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Thursday, March 5, 2015

NO HEROES ALLOWED


In response to my post of yesterday, WALTER KNIGHT
http://www.amazon.com/Walter-Knight/e/B006ADF150



wrote this:

A hungry street kid puts a stale hot dog bun to his lips,
spots a starving puppy in the alley to his left,
and instead feeds the bun to the little dog.

 Later at the park, he and his friends eat the puppy.

Hate the kid now?

 Do you really have to like the main character, or can being interesting be enough?

For me as reader or writer, 

I have to like the main character to want to spend hours or weeks with her or him in my mind.



 Being decent doesn't have to be boring.  


In fact, in this world, doing the right thing can get downright fiery:








Take one of my happy finds:

In Italian police inspector Aurelio Zen, Michael Dibdin has given the mystery field one of its most complex and compelling protagonists:

a man wearily trying to enforce the law in a society 

where the law is constantly being bent by both the police and the government.




It has been my experience that the Good have always been outnumbered so they have to be smarter and more resourceful than the opposition.



The world is all too mean-spirited for me to want to invite unpleasant, though interesting, people into my mind.

I am drawn to humorous, fiesty, intelligent characters 

who skate on thin ice in this world but whistle away their fears while doing it.

Are you drawn to cruel, selfish, dominating protagonists?

Have I become a dinosaur 

in thinking there is still room in fiction for a protagonist 

who, while imperfect,

tries to make her or his corner of the world 
a better place in some small way?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

HOW TO WRITE A TALE THAT OTHERS WANT TO READ




“I  write only because

There is a voice within me

That will not be still.”   

- Sylvia Plath


Everyone can write words on a computer screen.

Most people have ideas.  

Few can spin a story from that idea in such a way that people want to read it. 


How can you become one of those few?


1.) DON'T SAY WHAT EVERYONE CAN SAY.  WRITE WHAT NO ONE ELSE CAN PUT INTO WORDS.


"The moon was bright."  NOT!

"Moonbeams glimmered from the shards of broken bottles and shattered dreams."


2.) FACTS AND TRUTH DON'T HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH EACH OTHER.


That's not just in the world of politics but in all of life.  

Each of us has a grid upon which we stick isolated bits of our lives.

That grid is shaped by parents, experiences, geography, our appearance

(Read  the non-fiction psychological study, SURVIVAL OF THE PRETTIEST, if you want to get depressed)


our education, our jobs -- so many things.

Grids change from person to person, economic status to economic status, from nation to nation.

Every fact you pick up is seen through the perspective of that grid. 

 We don't write facts.  We usually write prejudices masquerading as facts.



3.) FOCUS ON THE READING -- NOT THE WRITING 


Focus on the sound and flow of your page so that it sounds natural, devoid of robotic rhythm, and stream-lined.

Be Other Aware.  

Imagine a particular person you're telling the tale to as if by a campfire or intimate dinner and frame your words accordingly.


4.) GIVE THE READER A DREAM FULFILLED


Ever been flustered by a bully and thought of the perfect come-back hours later?  

So have most people.

Give your reader the pleasure of living through the persona of your heroine in those common dilemmas that afflict us all.

Why do you think Apocalyptic stories do so well?  

Most of the characters in them are just average citizens.  We can imagine what we would do in such a situation.


5.) DENIAL IS NOT JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT.


What your heroine most wants is snatched from her 

and dangled in front of her all through the story, just maddeningly inches from her grasp. 

 Each chapter brings it close only to snatch it away at the last minute.


6.) GRAB THE READER'S HEART IN THE FIRST FEW PARAGRAPHS.


It's called SAVING THE CAT from the book of the same name by Blake Synder.

The reader meets the main character in a simple scene 

that snags the reader's heartstrings, drawing him into investing in the hero:

A hungry street kid puts a stale hot dog bun to his lips, 

spots a starving puppy in the alley to his left, 

and instead feeds the bun to the little dog.

Grab them early and don't let them go.


7.)  MAKE IT INTERESTING

Give the heroine an occupation that most know little about 

but is crucial in the lives of us all and spin a wild take on it:

The Presidential Press Aide finds the DEAD body of the president in the make-up room before a press conference.  

In horror, he races to tell the First Lady not to go in, only to find her talking to the President!

It turns out the President has four clones of himself --

 all raised together from birth, trained in different areas to become the perfect president.

Only trouble is that one of them wants to be the ONLY husband to the First Lady!

Does this help you guys 
in some small way?


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

WRITE THE JACK SPARROW WAY! Insecure Writers Support Group

 
 
I. THE PROBLEM
 
Your reader may think she knows what the problem is.
 
If you've done your work right, they are wrong.
 
The problem is really a McGuffin
(a term coined by Hitchcock):
 
The McGuffin itself was not important to Hitchcock,
 
he only was concerned that "˜it be, or appear to be,
of vital importance to the characters.
 
In North by Northwest (1959) Hitchcock blatantly places the McGuffin
 in front of the viewer
 
and yet he himself acknowledges that what you see is "his emptiest, most nonexistent McGuffin."
 
  The plot of the film concerns espionage and a man's (Cary Grant) mistaken identity as a spy. 
 
Halfway through the film,
Grant is at an airport and finally has the opportunity
to question a Central Intelligence Agent about what is happening to him:

Grant: "What does he (the lead villain) do?"
Agent: "Let's just say he's an importer and exporter."
Grant: "˜But what does he sell?"
Agent: "˜Oh, just government secrets."
 
 
II. WHAT DO READERS WANT?
 
FREEDOM.
 
 
Freedom from the mundane world that encloses them.
 
Create a story that an enthusiastic reader can talk about quickly.
Can the story be summed up in a few sentences? 
 
How do you fire that enthusiasm in a reader?
 
Fire their imagination.
 
Make them want to live the adventure with the MC:
 
A unique setting.
 
Stellar writing.
 
An ending that rewards the journey.
 
 
 
 

III. A MAIN CHARACTER WORTHY OF THEIR TIME

Anyone who likes a good story will tell you
that what drives them to read on

is wanting to know what happens to that central character.

They want to follow this person’s journey from
the first page until its final conclusion.

And in order to make the reader want to remain loyal to this person,
 
they need someone who is compelling,
who is charismatic and more importantly,

they want someone who is filled with intrigue and personality.

Not just a plain persona made out of the heroic mold.

They want someone who they can relate to, someone perhaps they can see themselves as being:

Odysseus, who longs to return to his family and kingdom;

Frodo Baggins, who desires to spare his homelands from the ravages of war;

Harry Potter, who must face a destiny that is beyond his control;

or even Henry V from the William Shakespeare play,

who must prove his maturity and ability to lead a nation in the fires of war and death.


IV. FLAWS:

No one wants to read about someone perfect.

Flaws make a hero.
Character is destiny.

Perhaps your heroine believes a lie that colors her whole life
until she discovers the truth about herself.



V. BACKSTORY:

Usually it helps with the story, and with the character’s drawing power,

if the back-story is influential in what their personality is during the story.

Learning what happens to a man’s family is important to
why they are on a journey of vengeance, for example.

A man searching for redemption to a past sin
is another good one.

To give your character reason for doing what they are doing.

For urban fantasy plots,

the more realistic and heartfelt the backstory,

the easier the reader will accept the fantastic elements.
 


VI. HIS OWN WORST ENEMY:

While a physical obstacle is usually required for the MC to have to face in the novel,
 
I always like it when the worst enemy that MC has to face…
is HIMSELF.

For a reader to read about someone who must face themselves

as well as a ‘traditional’ antagonist can strike
a very personal chord within the reader.

Captain Jack is certain he knows women
and couldn't be further from the truth!
 


VII. HUMOR:
 
Humor in books– especially children and teen books– is crucial.
 
It is the most important thing you could ever have–

barring a plot, literacy, a minimum of one character and possibly a functioning mind.

 But you can get by without most of those–
you cannot get by without humor.

The kid in all of us sees things as funny.

It sees the world as funny.
 
It has a knack for pointing out the ridiculous and the silly.

 There is no greater comedian than the child in all of us.

It doesn't understand why something should be structured–

so it does whatever, whenever.
 
It doesn't understand what exactly the point of a conversation on one particular topic is–

so it spouts out whatever pops into its head.
This is the basis of randomness.

Barry Cunningham, editor for Cornelia Funke, Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams,

former editor of JK Rowling, and founder of the Chicken House publishing company,

put it the best way in an interview:
“I think humour is so important in children’s books  
and you find children laughing
 when they are scared and crying when they are happy."


And I cannot think that there is anything in life which is not essentially humorous.

Life and death and everything else.

That is the central portion of the child in me.

I absolutely believe everything comes as part of something else.

Like everything serious is funny as well,

everything sad is funny as well,

everything scary is funny as well.


Did you know that The Hobbit is better liked than the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

You probably did.

Do you know why it’s liked better? 

If you have a modicum of Jack Sparrow in you,
you can probably deduce the answer from the context:
Humor.

 I remember laughing my head off at Tolkien’s explanation of how golf came to be.

The three trolls Bilbo Baggins burgles
 have a hilarious conversation
about how to eat the hobbit and dwarves.

Gandalf cracks a joke or two occasionally.

 And all of this makes The Hobbit that much better than the Trilogy,
 
even though the Trilogy has
so much more appeal fantasy-wise.

Victor Standish quips during the darkest times.
He is the clown prince of Snark.

I use humor to relieve tension,

To connect with the reader.

To lighten the mood of the preceding scene.

To hopefully have the reader tell a friend of one of
Victor's one-liners,
increasing word of mouth.

Do you feel comfortable with writing humor into your stories,
 
or do you tend to shy away from it?

What do you think is most difficult about writing humor?

{Jack Sparrow is a copyrighted Disney character. I just bribed him with rum.}
 
 

Monday, March 2, 2015

EVIL LOOKS LOVELY IN TOO LITTLE LIGHT


The first THREE to ask will get a FREE audio download of 




LET THE WIND BLOW THROUGH YOU:

Luke Winters has spent his whole life straddling two worlds,

Lakota and White, belonging in neither.

The woman he has loved all his life has become the feared donna of the crime family which controls the state.

Join Luke as he enters a party where revenge is the main course:


The driver dropped me off, disappearing into the night. A disapproving waiter led me into a modest drawing room the size of Missouri.

Rubies and diamonds sparkled on ivory throats and wrists like drippings from the sea.

The low rumble of the music was muffled by the rise and fall of empty conversation and brittle laughter.

I looked at the ebb and tide of desire upon wealth, greed upon opportunity.

The social elite milling through the room seemed to be talking against a darkness that pressed in on them or fought to escape them.

I was caught up in a sense of unreality as if the world of sun, mountain, and desert had slipped out of reach somehow.

It wasn’t the first time. 


 In fact I had lived most of my years in Boston in that twilight world.

My years. 


 A long trail of disconnected moments that had failed to add up to a life. A deep voice suddenly sneered beside me.

“It is only the superficial qualities that entice. 


 Man’s deeper nature always is rancid in some fashion. Isn’t that right, Dr. Winters? 

Oh, I forgot. You lost your license, didn’t you?”


I turned. Dr. Winwood, the city’s leading psychologist.

His block chin jutted out at me like a blunt instrument.

His smile was a mask, behind which his calculating mind peered out, weighing the blush here, the furtive glance there.

His smug face said he knew the bills in my mailbox and the sins of my past. 


 He had too much free time.

“Still his success rate is higher than yours, Winwood.”


I turned to my left.

Victoria, elegant in a retro-Titanic gown that was suddenly all the rage, one arm tucked behind her back. 


 As always the sight of her hit me like a physical blow.

Her body was as slim and slight as the branch of a birch. Her shoulders were the white of mountain peaks.

Her long, sparkling gown blazed under the bright lights as if spun from fresh-shed blood. And her face? Her face.

It was beautiful and terrible beyond any singing of it. I found myself holding my breath as I lost myself in her green eyes.

Most found those eyes frighteningly cold. But that was just a polished front to hide the fact that they’d lost their way a long time ago.

Perhaps my own eyes looked the same.

***