Tag Archives: showing and telling

My Chance to be The Leading Man


There are some perks to being a writer. For instance, I can kill off people I don’t like or who slight me. I can live anywhere in the world and the plane ticket doesn’t cost me a cent. I can be an expert at any number of things including cool stuff like bomb disposal and international spy. I can be good at anything I put my pen to…AND I can be the lead in any story I choose.

I think that we writers are lucky because we get to create worlds at will. I can sit down at my desk and create a whole world where the possibilities are endless. Sure I need to make those worlds believable because I don’t want to lose my readers but with just the right amount of detail, I can make the reader believe just about anything.

I think of writing as sort of a therapy most days. If you read my books (and I think everyone should) your will discover that, over the years, I have worked out quite a few things through the pen and paper. I have dealt with child abuse, bad marriages and relationships, death, my feelings of insecurity and even redecorating my office, all through stories. I have also dealt with not having been one of the pretty people in the world.

In high school I was the clown. I was the one who made everyone laugh and so I was accepted into just about every group of people that populated the school yard. One thing I was not however was the charming, always-know-what-to-say, good-looking guy that the girls fawned over. I was charming enough but I was also “funny” and you know what happens to the funny folks, they are forever stuck in the “friend zone” when it comes to dating. That was me…always the friend never the one with filled Saturday nights; being a writer changed all that for me though and now…well…folks think I’m pretty cool both within my stories and in the real world.

Writing can be a lonely occupation but it is also what you make of it. Writing should open up the world to you in such a way that you don’t have to feel like the wallflower any more. You can get the girl and so much more. So I said all of that to say this…realize that writing has it’s perks and that no other job in the world can make you feel like you can have it all with the exception of writing. Use the story pages to work out your life…it’s okay…working things out gives your writing that human element that draws readers into your story. Don’t be scared to pour your emotion onto the page…use that emotion, wield it like a sword fighting your way off the wall at the school dance to become the leading guy. It’s one of the perks after all…it’s your story and it can go anywhere you want it too.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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1383997_10153354398325207_557417490_nMy mom is almost 70 years old. For most of her life there were no computers, e-mail, Facebook or any of the other technical advances that our generation was born into. When someone needed to get ahold of you they called the “house phone” and hopefully your brother or sister was not on the phone at the time or the caller would get a busy signal and have to “wait” until the phone was free. (Don’t think for a second that “call waiting” changed that because we all learned to ignore the beeping in our ear when someone else tried to call in) And when someone needed to have an actual conversation they had to actually meet face to face for lack of texting, blogging or IM-ing. For folks like my mom technology is both good and bad for all sorts of reasons.

When Mom discovered e-mail and Facebooking she waded into it with the caution of a bomb disposal team. She started by texting “hi” and waiting for a response and then she graduated on to actual sentences. Now, she over texts, meaning that often, while having a conversation with her, she will actually talk over me by texting before I can answer her first question.  But perhaps the most annoying thing that my Mom does, and no one can seem to make her stop, is messaging in all caps.

I don’t know what it is about my Mom’s generation but they all text in caps at some point. Does my Mom realize that it makes me feel like she is yelling at me? She probably doesn’t. Does she realize that texting in caps conveys a tone? Nope, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t get that either…but I do and therein lay the point of this column. As writers we have to watch our tone.

We can convey a “tone” with the way we write. My Mom does with her all caps but writers do it also in various ways. Tone can be found in the way a character speaks or in the actions he/she takes. Often times we can change a characters tone and never even realize it until someone else points it out. My spouse and I have a long running conversation going on about the “tone” I often take with our kids…I say things like, “that’s not what I mean” or “they misunderstand” a lot when if I just listened to my spouse I would realize that often what I say comes out in a tone that does not convey my true emotion. This can easily happen within your writing too.

So remember…when you are building those characters or giving them dialog watch your (or rather their) tone within the story. You don’t want your characters or your story misunderstood.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Trying Not to Embarrass Your Mom


I have written more than a few books. All of them are mystery-thrillers however buried within the mystery is often a bit of romance as well. What good story can survive, after all, without a little smooching? Any fiction novel just isn’t complete without a torrid sex scene of two. Which brings me to an age old questions most writers have to face sooner or later….how hot should I make my sex scenes?

When I wrote my first sex scene it was in the throes of the story. My main character met a lady became overwhelmed with passion and they did it, right their on the hood of 1968 Mustang. Yep it was hot and it was steamy and it got me yelled at by my mom. Keep in mind that I was 15 at the time and I am pretty sure that my mom was still holding out hope that I was oblivious to anything having to do with sex at all. She read it, yelled and then later, said that while it was a good scene, it was also inappropriate for a high school short story assignment. Needless to say I had to write a whole new story void of anything sexy.

Now days I am quite a bit older and my mom has become less inhibited so I have a little more freedom when it comes to inserting those scenes but my mom did have some advice for me that I took to heart when it comes to writing those types of scenes. She said, “Sex is okay as long as it’s a part of the story, never forget that”. What did she mean? Well it’s simple really; if the sex is a part of the natural flow of the story put it in. If you are putting sex in for the sake of sex…don’t, it won’t work.  We have all read authors who think that a chapter isn’t complete without sex; those writers bore me. Sex sells, that’s true but if you want to be known as a novelist and not a chapbook author, only use sex where appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of writers out there who write what my mother refers to as “smut books” and that’s great if it is your “thing” but it is important to draw a line in the sand if you don’t want to be known for those types of books.

So how do you gage when sex is too much? I have to go back to what my mom said; it’s good as long as it goes with the flow of the story. We all know how it works…two people meet, fall into passion, whether it is love or desire, and have sex. Afterwards how they react to each other speaks volumes of them as people, their relationship and even progresses the story along. That is the right amount of sex. Your reader wants your story to be as really as it can be and, let’s face it; most people are not falling into bed every other minute so keep that in mind when you are creating. And guys, try not to embarrass your mom too much…make sure that your sex scenes come with a little class whenever you can.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on October 15, 2022 in Character Studies, Writing


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What American Writers Can Learn from Writers Abroad


I have been doing a lot of world exploring lately and I have been doing it from my desk. I ran across an app for the Samsung Galaxy called Flipbook and decided to give it a whirl. As it turns out, this is one of the best apps ever but not for what I originally downloaded it for. It was supposed to keep me informed but instead it’s allowed me to explore and that, my fellow writers, is wonderful.

Flipbook is a handy little app that pulls together resources from all over the planet for news, fashion and culture tidbits. The articles within each section aren’t huge but there is a bevy of them. As a news junkie I thought the app was cool because I could pull news from all over the world. But then I began to explore other sections and discovered that there are several writers’ sections as well. Because Flipbook is set up like a magazine rack you can download whatever content you’d like to the homepage thus allowing you to keep up on your favs. I was exploring this aspect when I tripped over the writer’s sections.

There are sections on blogs, books in every category and even personal sections from specific writers. But the one section that stood out for me was by a writer named Michael Haridy. Haridy pulls info for writers from all over the world and has an enormous number of submissions from overseas. It was here that I discovered that we writers in America have a whole lot to learn about being writers.

In England for instance their writers are respected more than their celebrities. The writer is a special member of their society but it isn’t just because the regular folk are in awe. It’s mostly because the writers themselves demand the respect. Writing takes center stage in England because people are still encouraged to read. (Imagine that) I think that in America we need to take a note from their book and live our lives as writers instead of hiding in the closet and pretending that what we do is embarrassing unless we are Stephen King famous.

In India the writers take chances. Chances…can you imagine? India seeks out writers who know that there really “is no box” and so they don’t try and write inside one. Sure a few of the writers from India have had their lives threatened for what they have written but at least they are following their passion. We are so worried about being politically correct in American society that we no longer take the chance to really break out and write the truth. In India writers are considered radical thinkers…how cool is that?

In the Middle East writers have a different side mission…they are the only ones telling the truth in times of strife. Our writers here in America for the most part sit behind our comfortable desks and see the world through the internet. In the Middle East (pick a country) the writers are out in the world writing about real life, experiencing their world along with the regular folks. Writers in Iraq for instance are telling the stories of the people who lived through invasion, death and rebirth but not in the way one might think. These folks have lived the truth and are now stepping forward to tell it. There are stories about how people looked for writers during the war in order to get the story out. Being a writer was important and useful.

These are just a few examples of how writers from around the world are taking charge of who they are and not making any excuses to what they do. Many of my writer friends here in the United States say that they are a writer in a voice that sounds apologetic. I know… I’ve done it too.

So take a page from the writers of the world and step up. I challenge you to not only write but to “be the writer”…live the life proudly and make no excuses for who you are and what you do. You are a writer and that is something pretty damn special.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on September 17, 2022 in Inspiration, Writing


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Sometimes Common Sense isn’t so Common

CommonSenseWriters are not supposed to be stupid people. We are usually fairly intelligent and very well read…at least that’s what we want people to believe. Oddly, although most of us are fairly intelligent and well-read we seem to tend to lack a certain common sense. I have seen writer after writer trying to make their way along the pen and paper highway who seem oblivious to what is right in front of their noses. I’m not sure why this happens…I blame it on my parents, but then again I blame everything on my parents like any good baby boomer would. (Curse you mom for…well…everything…)

I can’t really tell you the actual reason we writers tend to leave our common sense at the door but I can offer some basic tips that might just help you look a little less challenged when living the life of a writer. Feel free to add to these, although…and I have to say it…these really should be common sense.

1. Try and leave the crap in the virtual toilet – We all scream through that first draft like every word we write will be the next twitter trend. We throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into our first drafts and that’s okay, for the first draft but after that go back and cut the crap. As writer Elmore Leonard once said, “try and leave out the parts people skip”.

2. And speaking of elimination…unnecessary words…you are the weakest link…goodbye - Okay I am totally guilty of this because I also like to talk. Those of us, who are, as my grandmother used to call me, wordy, we have to be very careful not to fill up the page with words that are simply not necessary. When you read through your first draft ask yourself…was that really necessary and if the answer is no…toss it.

3. Show me the story! – (Imagine that in a really bad Tom Cruise imitation) - We are writers – yes. We write words – yes. But just because we are word mongers it doesn’t mean we aren’t also painters of the cerebral kind. The story is all about the picture that you paint in the readers mind. I know that in order for me to really enjoy a book I have to be there, in the story. Tell me the story in such a way that I can actually see it.

4. When’s it NOT the perfect time to write? Many writers will tell you that they have the “perfect” time to write. They will say that they get up early, stay up late, do it standing on their heads in the closet at exactly 3 p.m. every day…I call BS. If you are a serious writer you try and write all the time. There is no time when you shouldn’t be writing. Keep in mind that you don’t have to necessarily have to be stuck at the desk but at least in your mind your story should never be far away.

5. Don’t worry about “knowing” – Many writers will also tell you to “write what you know”, again I call BS. Sure, use what you know but also be adventurous enough to write what you don’t know too. Any good writer doesn’t try and fit what they know into their writing, it would be too limiting, write about whatever you want and if you don’t know it…research it. Write about whatever you want…

These are just a few “common sense” writing tips and many of you should already have realized them, however, sometimes in between writing and the next Twinkie, we all forget the basics. (Those damn Twinkies are so distracting…)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on April 16, 2023 in Writing


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The Big Question….Okay, How About a Bunch of Little Questions

imagesI get fellow writers who write and ask me questions all the time. I try and answer every one of them that I receive on the blog but, I also get asked questions in other forums that never make it to the blog. Some of them are interesting, some are ridiculous but none the less they all deserve an answer.

It is with this in mind that today’s column will be a personal question and answer session so I can give you guys my thoughts on some of the questions I get asked every day. I hope some of it helps…or at least makes you giggle a little.

Q: How long have you been a writer?

A: For as long as I can remember. My grandmother gave me a little note book when I was 4 and I wrote my first story in it. I am pretty sure that it didn’t actually say anything but my grandmother made a big production out of reading it and thus began my addiction to the spotlight.

Q: Do you write for yourself or the money?

A: I write for both at this point in my career and any writer that tells you different is yanking your chain. A friend of mine once gave me a little sign that still is in a drawer around here. It says, “Writing is like prostitution – first you do it for the love of it, then you do it for the money.” That can be kind of true.

Q – Why did you become a writer?

A – It is all I have ever done. Every job I have ever had has led back to writing.

Q-What was the first thing you had published?

A- I was 9 years old and Highlights Magazine paid me $4 for a short story about our dog. I have been writing ever since.

Q- What is the hardest part of being a writer?

A – People tend to think that you are the last person who should get paid for your work. I think because it’s writing, many people just don’t think of it as a solid service.

Q – What is the best thing about being a writer?

A – Writing. I am one of those people who couldn’t function if I couldn’t write.

Q – Is it easy to get published?

A – No it isn’t. You have to be persistent. I know that a lot of people think that you just need to write a great book to get published but that’s not the hardest part. The hardest part is sticking with it even when people tell you your book is no good. Some of the best authors in the world have had to deal with rejection.

Q – What is the best advice you have for new writers?

A – The best advice I have is to write all the time. Persistence is half the job. The more you write the better a writer you will be. Don’t give up if it is what you are truly passionate about.

So there you go, some Q & A from a person is still has some of their facilities despite having been a writer for over 30 years. If you have a question that I didn’t address, feel free to put it in the comment section and I will gladly answer it.


© 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.

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Posted by on March 6, 2023 in Writing


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Watch how I Shamelessly Showcase Cloud Atlas in my Column for Writers…

Writer’s Note: This is Wednesday’s Column.

Hey everyone! I have been on a bit of forced sabbatical, sorry for the delay in content. I got the chance yesterday to go spend an afternoon at a movie theater…all…by…my…self… it was amazing. I do that often (see tomorrows column as to why) but I really should.

I saw Cloud Atlas and while I normally don’t use my column to plug movies, I’m doing it today because this is a movie that ALL writers should see. Don’t get me wrong, it is a profoundly deep movie on so many levels that I couldn’t begin to discuss them here however it is the writing I want you all to pay attention to.

David Mitchell, the author of the book Cloud Atlas did a great job telling the original story, (and I suggest you all read it) however, the screen writing by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer is so amazing it is transcends normal screenwriting. It becomes a living, breathing thing that is amazing to watch. The actors were all good too but the story is where the true beauty is and this is the thing that all of you should absorb. The story lines flow, which is incredible considering that the film has three different screenwriters and directors, and it does so in such a way that you, as the observer, actually become one with the story; you feel like you are there and you are affected by the story in such a way that I guarantee you will sit afterwards in the empty theater asking yourself, “why can’t I do that?”

The thing is, fellow writers, you can do that. I believe, after watching several interviews with Lana Wachowski, that the key is “feeling” the story. This particular story touched her as a writer and allowed her to feel that passionate connection to the writing that every writer should feel. One of the messages I took away from her interviews and the movie itself was, find work that affects you and then, help it affect the world around you until it ripples out over the planet. You can do that…you are a writer.

So go see Cloud Atlas and watch it as a writer…follow the lines no matter where they lead. I promise that, if you do it right, you will come away learning something about writing story, something about writing your story and something about yourself.


© 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.

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Posted by on November 2, 2022 in Inspiration, Writing


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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.


Posted by on September 30, 2022 in Character Studies, Writing


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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.

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Posted by on September 28, 2022 in Plot, Writing


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I Imagine the WHOLE world……………….

As a writer I spend a lot of time inside my head. I can get totally lost in my imagination at any given time and I often do. When I was a kid my mom often scolded me for “daydreaming” or “wasting my time” but what she didn’t know (and to some degree, I didn’t know either) was that I was creating a foundation for the worlds I would eventually spend most of my time in.

When most people grow up they tuck their imaginations away inside a box and shelve it in their minds in between the boxes marked “childhood bravery” and “imaginary friends”. For many, this box stays stored only to be remembered as something we had as a kid. “Grown-up” concerns take over and all of those boxes marked childhood never come out again, except for the writer.

There are hundreds…no thousands….no gazillions of “adult” concerns to take up our time. World peace, war, starvation, violence, paying the bills, raising our own children, getting married, not getting married, buying a house, a car, a business…..these are all things that, if we allow it, will take over our lives and sooner or later, our writing will become stale and pessimistic. When we spend all of our time within the “adult” world problems, there is no room to play, to imagine, to create!

We have to continue to play with those boxes; it’s what makes us really good writers. We write about the monsters in the closet, the interesting people we wish we’d meet and the trips we wish we could take and the heroes we think we could be. Our childhood is the foundation on which any good writing career is built, but in order to make sure that the foundation is solid, the writer can’t shy away from his/her imagination. We have to be willing to continue to create….it is, after all, what we do.



© 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.

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Posted by on June 18, 2023 in Inspiration, Writing, Writing Tools


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