Closing off the book list 2008

Well, I gave it a go and here is how far I got in 2008:

1. A Certain Slant of Light – Laura Whitcomb

2. The Road to Avalon – Joan Wolf

3. Rope Burns – F.X. Toole

4. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver

5. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

6. Battle Royale – Houshun Takami

7. I Haven’t Dreamt of Flying for a While – Taichi Yamada

8. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

9. Rape – A Love Story – Joyce Carol Oates

10. How to Survive a Horror Movie – Seth Grahame-Smith

11. The Ice Queen – Alice Hoffman

12. Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

13. The Book with No Name – Anonymous

14. Winkie – Clifford Chase

15. Lost Girls and Love Hotels – Catherine Hanrahan

16. Nefertiti – Michelle Moran

17. Tan Lines – J.J. Salem

18. The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

19. Candide – Voltaire

20. Real World – Natsuro Karino

21. The Choice – Nicolas Sparks

22. Almost Transparent Blue – Ryu Murakami

23. The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati

24. Out – Natsuro Kirino

25. After Dark – Murakami

So, just short of half my target. 2009 will have to be better. So, here’s my first resolution of the year. My friends will understand how difficult this will be for me, but I won’t buy another book until I’ve read 52 books from  my exisiting library.  I have about 200 unread books to choose from, so I shoudn’t want for options… wish me luck in 2009.

Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup

As a writer, I’m also a reader. I read everything and anything that catches my attention. Novels, newspaper, how-to books, magazines, cereal boxes, blogs, forum posts, song lyrics…anything. One of the most important things in writing is expanding your vocabulary, so I study the words and expressions of others searching for inspiration.

Funny, the book that I keep going back to is the dictionary.

Whenever I’m stuck, I flick through the thin pages of the enormous book and look for words I’ve never heard before.

Try this, find a dictionary, flick through each letter and make a list of 26 words you’re never heard of and write a narrative around them.

Have fun playing with the words.

Writing Prompt: Alphabet Soup

Writing Prompt: Creating the perfect fit

My tastes in books tends to be a bit eclectic. I have Japanese thrillers, historical fiction, contemporary British, history, philosophy, fantasy, horror and science fiction (to name a few).  There is no predicting what will capture my attention on a given day when I wander into Waterstone’s on Princes Street. When I go in, I tell myself that I won’t buy anything. I’ll just browse. I’ve written before about how libraries and bookshops calm me. You can measure my mood by the weight of my shopping bag.

As I looked at my overflowing bookcase at home, deciding what to read, I couldn’t decide. So, I selected five book at random and began to flick through them. I came across a passage in one of them and stopped.

“There’s only one way to overcome the fear: you’ve got to stab someone else with an ice pick.” (from: Piercing, Ryu Muurakami)

Interesting, I thought. Curious of what the others contained, I flicked through them and stopped at random pages. I closed my eyes for a moment, and letting my fingers guide me through the pages, I stopped somewhere in the middle of each. I opened my eyes letting them rest on any sentence they chose first, then marked the line. When I had done this with every book, I copied each line and this is what I got:

“I understand, though,” Mr. Lettreblair continued, “that she attached no importance to the money. Therefore, as the family say, why not let well enough alone?” (from: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton)

“Before they has reached the top the painter threw the door wide open and with a deep bow invited K to enter.” (from The Trial, Franz Kafka)

“Oh Grady, I’m so glad you’re there. So many bad things are happening at once.” (from: Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon)

“He looks at his watch. It is twenty to one, which is not bad, and he won’t even mentions she’s late.  This is what he’d call within bounds.” (from: The Kiss, Joan Lingard)

These are all buried deep within the pages of very different books by authors that span from 1920 to 2002. The authors were Japanese, Scottish, American and Czech.

So, faced with the range of where the lines and books come from, it’s not impossible to picture a scenario where these lines might well fit together.

Try this: Pick five books, pick five lines at random and see if you can create a scene or a storyline where they might all fit.

Writing Prompt: Creating the perfect fit

Sonnet 147 – William Shakepeare

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve,
Desire his death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth vainly express'd;

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

Quote for the day

Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man’s life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible. 

~Leo Tolstoy


Writing Prompt: Putting words in the blender

When I sat at my computer, the blank screen in Word taunted me. I rested my hands on the keyboard, fingers at the ready, twitching to be set loose on the keys. I waited. Nothing happened.

I began to think of things troubling me, of relationships I’m worried about, about the future. Too much, I thought, it’s all a wee bit too much for a Sunday evening.

I closed my eyes and began to type. I hit delete more than once. I tried again. Thank God for the ability to create drafts before it all goes out into the world.

Ok, I though, someone save me. At that precise moment, my eyes wandered around the desk and rested on “Chambers Handy Dictionary”. That’s it! I thought. I opened the book and chose a random word, then a few more in arbitrary pages. Here is my list.

furtive, quibble, stringent, constrict, masquerade

I’ve decided to start a piece based on these words. Pick up a dictionary, select five words at random and make them work together to create a theme. From there, who knows where the idea may travel.

Example: She looked up and gave him a furtive look. From where he sat, he seemed serene, but she, having known him for so many years recognised the masquerade. He was angry. Although she had no desire to quibble with him, she wanted to make peace. To accuse him of hiding his emotions would no doubt bring them out, but to wait until he was calm again was the wiser, if not immediately gratifying choice. No, she would have to wait, let him count to ten, then approach in a day or so.

She wanted to march up to him and shake him out of his mask of calm, to accuse him, to provoke a reaction, but she would be stringent with herself for her and his own good. Nothing good would come of dragging out their dispute for all to see. She rehersed the scene in her head for half an hour, shouting in her head what she most wanted to say to him, until she was worked up. She was stifled, and the repression of her feelings towards him at that moment served only to constrict her breathing. No, this would not do, she thought. I have to have my say.

She stood and wandered towards his desk, ready for a fight. Upon reaching it, he looked up and offered her a neutral, though slightly questioning look. “Yeah?” he said. There was no aggression there.

“Uh,” she started, but faltered. “I’m making some coffees for everyone. You want one?” She said.

“Nope. Thanks, though.” He said.

“Ok, just checking.” She said and made her way towards the kitchen. Whew, she thought, that was a close one. As she reached the kitchen, she thanked God for decaf and self control. Maybe I’m the one who needs time, she sighed…

Writing Prompt: Putting Words in the Blender

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