RSS

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Reset Sunday – Yoga? Isn’t that the Little Green Guy on Star Wars?


I’m not all that bendy. In fact, if you asked me to do the downward dog you may well find me spiking the neighbor’s poodle screaming touchdown. (Disclaimer – no animals were harmed in the writing of this column) I have no concept of what yoga is about or how to do it, but I do think it’s a nifty idea. I watch folks on television do it and I think, I can do that, and then I try…and fail…and move back to the couch.

I know that I need to take better care of myself but then a Twinkie comes into the frame and my “taking care of myself” goes out the door. (I’ll do it tomorrow, I reassure myself) What I didn’t realize when I was younger, in a sea of pizza and beer, was that one day, it would all catch up to me and I would find myself making those old pudgy guy excuses. (“no, not me, can’t play basketball right now…doc says go easy on the knees”, or “the medication makes me gain weight”, or my favorite, “my spouse loves me just the way I am”) No matter how I got here, I am here now and I need to fix it, no matter how hard it is.

So here is your Reset Sunday challenge…move! Go for a walk, a swim, a bike ride, do yoga, tai chi or any other exercise with an Asian sounding name that helps you live longer.  Get outside and work in the garden…just get away from your desk and move. It’s Sunday so you have an excuse not to work but there really is never an excuse not to take care of yourself. A healthy writer makes for healthy writing. So put the Twinkie down, (self), back away from the desk, (self) and get off your behind…(yeah self!)

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Reset Sundays

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask: Will the Main Character Please Step Forward….


Your main character should be obvious…right? I mean the reader should have no doubt who is in the lead during the story and when they close the book, they should be fairly clear on who the hero was and who was the psychopath… right? Well I think so, but you would be amazed at how many writers end up with a manuscript where finding the main character is akin to Three Card Monty. I don’t know about you, but Three Card Monty annoys me…and so does not being able to figure out who the main character is.

One would think that it is a simple task, deciding who is in charge of telling your story. Every story begins with the narrator. No matter what your POV is (point of view for those of you who hate acronyms….me, me, me…) someone has to tell the story. So what is happening when a writer doesn’t define who their main character is? In my opinion it’s a condition called, schizophrenic character modulation…and it can be very bad for the writer in terms of return readers. (shivers……)

Okay, made that up, “schizophrenic character modulation”, but it could be a real thing. In my opinion (and we all know how important that is…) SCM is what happens when a writer can’t decide who their main character is because they, as a writer, are all over the page with everyone doing everything. It’s like when my daughter was younger and she would bring her dolls into my office to play. Not wanting to be the idiot parent who one day in a therapy session would be accused of somehow hindering her growth by NOT having played with the dolls, (who were usually, for some unknown reason, always naked) I would stop what I was doing and play for a minute. I, being a writer, would ask her, “okay, what’s the back story” and she would launch into this tirade of verbiage that always made me sorry I asked.

Daughter: Well Sonny was in her car and Dolly made a face at her so Sonny stopped her car and said, “why did you do that” and then Carl came over and said, “yeah, why did you do that” and Dolly would be like, “I didn’t do that” and Ken turned to GI Joe and said, “Sonny made a face at Dolly but Lisa wants to go get pizza”. Then Sonny’s mom said that she couldn’t go because she had to change her shoes.

Me: Really? Pizza? Why not tacos?

Daughter: (rolling her eyes) Because Deena is allergic.

Me: Oh…..

For Jes, (who was 7 at the time) this story made perfect sense. (Did I say she was 7?) In her story EVERYBODY was the main character because her story was about EVERYBODY. (Have I pointed out that she was 7?)For Jes she didn’t have to pick out just one person to tell her story because they could ALL tell her story. (DID I MENTION THAT SHE WAS 7?)

I told that story to say this….it’s really important that you, as a writer, figure out who your main character is and then stick with it….if you don’t your story will sound like a 7 year old wrote it and I am pretty sure that you want your audience to be a wee bit older than 7. (Unless you are a children’s author in which cause….carry on….) The main character is the person that your reader is relating to and if you tell a story in such a way that your reader can’t determine who the main character is…well…who are they gonna relate to? Keep in mind that I am not saying that you can’t have several strong leads, you can, but in the end there has to be a relate-able person who ties it all together for your audience whether it is the hero who saves the day or the serial killer who slips away into the night…the reader has to be able to close that book and say, “whew, he saved the day” or “*shutter*, “he got away”…either way your reader has to be able to relate…otherwise, they will put your book down and just go have pizza with Deena…cause she’s allergic….see what I mean?

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Character Studies, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask: Where the Hell Am I?


Now there’s a question you never want your reader to be asking themselves in more than one chapter of your book. I mean, it’s okay if you purposely lose a character and take the reader along for the ride but if it is a question that your reader is posing to themselves time and time again…maybe the writer is the one who’s lost.

I bring this up because I started reading a science fiction book that my son suggested and within the first 50 pages I found myself asking that question a lot…it got kind of annoying. Now keep in mind, my love of science fiction is limited to Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and the Bio of a Space Pirate series. (If it’s amusing I am there robots or not) So I kept giving it more pages because, well, I wasn’t sure if that was how it was meant to read. I didn’t want to be a book snob and decide that the book was beneath me just because I was “getting” the author. But, alas by page 50 I found myself scratching my head and looking for the nearest exit sign. (When you find yourself offering to do the dishes instead of read…the book has lost the battle)

When I read I want to be led along on the story. I want the author to be that unseen guide like a ghost in a campfire story beckoning…over here, (insert spooky voice) over here… I don’t want to read several pages and then have to double back to figure out where I missed my turn. (My spouse says I do enough of that in real life) I want to be at least clear enough to follow along. Too many authors get tangled up in parts of their story and forget that they are being followed by the reader. Like my dad when he is in front of you and someone turns on country music…suddenly you find yourself having to put the pedal through the floor to keep up because he’s driving to George Strait…it is not a pleasant experience. I have had to call more than once and ask him where the crap he went. He giggles, says sorry and doubles back to get me; as a writer you don’t get the luxury of doubling back to pick up your reader, once they are lost, they are lost for good.

Here’s the thing folks…we have a responsibility when we invite the reader in to at least be a good host (hostess) and not lose them along the way. Make sure that your story is fluid enough for the reader to follow along so that they can enjoy it rather than trying to piece it together. The last thing you want to leave your reader with is the urge for a map, a compass, a stiff drink and new author.

Writer’s Note: This is the first in a series of pieces entitled, Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Plot, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing – That Thing You Can Do Anywhere….or Can You?


I love the ocean. If I could live anywhere in the world, that’s where you would find me, on the coast, toes in the sand or sitting on some cliff above the water, wind in my face, listening to the very rhythm of life itself as it played itself out on the tides. And with each breath the earth took in, I would breathe in as well, filling my lungs with the very essence of what it means to be alive. Yep, I love the ocean. Never do I feel as alive as when I am there, at the edge of everything. So the question I find myself faced with today is; why don’t I live there now?

This year (disclaimer…releasing well-guarded information) I will be 48 years old. That’s not old mind you, (at least not when you are staring it in the face) but it is heading to the top of the hill which I place at 50. It is the dawning of a new age in ones’ life. I find myself both going to bed and waking earlier. I have discovered that fiber, although not a huge concern unless I was buying carpet when I was younger, is now a focal point of grocery shopping. Things in the house creak from time to time and sometimes the creaking noise is coming from me.

My writing has changed. I am more apt to take chances, try stuff I once deemed as “crazy”…like writing a story from several points of view. I am more patient with myself as a writer and it appears to have become more important that I edit my work. (I think that has to do with not wanting to suddenly drop dead and leave behind my greatest work only to have some yahoo come along and say, “it needs massive edits”.) I have matured, my writing has matured and I am standing on the cusp of yet another life change…I can feel it.

So all of this takes me back to the first paragraph of this column… all that waxing about the ocean… All my life I have been “responsible”. I’m a good provider for my family, (meaning the lights are still on) I have sacrificed for my kids, (the reason I drive a freaking minivan) and I have been a decent spouse. (meaning I still have ALL of my fingers and toes) Now, for the first time ever, I am considering making a change that is for me…a move to the ocean.  The reason I want to is because of how it makes me feel, the reason I am pleading with the spouse is because I can write there! I know, I know, you can write anywhere…right? I don’t believe that to be true…sort of.

I think that you CAN write anywhere but I don’t believe that you can write your BEST anywhere. I think that, as writers, our souls are tethered to certain places. We feel the earth’s heartbeat better in those places. For me it’s the ocean, for you it may be the mountains or the high desert…the point is, it’s different for everyone and you are a lucky soul if you discover your place early on. The ocean is my center of the universe, the place that makes my heart sing and the old guy come to the typewriter. I NEED to be there and I know it.

My challenge to you is to find out where your old writer guy (or gal) lives and then go there. As for me, I should have made that move a very long time ago but I talked myself out of deserving it, I made it “impractical” and now, at 48, that seems kind of stupid to me. Sometime over the next year you will be reading a column I have written from that spot on the beach because that is my goal, as a person and as a writer…we all deserve to live where we can hear the earth’s heartbeat…where do you hear it best?

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Healthy Writers

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mam…Sir…Step Away…..From it All


There are days when I, as a writer, don’t do a whole lot of writing. I know I should. I really want to. But…I have a condition that won’t allow me to get anything done…it’s called technologicalitis. (no really it’s a word)

I have a morning routine, I have get up and shower, (because no one likes a smelly me) I make some coffee, (because no one likes a grumpy me) I sit down at my desk and the electronic barrage begins. I check my e-mail, (just in case I won that Sweepstakes or Uncle Jack has finally gotten married for the 8th time) I check my own websites, (because I am a wee bit vain) I check out the news, (to remind me how screwed we all are) I check my text messages, (to make sure that the world didn’t end during the night, OR while I was checking all the other crap) and I check Facebook. (Because I am nosy) I spend roughly an hour and a half checking in with the grid. It’s shameful.

There are days when all of the above mentioned crap steals away a huge part of my day. It’s like I begin checking stuff and when I look up, it’s 5 p.m. Holy crap where did the day go? The truth is we are all way too plugged in. I have been heard to say in my household that I have considered turning everything off for a few days, no television, no computers, no cell phones…but then I have to rescind the idea so that my kids, and my spouse, will stop planning my demise. Turn it off, they ask? Not and live.

Okay so I can’t flip the switch on the family but I can flip it on myself once in a while. As a writer it is really important to unplug and take some time away from the constant buzz. I have been trying to take a few minutes every day to grab a good old fashioned pen and notebook pad and escape to the other side…the non-electronic side. It’s refreshing and it often reminds me that I don’t have to continue at break-neck speed all of the time; I can slow down even if it is for just a few minutes.

So today I challenge you fellow writers…somewhere in between your e-mails, texting, phone calls, internet, Pinterest, Farmville, Castleville, (and any other “Ville”) television, and Facebooking….step away from the desk, grab a pen (that’s the pointy thing that makes a mark when you press it onto a piece of paper) and unplug for a few minutes. You will feel better for it and oddly more connected and you won’t burst into flames I promise.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Healthy Writers

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting Some Class


There is nothing worse than a person who thinks that they know everything….EXCEPT a writer who thinks they know everything. Hanging out with a writer who knows everything is a little like being followed around by that Trivial Pursuit nut….lots and lots of senseless information being lobbed at you for no reason other than they “know” it.

I’m the first person on my block to admit that I hardly know everything….in fact, I suspect I will be learning forever; at least my version of “forever” anyways. (My spouse says I can have 48 more years and then they are putting me down…ah true love) The truth is I love learning. Give me a chance to take a class and I am there; especially writing classes. In my mind, why wouldn’t I want to be better? Why wouldn’t I want to constantly learn? Stupidity, after all, is kind of boring.  Just ask my next door neighbor who recently built a bonfire in his backyard to get rid of part of a fence he tore down. Oh he got rid of it alright, and half the backyard of his neighbor on the other side before (count em) three fire trucks showed up sans the marshmallows. Yep, he could use a class or two.

Our world is constantly changing. The world of writing is constantly changing. We are constantly changing. It stands to reason that if everything is always in motion, evolving, if you will, we should too and that includes our brains. We writers, if we are to be any good at it, need to be soaking up all the information we can so that when we create, we can head in directions other people only imagine. I can’t write a story about Italy if I know nothing about it and I could read about it, but how much cooler would it be to take a class about the art of Italy and REALLY sound like I’ve been there?

So the next time you find yourself saying, “I know that”, take a second and ask yourself…”do I really know that” or “do I just think I know that”? If you find that you really don’t know “that” as well as you thought you did…take a class…read a book….LEARN something. Sometimes the best way to be a classy writer is to go out and get schooled. (Wow how hokey was that?!)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reset Sunday – The Zen of Debating with Family


Writer’s Note: This is a day late but I think the humor may have made up for it…

I have an interesting family. One aunt is a Jehovah’s Witness, one Uncle is a self-proclaimed Buddhist, my mother is Apostolic, my other Aunt is a Baptist and my grandmother was a full-blooded Choctaw Shaman…needless to say Sunday’s growing up in my household were very interesting. Everyone would go to their perspective religious corners for morning services and then end up at Grandma’s for our version of the WWWC…the World Wide Wrestling Church! My religious preference today? Agnostic leaning towards Buddhism with a hint of Holy Spirit (because I still love gospel music) and hold the mayo!

Despite all of the hollering and debating in my youth growing up I was able to take a lot away from these Sunday discussions that I now incorporate into my writing. I learned that:

  • Religion is a very personal thing and therefore when I use it in a story, it has to have passion. Even if that passion means throwing shoes…ahem…Aunt Barbara.
  • People who are wildly different can come from the same family. This despite my Uncle Carl constantly telling my Aunt Goldie that she was adopted because her boobs were bigger than anyone else in the family.
  • Your parents will probably love you no matter how many crazy cults you join. My Uncle Carl wore religion like a speedo…no one needed to see that much of his “opinion” or how often he changed it.
  • The real world sees family as a unit but it is really a group of people thrown together who are just trying to survive Sunday dinners with the family.

Sadly, my grandmother is gone now and with her passing also went the family Sunday dinners. It seems Grandma was the glue that held the craziness together. I miss those debates and all the nutty conversations about God, sins and who would win in a fight between Buddha and St. Peter (okay that last debate was between my brother and I but we were like 7 so….) and looking back I do use a lot of those zany traits in the characters of my stories, so I actually got something out of them as a writer too. But perhaps the largest lesson was this…family…no matter how crazy…leaves an impression on you and because those family members are all yours, the impressions they leave are one of a kind. Take a moment this Sunday and leave an impression on one of your family members, start a friendly religious argument if you must (tell someone that Jesus was married, that gets them every time) but make the memory if you can…they will remember it forever.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Reset Sundays

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: