Q is for Quintessence (Including the Quixotic)

Ellery Queen: Jim Hutton with the marvelous John Hillerman
Quattlebaum, Mary: I completely and totally and utterly forgot that I read Quattlebaum for the first A-Z list--which makes me wonder, How many more authors have I forgotten!?

Queen, Ellery: I enjoy the short stories; I enjoy the television series with Jim Hutton even more!

Quick Amanda: I started reading an Amanda Quick simply so I could expand this list! She writes romance fiction of the Georgette Heyer variety. Not quite as funny but decently delivered.

Quindlen, Anna: I tried reading Quindlen for the same reason as Quick. Unfortunately, Quindlen writes the kind of stuff that I never read. It's all about terribly-unsettling-things-happening-to-people. I do read realistic fiction, such as the marvelous The Art of Racing in the Rain and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and I've been trying to parse out what the difference is--I think it comes down to a basic idea: I expect drama to have a sense of the ridiculous.

It isn't that I expect drama to always be funny or unrelentingly sarcastic or, for that matter, chipper. I simply expect the author to indicate through tone or worldview or word choice that not everything, even the author's terribly serious worldview, is as serious as the author thinks it is, at least not in the long-run. In LOTR: The Return of the King, Tolkien has Sam reflect on the temporary nature of his and Frodo's suffering while they are still in the middle of Mordor. Sam decides, in essence, There's more to life than our quest. He doesn't think, This too shall pass; I'll look back on my trials as nothing, which would belittle what he and Frodo are going through. He thinks, rather, The universe will keep rolling no matter what, which is far more comforting.

There's more to life than my petty worries. Jesus stated, "It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows. And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." In other words, stop trying to get people all freaked out by your oh-so-important-concerns (you, radio pundits).

Okay, I added the radio pundit part. But I expect good writers, no matter how serious in the moment, to feel this way in their heart of hearts: I have something to share, and I think it matters, and I want you to take it seriously, but if I start screeching havoc, I'm probably going to feel a little silly.

If a writer doesn't understand this, it is hard for me to take that writer, well, seriously.

Quinn, Julia is a sweet & steamy romance writer. I quite like her Bridgerton series, especially Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, which I consider one of the best sweet & steamy novels I've ever read; the main characters are writers, and the novel includes one of the best discussions of how to write descriptively that I've ever read (see below). Her later books are more chick-lit than straight romance. The difference can be subtle but it is basically the difference between a novel that focuses on the main characters--hero and heroine--and a novel that gives you lots and lots of context. Chick-lit involves way more shoes. Quinn doesn't focus on shoes, but her later books do involve a lot of plot complications. Hey, if that's what the audience wants . . .!

Altogether, this list brings me to a point that often gets ignored: books aren't reality. They are, by necessity, edited versions of circumstances: the writer decides what to leave in and what to take out. And this by itself is a skill.

If you read summaries on IMDB, for example, you can almost always tell those that were written by professionals versus amateurs. Amateurs make the same mistakes in summarizing that freshmen college students make:
This happened, then this happened, then this, oh, and then this other thing happened earlier. 
Bob goes to see Gary and he wants to know why he sold him a bad car and while he is there, there is this flashback and we learn that Gary gave Bob a bad stock tip twenty years earlier and he also remembers . . .
Here is the professional summary:
Bob has to deal with Gary, who cheated him before.
The ability to do the latter rather than the former is an ability, a skill, a talent. Deciding what to share and when, then tailoring those decisions to a specific audience, is the critical thinking behind every piece of writing.

Quinn Excerpt

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