June 5th, 2008


[links] Link salad Thursday edition

adameros reacts to Mainspring Powell's | Amazon thb | Audible ] — Hahahahaha!

Giant telescopes could be built from moon dust — Big Science is back, baby.

Lighthouse, presumed destroyed, found on opposite coast — Darn, I hate it when that happens. (Thanks to danjite.)

A new step in evolution — A fascinating study in bacterial evolution. With bonus Creationist lunacy in comments! (Thanks to lt260.)

High Flatulent LanguageLangyage Log on spell checkers, again.

saycestsay with a heartfelt view of the Clinton campaign and how the Senator has been treated — The comments are very worthwhile as well.

Time in saddle: 0 minutes (still recovering from surgery)
Last night's weigh-out: n/a
This morning's weigh-in: 259.8
Currently reading: The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia Amazon ]


[books] Commenting on a review

I'm doing something now which I almost never do, which is comment directly on a review. There's some very good reasons for that rule, but like many rules, it's context-dependent. I absolutely believe the story belongs to the reader, so reviewer reactions never bother me, because at a bare minimum, they are utterly valid for that reviewer, and in most cases, for a whole segment of my readership.

I recently posted a link to Paul Di Filippo's SCIFI.COM review of Escapement Amazon ]. While I find almost all my reviews interesting, especially the negative ones, I wanted to take a moment to thank Paul for truly getting it. His review explains what I was trying to do with the book better than I myself could have managed to do.

It's kind of cool to see myself in a mirror that is so well-crafted.

[photos|science] World's largest baking soda volcano

Yesterday I went to see the world's largest baking soda volcano. It was pretty funny, really, complete with popsicle stick houses in the path of the cryosodaic flows.

joshenglish was less impressed than I, but nonetheless the experience was entertaining. My only regret was that I expected a giant baking soda dune drenched with vinegar, when in fact they managed the affair with pipes and buckets inside a covered frame.

Nonetheless, eppur si fizze.

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As usual, more at the Flickr set

[process] The plot diamond

I had lunch with kenscholes today. As usual we spoke of many things; ships and shoes and sealing wax at a minimum. As is so often the case when Trailer Boy and I are hanging out, we got to talking about beginnings, middles and ends of books, specifically from the auctorial perspective. He commented on the fact that when the book gets into the final act, he writes much faster to close out the story than he does at the beginning when he's still entering the story.

I agreed this was completely natural, and made the observation that plots are essentially shaped like diamonds. In the first act, you open a door to enter the narrative, only to face an endless variety of choices for character, action, setting, problems, solutions, what have you. These options burgeon before you, the writer, and you must not only choose them, but allow them to multiply like rabbits until you reach the level of complexity which makes the work interesting and sustains the interesting aspects of the story.

The second act is where you (mostly) stop throwing open new doors and begin to concentrate on what all those choices mean to the characters and their story. This is the waist of the diamond. The famous "muddle in the middle" comes from this shift in both momentum and direction, when the author has to figure out what the heck it all means and drive the story in some direction or another.

The third act comes back together, the possibilities of the plot being pruned off one by one, until it narrows to a conclusion balancing between dramatic inevitabily and surprise. Like all good endings, it reflects the beginning — the other tip of the plot diamond.

Like so:


Thoughts? Corrections? Comments?