Posts Tagged ‘award-winning author’

Wish You Were More Creative?

November 1, 2018

“Creativity” – Photo Courtesy Pexels.com

I found September and October this year to be a whirlwind. There were readings and book-signings, followed by writers’ group meetings, then a writing conference, capped just last weekend by another day-long book-signing. All while working on yet another novel.

It’s been enough to strain anyone’s creativity.

But I can almost hear you say, “Wait a second … you’re a writer. Aren’t you supposed to be creative all the time?” It’s a refrain often heard by folks in the writing community.

One great irony about our collective obsession with creativity is that we tend to frame it in uncreative ways. A friend, and fellow writer, told me recently he wasn’t working on anything at the moment, because he was “waiting for a flash of inspiration.”

Many authors marry creativity to their concept of self, but the key to unlocking real creative potential may be to defy the advice that urges you to believe in yourself.

I say that because I believe creativity is not merely an individual trait, but a malleable product of context and perspective.

Everyone has potential, but you can’t sit around thinking someone’s going to sprinkle fairy dust on you so wonderful things will happen.

So what do you do?

Role Play
It’s often as simple as imagining you are someone else. Actors often employ this technique to get into character for a performance but, the truth is, anyone can use it.

Don’t believe it? Think about some of the kids who came to your door yesterday on Halloween.

Some obviously knew they were dressed up, but I’m willing to bet you could pick out the few who were absolutely convinced they were really the character of their disguise.

I find myself using the same acting technique as I try to develop three new novels, all at the same time. They’re a handful, each with a different story-line, but it isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

I spend a lot of time in thought, but when I actually sit down to write, I’m merely getting into character, and it’s just like little Timmy down the street putting on his skeleton costume. I become the character, and let them tell me what they want to do.

When I’m not focused on a specific writing task my actions may be quiet, but my mind is hardly idle. It still spends all day rummaging through old thoughts, assorted memories and current information, putting them all together as new ideas.

We all do it, all the time.

Unfortunately, we allow ourselves to believe such unfocused effort is somehow unsuccessful. We berate ourselves, when the truth is most people spend a lot of their time in this state of “unfocus.”

Humans daydream a lot.

It doesn’t make us slackers; it makes us human.

Harness Your Daydreams
What if we stopped judging ourselves for our mental downtime and, instead, started harnessing it? By giving yourself permission to do something you usually feel guilty about, you may actually be making your fiction more creative.

Try it the next time you sit down to write. Don’t stop daydreaming; become the character. I’m fairly certain you’ll surprise yourself, and finding yourself in an entirely new identity will feel so productive.

* * * * *

My novel “Blood Lake” was a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner and a ForeWord Indie Finalist. It was just named a 2018 Book-of-the-Year Finalist by TopShelf Magazine.

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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;

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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.

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

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

Elements All Fiction Needs

May 10, 2018

Beginning writers often believe they need a clever plot, but Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer contends that a good writer is actually little more than a good storyteller.

Mark Twain, who considered himself a storyteller, went so far as to say, “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I wholeheartedly agree (well, maybe not with the shot part).

Ray Bradbury, one of my all-time favorite authors, agrees, too. He once said, “Plot is nothing but footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to somewhere else …”

Need I say more?

So, What Makes a Good Story?
Writing fiction is a process that usually happens in a specific, often prescribed context. While it can feel like an isolated, individual act, it’s really a very social performance … a way in which we, as authors, respond to the audience around us.

And, like it or not, authors are always writing to an audience.

My wise old grandfather wasn’t an author, but he knew how to make even his simplest stories memorable. They were all full of his hard-earned wisdom, if one only bothered to listen. I still remember the day he told me a fisherman doesn’t save his bait until he sees a fish. He attracts them with it.

“He baits the hook before he drops a line in the water.”

The twinkle in his eye told me it was a comment about much more than fishing. That pearl of wisdom has stayed with me all my life.

Writing good fiction should be like that.

Why People Read
People read fiction for the experience. The details you put on each page are the spices that make your words palatable, but to be certain of capturing the reader’s attention you need to include something interesting, right at the start.

Re-read L. Frank Baum’s classic story, Wizard of Oz. You’ll quickly discover what I’m talking about. Dorothy’s house in Kansas is spinning aloft by page three. Likewise, in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the character Gregor Samsa wakens on page one to find he is a giant insect. Talk about loading your story in a catapult and hitting the launch button!

That, of course, is just the beginning.

Look again at the illustration at the start of this article. The young storyteller obviously has his audience’s attention, but he’s busy becoming the character he’s introduced by adding visual detail to keep them interested.

Try to remember that once a reader is interested, you need to embellish and develop the story. You do this by rich detail … detail that engages all the senses. A good story, while it helps illuminate each character, will also reveal something about basic human needs.

Another good way to develop rich details is to build a strong sense of place. As Stephen King said: “Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”

Dialogue is also important to this sense of place … something I’ve alluded to often.

Consider this quotation from Elmore Leonard: “… if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

The Secret to a Great Story
So, the secret to a great story seems to be create complex characters, quickly develop interesting challenges for them, provide sensory details, and deliver a satisfying surprise at the end.

Although I missed the Rochester Writers’ Spring Conference, this was the theme of at least one of the presentations.

This isn’t to say you don’t need a functional plot. However, as C.S. Lewis said, “…the series of events we call the plot is only the net to catch the theme.”

In the end, your story should speak to something important to your characters and your readers … and to you.

Focus your writing on story, not on plot, and it will always be your strongest writing.

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Gentle Readers, my own books have 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, May 15, 2018 I will join other local area writers at the Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group meeting at Barnes & Noble in Rochester Hills.

**********

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


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