Topic: On Writing

A Worthy Foe 0

I see my protagonist in The Farmer’s Cop pretty clearly. He’s a former sheriff who recently lost the family ranch due to bad investments. He’s a pariah with his siblings; they really don’t like him. He moves from rural California to Los Angles; a sheep missing his wool. He is trying to fit into a hip culture, and well, he will never be mistaken for hip. But he’s trying. My protagonist is very smart and doesn’t suffer fools. He uses his country charm as a way to sneak under the fences.

As for my antagonist; I still need to figure him/her out. They need to be an equal to my sheriff. Just as smart, and in some ways, smarter. The antagonist needs to have some flaws and character traits will all admire. In essence, the reader needs to sympathize, and even like, the murderer.

As I said before, the mystery story must be about the detective solving the murder. But the story also needs to feature the murderer. We need to feel like this is someone we would like to hang out with.

Character planning is in some ways more important than plotting. Sure, it is nice to know the story outline. However, the way the characters react to things happening in the story will push the story forward and allow the reader to grow to love the character.

Five Character Traits of The Antagonist (Murderer)

I go into more detail on these five traits on my Patreon Page.

 

Become a Patreon 0

I have created a Patreon Page and ask for your support.

[button icon=heart]Become a Patron[/button]

My first goal is to finally work on my next novel, The Farmers Cop, about a retired detective who takes a job at a southern California Farmers Market. While he thinks he’s found the perfect semi-retirement job, a murder conspiracy will change everything. He will meet an eclectic group at the Farmers Market, encounter quite a bit of opposition, and in the end, solve the mystery. I hope this will become a series of stories. Your support will help me with research, writing tools, and the eventual promotion of the novel.

I have come up with a list of rewards I think will make your support worthwhile and fun.

Check it out.

 

There Must Be a Change 0

[aesop_image imgwidth=”800″ img=”http://wordsmithholler.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/wicker-fence-949075_1920.jpg” credit=”Pixabay” align=”left” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off”]

For a story to rivet the reader, the characters must change from evil to good, happy to sad, selfish to compassionate, or a similar change. Otherwise, the story reads like a bland planner entry. Short stories, in particular, must show the change quickly. Flash Fiction under 500 words needs the reader to understand the main character is a lout and will become less of one by the end.

Guarantee: if a writer finds a story or character stuck, likely nothing has changed in a while.

This is why there are so many worksheets and tools aimed at showing how a character matures, changes, or fails to change. All of the possibilities are laid out so when the writer gets stuck, they can go “Ah Ha”. I wondered what happens next.

I have mentioned I used to pants along hoping for character insight to fall down from heaven. Inspiration does fall down on my keyboard. It just happens to arrive in a character sheet.

Short stories also benefit from this approach. The character must make a change or the story must take the reader down a path with a hidden surprise. Otherwise, the whole story lacks any tension and fewer readers.

Finding the Spark: Inspiration 0

On April 21, 2017, I hosted a webinar titled Finding the Spark: Inspiration. There was no sales pitch – just a half hour to explore writing ideas and how to find inspiration.

You can watch it at http://wordsmithholler.link/Inspiration.

When I was first writing fiction, I struggled to figure out what to write. I honestly stared at the page. Until I found a simple trick. Many tricks really, which I will share with you.

For the past year, I have used this website as my sole method of getting stories out there. Now that I am working at placing stories with publishers, I am looking for even more inspiration.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

Inspiration means we come full circle. The “Ah hah” moment. We gain knowledge and inspiration from those things we experience and our memories. We must build an inspiration arsenal.

The Good Writers are Liars 0

A young woman sits across the courtyard from me. I don’t know what she is thinking. She could be examining the pitfalls of a date, wishing for a new pair of shoes, dreaming about a world trip, or worrying about how to pay rent. I don’t know. But I can imagine.

The best writers fill in the blanks.

What would a protagonist do if they happened to be a young Korean girl who just found out she is going blind? She may have ticks, or habits, or peculiar ways of doing things. Those details certainly will add to the milieu, the setting, or the way she goes about her day. Deeper, how will she struggle or triumph despite her blindness? I know how I would react if I suddenly found myself blind! And I imagine, it will not be too hard to tell my reader about my feelings.

That’s why a story generator only provides a character, a plot, and an ending; we must fill in the blanks with anything that will fill the senses. The best writers know how to tell a story, which most of the time requires making it up. The good writers are simply good liars; they know how to embellish a story so you will never find them out.

Description vs. Feeling 0

[aesop_image imgwidth=”500px” img=”http://wordsmithholler.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/bookshelf-413705_1920.jpg” credit=”Pixabay” align=”left” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off”]

Sometimes a writer decides to describe items; a bookshelf filled with classics, a few popular authors, and a dictionary.

Sometimes a writer decides to describe feelings; a bookshelf of proven ideas, untested ones, and the long unvisited prefixes memorized years ago for the ACT exam.

Descriptions of items provide a snapshot of the moment. An inventory a detective gives to a murder scene.

Descriptions of feelings give the reader a moment to reflect and react to the items. The feelings they experienced in a similar situation.

The reader craves feelings because they provide a chance to share the character’s experience. Rewrite descriptions to include feelings. Otherwise, the writing becomes a list.

TBR Pile 0

books-1246674

All great writers read books. Alberto Manguel talked about reading: “Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.

I read too and I have quite a few books on my To Be Read (TBR) Pile, including:

  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  • The Umbrella Man, Roald Dahl
  • Tomorrowland, Steven Kotler
  • Merle Haggard, The Running Kind, David Cantwell
  • The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Annie Noble
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  • Interviews with the Masters, Robert Greene
  • Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway
  • The Black Echo, Michael Connelly
  • On Writing, Stephen King
  • The Dude Abides, The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, Cathleen Falsani
  • The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin
  • The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Complete, Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Damage Control, Eric Dezenhall

All these books are in my Kindle with a 100 more waiting to be read. Some I have read before and others I just picked up because they looked interesting. This is the list I plan to tackle in the next few months.

Edit and Repeat 0

All of the great writers say the real writing starts with the rewrite. Most of what I write comes out as first draft and I leave it alone; no sense in revisiting it.

However…

I want to get better and that means a rewrite is warranted.

What you may notice is that some of my stories will appear again with redlines and edits. Finally, I will post the final draft.

This blog was always going to be more of a working space rather than a place to showcase finished projects. In fact, I have a few projects underway that I have not returned to in a while.

Mark Twain used to leave stories in a cubby-hole until they wanted to be worked on again. I have a few cubbies!

Anyway, stories with an edit will be marked Edit and stories in final draft (is anything really final?) will be replaced after the edit.

 

 

Something Foul at the Chicken Shack 0

I hoped for spark as I watched the new version of the motoring show Top Gear this weekend. It reminded me of a visit to Pittsburgh.

spark

Outside a downtown cheese steak and sandwich shop was a sign with a huge rooster promising spark with copy which read in essence, “This is the hottest chicken sandwich you will ever eat. Hot. Hot. Hot!” Recently removed from Texas, where I had eaten my share of hot food, and now living in Las Vegas, where hot food can be found, I of course was very interested in eating the “hottest chicken sandwich in Pittsburgh.”

I ordered and waited for the challenge.

It seemed to take longer than my friend’s cheese steak and I visioned the cook dipping it in extra hotness and spices before it was cooked. Special hot requires special handling.

Soon my number came up and the cook promised, “You are going to like this one.”

The plate was hot and steam was coming from the middle of the chicken. It certainly was hot and it smelled promising.

My mouth watered in anticipation and I prepared for the blast of Pittsburgh-inspired heat.

It was bland.

The cook was smiling when I returned to fetch some Red’s Hot Sauce.

“Are you sure? That is one hot sandwich!”

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for a Wendy’s so I could down a spicy sandwich and cleanse my pallet.

Returning to the new Top Gear, the show missed spark. It was bland.

Not so much because of the missing trio of presenters – Clarkson, May, and Hammond – although I missed their banter. It was more that it seemed like someone forgot how to write small talk. The hosts were off.

In fact, the spark came during the off-road desert test of Matt LeBlanc. I thought perhaps I was being an Americanocentric snob when it hit me: this piece worked because of excellent writing. The writers really knew how to spice it up.

Whoever wrote this really knows how to make the rocks fly and the wheels jump.

The writer captured the excitement of flying through the desert and made it fun. Adding the evil British villains was a clever play on the outsider American on the car show. Overall, the writing engaged the viewer and kept me past 40 minutes of the program.

The rest I am not sure about. My son brought me a video titled “DHL box challenge (No 4, medium)” which gave me back some of the spice I missed.

Where Did You Go Joe DiMaggio? 0

Good question.

All I can say is I have been writing, reading, writing, and reading, in no particular order. I just have not updated my blog.

After years of pantsing things to roughly 20,000 words, I have decided to outline, research, and think about my projects. Honestly, the reason things tended to drift was I ran out of things to say. With just a little research, I could write easily another 50,000 words. My fiction would read like Wikipedia, but I could go on and on.

K.M. Weiland offers a wonderful set of educational books, if you lack motivation to plan and afraid of letting pantsing go. And if you think of each chapter as a scene, i.e. James Patterson, you might be able to get to the pinch and plot points without much effort. (These authors helped me focus on ideas and I am not selling their courses.)

sports-1391871__180

No offense to pantsers, but at least with an outline I have a road map of where the story is going. I can still let a character run with it, but I also can reign them in and head back to the plot. It is a relief, actually.

Honestly, outlining takes quite a bit of pressure off. At least you know where a character is going when you decide to pants-it.