Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Really is in the Details


All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.  If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.  Ernest Hemingway

I reread this Hemingway quote when I'm  twiddling the keyboard thumbs asking the proverbial "what's next?" question.   

There are books that I treasure and periodically reread. A newer one on this list is Pompeii, by Robert Harris.  The title gives away the setting, but it cannot convey the visceral reaction of a young engineer, Marcus Attilius Primus, as he witnesses the brutality of slavery, or the racking heat as he leads disgruntled workers up the mountain to vainly dig for an underground spring. Every emotion is raw and every setting clear, but there are no flowing thoughts about feelings or flowery descriptions of wealthy homes.  Just Attilius' clarity of purpose as he understands more of what booming noises and drought mean when you live in the shadow of a volcano.  Revelations about his complex past grow with his convictions about Vesuvius' danger.  His desire to save the people he's grown to care about is matched only by the evil of others around him.  You won't be able to take a lunch or potty break.

I want to writer keepers.  I don't think they have to be complex or even long.  They can be funny or quirky.  The characters "just" have to matter to the readers more than they matter to me.  And I don't think it has anything to do with "what's next?"

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