Transforming INK into STORY

Daily Addiction’s word for today is TRANSFORM, a wonderful word indeed.
For example, a good edit can transform this scene:

Colour swirls

into this:
Circles of colour

Some people may prefer the first picture; many will call it a mess. The big questions are: who’s going to buy it and how much will the customer feels it’s worth?

Thanks to Amazon.com, any writer is free to write as he so chooses and publish his work. But most readers want pattern and clarity, a story that moves along at a lively pace, unencumbered by unnecessary detail. So a writer must decide when he starts out who he’s writing for. If you’re writing for yourself only, I’d suggest doing a journal. There are enough badly written books out there.

On To My Book Review

52 Steps to Murder,
#1 in the Dekker Cosy Mystery Series
© 2013 by Steve Demaree

Mrs Nelson, a disabled elderly lady, wasn’t pushing the button that unlocked her door when her granddaughter stopped by. So granddaughter Angela became worried and called the police to help her break into her grandma’s house. A rookie cop arrived; he and Angela hurried upstairs and she checked her grandmother’s room, where she found the old lady dead in her bed. When he heard Mrs Nelson was dead the officer went back to his cruiser and radioed for help.

Homicide investigators Lieutenant Cy Dekker and Sergeant Lou Murdock arrived at Hilltop Place — and surveyed with dismay the 52 stairs they’re going to have to climb. The two middle-aged men aren’t in the greatest physical condition; their roundish shape is a recurring joke through the story.

Examining the scene, Lt Dekker — who tells the story in first person throughout — has a feeling that the death isn’t due to simple heart failure, so they begin asking questions. When the medical examiner informs them the next day that the old lady was poisoned, they investigate in earnest. Unfortunately all the houses on Hilltop Place involve that long climb up, up, up. And before long they find another disabled elderly lady missing. The plot thickens.

I like these two fellows. I enjoyed the humor, yet at times it’s overdone, especially when they and the medical examiner quip back and forth about their physical fitness while they’re at the scene of a suspicious death. All through the book their banter is at times amusing but other times it just goes on too long.

While I appreciated that these officers profess to be Christians and attend church every Sunday, Lt Dekker’s dislike for his neighbor and his sarcastic put-downs struck me as quite uncharitable. This gave rise to one cute typo, though:
The two of us enjoyed a good laugh as I recanted my most recent encounter with my next-door neighbor.

I sometimes wish we had a two-number rating system: one for the overall story-line and one for the writing quality. I’d give this book a 5 for the first and a 3 for the second. This story has an interesting, well formulated plot, but needs an editorial polishing big-time to eliminate the repetition and irrelevant details the writer felt to add.

I feel the last half drags in places where Lt Dekker gets into rehashing who might have committed the crime, alone or together with who, how they accomplished it, when, and why. Given the facts, readers can and will ask these questions themselves; this repetition is a waste of ink, IMO. Since his musings were about the same each time, I just skipped over them.

For example, here are a few sentences from this book I think an editor could have helped to smooth and clarify.
(Lightning is his name for his VW Beetle.)
I braked and eased Lightning in front of Mrs Nelson’s house. Lou and I used one hand for leverage and extracted ourselves from the yellow bubble.

(Sgt Murdock had a bucket list of 100 books he plans to read.)
Lou began his conquest by reading a novel told from the point of view of one of literature’s most beloved characters, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Lou called it a delightful book and voiced his disappointment that Harper Lee never wrote a second book.

An After Thought

The writer just released the fourteenth book in this series in April and has two other mystery series on the go, so he’s likely learned a lot about editing since this book came out.

The Intervention

Fandango’s one-word challenge yesterday was PREPOSTEROUS. I wrote this response in my head but didn’t get around to making it into a file. So here I am, a day late in posting my effort.

As Ludwig’s his three cousins filed into his tiny study and circled around him, the grimness in their faces made him apprehensive. “Take chairs, my dear cousins. This is a rare treat for me, having all three of you come like this. I suppose you must have some family business on your mind?”

“We need not sit. This won’t take long.” Karl faced him and spoke clearly, as Ludwig was getting quite hard of hearing. “The family business we have on our mind is YOU, Ludwig.”

Franz nodded in agreement. “We’ve talked among ourselves and decided to speak with you about your problem. We’ve decided to call this little meeting an intervention, as we wish to intervene in your affairs — purely for your own good.”

“My problem?”

“To save you from certain poverty,” Karl added.

Franz shuffled his feet. “Your hearing, cousin Ludwig. You know it’s getting quite poor.”

“Ah.” Ludwig’s eyebrows arched. “And so? What do you propose to do on my behalf? Send me to yet another doctor? The ones I’ve seen all say nothing can be done.”

The third man held up his hand and spoke loudly, “Exactly! We realize that nothing will change your fate. If your hearing loss continues at this rate, in ten years you will be deaf as a stone.”

“You don’t need to shout, Leonhardt. I can still hear, if only you speak clearly.”

“I’ve talked with my wife’s brother, Walt Shnedden,” Leonhardt explained. “As you may know, he’s a successful meat-cutter, and he’s willing to take you on as an apprentice, even though you’re…older… He’ll teach you the trade so you will be able to earn an income that’s not dependent on your hearing.”

“Meat-cutter? But my hands are made for the piano. For writing music!”

“You’re still a young man. Ludwig,” said Karl. “And we’ll admit, you’ve done very well at composing. People love your sonatas. But that day will come to an end, once your precious musical ear has fallen silent.”

“I think it’s very generous of Walt.” Leonhardt sounded impatient. “Only a fool would try to carry on writing music when he was deaf. And you’re no fool, Beethoven. I hope.”

Franz, always the amicable one, chose an encouraging tone. “We believe you could become a skillful and moderately prosperous meat-cutter if you started now.”

“That’s preposterous,” Ludwig shouted. “Music is my life. How can I ever accept such a crazy suggestion?”

Leonhardt turned to the others. “Well, cousins, I doubted we’d be successful in our endeavor. He will not listen to common sense. Ludwig will scribble his sonatas all the way to the poor house. We may as well carry on to our second intervention. I’m sure my nephew Felix will listen to reason if Ludwig will not.”

Ludwig started. “Felix? Do you mean Felix Haustelraed — the boy who dreams of being a sculptor?”

“Just the one.” Karl shook his head sadly. “He imagines he can earn a living chipping away at stone, but we all know that’s impossible in this day and age. A man needs a real job.”

“But his work is brilliant! If he keeps on, he could be a famous man someday.”

“He’d make a good meat-cutter, too,” said Leonhardt. “And be able to support a wife and family, as every young man dreams of. So hopefully he will show more sense than you, Ludwig. Good day.”

Karl nodded curly as he left the room. Franz, the last to go, gave a quick smile. “Good day and good luck, Ludwig.”

Beethoven waved, then turned back to his desk where his latest sonata awaited its final crescendo.

The three cousins had more success at making young Felix see reason. He went on to become a moderately successful meat-cutter, while Ludwig van Beethoven stuck with his music, deaf or not.

And now, who’s to say…?