Tagged: Stories

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.

***

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.

***

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

March 3, 2017 Scribble 0

You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.

America is divided. The Hatfield vs. the McCoys. #BLM vs #BLM. Of course, it is nowhere near the biggest mix up as The Orange and the Green.  At least not yet. (more…)

A Moment of Pure Truth 0

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Christopher stood over the maze of workday and eyed the sea.
A thin fog cloud floated passed his perch on the 45th floor.
On the docks barking sea lions. East Bay traffic sought a faster path, ships hauled electronics in and almonds back out, and the blood-red sun sunk into late afternoon north of the Golden Gate.

In the conference room five people sat in executive chairs around a table. Their faces reflected gloomy sullenness. They might as well said they intended two more hours of arguing and defensiveness. He crushed out his cigarette and flicked it over the balcony.
Across from a camera hunched a nervous man with a woman perched to the side wearing a mask. He could use some oxygen too. While he explained his point, the woman repeated what he said.

“Does she have to do that?”
“We need an accurate record,” said an attorney.
“Isn’t the video enough?”
“I want to read it tonight.”

Christopher rocked forward. He ran his right hand through his gray hair and looked over at the man.
“Forget the transcriber Mr. Wells. The faster you answer, the faster we can get out of here.”

The nervous man explained his unique process. It required this and that and one thing or the other. It mattered little. The questions rolled and the answers landed in a flat dud. Each person rubbed their eyes and wished for sleep.

Christopher turned to the window daydreaming of places far from this evening. He watched the sun drop into the ocean until the dying light filled the room.

~

Five hours over the vermilion bridge he rolled down the fabric roof. Clammers walked along the beach carrying clam guns and pails. They smiled in the ocean air. Christopher took it in a feeling of warm relief. The sea smelled sweet. Sentries of redwoods stood on the cliff and a lone tree marched out to the shore. He longed to join its rush to the sea. Away from him, he picked up the faint smell of skunk. Humboldt County Fog, he guessed. A guy in a beanie and a girl in flannel shirt smiled and waved.

He touched the dash. It felt solid although he still wore his virgin wool dress pants. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them quick. A pair of 501’s and a wool cardigan replaced the virgin wool. He looked in the mirror and dark sunglasses reflected back. He settled into the car seat steering the wheel away from the sand.

The redwood forest rose above the ocean. Ferns and grass bunched up crowding the road as the path intruded on the stillness of the woodland giving way to silence. Sentries of trees towered until only darkness touched the sky. His intrusion of their assembly mattered little. He came to seek solace and the forest ignored him.

Christopher slowed the car into a clearing. The tires crunched over cones, broken branches, and fronds. A hard thump echoed from the closing door. He regretted disrupting the surrounding cathedral.

He wandered over fallen trees and rocks. Over a ridge he scanned for the tree tops watching the breeze sway each branch. The trees reached a height beyond his imagination. He leaned against a trunk rounder than his height following the ridges and cliffs of bark as high as he could see. It never ended. He guessed this tree stood stories tall long before his great-grandfather saw California.
The width of the tree circled around and Christopher stepped over ferns as he rounded it. A black ant carried a golden speck of pollen at the end of a mile long trek. It rushed to disappear under the surface of leaves going deep into the humus. Christopher looked around the clearing not seeing his starting point.

A beam of light surrounded a smaller tree with a pathway from the sky. Dust and insects crisscrossed the dancing light. Christopher stood in awe breathing in the serenity.

He walked away from the big tree to stand under the light shaft. The illuminated tree stood tall like the last one except for its pure white branches. His shoulders shuddered and every tree seemed to step back with appreciation and respect. He reached up stroking an albino cone of pure whiteness as a subtle spark passed through his hand twinkling in the light. He rubbed together his fingers feeling the soft white powder. A flash of energy flashed from the tips and floated to his core. He felt alive and full of wisdom.

The light around the ghost tree grew brighter and he stood alone looking up. His face expressed joy.

~

“Is that what a nervous break down looks like?” asked Mr. Wells.

Christopher jumped back from the table. The room grew larger and a crowd stood around him. The transcriber braced his back. He sank into a chair with an equal confusion. A hand pushed him a glass and he sipped the water allowing himself to return to the meeting. He surveyed the balcony. Stars touched the rooftops of the city and a helicopter searched over the bay. He stared outside while the others waited for him to say he felt alright. Christopher cleared his throat and everyone turned to him.

“Answers come at the strangest times,” he said.
“How do you mean?” Mr. Wells asked.
“All this means nothing. None of you should win.”
“But we are so close.”
“A settlement over a little slight?”

Christopher pushed himself away from the table. He stood for a moment before the people seated opposite him. He nodded, smiled, and looked up. They followed his gaze to the ceiling tiles where he saw his answer while they only recognized a crisscross pattern. As they tried to understand the truth, Christopher gathered up his papers, turned away, and walked out the door.

Inspiration: Mining Subjects Close to My Heart 0

I grew up trout fishing. But I will never be able to capture the river like Norman Maclean.

I once toiled as an innkeeper. But my experiences were nothing like described by John Irving.

inspiration

Inspiration Comes From Experience

I am a product of the American West and my inspiration comes from those people. I take inspiration from their stories and those subjects are close to my heart.

When Tom Booker stopped at a remote four-corners somewhere between Nevada and Utah, I was there. Nicholas Evans reminded me I had been at that crossroads a few times. I understand the loneliness of a desert valley surrounded by a ring of mountains.

I have this great idea for a novel set in Paris, but I have never been there. I struggle to place my characters at a corner cafe I have never set foot in. The story lies flat because I can’t put any description into the place.

Irving wrote about the feeling he had as a child. The deeper context comes from the adult. Maclean also wrote about his family, his childhood, and the pains of adulthood. All wrapped up in these stories are bigger images, but the writers mined subjects close to their hearts to arrive at the wider story.

It is better to stick to subjects you understand and attempt to create deeper meaning. Your experiences fold together to create a grander tapestry. Would it be impossible to write the Paris story? Likely not, if I visited the Arrondissements and smelled, tasted, and wondered.

Stories come easier when the milieu can be seen by the author. Otherwise, a lot of research must be done. Inspiration comes when the writer can just tell the story. Place is easiest arranged when the writer already sits there.

[plain]What do you think? Can a writer create a place they have never visited? Or, do you have to experience it first to obtain inspiration? Leave a Comment 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

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.

(more…)

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]