Posts Tagged ‘award-winning author’

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;

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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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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.

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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.

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

When Are You Too Old to Write?

February 6, 2017

overgrown-truckPhoto Courtesy of Pixabay

Ask anyone if they’d like to go back to their youth and there are some who would jump at the chance. However, I think most would emphatically decline … and a few might actually shudder.

Why?

Despite our glorification of it, youth is often a time full of worries: school; career; relationships, money, kids. A period with no idea of who we are, or what we really want in life. Most of the time we’re out there on our own, winging it, doing our best to cope.

I’ve been thinking about it lately because, Heaven willing, I’ll soon reach an age I used to think of as old.

I’ve lived through the Korean War, the development of the hydrogen bomb, the USSR launch of Sputnik, the assassinations of President John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

I was as excited as every other American when we landed men on the moon. I worried about the draft during the Vietnam War (drew anti-war cartoons for several publications) and watched the news coverage of the Berlin wall coming down.

I saw the beginning of the Internet, and participated in developing web sites for it. I witnessed the horror of 9/11; worried about our troops during our country’s invasion of Afghanistan and wondered at the nonsensical Iraq War (remember the missing “weapons of mass destruction” no one ever found?).

I suffered, along with my friends, in the Recession that began in 2007 and lately have worried about the chaotic coming of Donald Trump.

When I stop and think about it like that, it seems like I’ve witnessed an awful lot already. I had a mini career in advertising, and a major one in public relations and marketing.

Still, I sometimes feel like a kid.

For me, age is not a disability. Every day is another chance to do the things I want to do. Time, after all, comes in one large bundle that includes the good, the bad and the disappointing.

We have to accept the whole bundle, even the tragedies, sad as they are. We don’t so much choose life. It chooses us, and age can be an enormous help to an author.

I can hear you asking again … why?

For one thing, it makes us freer, calmer, better friends with ourselves. My personal likes and dislikes are crisper.

I can recall my first experience with the green of spring, special holidays with family, my unique friends and (unfortunately) all my mistakes. I understand more deeply the people I love.

How can you fail to find something to write about in that?

I’ve written stories my whole life, but I didn’t begin to do it full-time until I retired from the 9-to-5 business routine. I thought at the time I might already be too old. However, I’ve discovered the creative richness and energy of the mind doesn’t care how old you are.

I write every day because I understand really well, perhaps for the first time, the cliché that each moment that passes is gone forever … never, ever, to return … but, as authors, we can be as young or as old as the characters we make up.

I’m working every day on my next novel (Dead End Street). Although I’ve published six books in the last four years, I have a lot of stories rattling around in my head.

So, what exactly does that mean?

I still have writing to do.

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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 amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.
 

**********

Visit my web site’s home page to hear the remarkable interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

**********

If you’ve written an interesting book too, consider submitting it to the Readers Favorite annual contest by using the banner link below.
What do you have to lose?

**********

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

Are You Writing Because You Like It?

September 1, 2016

renaissance-centerThe Renaissance Center – GM World Headquarters on the Detroit River.

Eight years and six months ago I was sitting in my cubicle by the window high in the 400 Tower of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, waiting for my professional writing career to begin.

In truth, it wasn’t the beginning of a career. It felt more like the end of one … and I was far from certain I was doing the right thing.

It was a chilly March morning on the river, and I had just signed the papers indicating my acceptance of an early retirement offer from General Motors, effective the first of April.

I’d originally been hired to produce the GM annual report, and that was my main responsibility for almost twenty years. It kept me busy from September to March. Days were routinely 12-16 hours long.

The rest of the year I considered peaceful … I only worked ten-hour days … producing a host of other material, from news releases to technical journals. I even produced a newspaper GM circulated to all domestic employees (at the time, that was about 800,000).

Occasionally, I was allowed to write an article for the paper. When I did, I wove storytelling elements into it. My editor didn’t care for that, but our VP liked them, which made all the difference. He didn’t allow the articles to be changed. I even got a byline.

In nearly three decades with GM I had many assignments, all dealing with communications and marketing. I even got to create and lead an early group that dealt with designing the new communications tool that appeared in the mid-90s … functional web sites.

But by then I was managing people, not creating a thing.

On my last GM assignment, I wasn’t even doing that. As Marketing Operations Manager, I was a group of one … responsible for reporting to our VP on how well brand teams used their advertising budgets.

It was not something guaranteed to make friends. In fact, except for the time I had to tell 30+ people they didn’t have a job any more, it was the most disheartening work I’d ever had to do.

That chilly March day in 2008, although there was a lot on my mind, none of it was about writing. I was tired of what I did. I wanted out.

Decisions
My main concern after deciding to leave boiled down to these few words: What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

Given what’s happened since, you might think leaving to write fiction would seem like a natural choice to make. After all, I’ve enjoyed it and played around with it since I was seventeen.

But it wasn’t. A natural, I mean.

I wanted to keep working in a creative capacity for a few years … but thanks to some really bonehead moves by our President at the time (G.W. Bush), by mid-2008 our economy faced its most dangerous crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. There was no other work of any kind to be had … anywhere.

So, with nothing else to do, I wrote.

I’d written lots of stories, but the decent markets for short stories were becoming smaller by the day. I decided if I was really going to write fiction, I had to write a novel.

I took some of the earlier things I’d done and expanded them to create a novel about kids in a fictional town during the tumultuous Vietnam era, trying to capture the essence of what it felt like to grow up back then in a small, working-class community.

That’s how REICHOLD STREET was born.

Then in June 2009, right about the time GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (making my decision to leave seem clairvoyant), I began searching for an agent, since none of the main publishing houses would even talk to me without one.

It was a decidedly painful experience.

After almost two years of getting essentially nowhere, I finally decided to produce the book myself. I thought I was getting too old to wait for the publishing gods to smile on me.

It was the right thing to do. People liked it. It won a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal and was reviewed positively by Kirkus Reviews.

I Like What I Do
For years I had been asked to plainly state facts in a way the audience could quickly grasp. You know … the who, what, when, where and how kind of writing most journalists learn, along with the AP Stylebook.

Boring stuff. Which is why I snuck storytelling elements into as many articles as I could.

Now I get to play with ambiguity and nuance, dialogue and metaphor. If you’re a writer you know what I’m talking about … making something out of nothing … the things that make writing fiction interesting.

I’ve published six books so far, including four award winners. That includes my latest novel, BLOOD LAKE, which was just named a Bronze Medal Winner in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite competition (Young Adult Horror) … and, more importantly, I like what I do.

Funny thing is … the work part of it is a lot like the other writing I used to do … only harder. I still have to do a lot of research, but it goes far beyond who, what, when, where and how.

I have to investigate local and world history, politics and religion, semantics, period jargon and dress styles, and specific-location weather. Not to mention period music, literature, radio and television shows, period magazines, local attractions and sometimes even plant species, all to help create an accurate sense of place.

But I don’t feel like I’m wasting anyone’s time … including my own. I’m not making tons of money … but I’m enjoying myself … and I’ve decided that’s what it was always about anyway.

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On Saturday, October 8, 2016, I’ll be attending the fabulous Ninth Annual Rochester Writers Conference at Oakland University.

On Sunday, October 23, 2016, I’ll be signing books from 11:00am-5:00pm at the Books & Authors Event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson, Michigan (96 W. 14 Mile).

On November 19, 2016, I’ll be in attendance at the Readers Favorite award ceremony at the Regency Hotel in Miami.

On December 3, 2016, I’ll be signing books from 1:00-4:00 pm at the annual “Giving Season” event at the Orion Township Public Library (825 Joslyn Rd).

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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 amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow
some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.
 
If you’ve written an interesting book too, consider submitting it to the Readers Favorite annual contest by using the banner link below.
What do you have to lose?

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


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