It’s almost November… and that means NaNoWriMo time. National Novel Writing Month, and adventure in living where the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It’s intense. Plus, I am a Walmart manager. Nothing much happens during November at Walmart, right?
I mean it.
Writers read. When I’m writing screenplays, I read movie scripts. So, having just finished two scripts, I’ve read a lot of them, but not much prose. To get back into the novel-writing mode, I decided to read the second book in The Passage series. A nice little (698 page) tome set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the living dead…something of a cross between vampires and zombies… created by the US Army as an experimental weapon. Funny how that never turns out the way they hope.
In any event, I do love some things that Justin Cronin does in his writing. Take for example the following passage.
More bodies lay near the hotel entrance. Not bodies, strictly speaking–more a zone of human body parts. A woman police officer eviscerated as she’d stepped from her cruiser. She rested with her back propped against the fender, her pistol still clutched in her hand, her chest opened like the flaps of a trench coat. A man in a shiny purple track suit, wearing enough gold around his neck to fill a pirate chest had been hurled upward, his torso lodging like a kite in the limbs of a maple tree; His bottom half had come to rest on the hood of a jewel-black Mercedes. The man’s legs were crossed at the lower ankles as if the lower half of his body hadn’t heard it was missing the rest. —Justin Cronin, The Twelve.
He brings these bit players onto the stage, and fully develops them in a few choice descriptions, then slides over them onto the next. Yet, the image is left seared in the reader’s memory. An art, really. A writer who pays attention to every character, without boring us with long, useless, backstory.
That’s why I read a LOT. I find techniques I admire–and I emulate them! I also look at the things that pull me out of a story. Cronin has writing that makes me cringe, too. He uses way too many passives, and cliché-ridden similes, like, “His brain felt as jumpy as corn in a hot pan.” Cringe-worthy. You learn from other writers’ bad habits too.
I’m off to prep for NaNo. Hope you’ll join me. www.nanowrimo.org.