So you can read my books

Thursday, August 5, 2010


{"I like to listen.

I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.

Most people never listen."

- Ernest Hemingway.}

If you pay careful attention to this next post of mine, you will never write the same. Better. But not the same.

The name of this post :

The trouble with most fiction churned out these days is that it is as flat as a photograph. Your novel has to be rounded and resonate with depth.

You do that by filling your prose with truth.

Truth rings inside the mind of the reader. He believes not your story but the truth of the characters in that story.

Cliche is not truth.

We all know that war is bad. Yet, sometimes it is necessary to fight. Even then, it is bad, destroying something precious inside those who survive.

Writing is a form of war. And you will not emerge from your novel the same as you were before starting it.

But before you can finish a novel in truth, you must start.

And sometimes starting is the hardest thing about your novel. Other times, the hardest thing is to continue.

At the start, it is all juice and kick to the writer. But you use up all the juice and the kick goes. That is where your heart either saves you or gives up on you.

Sometimes when I was starting a new story, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges I love into the edge of the flame.

I'd watch the sputter of blue they made and look out over the roofs of Paris.

I would whisper, "You have always written before, and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."

I would do just that. Because there is always one true sentence you know or have seen or have heard someone say that rang in your mind.

Still struggling?

Watch what happens around you.

Say you catch a fish.

If his jumping about gave you a kick, brand the actions before and after into your brain.

The rising of the line from the water.
The way it tightened like a fiddle string as the drops splashed from it.

Remember the noises and what is said.

Remember how they made you feel. Remember your actions prior to those feelings. Put them into words. Those words will touch your reader.

Still struggling?

Get into somebody else's head for a change.

If someone yells at you, try to figure what that person is thinking about as well as how you feel.

Study people.

Especially arguing people. Don't think who is right. As humans we naturally think of things as they should or shouldn't be.

As a human, you know who is right, and who is wrong. You have decisions to make and actions to take.

Be more than human.

Be a writer. Do not judge. A writer understands.

Or if he doesn't understand, he struggles to understand or to understand his lack of comprehension. That is the difference between a hack and a writer.

A hack memorizes what people say around him. A writer listens. Hardly anybody listens any more.

Worse. Hardly anybody observes.

When you come out of a room, you should be able to describe everything you saw there and what feelings that room gave you.

And you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling.

Practice it. You're standing in a line at the movies or at the grocery store -- observe and understand what it is that you saw.

See how people get out of taxi's or cars. How do women look at strange men, at their husbands, at their children.

There are thousands of ways to practice. Start doing it today. And always think of other people : their actions, their expressions as they do them.

Do that for a month and you will become a better writer.

Oh, in the Shadowlands, they say Roland has met his doppelganger. Perhaps two of him will make one whole man. One can only hope.

{Note by the ghost of Raymond Chandler : Throughout the Shadowlands it is believed that Roland has killed the ghost of Hemingway -- something that has never before been done. The ghosts want Roland dead before he can pass on the secret.

Others in the darkness want to know how to kill the formerly unkillable through torture then death. Unknown to most, Hemingway had only been poisoned.

But long before then, he had been poisoned by the jealousy he feels towards the love the ghost of Marlene Dietrich feels for Roland.

He has been hiding in the kid's apartment, hoping the ghosts or the Others will kill Roland, and he will have Marlene and the kid's blog all to himself.}


  1. Hullo Ernest - or Roland...just returning the visit....

    will pop back, perhaps when Roland is back...

  2. Roland,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. Your words were very encouraging.

    Great post, here. As writers it's our job to look deeper into our characters and present them as they are, all the good and the bad and like you said without judgment. I can only hope with practice I present my characters and the world they occupy to the fullest.

    p.s. new follower here.

  3. Hi Ernest/Roland

    I'll respond to your thoughts with a quote from Annie Dillard's 'The Writing Life'.

    'Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles. The problem is structural; it is insoluble; it is why no one can ever write this book. Complex stories, essays and poems have this problem, too - the prohibitive structural defect the writer wishes he had never noticed. He writes it in spite of that. He finds ways to minimize the difficulty; he strengthens other virtues; he cantilevers the whole narrative out into thin air and it holds.'

    I think you may be trying to tell us something similar, Ernest. Is this so?

  4. You're right, I'll never write the same way again. This has been an illuminating series Roland. I haven't been commenting but I have been reading. Too much work, too little time. As you know. I hope things are settling in for you and Gypsy. Any takers on "Nocturne" yet?

  5. Powerful words, Roland (er, Hemingway). As were the ones you left at my blog. I understand your draw to the Shadowlands more fully now.

    And I also return to you the wishes to see your publishing dreams come true. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I really enjoyed this post, I am a new follower now- I'm very glad to have read this. new or old- writers sometimes forget how to observe and listen, thank you for posting. :)

  7. Oh Mr H!!! I got distracted playing with Gypsy!!! :-)

    But yes - I love people watching - I love making up stories about them too! LOL!

    As for Roland and his doppleganger - what a team they'll make - double the intense fun! Lucky Marlene...

    Take care

  8. Ah Papa. I will miss you. What a moving bio video. I believe now that you could not possibly hurt Roland. There is too much good in you to hurt the man who gives you life. Repent! :)

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  9. Hi, Roland.

    I hope you're doing well. Another way to making your writing believable is to not shy away from true feelings.

    It's okay to give your hero feelings of anger or fear--so true it makes them tremble with doubt. Draw upon your life's fears, situations that quaked your world as a child. Apply it. Sharpen emotions of your MCs so that your reader can truly relate and root for or against, depending on their likes.

    Thanks for the post!!!

    Take care!

  10. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking post. It is so important for writers to not only to observe things but also to write them down to share with others. We can learn so much if we will just stop thinking the world revolves around us.

  11. This post makes me miss my sister. We used to go to the mall and sit down for a bite of something after we shopped for a while. We would listen to the conversations around us and watch the interactions between people. It was always fascinating, in good and bad ways. I've gotten out of practice, though I still listen to people-they're always confiding and/or venting because I don't spread it around...? I will have to find a way to get back into practice. A very insightful and useful post, thank you very much for sharing your wisdom.

  12. So true!

    As a child I was fascinated with people, mostly grown-ups. I was the kid with the glass to the ear up against the wall.

    Thanks for reminding me how important it is to observe:)

  13. Well Ernest; these last few post have been quite illuminating. I see where Roland gets his love of teaching :) You've been an excellent instructor, and I've studied each offering avidly. I'm sorry I've been away so long and had to catch up on the last few days entries - stuck in my own day life.

    I must say, though, that I disagree slightly with the cynical nature of these posts. Especially the line: It is a sad fact that you have to be especially hurt like hell before you can write seriously.

    While I agree a broad spectrum of personal experience to draw updon makes for better writing; I don't agree that traumatic experience needs to start young to make a writer proficient.

    Of course, I could be misreading that post - I did not stop to read the comments.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise in writing with us. I enjoy learning new ideas - and having some of my own writing habits validated. This has been an elightening series.

    Now, you mentioned some adventures Roland has been having without sharing them. Having you post here has given me (the reader/writer) valuable insight into your motivation for the frame up. Excellent!

    It has peaked my interest for more of the story. Where did we leave off . .


  14. I love reading your blog, you are such an inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to stop over at mine. I was thrilled.