Tagged: comments

Driving Back from Spring Break 0

[aesop_image imgwidth=”500px” img=”http://wordsmithholler.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/bokeh-1033539_1920.jpg” credit=”Pixabay” align=”right” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off”]

Three days earlier I studied all night with a girlfriend for a physics exam and afterward drove four classmates 12 hours to San Diego for spring break. The entire trip the girls giggled and cackled behind me while a Korean kid sat silent up front. I decided we scared Jae. Although, being a confused immigrant might also explain his silence. Either way, he only said thanks when I dropped him off at his house. For that matter, Cindy told me how to find it.

The rest of the trip to Oceanside I drove in a blur on autopilot. All of the lights merged into a slow motion light show and I doubt I could even tell you about the trip. I arrived at the motel, went to bed, and slept nearly all Sunday despite my mother’s pleas to come to the beach. In the morning, I drove her north to Anaheim where we rode the teacups, stood in a long line for the bobsleds, and paddled a canoe. We ate dinner on the bayou, visited the pirates, posed with Mickey Mouse, and explored the Swiss Family Robinson tree house. Overall, mom had a great time and I played the sweet son. By nightfall, the sky exploded with fireworks and we headed back south. Mom slept pressed into the window missing the nuclear power plant, the Marines, and the moonlit beach. As the tail lights on the interstate blurred into red, I again drove like a drone.

Tuesday, I left mom in the room sadly wondering why I was heading back to college. I made Spring Break last only as long as a three-day weekend with an irritating baby. At the studio I planned to make a lot of cash in the remaining days of my break.

Before I left, Cindy called to say she wanted to ride back with me to school.

(more…)

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]

Second Writing: Proofreading and Editing Skills 0

By all means write as fast as you can and put the words on paper. In the movie Finding Forrester, the fictional reclusive author William Forrester tells Jamal Wallace, “No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think!”

No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think!

The second writing comes through the proofreading, editing, and re-writing.

Too many writers get bogged down in re-writing each sentence as they write it. A missed opportunity to allow expression and creativity to flow on the page. Capture the spark of genius first and allow it to build. Stopping to edit just breaks the chain and makes it difficult to put down pages.

The story develops and becomes refined in the second writing. I like to let the story sit and ferment like a bowl of bread dough; it sits and bubbles until I have the time to return to make the loaves. The second writing allows you time to smooth out the wrinkles and improve on the structure. At this stage you notice the awkward phrasing, the empty dialogue, and the story weaknesses.

In the coming weeks, I plan to began writing a short story about a girl who comes to Las Vegas seeking revenge. Over time, you may notice the story will contain strikeouts and edits. I plan to keep those in there to show you how I am editing and re-writing the story. Of course, I would appreciate your feedback too.

[plain]Do you write like a whirlwind, or do you carefully consider each word? What are your thoughts on getting words on the page? Post your comments below.[/plain]

 

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]

The Bedwell Curse 0

I am sure she really meant no harm when she said, “You will never be a writer.”

The shock of the statement caused me to burn inside and I ached to prove her wrong. My sophomore English teacher failed to understand my punctuation and short sentences that often lacked complexity or my fascination with Tyburn poems.

“Rat-a-tat-tat,” she would write on my papers.

“Less poetry, more exposition,” she scrawled in big red letters.

[plain]Rhyming
Timing
Quaffing
Imbibing
Rhyming, timing spontaneity
Rebuffed as a quaffing, imbibing wastefulness.
[/plain]

Sentences consisting of subject-verb-object became my bread and butter; my go to sentence when I needed to clearly state a point. Ten years of television journalism proved a simple sentence often was all that was needed.

I felt pride in knowing Mrs. Bedwell was wrong.

Yet, I wasn’t really sure.

Writing 75 words a day for a crime story really doesn’t make for a deep writing career. The first day on the job as a science writer, I was assigned to write a 3,500 word story on a complex chemical reaction. I nearly left the Selectric II behind.

“How do I start?” I asked my new editor Kippie.

“Start by writing,” she had replied.

I still couldn’t begin. This was the first time I considered Mrs. Bedwell might have been right.

“You will never be a writer.”

The blank page turned brighter and I just stared at it until whiteness filed the room. I was pulled out of my brooding by a phone call.

“Just start,” Kippie, said through the speaker.

The typewriter clacked out the first word. Then the next. Soon there was a page of thoughts and sentences. Surprisingly, some of it seemed to flow and tell the story. It was rough.

“That’s what editors are for,” said Kippie, when I confessed it wasn’t very polished.

Who knows if I am the writer Mrs. Bedwell envisioned.

It doesn’t matter.

I am the writer I want to be.

[plain]Where you ever told you couldn’t write? Was that a proper judgement? If not, what did you do about it? Add your thoughts to the comments below.[/plain]

On the Path from Small to Large 0

Small.
Brownie Cottage.
300 square feet.
Enough room to sit.
And maybe spin all around.
The size of a gingerbread doghouse.
If the dog was a small mastiff.
A big dog with a very large appetite.
With no place to store the dog food bags.
The minimalists say we all could stand to slim down.
That our mega mansions, stuff, and stacks of books signify waste.
But the very thought of living in a one-room cabin frightens me:
Like Thoreau living in an urban forest with no solitude or private pond.
The stacks of books, hand selected, some with gold leaf edges are precious friends.
Even if they spill off the shelves and pile up in towers on the floor.
“You’re a hoarder,” say visitors who look down in disdain at my collection of wordy excess.
And although I attempt to purge, sort, and reduce the pages, it is hard to part company.
They all contain dreams, fantastic journeys, ginormous thoughts, hidden truths, ineffable fruit, obsolete wisdom, scientific hypotheses, and farce.
Put them on a Kindle, they say, yet most are out-of-print, esoteric, or hand-me-down treasures.
Which makes it all the more difficult to release them to a better place; a Goodwill, or a book sale.
So they stand stacked like beleaguered sentries circled in spindly towers keeping silent watch over words cluttering the floor.
They wait and watch with dread wondering when they will be released into the world and set free.
Each knows I haven’t the courage to sort, pick, or drop any of them into a box.
A certain belief none of them will be downsized to shoehorn them into a tiny house.
Or are they mistaken to express this joyful expectation that they are so highly regarded?
Unfortunately some must be labeled, screened, and stacked for certain delivery to the curb.
The house must shrink from 3,500 to 1,700 squares, albeit not a one-room schoolhouse.
It is still smaller than the library where the sentries now stand guard.
The childhood adventures remain and the college texts with inspired margin notes.
Each is carefully stacked next to the poems and dime-store mysteries.
The free classics will find a home electronic and portable.
Words stacked neatly alphabetical in my library virtual.
I will sneak in some Steinbeck or Holmes.
The rest will be donated for free.
To give others pleasure or pain.
The words will worm inward.
To plant a seed.
An inspirational spark.
To think.
Large.

Copyright 2015, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.

[plain]This shape poem works from one to 20 words and then back to a single word. Pick a topic and write your own shape poem. Add it to the comments below.[/plain]

The Devil Knows You’re There 1

Tom was stuck and hanging 100 feet above Fremont Street, angled like Superman, and tethered only to the narrow ribbon of wire in a harness. Unable to twist and look up at why he was stuck, he looked down at the street instead. A sea of tourists moved below him as if he was just another attraction. A small boy let go of a smiley-face balloon and started to cry. A bald dude stared at him in a peewee muscle shirt. A ragged homeless man bumped the crowd begging for a dollar. A topless brunette in a devil’s costume waved at everyone while holding a red fan over her exposed breasts.

Mark had promised fame and fortune at the end of the zip line. He failed to mention this.

(more…)

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]