The Daily Journal, Sunday, August 18

In today’s Journal

* Tomorrow I’ll write
* Topic: (Sigh) WITD One More Time
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers

Tomorrow I’ll write again. Today I’ll be off playing with my buddy for about half the day.

I planned to spend some time with my novel this morning, but I ran across a comment on the PWW blog from yesterday. Rather than respond in full to the comment there, I decided to give my response a fuller, maybe more attentive and receptive readership here. So….

Topic: (Sigh) WITD One More Time

In part, the commenter I mentioned above wrote, “I would never totally trust my characters, because then they’re not going to know things I don’t know.”

This is a really moot point, as in, So what?

But there’s also a bottom line here: The fact is, what you would never, you would never. So there you go.

The commenter and I are simply very different writers. I don’t mind, except that I feel bad that so many other writers are clinging to and perpetuating the myths we were all taught by non-writers.

But here’s another bottom line for everyone: If you believe your status quo works for you, by all means stick with it.

Change is often scary, and (in my opinion) always good.

A few related notes:

I don’t care for generalizations. Even widespread “probablys,” are almost always inaccurate.

The commenter wrote, in part, about a fictional character who happened to be named Harvey,

“If Harvey doesn’t know how to do anything but make phone calls on his phone, then he’s probably unaware (emphasis added) that most young people never use their phones to actually make phone calls. Does that mean his characters never text? Or does someone point out to Harvey (just using him as an example) that phones also take pictures and send texts?”

In actuality, Harvey (who indeed uses his phone only to make phone calls) is very aware that many young people (I won’t say “most” because I haven’t polled them all) use theirs for everything but making phone calls.

Harvey knows all about texting, the phone as camera, the flashlight app, and that he can access and interact with Facebook, email and about a hundred other apps on his phone. He doesn’t use his phone for any of that only because he prefers approaching those functions via a laptop where the keyboard is easier to use.

That being said (to go to the specific example the commenter used earlier), Harvey probably would not go into a dark house to investigate something without carrying at least a penlight with him so he could cover part of the beam with his finger and thereby maintain the secrecy of his visit.

He definitely would not risk the “clunk” that would result from opening the door of his microwave oven only to access a light source that’s limited and shines in only one direction.

And he would not use the light on his phone because it goes everywhere, is blindingly bright, and is difficult to partially mask. (A few times, in a pinch, Harvey has used the flashlight on his phone.)

That being said, Harvey very seldom sends text messages with his phone either. Actually, his characters occasionally do. But here’s the thing: Neither a writer nor a character has to know every aspect of how texting works for the writer to write,

John’s eyes went wide as he took in the scene. The small, smoldering body in the corner smelled of something more than the sweetly sick stench of charred human meat. He frowned. Sage? Thyme? He whipped out his phone. A moment later, he’d sent a text: Darla, the chef killed the jockey. And cooked him! I’ll explain tonight over supper. J

Nor would I personally go “techy” and “exact” (regardless of critique-group input) to make the text message appear “correct” by showing it thus:

D, OMG! IK FAF C K’d J. & cookd him! More L8r. (“Oh my god, I know for a fact the chef killed the jockey. And cooked him! More later.”)

Regardless of how you choose to write (or “compile”) a novel, the fact remains that if you (or any member of any critique group or anyone else) can “think up” (conscious mind) what your characters should do next, so can (and will) the reader.

When I’m reading a book and I think I can tell what’s going to happen next, I continue to read. But when what I THINK is going to happen next DOES happen next (two or three times), I close the book and find something else to read.

There are two types of novelists: I call them “gods” and “recorders.”

Gods see their books as “important.” They view the story’s characters and events from a control tower. From there, they dictate every situation that arises and every word that’s spoken. Of course, predetermination is the rule.

That’s fine. Doesn’t bother me at all, other than the wonderful fun those writers are missing. Which is why I bother to publish this and other topics in the Daily Journal at all. But to each his or her own.

The other kind of writer is the Recorder. That would be me. Once upon a time, I too donned my authorial robes and dictated from my own tower. But I climbed down (trembling but determined to try a new way) about 6 years ago.

Now I roll off the parapet into the trenches of my story and run through it WITH the characters. I try to keep up, trust that the characters know where they’re going and what they’re doing and saying in the story that they, not I, are living.

I record what they say and do as they encounter the various situations. The unknown is frightening, but it’s also exhilarating. I don’t have a clue, scene to scene, what the characters will come up with next or what twists the story might take.

But then, neither do my readers.

I understand completely that other writers might hear what I, a relative unknown, am saying and decide it might not be valid, especially when they’re clinging to safety nets of how they believe things have always been done. That’s fine. I don’t expect them to trust me.

I only recommend (suggest, urge) that they try, really try, WITD for themselves.

I have never known a writer to give writing into the dark an honest try and then go back to outlining, writing by committee and rewriting. Not once.

That being said, most (as in 999 out of 1000) can’t bring themselves to let go. But honestly, that’s fine with me. After all, I have no vested interest in anyone else’s stories or characters.

I simply share what I know. I offer up most of it free of charge and with no strings attached. There is no down side. The up side is the chance to advance in the craft.

But whether others choose to try has to be up to them.

Rolled out around 2:30, then allowed myself to get wrapped around the wheel above. As Ol’ Wes says, “Things don’t always work out the way you expect. That’s why they make tomorrows.” (grin)

Talk with you again when tomorrow rolls around.

Of Interest

See “Vanity Publishing” at This is an important post.

See “A Powerhouse Secret for Point of View” at Note: Due to lack of time, I did not vet this post, but JS Bell often has good advice. Just beware any myths that might pop up. I’ll read the article later.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1240 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1240

Writing of Blackwell Ops 7: Glen Marco (novel)

Day 1…… 3222 words. Total words to date…… 3222
Day 2…… 1170 words. Total words to date…… 4392
Day 3…… 3191 words. Total words to date…… 7583
Day 4…… 1374 words. Total words to date…… 8957
Day 5…… 1952 words. Total words to date…… 10909
Day 6…… 1021 words. Total words to date…… 11930
Day 7…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 11930
Total fiction words for the year………… 370667
Total nonfiction words for the month… 18750
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 236820
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 607487

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 195
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31