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Web Log                          2017.09.08

Robotic Rule One:
Do no harm    (whatever that is).

  Lewis and Susan Jenkins


“It came out of the faucet that way, Eunice.”

Those who remember that line from the wonderful Bogdanovich/Streisand/O’Neal movie What’s Up Doc?  have also pictured a bathtub full to the brim with bubble bath, and Eunice asking her fiancé, Dr. Howard Bannister, “Since when have you taken bubble baths?”

Writing seems to have two phases. First comes the torrent of an original idea plus the last-minute drippings before we sit, empty, head on hands, exhausted but happy. Later come the edit sessions where that frothy, fragrant mixture changes to take readers past the bubbles to a cleaner, more durable result that bubbles in the right places.

In a previous blog post I asked whether it was kosher to change a post. I still don’t have an official ruling, so today I’m going all-in. I tell you frankly that my posts sometimes change after publication. One example is the 2017.06.24 post titled Language Problems.  I changed the Shakespeare paragraph (marked in red on that post now) to better illustrate the set theory notation. I also changed its last large paragraph in order to help readers appreciate the number fuzziness.

From a writing-craft perspective those changes were good because Writer’s Rule Number One is: Remember the Reader. If what I write confuses the reader, that’s not good—unless the reader is supposed to be confused at that time. But if I deliberately confuse readers, I must reward them soon by showing that the situation is a confusing one since even some characters are confused. (I hope this isn’t confusing; it’s not supposed to be.)

I like to start writing a scene by just getting down what the characters say, plus any major tone or body language or outside events that punctuate the conversation. I leave any other stuff for later. To illustrate change in my writing as it happens, I’m going to present the bubbly page of dialogue that gushed out of my faucet when I imagined the first Diary of a Robot story conference mentioned in my 2017.03.13 blog. The black text below is the first gush. The red is the final drippings.

In my next blog post, I’ll change it more, but in a different color, to add quote marks and other craft things to help readers know who’s saying what. In the blog post after that, I’ll check again for craft issues and polish it to serve as a sort of extended hook for the story. The chance I’m taking is that my blog readers may find this three-post exercise boring.

...Sorry, but I’m changing this post to remove the two paragraphs about an out-of-the-faucet series. I've marked them in red. And I'm not going to write out the gush. I’ll bet it would be boring, and it’s a bet I don’t want to win.  …You’re welcome.

Lewis Jenkins

Copyright © 2002-2017, by Lewis Jenkins. All rights reserved.

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