Fun with the Internet

So you’ve promised somebody (or promised yourself, it’s all good) a story, and now you’re stuck?

Try the Cool Bits Story Generator.

A handful of samples:

In Venice, a woman who does the unexpected encounters sailboats as the story begins. As the narrative unfolds, the protagonist meets a tough-as-nails yet likable woman with antiquarian knowledge, and they wind up in an ivy-covered tower with dark passions.

Sounds like one of those buried-historical-secret novels, after the manner of Dan Brown, or Katherine Neville’s The Eight.  Or maybe a thriller having to do with art smuggling.

Your story is a romance between a cynical religious practitioner with a secretly soft heart and a retired superhero. The lovers experience secrecy and the texture of warm stone while in Meiji Japan.

If this one isn’t already a manga, it probably ought to be.

This story begins as a flapper investigates a mystery about a bittersweet romance. Clues include the mythic or archetypal coming alive and love transcending limits. The villain is revealed to be a cat lover, and is motivated out of a need for redemption.

This one is clearly a historical detective story somewhere on the border between paranormal and alternate-historical fantasy, and if somebody were to write it I’d read it in a heartbeat.

I love these things.

Another One from the Department of Nifty Stuff

When it comes to typography, there are people who like to mess around with fonts (I plead guilty as charged) and then there are people who are obsessed with fonts . . . and those people can get just plain weird.

Consider the case of the Doves typeface, created in the late 1800’s for the Doves Press, a small press associated (like William Morris’s Kelmscott Press) with the Arts and Crafts Movement.  The typeface’s creator, after a falling-out with his business partner, dumped all of the type — and the matrices for casting more — into the Thames River, in an effort to insure that no other press would ever use them.  A century later, a digital font designer spent three years working from copies of existing books in the Doves typeface, re-creating the font in digital form.

It’s a fascinating story; you can read the whole thing here.

To Italicize or Not to Italicize

Internal monologue, that is.

Some writers like to put a character’s internal monologue into italics (represented in MS format by a single underline):

I don’t like the looks of this, he thought. He reached for his radio. Better call for backup.

Other writers prefer to leave the internal monologue in straight unitalicized (aka “roman“) type:

I don’t like the looks of this, he thought. He reached for his radio. Better call for backup.

Which is preferable? It’s dealer’s choice, really, unless you’ve been stuck with a publisher whose house style calls for one or the other. (Most publishers let the author decide, but once in a while you’ll run across one that doesn’t.)

Leaving the internal monologue in roman type is more common — in my admittedly biased observation — in writing that occupies, or at least aspires to occupy, a place on the literary end of the literary/genre continuum. I’m not sure why it should be so. When I’m feeling snarky, I suspect that it’s because clearly setting off internal monologue from authorial narrative makes things easier for the reader, and making things easier for the reader is one of those things that a literary writer is not supposed to do. Art is meant to be wrestled with, and meaning is only worthwhile if the reader has to work for it, and is only intended for those who can win the wrestling match and do the work. If this narrows the prospective audience, so be it; quality, not quantity, is the desideratum.

And of course, there’s no denying the force of custom. If plain roman type was good enough for Laurence Sterne and James Joyce and William Faulkner when they got their stream-of-consciousness on, then it should be good enough for their latter-day literary descendants.

Writers in the genres, meanwhile, were more concerned with getting their intended meaning across to as many readers as possible, and saw no point in letting a useful tool go unused. To the extent that they thought about literature as art, they thought that it wasn’t meant to be treated like a mystery cult where the revelation of truth is reserved for the initiated few, or like the exclusive property of an educated elite; it was meant for everybody, and it was the writer’s job to make it as accessible as possible.

Which side has the right of it? Neither, really; literature needs both approaches. But it helps, in a “know thyself” kind of way, to figure out where on the spectrum you, as an individual writer, happen to stand.