Friday, December 27, 2013

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
Christopher Hampton

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

I watched a great movie yesterday, but is still wasn’t as good as the book. They never are because they can’t be. I am not exposed to the inner thoughts. I was an outside observer. I wasn’t in the story experiencing it.

Falling down the rabbit role is why we read. Whether we’re curled up on the couch next to a gentle fireplaces or on a crowded bus weaving through downtown traffic. Like Alice, we want to get lost in a new world. We want to fall in so deep that we are a part of the story. Our hearts racing with fear, laughing, crying, falling in love. To feel something more, something different. It is my job as the writer to get the reader there and keep them there.

Anything that threatens to pull the reader out of the story has to be ruthlessly excised from the written page. It cannot be allowed to interfere with the reader’s suspension of reality.

Things that make a difference in the reader’s ability to stay down the rabbit hole:  

Flawless Copy – Misspellings, typos, incorrect grammar, all remind the reader that they are reading a book. That they aren’t traveling down the Nile on Cleopatra’s barge. They aren’t floating down the Mississippi with a runaway slave.

Unbelievable Plot Points – The turns and twists of the story have to make sense within the plot. Batman can’t show up in Alice’s Wonderland without some serious explanation. Having Juliet live and hook up with Mercutio would make the reader question everything they had already read. They are no longer in the story but analyzing it.

Poor Word Choice – Using the wrong word, even once, can throw a reader out of the story. A word that makes a twelve year old girl sound like a forty year old business man jogs the reader, making them pause, go back and reread things. Or worse, using a word incorrectly. In the eternal words of Inigo Montoya “I don’t think the word means what you think it means”. Like poor grammar, it reminds the reader they are reading.

Pacing – The right mix of dialog, description, and action is necessary to move the reader along.  Too much of any one will make them skim. Making them skip over the story like a rock on surface of a lake. To little will leave them cold and alone, blocked from entering the new world.

Point of View – Head hoping from one character to another within the same scene can be confusing. As always, confusion pushes the reader out. It also makes it harder to care about the characters and the situation. First person and third person close are the best POV’s for holding a reader’s attention. Pick one POV per scene and stick to it. Constantly changing POV makes the story like the Missouri river, a mile wide and an inch deep.

Telling vice Showing – Showing us what is happening allows us to experience it for ourselves. Telling on the other hand is only providing us with information. A reader can’t get lost in information. They get lost in emotion.

Consequences – If the reader doesn’t care what is going to happen next then they are not going to stay in the world. It is by making the reader worry and fret that we entrap them in our world. This is why conflict is so important.

Anything that gets between the reader and the world of the story is wrong and needs to be eliminated. We as writers must strive to find and eliminate these barricades. Hopefully with a lot of practice we will stop erecting them in the first place.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What makes a good critique group

As has been repeatedly expressed on a hundred blogs across the Internet. Every aspiring new writer needs a good critique group. I won’t go into why they need it. If you have to ask then you’ll never understand. Instead I want to talk about what makes a good critique group. I can speak to this because I happen to be in one of the best groups ever. What is more, we know how lucky we are. You know it is good when people come early and stay late.

The things that make a good group:

·        Diversity. The five of us cover every decade from the 20’s to the 60’s and both genders from different walks of life. It allows us to see our stories from a lot of different Points of View.

·        Nice People. The group is made up of people that want to see the others succeed. There is no jealousy. Instead we are truly pulling for each other. This make things flow so much more smoothly. You don’t have to worry if their comments are motivated by something other than the story itself.

·        Willing to Listen. Each of us listens to the other opinions. We might not always make the suggested changes but we listen and analyze the comments.

·        Active Learners. Each member is constantly striving to get better. Reading articles, sharing ideas. Bringing books on writing. Anything that will help us do better.

·        Willing to share. We share our experiences with Agents and Publishers giving us a peak into the business of writing.

·        Similar Interests. We have read most of the same books. This gives us a common reference point. Some of the younger members may not know a classic movie, the older ones don’t know who the latest hot recording artist is but when it comes to books we are on the same page.

·        Hard workers. Each week we establish writing goals for the next week. The act of verbalizing what we want to accomplish is a great motivator. We critique about fifteen thousand words each week. An average of 4K from each writer, one or two chapters. Each member is diligent in making sure the critique is good and thorough.

·        Focused Group. We laugh and have a good time but the most important thing is the critiques. We share and talk about what is going on in the rest of our life, but a gentle reminder and the group quickly gets back on task.

·        Appreciative People. Each of us know how good we have it. That groups this good don’t come around very often. We are careful to not mess it up.

Now that I have told you what makes a great Critique Group. I have absolutely no idea how you find one this good. That’s your problem not mine.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

Monday, December 2, 2013

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”
—William S. Burroughs

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I can’t write five words but that I change seven.
- Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Douglas Adams

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
- C. J. Cherryh

Friday, November 15, 2013

Presidential Quotes

Each Presidency is encapsulated in a quote. If you asked the man or woman on the street to give you a quote from a president; this is the one they are most likely to come up with (My Opinion).  It is what we remember. Somebody can say the words and we associate it with that president. These quotes quite often become important because of events that occur long after they are uttered. Other times, they are poignant and enlightening when they are first said.  These quotes can be bad or good. What I am trying to capture is the idea of how we as a people push and condense a presidency into a few words.


Frankly D. Roosevelt – “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Harry S. Truman – “The buck stops here.”

“Dwight D. Eisenhower – “Beware the Military Industrial Complex”

John F. Kennedy – “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Lyndon B. Johnson – “If chosen I will not run, if elected, I will not serve.”

Richard M. Nixon – “I am not a crook”

Gerald Ford – No Quote, the presidency doesn’t register with the public’s memory.

Jimmy Carter - Set your thermostats to save fuel.

Ronald Reagan – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

George H.W. Bush – “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Bill Clinton – “I did not have sex with that woman.”

George W. Bush – “I hear you and the people who tore down these building will here from all of us                            soon.”

Barrack Obama – “If you like your Health Insurance, you will be able to keep your Insurance.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How We Live Now

I just finished a great great book called, HOW WE LIVE NOW by Meg Rosof. The reason I mention it is because she breaks all the rules. It is about a young girl in England visiting her cousins when war comes to Great Britain. It is a modern day story not WW II. She doesn't use a lot of dialog. She does a lot of telling vice showing. But she does it in such a way that I was engrossed. Her pacing, flow, Rhythm, what ever you want to call it pulls you into the story. The 1st person Voice is spot on. I don't know how she did it but I am going to have to study it again to try and figure out the tricks.
I believe they have made it into a movie.
I just wanted to pass it along.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A thought

"For as much as they tell you about Stop, Drop, and Roll, as a kid, I really expected to be on fire more times in my life."

                                                   Dylan Snodgrass

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rules to live by

10.    Never get into an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel. (Mark Twain)
9.       Never play poker with a man named Doc. (Nelson Algren)
      8.   Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. (George Bernard        Shaw)
7.       Never date a woman who can out drink you. Neither of you will respect the other. (G.L. Snodgrass)
6.       Never be the senior person with a secret
5.       Trust but verify (Ronald Reagan)
4.       Never do anything that you would be ashamed of being front page news on tomorrow’s newspaper.
3.       If you’re going through hell, keep going (Winston Churchill)
2.       Better to be silent and be thought of as a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. (A. Lincoln)
1.       Never get involved in a land war on the Asian continent. (Gen. MacArthur or Vincent from Princess Bride)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Contents of a characters life

As writers we are supposed to show not tell. To let the reader see the characters world and arrive at their own conclusions not tell them what they should think. One way to do this is to show the reader personal items belonging to the character and use them to help capture the nature of the character. An example:
A woman’s purse
-          In one we have a dog eared copy of PRIDE and PREJUDICE, a blue mole skin notebook and a spare pair of glasses.
-           In another we have a self-defense handbook, a canister of mace, and the home number of a police detective.
-          Finally, a third woman’s purse contains black eyeliner, the nipple ring she took off at her last emergency room visit, and a picture of a wolf she wants tattooed on her shoulder.
Glove Compartments
-          On man’s glove compartment contains the vehicles owner’s manual, a first aid kit, a small tool kit, and a flashlight.
-          Another’s contains a six month old Hershey bar, a half empty box of condoms and the owner’s manual to his other car.
-          A third man doesn’t know what’s in his glove box. The door’s broken and he’s never fixed it.
Book shelves
-          One person’s book shelves contains Military History (mostly WW II), Political books (mostly about how screwed up everything is) and classic science fiction (mostly Heinlein with some Asimov thrown in for color).
-          Another’s is made up of Romance Paperbacks and Stephen King horror with some Laura K. Hamilton because they sort of fit both categories.
-          The third guy doesn’t have any books. The only reading material in the house is an old National Geographic that got left in his mail box by mistake.
-          One has 16 color coordinated Tupperware containers with leftovers from the last three meals.
-          Another is fully stocked plus has two steaks waiting for tonight’s meal.
-          Finally, This one has an empty ketchup bottle, a moldy orange, and the last bottle of beer standing there like a light house, warning him it is time to go to the store and restock the beer.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Prom Date

G.L. Snodgrass


My life was officially over. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the earth over me like a blanket. The only thing that stopped me from slitting my wrists was the thought of strangling Danny O’Brian with my bare hands. Who cancels a prom date an hour before the big night? 

My mind flew a thousand miles a minutes to all the terrible things I could do to him. This was supposed to be my big moment. Walking into the ball room on Danny O’Brian’s arm would have cancelled out some pretty crummy high school years.

 “Why me!” I yelled as I cried into my pillow. The tears flowed like wine at a wedding. Something else I would probably never get to experience. Why do things like this always happen to me?

Freshman year I’d been too shy to even think about going. In sophomore year no one had asked. Flat chested bean poles like me weren’t asked to fancy things like the prom. In junior year a bunch of us wall flowers were going to go together but I broke my ankle playing volleyball and I wouldn’t be caught dead at prom walking around on crutches. Only my friend Mary Hopkins even knew I wasn’t there.

Senior year had been different. I’d come into my own. Blossomed as mom liked to say.  Things had gotten all curvy like they were supposed to. They must have started working because I seemed to have caught the eye of the star quarterback and school hunk Danny O’Brian.

You could have rolled me up and mailed me to Wisconsin when he asked me to the prom. My mouth dropped open and my heart stopped beating. Danny O’Brian asked me to the prom.

I’d squeaked out a yes before running all the way home to tell my mom. Then flew over to Mary’s house to tell her. Being the bestest of best friends she had squealed and jumped up and down with me as we totally lost it.  

Life was perfect. Chrissy Thompson, the school bitch and my personnel nemesis would see me walk in with Danny. I know she’d see us because she’d be monitoring everybody. Categorizing what they wore, judging and commenting to her pal gals about what a terrible color this girl wore. Or how sad it was that so and so couldn’t find a date. All the time secretly squealing with glee at other people’s misery.

Of course I told everyone that Danny and I would be going to the prom together. There had been quite a few shocked expressions and weak congratulations. I had filed every one of those looks away in my memory box and marked the folder “Pure Glee.”

You know the feeling of being on top of the world. Of being in that place that everyone else wishes they could be. That was my life for the last month.

Mom, Mary, and I had spent hours shopping for just the right dress. I couldn’t stop giggling and laughing as we went from store to store. Mom had been patient. Standing to the side, never criticizing but somehow letting me know what worked and what didn’t work.

I finally found the perfect sky blue dress that matched my eyes. Low cut back and spaghetti straps. It fit me perfectly. They wouldn’t even have to alter it. I looked like I was ready to step onto the red carpet at the Oscars. I couldn’t wait to watch Danny’s eyes when he saw me in that dress. I couldn’t wait for Chrissy Jensen to see me. No way was there anything wrong with that dress.

Instead, no one would ever see it.

I started to ball my eyes out again when mom knocked gently coming into my room.  “I’m so sorry honey,” she said as she gently rubbed my back.

 “Why Mom? Why always me?” I mumbled through a snotty nose.

“Oh honey,” she said, rubbing a little harder as if she could push aside my pain and humiliation. “Someday, this won’t seem so important.”

“Oh mom,” I yelled before throwing myself back onto my pillow.

She stopped rubbing for a second then said, “Can’t you go by yourself. You can borrow the car.”

“Mom, you don’t get it,” I cried again into the pillow.

“What about Mary, could you go with her?”

“Mom,” I said, my voice getting exasperated. “Mary is going with Troy. No way am I tagging along as a third wheel. It’s her special night too.”

My phone ringing on the bedside table saved her from driving the spike in any deeper. She got up and left me. Looking back with a face narrowed in concern. I know her heart broke for me. My mom’s pretty cool like that. You know she cares. I also know that she can be a bit of a lioness at times.  Danny O’Brian had better not cross her path or he would find himself missing a couple of key assets from between his legs.

I picked up my phone.

“I just heard, Oh my god. What a douche.” Mary said before I could even say hello.

“How is that possible, I only found out a few minutes ago?” I said between sniffles.

“Danny told John who told his girlfriend Marla. She called Sandy who called me.”

Great, everyone now knew about my humiliation. I wasn’t even allowed time to wallow in my misery before everyone wanted to stand around and watch.

“Did he say why?” Mary asked.

“No in so many words,” is said. “I’m pretty sure it’s because I told him I wouldn’t go to the hotel with him after the dance.”

“What, he wanted you to go to a hotel.”

“Yeah, a week ago he told me to make sure and tell my parents that I would be out all night and not to expect me back till the next morning.”

“What’d you say,” Mary asked.

“I told him I wasn’t comfortable doing that. We hadn’t known each other long enough. You know the normal excuses. No way was my first time going to be in the Ramada Inn after prom. I mean how cliché can you get.”

“Why didn’t you tell me,” she said.

“I don’t know. He didn’t press the matter and I figured it was all over with. The first hint I got that he wasn’t happy about it was the phone call a few minutes ago.”

“Wow, what a douche.”

I laughed. Mary is such a good friend. We had known each other since before kindergarten. Her family lived two doors down and our mothers were best friends. We were closer than sisters. We never fought. Well almost never, and when we did it was almost always my fault.

“What are you going to do?” She said before pausing a moment. “Do you want to come with Troy and me?”

I almost accepted. I so desperately wanted to go that I almost ruined my best friend’s prom night. Troy was a nice guy and he’d have tried to make it work. No way was I doing that to Mary.

“No that’s okay. Thanks anyway. I’ll just curl up on the couch with a gallon of Haagen-Dazs and think evil thoughts about Danny O’Brian and what I’m going to do to him in the next life.  I won’t have an opportunity in this life if my mom ever gets a hold of him.”

She laughed. That’s the thing about Mary; she’ll laugh like your making a joke even when you’re dead serious.

“Oh my god, I’ve got it,” she yelled into the phone. “Oh this is perfect. My brother can take you. He’s even got something to wear.”

My stomach dropped. Mary’s little brother Jimmy was barely sixteen and a pimply faced sophomore. He was a nice kid but I didn’t know about going to the prom with him. The only thing worse would be showing up alone.

“I don’t know Mary… I uh.”

“No, this is perfect, he’s always liked you and he owes me big time.”

Great, now I was a mercy date for a sophomore. How bad could it get?

Mary must have sensed my hesitation because she pulled out the big guns. “I need you there Emily. No way am I facing Chrissy Thompson alone.”

“Well, uh…. I.”

“Great, I’ll have him there in forty five minutes. We can meet up at the dance and we’ll have a great time. You’ll see. Thanks Emily, you won’t regret it,” she said before quickly hanging up so that I couldn’t change my mind.

“MOM,” I yelled down the stairs. “Mary’s little brother’s taking me, I need to get ready.” I had forty minutes to get dressed and somehow cover up these blotchy eyes. I looked like a raccoon on crack.

Mom pulled her normal motherly miracle and got me to look halfway decent. She did something with alternating warm and cold towels to my face and then just the right amount of makeup that even I couldn’t tell I’d spent the afternoon crying enough to fill Lake Ontario.

I slipped on my dress then the absolutely gorgeous heels and closely examined myself in the mirror. Not bad I thought. Granted, everyone would know that Danny O’Brian had dumped me hours before the dance. At least they’d know it wasn’t because of my looks.

Smiling to myself for the first time that night. My stomach dropped when I thought about Jimmy Hopkins. “Oh well, beggars can’t be choosey” I thought.

I was transferring a few things to my clutch purse when mom walked in and said, “I thought you might want to borrow these?” A pair of one carat diamond earrings rested in the palm of her hand. Dad had given them to her on their twentieth anniversary. “They are only a loan; if you lose them you will go ahead of Danny O’Brian on my crap list. Get it?”

“Oh Mom, their beautiful,” I said fastening the posts. “Are you sure? They are so perfect.”

“Yes they are,” she said with a huge smile. “Now finish up. Jimmy should be here in a moment.”

My stomach dropped again. Every time I thought about walking into the room with Jimmy Hopkins I got a sad feeling. There was nothing wrong with Jimmy, except for being two years younger and an inch shorter than me. That and the fact that he had to be forced by his sister to take me. When you added all that to the fact of how I had bragged about going with Danny. I felt like such a fool.

Forcing a smile onto my face I went downstairs to wait. Butterflies kept erupting. I knew there would be some snickering behind hands and probably the occasional rude comment. But I could put up with it for a night. After all, some day this wasn’t going to matter. Yeah keep telling yourself that Emily, I thought. It might help you make it through the night.

Jimmy was late of course. Mary had probably had to hit him over the head to get him to go. How did the kid even have a tux? I know for a fact that Mary had told me last week that he wasn’t going. Jesus, please don’t let him show up in a suite. Or worse his dad’s suite? Would Mary do that to me?

My palms began to sweat. What if he didn’t come? Great a minute ago I was terrified of walking in with Jimmy Hopkins now’s I’m frightened I’m going to be stood up.

The door bell rang. Mom rushed to get it while I stood there waiting. She opened the door and my mouth hit the floor.

Jack Hopkins, Mary’s OLDER brother stood there in a heart stopping full dress Marine uniform. A black tunic and snow white belt. Sky blue pants with a red stripe down the sides. White gloves and three shinny medals on his chest perfected the look. He reminded me of a movie poster of what a manly Marine was supposed to look like. Wide shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waste. My god he was gorgeous.

“Jack,” I exclaimed, “I didn’t know you were back.” He was on his second tour in Afghanistan and wasn’t due back for another month.

“I got back a couple of days ago,” he said stepping into the house. His pristine white hat carried under his arm. He was as straight as an ironing board as his eyes traveled over me and lit up as if he liked what he saw.

 “I asked my family to keep it quiet. I needed a few days to adjust. Mary only agreed if I owed her a huge favor.”

“Oh my god. You’re taking me to the prom.” I said not even believing my own words.

“Ms. Carter, will you please allow me to escort you to the prom,” he said with a little bow.

My heart skipped and all of the butterflies fell from the sky in a dead faint. Mary Hopkins, I am going to owe you for the rest of my life.

“Yes Jack, I would love to go with you to the prom,” I said slipping my arm into his.


Some things in life are better than you expect. Needless to say my prom night was great before I even left the house.  The only thing better was the look on Chrissy Thompson’s face as I walked in on Corporal Hopkins arm.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My list of dream dinner guests

There is an old party question guaranteed to stimulate conversation and open debate. Imagine you could invite any three people to dinner that night. Anyone from throughout history, who would you invite? I would probably select people from a common field. I believe the conversation would be deeper. Here is a list from each prominent category. I would probably lean towards Churchill/Lincoln/Franklin. I can imagine sitting back and listening to each of them out do the other with stories and human observations.
Philosophers of the spirit
-          Jesus Christ
-          Buddha
-          Mohammad
Philosophers of the Governance
-          Locke
-          Burke
-          Jefferson
Philosophers of Economics
-          Adam Smith
-          Milton Friedman
-          Friedrich Hayek
Philosophers of Politics
-          Winston Churchill
-          Abraham Lincoln
-          Benjamin Franklin
Law Givers
-          Moses
-          Hammurabi
-          Madison
-          Alexander
-          Lee
-          Napoleon
-          Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
-          Will Rogers
-          Jonathan Winters
Female perspective
-          Abigail Adams
-          Elizabeth the first
-          Jane Austin

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Sea Calls

The Sea Calls

The Sea calls to me
Like a lover in the night
Forever the moth
Chasing the fiery light

New adventure
Forcing me to roam
Pulling and tugging
Taking me from home

The whipping wind
And rolling wave
Tossing and moving
Inches from a watery grave

Across the horizon
A new land does await
Seeking my salvation
Thru the pearly gate

The Sea calls to me
With her lonely arms
Taking us young men
From our barren farms

She is a witch tonight
Beckoning anew
She’ll take one in ten tonight
For her frothy stew

Yet still I yearn
Seeking that blue light
Ever onward
Scrambling thru the night

The Sea calls to me
Like a lover in the night
Forever the moth
Chasing the fiery light

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Singing the Dying Mark

Sing the Dying Mark

G.L. Snodgrass

She rose from the depths of hell
Chasing me thru the night
From her golden hair fell
A sickly, deadly light

Her horse of the dark fairy folk
Nothing but steam and pitch
Black as Newcastle Coke
Carried the screaming bitch

Banging upon her silver shield
Seeking her old lover
Someone for her to yield
Craving someone to cover

Away she cried, gleaming sword in hand
Away, for all you that lack
Heed my merry band
For I am coming back

Charging, leaping across the air
Her flaming eyes ablaze
Come, my one true fair
Demons we will raise

They followed, her demon hoard
Scratch clawing back to life
Followed her flaming sword
My dead, conniving wife

I died that night
A thousand deaths of hurt
Running from her light
Buried beneath the dirt

My loving wife turned against me
She searches for my soul
All who see her will surely flee
Clawing thru the coal

Hell hides me from her screaming cry
Cowering in the dark
Forever will they fly?
As I sing the dying mark

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Something for Nothing

What do Vegetable Gardens, Fishing, Poker, and Writing have in common? They all provide something for nothing. Or at least seem to.
Like that first day of spring when you start turning the soil, writing a story starts out fun.  It’s full of high hopes and wonderful expectations. Nobody should ever sat down to a poker table expecting to lose. Nobody plants a vegetable garden expecting the plants to die before harvest. A writer should never sit down expecting to write a clunker of a story. They become self fulfilling prophecies.
Every fishing trip I have ever been on. I didn’t know how it was going to end up. A boat full of trophies or skunked. Didn’t know what I’d pull up from under the water. That anticipation and surprise when something new appeared at the end of my hook was exhilarating and one of the main reasons I went fishing. It is the same reason I write.
I find it interesting that my four favorite hobbies all have so much in common.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recent Lessons Learned.

-          When you get writer’s block, drop a mountain on the characters. In other words, create a problem so big nobody could get out of it. Or reveal a deep dark secret that changes people perspective. This pushes the story along, speeds up the pace and opens up the creative possibilities. This really worked in my latest novel.

-          When a character has OCD, they will have more than one symptom. Instead of showing the same symptom over and over again. Have them do different things repeatedly. A perfect example is in the movie as good as it gets, Jack Nicholson had to use a fresh bar of soap each time he cleaned his hands. He had to lock the door three times to make sure he knew it was locked. He couldn’t step on a crack. It reinforced how crazy he was.

-          Look for opportunities to re-enforce sub-plots and themes. In my last novel food and how much the protagonist eats is a recurring joke/comment. I had a scene in a school cafeteria but didn’t describe what was on his tray. I could have used this opportunity to flesh out the character and set up jokes for later. I should be looking for an opportunity to use this stuff instead of just throwing it out there.

-          It is almost impossible, No, correct that. It is impossible, for me to be creative when I have a stressful day at work. During the recent inspection and lead up to the inspection at work I have been putting in a lot of hours (21 straight days) and thinking about stuff while at home. I can’t switch it off and drop into writers mode. If I do the product is bad and I am not enjoying myself. This impacts my weekly writing goals. I need to take my day job schedule into account when I make my writing goals.

-          The writer’s group I attend has proven to be invaluable. The insights and opinions are great and usually spot on. The suggestions make for a better story and better writing. I hope one day I am a good enough writer that I won’t need as much correction. But until that time, I plan to continue to use my fellow writers to make myself better. I learn just as much by listening to their opinions about other writers.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rose petals in the Grand Canyon

Talking about Self-Publishing A great line appeared in an article at the telegraph

"And once the book is out there, the work really starts. Someone remarked that publishing a book was like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo"


Monday, April 29, 2013

Making your character sound older or younger.

I have been accused of making my characters sound too old for their age. I won’t quibble, they are probably right. But recently, when critiquing a story by another budding writer. I discovered a key (discovered for me at least, everyone else probably knew it already). I discovered that by making the character more self-centered it made him sound younger and vice/versa more sacrificing and thinking of others made him sound older.
It wasn’t the words they used. The slang, or disdain for adults. It was the internal attitude of the character that indicated his or her age. 
By the same token. Making the character aware of and concerned about others makes them sound older. 
I know when observing my own children, they lost a lot of their self-centeredness when they reached their early twenties. They came to realize the universe did not revolve around them. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Strange Worlds make the best Stories

Most popular stories are about something different. Whether it is a 25 ft shark off the New England coast (JAWS). Or  a woman trying to survive the Civil War (Gone with the wind). It is always a different world, or an alien experiencing our world (ET phone home).  A young woman must survive the televised Circus Maximus (Hunger Games) or a young boy migrate into the wizarding world (Harry Potter). It isn’t just about what happens to them, but about this strange world that is different to us. It becomes another character in the story and a plot driver.
The popular stories make us look at things differently, compare and contrast. What would we do if thrown into this new and unusual world. I am not saying that you have to have a different world. I am saying that the most popular stories always do. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz is so much more interesting that Dorothy and the Wizard of Kansas.
The Highest grossing movies of all time, (adjusted for inflation)
1.       Gone With the Wind
2.       Avatar
3.       Star Wars
4.       Titanic
5.       The Sound of Music
6.       E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
7.       Ten Commandments
8.       Doctor Zhivago
9.       Jaws
10.   Snow White and the seven dwarfs
The only one that could be considered set in normal times and a normal world is E.T. and that deals with an Alien from outer space. Each of these stories explores a strange environment. A foreign country, a different time and how the protagonists deal with it.
Something to think about when outlining your next book.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Predicting the Future

Predicting The Future
People don’t change; technology changes, but people remain the same. Each of us is driven by Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs, (Air, water, food, shelter, security, love, self-esteem, and self-actualization). It hasn’t changed for 70,000 years and won’t change for the next 70,000. What will change is the technology, the tools. Humans are tool makers.  Since the first man picked up a club or the first person jumped on the back of a horse, we have continually sought to develop force multipliers, things that make us stronger, faster, at less expense.
So, Science Fiction stories are really about modern man interacting with new technology. How do these new tools in this new situation impact the story? What will our tools, and therefore our capability look like in the future?
If you are going to write a SciFi story, you need to come up with some new technology and how it interacts with your characters. How does their society change because of this new technology? A community made up of independent, physically secure artists and craftsman is vastly different than one made up of a collective of slaves fighting to survive. Their needs are the same, but they are focused at a different level.
When predicting the future think of faster, cheaper ways of doing things and how that will impact society.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Writer's Voice

I have been wrestling with this concept of a writer’s voice. What is it and how do I get one. Everyone seems to differ on the exact definition, and even more so on how to do it. I was hoping to find some easy instructions to follow. You know, do this, add that, stop doing this. But no one seems to have an easy formula to follow.

I have come up with three examples of voice. These are sentences that cannot be improved. They capture and move the audience more in a few words than I could with an entire book.   

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address 1863)

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” (Winston Churchill, 1940)
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” (Declaration of Independence. 1776)
A couple of observations
-          Lincoln’s phrases go from 6 syllables to 5 syllables, then down to 4 syllables. I am sure this was intentional and lends to a sense of building tension.
-          The rule of three repeatedly shows up. Lincolns starts with 3 phrases, both Churchill and Jefferson end with 3 phrases.
-          Churchill uses 3 words in each phrase
-          Jefferson’s ends his passage with phrases starting short and ending  long, 1 sylable, 3 Syllables, 6 syllables. Building to and ending. Opposite of Lincoln’s starting long and ending short.
-          All three use BOLD declarative statements (World can never forget), (Never in the field of human conflict), (Truths to be self evident). Each statement is surrounded by 3 bold phrases.
-          Try rearranging the words, even if the meaning is the same, the strength and art is lost. EX: “Among these are pursuing happiness, life, and liberty.”  
I have come to believe that the ‘voice’ part of writing is the real art. It’s like telling Picasso how to shape a curve when painting a face. You either have it or you don’t. Training and practice can greatly improve it, but talent will take it to the next level.