If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Here are the upcoming WWK interviews for the month of July!

July 4th Christopher Huang, A Gentleman's Murder

July 11th V. M. Burns, The Plot Is Murder

July 18th Edith Maxwell (Maddie Day), Death Over Easy

July 25th Shari Randall, Against The Claw


Our July Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 7/7--Mary Feliz, 7/14--Annie Hogsett, 7/21--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/28--Kait Carson.

Our special bloggers for the fifth Monday and Tuesday of July--Kaye George and Paula Gail Benson.


Please welcome two new members to WWK--Annette Dashofy, who will blog on alternative Sundays with Jim Jackson, and Nancy Eady, who will blog on every fourth Monday. Thanks for blogging with us Annette and Nancy!


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Carla Damron's quirky short story, "Subplot", was published in the Spring edition of The Offbeat Literary Journal. You can find it here: http://offbeat.msu.edu/volume-18-spring-2018/


Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), was published on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here. He's working on Seamus McCree #6 (False Bottom)


Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:


Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in July 31, 2018.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Filler


I’ve been playing the chess game that is kitchen and bath cabinet design this month. After twenty-eight years, we are finally renovating our bathrooms and kitchen. Cha-ching! (For younger readers, cash registers used to make that sound after a sale.) Our money now flies through the economy. No wonder the stock market is picking up. But that really isn’t the topic of this blog—it’s all about filler.

When I first laid out the kitchen, I tried to squeeze cabinets into every square inch of space fitting as small as six-inch cabinets into the design without fillers. Since I have a small kitchen that thinking made sense to me. It was the most efficient way to utilize the kitchen’s space. Filler is waste, right?

Wrong. Filler is necessary. Besides the fact that small cabinets (per square inch) cost twice what larger cabinets cost, there were other important reasons not to utilize all available space. Fillers provide installation space, symmetry and fill gaps between cabinets. Perhaps because of my design obsession, I started looking at novel filler and wondering what function it served in novels.

Filler:
·      Connects
·      Provides contrast and changes pace
·      Adds symmetry and parallels to structure

Filler has no structural integrity. It’s not designed to support weight and joins two structurally sound cabinets providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition. Filler in novels is much the same—it doesn’t stand-alone. In Margaret Maron’s new novel, The Buzzard Table, she uses filler to transition between active and pivotal scenes. Although filler doesn’t further the plot, it also can’t bore. Maron uses restaurant dining as filler, but she discusses the food on the menu, which makes the filler (sorry) appetizing to the reader. We learn that in Deborah Knott’s area of North Carolina, oysters are readily available and adding onions to cornbread is the custom.

A larger cabinet’s function increases when surrounded by filler because it is stationary and provides distance between cabinets allowing for movement. In novels, too much action overheats a story and lessens the impact of pivotal scenes. Lowering the action by using filler emphasizes those scenes. After a dinner meeting at which a character reveals vital information to the investigators, Maron switches to a domestic scene that comes naturally in the story, but it also puts distance between the revealing scene and its application by investigators which follows in a later chapter.

In cabinet design, lining up similarly sized wall cabinets and base cabinets provides symmetry. Fillers can equalize space so that upper and lower cabinets are parallel. In novels, filler does the same thing, if you equate the upper cabinets as the plot and the lower cabinets as backstory. A theme in Maron’s work is the concept of discretionary authority at the local level, a particular favorite of mine. In Deborah Knott’s courtroom, Maron presents typical cases that are tried there, such as the barroom brawl, which have nothing to do with the plot. In The Buzzard Table, Deborah’s judgment in a case unrelated to the plot is harsh, the reasons why are explained, but her discretionary authority is illustrated and paralleled to her husband’s own discretionary authority in the plot when he chooses not to arrest a murder suspect. He fears Deborah’s disapproval, but the reader knows she will understand his reasoning because she has used discretion in the courtroom.

Can you spot what is wrong is this cabinet design?
Filler must not be used too frequently. If overdone, filler throws off the novel’s design jumbling the symmetry and structure. Maron’s secondary characters provide filler when a granddaughter and her dying grandmother go through her jewelry boxes, designating who gets what and telling the story of each piece. The history of the jewelry isn’t important, but the characters’ backstory is important because it explains relationships of primary characters and connects the structural elements of the story. Maron doesn’t use too much filler, but what she uses is natural and transitions the story from one scene to the next and back and forth through the multiple POVs presented in different chapters.

After my initial over-zealous design efficiency, I’ve come to appreciate fillers. Filler is necessary and welcome even though all the space isn’t being maximized because it enables those structural elements to work better. Kept to a minimum and provided they add interest, fillers help pace novels, emphasize more pivotal chapters by contrast, provide parallels, backstory and insight into characters. Like fillers in cabinet design, novel fillers are planned and included to help the overall design and symmetry of novels.       

6 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

You have found an interesting analogy.

When we designed our house in Michigan, I took the role as editor. I had the design expert at Home Depot design the kitchen given our specs and then I found the flaws and edited the result—it was much easier to edit than to create the kitchen from my talents.

As it was, I didn’t leave quite enough extra room to slide in the stove and it was a b*tch. I’m hoping I’m dead before that stove needs replacement.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

We ended up at Home Dept too, Jim. They are having a special up and down the east coast to help Sandy victims, but you don't have to prove you had damage. I think more of a PR thing.

Since I'm the cook, I worked the design with overview and veto power to my husband, who will install the cabinets. But then, he's been a carpentry contractor for nearly 30 years. One of the reasons that we didn't redo before now was that the flow of my small kitchen didn't work for me. I was so frustrated the last time, I gave up and we turned a too small dining room into our office, which turned out fantastic.

After five years, we finally returned to the kitchen dilemma. Instead of a radical departure from our old layout, I made one major switch, moved the refrigerator, which will take care of two problems, and then shifted everything to the left by one appliance. It will give me more counter space in one long area rather than cut up counter space.

I guess you wish you had filler room when you tried to get the stove in. It does have a purpose.

Gloria Alden said...

When I bought an old farm house more than 20 years ago, two basement walls were collapsing, a roof leaked and it hadn't been painted inside since probably the 1940s. My then 26 year old son gutted the house with my help - much better breaking out walls than an ex's head. My son rewired the house and redid the kitchen. The only think I was adamant about was the one front room had to have a library with built in bookcases going almost to the ceiling.

As for filler in books, Margaret Maron's UNCOMMON CLAY had interesting filler on potters and certain kinds of clay and firing, etc. I like books in which I learn knew things.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, those fillers can be interesting. The author can explore her regional setting, an interest or a million other things that relate to the plot.

Warren Bull said...

My kitchen remodeling story (we should start an anthology) involved the contractor Moving a window six inches to the north. There's not even a hint that it wasn't there since the house was built. We also had a wall we couldn't touch because it was so full of wiring, heating ducts and so crucial in bearing weight.

In novels, Sue Grafton writes great filler.

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