Why It Works for Me – Terry Melia’s “Tales from the Greenhills”

This is the third in a series I’m doing wherein I discuss why a particular piece of writing works for me, aka, this author’s work taught me something about writing, encouraged me to be a better writer, engaged me, captivated me, educated me, et cetera.

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s one thing to know something is good, it’s a better thing (in my opinion) to know why it’s good and then be able to copy what’s good about it, to learn from it so you can be as good and (hopefully) better.

This time out, Terry Melia’s “Tales from the Greenhills”.

 

 

Character is… (Part 2.4) – Shading is…

This is the sixth in an ongoing series of StoryCrafting/StoryTelling posts I’m publishing for my own benefit; explaining something helps me determine if I’ve truly learned it or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study, et cetera.

Previous offerings include:

  • Atmosphere is…
  • Character is… (Part 1)
  • Character is… (Part 2.1) – Exposition is…
  • Character is… (Part 2.2) – Description is…
  • Character is… (Part 2.3) – Action is…

     
    And note that I’ll update/upgrade/edit these posts as I learn more.


    Shading – building a character by revealing contradictions about them.

     
    A favorite quote of mine is “If you want to know someone’s mind, listen to their words. If you want to know someone’s heart, watch their actions.” It’s a favorite because it demonstrates one way to understand someone. Their heart and mind aren’t coordinated, aren’t in sync.

    Specifically, it’s how their heart and mind aren’t in sync that matters. You may have heard the expressions “X says one thing and does another” and a personal favorite from childhood, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

    A rich social example of this is pedophilia in the roman catholic church. Are these men holy or horrible? Or both? And do we need to recognize both aspects of their nature?

    Well, yes. Especially if we want to use them as a rich, complex character rather than a stereotype. It’s the shading – specifically how these dual natures are revealed – that determines if a character is a genre-trope or main, primary or central character. Does the main character have a side-kick he has to explain things to, such as Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson? Have you noticed that every detective novel since (and probably before) has had a sidekick to whom the main character explains things? Side-kicks regardless of genre are tropes. Sherlock Holmes was a genre trope until he developed weaknesses. Now a main character with a weakness is a genre trope.
    Continue reading “Character is… (Part 2.4) – Shading is…”

Why It Works for Me – Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air”

Feel the chill

This is the second in a series I’m doing wherein I discuss why a particular piece of writing works for me, aka, this author’s work taught me something about writing, encouraged me to be a better writer, engaged me, captivated me, educated me, et cetera.

Previous entries in this series include:

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s one thing to know something is good, it’s a better thing (in my opinion) to know why it’s good and then be able to copy what’s good about it, to learn from it so you can be as good and (hopefully) better.

This time out, Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air”.

 

 

Why It Works for Me – Loren Eiseley’s “The Dance of the Frogs”

This is the first in a series I’m doing wherein I discuss why a particular piece of writing works for me, aka, this author’s work taught me something about writing, encouraged me to be a better writer, engaged me, captivated me, educated me, et cetera.

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s one thing to know something is good, it’s a better thing (in my opinion) to know why it’s good and then be able to copy what’s good about it, to learn from it so you can be as good and (hopefully) better.

This time out, Loren Eiseley’s “The Dance of the Frogs” (in his anthology, The Star Thrower.

 

 

Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Mar 2020’s Great Opening Lines)

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

“Arterial blood has sprayed onto the walls; the tannoy is breaking into a staccato and the student nurse, Linda, recalls a childhood wish for invisibility” – Terry Melia’s Tales from the Greenhills

“…has sprayed…”, “…is breaking…”, and “…recalls…” – I’ve written elsewhere that I need to know Melia sweated every word choice. If the word choice above was automatic and obvious, I’m giving up writing. The first sentence of Tales from the Greenhills is present tense, direct address, and action. You are there in the center of it and the action is intense. You see the arterial blood dripping down the walls. The tannoy (British for “loudspeaker”) is making terse, abrupt statements – probably operational rather than informative based on the “arterial blood” line – and we’re given a point-of-view character who is 1) a student – she’s young, 2) a nurse – she should know what she’s doing but from (1) we know she’s in over her head, 3) recalling a childhood – she’s looking for peace, comfort, refuge, safety, 4) invisibility – she wants to get away, hide, be free of what’s happening.

And in twenty-five words.

And it keeps getting better.

Tales from the Greenhills is a must read for authors and writer-wannabes. It is a textbook of style, voice, language, dialogue, setting, …

Sorry, if I’m gushing. It’s that good.

Do you have any great opening lines you’d like to share?
I’d love to know them. There’s a catch, though. You have to explain in context why a line is great. Saying a line is great because it comes from some great literature doesn’t cut it. Quoting from archaic and/or little known works doesn’t cut it.

Feel free to quote from archaic and/or little know works, just make sure you give reasons why something is great. I stated the Great Opening Lines criteria back in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 2 -What Makes a Great Opening Line?).

So by all means, make the claim. Just make sure you provide the proof according to the guidelines given. If not, your comment won’t get published.