story is “done” & writing is fun

Story is “done”

I think I’m done with “The Heron Island Mystery,” at least for now.

Since I posted the last part of the story, I’ve printed the whole thing out and read it through twice, and I’ve also had it read to me by my tablet (also twice). This revealed a lot of embarrassing typos and other mistakes, as it always does, and they are fixed.

There were a lot of short doubled words this time (“was was,” “the the”), plus the usual errors (“though” when I meant “through,” for example). At least nobody had their name changed suddenly halfway through the story — I was afraid that “Diana” might have slipped into being “Diane” at some point (which would be especially easy with a character who never actually appears in the story), but she was consistently Diana.

So, it’s time to let it sit for a while before I think about some possible areas for improvement (as opposed to blatant errors).

The big question with mystery stories is always how much to explain at the end, and how much to leave unsaid. Explain too little, and readers can start to wonder if it all holds together. Explain too much, and everybody dozes off. (Hitchcock always referred to the scene at the end of Psycho where everything is explained as the “hat-grabber.”)

It is always important to remember the lesson of The Big Sleep, both the book and the movie: There was never any explanation of who murdered the Sternwood chauffeur, and nobody has ever cared. Nobody even noticed the omission until the movie was in production, and someone (I’ve read that it was Bogart) asked the question. A wire was sent to Raymond Chandler, and he realized that he had no idea either.

I’m sure there are still typos in this story (I just found, and fixed, an obvious one in “The Marvel Murder Case“), but I think you never really get rid of every single typo anyway. Inherent Vice — a book by a major author, published by a major publisher — has at least three.

So, I have a tentative list of eight to ten questions to answer, but the answers will be better if I wait a bit to ask the questions.

Writing is fun

As I’ve described before, writing is a very exciting process.

Last time I talked about the question of italicizing foreign words, which is a fascinating subject (and I didn’t even cover “pied-à-terre” or “en masse”).

This week, I had to wrangle with a different question, in “The Heron Island Mystery (part two)“:

I calculated how long it would take for her to arrive, factoring in how fast she could drive, and quickly trotted across the road to the cafeteria. I bought a cup of coffee and a danish and carried them back to the car as I heard a siren approaching. I got into the car and started it up.

So, the question is the word “danish.” Capitalize, or not? Webster’s doesn’t recognize “danish” at all — they prefer “Danish pastry.” Well, for a pastry purchased in a college cafeteria, quite possibly one of those ones which are displayed on a metal rack, sealed in plastic, with absolutely no legitimate provenance which can be traced back to Denmark, that seems pompous.

(Webster’s does prefer to lower case “french fry,” though they allow for capitalizing “French” if you prefer — which I don’t.)

So, I kept it as it was (“danish”). But it was fun figuring that out.

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