Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Genesis of a Story

Have you ever watched the news and thought; wow, there's a story?

Did you write it down before you forgot it?

I bought a blue, hard-bound journal just for this purpose. When a story idea comes to mind, I write it down in that journal. Sometimes a passage comes to mind; I write it down. The world is filled with characters. I write those down also.

So what good is this blue journal?

When I sit down to work on my novel, or one of my short stories, sometimes I just hit a point where the characters in my head refuse to guide my fingers. Instead of arguing with them, I open up my blue book and look for another story. Sometimes that news story inspires the imagination, other times it is that grimy little girl from the convenience store that causes the words to fall upon the page. Either way, more often than not, a story is revealed and a new cast of characters raise their voices and demand to be heard.

Eventually, the characters from my novel become jealous and the brawl ensues. That little blue book helped fend off a morning of staring at the dreaded blank page.

I'm not crazy, but the voices in my head may be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heart of a Child

I fumbled through some old photographs and this one caught my attention. It was a hot Florida day some eleven years ago. My wonderful wife, hair astray from the humidity, was the object interest (as usual). There is a story in those eyes and mischievious smile, and the Princess is soaking that tale in.

My three children, my niece, and two of my nephews have had the joy of growing up with that elfin grin. You see, my wife has the heart of child. Don't get me wrong, she can be a mom when the situation calls for it, but she will also get right there on the floor with a child and join them in their fantasy worlds and wonderful games.

I don't know if these kids realize just how lucky they are to have someone in their lives like her; I do. Just one glance at that photograph tells you more than I could ever put into words.

The heart of a child, the love of a mother. And I was smart enough to marry her.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guidelines Part 2 - ing

Write without rules, because you will inevitably (ahem, -ly?) break them. The guidelines you work from are the guidelines that you have adopted from other sources; ones you have chosen to agree with. The ultimate judge of your choices will be your readers.

Never be afraid to veer from your own guidelines, but always try to adhere.

There are three letters that suck the impact right out of a statement; ing. You will often hear me say: If you felt the need to put it in print, don't belittle it with a passive word.

Reaching for the gun, Jordan felt the searing pain of the bullet tearing through his shoulder.

Jordan grabbed his gun just as the bullet tore through his shoulder like a fireball.

Two sentences, same meaning, different emotional impact.

There are times when you may want to use passive passages to dictate the pace, or ambiance, but again, I have to question whether passages such as those really belong. I sometimes feel that such writing is lazy.

When I write a passive phrase, or paragraph, I read it over and over. I ask myself if there is another way to put it. I ask myself if it even belongs in the story. Am I setting the scene with such an aside, am I setting a pace, or have I just constructed an action to stall until I can come up with something better?

Sometimes passive is good, but you always look at it and question if it is the correct method of travel.

My rough drafts are packed with ly's and ing's,as are my emails and posts, it's a quick way to purge the thoughts from my head. This is why I have guidelines. The brain purge that is my rought draft is right next to junk. Guidelines are used to refine that junk.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Goodbye Netflix

The headlines read, as headlines read, always written to incite drama, anger, or some other extreme emotional reaction; Outrage over Netflix rate hike continues.

Not so much for me. Disappointed, a little surprised, but not really outraged.

When the information on the rate hike was published two days ago (no, I haven't received an e-mail from Netflix), my initial reaction was that I would have to consider closing my Netflix account sometime before Sept. 1 rolled around. The deciding factor being that they had priced themselves out of being a viable option to the old standard movie rental store.

Really, this would be a good budget cutting move on my part. Like I said, I was just taking this in stride.

Then the VP of corporate communications for Netflix, Steve Swasey, opened his mouth. Wow! I will be surprised if this goober has a job with Netflix in 2012.

Let me break down his comments for you.

"$6 more is a remarkable value, a latte or two every month. For most folks it's absorbable.
He is referring to those with the minimum combined, download and dvd, subscription. I would venture to guess that a large percentage of Netflix customers have no idea what a latte tastes like. He is speaking to the wrong crowd here. It is obvious that six bucks is nothing to him, but most of us aren't VP's for a large corporation.

"sympathetic to those in terrible financial straits."
And there he goes with the knife throwing. He just told his customer base that they are either over-reacting, or that they can't afford his service to begin with. Obviously if six bucks is a concern you are on the edge of bankruptcy.

"30,000 or so is a sub set of 23 million subscribers. They're not speaking for the majority."
Translation: We won't miss you whining little punks. You are but a gnat on our corporate behinds. Move along children.

"We'll make it up over time and the service will continue to grow. I don't want to sugarcoat this. We expect a certain amount of people to leave the service"
Translation: Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya.

In summary: I went from making a decision before the rate hike to cancelling my subscription this weekend. All because of his statements. Netflix will not see any more of my money. They haven't earned it.

That's really too bad, because prior to this, I had considered them a good company to deal with.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You Just Don't Know

Two controversial verdicts were handed out this past month: A pharmacist in Oklahoma was found guilty for killing a would be thief in his store, and a mother was found innocent of killing her child.

In both cases cries of foul were heard across the nation. I even saw a photograph of a sign that accused the jury of murder, because they found the mother not guilty. Even one of my favorite idiots (Bill Maher) called Republicans murderers. Sometimes stupid stands out like meth addict in a monastery.

Take both of these cases, and you have twenty-four people that know the full story. Twenty-four, not twenty-four million. There are laws that these people need to consider when making their decision. Whether you agree with the verdicts, or not, the justice system worked exactly as it was designed. These jurors did their jobs.

The day that jurors begin to listen to public opinion is the day that the judicial system fails YOU.

IF there were any failures in either of these cases, the failures lie with the lawyers. IF these verdicts were wrong, it was because the lawyers failed in presenting their cases.

If you want to be assinine and accuse innocent people of murder, at least direct your ignorance in the right direction.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Guidelines. There are no rules, and anyone who tells a writer that is not as smart as they think they are. There are, however, more guidelines than you could possibly imagine. What some educators, editors, and writers don't like to admit is that guidelines blend in with personal preferences.

I have compiled my own guidelines over the years. Those, combined with my Chicago Book of Style, Roget's Thesauraus, and good ole Webster, have helped me create a novel and about 20 short stories. Some are good, other's are not, but that's another conversation altogether.

Sometimes openly, sometimes quietly, I despise the use of the old hack -ly adverb. It is hack, in my opinion. They are used in advertising, warning signs, and catch-phrases; all of which are mediums where brevity matters. Work safely, drive carefully, see clearly...

In the story setting, these words have no place. Again, my opinion, my guideline, my personal preference. These adverbs muddle the action; they give the reader an opportunity to check out.

Jerika drove as safely as she could.

Jerika placed her hands at ten and two, just like her husband had taught her, and crept out onto the snow packed road.

You tell me. Which sentence has you more engaged?