Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Wolf

I fell in love with this small section, but finally came to realize it simply didn't fit in my "Montana is Burning" novel. So enjoy:

As shadows lengthened in the forest, a wolf waited.

He awoke at daybreak far to the north with an empty belly. The last surviving member of his pack, he’d eaten nothing but a few rodents the last few days. Alone, he had little hope of killing larger prey.

The wolf turned south and loped toward memories of slow-moving cattle that grazed away from human scents. He stopped to rest when the sun shone directly overhead. A swath of land denuded of trees stretched into the distance to both left and right. He could smell and hear much further than he could see, and sensed no men nearby. He sprinted across. He rested again and then urinated to mark his mission and direction of travel before continuing his journey. The wolf trotted over the Whitefish and Salish Mountains before a familiar scent stopped him on the edge of a grassy meadow.

The cattle still lay in his path but only after many hours’ journey through rolling sand hills. His stomach ached. The wolf ignored his hunger and waited.

Shadows stretched into the clearing below him, masking a swift stream in smears of gray and black. The wolf breathed deep of the warm air and smelled deer once more.

A female. Closer this time. Down-slope and upwind.

The wolf tensed his haunches in readiness.

The whitetail deer edged closer through the shadows, yet not close enough.

The wolf felt the weather change. A storm front was passing by. The humidity rose as clouds rolled overhead, smothering the landscape in featureless murk. Lightning crackled in the distance.

The lone male might as well have been blind. Yet he smelled the sweet fragrance of tamarack, pine and aspen, the loamy earth, the rich droppings left by beast and bird, and the salty blood coursing through the doe. Even through the noisy turbulence of wind and nearby stream, he clearly heard the prey set one hoof on a leaf.

The wind began to swirl. A fat plop of rain struck the cracked earth between his paws. Water sprinkled across the parched clearing. He sensed dusty treetops shuddering at scattered drops. A blanket of heavy, moist air settled around the hunter and now he sensed only water.

He stretched out on his belly and waited.

There you are - the rest of it at the next posting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Don't Know Much...

...about History - got a snappy beat, doesn't it?

Like the old saw, "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like," we often have a hard time defining the difference between great writing and so-so prose, but we sure as heck know what we like to read: action and dialogue.

If you catch yourself nodding off in the middle of a chapter, what do you do? Usually, your eyes start scrolling down through those dense paragraphs until you come upon (1) Somebody saying something exciting, (2) Somebody punching somebody, or (3) Somebody ripping someone's clothes off.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But not much. Few of us pick up a volume of Socrates or Aristotle when we desire a couple hours of diversion, because one Deep Thought after another starts to make our hair hurt. It's different, though, when the Deep Thoughts arise as a result of choices the protagonist is forced to make, demonstrated by his actions instead of lectures from on high. For example, what if the grandson of long-dead Socrates were to challenge Aristotle to a duel because of an insult by Aristotle's mentor, Plato? (Of course, the grandson would be secretly involved in an affair with the daughter of Aristotle.) To show Artistotle choosing pacifism when a hot-blooded, testosterone-driven teenager is holding a dagger to his neck, might be a bit more compelling than page after page of philosophical whertofores.

Especially if you're writing commercial fiction. But even in the rarified regions of literary fiction, there is a resurgence of "story" if we can believe the latest issue of New Yorker - you know, plot, things happening to interesting people, and the consequences thereof.

Anyway, this writer sometimes yearns to critique stories that are acted out by quirky characters with opposing goals in exotic locales, instead of being trapped inside the protagonist's skull for thousands upon thousands of words.