“You’ll lose your reader to a midnight snack.”

Autumnwriting gives 5 tips to a page-turning chapter.

One of them entails to skip what we have called here at P’kaboo, “shoe-lacing”.  Going into too-much-detail on how the main hero goes down on one knee and ties first his left, then his right shoe-laces, left-over-right, right-over-left, two loops and through, pulling them ever so slightly too tight (causing a thrombosis in his feet that will eventually kill him – nah, just kidding, I put that in to make something happen!).

So Autumnwriting suggests that if the reader needs to participate in every meal the protagonist partakes of, you’ll lose your reader to a midnight snack.

Well hey!  I’ve lost a lot of things to midnight snacks (most significantly, my figure), but never yet a reader – midnight snacks are what helps me write!  But okay, okay…  I know how it’s meant.  Just to illustrate the point:

In the “Shooting Star” series, Federi breaks away irretrievably from the Solar Wind (he tries this repeatedly in “The Morrigan” and more seriously in “Nix Romipen” but by commandeering the Shooting Star, he eventually succeeds).

The Solar Wind’s crew feel this in a particularly bitter way.  They have been robbed of their master chef; the other two crew members who were really good with food, Paean, and Mindy Adamson (we meet her in “The Morrigan”), have joined Federi and are therefore not aboard either.  Galley work falls to the most unlikely suspect: The humble but somewhat creepy Lyr of Dome.  Having spent hundreds of years deep beneath the ocean surface subsisting mostly on “frutti di mare”, he doesn’t understand the advanced palate of the twenty-second century.

Lyr tries; he really tries.  Still, somehow, the crew is tough to please.

 

1.  Shoe-lacing Lyr’s cooking skills in “The Morrigan”:

Federi ground his teeth. Captain wasn’t making this easy!

What did Captain need him for? The cook was Lyr. The chars were the croaches. There were plenty of sharp assassins aboard. Ailyss, Jon… Able sailors? When last had they actually flown a storm? Quartermaster…

“ ‘s just a holiday, Captain,” he said sanguinely. “Showing Paean a few places.”

“And what does Captain say?”

“Nothing,” said Shawn with a grin. “And he also says nothing to having to eat sushi three times a day. I just can’t get the idea of cooking into Lyr’s head. Captain is in a very good mood. He keeps asking how many days to Christmas.”

“Shawn,” she asked suspiciously, “what have you done to Captain?”

Lyr cropped up in the galley door and lifted his nearly invisible eyebrows in surprise.

“I see you are making food!”

“Yup!” Paean glanced up at him and smiled. The tall gangly Atlantean smiled back, with too many irregular merrow teeth.

“But you’re not going to spoil things by cooking them,” he presumed.

“I am,” said Paean. “The crew wants a bit of a change from the whole-food diet. Come, have a seat, Lyr! Can I give you some vegetation to decapitate?”

“Vegetation has a central nervous system?” asked Lyr, puzzled. Paean laughed and pushed the potatoes his way.

“They even have eyes, sometimes,” she informed him as she picked up a peeler and showed him how to go about it. The next ten minutes, while she quickly fried up enough fish for the crew, she watched how the tall man struggled to get all the skin off that first potato he had picked up.

“Practice makes perfect,” she chirped eventually and sat down across from him, picking up more potatoes and pulling a Paean on them. Those potatoes didn’t know what was happening to them. A bit in the same line, thought Paean with a grin, as comparing Dana and Perdita playing poker.

“Captain, she made lunch,” said Lyr gravely. “She didn’t stay long though.”

 2.  And in “The Shooting Star”:

Lyr!” Ih yoy! Bad enough Virian on the bridge; bad enough Lyr in the galley! But Lyr, holding the bridge? “Where’s Captain?”

Lyr bared his teeth, with a tired, old smile. An Atlantean smile.

Tending to husbanding duties. Poor man.”

Federi hid his urge to explode into laughter. Aliens and their inability to understand about too much information!

Husbanding? That could take a while! Meanwhile the Shooting Star was calling him, crying out to him…

Keep an eye on this one, Lyr. If he moves in a way that bothers you, eat him.”

Federi, there is a moratorium on eating humans on this ship,” said Lyr. “Not that I did previously…”

First time for everything,” replied Federi lightly and teleported out. Damn, Lyr! Show some initiative! And then he remembered. Alien as the man seemed, he was actually human.

3.  Things come to a head in “Valleylon”:

“Federi,” said Lyr with an ocean-deep sigh, “they did not want to eat the good, fresh food I served them, the fruit of the sea. Rhine Gold told me to make spaghetti, and I’m doing that now, and they don’t want to eat that either.”

Federi peered into the pot that was boiling away on the stove. The pasta was already quite soggy and on its way to becoming paste.

“Got to drain that,” he instructed. “How do you make your sauce?”

“Sauce?”

Federi laughed. That explained it! “Can’t give them spaghetti without sauce! Course they won’t eat that! Observe!” He dug in the fridge. Everything was – this puzzled him – exactly the way he’d last left it. Except, freshly stocked. Lyr didn’t seem to have the courage to make any changes at all.

“But Lyr, all the stuff is here! Don’t you use it?”

“I don’t know what you keep those things for,” said the Atlantean. “Whenever I look, they need to be replaced because they have rotted.”

Federi snorted. “It’s not mine, Lyr! It’s there for the crew to eat! I don’t work on this ship anymore.”

Well, whatever. It came in handy. He pulled a few tomatoes, some mince, and a number of other ingredients out of the fridge and chopped them up with a flying staccato. Thirty seconds later to it’s own surprise a bolognaise sauce was simmering on the stove, not knowing how it had got there.

“See? There! Now they’ll definitely eat that!” Federi turned from the stunned Lyr to Vlad. “Say, Vlad, there’s something strange about Monica.”

[…]

He teleported out. Lyr turned to the Solar Wind’s eye, in the corner of the galley.

“Solar Wind, please could you replay for me what he did with that sauce? Slowly?”

 

I played unfair this time.  The books aren’t even out yet.  You can find “The Morrigan” and “Nix Romipen” on Smashwords as part of the Solar Wind series (the last parts in fact), but “Shooting Star” and “Valleylon” are not yet released.

Here’s the link to the series:

sw-series

 

 


There are some more cute little points to Autumnwriting’s post:

The number 5.

That’s just the perfect number.  Good blogging practices dictate (and I don’t like dictators so I don’t) that you 1) keep your posts fairly short; 2) structure them visually; 3) start your heading with a number (5) and a “magic word” (“secrets”) for a catchy heading; and the number 5 is a perfect balance.  2 hot parenting tips are barely worth more than a skim, right?  Whereas 9 ways of earning cash online are a tome and will take real commitment to read.  5 is the perfect balance.

Here are for instance 5 cool parenting tips of teenagers:

  1. is essential to make the others work.  Make them feel sorry for you poor overworked, over-stressed mom.
  2. Dishes:  Let them each wash their own plate and cutlery, Scouts-style, after every meal.  This will reduce dishes to near nothing.
  3. Clothes:  Make them responsible for washing their own clothes – but you check that it actually happens.  They need to sort out on Sunday what they’ll be wearing for the week, and stick it through the machine.  (Checking my privilege, this is for people who are not too poor to own a washing machine.)
  4. Bathrooms:  It is in any case good form that each teenager knows to rinse out the basin after brushing teeth, and to scrub out the bath after use.
  5. Give them chores, then let them off the hook.  That way, whenever you ask the correct kid to help you with e.g. washing up (just the pots obviously because everything else was taken care of by the each-for-themselves-system), you can remind them that actually it’s their kitchen rota and they’ve been having an easy time of it.  It saves tons of backchat!

If you can get these implemented even just 70% of the time you will feel a significant difference – and also with having resilient, clued-up kids.  Clearly nobody on the Solar Wind has cottoned onto these – slaves will still be slaves!

Now shoosh and go read!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/24238

~ gipsika ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on ““You’ll lose your reader to a midnight snack.”

  1. But then you might be the next Virginia Woolf and break every single one of these rules with such elegance that you will enthral your reader, so much so that they starve themselves for days because they can’t pull themselves away from your words.

    If you were tackling a story where (apparently) the protagonist is a recovering amnesiac who has to learn the world around her, to find ways of expressing experiences in maturity that an infant would before learning to speak, then maybe the tying of a shoelace would become so significant that only minute detail would do. That’s the puzzle I have in my novel-in-progress (the one I have taken almost half a year’s sabbatical from writing, LOL).

    • 🙂 Wow, that sounds enticing!

      Yes, I’m not someone who is too big on writing “rules”. I have been told, variously, that if your book is longer or shorter than 80 000 words, you don’t have a plot; that if you’re writing in third person, you’re outdated and nobody will want to read you (how did JK do it?), and all sorts of other little rubbishy rules. Rules, where I’m concerned, are there for the breaking. If you haven’t mastered them in high school, I guess you must master them first before breaking them; but slavonically sticking to rules doesn’t leave much room for the kind of creativity necessary for innovating.

  2. Never heard this. But then again there’s probably a lot more that I haven’t heard of.
    Some rules I find pedantic; others have proved helpful and have improved my delivery style.
    I have adopted a ritual that I try to apply: when I read advice about how a budding writer must do this or that I check to see how some of my favorite authors approach said rules.

    Yet on saying this, I’ve mentioned before that Donaldson went ballistic with detail in his third Covenant series which I felt unnecessary and he did, in fact , lose me to lunch, never mind a midnight snack!

    • He was indulging in world building. I couldn’t get very far into his series at all, but I can understand anyway why he writes like that. He writes unimpeded by opinion, because he’s already there. People read and love his work, no matter how epic. He doesn’t need how you or I feel about his style. (And I know you’re a great fan. 😉 )

    • The first two series are still on my all-time favorite list, but the third series? Sorry. Couldn’t get past the first book, which I suspect I finished out of a sense of loyalty rather that outright enjoyment.

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