Monday’s Musing on Margot Kinberg’s latest post, “I Am the Observer” and writing back-story…

Hey all,

So Monday’s Musing on Author Margot Kinberg’s latest blog post, “I Am the Observer Who is Observing* —at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist https://margotkinberg.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/

Much like the spectacular Eurasion Owl pictured above, Kinberg’s post got me thinking about how the observer characters in crime-fiction can help us write better back-story into our novels. In her post, she likens writers to those people in life who tend to be natural observers, hanging back and taking it all in. Nothing escapes these people. And as Kinberg points out, if you ever read Agatha Christie, you know her main man Poirot is always looking to interview the observers in the room, and that these types are ultimately the best source for detectives and cops looking to solve crimes.

Or, likewise, if you watch FX’s Criminal Minds or any of BBC’s Masterpiece mystery shows, you know that observers are often more help than any actual physical evidence found on the scene since they can point the crime solvers in the right direction, when little else can:

“Observers often have a very interesting perspective, because they stand back and notice everything… Observers can give valuable information on what they’ve seen. And their perspectives can give the detective a sense of what a group of people is like So, it’s little wonder that we see them so often in crime fiction.” Kinberg

Observer
pic by pam Evans

 What intrigued me the most in Kinberg’s post was her mention of author Louise Penny’s book, Still Life. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list now. According to Kinberg, the victim, Jane Neal, seems to be the observer, albeit from after the grave. She helps the cops by letting them know she’d known things, a lot of things, that other people in town just may have wished she hadn’t! And that very fact, helped seal her doom!

Since I’m writing up a novel where the victim chimes in after the deadly deed too, this intrigues me. Especially as a way of dealing with a character’s back-story. Back-story is so challenging to write. It engrosses us as we create our characters, and it can be all consuming if we let it. But, we all want to avoid the dreaded ‘dumping’ sceanario where  the reader becomes barraged with info. overload all in one fell swoop! Or, as renowned crime fiction author Les Edgerton like to call it, doing “The Rubber Ducky” (http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/rubber-ducky.):

“The “Rubber Ducky” is Paddy Chayevsky’s term for when the hero or villain, at a lull in the action, explains that he is the way he is because his mother took away his rubber ducky when he was three…Always a nice scene… And totally unnecessary … It usually comes from not trusting the reader’s or viewer’s intelligence to “get it”….

Rubber Ducky

…if all you’re trying to do is give your hero more emotional depth, for the sake of emotional depth, without integrating his back-story into your story, you run the risk of awakening the dread Ducky.”  Edgerton

 

I don’t know how my attempt will turn out, but it seems like going back in time and letting the victim tell some of the tale from an observer standpoint seems like a great way to deal in her back-story, and without awakening the dreaded RD. 

I’m giving it my best shot anyway. Could make my tale so much more present for the reader, involving them intimately in the life of my vic by hearing her own voice relay the rough-ride. Much better her than me! As author, I so want to get out of my character’s way, and let them do the heavy lifting!

What do you all think?

Drop your comments below, and let’s talk back-story!

Ciao for now,

Lisa

 

 

Monday’s Musing on writing for free…

Hey all, today we’re musing on an important writers quandary: writing for pay vs. writing for free…

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Do you think your writing career, past, present, and future, feels a lot like this photo...grim, grey, and oh so foggy, with the road ahead looking dim and no clear-cut path to success?

I’m willing to bet my hard-earned weekend’s track winnings there are more than a lot of us out there, all wanting to pen our way on to the NY Times Bestseller list and having to do all sorts of crazy things to get there.

By the way, this topic was inspired by way of my girl Michelle over at The Green Study.com and Jamison, another blogger at Jamison Writes.com. (If you don’t know either, check em’ out now,) as well as my recent short story publishing successes (see my last couple posts for more on that score.)  All the above have me musing on this dilemma….should writers work for free, or should they work for hire only…

Like interning or freelance writing with no contract or financial agreement in place beyond maybe a few bucks, guest blogging to help out other authors and hoping to gain a few readers, blog tours where again, you read and review to help out other authors, and yes, even blogging, all of it is done for free with little to no compensation and no guarantee it will further your writerly aspirations in the long run. I’m no expert, but after having tried out all these to some extent both now and during my recent grad school affair, I can say one thing: all of it can make you feel like an elephant treading water….eventually, you feel like you’re losing the battle!

For those of you still with me, you probably already know. It takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and drive to write a carefully researched, thoughtful and engaging commentary, review, blog or guest post, and then to have nothing to show for it, well. It’s not all roses and candy canes! But, it depends on your goals.

As writers, of course we want readers and recognition, but to get there, something you put out has to keep the lights on too or there’s no internet left to post your scribblings on. So, what’s an ambitious writer to do??

This is where I’d luv to hear your commentary, thoughts, and considerations. Jump on in, the water’s warm! I haven’t quite yet turned into that drowning mammal, and I’m still hoping to tread lightly and make it to the other side. And I hope you make it there with me!

Ciao for now, 

Lisa

Pump up the blood in your prose…

Hey All…

So, we’re a day late on Monday’s Muse, but here it is, nonetheless! Sometimes, it’s just a matter of seeing something to inspire, like these couple posts, one by Paul D. Marks at Sleuthsayers.org http://www.sleuthsayers.org, and  No Wasted Ink Writers Links to Kill Zone’s post, https://killzoneblog.com/2018/02/get-some-blood-pumping-in-your-prose.html

All the above got my wheels spinning on pumping up the blood volume, especially in a drowning scene I’m working on. Mr. Mark’s film noir post at Slethslayers crushed it, with old school black and white photos from classic film noir pics. I dare you to scroll through the list and not feel the rush of blood ramping up through your veins as your write!

And Kill-Zone’s post is the bomb too. I mean, who doesn’t want more blood and action in their scenes??

That’s the good stuff…it’s what keeps readers comin’ back for more, turnin’ pages late into the night! Action, action, and more action. somebody’s gotta die?? Don’t just talk about it. DO IT! Right there on your page! Make it happen, blood, guts, guns, and grief!

Let the dogs out people….un-chain em’, and go for it!

Ciao for now,

LIsa

Monday’s Musing on the “Pat-Down”…

Hi All,

So this was basically me this weekend. Some of you may already know, but Saturday I took a little trip to the teaching credential test center to find out if my wits were a match for the credential ‘gods that be,’ and their lofty yet legal, expectations. And not only did I pay bank ($) for the privilege, but I was also treated to their full on, pre-prison ‘Pat-Down’ experience in the process!

Upon checking in to test, I was told to place my palm on the electronic monitor to scan it not once, not twice, but 8 times! Up, down, and over again. Apparently, my palm was  un-cooperative! Then came the photos; 3 sides, front, right and left, smiles definitely discouraged. Next, an escorted walk down a long narrow hallway, where another cop-like eagle-eyed guard stood watching multiple video camera angles from all sides of the unlucky slugs already inside testing. Then the grand finale, a metal detector wand passed all around. Finally, before being allowed in to take my place in the tiny computer cubicles where I’d spend the next three hours cranking out timed, impromptu essays, I was ordered to empty and turn out all my pockets and show them the inside of the back of my hoodie…(not sure what exactly they thought I’d be hiding in there.) Then, last and not least, the hands-on, physical “Pat-Down,” top to bottom, on all sides. Kind of like getting pulled over for a DUI (just sayin) or getting booked for a night in the local slammer. Jail never loomed so large!

Perhaps, this was a pre-cursor of things to come. To be frank, the thought of spending a night in jail almost seems like a more appealing option than teaching full-time. This I know from being a Sub, probably the worlds worst job ever! I’ve had kids do unspeakable, horrific, awful things! Things like jump out a second story window while my back was turned writing lessons on the board. And posting social media pics pretending to smoke rolled up joints inside my classroom, which they made out of paper, usually reserved for airplanes. I’ve been called to the carpet in the Principals office and had to “go to the mattresses” Godfather style, to defend myself against their onslaughts. And truth be told, most days that blessed 3:00 bell just couldn’t ring fast enough! So why you might ask, did I bother testing at all?

Honestly, I can’t really say.  But after finishing up my MFA last year it’s been all job hunting, writing, (write, submit, rinse, respeat,) both of which have been a steady, slow grind getting off the ground. But in the meantime, a girl’s gotta keep the lights on!

The test itself was difficult too. Not I imagine, like a doctor’s medical boards or a law-student’s LSAT. But questions specifically tailored and just crafty enough to easily crap-out on if you don’t give them exactly what they want to hear, exactly how they want to hear it. So, we’ll see. Not too sure I even want to pass! If I do, it’s back to the bottom of the ant-hill school-wise, looking up at yet another whole semester of student-teaching this fall to freak out on! But if not, I guess it just means, more time to write! More crime fiction shorts, finish that novel, and get my stuff out there! As if that’s a bad thing!

Don’t know about you, but the latter sure sounds like more fun!

Keep u posted…Oh, and I’ve got a crime fiction flash piece that was just accepted by a major online mag., so I’m psyched on that score. Let u all know when it’s up. Progress rides in on small waves!

Ciao for Now!

Lisa

 

 

 

Monday’s Muse, and Poe…

What’s your Monday Muse?

Mine is whatever I’m reading that inspires, or catches my fancy in a big way. Could be a book review, author interview, a simple inspiring quote, or a picture that resonates dark.

Like this below, from the creep master himself, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.

 

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Thank You, Robin’s Real Life.com,  for this great pic of Poe’s House.

THE RAVEN:

courtesy of Project Gutenberg,  EBook of The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door—
Darkness there and nothing more….

 

What’s your Monday Muse???

Comments, welcome!

 

Monday’s Musing on synopses and Skeletons…

This one comes courtesy by way of Kristen Lamb’s blog and her interesting article at warrior writers.org. As Ms. Lamb tells us,

 

“The synopsis strips away our pretty prose and all our verbal glitter and it lays our story bare…The synopsis is the skeleton of our story…

 

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Another blogger recently alluded to the fact that if we can’t contain our story down to a concise, intriguing, and “want to read” synopsis, chances of getting an agent to read it, is slim to none.

This seems unfair, you might cry. Feels so unjust. 

And you would have a point, to be sure. After all, our stories are our stories, expanse and hard-earned words all, and why should we have to boil it down to a nub?

But think of it from the Agent’s pov. As an Agent intern for the last 9 months I can tell you first hand; they are bombarded with stories from all over, their inboxes overflowing with literary goodness. And why should they pick yours to read over the others? I’ll tell you why. Because you’ve enticed them with the tale that can’t be tossed in your oh so short and sweet synopsis!

We all probably hate writing them, and cringe when having to cut out everything but the briefest brief. But it clarifies, optimizes, and increases your chances of getting read.

What’s your take on this? Luv to hear all about it. 

 

 

 

Monday’s Musing on the Mighty Blog…

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let’s make some noise!

Ahoy there mates, and happy Monday  again!

This muse comes courtesy of an inspirational post by Michelle over at the greenstudy.com (thanks much, Michelle). So, let’s make some noise…a blog kind of noise that is!

Much like these cool hands here, the blogger is just like the ultra hip D.J., spinning smooth tunes in some smoke-filled night club, just hoping to raise up those dead rebel-rousers out onto the dance floor. It’s all about making some noise, and knowing at the end of it you’re alive and other people are actually listening to whatever it is you’re putting out there!

Michelle’s post suggests that “At least once a year, if not more, I have to justify my reasons for blogging… Part of the reason is that I’m seeing longtime favorite bloggers close up shop or disappear in the vapors of the ethernet. It begs the question: what do they know that I should be paying attention to? ”

Good question, Michelle. And one that definitely needs the begging. Blogging is such a personal, up close and all, in your face kind of writing. Yes, there’s all kinds of bloggers. Some have more official, business marketing  agendas, and for others the experience is more akin to opening   up a vein and bleeding all over the pages, and hoping like hell noone crashes their after party. Yes, as Bloggers, we all want engagement. But when it becomes unstable, scary, or downright militant, who’d willingly sign up for that?

Michelle says she made a “half-hearted effort to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, cussing through the entire process and attempting to change settings so that any public contact will be highly unlikely….and that maybe our word reservoirs have a limit, especially if one is an introvert.” Here here Michelle! I couldn’t agree more. I like you, like interaction with the peeps I want to interact with! Just not with the ones I don’t!

And as far a limit to our “silver tongue” well yeah. Kind of think maybe you’re right! Like you, I’m busy cranking out my first novel, and I’ve been given the sage advice by others too…Focus on the task at hand, and all the rest will follow!

So my Monday quest for you all is this…

Why do you blog? And what are you hoping to get out of it all???

Can’t wait to hear all your answers. I really, really, want to know!

 

Location, location, location…

Stans drive-in

Stans coffee shop, 1958;  Hollywood!

So kids and kidettes, Monday’s nearly here again and we’re musing on this…

 

A thoughtful  post on where we actually do the deed from fellow scrivener Sarah Brentyn at sarahbrentyn.wordpress.com.

Being guilty of clicking away in a coffee shop as we speak, I’m notorious for frequenting the joints. Much like this old black and white from Holly-weird yesteryear, hanging out in a space filled with the aroma of freshly ground grounds and all kinds of humanity prowling around near me is enticing.

Yet, does any work really ever get done?? Honestly, no! Too many sticky fingers grabbing too many sticky buns and too much caffeine never really helped my writing. Sure, the brain gets fired up and emails get answered. But actually novel chapters in a setting so noisy I can’t hear myself think?

NO! Never happens!

For that, I gotta go bury in a cubicle ten feet deep in the bottom racks of the school library, where the only people around are busy typing as fast as I am and in just as much mental misery as I am in some shape or form!

So. My question of the week is out there! I really want to know! Where are you when your characters do the dastardly deeds and you spicy pages germinate best???

Tell me all about it!

 

 

 

 

Talk it out… Monday’s musing again…

Funny how the week goes by so darn quick. But here it is Monday again, and we’re musing on dialogue. That pesky, all-consuming character talk-talk…

 

Snoopy, writing up dialogueOne of my biggest pet peeves as an agent reading slush is unrealistic dialogue. This is a huge indicator of skill for better or for worse. For me, this is a bigger red flag than any grammatical error…” 

(Literary Agent, Carly Watters, on writing good dialogue; Source: 4 Ways To Write Better Dialogue)

Ms. Watters post on the matter got me musing alright! Dialogue, in its best state, is natural. When it flows like water and you can’t turn off the stream if you try, then you know, you’ve got something! When the characters interact and your fingers can’t seem to stop typing, as if they’re on autopilot, that’s when you’ve struck gold! Like that time I sat eavesdropping in an old leather booth at a local diner, jotting down everything the two old birds next to me were saying. One was practically mute while the other carried on the practically the whole conversation by himself, ping-ponging back and forth, asking and answering his own questions, and having a grand old-time doing it. It translated into a short flash, then a longer short-short for me. Nothing like the real thing!

But what about those days when the words feel more forced than anything else and reading it back, you practically choke on the sound it’s so stilted and vague! Don’t know about you but I have those moments. Never easy to write, one of the things I’ve found helpful is to have others read your dialog out loud. And not just in a workshop setting. 

I’m talking about drama. Live, on stage actors, reading the parts. That’s where you’ll know for sure if it’s working or not. And the actors will probably be the first to let you know, in case you haven’t figured it out for yourself yet. If they feel funny saying it, chances are, it’s a pretty funny set of words to be spoken out loud!

What’s your take on the matter???

Luv to hear your thoughts on this one! 

 

 

 

 

Monday’s Musing: libraries and labor day…

Happy and peaceful Labor Day folks, 

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While you’re all out there waving the red, white and blue, and firing up those BBQ’s, don’t forget to take off your hat and give a wave to your local libraries and librarians who toil away for the sake of you, your kids, and your family’s insatiable reading prowess at large! By day and by night, these institutions and folks are the cornerstone of the American word, free speech, and our steadfast right to enjoy both!

As an MFA grad student, writer and prolific reader, I’ve probably spent over half my life in these places. Filled with gifted, educated, and wonderfully decent people attempting to spread the word, they are still the best free deal in town! Or, as David Nilsen tells us in this recent post from fourthandsycamore.com in On Neil Gaiman and Libraries,

“I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.”

What’s your take??? Salute me back with your thoughts…

 

Source: On Neil Gaiman and Libraries

Monday’s Musing on Social Media… the good, the bad, and the ugly!

                             

So, Monday’s nearly here again, and I’m musing on this:

It’s Clint Eastwood in “The good, the bad, and Ugly” and Roz Morris’s recent post on Nail your Novel.com about authors and Social Media. And I can’t help but wonder, just how Eastwood and his fans might have seen it?

 

Seems we can’t escape it, whether or not we want to. It’s here, in all its forms, from friending to tweeting to linking and tumbling. And for introverted authors like myself, it can all feel like a terrible plot conspiring against our very sanity to drive us out of our ever-loving minds!

Yet, where would we be without it?? It keeps us connected, keeps us informed, keeps us current and most of all, keeps us writing!

So, tell me, what’s your partial brand of this particular poison?? Chime in and have at it!

(Roz Morris Source: Yes, social media DO work for writers – here’s how)

So I’d finish that story but…

Hi all, and so glad to be back!

If you follow me you may have wondered why I’ve been MIA in the blogosphere for the last month or so. Well, thanks to several big events, including finishing up the semester, filing a thesis and slamming so hard on the kickboxing bag that two of my toes broke in half, I guess you could say I’ve been a little preoccupied. Pain meds can put a girl out of commission, but fast!

But thanks to a little time and TLC I’m on the mend and back on the writing wagon. And today I’m sharing an interesting guest article I stumbled across while perusing author Kristen Lamb‘s Blog, written by guest author/ teacher Dr. John Yeoman,  “Can’t keep up? 7 brilliant ways to finish your story.”  (https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/cant-keep-up-7-brilliant-ways-to-finish-your-story/).

Having been stuck myself many times, and in fact currently stuck somewhere in the middle of what started a very promising story, these tips couldn’t come at a better time. And I’m willing to guess we’ve all been there at some point. You know the story. You get part of the way through what you think is going to be a terrific read. Great story line, clever opening, interesting characters. But then somewhere along the line, boom! You’re stuck in writer oblivion, with some combination of paralyzing fear that the end won’t match up to your exciting start and or that the plot lines won’t converge into reason but instead morph off into convoluted confusion making your reader want to run screaming for the nearest exit.

But, never fear, Dr. Yeoman’s tips are here to save the day, especially tips # 2,”Devise your own Scrivener program and #3, “Try the ‘bricolage’ technique.” In tip #2, Yeoman writes:

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” Imagine a corkboard on your wall. In one corner, you’ve pinned character descriptions. In another, scene settings. Somewhere else you’ve stuck pictures, plot outlines, dramatic incidents, crumbs of dialogue… links to web resources…videos and even music…Now imagine that corkboard on your computer. Here’s the link to Scrivener…  Once learnt, it’s wonderful. Problem is, Scrivener takes time to learn…too technical for newbies and its built-in word processing program is, compared to Word, primitive. Solution? Build your own Scrivener using the ‘sticky notes’ utility that may be on your computer right now.”

Great advice, which this past winter, I tried. Gave it a valiant effort, but, as he points out, there’s a definite learning curve to learning Scrivener. And try as I might, I couldn’t muster the patience to sort it out. And working on an Apple meant the “sticky notes” utility Yeoman talks available on Microsoft’s PC, wasn’t an option. However, I found an alternate, more simple version of Scrivener called Storyist, (a good comparison of the two is here at http://theroguewriter.tumblr.com/post/69136060617/storyist-vs-scrivener). Indeed, a less intense, simplified format, easier to digest and quicker to get up and running. It  may not do every single thing that Scrivener can, but it has enough similar features to make your story easy to organize and visually keep track of, like a corkboard, and separate character and scene sheets and is well worth your time looking into. A tad more expensive, but for those of us who get overwhelmed with too many details, it is a great option and will help keep you on track.

As for Yeoman’s tip #3, writing your main plot points, and even as I do, chapter summaries, on index cards is just plain brilliant:

“Stop scribbling on paper. (Those little bits get lost.) Start writing on file cards. Why? Cards are durable. You can keep them in your handbag or back pocket, ready to hand for whenever an idea strikes you. As soon as they bulge out of your pocket, toss them on the carpet and play solitaire.”

I started doing this about six months ago, on the advice of another award-winning author. Only I do them one for one, that is one chapter summary for each side of a card. I write as much as I can scribble onto one side of a 4′ 6 plain index card. That way, I’m forced to capture the essence of my chapter in as few words as possible and can then organize and re-shuffle them at will as a sort of guidepost through my longer works like my novel. That way I can quickly flip through them to look for plot holes, character inconsistencies and chapter points of view. This keeps me on track and reminds me of both where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Worst case scenario, if I need to take a long break from the work I have my story organized into small chunks that can smooth out getting back into it. And like Yeoman notes, the cards are easy enough to cart around, keep in your backpack and jot down new ideas as they strike. And if the muse isn’t striking, well there’s always that card game to deal out.

I’d love to see some action here and here all about your own methods of madness for finishing those tall tales. As always, all thoughts are welcome!

Ciao for now, 

Lisa

Third Person limited, vs the dreaded Head Hopping…

 

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A couple of posts got me mulling over today’s topic, writing in third person limited vs. random, willy nilly head hopping with no real reason or strategy….

So, here’s my question of the day:

Just how do you widen your  story perspective using third person, and convey other characters pov’s in a strategic and methodical way without randomly shifting heads and risk losing your readers in the process??

 In a post on the craft of perspective over at “Brevity.wordpress.com,” Judithe Hannan writes:

“Unfettered writing, for our ears alone, can open doors, but to get to the doors behind the doors we can’t be Narcissus staring at his own reflection. We need other faces looking back at us, we need craft, and we need to connect our story to a world beyond our small pond.

And I would have to agree. After all, our stories are our stories, and exciting and intriguing they may be, but if we want them to reach other ears, they need to be tuned into full-blown operas! Hannan goes on, describing her attempts in doing just this:

“My lens didn’t only have to be compassionate, it had to be wider. When I first wrote about my daughter’s cancer I wasn’t telling a story about people but about IV’s, scans, chemo drugs, and scars. I created a cloistered world…where no one learned or evolved. So I stepped back. I described the doctors, observed the different ways my daughter and I interacted with them and…found an opportunity to explore our dynamic with each other…When I zoomed out and saw myself against the backdrop of the larger world, I emerged transformed as a mother, wife, and friend.”

Hannan makes some good points here, and as my own novel has evolved, I too found myself stepping back from first, to third and back again before deciding on third person limited to best tell the story, but I am learning to do it in a controlled manner without the dreaded head hopping!

Don’t get me wrong. My first drafts at using third limited have been loaded with many instances of the ugly deed, which thankfully, were pointed out in workshop, and since been corrected. And once I got the hang of it, using third limited can be a breath of fresh air as it gave me, the author, the ability to move around inside the story and command it, taking the characters with me as I go, much like moving chess pieces around on the board. I am still in charge at all times, but my characters now have the chance to speak their minds and that, is what gives depth to a story! I dare say, makes it all that much more fun not only to write, but to read too! After all, if you’re going to entertain, go for it!

Especially if you’re writing crime fiction, like me. Why just describe a bad guy when you can really get into a bad guy’s head, thoughts, motives, and actions! Hell, why just tell or talk about the body being dumped out of the car and into the alley from another characters perspective, when you can show it as it’s happening from inside their head, getting all down and dirty with it??

Which style do you prefer as both a writer and or reader, and why???

As always, your thoughts are welcome!

 

Mondays muse on those pesky writing distractions…

HI all and happy Monday once again!

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So this week a post caught my eye from Michelle, over at The Green Study.com,

(http://thegreenstudy.com/2016/03/06/experiential-avoidance-the-green-study-confessional/comment-page-1/#comment-24057).

Her post is all about those pesky technical distractions we find that get in the way of living our happier and more productive lives, and doing the things that matter the most. And since last week my cell phone died and so I had to go through the time-consuming and loathsome procedure of not only visiting my local AT&T store but also coughing up the big bucks for a new one, this post hit me like a rock to the head!

As Michelle says: “This week, I’ve been practicing stripping away distractions. It’s been made more difficult by a head cold. Silence sounds more like a waterfall rushing through my head. I’ve been making myself do things, one at a time, with no background activity. It’s very hard to do and I find that upsetting.When did I change? When did I become this leg-jittering, humming, antsy person in need of a fix? That I can’t even sit in my own company without checking this device or that – it’s a wake up call. In psychological terms, much of what I do these days would be described as experiential avoidance. I quit my job a few years ago to commit to writing full-time. Thus far, most of what I’ve done is unfinished, unremarkable and uninspiring…canstockphoto3436262

So that takes us back to my phone issue…

Once at the AT&T store, I had a decision to make. And yes, I had insurance! Not that it seems to matter any since it what it comes down to is a pay now, or pay later proposition. That said, not wanting to pay later, I reached deep and did it now. But part of the Faustian deal included having to wait 3-5 days for the new one to arrive. So I did. And I have to say, by day three when I came home to find it on my doorstep I was wishing they had taken the five!

Totally unplugged, footloose and fancy free for a whole 72 hours was nothing short of glorious! I felt more calm, more rested, and more in control of my time than I had in at least a year! Not having the constant buzzing to attend to and the endless stream of both Facebook and Twitter interruptions to deal with (dare I call them annoyances??) meant I was able to do more of what mattered and what was important, like spend time working on my novel, my thesis, and even reading. What a concept that was!

 

So, my big question to you all today is like Michelle’s…

What’s your least helpful distraction? And just what are you avoiding with it???

As always, jump on in. The water’s warm!

Mondays Muse, and Multiple POVs…

Hi there kids and kidettes, 

 

It’s Monday Musing time again, and todays topic just happens to be inspired by a recent guest post from Aimie K. Runyan on multiple POV’s, from one of my all time favorite writer sites, Writers In the Storm, at:  (http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/01/10-tips-to-writing-from-multiple-povs/).  

Ms. Runyan’s post caught my eye because my novel in progress indeed falls into this complicated, yet fulfilling category, with multiple characters telling the story and moving the plot forward with their own unique quips and quirks, and hopefully, keeping the reader engaged invested in turning the pages far past their alloted bed times.

Case in point: just check out this Scooby pic:

Don’t know about you, but the one thing I recall is that each and every one of them wanted to uncover and take credit for figuring out the “who” in the “who done it” part of the game. Sure, they started every show as a collective we. Loaded up in the Scooby van driving to wherever their mystery of the day might take them. But once there, they always split up, no? Giving us scenes, from you guessed it, multiple Pov’s.

Case in point: 

First, we’d usually get serious Fred, all orange Ascot and arms crossed Rambo style in front of his chest, scowling as he deduced the nature of the crime (single pov). And most of the times he’d be accompanied by Daphne, the ginger haired Barbie, and off hot on the trail of the bad guys. (another separate pov chapter). That is, when Daphne wasn’t busy playing damsel in distress, getting kidnapped, tied up or gagged, (a whole separate pov) in which case usually Scooby and Shaggy (yet another pov scene) would fly in to the rescue from some other scene where snacks of all conceivable shapes and sizes preoccupied the moment. Or sometimes it was Fred, who’d swoosh in to save the day hot off a solo scene from tracking down villains or ghosts (main detective pov). And of course, we can’t forget about Thelma, intelligent, reporter girl Thelma, interviewing potential suspects and witnesses, usually solo (yet again, another reporter, cop pov.)

Thanks for indulging my digression into retro cartoon mania. But, there’s a point to it all (hint: multiple points – haha).

And as Ms. Runyan points out in her post, beauty can be achieved in the magic of cohesion, as long as it’s pulled off well. Right now I’m writing my first go at a multiple pov novel, and it makes my Scooby example but a paltry simplified version of the real thing and of Ms. Runyan’s musings. And since I couldn’t begin to state it better myself, here are the main highlights from her “10 Tips to writing multiple POV’s”: 

 (her original full post can be found at: http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/01/10-tips-to-writing-from-multiple-povs/):

“These are some of the methods I used to weave three separate narratives into one cohesive story:

  • Start with archetypes. “The person obsessed with solving problems is going to address issues differently than the person combing the world for inspiration for their next poem. You want to make sure your POV characters have a different enough world view to make it worth the hassle of writing from more than one POV.
  • Diverge from those archetypes. There is no person so simplistic that you can simply write them off as a two word personality type. Your character has likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and a past that shapes how they deal with reality. Making a rich character will make it easier for your reader to parse who is speaking.
  • Make sure each chapter or section advances the plot. Telling the same scene over again simply to get another character’s take is tedious…forward motion is key. Choosing one character to focus on and begin the story…then giving the other characters’ ‘pivotal moments’ in bite-sized chunks of back story… for a much more compelling read.
  • Make sure each main POV character gets enough “screen time” to make us care… It shouldn’t feel lopsided. We also shouldn’t go so long away from any one main POV character that we’ve lost track of where they are… I made several passes through my manuscript to ensure each main character was at least mentioned if they were ‘offscreen’ for a whole chapter, and tallied up their word counts to make sure there wasn’t a huge disparity…
  • In addition to strong characters, your voice for each must be on point. Pet expressions, gestures, vocabulary limitations, and more are key in keeping your POV characters distinct. … This is important, even when not dealing with multiple POV, but absolutely essential when you are. ..
  • In most cases, it’s great to show one main POV character from the eyes of another… Let the other characters show us another angle on the truth. I loved showing my insecure character through the eyes of her friends. She was much more capable than she ever recognized.
  • If you are travelling between different time periods in a dual narrative, make sure the language, setting, props, and more all fit the eras so as to keep the narratives separate. It’s easy to slip…
  • Make sure that if you have a large number of main POV characters that you achieve a satisfying story arc for all of them in addition to an overreaching story arc. Each main character deserves a fully fleshed-out storyline, and for this reason, multiple POV books tend to be longer…
  • Make sure you make transitions from POV character to POV character smoothly. Titling a chapter heading with the POV character’s name is very common. You can also shift from scene to scene in a chapter if you are very distinct with your voice, but this does not mean “head-hopping” willy-nilly within a scene. Stick with one character for a logical chunk of the story.
  • The golden rule: Do not use multiple POVs for the sake of using multiple POVs. If you can tell your story without the shifts, do so.

So, that’s it for today folks. But I leave you with a question:

What are you working on? Does it have multiple POV’s? And how’s it working out for you?

Luv to hear your thoughts!

Ciao for now, and darkly yours,

Lisa

 

(much thanks to Aimie K. Runyan and Writers in the Storm; and the post,  10 Tips to Writing from Multiple POVs | Writers In The Storm.)

Mondays Muse…

Stphen King-on writing2

Stphen King-on writing2

SO, here we go with this week’s Mondays Muse, as promised. And take a guess what we’re talking about? Yep, you guessed it, writing fiction! And who better to guide us through the murky, distant, tantalizing, and creepy waters than the master himself, Mr. Stephen King!

All’s I can say is, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read this book, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library and check it out. Or, if you’re unlike moi, that is to say not a broke and struggling grad student, and you actually have two cents to rub together, maybe even consider buying it. Not only does it look great on your shelf, but it contains so many nuggets of writerly wisdom, you’re eyes and ears will consume it faster than you would that chocolate pie or the newest rendition of Marry the night from Lady Gaga. Yes folks, it’s one you wont put down till the last page is done and the corners are dog-eared stiff! And or until the lights go out because the wind is howling so hard outside you’re sure he must be out there somewhere in the dark channeling his particular brand of writer spooked through the rain and into the walls of your dwelling space. 

Either way, my heartfelt advice is to check it out, and soon! It’s nuggets like these, that will catch your eye. I know they did mine, for sure!

” The first story I did actually publish was in a horror fanzine…I was a teenaged Grave-robber…After  a long time spent studying the markets, I sent Happy stamps off to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. It came back three weeks later with a form rejection slip…By the time I was fourteen…the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replace the nail with a spike and went on writing.” (p. 38-41)

Okay peeps…don’t know about you, but that’s all good for me. In fact, if you follow me here and or on FB at all, you know that I recently just got my very first published short story ever up in a horror anthology called Fightening. The story’s called “Midnight in Alaska,” a creepy crawly Stephen King-like tale, and I like to think he’d be proud to know there are those of us who are out here, following in his footsteps. Or, at the very least, dying to try! (wink-nudge-haha.)

Well. That’s all for now folks. Gotta go burn that midnight oil and keep the spooks at bay while I crack open another less, than desirable grad school text-book which is due tomorrow, but took a serious back seat to Mr. King and friends.

See you all on the boards soon, at Friday’s Fun Flash Fiction. Make sure to stay tuned for that, caz. you never know what’s gonna fall out of this brain!

Ciao for now, 

Lisa

It’s 2016, and a real hum-dinger!

Well, well, well. If 2016 didn’t ring in with a bang! A real humdinger, if ever there was.

Especially since as of today, I can officially rank myself among the chosen lucky. You know, that group of published authors whose stories can be both found and bought on Amazon. Yes folks, I rang in this new year with a glass of the bubbly and a little private dance I like to call “the bear” which, I give credit to my big brother for, and which tends to follow my high points where ever and what ever they be. Granted, the groove is a little goofy. But hey. I figure, dancing in my pj’s in my basement with no one but my pup giving me the once over doesn’t exactly make for a Kodak moment. So you wont be seeing the rendition here any time soon. But rest assured, yours truly is feeling pretty pumped!

My short story, “Midnight in Alaska” is now up on Amazon, and part of a 20 tale horror print anthology put out by the terrific team at Sez Publishing at  http://www.amazon.com/Frightening-collective-work-Sez-Publishing/dp/1519590954/ref=sr_1_1?

The story was inspired by an Anchorage to Dinali cruise I took through the great white state a while back. And if you’ve never been, Alaska truly is like the wild west. Its own frontier, just bursting at the seams for story writers, especially creepy crawly Stephen King kind of stories. (Not that I’m comparing myself to the master. I’m not. Never would.) But his writing is seriously inspirational in that respect, and the Alaskan backdrop basically cries out for that kind of a creep. Santa Claus land, as it turns out, doesn’t only inspire sugarplum dreams of candy canes and mistletoe, but seriously flawed fairy tales gone way the heck and yonder off the beaten track and far down some deserted path instead. Really. Go for yourself and you’ll see what I mean!

I was also blessed to enough to have been asked to guest blog this month on Wendy Van Kamp’s site, http://nowastedink.com/category/guest-posts/. It would be great to see all of you there too, so drop on by and leave your thoughts. All in all, a pretty good January, and it’s only the first week!

If you’ve been following my blog here at all, you know that my first writing love in Noir, and crime fiction. And I’ve been busy writing that stuff too. A novel is in the definite works, and I’m in the trenches slogging it out, making good headway. And I have another short story coming out sometime this year in a pretty well-known publication in the crime writing community. But I hesitate to name it quite yet, as I don’t like to jinx things. But that’s all the more reason for you to keep checking back in on me to keep me honest at posting the dirt first hand as it happens.

My blogging goals this year are simple:

Monday’s Muse posting: Here I’ll post my weekly reads and reviews on classic noir, classic crime fiction, and classic detective novels from the masters of the past who have a thing or three to teach on us on honing our craft. Watch for this week’s post, on Dashiell Hammett’s, “The Thin Man.”

Author to Author: Watch for  weekly posts where I highlight my favorite authors and other bloggers who have put out the business, making my ears stand up in the process with great author to author interviews, and their tips and tricks on how to write better fiction.

Also,  watch for Fun Flash Fiction posts, where I put up a new story a week, as the muse inspires, and or as you submit.

Hope to see you around the campsite and I’ll be looking for your comments, so don’t be shy. And, if you have a piece you want me to put up, feel free to send it. I can’t pay. But if it’s mysterious, intriguing, or just plain weird, send it on over and I’ll consider it. The more the merrier, I always say.

 

Here’s to a rockin’ 2016 all!

Ciao for now,

Lisa

Mondays Muse

Hi all, and happy 2016!

So, to kick off today’s Mondays Muse, I just thought I’d tell you all about Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man,” which I just finished reading. And what a great read it was! If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it recently, it is a super fun must do to add to your 2016 GoodReads list.

Mr. Hammett penned a couple of terrific characters here; a polite, upscale, charming, and engaging couple who live in a fancy New York hotel with a miniature dog and who dine on duck legs and chicken livers in between martini happy hours and solving mysteries. <br>Nick Charles as the retired but easily swayed private detective gets caught back up in a murder mystery when long time friends daughter Dorothy shows up on his doorstep wondering what happened to her father. Of course, he can’t turn down her request for his help, and the story is off and running.

Hammett’s characters are quirky and fun, like Nora, Nick’s boozy but glamorous wife, as is Asta her miniature dog with spirit who pounces her paws ferociously on all who dare enter. And Mimi is a super charged femme fatale, lying and scheming her way to the money, and throwing herself to whoever she can to get what she wants. <br>Hammett hides the thin man incredibly well, right up to the end, keeping us guessing as to his whereabouts. A masterful arrangement of buring the lead, if ever there was! Kept me reading on into the night. Too bad Hammet only wrote the one book with these guys. I would have loved to see more of them!

Check out my Goodreads list for more great reviews, which will be posted here as well as I go through them. My 2016 goal? To get through all the classic noir and crime fiction works I can from the masters past, who definitely have a thing or three to teach us about the craft. Hope you all enjoy reading them as much as I do!
<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/44321941-lisa-ciarfella”>View all my reviews</a>