out of the ashes

Friday, January 29, 2010


It was a busy week. Work was physically taxing. I managed to write two whole paragraphs in my new chapter--pretty sure I'll wind up deleting them. Most likely the entire chapter. Something is missing, or just wrong.
It hit me this morning. Instead of "scene-in-motion" (thank you), I drifted into that old habit that kills a story and marks an amateur. Exposition.
Sol Stein: "One of the chief reasons novels are rejected is that a writer, consciously or not, is reporting a story instead of showing it."
Further: "What a character sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes can be shown through actions rather than described."
I'm well aware of that, but still something in me wants to tell you. A pitfall I continually encounter. I sometimes feel I'm working in a void.
But, here are the pages of the offending chapter. Save the introduction, I'll be getting rid of them tonight. See what you think (I think it's terrible!).


Without the debilitating effects of alcohol Marvin began to recover within days. The fog and confusion lifted, slowly at first, but then exponentially as the days slipped by and his drive to continue solving the riddle of his genes resurfaced.
There was no Robert, no Consuela, or any other of the staff of servants at John Delilah’s home, and so Marvin was forced to fend for himself during those hours between visits by Maribeth. She thought it better not to inflame her father by moving into the loft where the couch in the living room would necessarily become her bed. She arrived, though, every morning at nine to check on him, to nurse Marvin back to some semblance of health and mental stability. Along with shopping bags filled with wholesome food that she prepared in John’s kitchen, she brought him clean clothing, and she laundered that which was dirty. She brought him books—the remainder of those left behind—and she brought him his old blackboard wiped clean for a fresh start, a box of white chalk, and his computer.
His sallow complexion began to fade, alongside the flushing of the alcohol from his cells, and this, he was certain, was due to a renewed passion to live, and a healthy diet filled with slaughtered animals’ flesh, extremes of butter and whole milk, masses of chocolate cookies, mountains of mashed potatoes, more cookies; all of the beneficial foods once provided by the mansion staff. Following an instinctual drive to preserve himself coupled with a spirit of exploration, he eventually ventured into the galley kitchen to test the waters of cooking. He only became proficient at boiling water, incinerating meat, and burning toast. Had it not been for Maribeth, he would have been relegated to survival on unheated soup from the can, and cold cereal. And of course cookies.
Now John was fond of Raspberry yogurt splattered with Grape Nuts, Papaya juice, and whole wheat toast—at least four grams of fiber, no butter—for breakfast. Watching him eat, Marvin quickly ascertained that the gangly attorney was not getting a proper dosage of protein, but if he wanted to ruin his health by not eating intelligently, that was his business. Still, being the nutritional authority, if not Julia Childs, Marvin suggested he add a slice or two of ham to his plate, or at least several pieces of bacon—even an Oscar Mayer wiener. John merely looked across the island and smiled. No further mention of diet was made after day four.
Setting up a new office with Amy consumed a great number of hours each day for John. There were files to be organized, furniture and d├ęcor to be purchased and brought in, clients to be contacted; in short, all the things required of a start-up firm. As such, he was out of his home for a many more hours than he would normally be, but pleasantly so in the wonderful glow and golden shadow of Amy.

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