Conventions

The Historical Fiction Drama Wartime Romance

If you are on Instagram, you may be familiar with “Throwback Thursdays.” On Thursdays, you dig out older photos and post, or re-post, them. I dug up a REAL oldie yesterday:

Good morning again from just north of London, England.๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง I apologize in advance for that.๐Ÿค” Above: at Mystic Seaport, near New London, Connecticut, in 2000.๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ . A throwback? Worse: Late Middle Ages.โŒ›๏ธ๐Ÿ“†๐Ÿ“œ Iโ€™m holding there my then digital camera case.๐Ÿ“ท This is so long ago itโ€™s pre-smartphones, and pre-selfies, ladies and gentlemen. And donโ€™t you *dare* mention those (transition) eyeglasses๐Ÿ‘“ or I may block you!๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‚ (Merely snicker in private, thank you very much.) . #goodmorning #ThrowbackThursday #tbt #tbtthursday #tbth #travel #USA #humor #humour #MysticSeaport #Connecticut #fashion #style #turnofthecentury #history #writers #tourism #tourist #writersofinstagram #authors #authorsofinstagram #novels #expats #expatlife #photos #photography #fun

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Yep, that’s me, eighteen years ago.

Sky had also been good enough yesterday to have had a broadband outage for nearly 15 hours, which restricted my internet to my mobile phone. So aside from that Insta-post, until Sky finally fixed their troubles at around 9 pm, I checked the net only when I felt I needed to.

So I got LOTS done. ๐Ÿ™‚

At one point, writing something of a wordy, complicated paragraph of the new manuscript, I recalled an older book I had enjoyed as a teen, and had re-read a few years ago. Taking a break, I pulled it off its shelf in another room. It has probably been one of the five most important fiction books in my life:

I keep seeing "life-changing" reading suggestions pop up on here. Which books/writers actually have been โ€œlife-changingโ€ for me? Indeed, which have stayed with me for, umm, decades, and made a truly profound impact? ๐Ÿค” . Those novels always amaze me whenever I open them up for a read againโ€ฆ and again and again; they have been there for me since I was a teenager (now far too long ago). Thus if I can honestly say if I have any, those are probably my five favorite novels of all time.๐Ÿ“š . Over on the blog, I explain more: "Here Are 'The Top Five'" (Link in bio). Have a good day, wherever you are in the world.๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง . #books #reading #literature #history #authors #authorsofinstaagram #writersofinstagram #writers #writing #socialmedia #romance #romancenovels #favoritenovels #novels #favoritebooks #memory #fiction #historicalfiction #expats #expatlife

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Written in the 1960s…

[“The Winds of War,” by Herman Wouk. Photo by me, 2016.]

…it is dated and “old-fashioned” writing in some ways. However, it’s still a good – although also a bit of a hefty – read. It took Herman Wouk some seven years to write it. I would be lying if I said it has not been one of my major writing influences.

That said, it has non-age weaknesses. It has whole sections you as a reader may feel inclined to want to skip – especially story-distracting elongated “digressions” into weaponry, tactics, and military history. One example, it returns again and again to extended “excerpts” of a “German officer’s” recounting of the Second World War many years after it had ended in Nazi Germany’s total defeat:

[“The Winds of War,” by Herman Wouk. Photo by me, 2018.]

It is interesting, but I suspect most readers of a novel like this know that sort of stuff from actual history books. If they don’t, they likely aren’t going to read it because military background such as that probably doesn’t interest them. Moreover offsetting extended text “asides” in that manner almost asks readers to flip by it; if it is vital, it needs to be woven, somehow, better into the narrative – or, at least, be a lot shorter.

In contrast, this excerpt is, I believe, more of what readers of an historical fiction drama wartime romance are probably looking for:

[“The Winds of War,” by Herman Wouk. Photo by me, 2018.]

That “Mona Lisa” retort remains a timeless gem and one of the signature lines of the novel. As readers, true, we all want to get to “the good parts.” Yet all parts should be, in their ways, “good parts.” Everything should contribute to the exploration experience that is reading. The journey is “the fun.”

Yet we all also know that somewhat downer feeling of getting to the end of a book we enjoyed. Finishing it is bad enough, but worse is if the ending is not quite what we might have hoped for. In a 2015 blog post, I’d revealed how annoyed I was at seeing the Pearl Harbor attack through “Janice’s” eyes.

In this often so intimate, incredible novel, which straddles much of the globe, contains innumerable characters of a variety of nationalities and backgrounds, and borders on biblical length, Janice was a decidedly minor figure up to now. She is mostly a caricature of a spoiled glamour puss. I feel we donโ€™t know nearly enough, or care enough, about her (indeed, one may even dislike her) that it โ€œworksโ€ that she ends up central as the book moves to its climax. (Uh, no sexual pun intended.)

Interestingly, I don’t recall feeling that way when I’d previously read the book when I was much younger. I suppose because I was now a writer I was reading it differently: that she’d been so minor up to that point (and had not been in the book at all by then for some 200 pages), I felt a little manipulated – as if she had been invented just for that purpose. Moreover based on what little we had known about her, I considered her so irritating that I’d kinda found myself hoping somehow the Japanese would capture her. (Perhaps a secret landing party grabs her and drags her aboard a submarine? Why not? This is fiction, after all. Then again, I wondered too if even the Japanese militarists really deserved her. Come to think of it now, except for “Pamela,” all of the women characters are pretty annoying, but that’s a topic for some other blog post.)

Anyway, now I’m the one who is digressing. Not only do I think a writer should do his/her best to avoid ever writing anything readers may think they can skip. My other point is…

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Paperback. Click to expand.]

…within a narrative are almost certainly those parts that are also extra-revealing.

Above, as you see I cut out the page number, so you won’t know exactly where it is. (Unless you get the Kindle version and cheat and search on the words.) Also you see I blanked out the mass of the page because there is too much on it that are story spoilers. Whatโ€™s left are, I will share with you, two of the most telling sentences yours truly slipped into – amidst 120,000 other words – the entire novel.

What do they “reveal?”๐Ÿค” Well, uh, I will leave that to you the reader to discover and to decide. Enjoy!๐Ÿ˜‰

Have a great weekend, wherever you are.๐Ÿ˜

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