IWSG March 2023
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MARCH'S QUESTION: Have you ever read a line in novel or a clever plot twist that caused you to have author envy?
I’m interpreting this question as, have you ever read something and thought, ‘I wish I wrote that.’
The answer is yes, all the time. Sometimes when I find something like that I get those irritable, jealous feelings that my ‘more mature’ self quickly squashes down. But then there are other times when I am so blown away by a clever line that I don’t care that part of me thinks that author is ‘better than me.’ I love the amazing fucking thing they did.
Here’s an example, it’s from a short story by Gregory Ashe called The Adventure of the First Day. Without spoiling any of the plot, it’s a high school mystery type thing with a male protagonist named Jack.
“At my school, we would have called it the gym. At Walker, it was the athletic center. It was also douche central. In pre-algebra, we’d had to do, you know, a + 4 = 10, and then you had to take the four away from both sides, and hey, a = 6. So you take the athletic center, and you say a + sports = a fucked-up bathroom, and then you take away sports from each side, and you get a = rich entitled assholes.”
The Adventure of the First Day
Now, tell me that isn’t clever. Maybe other writers have done similar things with math equations, but that combined with the character’s 1st person POV, you, the reader, know exactly what kind of a story this is going to be. This paragraph isn’t just cleaver because of the math equation or the snark, it’s clever because it does multiple things at once. You have narrative style, foreshadowing, tone, and you know exactly what kind of a school Walker is before you set foot on the campus.
But the cool thing about finding quotes like these, is that you can pick out what it does, and apply that to your own stories. I’m not saying use the same math equation to describe whoever is entitled and rich in your book. But you can use your character’s voice to convey a biased opinion to your reader. Or, when your editing, you can drop a clue about your ending in the beginning with a description about your setting.
Just because you have author envy doesn’t mean you have to be passive about it (like I am most of the time), you can be active and use those feelings as motivation to develop your writing skills.
I am always jealous of any author who has perfect character voice and dialogue. What I mean by perfect is, I don’t need help reading the book like a movie in my head. I hate when I get thrown out of a story because I end up thinking, ‘where exactly are they?’ or ‘what is the point of this harrowing trial?’
Another example of a quote that I wish I wrote is from Lou Yardley’s novella Creep: a story from the world of Venari, part of her dark fantasy horror series. Not only is this quote an awesome sentence in general, but this is probably the best opening line to a high fantasy/grimdark that I have ever read. Ever.
Bask in the glory!
“No-one ever tells you about how much horses shit, and the one walking in front of Angus Rutland with a high ranking officer perched on its back appeared to be going for some kind of record.”
Creep (Venari, #0.5)
(If you love dark fantasy you should definitely get this book).
Just like with Gregory Ashe’s quote, we get a sense of place and character before the plot kicks off. We even get a glimpse of the social dynamics. You have the common, rank-and-file soldier, and the “superior” officer literally and metaphorically shitting on him (ok, not technically on him but he still has to walk through it). And, of course, because we’re in Angus’s POV, we can adopt his dislike for his commanding officer and can infer that he might have problems with all authority figures (there is so much snark).
I have the same sorts of envy. There's the wow, wish I coulda thought of that, variety. And then there is the, put down the book and think on this awhile, variety.ReplyDelete
Love the math equation snippet. You're right. That's genius at work.
Solidarity! I have the "wow, I wish I thought of that" a lot!Delete