We began last night with an absentee — John Sutherland, who was in Nova Scotia for Thanksgiving — and a guest writer — Allan Hudson who, in addition to his fiction maintains a blog called the South Branch Scribbler. This is accessible at http://allanhudson.blogspot.ca/
We introduced ourselves and talked about our writing and our writing styles. Kevin Stephens, for example, thinks of himself as a structuralist who plans his writing, in advance, down to the last detail. He uses an Excel spread sheet, with photos of all his characters, heroes and villains, a detailed time line, and notes on all their major characteristics. Chuck Bowie is much looser with his structure and allows his characters to think and plan “on the hoof” so to speak. As a result, he rewrites great chunks of his action as the characters change their minds and tell him what they want to do. Roger Moore is primarily a poet. He works out most things in his head (Think before you Ink) and writes them down when he is ready. He uses notebooks and pen and ink for preference. Allan Hudson spoke of his difficulties as a writer of short fiction. However, the group praised his abilities as the owner of an excellent blog that really supports writers in the region. Chuck and Roger have both appeared on Allan’s blog and both will be happy to feature there again while Kevin and John are both hoping for a first appearance. That is the sort of presence that Allan inspires. In addition, he has some 400-500 visitors to the Blog each week and has recorded a weekly high of over 1,000 visits. These are powerful figures and speak so highly of his blogging talents.
Allan came to the group with a specific question: how do we, as writers, handle dialog? We spoke briefly on this topic, having handled it before. See these two blogs that we summarized in our discussion.
From dialogue we moved on to the use of accents in our writing. We began by stating that it is almost impossible to generate a spoken accent in written print. In part, this is because what we write in our own heads may not be what the reader receives in his or her own head. Then we broke “accent” down into its component parts: (1) the accidents of spoken speech – almost impossible to imitate in writing. (2) the accidents of syntactical change, where a different style of grammar already suggests an accented speaker – this is most certainly achievable and Kevin has managed it in particular with his Russian speakers. (3) the accidents of vocabulary choice – and this too is achievable with relative ease, as Chuck has shown in his Mancunian and Rumanian speech patterns (Steal it all). And (4) the insertion of selected colloquial phrases – boyo, and warra teg, for the Welsh; och aye, for the Scots; mon ami, for the French … such phrasing coupled with elements of 2 and 3 above help overcome the difficulties expressed in 1 above.
We then moved on to discuss the function of writing groups. Some groups exchange writing and commentate on member submissions. We do this from time to time, usually on a one on one basis. More important, perhaps, we submit questions to each other, as with the dialogue / accent examples above. Then we discuss moments of difficulty in the writing with which we are currently engaged. From the many open suggestions placed on the table, the author can then figure out his preferred options. Above all, we see ourselves as a support group for writers, ourselves and others. This means that at one level, we rejoice at the good news and lament the bad news. However, at another level, we help each other in very specific ways. One concrete example, John came over to my house and helped me create my account on CreateSpace. Then he talked / walked me through the placing of Monkey Temple online at Amazon and Kindle. I now have seven books online available worldwide at Amazon and Kindle. Without his help, I might never have taken this step.
We began at 7:00 pm and at 9:50 pm the gentleman in charge of The Second Cup announced that they were closing in ten minutes. Such is the power of friendship, group ethics, and the spoken word. I don’t think we counted the seconds or the passing time. “And a great time was had by all.”