Aug 082014
 
Car stories reveal personalities

In real life or fiction, cars tell a lot about a person.

Cars are more than nuts and bolts. Because of their ability to evoke memories (See Car Memories and How to Write About Them), cars are a powerful tool for writers. They’re a setting in and of themselves. That’s probably why fiction writers think carefully before they go into details about their characters’ vehicles.

Here in the environs of the Motor City, kids cut their teeth on cars. Cars aren’t the backdrops for stories. They are the stories.

Though I’ve lived here over twenty years, I’m not a child of Detroit. As a teen, I looked upon cars as a mode of transportation. That’s something that separates me from my teens, who were somehow able to recognize car models before they knew the alphabet. Continue reading »

Aug 062014
 
Compelling story dictionary

A compelling story according to Macmillan’s.

All writers consider writing about the episodes of their past. It’s not just the aspiring memoirist that wonders, “Is my story compelling enough?”

What started me down this path was reading Anne R. Allen’s How to Write a Publishable Memoir: 12 Do’s and Don’ts.

DON’T include every detail because “it’s what really happened.” Just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Your happy memories of that idyllic Sunday school picnic in vanished small-town America will leave your reader comatose unless the church caught fire, you lost your virginity, and/or somebody stole the parson’s pants.”

Continue reading »

Jul 282014
 

Personality disorderWant to create memorable characters with depth, complexity and an unpredictable capability for danger? Then give them a personality disorder … but don’t diagnose it.

Who could forget the character of Alex Forrest from the 1987 thriller “Fatal Attraction?” Actress Glenn Close’s ability to maintain a seemingly normal façade whilst exhibiting some of the most bizarre behavior is a testament to her power as an actress, but the part of Alex was also very well written. While most might sum her up as being “psycho,” more astute observers have noted that Alex displayed many of the characteristic traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. Since the character was never officially “diagnosed” in the film, it left her behavior and motivations – not to mention her mental health – open to interpretation. Continue reading »

Jul 222014
 

alternate povI recently finished writing a novel… Or did I? That is a question we often ask ourselves, and in some cases that may revolve around a doubt that what we have is enough and whether a second point of view (POV) would improve our writing or distract from it. Continue reading »

Jul 162014
 

Recognizing writing flaws helpls with editing Over the last sixteen months, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of having my proposal and manuscript edited and proofread. Through working with multiple editors, I came to see patterns in their corrections and comments. Recognizing my writing flaws has helped me edit and proofread.

I get wordy.

I do it in life and on the page. Now, as I edit, I look for ways to state things more succinctly. I challenge myself to reduce my word counts, even on shorter posts.

My self-doubt results in over-editing.

In life, I tend to start my paragraphs in the middle. When I’m half-way through an anecdote, I’ll remember that I left out why the story matters or is relevant to the conversation. In trying to prevent this potential writing flaw, I go too far in the other direction. I over-edit.

In fact, editors had to edit-out what I had, in a fit of self-doubt, edited-in. In other words, the final version was close to the original. Now when I evaluate an introduction or explanation, I think to myself, “You can lead a horse to water, but you need to give him or her credit for having enough intelligence to drink.”

I use vague referents

My that’s and which’s don’t always refer back to a concrete word or phrase. Or, if they do, it’s not clear to those who don’t have direct access to my thoughts. This one is another result of my jumbled brain, but it’s more laborious to fix. Particularly if I try to write, edit, and proofread in setting, I miss those. Whenever possible, I try to let my writing simmer before I edit and proof.

I like to list things in threes.

I know; writing is not like flower arranging. Things aren’t always better with an odd number.

I like adverbs.

There, I said it. In the above paragraph, I’d prefer to state, “A disturbingly high number of edits…” Now when I edit and proof, I’ll evaluate whether using the adverb brings something other than a lack of grammar to the table. Sometimes I’ll leave them, but often I find another way to structure my sentence.

I don’t vary my sentence structure enough.

For me, proofreading and editing don’t mix. A by-product of reading each individual sentence for errors is failing to evaluate the flow of a page. The fix: one more pass through the piece.

Your Turn:

What are your most common writing flaws? How do they change the way you edit and proof your work?

 

 

 

 

Jul 062014
 

People watching and character developmentPeople-watching. It’s a never-ending source of inspiration for fiction writers who might find themselves in need of some good source material. If, like us, you abide by the somewhat cliché notion that everyone’s got a story to tell, then what better place to peruse the wall-to-wall supply of living, breathing, fictional rough drafts than in a shopping center? Continue reading »

Jul 052014
 

I was recently asked to participate in a Blog Tour  Q&A with Kris Mehigan. You can visit her blog at:

http://krismehigan.tumblr.com/

Right now, I am working on:

…a couple of books, actually. The book I recently finished is titled, “The Portraits of Gods”. Here’s the jacket description:

At 49, Bryan Wakefield finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Approaching retirement, he considers what life will be like once he is forced to abandon the daily means of escape his job has provided from the tumult of his personal life. To complicate matters, Jack also possesses superior autobiographical memory; an extraordinary ability that allows him to recall specific events from any given date in his past with uncanny accuracy. It’s this very ability that causes him to dwell incorporeally in the doorway between past and present, comparing the dreams and reverie of youth to the disappointment of his adult life. One day, on his way to work, Bryan misses his exit. But instead of getting off at the next exit, he continues driving, setting into motion events that will force him to strip away his desensitization by pitting past against present and breathe new life into his search for validity and meaningfulness.

Blending beauty and symmetry of language, The Portraits of Gods tells the tale of lost love and one man’s struggle with the slow-acting poison of regret.

The work is currently being shopped around for publishers.

My work differs from others in the genre because of my…

…tendency to blend deep philosophy with events and situations we’ve all experienced. Living’s a hard thing, or at least it can be as long as you’re not blissfully ignorant. 

I write what I do because…

That’s simple: Because I have to.

My writing process is…

I identify myself as a writer, though to help pay the bills, I “moonlight” as a police officer. In the pre-dawn hours, I like to park someplace scenic in my patrol car with a cup of coffee and my laptop and write while watching the sunrise…do it before all the calls for service start coming in. The morning seems to be the time of day when the ideas flow most smoothly for me. It’s also indescribably meditative. Otherwise, I don’t have a set method of writing. Although I keep notes of my work to keep me from running into plotline snags, I don’t do outlines and such. I tend to just write where the wind takes me. And then I’ll do as many revisions as possible until I’m satisfied with it.

 

Coming Monday: Redwoods Society Intern Cliff Gateflower visits the Mall of America to do some people-watching.  

Jun 302014
 

Writing about fighting With split-second timing, the hero levels his enemy with a perfectly-timed jumping front kick. Striking his erstwhile attacker on the chin, his steel-like foot sends the villain careening into the two evil henchmen behind him, knocking them down. As one enemy gets up swinging, the hero rattles off six strikes to his body with the speed and damage of a cobra’s strike, and he smiles wryly as the bad guy’s body jerks and convulses before falling to the ground. Sensing movement behind him, the hero turns just in time to duck the attempted cheap shot before executing a judo flip upon his charging attacker, sending him crashing through a conveniently-placed window …

Writing dramatic battles is alluring, violence is quick, brutal, and chaotic in the real world. I learned this from fights in the playgrounds, street corners, and dive bars in Flint, Michigan, one of the “Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.” And while the School of Hard Knocks has made me a better writer, my tuition was paid with a broken nose, broken orbital bone, and various and sundry injuries. For the gentle literary types, there are other ways to learn about real-world violence that won’t put you in mortal danger. Continue reading »

Jun 262014
 
Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones

Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones

Writing great characters is, for me, at the top of the priority list for writing fiction. Whether you’re looking at the next Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones, or A Song of Ice and Fire), or Billy Lynch (Charming Billy), you are seeing a well thought out character that an author spent many an hour contemplating. If you want your fiction to shine on the level or anywhere near the level of such authors as Martin or McDermott, you can’t just pick up a pen and go, you have to spend the requisite time getting to know your characters. Continue reading »

Jun 162014
 
Post topics to end confusion

Perplexed about something? What post topics would help?

I’ve come to appreciate the online community of writers. Authors generously sharing advice, experience, and expertise has made me feel a whole lot less of a clueless newbie. In fact, I’ve gotten so used to it, that when I face a quandary, I simply search Google to see what other authors have to posted on the topic.

The Redwoods Society was conceived for just this purpose. We’re always looking for informative articles to share with other authors. If you have expertise or an experience to share, contact us about guest posting.

In the meantime, here’s three post topics that would be helpful—at least to me. Continue reading »

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