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In a previous article, I extolled the virtues of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. One of my favorite sections is entitled Myth America, which describes the history we never quite learned right. Here are some favorites, taken from pages 28-29, 67.
1. Myth: Indians invented scalping as a method to terrorize settlers.
Readers of fiction often complain that a book didn’t keep their interest, that the characters, story and/or writing just didn’t grab them. Today’s readers have shorter attention spans and so many more books to choose from. Most of them/us don’t have the time or patience for the lengthy descriptive passages, long, convoluted “literary” sentences, detailed technical explanations, author asides, soap-boxing, or the leisurely pacing of fiction of 100 years ago.
Besides, with TV, movies, and the internet, we don’t need most of the detailed descriptions of locations anymore, unlike early readers who’d perhaps never left their town, and had very few visual images of other locales to draw on. Ditto with detailed technical explanations – if readers want to know more, they can just Google the topic.
While you don’t want your story barreling along at a break-neck speed all the way through – that would be exhausting for the reader – you do want the pace to be generally brisk enough to keep the readers’ interest. As Elmore Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
Here are some concrete techniques for accelerating your narrative style at strategic spots to create those tense, fast-paced scenes.
Continue reading on Jodie Renner‘s site:
The Visigoth sack of Rome in 410 A.D. was a milestone in the fall of the Empire. Not since Hannibal reached Rome in 218 B.C. had an invading force threatened the city. In the latter case, there was no attack because Hannibal knew he could not prevail. Alaric, king of the Visigoths saw a different vista – an impotent western empire without a future.
Find what happened at http://www.mikeanderson.biz/2012/03/visigoth-sack-of-rome-410-ad.html
During college, a roommate of mine had the perfect book—a paperback specifically designed for bathroom reading. I don’t remember checking it out then, as the thought of reading someone else’s bathroom book did not seem quite right.
As a side note, another friend of mine was curious about a thick book of money tips sitting I had on the back of the toilet. When he started to flip through it, my bookmark—an Our Daily Bread pamphlet—fell out. Into the toilet. He quickly retrieved it and attempted to clean and dry it. Afterwards, he held it out to me and said, “This book fell in the toilet.” No apology, no explanation, but hilarious to me. Not mentioning any names…
At a recent yard sale, I found the book my roommate had—Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, written by none less than the Bathroom Reader’s Institute. It was “especially designed with the needs of bathroom readers in mind: It’s full of brief but interesting articles that can be read in a few seconds, or a few minutes.” (p4) More importantly, it has topics ranging from historical myths to riddles, Mark Twain and Einstein quotes to vocab etymology, little known facts about Barbie to the story behind Louis, Louis. It even has a table of contents.
This yard sale version looked unused, so I figured it was safe to buy. I don’t suppose I can ever resell it, as most of the pages are now dogeared. Then again, I may keep it as a reference. There are few things so beneficial for authors as wide reading. Maybe a fact about Gilligan’s Island can strike a thought for a character, or a quote by Nixon could be spoken to add realism.
Check it out. The Bathroom Reader is meant to fill your mind as you empty your bladder. It is not meant to be read straight through. Their advice: open a page and “go with the flow.”
Sometimes I feel like I cannot be a real author since real authors have huge goals like 1,000 words every day. I’ve done this before, even developing the habit at times.
I feel envious when I hear of some writers, who top this lofty goal by writing several thousand words in a single day. I did that. Once.
But what about when life steps in?