Tag Archives: writing skills

Thinking About Contrast

Who’s sick of hearing about my book promotions? I know I am. Let’s talk about unexpected contrast in our writing.

I love contrast, even to the point of conflicting with reader expectations. Writers should always be willing to move from daylight to darkness, from cheer to gloom. I love the final battle on Endor as an example of unexpected contrast. The Empire, with all its technology is up against a bunch of Ewoks with rocks and sharp sticks. We expect the worst, but that isn’t how it played out.

Bad guys with names like Hannibal Lechter are pretty common. What about a handsome hunk called Matt Stone, with blond hair and a White House behind a picket fence. When Matt turns out to be a maker of snuff porn, we get a little jolt as readers. I like the little jolt. It reflects a bit of real life into the story. Lizzie Borden and Ted Bundy don’t sound like scary characters, and they were real.

What if the computer hacker who can do anything online has to solve the key plot point by reading through a pile of ancient scrolls? I like the contrast. The guy is perfectly prepared for the wrong situation.

Why can’t the demon be a female named Britt?

Who didn’t love the swordsman displaying his skills with a huge scimitar? Indiana Jones shot him and moved on. I was there in the theatre the day it was released. The whole crowd cheered.

I’ve seen plenty of full moons in broad daylight. I’ve never seen a werewolf out then. This I can handle, because humans are at a disadvantage in the dark. Our characters should always be at a disadvantage.

Why can’t witchcraft involve microwaves and stick blenders. (Okay, I did this, but I’m not ready to tell you about it.)

Technology vs ancient. Light vs dark. Cold vs hot. Sexy vs ugly. There are times when this can become a trope, but it can also be a nice tool.

I like the idea that Princess Fiona became an ogre and not the other way around. Doc Brown had to find a way to use lightning to power the deLorean. Contrast tech vs nature.

It’s Wednesday so I’m posting. This one would be a lot more fun with some discussions. Weigh in folks. Do you love or hate contrast in stories? Why?


Filed under Writing

My Stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour

This particular blog tour has been awesome. I’ve read dozens and dozens of these and enjoyed all of them. It’s helpful to know that we all go about things differently, and yet aim for the same goals.

I was invited by two different bloggers to participate, and I’m thrilled. These are both blogs I really enjoy.

The first one is Karen over at My Train of Thoughts On and In a Small Compass. She’s been very helpful to me, and I can’t say enough nice things about her. Please visit her blogs and give a thought to following her.

The other invite came from Michelle Joelle over at Soliloquies. When she invited me she called Entertaining Stories, “One of the most fun writing blogs I’ve ever found.” She’s obviously a genius. Please visit her blog and give her a follow too. You can learn a lot from a genius.

Now it’s time for the tour questions:

What am I working on?  I knew almost two years ago that I wanted to self publish some of my old stories. I put it off for a long time, because writing new material is just so much fun. The self publishing part, well it isn’t, to put it bluntly. I started this blog to do a bit of self promotion and to learn from others. The blog took on a life of its own, and has been the best part so far.

I’ve been putting all my efforts into getting the older work out there. I have a new idea that’s begging me to start, but sometimes you have to pick a lane and drive in it.

I’ve met some amazing cover artists, learned what it takes to get permission from a Copyright holder, struggled to write blurbs, and studied Amazon’s promotional tools until my brain hurts. I’ll get to a point where all the old material is posted one day. After that, the smarter Craig won’t have much trouble forging ahead.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I’m a little bit pragmatic here. I’m of the school where every story has already been told. What makes any of our stories different is what we bring to the table.

Nobody has lived my life. My experiences are unique, and I try to include a bit of that in my tales. I grew up in a very small town that was isolated by distance from the rest of the world. There are still places in my home county where you can get a hundred miles from the nearest house. My every day world was a page from an earlier era, and I try to include some of that when it’s appropriate.

Why do I write what I do? I try to write the kind of stories I want to read. I get tired of the evening news, celebrity gossip, and reality shows. My work is escapist. If that’s a bad thing, so be it.

I like stories where the little guy overcomes the odds. This isn’t saying it’s going to be easy for my character. I like stories that end a bit differently. They might not be the standard “happily ever after”, but I think they work.

I always write about a world we don’t have access to otherwise. My wheelhouse is science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy. If you enjoy stories like that, I’ve got a couple of books to tell you about.

Then there’s my blog, which has become a writing project all on its own. My characters never really leave me when the story ends. They show up in my blog from time to time, like old friends coming to visit. I don’t believe in posting random chapters of work, because those who miss chapter one have no reason to read anything else. So I create new bits of fiction using my characters in hopes that you’ll want to read their novels.

How does my writing process work? (Process? There has to be a process?) I have random thoughts all the time. I enter these into the Notes app on my iPhone, because it’s always with me. When one of these ideas sprouts like a seed, I make some notes with my fountain pen into a notebook for just that purpose.

I dwell on notebook items until a story creates itself. Then I outline it. I use a storyboard app and move index cards around while paying attention to three act structure. While I could make a card per chapter, I don’t. I add in what has to happen between the important parts to set up each section. This is when I start writing. This let’s me free flow as the characters take over. If I have to, I change the outline.

Other than that, it’s setting an alarm to get up early, add a quart or so of black coffee, and forge ahead. I don’t set daily goals, and am satisfied with forward motion of any kind.

I always read my last chapter before typing the first word. Some folks recommend not doing this, but I prefer it. I’m a weekend warrior with a full time job. I’m simply not able to write every day. I like to remember whether it’s mid day heat, evening snow, windy, and other details before I start.

I’m not afraid to stop mid sentence and go online for research. Sometimes you just need to know a few details about crossroads magic or how to shrink a head. I never have a problem returning to the writing.

The self promotion part: This is still one of my weaker areas. I just don’t like being in your face about it all the time. I’ll simply tell you what I have available today, and wilt if you don’t check it out.

Wild Concept is a science fiction tale about robotics. Atlantic Robotics borrowed a page from the auto industry and decided to build a concept robot. They crammed all the newest cutting edge technology into it and watched as it learned and grew. The robot, Lisa, was debuted as a spokes model for the company. When they decide to tear her down at the end of her experiment, she has different ideas. The cover is off to the right, and I’d appreciate it if you’d click on it and check it out.

Panama is set during the building of the Panama Canal. It’s a paranormal story where people from all over the world converge on Panama to build the canal. This means magic from all over the world converged on the canal too. Ethan and Coop are sent to deal with a problem plaguing the construction workers. What they find is the Panamanian bid for independence, a Colombian army, and a Carlist zealot who wants to replace the King of Spain and reclaim all the Spanish territories in the New World. There’s witchcraft, a demon, deadly wildlife, voodoo, shamanism, yellow fever, prejudice, and cowboys. Literally fun for everyone. The cover off to the right is a link. Click on it, all the cool kids are doing it.

Passing the torch:

I have to pass this blog hop on to two other amazing bloggers for next weekend. It’s been fun, but these people are fun too. I really encourage you to check out their blogs and give them a follow.

Michael J. McDonagh is a wealth of information. I’ve learned a lot about Copyright and other deep subjects from him. He lives in Boise, just like me. He’s also a fisherman, a sourdough, and all around good guy. I believe he’s a recovering attorney, but I won’t hold that against him. Please give him a visit, and watch for his Writing Process next weekend.

Sarah J Carlson is an American living in Singapore. How is that not cool? She is a great resource for cultural melting pot ideas. She’s already done the blog tour once, and generously offered to do it again when I asked. Anyone with that much enthusiasm for writing has to be interesting. Check her out too. I think you’ll find her interesting.

Thank you to the wonderful bloggers who passed me the torch. Thank you to the wonderful people who accepted the torch from me. Make sure to check out their blogs, and give a thought to following them.


Filed under Blogging, Writing

The Bone Yard

I cringed as I pulled into the garage tonight. Lorelei* had already opened the hidden door and was waiting beside my gyrocopter. She wore a long canvas duster, knee high boots, and a silk scarf.

“Hey. What brings you out tonight?” I asked.

“Let’s fly,” she said. “I’ll tell you where to go.”

We lifted off the street and I banked toward the Misty Mountains.

“We aren’t going to the writing cabin tonight,” she said. “Head east toward the coast. Better kick in ballistic turbo whatever. It’s quite a ways.”

I knew what she meant, trimmed the wing angles and pushed the accelerators forward all the way. When we came to the sea, she told me to skim the surface.

“What are we looking for?”

“Wildlife.” She pointed off to our left, “Over there.”

I banked and saw a long serpentine back rolling in the water. “What is that?”

“Mosasaur. Better climb a little higher. It can jump pretty high.”

“Are you going to tell me what this place is?”

“Jurassic Water Park.”

“You’re kidding. That’s pretty cool, I guess.”

“The island is just up ahead. Circle Mt. Spooky and find a place to land.”

There was only one mountain, and it was surrounded by a junkyard and small village. I spotted an open field and made a low pass. It was clear enough, so I landed. We followed a red brick road into the village.

Lorelei led me to a warehouse and held the door for me. It was filled with shelves, crates, and boxes. I picked up a musty yellow rag and raised an eyebrow toward her.

“That’s the yellow badge of courage. Keep looking.”

I flinched as rodent scurried across my feet. When I turned the corner there were millions of them. I stepped behind her and pushed her forward.

“Are you afraid of hamsters?”

“Hamsters? Really? Why are they here, and why so many?”

She shrugged and said, “Eleventh plague of Egypt.”

“I never heard of an eleventh plague. This AMC Pacer has plates that say Christine.”

“You’re catching on. Let’s head for the Tardis.”

“Cool,” I said. “I’d love to look inside that.”

“It stands for ‘Take a real detour in stories’.”

It turned out to be a bar. It was the same size on the inside. The walls were decorated with memorabilia. I spotted a baseball bat with a lightning bolt carved on the side.

“Special Kid? Shouldn’t it say Wonder Boy?” The Sorcerer’s Rock was framed next to it. A wooden case held the Maltese Mallard.

I sat at the bar and put my chin in my hand. The waitress, Polly Pan, brought me a beer. “This place is almost fun,” I said.

“On Saturday nights Polly Pan performs an epic sword fight with the pirate, Captain Colostomy Bag,” a severed head said.

A chill ran down my spine as I glanced toward Lorelei.

“Washington Irving left him here,” she said. “He lives with Khaleesi, the mother of wombats.”

“And what about the robots by the pool table?”

She grabbed my hand and dragged me over. “Craig, meet 4Q2 and 5319009. Let’s just say these really aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” She cupped her hand around my ear and whispered, “They came here on the Aluminum Falcon.”

I downed my beer and stepped outside. Lorelei grabbed my hand and tugged me back toward Mt. Spooky. She said, “One more thing to see. You’ve nearly got it.”

We entered a tunnel and she led me to a pedestal with a cheap tin brooch on top. “Read it,” she said.

I picked up the brooch and turned it over. “One brooch to rule them all. One brooch to find them–

“Make it stop,” I said. “Nothing here’s good. It’s almost fun, but not quite. Can we go home?”

“Alright. Follow me.” She led the way back down the trail. At the red brick road she shoved me into the bushes and we froze.

I six foot tall woodpecker hopped down the trail and we waited until he was out of sight.

“What’s his deal?” I asked.

“Peter Benchley left him here.”

“Of course he did. Let’s fly, there wasn’t even any alcohol in that beer.” We buckled up and headed home in silence.

Lorelei spoke when we hit the coast. “I know you’ve been editing. I’m trying to help. Sometimes it takes a small change to make the story better.”

“How will I know what to change? Should I be sending stuff to the bone yard too?”

“There’s a space reserved for your stuff. You have a good critique group, listen to them. You should find some decent beta readers too. Listen to everything they say, but only you can make the final decisions.”

* Lorelei is my Muse.


Filed under Muse, Writing

The Fool’s Journey, Part Five

These titles are starting to sound like the sections in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. I did it to keep the posts in order.

This is where the journey ends. These last cards in the Major Arcana can also help with stories, but not usually the kind I write. I call the blog Entertaining Stories for a reason. I’m more about blowing crap up than ascending to a higher plane. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some good stories in this area, and you might be writing one right now.

Just in case someone finds this a year from now and wants to see the others, here are the links:

  1. Let’s go on the Fool’s Journey.
  2. The Fool’s Journey, Part Two.
  3. The Fool’s Journey, Part Three.
  4. The Fool’s Journey, Part Four.
Our fool has become a pretty mature fellow at this point. In my mind, the last three cards are reserved for tales of absolution. I remember reading Siddhartha in high school, at gun point. Those are the kind of tales we’ve moved into.
I’m not saying they’re bad, mind you. I just didn’t see any phasers, katana, or dwarves in them.
The next phase of the journey is called the sun. Words to describe the sun are: wonder, contentment, happiness, vitality, and innocence.
The sun is usually represented as a child on a white horse riding with the radiant sun at his back, while carrying a red flag. My Celtic deck is close. I wouldn’t exactly call this horse white, and the kid has a red harp. If you get the idea of rejuvenation and a fresh start, that’s the main point.
In my mind he isn’t quite there. The fool is still traveling. This is the point where the confusion of the moon clears and the fool moves forward.
I suppose it could be that moment in The Natural when Roy Hobbs wakes up in the maternity ward. His best girl is there with him, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. The instant he decides to play one last baseball game is The Sun.
The next card is called Judgment. I don’t know why my deck chose to go with Rebirth, but there you have it. The standard card has an angel blowing a trumpet while people rise up from graves. My card has a trumpeter and the child emerging from a crypt.
This card symbolizes the St. Peter moment before the pearly gates. It’s the resurrection story. Our fool is something new now. Words to describe this card are: Judgment, rebirth, absolution, redemption, salvation, and renewal.
The old fool is gone. This new fool has excellent judgment and is ready for whatever comes next.
I don’t read, or watch, a lot of highbrow stuff. The example that works for me is Bruce Wayne giving up the billionaire playboy and Stately Wayne Manor in favor of the bat cave. Bruce Wayne becomes a character played occasionally by Batman. Batman is something new, he works for a greater good. (Okay, maybe that was a lame example.)
The World marks the end of the journey. This card is represented as a young nude, usually an amalgamation of male and female. This symbolizes mastery over those traits that are considered either male or female. The work ethic of the magician and the imagination of the high priestess. The nude is surrounded by four distinct items. Sometimes they represent the elements, sometimes the major zodiac constellations, in this case the four tarot suits. The symbols denote mastery over all these distinct items.
The fool is perfect now. Words associated with the world are: fulfillment, success, mastery, and accomplishment.
As an example, the best I can come up with is Peter Sellers walking on water in the ending scene of Being There.
I know my examples are lame, folks. This end of the deck is a little more high brow than where I prefer to spend my time.
As a plot structure, I think The Fool’s Journey works. There are others out there that might be better.
The first half dozen or so cards are useful for developing a character and giving him an environment to operate in. There are several wonderful opportunities to knock him on his ass and give him something to overcome.
For me, The Fool’s Journey starts too soon and ends too late for a novel. I can see where many novels will fit within a narrower version of these cards though.
Many times, I find inspiration in art. There are bits and pieces from this deck in some of my stories.
As a writer, I’m just as likely to snitch a piece of my story from fairy tale structure, add a bit of the hero’s journey, knead it into a three act format, and sprinkle with a dash of tarot cards. I bake it all up at an imaginary place I call the writing cabin.
You have to do what works for you. It never hurts to have another tool in your kit.


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The Fool’s Journey, Part Four

These are the links to the other posts in this sequence:

  1. Let’s Go on the Fool’s Journey
  2. The Fool’s Journey, Part Two
  3. The Fool’s Journey, Part Three
Our fool has come a long ways. He’s conquered his own phobias, and recognized his shortcomings. The last stop on his journey he learned about Temperance.
The next stop on the fool’s journey is The Devil. Again, my deck took some liberty at this point. He is most commonly presented on a throne, with a couple chained beneath him. His right hand is usually raised, and his left is lower with a torch in it.I still buy that the couple in my Cernunnos card is under his dominion. I’ll accept the background light as a substitute for his torch.

This devil isn’t the actual devil. He’s a representation of another internal lesson for the fool. This devil stands for happy indulgence. The couple could get up and leave, but they’re so entranced by the immediacy of their situation they don’t even notice The Devil. Words associated with this card are: Materialism, stagnation, obsession, anger, temptation, and doubt.

Since I’ve stuck to movies for examples, I’ll keep with the theme. I think Fatal Attraction has many elements of this stage of the journey. Selfish indulgence led to some severe problems.

The Tower represents a sudden and dramatic change in the fool’s life. It is usually represented like the card in my deck. Lightening strikes a powerful fortress, and the occupants are hurtled into the sea. There is occasionally a crown falling that symbolizes the fall of someone important. This card has occasionally been represented as Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden.

Our fool is struck by disaster. His complacency and love of material things has drawn the wrath of God. Words associated with The Tower are: release, revelation, sudden change, chaos, hard times, and impact.

There were a whole series of Irwin Allen disaster movies. These usually involved a catastrophe and a bunch of privileged people. I also think Chevy Chase was trying desperately to preserve his “tower” in all those Vacation movies.

The Star represents the moment the fool understands he doesn’t need all that stuff. Life is more than a tower full of finery. It is represented by a person stripped bare under a starry sky. The fool understands he has everything he needs within himself. It is an important point that water is being put back, not taken away. The fool starts to give of himself to others.

Words associated with The Star are: generosity, inspiration, calm, good will, flowing love.

I see the end of Casablanca as having traits of The Star. Rick gives up his beloved cafe, and the woman he loves to serve a greater good. In fact Casablanca is a good movie to represent The Devil, The Tower, and The Star.

The Moon is another cautionary card. The joy and tranquility of The Star lead to imaginative dreaming. He may be ready for another adventure. The Fool knows that his sharing and caring might not be well received everywhere. He’s apprehensive.

The standard involves a dog and a wolf howling at the moon, which is framed with two pillars. There is usually a crayfish coming out of the water. My deck has a crab. There is a new path into the unknown. In my mind, the wolf and dog represent different sides of the fool. The experts say the crayfish represents that unpredictable part of the personality that lives deep down below everything else.

Words associated with The Moon are: fantasy, doubt, tension, illusion, fear, the unknown.

To me, this is an educated fool about to take a new journey into the unknown. He knows enough to be apprehensive, unlike the fool at the beginning, and his doubts might prevent him from taking the journey at all. Maybe he’ll rebuild his former life, maybe he won’t.

There must be a hundred stories based around this event, but only one comes to mind. It was a book, and at least two movies, The Razor’s Edge.

This could also be the point in Yoda’s life where he doesn’t train Jedi any longer. Then again, maybe one last time.

This is our stopping off point tonight. I have a hankering for some good whiskey.

Writers will see that many potential novels could be born and ended in the cards we’ve already presented. Most modern stories have ended by this point. There is still a bit of room for some good stories, and we’ll get to those next time.

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The Fool’s Journey, Part Three

Today, I’m continuing with the fool’s journey. Those of you who want to catch up can do so here:

  1. Let’s go on The Fool’s Journey.
  2. The Fool’s Journey, Part Two.
When we left our fool, he’d become a hermit. He went to a cave, a man cave, or on vacation to sort some things out. He understands that everything he’s done up to this point brought him to this point. He knows there are consequences for his actions as well as rewards. He is successful at his pondering, but he can’t leave until he realizes one more thing.
The Wheel of Fortune teaches our fool that he cannot control everything. He influences the world he lives in, but sometimes the world influences back. For a writer, this can be an actual occurence, but in the fool’s journey it’s more like a realization.

The Wheel brings famine, volcanoes, acts of God, and other things to bear. The fool has to do the best he can under these circumstances. It can also bring benefits, like promotions, winning the lottery, or choosing the right horse in the Derby.

Words associated with the Wheel are; harvest, inevitability, prosperity, destiny, fate, change, and particularly sudden change.

This card varies more than any other from deck to deck. There aren’t really any standards to point out.

To go back to an earlier example, Sheriff Brody was living as a hermit. He never asked for a killer shark to invade his new life and threaten his solitude.

I suppose there is a story somewhere that could end with the realization that the Wheel brings. I’m pretty sure several started right here though. For some reason, I’m stuck on movies during this post. The ones that come to mind are Dante’s Peak and Twister. The main characters were involved in their own versions of hermitage, and life changed the course of events for them.

Our fool leaves his hermitage, and wanders once more. He is pondering this newfound knowledge and realizes one more thing.

The fool ponders his new knowledge until he realizes that he must take responsibility for his own actions. The Justice card reminds him that he is where is based upon his actions. Justice tells him to make amends for those actions where it is appropriate. Justice also reminds him that when he makes decisions from now on, he needs to remember the affect his decisions have on others.

Words associated with the Justice card are realism, reality, fairness, objectivity, analysis, criticism, and responsibility. Justice is usually depicted with a sword and a scale. I like the fact that my card also includes an owl.

For writers, will your main character learn from Justice and improve, or will he return to the older and easier way of the Chariot. I never watched the show, but I loved the idea behind it. In Breaking Bad, a chemistry teacher becomes a meth cooker. I see the failure of the Justice card at work.

The fool comes across The Hanged Man, and is shocked by what he sees. He’s saddened even. He discovers that the hanged man isn’t dead. His legs form a cross, and he’s upside down. The fool thinks about his own life being turned upside down. The hanged man is bound and gagged, much like the fool has been.

This is the fool facing his deepest fear, his failure to obtain the one thing he wants most in life. The fool realizes that he is the hanged man. He’s no longer sad, he is simply suspended. The fool understands that he must let go of some things to obtain others.

Words associated with The Hanged Man are; sacrifice, letting go, surrender, and acceptance.

The only constant symbol among decks is the image of a cross somewhere. I like the fact that mine has apples in it. They represent knowledge to me, and that says a lot about this part of the fool’s journey.

This point represents what I like to think of as “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”. It’s that moment of realization. In many stories the main character symbolically burns his house, or blows up his mine before leaving to do what has to be done.

You knew it was coming, right? All good main characters must face death. Most of the time, it’s a spiritual thing, but there have been some pretty good stories where actual death was on the line.

Death represents a change. Our fool is going to cast aside childish things to grow as a man. (Or woman. It’s your story to plug your characters into.) Maybe he sells his drag racer, the one that brought him fame and street credit as a young man. He uses the money to make a downpayment on a house for his wife and children. The old fool dies, and a newer and better fool emerges.

Death is usually a skeletal figure on horseback with a sickle. He is trampling a king under his horse’s hooves. My deck is different, but the sickle is still there. Terms associated with the Death card are; Precursor to change, making way for the new, regeneration, out with the old and in with the new.

Think of The Hanged Man and Death like a butterfly’s cocoon. It feels like the end, but it’s really the beginning of something better.

Billionaire playboy Tony Stark is captured by terrorists and shoved in a cave. Life as he knows it is over. Iron Man emerges from the cave, and Tony’s life is better as a result. This isn’t just Tony’s escape, it’s a complete transformation.

The next stop on the fool’s journey is Temperance. Once again, my deck took some artistic license, but I like the Fferyllt anyway. I used the hagstones in her rafters in one of my stories.

This lesson is all about balance, temperance, equilibrium, even bringing together opposites to create balance. This would be a good point in a story to create the team. People with different skills come together to make something better than the sum of its parts.

This is a good point to remind writers that everything in tarot has a double meaning. If you’re writing about the bad guy, this could be about imbalance, and tearing things apart. Anakin/Darth Vader comes to mind.

I hope everyone’s enjoying this look at the fool’s journey. I see this lasting about 3 more posts, and there’s more interesting stuff ahead.

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Letting characters take a breather

I know that a good story isn’t just action, action, action. This works for other genres too, e.g. horror, horror, horror or sex, sex, sex. Characters need to catch their breath sometimes.

I’m at that point in Will ‘O the Wisp. My main character, Patty, needs a breather. I always struggle with these parts, because the fun part for me is what I call, “blowing shit up”. Note: there are no explosives in Will ‘O the Wisp, it’s a metaphor.

Where I struggle is with how much to dedicate to the slow part. Too much would be awful, but not enough isn’t good either. I’d really like some feedback in the comments.

It can’t be just doing stuff either. Patty has to have some role in the main story even during the slow part. I don’t mean navel gazing, or staring at the Autumn leaves. I’m having her think about her problems, but that might not be right either. Again, comments are welcome.

Today, I decided to just write out the scene. I can pepper it with other things later on. I may wind up cutting a lot of it later, but today I felt the need to write it out. I’m really interested in what you have to say about slow passages.

I stomped into the writing cabin at 5:00 this morning. Once the gyro copter was safely in the garage, I went to the far end and measured the garage door height. I wandered up to my main office and wrote about a tractor.

Lisa* walked in and asked, “What’s up, boss?” She had a towel around her hair, and a pink bathrobe on.

“I’m writing a tractor downstairs,” I said.

“Okay, why? Are we going to start farming out here once the snow melts?”

“Don’t give me any ideas. I need you to teach me how to run the stupid thing. You can hook up to it, and give me a lesson.”

“I’ll get my coveralls and rubber boots,” she said. “I’m already downloading several operator’s manuals.” She rushed upstairs to get ready.

I finished my description, filled my go cup with coffee and checked out my handiwork. It was a large John Deere with a full cab. It had a backhoe on the rear and a loader on front. Lisa was already in the cab with a wire from her belly button to the tractor’s dashboard. She unhooked her umbilical cord and waved me up.

Lisa had wired the whole cabin and sent a remote signal to the garage door. She showed me how to fire up the engine, and we pulled outside. She showed me how to use the loader to clean the driveway and pile the snow off to the side. I parked and crawled down.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “I was having fun, just the two of us hanging out.”

“You can keep having fun,” I said. “I have a scene to write.”

I made my way into my alternate writing room and pulled on my lab coat. I opened the valve on the alchemy art and the smell of Hoppes #9 filled the room.

Patty’s step father showed her how to use locking hubs on the four wheel drive truck, and how to operate the tractor. They burned down a collapsed old building, then scooped up the mess and buried it.

Patty’s mom picked at her through the whole weekend. Patty grew closer to her step father, and gained a new appreciation for how hard farmers work. I included a few bits about how the stress from the last few chapters is catching up with her. There’s more hair in her bathtub, her hand shakes a bit now too.

Doubt** the raven made soft noises through the whole process. I still can’t read him, but it usually means something isn’t quite right. At least he wasn’t making that loud KAW KAW KAW sound when he really doesn’t like something.

Maybe it’s too long. I checked my word count: 48515. That means this section was 2266 words. That means that 4.7% of what I’ve written to this point is the slow part. Is that too much? I’m not going to worry about the total length, because a reader has only come to 48K words by this point.

I’d written all this without letting the Will ‘O the Wisp out of the bell jar at all. Was I in danger of a side story, or was this character development? Arrrggghhh!

Patty had plenty of time to think, now I need time to think. Fortunately, the beer horns came to my rescue. They hopped down the steps into my creepy new office and honked at full volume.

“Come on, boys,” I waved. “Let’s see what Lisa stocked up on this week.”

There was a growler of lovely Belgian brown ale tucked behind a sack of shrunken heads, from my next release, Panama. I filled the horns and watched them strut around the kitchen. They followed me to my main office, and I stuck one on the window ledge to keep cool. When I sat in my recliner, the other horn came running. I took a swig and set him on the coffee table.

So how much is too much when it comes to the slow parts? What does the blogosphere think? Should Patty clear her head, or dwell on her problems? I’m afraid there’s a fine line between dwelling on a problem, and looking like a whiner.

* Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and works at the writing cabin these days.

** Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse, but I don’t know how much help he is.


Filed under Muse, Writing

Is there snobbery among writers?

I’m not certain I believe this, but I’m going to throw it out for the sake of discussion. I need to explain myself before I get into it, but I’ll be brief.

Here’s why writing appeals to me. It’s where I come from as a writer. I found this quote on the The Art of Manliness:

Choose to struggle with something – We live in a culture of the quick and the easy, and it has made us impatient and lazy. When you commit to something that takes work and see it through to the end, it will develop you as much as you develop it. — Jake Weidmann

That’s why I’m here. It’s a zen target where perfection doesn’t exist, and I want to keep improving.

We critique others and receive critique all the time. It’s our best shot at learning and improving. I have benefitted, and I hope I’ve helped others along the way.

All of the things we discuss matter, to an extent. How important are they to actual, even voracious readers?

I’m reading a book where there are about 17 chapters of character introduction and backstory. They just barely got to the haunted mansion where I expect something will happen. This is by a traditionally published author, but this story was self published. This means he had the skills to get a publishing contract at some point in his life.

As a writer, this is always bad form. The story started too soon, and backstory needs to be minimized.

Will the everyday reader care? I wonder how many of our taboos really matter outside writing circles. It annoyed me, but was it because I was taught to be annoyed?

What if we use too many adjectives and adverbs? Will consumer readers care? Agents and publishers will, but — Is this a writers version of being a Rolex wearer who makes a snide remark about his companion’s Timex?

The dialog in this book puts the other person’s name in every line, along with a dialog tag to indicate the speaker. As a writer, I know not to keep saying the other fellow’s name. If there are only two people, I probably don’t even need dialog tags if you get me started.

This story even has what writers call “as you know, Bob” dialog. This is where both characters already know something, but they go over it again because the reader doesn’t know it.

Am I being a snob here? We read each other’s blogs and hear stories where someone threw down a novel because there was a semicolon on the first page.

Really? Is that all it takes to discard years of hard work from a writer? This feels a lot like, “Oh, wine from a cardboard box — how unique.”

“As soon as I read ‘Jane guffawed’ I put the book in the fireplace.” You may have missed out on a good story too.

All of us are at a different place on this pilgrimage. I can see many of you ahead of me, but I hear some coming up behind me too.

For myself, I will take these lessons to heart. I want to improve my writing skill and deliver the best product I can. Tomorrow’s product will be better. It doesn’t mean that yesterday’s product sucked.

I’m going to be a bit more patient with my fellow writers. I’m also going to finish this haunted house story.

What do you think? Are writers, editors, publishers, and agents being snobbish on some things? The issues are important, but will those things really matter to consumers?


Filed under Writing