So you can read my books

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Eric, a friend and co-worker, dropped by my apartment today to lend me his DVD of THE WOLFMAN. He spotted my collection of movie memorabilia on the walls. He hushed in a breath. With trembling fingers, he touched a small card by the door.

It was a card containing an authentic piece of fabric from the black body suit worn by Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow in IRON MAN 2. He looked at me as if I had the Shroud of Turin on my wall.

"She wore this, man. Her bare flesh touched this. Her DNA is on this cloth. Her DNA."

"Ah, Eric it could have been worn by her stunt double, or it could have been cut from the trimmed pieces of fabric on the floor when they made the outfit."

"No, man. This card certifies with a hologram and shit that this piece of cloth is from Scarlett's suit. Oh, man, it touched her body."

"You need to get out more, Eric."

"Hey, I go out plenty. Just not with Scarlett."

"Well, neither do I."

"Yeah, but you got her DNA."

And as he hung the card back up sadly on my wall, I realized what I would get him for Christmas : an autographed photo of Scarlett. After all, in touching the picture to sign, she would have left some of her DNA on it, too. It would repay him for giving me the autographed photo of Angelina Jolie. Guys. We are a strange breed.

And what does this have to with the art of writing?

Well, it gives you a little insight into the bizarre psyches of two friends. And it also teaches us an important lesson in how to write.

Eric read into the card more than the words on it. It said the cloth was from the body suit worn in the movie. But in his mind, Eric could see Scarlett putting on the skin-tight suit. The words said little, Eric's imagination suggested much more. The readers who turn the pages of our books are like Eric in that our words will suggest to them a whole canvas of images if we choose the words with craft and lyrical style.

Write the sizzle not the steak.

Remember Stephen King from two posts ago?

"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once. Fiction is the truth inside the lie."

Just another way of saying, "Sell the sizzle not the steak. Let the reader smell the aroma of the cooking plot, hear the sizzling of approaching danger, and taste the ashy flavor of death in the air like smoke from a gutted home.

You see, the most important things, the crucial things are hard to wrap words around. Haven't you felt it? You ached to say the right thing to a grieving neighbor, a dying friend -- and the words that came to you were so meager -- like having a foot long square of wrapping paper to somehow put around a two foot wide gift.

Stephen King put it this way :

"The most important things are the hardest to say.

They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them --

words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out.

But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.

And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.

That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear."

And because Stephen King writes in wisdom like that, we buy his books.

And that's what's so important about our blog friends. You understand what it means to want to express the haunting images inside your head by crude things like the written word.

I understand. I'm one of you. And I am reaching out to you as you are reaching back to me -- from the confines of the solitary confinement of our minds, held prisoner by the limitations of the written word.

Neither one of us totally understands. But that's all right. Sometimes it's good just to be silent with a friend in the night.

The darkness is gathering, growing stronger in this world, and only the light of brave, caring hearts stands in its way.

Never say that I don't offer a public service here. So if you want the legs and tummy of Gwyneth Paltrow, go to this link (I tried these blasted exercises, and now I'm walking like the Penguin in BATMAN) :


  1. I may not keep mini Stargate replicas on my coffee table or a used pencil uses by Stephen King under glass, but I truely do understand you and your buddy. ;-) Angelina over Scarlett any day BTW.

    And I agree with your post all around. I think most who may be reading this will understand when I say how extremely happy I was when I found writing groups and blogs to participate in. Like I found a home for my brain--my imagination, and honestly a piece of my heart.

    And you will find me quoting King often. I would really love to sit and have a drink with that guy.

  2. I have an authentic piece of film from the Dark Knight movie when Heath Ledger is standing in the street, egging on Batman. It's one of my greatest treasures. Movies are stories. It sounds so simple. Yet, in this hectic life when I cannot find time for a book, I watch a movie. Stories are important. We need to hear them. We yearn for both entertainment, and further understanding of ourselves through the stories that we hear.

  3. Thanks for the insight into how a guy's mind works! Comes at the perfect time since I'm writing a male protagonist! By the way, love your closing 'the darkness is gathering...' That's inspiring! Yep, I'm kind of dark for thinking that, I know. Knowing is half the battle...

  4. Loved this post, Roland. You are right about taking cues from artists like King. I thought your friend was hilarious, by the mom has an Elvis scarf and let me tell you...its not just men who lose their minds like that.

    To answer your question about the blogfests in your comments, Ihave a page on my blog that is solely for listing blogfests. I come across them as I webcrawl and comment on other blogs. There doesn't seem to be a central listing. Hope that helps!

  5. Great tip today! Sizzle not steak.

    My tip - lower your expectations for The Wolfman. Like, really low.

  6. I love this post! You, with the help of Stephen King and Eric, articulated so well the mission of our art, the goal behind every written word, every story to needing telling. I'm bookmarking this one!

    "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." -- Yes!!

  7. "But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away."

    Yes. I like the way you think.

  8. I would actually like a piece of fabric that may or may not have been worn by Scarlett Johansson. I'm a fan of her! I'm a little envious of you, I must say.

    I love this: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." I wish I had come up with it!

  9. Sometimes my heart gets heavy, wondering if I'll ever get published. But that's what makes the struggle important. The losing battles are the ones we must never shirk.

    Emily Dickinson, who had fewer that a dozen poems published in her lifetime, who was devastated by the literary critisms of her closest friend, wrote this :

    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune--without the words,
    And never stops at all.

    But Tennyson, no stranger to loss and depression, wrote these famous lines :

    That which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    Thank you for your insightful, inspiring post.

    Christ : I envy you that authentic piece of DARK KNIGHT history. I have an autographed poster of BATMAN BEGINS with the major artists scrawling their names on it. Eric liked that, too.

    Thanks for the award. It comes during a dark time, and it made me smile -- hard these days.
    But like my first rule I live by says : everybody is having a harder time than they appear so don't make it harder on them by acting like Hamlet.
    And bravo for even being able to use HTML LINK CODING. You hate it. I am at a loss with it. Thanks for going the extra mile for me.
    And those of you out there reading this : enter Chrisit's 106 Followers Contest :
    (It sounds like fun.)

    Heather : Glad I could help with the male veiwpoint. Always happy to have you visit and comment. And darkness is nature's way of making the light brighter. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

    Raquel : Thanks for having a page solely for blogfests. It helps. And also thanks for letting me know guys aren't the only ones to sometimes get carried away.

  10. Nicole I meant that first bit for you. And Christi, I misspelled your name. Just got back from sitting by a bedside and my mind's still a bit scrambled. Sorry. Roland

  11. Diane : So THE WOLFMAN is that bad? I heard that which is why I didn't buy or rent it. I'll fastforward through much of it just so I can talk intelligently with Eric about it. Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a nice comment.

    Nicole : That you're bookmarking this one is quite a compliment. Thanks. Eric will say it's because he's in it. I think it is Stephen King's presence that does it.

    Jo : Always a pleasure to hear from you. And thanks for the kind words.

    Amanda : Eric is right with you on envying me that piece of fabric. Thanks for appreciating my little piece of advise. Have you ever seen NOIR, one of the better productions of Japanese animae?

  12. Right back at ya Roland and I hope that bedside does not have to be kept for long--for all the good reasons if they apply.

  13. Roland, I love this blog. I'm giving it a blog award, check it out!

  14. Joanne : Thanks much for the award. I went to your blog, but either Xena, my computer (yes, I named my computer), must be acting up or your blog is.

    It skipped in the middle of your latest post and I couldn't find the rest of it. Rats. But thanks for the award anyway. Roland

  15. This was perfect! The sizzle is what we need, what we're after! Perfect!

  16. I've heard of Noir, but haven't seen it. I probably should, but I've got a lot of other things on my plate. :)

  17. Great post and very true. So often in books it's "what's held back" that keeps me reading more than what is painted clearly on the page. There's definite skill in knowing what to explicitly write, what to hint at and what to leave completely to the readers' imaginations.

  18. she reminds me of my old flame, mrs. emma peel!

    i know... i'm dating myself :P

  19. Wow so much good stuff packed into this post I actually read it twice. You had me grinning over your friend's DNA-enhanced fabric longings, then nearly choking up over that awesome King quote and your inspiring words.