Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kids' Song Interpretations

Surely you will identify this familiar tune, even with its variation:

Bashing through the snow
In a one-course, soapin' sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

Bells on Bob's tail ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
On a sleighing song tonight.


You see, a one-course sleigh is a sleigh that is set and directed on a single course. It can't go any other way.

A soapin' sleigh is one whose runners have been soaped to make it slicker so it can slide along better.

Bob is, of course, the name of the horse, and he's wearing bells on his tail.

As for bashing through the snow, that's what you have to do if the snow is very deep. You bash your way through it.

Here's another one:

Hark, the Harold Angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumphs of the skies
With the Harry Hosts proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem


You see, Harold is the leader of the angel choir. They are called the "Harold Angels" because they sing with him and he's their song director. He's an angel himself, and very gifted with music. To make it fit in the second part of the song and to rename them, they are informally called the "Harry Hosts."


Write on!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Happy Adventure Near Kitchens Somewhere

I arose early.

"Thanks!" I said to Providence because I was alive.

In the kitchen one of the home's inhabitants handed me a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

"Thanks!" I said again, because that was just what I needed.

I turned on my computer and began to type. I discovered I had been sent a bonus by the company I worked for.

"Thanks!" I wrote back, because they surely didn't have to do that and it was a very nice thing to do.

I heard a knock on the door. The postman handed me a package.

"Thanks!" I told him as I closed the door.

I opened the package. It was a basket of cheese and gift meats. I read the tag, called the sender, and said, "Thanks!"

After an enjoyable day alternating between light work and pleasant rest, I turned in for the  evening and pondered all the wonders of sunlight and its eventual return at dawn.

As I drifted into a realm of seeing visions of sugarplums, I softly said the word again to the One that is always listening.

And to you, my reader, I will say it once more:

Thanks. :)

Now, write on.....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Lady in the Church

An old abandoned church sat on the edge of the graveled road. I went past it every day as a curious child watching everything out the back seat window. For years I wondered about the vacant building. Rumors of teenage vandalism on the old church grounds were whispered among the various members of the rural community. A movie crew once stopped there to film a scene. But all the wondering was renewed when one day a sign of life appeared: a sheet was hung in the window.

Very soon more signs began manifesting: flowers had been planted in the yard. The outer walls acquired a fresh coat of paint. Light shone through the windows in the evening.

And then, one day, I saw her. The occupant was a woman, slightly overweight and wearing long straight hair swept back into a pony tail. She appeared to be about thirty years of age. Often I would see her out watering the aforementioned flowers while wearing long galoshes.

One day our eyes connected. I smiled warmly, almost jealous of her adventure. Who wouldn't want to live in a church?

Her expression returned a depth of gloom and despair. To her, she was at the end of her rope, one step above homelessness, living in an old abandoned church by the side of the road in the middle of rural no where.

I imagined living there myself one day. What would it be like? Did the church have a shower? If it didn't, did it at least have a bathroom? Was she using a hose to fill a tub with warm bath water? What color curtains would I choose if I were to buy the old church? Did she fix up the inside like she'd fixed up the outside? What did it look like before she fixed it up? What signs of the past remained within? How old was it? Did she ever see or hear ghosts? Did she have some sort of kitchen or would she content herself with a hot plate grill on a table near an electrical outlet? How did she afford the church? Who had owned it before? What type of church had been there and who were the members?

And so on. Write on. This is a true story and you writers are free to take any and all ideas you may from it, so long as they are used for good and moral endeavors.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Villanous Villains

In these villainous times we come together to understand why on earth writers create these creatures: villains.

All the earth would be a masterpiece without a villain. All the happy bunnies would sing in endless rolling hills heaped with tasty colorful candy flowers. All the people would sweetly sleep with their doors open and no one would need heroes anymore.

Yet, without a villain, be it living or elemental, we have no story. Why is that?

Why do we not have happy stories devoid of problems? It can't be done. Or rather, it shouldn't be done, because, mark my words, no one will read it. Except maybe one or two of your most loyal friends, who will say they like it when they really do not.

So then, a good writer must create good villains. That is, the villains are bad, but the work you do on creating them must be good. Bad work doesn't create useful antagonists. And if your antagonist isn't useful, delete him. Or her.  It's that simple.

Consult your friends. Gather information. Aggregate info from several sources till you come up with someone who really makes your readers' blood boil and seethe with a desire to have someone stand up to him or her. Then have someone do so. The less gifted the someone, the better. A hero who can flatten a dragon by pinching it between his finger and thumb doesn't have much of a story to tell. A knock kneed nerd who never told anyone no in his life against a dragon? Now that's a story worth hearing!

Write on!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


The readers have to take your protagonist's side. They have to want him or her to win. They have to demand justice, restoration, or fulfillment in his or her life.

You stroll down the street and pass a sidewalk bench beneath a shady tree. What do you see on the bench? A happy pig reading a newspaper and eating a box of donuts. He is wearing a smart looking hat and puffing on a nontoxic bubble pipe. Comical, yes? But do you demand better treatment, fulfillment, or restoration for him? Surely not. The pig is obviously doing just fine, and you go on about your business.

Viiiiiip ra riiiiiip.......back it up to where you were before you reached the bench. You are strolling down the street and see a gray tabby kitten fighting desperately to stay out of the reach of a very large German shepherd puppy. The dog is snapping, its long pointed teeth coming within an inch of taking it at every try. The feline is beginning to weaken. Its legs and tail quiver. Its claws begin to slip and lose their hold on the wood from the back of the bench.

What do you do? You scold the puppy and scoop the exhausted kitten into your arms, carrying it away to safety.

Which story moved your emotions to demand a response? The pig made us smile, but the kitten called to the warrior inside each person. We must extract a similar response to our main title character in a story if we are to shine like the best novelists in the business.

Write on!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Have your characters slam the door in somebody's face. First build up a good reason for them to do so, so that your readers will essentially be slamming the door along with your character.

It could be a love interest that is caught courting another.

It could be an accountant that has been secretly observed stealing from the revenues.

It could be a spy, a liar, a double agent, a destructive gossip, a demanding employer, a turncoat pet, a crafty salesman....

Who, in real life, have you ever felt like slamming a door upon? Dress that person up in the guise of one of your characters. Embellish it. Exaggerate. Then see what happens when you release that person into the hapless village/city/realm of your storytelling.

You have to create imbalance in order to achieve the need for the balance to be restored. You have to put your hand into the situation and stir up disorder before the hero's desire and drive for order can be fully appreciated.

Write on!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Half Asleep

Sometimes your mind is most free when you're half asleep. To that end, keep a notebook and pen or pencil by your bed. If you come upon an idea rare and useful when you're floating off into the deep waters of rest, force yourself to recover your faculties at once and jot it down. It may be zany, off-the-wall, disconnected, but jot it down. You may discover the best and most unique characters, places, and situations when your mind is unfettered and your subconscious has just begun to revel in its nightly freedom.

Give it a try. Write on!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Step Right Up

"Hurry, hurry, step right up and see what it's all about, folks! I have here a gen-u-ine, I said GENUINE, book that demands to be read. This book will keep you up nights reading page after page till you end up unhappy. And why unhappy? Because the book will be finished and you'll want another book! A thrill ride from beginning to end! Lots of romance, lots of adventure are threaded in these thin little pages. Just one harmless book, priced go to at 2.99. Did I say 2.99? But wait, there's more! Buy the book this very minute and we'll also throw in this incredible bookmark which you'll want to use again and again. See the climbing roses that adorn the front of this fantastic piece of art? Now look on the back. Puppies! Everyone's going to love this free gift, absolutely free when you purchase this awesome novel."

Far fetched? Maybe. But not much. Promotion is an important part of any author's craft. If nobody wants to read your story, you may as well kiss your career goodbye. And maybe it's a perfectly readable story. Maybe it's delightful. It's a page turner, a book everyone will demand. One they'll want to see made into a movie.

But let me ask you this: WHO KNOWS ABOUT IT? What do people know about it? Where are they getting their information? How are you communicating your story's desirability?

Write on!

Friday, May 23, 2014

In Praise of a Hero

Nobility, honorable character, and virtue should be applauded. Brag about your character. Toot the horn on his behalf; he cannot do so for himself, and your audience would think the less of him if he did. Does she make her every gracious act seem like Heaven itself shines in her smile? Does kindness flow from his eyes like the sun's rays spilling over the morning horizon? Do the lessons of their bravest acts linger like a beautiful scent even after they have vacated?

How can you carve your most creative descriptions around your characters' goodness?

Saturday, May 3, 2014


It's always useful to have your main characters in a dilemma.

Does your hero have an unfulfilled desire? Does this drive him or her to try and achieve it? What about two simultaneous desires that conflict, contending with each other for his or her mind and heart?

In almost any good story one thing must be given up to gain another. Your main characters will have to decide which one's better.

Let's go with some public domain fairy tales, ok?

What does the third pig give up to gain protection from the wolf? His playtime. He works longer and harder than his two brothers and gains a safe place to live. Did he want both playtime and safety? Undoubtedly, but he chose one over the other.

What did the wicked queen want in Snow White? She wanted to be the best and to eliminate any possible competition. Yes, even villains must make choices about how to go about obtaining their desires. And what did she give up to try and obtain it? Her beauty. It was supposed to be temporary, of course, this disguise as a harmless beggar carrying apples. Nonetheless, in going to such lengths to be seen as the most beautiful, she put aside her beauty in an attempt to deceive her competitor.

What did Dick Whittington desire? He wanted to be free from an abusive lifestyle. Why did he go back to the house where he was having such a very difficult time? Because the bells sang to him that he would become Lord Mayor of London, and he believed them. His desire to succeed and arrive at a good place in life superseded his desire to get away from those who were treating him unkindly.

And so it goes. Find some of your own.

Write on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


When you get a good idea it's a good idea to outline.  Although outlining is tedious, it is sometimes worth the effort. It is worth the effort because you will find you have a general idea of the direction of your story before you begin the laborious effort of filling in the minor details. Nothing kills plot like getting stuck in the murky bog of details, not to be confused with a pond full of cattails. An outline is supposed to work for you as a bicycle works for its rider and a hammer works for the builder. It isn't immovable or permanent. Rather, it is a rough sketch like the slight, soft pencil strokes of an artist finding his figures and figuring out his forms and forming his project. Your pencil sketch outline of a story's basic tune to which you'll add harmonious notes is no more confining than the chair in which you've most recently been seated. It helps to have a basic draft of how the story's going to move. After that you can add ideas by the dozens and spice and pepper up the plot where it needs more action or motion or emotion or drama or handsome actors or beautiful heroines or endearing animals.

That's it. Write on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All Moved and Removed

So many things in written and cinematic stories are being removed! Paint is removed from houses, fences, cars. Makeup is removed from faces. Hair is removed during shaves, haircuts, and animal grooming.  Dirt is removed when dishes, windows, and floors are washed.

People are removed from jobs. They lose their footing on boats and get thrown from horses. Their hats are removed as signs of respect. Bridal veils are removed at the proper moment.

Erasers take words and edit drawings. Backspaces undo typos.

"Please remove your feet from the coffee table!"

"Please remove your muddy boots before entering!"

Remove old batteries. Remove broken and worn mechanical parts. Remove fingerprints from walls and stains from carpeting.

Have you ever watched, listened, noticed:

So much of doing is actually undoing!

Write off!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Why do animals play such an enduring part in our culture and storytelling? Is it because they have predefined characteristics that help them fit more easily into stereotypical roles? Who hasn't heard of The Three Little Pigs, The Big Bad Wolf, or The Three Bears?

Typical story predators: wolves, foxes, bears, human beings, lions and other big cats, snakes, spiders, alligators, eagles and other raptors, sharks, piranhas, biting insects such as mosquitoes and flies, stinging creatures such as bees, wasps, scorpions, etc.

Typical prey: pigs, sheep, chickens and other domestic fowl, human beings, mice, rabbits, deer, birds of every type, horses, cattle, fish, butterflies and other harmless insects, goats, etc.

Notice that people appear on both lists. Red Riding Hood was potential prey; the hunter in her story needs no introduction to be on the first list.

Write on!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Limp Endings

I must admit I found the ending to Bram Stoker's original novel Dracula to be a little disappointing. True they found and destroyed the monster, but after such a long chase and after such a difficult time locating and besting the elusive creature I found myself wondering, Is that the best they could do?

The story was completely engaging. The characters were either much beloved or else quite loathsome. It was worthy of the best comic book copy, and was a fun read with fresh vocabulary to brunch. Chasing down the source of their troubles proved a task that took some doing, but at the end there were no cries from Dracula, no protests, no pleading, no lingering pains of death in exchange for the cruelty he had dealt in his unnatural undead life. It was, in my estimation, a limp end to all their struggles, although I liked the notes that explained how life continued in the resolution phase of the novel.

We must as writers guard against letting down our own audience. We must leave them cheering on their feet instead of raising their eyebrows and wondering if all the imaginary journey had been worth its conclusion. For some it may have been; but we want them all captured, unquestionably enthralled by our performance.

Write on!

P.S. First read the novel if you haven't ever, then see how you would rewrite its ending. You're free to play with that one; it's in the public domain.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Tossing Life

At the summit two foes meet in battle. One tosses the other into the brink.

At the end of all struggles two foes meet in battle. One vanquishes the other.

At the end of the journey the band of noble heroes finds the treasure. Vanquished foe? The lack of treasure has been remedied. Eased. A need, wish, or dream fulfilled.

When life tosses you, get your rodeo boots on. When life behaves like billows, batten down the hatches in your excellent ship. When life rears its head, don the armor and pick up your sword and shield.

And when life gets interesting, turn this into profit. Enrich your story with disguised details taken right from reality. Here's a bit of that for you:

"The weak and miserable creature clawed at the locked door, certain something contained within would parch his thirst, but just as sure he would be unable ever to open it. He could not let go of his empty cup. It had contained a drink once, a very long time ago. He wanted it to produce more, incapable of conceiving that his own mind was illogical and equally incapable of believing that if he simply gave up his quest, tossed aside the ruined and useless vessel, and approached the door empty handed, the wise queen from within would recognize his sanity and would immediately grant him access to a little sink that lay just inside the door. Till then he was an enemy, for empty cups bearing enemy insignia were banished by law from ever entering the castle."

Originality at your service.

Write on!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Valuing Valentines

A small brightly colored message arrives, delivered to the queen's own hand. What does it say?

What other ways can we invent to send a Valentine? The sky's the limit when we're within a story, for we have the vast resource of completely unfettered imagination.

What would you have your character send or receive in the communication of romance?

Novel Valentine gift ideas:

A white horse, a vessel of cherries, a basket of quail, an entire room full of flowers, an attentive servant, a piece of wall art, a sculpture, a sack of gold coins, an entire symphony to play all evening, a magic wand, a treasure box full of mysteries, a huge piece of land, a barn full of milk cows, garden full of butterflies (butterfly aviary), a well trained parrot, a guardian animal (dog, wolf, big cat, mythical monster), a captured unicorn.........what will YOU think of?

Write. Write, write, write....

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Novelty in the Novel

It cannot be stressed enough: take your readers somewhere new. Come up with something completely original. (Try standing on your head to get ideas.) Create something terrifically fresh, customized by your own unique viewpoint. Put yourself into the story. Glean details. Add them where they paint vividly. Make them dance.

Wonder. What would we do without wonder? Twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are...

I wonder what's around the corner of that very old brick building. I wonder what's at the other end of the open field. I wonder what's down the winding path in the rocky woodlands. I wonder what kind of bird's song I am hearing overhead. I wonder if I am the only person ever to examine this wild plant. I wonder if I am the only one who ever saw that cloud formation in glowing orange as the sun sank beneath the horizon. I wonder if the other persons who saw it and liked it appreciated it as I do. I wonder if I can hit that old dead tree with this rock. I can! (Don't worry, it's my tree and I didn't hit anybody's window. Or anybody's head.)

"Plunk! She picked up a rock and chucked it. It curved to the right and sank with a hiss deep into the decomposed rubbish that blanketed the forest floor with a natural moist mulch. She tried again. This time it whizzed by the edge, removing a bit of rotten bark with its hatchet-sharp surface. Determined to improve her skill, she picked up a third rock, aimed carefully, raised her unusually muscly arm, and let it fly. The hunk of stone struck the tree dead center with a resounding smack that rattled the dead branches above, and she smiled at her own success. If she couldn't do everything, there was at least one thing she could do. Little did she know her newfound skill would later make her a hometown hero on the nine o'clock news."

All through the segment, did you wonder if the rock would strike the tree? I wonder if you did.

Write on.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Drip, Plunk, Splash!

At the risk of seeming like a comic book where zing and thwap blaze the page, let's investigate some enriching sounds:

Water: plunk, drip, splash, ocean waves, pattering raindrops, plop, trickle, gurgle

Laughter: guffaw, snicker, titter, giggle, chuckle, cackle

Metal: creak, groan, squeak, moan, chink, clink, clatter, jingle

Impact: thud, thwack, whack, pow, crack, wham, bam, flop, tap

Animals: growl, hiss, squeal, squeak, cheep, tweet, bark, roar, wail, scream, chatter, purr

Wind or air: puff, whiff, whistle, whine, blast, roar

Let's try this:

A gentle wind played with the long narrow ends of the sun hungry leaves. As I turned my attention to the sky a dozen geese honked their message: Winter is coming! Prepare your houses, or better yet, follow us! And to these noble creatures I write: I wish I could follow you, see where you're going, and return to light in the nearest pool of water when the warm rays of light lengthen again in the time of life's renewal. To you I salute. You remind me of the romance of a hundred places I've never been.

The fence creaked heavily under winter's breath, so soon to arrive like a greedy child eager to have his due before the promised time. A goat nibbled the edges of dried hay and sticks, unperturbed by the chill that hung in the air and the smoke that arose silently from the neighbor's chimney.


Sometimes the biggest sound, after all, is silence.

Write on.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Wise Sayings Jump Start

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

 A stitch in time saves nine.

 Don't let the cat out of the bag.

 Don't open a can of worms.

 He who rides a tiger can never dismount.

 Don't swap horses in the middle of the stream.

 Blood is thicker than water.

 Let a sleeping dog lie.

 If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

 Ain't never been a horse than ain't never been rode, and ain't never been a rider that ain't been throwed. (While we question the grammar, the idea has its merits.)

Take a saying, any saying. Look at it carefully. Got it? Okay, now use it to launch a new story thought, either on an existing story that's stuck in the mud or in a brand new one just waiting for your unique perspective!

Here are some more:

People who live in glass houses don't throw stones.

It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

A cat may look at a queen.

No copyrights here. Write on! (And on, and on, and on...)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Add a Comic Relief

Most people like to laugh. If you can incorporate laughter into your novel or short story you have just given your readers a mental, emotional, and even physical health boost. Isn't that what it's all about? Giving? Oh, of course you want to make money at your craft, and rightly so. But none of us (hopefully) is such a Scrooge (don't worry he's public domain) as to put money completely above doing a benefit to those who support us.

Some characters lend themselves to making readers laugh. Some straight laced characters end up making us laugh because of the things that happen to them. Let's try a practice.

"The bumblebee flew quickly and landed on Anabella's hat. Not only this, but it did so just at the time she was reaching up to adjust her newest pink feather. Knowing her fear of bees, and knowing that sooner or later it would fly away of its own accord, Robert thought of a plan.

'Anabella, dear, why don't we feed the birds?'

He took her by the hand, hoping that as she walked the jostling movement would gently induce the bee to take flight, but unfortunately it was resolutely perched, nibbling on the edge of a dried flower that graced her upper bonnet."

Okay, so this is not laugh-out-loud funny, but it's a place from which to start. All kinds of things are possible in this situation. Will Anabella be stung? Will Robert succeed in dislodging the bee? How will he keep her in the dark about its presence and its whereabouts?

Play with it, my dear writer. You can do it. Write on!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Eliminate a Character

When plots and subplots can't seem to match up, it may be you need to eliminate a character. By this I do not necessarily mean the character will die in the story, although that is certainly a possibility. No, rather, have your extra or unnecessary character go on an extended vacation, or have him or her tangle with a problem that takes him or her miles from where the rest of the story starts to happen. Or, you can simply rewrite it without him or her and see if it makes a difference. Having more characters than we really need means that each of those characters needs to be fleshed out and attended so as not to appear hollow. Or unneeded.

Write on!