Podcast: The Art And Craft Of Story With Victoria Mixon

In a previous post, I shared why The Creative Penn is one of my favourite Podcast series about writing. Today, I decided to sift through some past episodes, and I am very glad I did, because I discovered this enlightening, action-focused discussion on the art and craft of story with writer and editor Victoria Mixon.

Particularly useful for new writers (which I still am), Mixon shares how to strengthen and deepen stories, as well as why and how thinking about key aspects of the story in advance will help with writing better and faster. Mixon also explains the differences between literary genre fiction that clarify how a writer should approach each style, and then focuses on genre writing.

I was so impressed with this 2011 episode that I bought Mixon’s book “The Art and Craft of Fiction”. I truly felt I could follow her process and actually write a novel I would be happy with. I’ll let you know how I do with that!

*Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Lost in Translation

I was once told, “If you want to be a decent writer, you’d better be a good translator too”. I am not sure of how veritable this advice is, but personally I am convinced that possessing strong ability in translation can elevate my own writing because of the process’ requirements for linguistic sensitivity and the cultural susceptibility.

Last month I finished the book, Maya’s Notebook (El Cuaderno de Maya), written by Isabel Allende and translated by Anne McLean. The smooth rhythm that is the book’s narrative made my reading experience seamlessly pleasant. I was showered with splendid sentences such as this one:

“The tongue is a daring and indiscreet snake, and I’m not talking about the things it says. The heart and the penis are my favorites: indomitable, transparent in their intentions, candid, and vulnerable; one shouldn’t take advantage of them”. (pp.228)

I can’t help but wonder whether the original is as biblically poetic as the one christening my mind.

Growing up bilingual, if not bicultural, I have my fair share of running across bad translated materials. In Taiwan blemished translation novels and poetries from foreign countries are endemic, except Japan. Haruki Murakami, the most influential Japanese writer in Taiwan (and New York), has an ordained Taiwanese translator, who not only captures his writing quirks but essences. However no one here dares to touch Edith Wharton. My first introduction to this magnificent writer was back in 1993 when Martin Scorsese’s movie, “The Age of Innocence,” came out. Greatly impressed by the elegant movie, I dug out the novel’s sole translation available in the market place. Sadly I vomited in the midst of reading it, decided to go kaput and burned the book in my garage. There was zero complete sentence; the translation of “absence” as in “Absent—that was what he was: so absent from everything most densely real and near to those about him…..” was unfortunately explained literally as ”AWOL”.

Last year I spent some time translating the book (The Age of Innocence) and had to stop after a few weeks. I was stuck in building the connecting bridge between two languages (English and Chinese). Some terms, such as “shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy,” was difficult to find comparable equivalence. The word, shabby, can be easily misinterpreted as contemptible in Mandarin.

What’s the best translation novel you’ve ever read? Why do you think it’s successful?

Book Recommendation – From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction

From Amazon:

Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, teaches graduate fiction at Florida State University — his version of literary boot camp. In From Where You Dream, Butler reimagines the process of writing as emotional rather than intellectual, and tells writers how to achieve the dreamspace necessary for composing honest, inspired fiction. Proposing that fiction is the exploration of the human condition with yearning as its compass, Butler reinterprets the traditional tools of the craft using the dynamics of desire. Offering a direct view into the mind and craft of a literary master, From Where You Dream is an invaluable tool for the novice and experienced writer alike.

From Me:

I am reading this book for the third time in two months. As this book is an arrangement of transcripts of Butler’s lectures and classes, reading this book makes me feel like I am in school again, with the luxury of being able to sit back and contemplate each lesson as I go through them. Butler’s approach to writing is a good fit with how I write, and I love the idea of getting into the dreamspace. Since reading this book the first time in late November, I have been living with the characters in my new story, and I love it.

To see Butler in action, watch his series on Youtube, where he takes us through his creative process when writing a short story. There are 17 episodes, so make sure you have time to spare before trying to watch them all! Inside Creative Writing

Diagnose Your Character!

I recently “discovered” an interesting read in my Amazon WishList: How To Diagnose Your Character: Using Psychology To Create an In-Depth Character by Joshua Hoyt. While I can’t remember who it was that recommended this book to me, I will now be recommending it to all my writing friends as well.

Hoyt gives an excellent overview of psychology, with examples and writing exercises to help apply different theories and facts to fictional characters to make them more rounded and believable. While the psychology was a review for me as a once-upon-a-time psychology major, it helped me put to words the things I was trying to say about some of my more complex characters, and helped me to develop some of the ones I was struggling to “diagnose.”