Just finished reading the hefty autobiography of Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. As long as it is, I wonder how much got trimmed along the way by the author himself, as Springsteen the songwriter is an incredible poetic storyteller and knows the value and power of words (and music as well) … and it’s not like he could ever include everything anyway (was still sad that the book didn’t talk about his participation in the making of “We Are the World”).
Appreciated that he didn’t hide himself (completely, at least) in telling his story, and offered his usual raw look at life, including his own struggles:
Otherwise, if you’d like to hear/see some of Springsteen in action not only as a performer but most of all as a wordsmith, check out some these favorites of mine, which would be material enough for a writing course on their own:
“Thunder Road” [listen for “There were ghosts in the eyes…” and the next line about Chevrolets — such stark visual word-painting]
“Jungleland” [listen for the line about the barefoot girl — more great imagery thanks to little details]
“Streets of Philadelphia” [opening lines so brutally personal, from the point of view of the narrator: mainly Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Philadelphia, and yet such common emotions for all of us at one time or another in life]
“American Skin (41 Shots)” [tackling a lightning-rod issue with this one … studio version with lyrics here]
“The Ghost of Tom Joad” [kind of a culmination of how he taps into creating music that isn’t afraid to speak to modern culture … studio version with lyrics here]
PS: Found an Apple interview with Springsteen and really liked this line from him when asked about writing a book rather than song lyrics:
“You gotta find the music that’s in the words themselves.”
Sage wisdom for writers of any kind …
Every so often, a novelist should make it a point to remember that most readers have about 54,000 other things they could be doing instead of reading a book. A novel will only hold your reader’s attention ahead of all those other things if it’s truly worth reading.
Aside from all the various mechanics and methods of writing that can turn off a reader, one item sure to doom your novel is goofing up on so-called little details—especially when you need to include subject matter that may not be familiar to you.
To wit: Continue reading
It will probably come as no surprise that editors enjoy the written word, which means that most of us wordsmiths not only work with words as a profession, but we also have our noses in books each day for the pure joy of reading. To wit, just the other night, I was re-reading an old trade paperback comic book (X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga) because I think it’s a great story overall, with super artwork to boot.
Anyway, at one point I came across some dialogue that is common enough in comic books because they are such a visual medium, and it reminded me of an issue that I come across all too often in my work as an editor: dialogue that doesn’t sound realistic because it’s so full of backstory and/or information dumps.
Again, in comic books I expect this to some degree because the writers have limited space with captions and word/thought balloons, but I have to admit that it still bugged me a little because it just sounded so unrealistic. When I see it in a novel I’m working on, I flag it and let the writer know that such dialogue will not ring true in a reader’s ears and will feel like a hiccup or speed bump even amidst well-written prose.
Here’s an example: Continue reading
In the first part of this post, we took a look at an author who lived and died by the plotter/planner method of crafting a novel—a method that had served him well more than once. But when we last saw this author, he’d just read a book on fiction writing that preached the polar opposite of the plotter/planner way: flying by the seat of your pants (aka, the pantser method).
So what did this author do? Did he just dismiss this blasphemous pantser drivel and stick to his guns as a plotter/planner?