Monday, September 30, 2013

Party Crasher

This idea would fit nicely in a novel.

An ancient land, a yearly festival of good food and drink, followed by songs and campfires long into the night. Family gather, sheep bleat, and altogether a good feeling of contentment settles on the young lad as he observes these yearly festivities.

Yet it was not to last. Silently a party crasher steals upon the scene, wrecking everybody's fun and turning the night into a disaster.

He vows to change it. One day he will rise to power and banish all fun spoilers and party crashers from the land. People will rest peacefully beneath their fruit trees, strumming harps and swapping stories, with no one to tell them they cannot proceed.

Second idea:

A different type of party crasher shows up at every party, someone who belongs to the fun but then plants discord among everyone till they're all at each other's throats.

Third idea:

Annoying person makes so much commotion that no one can enjoy the feast. The party would be perfect without him.

Enter our hero, who takes him on a long exploring trip and keeps him away till the next day, sacrificing his own fun to save the fun of about a hundred other people.

Write on! No copyrights. Use what you please!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Attention, Please!

A lovely massage, a delightful manicure, a sweet hairdresser delivering a do--pleasures of positive attention visited deliberately on your subject--

People not only like to receive attention, they also like to observe others receiving this type of attention. Animators learned that trick many decades ago. Study again some old cartoons, and find out why they draw the viewer in. Keep a notebook of scenes in which someone, usually the protagonist, is receiving a good measure of positive and deliberate attention. Translate this into some scenes in your novel. Your readers will be hooked!

Write on!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Peaceful Pauses

Between action sequences or stressful thrill rides a good story needs a peaceful lull. Practice your lulls to get all you can out of them.

"The entire enemy village lay desolate. Here and there a leftover campfire smoldered out in front of a cabin or a tent. A gentle dog padded up to him and smiled, wagging its oversized tail. He patted it and chewed thoughtfully on the end of a cinnamon stick."

Here's another example:

"The glen sparkled. Every gentle breeze stirred green leaves set aglow by the afternoon sun's quiet rays. A curve of rock wound its way below her feet as her toes dipped gently into the crystalline water's edge. Fish darted in and out of crevices in the rocks. A crawdad waddled half backwards, his antennae swaying in the rippling current."

Make your breaks into the greatest mental vacations your audience ever took! Write on! No copyrights here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hidden Pleasures

A story must have difficulties, struggles, or battles. Without them there is no plot. However, to balance these you can give your story a delicious dribble of sugary icing: pleasures. Let your hero experience them, and let your reader experience them vicariously. Common examples of pleasures include winning a battle, gaining wealth, gaining a new and valuable ability, tasting food or drink, and the obvious one obsessed about by commercial advertisers and, unfortunately, many movie script writers: the one I don't need to mention. Go sparingly on that one, as it has been heavily overdone. Try to be unique.

Example:

"The second his unshod feet touched a carpet of tender young grass at the edge of the sandy shore, Alexander hoped he might have finally found a safer place to harbor. Mulberries beckoned to him from the leaves of trees at the edge of a small natural grove. A rock pool fed by an inland stream looked drinkable. Alex let his eyes follow the stream as far as he could away from the sea. They stopped when they met two sapphire gems blinking back at him from the creek's rockbed center. Only these weren't gems, he told himself, they were eyes, eyes that had apparently been watching him for several minutes."

In a short space our hero has found a pleasant touch to his feet, and the hope of food, water, and maybe companionship, all pleasures human beings can appreciate and enjoy, even vicariously. It helps if what you're describing can be compared to something the reader has actually experienced. I, for instance, have tasted mulberries. If you think your reader hasn't, you will need to fill him or her in on what it tasted like.

"The berry was sweet, but also had a pleasant tanginess, quite consistent with what he expected by the way it looked, which was very similar to a raspberry, with a staining juice the color of dark purple grapes."

Write on! No copyrights here!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Words We Never Heard

A common trick of the trade in script writing: say a word most people have never heard. Let it roll off the tongue of the actor glibly like he or she always knew it and assumed everyone else did as well.

Think about it next time you're watching a movie. Try to find a word in the movie that is

a. uncommon,
b. newly invented, or
c. retro.

The way it is said and repeated throughout the movie tends to make the audience want to say it as well. Chances are by the time the movie ends you will have mouthed it once or twice. You will bring it up in conversation within the next few days because it has now become a part of your current speaking vocabulary.


Everyone has three vocabularies: a reading vocabulary, a writing vocabulary, and a speaking vocabulary. Your reading vocabulary consists of the words you can understand when you read them. Your writing vocabulary is made of the words you can think of when you're writing. Your speaking vocabulary is the smallest of the three. It changes over time. Some words that are overused are dropped from it and fresh words are added as they are heard from other people, read in books, or mentioned in a movie.

Write on! No copyrights here! Invent some words or dust off something retro. Get to it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not Sure I Can Do It

An interesting source of additional plot tension is wondering whether or not the hero can do something. Examples are flying, swimming, climbing....

Climbing! As a kid I discovered that the handles of a series of drawers were just like a stepladder so I could reach things in the top of the cupboard without asking for help or obtaining a footstool. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for those handles I was told to stay off them because they were not made for that kind of use. Think, however, what your hero might do if he or she suddenly found a neat sort of ladder, not really meant for climbing, and if he or she followed it up as high as possible....

Sure, Jack and the Beanstalk. But Jack and the Cabinet Handles? What else could be climbed but shouldn't be climbed, the climbing of which is excusable in an emergency (i.e. save the farm, escape the danger, etc.)?

That's your idea for the day. Write on!

No copyrights here!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Magic With Rules

Everyone loves magic, the more the better. Fairy tales have never lost their popularity. But you can't do just anything, nor can you do everything, with magic. It must have rules. Without the rules you cannot wield it in your story. Take a look at this example:

"He crouched near the water's edge. All around him moonbeams were scattering and glancing off the low limbs of trees, gray in the evening aura. And to this enchanting moment he added one thing: a candle. He waved his hand and one appeared. It was lit, but it did not catch fire to his sleeve each time he dropped it, which was quite often. Even though he was a wizard, he was still the clumsiest young man alive."

This one's okay. There are a few rules or limitations to the magic. Give your magical hero quirks. To make him unassailable is to make him hopeless, boring, and unbelievable.

If every lion that bounded out of the bushes and every fire that threatened a house or barn were easily contained you would have no conflict, because each and every one could be easily resolved by the hero's unlimited magic.

Take a common example: Cinderella. What's the limitation to her magic? The stroke of midnight.

Let's take another one: The Little Mermaid. I'm not talking about the cartoon but the original classic fairy tale. Her magic limited her by not allowing her to speak, which proved the ruination of her goal, because the love of her life was never informed that it had been she who saved him from the perils of the waves.

Let's take another: Snow White. The evil magic of the wicked queen had a limitation: it could not overcome true love.

Challenge yourself. Dissect stories and find their limitations. Find out how they work and why they work. You may discover something you can really use to make your writing sparkle with veritable fairy dust!

And write on! No copyrights here....

Friday, September 6, 2013

Increase Your Vocabulary

Word puzzles are good for you, especially if you're a writer.

Increasing the availability and readiness of words to use, supplementing the number of nouns and the variety of verbs from which we may create a craft worthy of being read numerous times, that is the object, the goal, the destination. Word puzzles may help, as may consuming a large variety of literary materials. Everything from perusing the local newspaper to dusting off an old English classic adds to the volume of your etymological and lexicographical grasp.

Happy reading, and write on!

No copyrights here!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

All Kinds of Options

Every story has a problem.

Trapped in a container filling with water, standing on a tilting platform, trying to escape a through a closing door, standing beneath a falling object, trying to outrun an angry animal....

Quieter problems.

Trying to convince a cynic, trying to teach a contrary domestic creature to be gentle, trying to find a hidden object, trying to evade critics....

Write on.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Affection Connection

In every story there will be something or someone your protagonist loves. Love is the driving force behind any story.

Look, for instance, at an old fairy tale: Red Riding Hood. Red and her mother love Grandma and prepare a gift basket with her in mind. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are great examples of stories that feature and/or revolve around romantic love. 

Even in a story about man against nature there is a love element: self-preservation or self-love motivates survival. Sometimes the love of family draws someone who is lost to fight all odds in order to return home again.

I challenge you to think of a single story, or perhaps I should say a single popular and well liked story, that completely leaves out love of any sort, including brotherly love or the bond of friendship. 

And I challenge you: write on! No copyrights here! You are welcome to use whatever's on this site, except for the ads, over which I have no say. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Personal Touch

What do all the very best and most admired authors have in common? Gutsy chance taking, bravado, courage, showmanship, fearlessness. They are not afraid to reveal themselves in the words they craft. They are not afraid to get close to the reader or to mention things that might make others blush. They get close to the personal issues and they take an honest look at how people really think. They add material that touches the reader personally, and without fear they tread where few others dare.

This has to be done carefully, or the reader will quickly chuck the book into a nearby dumpster. Just as approaching personal issues in real life requires finesse, so in authoring the writer must really know his craft if he wishes to get up close and personal in the material he or she presents. This could come in the form of a surprise, or the story could build up to it after the audience becomes comfortable for several chapters with listening to and understanding the way the story's creator thinks and explains.

I am not talking about lewd, unfit, useless material. Grab any old classic cartoon (I will not mention any names because this site is copyright free). Dizzy....achoo! This knee...cough, cough. Ahem....I think I'm better now. As I was saying, grab an old classic cartoon from even the most respected old reliable entertainment company, and count how many times someone, somewhere in the story, gets touched, poked, slapped, or kicked in the posterior. I am not trying to be unseemly here, but wide awake honest. This is a little known but essential part of the old cartoon's success and acceptance, although few really understand why. The human mind relaxes in this touchy feely silly environment of humor, almost like the cartoon artists and writers have become accepted family members and are allowed to say what they're saying as long as they say it quickly and without much fanfare.

Aside from silly, I can think of some very good thriller writers (again, no names, and no hints this time either) who are not afraid to be personal in their storytelling, and again, this seems to have the effect of making the audience open their hearts and minds to the tale that is being related in their pages. It is almost like the fearlessness rubs off somehow, and the author's candid approach allows the reader to let down his or her own guard in response.

Write on! No copyrights here. Anything may be used from this site, so get going and write!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Challenges

Every story has a problem. Anyone who has ever taken and endured a creative writing course has heard it stressed. The elements of plot always include complications. Without a problem there is no story.

We take apart the earliest, easiest fairy tales, and from these we glean milestones of the tried and true. Stories that have endured for generations, passed along by word of mouth and changed very little over the years, have a rich treasure to unlock.

What's the problem in The Three Little Pigs? Obvious. How about in The Gingerbread Man, Jack and the Beanstalk, or Goldilocks?

How about the storyline in comic books? Sure, they are not "great" as literary critics would measure, but they work very nicely at drawing audience attention and catching up even the youngest imaginations into a fantasy of good vs. evil.

Sometimes it's not so much being "good" at your craft as it is writing what works. Maybe you'll never win a coveted award, but when you learn to send it flying off the shelves or onto their digital devices in dozens by the hour, you will have felt victory about which many will only dream.

Write on!