The Realistic Joneses: a comedy about the limitations of language and the beauty of trying to speak

Will Eno's The Realistic Joneses is playing the Vancity Culture Lab.

Actor Tracy Letts exits on opening night of the premiere production of The Realistic Joneses. Why am I using this photo to illustrate my review of the Vancouver production? Read the Bonus Tracks and find out. (Photo by Walter McBride)

In The Realistic Joneses, playwright Will Eno behaves like a compassionate—and funny—palliative care nurse.

In the play, Pony and John Jones have just moved in next door to Jennifer and Bob Jones. Now they all live in the same small town. Bob has a degenerative neurological disorder in which a copper build-up affects the brain, especially the language centre.

Grounded in the inevitability of death, the play smells of body horror. “It’s a very personal thing, going blind,” John observes at one point. And, with existential dread, comes the untethering of meaning. Language, which is always frustratingly approximate, becomes even moreso.

The foibles of speech create discomfort. “Do you want to talk?” Jennifer asks her ailing husband near the top of the show. “What are we doing right now? Math?”, Bob replies. Embracing the absurdity of language Eno also creates lines that are knee-slappers. John gets two of the best: “I don’t know if a haiku is the best way to end a conversation,” and “I’d like to say something in Latin right now. Know what I mean, big guy?” [Read more…]

Congrats on your nomination, Aaron Cully Drake!

Do You Think This Is Strange? Brindle and Glass, Aaron Drake, Colin Thomas

Aaron Drake’s new novel is a thing of beauty.

A book that I edited has been nominated for the First Novel Award! Hooray for author Aaron Cully Drake!

Aaron’s book, Do You Think This is Strange?, is narrated by an 18-year-old autistic boy named Freddy. Freddy remembers everything—except for the circumstances surrounding an event ten years earlier: his mother walked him to a train station, kissed him on the forehead, and disappeared from his life forever.

The novel is often very funny: Freddy notes that his father often addresses him by a name that’s not his own, Jesus Christ. And, as Freddy starts to figure out what happened around his mom’s disappearance, the book is sob-inducingly moving.

As soon as I started reading Do You Think This is Strange?,I knew it was the real thing. Congratulations to Aaron, and all the best to him on May 26, when the winners are announced!

You know that screenplay you’ve got kicking around?

story editing, screenplays

You might not be able to tell from this image, but screenplays are REALLY fun to edit.

Recently, I received a testimonial from screenwriter Douglas Ronald Ellis.

Yes, this posting is an ad, of sorts. But, if you want to write a screenplay, or you’ve got one  knocking around, I can help.

Here’s what Doug had to say. (It’s very, very nice): “Colin is a creative collaborator of the highest order – and the answer to a screenwriter’s prayers. He provided the most thorough, insightful, useful, appreciative and encouraging critique I can imagine – or have ever received! He offers detailed feedback on the smallest beats, while keeping the broader strokes foremost via his analysis of the three-act structure. Drawing on key elements from McKee’s Story and Buchbinder’s The Way of the Screenwriter, Colin has synthesized a wonderful diagnostic tool that he employs with scalpel-like accuracy, enthusiastic praise, cogent suggestions (‘Might the character do this?’), keen insight into human behavior, and his own warm sense of humour. The magic elixir for a writer who’s wondering: ‘How bad does this suck?’ or ‘Is this as good as I think it is? The answer: Get Colin to have a read.”

The joys of editing—and getting thanked for it


When I write private projects, I have editing colleagues check it over. It’s amazing how much they find. It’s true: everybody needs a good editor. Even editors do.

Full disclosure: this post is essentially an ad for my substantive editing services. You’ve been warned. 🙂 But, you know, read it anyway; you never know when you’re going to need a good editor.

Okay, here goes.

I’m not one of those guys who gets all self-effacing when I’m praised. You will never hear me say, “I’m so humbled to be included in this list of nominees”

I love being nominated for and winning prizes.

And, when the authors whose work I edit thank me, I feel both relieved and celebratory. After all, editing somebody’s book is a very intimate thing to do. And it’s a big deal. [Read more…]

Get yourself a writing mentor through Vancouver Manuscript Initiative

Vancouver Manuscript Initiative, Karen Tulchinsky

Karen Tulchinsky is one of the accomplished mentors who could help you to hone your craft.

Hey writers.

Through a program called Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, you can get yourself a personal mentor.

And the mentors are pretty great. They include: Karen X. Tulchinsky (screenplays), Claudia Casper (novels), and Shaena Lambert (novels and short stories).

The deadline for applications is November 17. Here’s the URL: Get on it!

Story structure is liberating. Really!


Riveting radio: me talking about the editing process

Co-op Radio, editing

The people! United! Will never! Stop! Talking!

On Tuesday (June 2), I had a great time talking about literary editing with hosts Julia Vergara and Art Hartmut on the Co-op Radio program, The Writing Life.

We had a great time chatting about sometimes surprising things. Theatre kept sneaking in. And so did the lessons that both literature and theatre teach us about compassion.

Here’s the link:

The whole thing runs about 24 minutes, but you can jump around.

Tune in: three-act structure and me on Co-op Radio

three-act structure, Vancouver Co-op Radio, editing

Okay, so this is a boring image, but YOU try to come up with an image for “three-act structure”.

This afternoon (Tuesday, June 2) between 2:00 and 2:30, I’m going to be on Co-op Radio talking about the editing process.

Knowing me, I’ll probably bring up the three-act structure, which is a very handy tool. For easy reference, here it is: [Read more…]

Want me to edit your book, story, or screenplay?

Vancouver editor, substantive editor, story editor

My trusty pencils and I can help you out.

When I’m not working as a theatre critic, I’m a substantive editor, which means “story editor”. I help writers with narrative structure, so I deal a lot with plot, but also elements such as the development of characters and themes.

Normally, I’m booked three or four months ahead, but right now I’m only booked a month ahead. That’s why I’m offering my friends’ rate, which is a great deal, to anybody who asks for it.

Check out my website, if you want to know more about my life as an editor. I’m especially proud of the testimonials you’ll find there.

Do You Think This Is Strange?

Do You Think This Is Strange? Brindle and Glass, Aaron Drake, Colin Thomas

Aaron Drake’s new novel is a thing of beauty.

I am so proud to be associated with this novel that I cried when the hard copy arrived in the mail this morning.

Do You Think This Is Strange? is narrated in the voice of a 17-year-old autistic boy. It’s funny, it’s heart-wrenching, and it’s beautifully structured.

Brindle and Glass (Victoria) is the publisher: Buy it.

And, shameless self-promotion (because I want to edit more books that are this good), here’s what Aaron, the writer, had to say about me in his acknowledgements: “[Publisher] Taryn demonstrated some kind of genius when she paired me with Colin Thomas, my editor, because he turned out to have an unnerving knack of knowing where the bullshit was. My book has been a lengthy process of cutting off the unnecessary fat, and Colin was a master of separating the tissue from the bone.”