Writers Discussing Writing – pt I (Samuel Snoek-Brown, guest)

October 14, 2012

I read an online story by my guest, Samuel Snoek-Brown recently.  And it touched me so much, I re-blogged it on my site here.

Here’s a link to it: Lightning My Pilot.   I really thought so highly of it that, as a ramp up to National Novel Writing Month,  I’ve invited the author to engage in a three-part talk about the how’s and why’s that went into creating this small gem. Here’s the first blog, the next ones will show up in the 21th & 28th of October.

So first, take a look at his short story.Then see our talk here, I really didn’t expect us to have that much to discuss, but you know writers… especially deadly serious ones. Here we go.

Blog one of three

EJR:  I think there’s something cool in looking at what the first thing your characters say on the page. Either because you planned on writing it, or during the edits, you came back and added it.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Yeah, that’s totally right — I wasn’t thinking about dialogue at first! But you’re totally right about that.

EJR: I love the line the mother says first in the story

“Oh Honey…”

It really shows so much in the simple two opener words. They’re so­– motherly.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: So, yeah– I used “Oh honey” as a kind of affectionate aside.  I wanted her first spoken words to be both casual and distracted (the “oh”) but also casually loving (the “honey”).

EJR: It’s so important to not say too much in the narration, but instead show the same thing, in a subtle way via dialogue or smaller actions. It works so much better, no? What advice would you give novices for getting to that point where doing that comes easier?

Samuel Snoek-Brown: I suppose it would depend on how they wrote the character of the mother. I feel like this woman lives in my head, as a kind of “ideal mother” figure — especially since she’s alone, without the boy’s father.

EJR: So it comes from tapping into what’s remembered or created in your head, those sense memories, rather than trying to be writer-ish on the page?

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Yeah, someone else’s “ideal mother” might come out differently. So I think, whatever that novice writer needed to convey character, I’d be looking for something like that. Maybe not “oh honey,” but whatever THEIR ides of what mothers would have said.

EJR: I love your title. How did it come about? Did you work hard at coming up with it?

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Oh, I hate titles! Laughs. I suck at them.

EJR: Laughs, So this was a great title caused by blood and tears? What’s your secret here?

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Lately, I’ve been turning to other sources that might somehow resonate with my work. Kind of the way Hemingway would turn to the bible, or Faulkner would turn to classical literature.

EJR: Smart.  I bet a lot of novices never think along those lines when they start out. How one bit of art can feed your own.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: So I did some looking — I knew I wanted to go with poetry, something poetic — and I remembered Shelley. I couldn’t remember the poem in particular, but I remembered he’d done something with clouds, so I looked him up.

EJR: Research – a writer’s god. Plus, you expose yourself to so much more you might not have thought to read in the searching.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Sure enough, that poem is “The Cloud.” So the title is from a line in that Shelley poem.

EJR: Next question, 1,829 words.  Did you write big and cut down, or make an effort to write short and small?

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Okay, let me look at it for a moment…. Humm. Tough one.

EJR: Let’s move to the tone you opened with, and how it evolved through the story. It began with a Creative Non-Fiction tone, Sounding a bit reflective and memoir in tone. But slipped into the story telling tone at the line

“Mom,” he said. “Why are the god-ships fighting?”

Talk to us about that process.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Tone. Hummm. Okay, here’s the part where I sound like a jerk.

EJR: Don’t be so sure.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: I wrote this story, almost the whole of it, in my head while soaking in the tub nursing a terrible headache. When I got out of the tub, I pounded out a draft still wearing my towel, and then I went to bed.

EJR: So you did write small to bigger. I have to say, I felt like I was hearing the tale, and no longer reading the reminiscences.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: I work it over a few times the next day, but beginning to end, I wrote it in under 24 hours.

EJR: That’s a rarity, but when it comes you are so lucky to grab it.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: If anything, it got a, maybe, hundred words longer.

EJR: You slip in the back-story in small increments throughout the piece. Nothing is the overt narrator’s voice talking right to the reader, Like with the simple line:

It’s what he’d said when his father deployed.

Samuel Snoek-Brown: In the first draft, I didn’t have a father figure at all. So that whole missing father/war background came in the second day.

EJR: I can see that info, but it’s given to us as a reaction to what her some has said to her. A lot of novices would not realize the action of characters revealing bits of back story can be so swift, and yet so telling of a great deal. Did you work on salting these back-story moments into the story after the fact? Or were they written as you went along?

Samuel Snoek-Brown: Yes. But, that’s just a few dozen words.

EJR: Oh yeah, it’s very subtle. Which is what I like so much about the way you wrote this.

Let’s give you a break, and next time we’ll move into discussing Scene.

Samuel Snoek-Brown:  Great. Until Next week.


7 Responses to “Writers Discussing Writing – pt I (Samuel Snoek-Brown, guest)”

  1. Reblogged this on Samuel Snoek-Brown and commented:
    EJ Runyon and I had a LONG and very interesting conversation about my story “Lightning My Pilot.” We get into areas of general craft, but it’ll help to read the story (if you haven’t already) to understand some of what we talk about. Otherwise, dive into the first part of the interview!

    Any comments? Feel free to leave some here, but definitely leave questions or comments at EJ’s blog: join our conversation! 🙂

  2. […] Writers Discussing Writing – pt I (Samuel Snoek-Brown, guest) Reblogged from E.J. Runyon's Author Blog: […]

  3. […] EJ Runyon and I had a LONG and very interesting conversation about my story “Lightning My Pilot.” We get into areas of general craft, but it’ll help to read the story (if you haven’t already) to understand some of what we talk about. Otherwise, dive into part two of the interview! […]

  4. […] And if you haven't read parts one or two of the interview, you can start the whole conversation here; then you can check out part two dive into part two of the interview here. Otherwise, dive into the […]

  5. […] and if you’re interested in the story’s background, I did a three-part interview with EJ Runyon about “Lightning My Pilot” over at her […]

  6. […] You might remember EJ from the interview she did with me two years ago this month. You can find the first of the three-part series on her blog. […]

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