Thursday, 18 February 2016

14:09 – Barbara’s friend Bonnie is driving up from Winston tomorrow morning. They’re going to spend the day doing girl stuff and then Bonnie will head back in the late afternoon. I suggested to Barbara that she invite Bonnie to bring her telescope and spend the night, but she said Bonnie just wanted to make a day trip. Bonnie actually lives north of Winston-Salem, near Pilot Mountain, and has pretty decent skies for observing, but it’s still much darker here than it is there. On a moonless or overcast night, we can’t even tell where the tree line several hundred yards from our back deck ends and the night sky begins.

I spent an hour or so this morning writing fiction. Going in, it seemed to me that writing fiction shouldn’t be all that different from my usual non-fiction writing. It turns out that the two are only superficially similar. There’s as much difference between writing fiction and non-fiction as there is between playing singles and doubles at tennis, which is to say a lot. Both endeavors are completely different games. One uses similar tools and rules, but the details differ enough that I can understand how it’s possible in either case to be very good at one and very bad at the other.

I assumed going in that writing dialog would be my main problem. When I asked Jerry Pournelle about that years ago, his advice was simply to write dialog as I ordinarily spoke. The problem with that is that I generally speak pedantically, so the dialog I wrote this morning sounds just as pedantic, not to say clumsy. Hell, it hasn’t been that long since I finally decided to stop torturing my sentence structures to avoid splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition. Which reminds me of my favorite-ever newspaper headline, referring to Richard Loeb of the famous Leopold and Loeb murder trial. Loeb was both pedantic and homosexual, and he was eventually knifed to death in a prison shower. The headline? “Richard Loeb, noted authority on the English language, ends sentence with a proposition”.

I thought I was going to be able just to sit down and write, as I do for non-fiction or for this journal page for that matter. But this morning’s experience tells me that I have some grunt work to do to master the basics of writing fiction.