Fridays Flash, and Orange Groovy’s…

Orange Groovy’s

Orange-Julius-Strawberry-Banana-Smoothie

Tossing her keys to the dude honking his horn in the Range Rover, Summer threw both legs out of her still running Honda and took off full sprint toward the club’s sprawling entry.

“Park it wherever Mac, I gotta class to teach and I’m already almost ten minutes late.”

Mac, whose solid looking guns hung out of the drivers window, flipped her the bird but she knew he’d get over it eventually. She’d done it before to him and most of the others, and they always did somehow. Especially since everyone knew that the instructors had dibs in the lot, and really, what else could they do? Her new Nikes pounded down hard on the pavement taking the brunt of her speed and she could still hear the honking from his horn and his screams as she flew inside.

“What the hell Summer! Just caz you work here don’t mean you can just ditch your ride any old time and leave it to me to figure where to land it.”

Summer turned quick on her heels, giving Mac a quick thumbs up right before sliding inside, and past Ramone at the front desk. She’d buy Mac a power smoothie later to make up for it. His favorite, the “Orange Groovy” concoction the snack stand guy made usually helped pave these things over. Ramone was busy checking in members and scanning their cards, as usual. He was always fighting with someone over something, since most LA Fitness members were mostly muscle heads, and tended to like a good roe now and then. But being late for her class, she couldn’t have cared less. She was more concerned with Ross, the club manager, who she saw waving frantically from behind his desk as he multi-tasked two phones and a waiting client, sitting in the chair in front of him. She could see him mouthing his usual rave, even from half way across the room:

“Summer” he screamed out. “You’re late. There’s a whole room full of people waiting on you back there and I already got Jason calling on a sub. One more time Summer, just once more, and that’s it. You’ll be teaching classes out on the street.”

She smiled and did the only thing she knew how to do, and the only thing that might appease him. She gave him the double thumbs up. But she didn’t have time to stick around to find out if it worked. There were probably over 100 people waiting on her in the aerobics room and she knew they wanted to move fast, and something fierce! So she hightailed it down the long hall and bounded up onto the platform stage, jammed in her music tape and switched on her microphone. Tone Loc’s Funky Cold Medina’s cool sounds filled up the room while the crowd grooved right and grooved left, and before she knew it, the hour was over. Sweat filled her eyes and down the back of her neck. She grabbed her towel, chatted with a few of the newbies who always liked to introduce themselves, and headed on out toward the front. The thought of that smoothie sounded good now, so she headed on over to the snack bar to find Mac, only to see a line of Paramedics carrying stretchers down the hall.

“Jason, what the hell is happening out here? Why are these Fireman here?”

Jason looked up from his desk, covered in LA Fitness water bottles and fliers. A scantily clad girl in a leotard sat in the chair opposite, waiting for him to take her money.

“Jezus Summer, they’re Paramedics, not fireman. And I don’t know. One minute he was serving smoothies, as usual. The next, he was face down on the floor. Just happened like ten minutes before your class finished. Ross called the paramedics in.”

“No way” Summer said. “ Who? The juice guy? You gotta be kidding me? I was just going over to get an Orange Groovy. Wow. But how, I mean, why?”

Jason handed the girl in front of him some cash and a water bottle. She leaned over the table and signed the contract.

“I don’t know man. Like I said, one minute, the guy’s pouring drinks. The next, boom!”

Summer backed up from Jason’s desk and slowly headed toward the commotion. The paramedics were busy loading the snack stand’s man into the stretcher and trying to clear out some space between them and the door. People were gawking all around. She reached up and let out her pony tail, untied her Nikes and slid down the wall to the carpet to make room. She sat there watching as a stretcher with a still body paraded past, and out into the night. Snack stand man was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. She leaned her head back up against the wall, and wondered, if they would they ever get their Orange Groovy’s again.

 

Fun Flash Fiction Fridays…

BPM’s – Hey Mr. DJ…

(by yours truly)  

DJ Image

Image courtesy of DJ Nederland (@NLDJTwitter

Bill sat high up in his DJ tower over looking the frenzied dance crowd down below. He had just started spinning Madonna’s Vogue and the players on the floor were hitting some serious poses. One guy had his right arm up in a salute and the chick he’d been slapping around had her face down in his crotch, tongue going up and down fast, in perfect time to the beats, pretending to do the nasty.

Her licks looked like they were coming in right on target, about 125 per minute. The tongue never seemed to slow down.

Another couple on the floor was bee bopping in 2/4 time and was swinging his partner round in circles like a rag doll. But they were hitting their marks perfectly every time. Not bad considering he had to get her all the way around to land it. But that Janet Jackson crew over in the far corner carving out a semi perfect rendition of Rhythm Nation, now they were impressive! Banging it out on the down beat, 130 beats per minute exact.

Boy, were they ever on point! Looked like their troupe had been practicing since they were born. Not a foot out of line, not a step right when it should have been left. A precision drill team, hitting their marks, spot on every time. Bill would have to stay on his game to keep this this crowd grooving happy.

He leaned down to pick out the next set of discs. Let’s see. Kool and the Gang’s newest on the Celebrate CD was calling to him. It was 125 to 135 BPM’s all the way, right on track with what the crews were slamming out down below. But to be sure, he needed to count it.

He grabbed the massive headphones and stuck them on his ears. Madonna shouted in his left ear, while K and gang rang in his right. He counted, drumming the reps out with his fingers.

              Eight reps per set, eight sets per move, two moves per step down below. 130 beats per minute That’s what he was going for. A disco ball flashed in his face. He squinted and held out the left ear to hone in;

              95, 100, 110, 120, Nailed it! With a flick of his wrist, he spun the disk round hard and let her rip. 

              Let’s Get this party started, ya’ll.

 

 

Thirty Dog Thursday, anyone???

30 dogs mugging for the camera

Thanks to spectacular photo for this.

OK, who hid the bones?

And just where might you fit in??

Sweet, sour, sexy, or salty? These guys got it all covered!

Not sure which is me, but I’m considering the little one in the front, all the way  to the right – Black and white, with small ears and a big smile. Or maybe, the black poodle-doodle in the third row right – with the curly hair and white chest markings!

 

What’s got you barking today??

Any way you slice it…Gotta luv a good dog face! 

 

Blogging and Me: Three Years Later and Seven Lessons In

Michelle at The Green Study shares some Blogging 101 tips. Informative, interesting, and inciteful words here, author to author!
Enjoy!

The Green Study

The Writing WallThree years ago yesterday I typed my first post called Climbing the Wall. It was a little 488 word ditty about starting something new. My public writing had always been confined to my high school paper or departmental newsletters. I once had a poem published in a town paper and that still remains the height of my writing career. I was 10.

canstockphoto7296234This is all to say that the first post felt like a very big deal. I didn’t really understand blogging or the fact that there were a million people like me doing the exact same thing, shooting off their words into an echo chamber. With trepidation and anxiety, I hit the Publish button. And then nothing happened.

Three years and 259 blog posts later, here is what I’ve learned about blogging and about myself as a blogger:

Blogging, Inc. is not my thing. I’ve gone several…

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Award winning crime fiction author Les Edgerton, on how to dump the “Rubber Ducky”….

( Much thanks to Virginai Mcgreggor for original blog post)

” A good example of a Ducky that never comes up is Thelma and Louise. It becomes clear over the course of the movie that something terrible happened to Louise (Susan Sarandon) in Texas; that’s why the two women take the long way around to the Mexican border. You begin to realize that she must have been raped in Texas, and then disbelieved in court. That she probably shot her attacker…But Louise never says anything explicit about it in the movie, and that makes her backstory all the stronger. It’s only delivered via hints.And, the first hint doesn’t even appear until more than a third of the way into the movie.” (Edgerton)

WRITING MASTERCLASS BY LES EDGERTON: (THE DANGER OF BACKSTORY (OR THE RUBBER DUCKY)

original_ppp3

Les Edgerton is a wonderful novelist and writing teacher. His life and his writing are an inspiration. Here is one of his blog posts on the danger of including  backstory  – or, as he calls it the ‘Rubber Ducky.’ It’s a typically no-nonsense and hugely helpful  kick up the backside as regards focusing on writing what matters to readers.

(From Sydney Lumet’s and Paddy Chayevsky’s writings on the subject.)

I am going to rant about the ‘Rubber Ducky’ theory of backstory for a bit. I’m using material from Sydney Lumet and Paddy Chayevsky, which were intended for screenwriters, but apply just as much for novelists.

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.

It’s always a nice scene, well acted, beautifully lit, with a powerfully written monolog that the writer spent days on. And totally unnecessary in most stories and overused… It usually comes from not trusting the reader’s or viewer’s intelligence to “get it”…

It’s also the source for many of those godawful “prologues” in newer writer’s manuscripts. It’s often their protagonist’s Rubber Ducky and as such is a total waste of paper and/or electrons.

The character’s past may be crucial to your story. Batman is haunted by the murder of his parents by a mugger when he was small. That’s why he likes to dress up in latex and beat the tar out of muggers. In The Terminator, the hero’s past, which is in the future, is the hellish future of the entire human race. It sets up the stakes for the whole movie. In movies like these, we do need to know about the hero’s past. You will need to keep coming back to that past, to give it the weight it deserves. Both Batman and The Terminator, in fact, start with the hero’s backstory before getting into the main story.

But if all you’re trying to do is give your hero more emotional depth, for the sake of emotional depth, without integrating his backstory into your story, you are running the risk of awakening the dread Ducky.

The strongest way to create a sense of character is to give the character things to do and say on screen that give us a sense of a person. If the character’s personality doesn’t leap off the page, readers will feel that the character is flat. And personality is created by how he or she reacts to the obstacles encountered in the struggle. How he or she is proactive in resolving the story problem and isn’t simply reactive or passive. Development executives will ask to know more about the protagonist’s past. You will surrender to the urge to put in a Rubber Ducky. Then if the picture becomes a go, the actors will get attached to the Rubber Ducky scene, because it shows they can Act. So the Ducky stays in the picture. (To its detriment.)

In novels, the same thing happens when the characters are seen as flat. Many times, in my classes and in private coaching of novelists, I’ve advised the writer that their protagonist just wasn’t interesting. Almost always, the first reaction is to give him/her a Rubber Ducky, thinking that giving him some traumatic experience in his or her past will render him a more interesting character. Except… it doesn’t. Way back then, when the Ducky took place, sure, that may have been interesting. That was then, this is now. The Ducky is ancient history. The reader knows the character survived so it loses most of its emotional punch.

Almost always the core reason the character is flat is because the author is delivering him one of two ways.

One, he gives us a character who is predominantly in his mind. We’re mostly witnessing the protagonist’s thoughts. He’s just not doing anything but… musing. Musing doesn’t affect the emotion of a reader. Only one thing affects the readers’ emotions—the character acting on his/her behalf to resolve a problem. With… action.

The second way the protagonist is rendered uninteresting is that he engages in a lot of dialog. He “solves” story problems by… talking. It’s the same thing, basically, as a character ruminating about in his head. The only difference is the writer is delivering the same thing by having the character say those thoughts out loud. To another character. While dialog is part of action, that brand of dialog isn’t. This is a common fault of beginning screenwriters as well as novelists. Newer screenwriters, in particular, have bought into a myth that movies are mostly dialog. Plays are, but screenplays really aren’t. A successful movie works the same way as a successful novel. The audience wants to see the characters doing something. Sometimes, that “something” is dialog, but far less than many think. A movie that depends on heavy doses of dialog has a name. It’s called a “talking heads” movie. A novel that depends on heavy doses of dialog has a name as well. It’s called “unpublished.” Or, “self-published.”

A too-obvious Ducky cheapens the character.

Kurt Russell’s character Jack O’Neil in Stargate is suicidal because his young son killed himself accidentally with a pistol he left around the house. To make us care more about his otherwise unpleasant character, O’Neil delivers a small monologue to James Spader’s character Daniel Jackson. It is important to the picture that O’Neil is suicidal, but not why; and given O’Neil’s contempt for Daniel Jackson, it’s unlikely that he would open up to him about his guilt and shame. The emotional truth of the situation is that Daniel Jackson would never know why O’Neil is so willing to die. It might have been more emotionally truthful for the movie never to relay this information. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Kurt Russell wanted the audience to know that his character had a good reason for being such a bastard. Actors want you to have sympathy for them.

A good example of a Ducky that never comes up is Thelma and Louise. It becomes clear over the course of the movie that something terrible happened to Louise (Susan Sarandon) in Texas; that’s why the two women take the long way around to the Mexican border. You begin to realize that she must have been raped in Texas, and then disbelieved in court. That she probably shot her attacker which was why she ended up in jail. But Louise never says anything explicit about it in the movie, and that makes her backstory all the stronger. It’s only delivered via hints. And, the first hint doesn’t even appear until more than a third of the way into the movie.

If development execs are asking you for the Ducky, the screenplay isn’t working for them. Don’t give them the Ducky, but do focus your scenes so they show the character.

Go through your script again, scene by scene, and make sure that every time the hero acts, it shows us who he is.

Make sure you communicate how he feels about what he’s doing, and give him a fresh way of doing it, one someone else wouldn’t have… If an agent or an editor gives you the same note, use the same strategy for making the protagonist interesting—one the reader will want to follow. Not to see his brilliant and riveting thoughts… but to see how he struggles against huge odds to gain his objective. And in original ways. Then, you’ll have an interesting character.

Sidney Lumet said:

In the early days of television, when the kitchen sink school of realism held sway, we always reached a point where we explained the character. Around two-thirds of the way through, someone articulated the psychological truth that made the character the person he was. [Paddy] Chayefsky and I used to call this The Rubber Ducky School of Drama: ‘Someone once took his rubber ducky away from him, and that’s why he’s a deranged killer.’ That was the fashion then, and with many producers and studios it still is.

I always try to eliminate the rubber-ducky explanations. A character should be clear from his present actions. And his behavior as the picture goes on should reveal the psychological motivations. If the writer has to state the reasons, something’s wrong in the way the character has been written.

And finally…

The same principles apply to memoir. A memoir that is based mostly on the author’s own Rubber Ducky, is one that is probably going to end up largely a victim story. Unfortunately, those are pretty much over. That becomes a ‘me’ story and we’re not much interested in those these days.

Create your characters in the ‘present’ of your story. Give him or her a compelling problem and put obstacles in their path and give them really cool and interesting (and unexpected) ways to overcome those obstacles.

Keep out of their heads as much as possible. Not entirely—just less than you might be tempted to. Not as much going on in there as you might think…

Hope this helps!

Blue skies,

Les

The muse needs exercise as much as the body

Having Trouble with your writing muse?
Author/blogger Lisa L Jackson shares her tips for re-generating those ideas, and getting them down on the paper. In spite of feeling stymied. Read on for some great ideas:

Live to Write - Write to Live

We all know that it’s important to exercise our bodies. But it’s also as important to exercise the muse.

Without exercise, the body can waste away, get used to inactivity to the point where it doesn’t want to do anything, or even stop working all together.

The writing muse is similar — without regular activity, the muse will get bored, turn its back on you when you call, or not respond at all.Exercise the muse (1)

As with physical exercise, you want to start slow and build up. With a sudden burst of I’m-getting-in-shape-once-and-for-all, you can head off to the gym and lift weights and get an hour of cardio in and feel fabulous, and then be so sore you can barely move the next few days.

Likewise, if writing inspiration hits and 7,000 words pour onto a page in a day, you can feel quite energized, maybe even imagine your worldwide book…

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