Tagged: character

March 15, 2017 Scribble 0

I spent twenty minutes holding my head to the right as a doctor went in again for my fourth thyroid biopsy. “Boy this is really deep,” he said. “Yep, maybe you’ll be the guy,” I said. It is clear with have a nodule or two. We don’t clearly know if it is cancer. “At least if it is cancer, this is the best one to get,” said my endocrinologist. “It takes so long to grow.” Comforting. While other writers are busy taking people to other places, I’m in an endless loop of out-patient surgery. No, you would not be interested in the waiting, prodding, and sore neck. It doesn’t jump off as one of those stories you want to hear.

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Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” True. Sometimes you just have to write it out and hope something sticks. Then let it fall to the floor. In Hemingway & Gellhorn  he says,” Never crumple pages. Always let them float gently into the basket. Any writer who rips out his stuff and crumples it will go insane in a year, guaranteed.” I like the idea of floating paper to the trash. I would float this to the trash, but it’s a huge monitor.

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It turns out nobody reads this blog. (more…)

After My Stroke: A Year of Possibilities 1

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Courtesy Pixabay

Author’s Note: After my stroke in July 2015 I had to think about how I would proceed. This project started out as a way for me to focus on writing. The year took a different turn for me. I spent two months relearning how to walk, talk, and type. A had a stroke at the age of 51. It became a rebirth.

After My Stroke: A Year of Possibilities

A year ago I started this experiment with a lot of promise in my mind; it felt like I would finally focus on something and complete it. Then work piled on and I set this aside. I could always come back to it because it was something for me.

The months rolled by and I found myself in Texas helping my son with a fireworks stand. Long, hot days and nights filled with outrunning the local flying insects. I still think about the bites on my leg. A few days after the 4th of July I was back in Nevada and working again. I sort of thought about this writing corner and promptly moved on.

A week later I was staring at myself in the mirror and wondering why one eye was closed and the other was bigger than a rabbit’s eye. I had caked blood on my ear and my head hurt.

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Finding the Character’s Pain 0

Sunshine and rainbows. We all would like to have a life free of stress and full of sunshine and rainbows. A life of bliss only leads to trouble. There is no excitement, no drama, no life.

Writers need to run as quick as they can from sunshine and rainbows. At least when developing a story everyone will want to read. Can the main character end up in a land of beauty and peace? Sure. Just don’t plan on writing a sequel.

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Courtesy Pixabay

Pain, wounds and disaster are what we need to strive for when writing a good main character. Give a character pain and a past full of strife, trouble, and challenges. Allow them to triumph. And then smack them again.

Wounds provide the best motivation to overcome an obstacle and move the story forward. Give your characters a reason to fulfill a basic need for love, faith, understanding, and belonging. Make this character pain so intense they must do something to overcome it.

Pain and suffering also suggests your character has a basic flaw that leads them to more pain. A character weakness that they must hide or tackle in order to move the story forward. Allow the character to show they have the strength to overcome their weakness.

The whole goal is to make the story move from scene to scene. The best way to do this is by finding the pain.

[plain]What are your thoughts about character development? Post your comments below.[/plain]

A Tall Tale of Sin: Greyhound Arriving 0

I work downtown Las Vegas. For all of the glitz and wild scenes on Fremont Street, what is often overlooked is this town is a business. And that means for every cup tossed on the ground someone has to come along and pick it up. While the entire street is a stage, it still needs to rest, if only for a few hours between parties.

I’m also fascinated with neon and what it means. Las Vegas discards its neon signs; they can be found at the Neon Museum. Unfortunately, many of these signs no longer light up. I often wonder if each neon sign is waiting for someone to jump start their hearts so their lights can be alive again.

I’ve been pondering an idea for a while that will take more effort than a 1,000 word short story. Not quite a novel; I think it’s more of a 60-page novella. However, it will take some time to write and I may need to draft it in smaller assignments.

Clearly this story will have some fantasy, crime, and drama.

So what will follow is a serialized short story and a way for me to plod along until I finish it. Short of NaNoWriMo, I tend to drop the ball and there are lots of stories I have written waiting for a finish. My two NaNoWriMo efforts still need me to edit them; those stories may never see the light of day! Too many half-baked ideas waiting for an editor. With this project, I anticipate it will be a forced march of sorts to reach the finish line. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up in a trash can.

Each segment will be like a short chapter with the main title “A Tall Tale of Sin” preceding the current effort.

I plan to discuss my story idea and share my planning. Frequently, I may update this post to add character sketches or to expand on the idea. By the way, you can find the tools I have created to help me write here.

Planning

Character Introductions: Backstrom 0

Bones is one of my favorite police procedurals, although not as dark as the richly-disturbing Criminal Minds, with humor, well-written characters, and charm.

Last night, Bones writer-producer Hart Hanson brought to life Detective Everett Backstrom, a Fox-TV series titled Backstrom based on a Swedish book series by Leif G.W. Persson.

Backstrom has a bit of a House feel to it, with the lead character, played marvelously by Rainn Wilson (The Office), and full of wonderful writing. For instance, we immediately understand Det. Backstrom has problems, quirks, and a biting humor. (more…)

The False Ending 0

I have mentioned that many stories fail to gain traction in the second act. This is where the viewpoint character forgets why they are in the story. Of course, it is the writer who has forgotten; either by writing by their pants or failing to plot in enough conflict to keep the story moving forward. Stories thrive on conflict and bad things must happen to the hero before it all ends up as good and satisfying.

That is why within the second act, is the false ending. In fact, you might say this is the top of the hill. And this is why screenwriters call it the midpoint. Everything works up to the midpoint and then tumbles down into the depths of hell before the beginning of the end.

Screenwriters know they must take the viewer to the first turning point within 12 pages. Novelists also incorporate a turning point before the end of the first act. The second act is reserved for the hero doing heroic things; nothing can go wrong. And then it happens: the midpoint. Writers reserve the midpoint for the center of the story and add the ultimate conflict for the hero to face.

The midpoint is when the girl discovers the guy is hiding a secret girlfriend (who usually is revealed in the third act as his sister). Or at the midpoint, the hero faces emotional or physical death. Will she make it? Keep watching. Everything is revealed in the third act.

A good midpoint incorporates a false victory for our hero; she defeats the bad guy, only to discover a badder bad guy is standing behind her. Another excellent midpoint is to have the hero face ultimate disaster; the singing cowboy movies called this a cliffhanger. Finally, a midpoint should provide the ultimate obstacle in the story. What happens to give the antagonist the upper hand? What is the chink in our hero’s armor?

Midpoints add conflict, which is the main reason anyone reads a novel or watches a movie; they want to see the hero defeat the antagonist. They want to see the hero survive the midpoint.

[plain]How have you used this technique to infuse your stories with conflict? Reply below in the comments.[/plain]

Pantser Plotter 0

There are two camps of thought: the people who listen to the muse and write by the seat of their pants and the people who write an entire book-length outline prior to starting to write.

I prefer to combine the two, without writing an entire book-length outline. Let me explain my thoughts on this debate.

Pantsers argue they are free to listen to the story and the characters. It is a muse-centric approach, with the characters exploring the milieu and wandering about discovering the story. All fine and well. It is interesting how a story can take on a life and allow a writer to document scenes and fill in the story.

Plotters say there is no way a story can take shape without a road map: it requires a structure to allow the characters to face their inner and external conflicts. The characters are forced to face their fears. Plotters like to know where the story is headed.

Here is my take: Pantsers need to outline and Plotters need to be open to just writing.

In my experience, without an outline I have twice been abandoned by my characters in the second act. They exhibit attention deficit disorder and climb out of the book. The characters say “well, that’s all I got,” and the story sort of fizzles out. I’m rewriting “Fish Tacos: Or How I Went To Mexico to Save My Soul” because the main character started bitching about his past and failed to get off his butt. Sure, I’m the writer, it is my story, but I let the character dictate where he would go and when he would get there. Believe me, if left to his designs, the main character would still be sitting in the desert waiting to move.

So now I plot everything: short stories; novels; non-fiction; and, screenplays. I give the viewpoint characters a purpose and a timeline to meet. I challenge them to face their demons. I gift them happy successes. By the time the story ends, they see their doubts, obstacles, challenges, and growth.

In some ways this is the perfect way to write by the seat of your pants: the story structure lets them wander about, as long as they meet their deadlines. So I guess I’m a Pantser Plotter . It seems to be working.

[plain]How do you plan your projects? Do you outline or just let it flow? Leave a comment below.[/plain]

The Thrill of Writing 0

I started Wordsmith Holler to experiment and put myself out there. I have no other reason. It seemed pointless to keep writing first drafts and store them in the cloud. Stored and forgotten. Go ahead and post them and let others decide their true worth.

I also do not understand the current publishing business. Writers are discovered online on Twitter. Can 140-character riffs really indicate your ability to write? I suppose if you are writing one-liners. Before my birth, a writer would sit in a pub, think Starbucks, and write an essay, short story, diatribe, and submit it for publishing. Edgar Allen Poe comes to mind.

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Making Time 0

I dislike the gym. I do not have a gym membership and the thought of exercise sends me back to the couch. I like the couch. It is safer and never leads to a pulled back muscle. Of course, I could use some stretching of my back muscles.

Writing – the actual practice of sitting down and writing – has never been a problem. I mean, the actual knocking out of words. The words flow when I need them too and I can write understandable sentences. Those words are for work assignments; I never have trouble writing for work.

Creative writing is a challenge. It always feels like it should come as easy as my non-fiction or technical writing. And it should be perfect on first draft.  That perverse thought comes from my television career. When writing news it is a once-off and there is no time for multiple drafts. You correct the errors on the next version and send it off to the teleprompter. Such is the quick pace of writing television news stories.

However, with creative writing, I want the words to flow and the stories to build without hesitation. It is never the case; creative writing requires more effort. I sit and get stuck in the character, or the plot takes a turn, or I get down a rabbit hole and it leads to a dead end. Creative writing makes my back hurt.

So I must make the time. Create a schedule and stick to it. Allow the stories to be told in their way rather than forcing the words to tell the tale. Take some time to ponder. Listen to the words. Then write them down.

[plain]What kind of a writing schedule do you keep? Add your thoughts to the comments below.[/plain]