 2023 is: Have you ever read a line in novel or a clever plot twist that caused you to have author envy?
Well, I mean, YES!!!!!!! All the time. Almost every book I read has a turn of phrase, a scene, a twist, or something like that, which makes me say, “Well, dang! I wish I wrote that.”
The first one that comes to mind is a scene from Neil Gaiman‘s most excellent American Gods. One of the characters, let’s call him “MS,” is killed, and a few of the other characters hold a sort of wake for him, trading stories back and forth. After a little while MS is there, laughing along with the other characters and adding his own comments to the stories. It is handled so subtly that I had to go back and check that I was reading what I thought I was reading. The scene was so well written that there was no sense of disconnect, just a realization that “Well of course MS is going to show up at his own wake. That’s the kind of person [sic] he is!”
This description does scant justice to the scene.
Another is Mary Oliver‘s poem “The Poet Goes to Indiana” from her collection Why I Wake Early. In particular, this section:
…and there was once, oh wonderful,
a new horse in the pasture,
a tall, slim being-a neighbor was keeping her there—
and she put her face against my face,
put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets,
against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me,
to see who I was…
Remarkable! In the fifth line, “soft as velvet” would have worked, but it would have been mundane. Ordinary. There are a million things as soft as velvet. But soft as violets? That is something unique, and enduring.
I could go on and on. Almost everything I read has at least one sentence which is noteworthy (and hopefully more than one, but not always). The moments of awe and revelation are infrequent, and valuable in their rarity.
(Also rare, fortunately, are the lines, plot twists, and scenes which make me think, “Thank the heavens I didn’t write that.” Uncommon but not unknown.)
I will repeat one of my guiding principles, as related by author Karen Lord: “Read well.” Reading well is as much a skill as writing well.
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