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   I walk 5 (Fitbit) miles every day. No telling what you might see. Here’s what happened to me yesterday. Midway through my journey, I looked down and saw the crumpled-up page of a paperback book. Part of the page was ripped away. On one side bird poop [bp] had marred some of the print. Here’s how one side started out:

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                      The You I Never Knew   /   345

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   Michele shook her head, mute with terror.

Now it was real. Now it was happening. No turning

back.

   The mask came down, the sharp lemony taste of

drug invaded her air passages and images swam…

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[For more use the DOOR.]

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[MORE]

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   As a former professor of English and science education, as well as being a writing teacher and poet and novelist, what can a person make of this scrap torn from a book? Let’s look at this as an artifact of modern paperback fiction. What can we say, or surmise, about this. I will reproduce the two sides of the paper (repeating what’s above). This is pretty fragmentary, but we can say–or strongly infer–certain things about it. A series of X’s will indicate missing pieces where the part of the page is ripped off. (Of course, the size of the typed “reproduction” differs a bit from the original.) We’ll add some color to make things easier.

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                               (“A” top of page)______________________________________

The You I Never Knew   /   345

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   Michele shook her head, mute with terror. Now it was real. Now

it was happening. No turning back.

   The mask came down, the sharp lemony taste of the drug

invaded her air passages and images swam and stuttered before

her eyes–the blue-green tile, the monitors and masked team,

and all that was gone and she saw faces tumbling through her

mind: Cody and Gavin and Sam and finally the slender space

formed by the gap in the draperies, a hole in the world, a shape

she had to fill in, and had to fill and fill with everything that

was in her.

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(end of page & apparently end of chapter)____________________

 

(“B” back side of page above)_____________________________

 

 

Chapter 32

 

       “Quit driving yourself nuts, [some bp] son, and go on down

to Missoula.”

   Sam kept shoveling. It has snowedXXXXXnight, and he was clearing

his mother’s front XXXXXX driveway. “I’m not driving myself nuts.”XXX

   Tammi Lee sat down on the porch steps XXXXXXXXXXX him with a

knowing sympathy. “Well, yo XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX hospital down

there batty by calling eve XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX -utes.”

   “I’m not calling every fifteen minutes. XXXXXX

   “Yes you are. And Karl’s on call. XXXXXXXX and if you shovel any more

snow, you’l XXXXXXXXX coronary right here in the front yard. XXXXXX

truck.”

   “I should be around when XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX See how his

day went.”

(end of page) ___________________________________________

 

   Now what can we see, or surmise about this story which I’ve never seen before. I’ll risk appearing trivial. The author? I haven’t looked it up.

   (1)  The book is called  The You I Never Knew. Author not identified.

   (2)  At  A, we’re at the end of Chapter 31 on p.345 and at B we begin Chapter 32 on unnumbered page 346. Why? The ragged edge of page (not observable here) is at the left on A and on the right on B.

   (3)  The book has a strong feel of fiction (for some reasons I’ll later mention). Further it’s a middle to long story and the two pages seem to be in the latter half of it, if not near the end.

   (3)  It is likely that there are 2 main characters, Michele and Sam. Also some minor ones, “Dad” unnamed and sounds like a male, Tammi Lee  and possibly Karl, Cody, and Gavin.

   (4)  Vivid details can make a story come alive. Hardly any physical description of any characters appears here, but there are other strong details. Notice that we don’t know for sure the ages or appearances of any characters, but they’re probably young adults clearly described elsewhere. If a “son” is shoveling for a parent, that indicates an adult to some extent.

   (5)  But we have a strong indication of the point of view (POV) used by the teller of the tale: 3rd-person omniscient. We’re barely into the heads of anyone, but we have something going in two heads here. Michele is having images of people and things coming into her head that only she can know about. Further, we’re (lightly) told that Tammi Lee is genuinely sympathizing (in her mind, of course) with Sam (it’s real, not fake). Further, I’d be very surprised if  “thought revelations” don’t include at least Sam (to a large extent) earlier or down the road. Now who cares about this? One can read many stories without even recognizing such a thing as POV. It’s interesting to realize that many, perhaps most, writers use a 3rd-person omniscient point of view because “Godlike” they can invade the true thinking of any character they create, and easily jump from place to place and time to time, telling what any character is actually thinking regardless of what that character is saying or doing. It’s not a bad method, but it not what happens in real life. People only see into one head, the one that’s above their neck. Let me say two more things here: (a) While we can not see into anyone else’s head, we can hear what they say and observe what they do. Then we can interpret that for ourselves. Of course, they can lie or deceive, but that’s life. Some writers, and I am one, in a story give readers the thoughts of only one character and one character only. This is called limited-omniscent. and comes in two forms 3rd-person limited-omniscient or 1st-person limited-omniscent: As Bill drove to Mary’s house he couldn’t remember the way to get there or even what he wanted to say. Or, As I drove to Mary’s house I couldn’t remember the way to get there or what I wanted to say. Both are ways that a narrator can make a true statement that’s not debatable. (b) One appeal of theater plays and movies is that the viewer gets into nobody’s head. (The play, “Our Town” is an exception.) The viewer has to interpret everything’s that said without any certainty of where the truth lies.

   (6)  As to the ways words are put down on the page, many sentences are short and snappy, simple enough to take in quickly. That’s a good feature and harder to do than one thinks…as you witness what I’ve already said if you got this far.

   (7)  There are vivid visual images here. I’ve colored them (red). Details that appeal to the 5 senses make a story sparkle. Rarely, however, does a writer appeal to odor or taste. But one good example of “taste” is used here. Recognition of taste and odors added to other (usually visual) descriptive detail helps a story come alive.

   (8)  Vivid verbs, not forced, but keenly descriptive appear as well (in green).

   (9)  Not much can be gathered from the last few lines.

   (10)  Up and back to more Fitbit steps. Any more paper on the ground can lie where it is…

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Happy Birthday, Greg…