Archive for the ‘Award-Winning Fiction’ Category

How Well Do You Use Irony?

May 28, 2018

An Example of Verbal Irony Made Visual

Irony is a key element in literature and it can take many forms. Fiction thrives on it, and I use it often, including in this dialogue exchange in my novel “One Way Street”: (to set the scene … the characters are two Marines during the Vietnam War, sitting in a jungle bomb crater following a break in hostilities):

* * * * *

     Blake’s eyes looked up at the jungle without raising his head.
“Was that what you wanted to talk about?”

     I’d almost forgotten the question I’d asked him. “No, I was
just thinking about a guy I used to know,” I said, “a friend…but
you wouldn’t know him…so never mind.”

     “What was his name?” Blake turned to look at me. He had
blacked his face for camouflage and muddy streaks were caked
on top of it. He could have been a clown, if he smiled. Or the
devil himself, if he was angry.

     “Albert Parker,” I said, “He used to live right across the street
from me.”

     “Good guy?”
     I thought about it a moment. “Yeah,” I said, looking over at
Blake, “a really good guy.”

     “You said he used to live across the street. Did he move,
or something?”

     “No,” I said, “he died.”
     “Aw, that’s too bad, man,” Blake said. He adjusted his
bandolier and started to lean back against the mound of dirt
behind us. “What’d he die from?”

     “Coming over here.”

* * * * *

Dramatic Irony
Dramatic irony is a form of irony that is expressed through a work’s structure, and it relates to character. Mark Twain used it often. When we hear Pap in Huckleberry Finn proclaim he would have voted on election day “…if I warn’t too drunk to get there,” we know we’re in the presence of a deluded character.

We know it, but he doesn’t. Every word out of Pap’s mouth seems to condemn him, but he never realizes any of it.

The degree of your character’s delusion depends on the story, of course, but think of ignorance as a sliding scale. It also includes innuendo. “Go ahead. You always do” suggests more than it states.

When a reader’s awareness of the situation differs substantially from that of the characters, their words and actions take on different … frequently contradictory … meanings. It’s often like Blake in the story fragment above, who has no idea where his companion is going with his comments.

The greater the lack of self-knowledge, the greater the dramatic irony. However, if the dramatic irony is ratcheted up too far, you’ll have an unreliable narrator. This may work for humor and satire, but it’s not so good for rendering realistic fiction, which is why I made the reference above subtle … I wanted the dialogue to sound real.

Verbal Irony
In verbal irony, the gap is between what is stated in the dialogue and what is intended. Sometimes it works by overstatement; sometimes by understatement. In either case, the words we hear do not carry the intended image.

It is often close to sarcasm. When a character says “Keep that up, and you’ll win a prize,” he may simply mean “cut it out,” but there is often more of a sting to sarcastic implication.

Situational Irony
The third type of irony, situational, is certainly the most frequently used. You think things are going one way, but the story suddenly makes a 180-degree turn. Actions have an effect opposite from what was intended, so the outcome is contrary to what was expected.

It’s important to note that a sudden reversal isn’t ironic unless there is that gap between expectation and result.

Well-crafted ironic reversals make for realistic plot movement, and character arcs that mirror human existence.

Writers whose vision is extremely ironic we know better as satirists. Satire can be a powerful weapon against conventional views, political ideologies or philosophical views. Dr. Strangelove, a merciless attack on Cold War politics written by Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern, is a classic example.

However unrealistic, the character of Major Kong, sitting astride a nuclear bomb and riding it to its target, thereby setting-off the story’s Doomsday Machine and assuring the demise of everyone, is an image most are not likely to forget.

Irony is something to be sensitive to in your fiction efforts. When it’s working, readers will surely pay attention.

**********

Remember Memorial Day. I’d like to remind my Gentle Readers that today is a special day, set aside to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. It’s not ironic at all to tell everyone you know who’s been in the military, “Thanks for your service.”

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. The column will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

On Tuesday, June 19, 2018 I will join other local area writers at the Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group meeting at Barnes & Noble in Rochester Hills.

On Saturday, July 28, 2018 I plan to participate in a book-signing during Sterlingfest, in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Getting & Staying Creative

April 23, 2018


Atlanta Symphony guest conductor Donald Runnicles (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

You may find it hard to believe, but I’ve discovered the best remedy for overcoming those moments of author terror known as writer’s block. It’s called working on multiple projects at once, and it works.

It keeps my creative juices flowing.

If you’ve tried it but, like a lot pf people, struggle with simultaneous creative efforts, here are some keys that could help:

Get the right tools
I use specific programs when I write, but what they are is irrelevant. Instead of listing things you may not like, here’s my challenge to you – if you want to be a professional, act like one.

Start by investing in yourself. Don’t let another day go by without getting your hands on whatever tools help you focus on ideas … and stop struggling just to capture them.

Find natural places to pause
At any given moment I’m working on fiction books, blog posts, and how-to articles for my online column. But I’ve discovered I often need a bit of closure on one before I can switch gears.

That’s why I complete a rough draft of this blog or one of my column articles, or get to the end of a chapter with my fiction, before I stop one project for another. Finding that natural stopping place really makes a difference when I pick it up later.

Know what time of day you’re at your creative peak
When you understand how your own internal clock works, you can better prioritize your projects. For instance, fiction books and long blog posts are the most challenging for me, so I work on them in the morning when I’m at my creative best.

I find short, factual articles for my online column are a bit easier, so I can do them in the afternoon or evenings.

From time to time, I’ll have an unexpected creative burst that changes some of that timeline, but I never forget real creativity isn’t about inspiration, it’s about routine.

Create a “parking lot” for your ideas
Managing multiple projects isn’t as difficult as you think. In fact, it could be one of your greatest techniques. I find managing multiple creative projects often means that, as I work on one, ideas for another will suddenly pop into my head.

That alone scares some creatives and causes them to feel they have to stick to a single project, so they don’t lose those ideas.

But the solution is simple – I create an “idea file” where wild, out of context, or momentarily unworkable ideas can be recorded, so they’ll be handy to work with later.

Never forget that ideas are the most fragile things in the world. Sadly, I can speak from experience. If you don’t write them down, you’ll likely lose them forever.

Keep the momentum going
Multiple projects can help keep your momentum going. Cross-pollination can often add depth and new insight to your projects, and help you avoid the feeling you’re never going to finish. Daily momentum is easier to maintain than sporadic progress.

Most people tend to be overly optimistic about what they’ll actually get done in a day. They assume more time will equal more progress. In truth, you’ll still have the same peak creative hours regardless of how much time you’ve allocated.

Many long-term projects need as much downtime for reflection as they do time spent in active development. That’s because our minds have a way of working out one problem subconsciously while we’re working on another project.

So, go ahead and tackle those multiple ideas. Just remember to be as creative with your time as you strive to be with your words.

**********

Gentle Readers, my own books have garnered some terrific reviews. In fact, my novel REICHOLD STREET just received another award.

You can see all my books by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. The column will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

**********

On Sunday, April 29, 2018, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, I will be with a host of other local area writers at the Books & Authors book-signing event at the eclectic Leon & Lulu store on Fourteen Mile Road in Clawson, Michigan. Drop in and buy a book…there will be lots to choose from.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Why Call Yourself a Writer?

March 11, 2018


Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock.

There are two types of writers. Those who write because they have something to say, and those who write merely for the sake of saying they’re a writer.

It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re young or old, but a lot of people are solidly in the second camp. Most of the advice they get about writing only compounds this direction.

“Write all the time. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer’s group meetings. Attend writing conferences. Send query letters to agents. Build your social media platform.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good, sound advice. I’ve mentioned much of it here. But do you notice what most advice-givers never say?

“Go do interesting things.”

If you really want to be a writer, that’s probably the most important thing anyone can tell you. Think about it. Take any good piece of writing, something that matters to you.

Why is it good?

No one ever reads something for the very first time and says, “I got absolutely nothing out of this, and have no idea what any of it means but, wow, technically it sure is beautiful!”

But they will say “Damn, that was really good” all the time to things with questionable grammar and simple diction.

Why?

Because of what it says. More to the point, because of what the writer’s words manage to communicate. It’s because the story, technically perfect or not, is so good it speaks to you.

Stories to Tell
I’ve written fiction, off-and-on, my whole life. I earned a degree and an MBA. I spent decades working in advertising and public relations, but not much of it was focused on writing. If there is anything that’s good in my writing it came from things I did outside of school, outside of work, outside of the “craft.”

My technique developed from my life experiences, varied interactions with people and reading dozens of books a month. It was living through an explosive civil rights movement, and a city riot in Detroit. It was observing a war-torn America during the contentious Vietnam conflict, where several of my friends didn’t come home.

These experiences, among a lifetime of others, gave me a unique perspective and voice. I have been able to write about both the bright and dark side of life, because I was in a position to see some of it firsthand. It gave me something to say.

To quote Schopenhauer, the nineteenth century philosopher who contended that, at its core, the universe is not a rational place: “The first rule, indeed by itself virtually a sufficient condition for good style, is to have something to say.”

What Does That Mean?
If you want to be a writer, my advice of the moment is to put the fact you’re “writing” on hold for a while … and look around you.

It doesn’t have to take a long time. When you find something you can’t wait to share with the world, and I’m sure you will, you’ll have your chance to dazzle us.

I’m not advocating bailing out of your writing groups or composition classes. Practice and conversation among peers will always be worthwhile. I still try to attend a local Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group meeting every month. I’ve been doing it for years.

Like always, a lot of what I’ve said here is opinion and you can take it or leave it. My voice (to paraphrase a corny cliche) is just another in the wind. After all, there are many ways to become a writer.

But another part of writing today, that is an absolute truth, is an undeniable change in the economics of the business.

It used to be just getting “published” was the hard part. You had to impress some gatekeeper and that gatekeeper was an agent, or an editor at magazine, a newspaper or a book publisher. Today, with the explosion of indie publishing, there are seemingly infinite outlets for your writing (at least it sometimes feels that way).

But remember this, if you remember nothing else. With almost all of them, no matter how you ultimately do publish, traditional or indie, you’ll have to bring your own audience with you.

Getting published today is easy. Getting anyone to care …

That’s the hard part.

So, What Do You Do?
What matters more than any other single thing is that what you’re saying is interesting; that it provokes some response from people. You’ll only accomplish this if what you’re writing, particularly in fiction, is a compulsion rather than a vehicle to display how smart and well-trained you are.

So, think about it one more time. Are you writing because you want to be called an author? Or do you have things inside you feel compelled to communicate?

Do you have a story to tell?

Getting the answer to that single question right is the day you really become a writer.

**********

My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or like my Book of Face page.

You can also find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

On March 1, 2018, Rochester Media started publishing my articles about writing. They will update twice a month. Come on over, take a look, and let me know what you think.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


%d bloggers like this: