Monthly Archives: March 2014

Lajos Egri and creative writing for fiction writers

Hungarian Lajos Egri died in 1967 at the age of 1978, yet two of his books are still revered today. “The Art of Dramatic Writing” is about playwriting and “The Art of Creative Writing” works for novels, plays, and scripts for movies and TV. 

He took the opposite view of Aristotle who believed character was secondary to plot. Not Egri, who placed character above all else, who said, “Every type of creative writing depends upon credibility of a character,” and that, “Living, vibrating human beings are still the secret and magic formula of great and enduring writing.”

He believes that the reader, or audience, must see that what happens to the character is real; that the reader, or audience, can identify with the character. That, more than anything, is the hook the draws the reader in. If the emotion of the character is real, then we have the key to identification. Think of your favorite novel or character and ask yourself why you liked the story. I know for me when the characters are ones I identify with, the more I enjoy the story, the more I want to read it, not one chapter, but read until my eyes get tired.

Egri believes a story should begin with the central character in conflict, for “any character. . . will in conflict reveal himself in the shortest time possible.” Perhaps at the beginning of the story the main character is fired from his job for sexual harassment. At this point we do not know if is guilty or innocent, there are questions concerning the woman’s allegations. The man is married, behind in paying bills, and now fired. What does the character do? Whatever he does, the character must have a past, present, and future. The past-whatever it is-shapes how he reacts at present, and what he does now will decide his future. It is not my intent to write the story but to provide an example. We see a character fired for something he may or may not have done-something a reader can identify with; and we see potential conflict between the accuser and the accused. We also wonder how he is going to handle things with his wife, so we have curiosity, something that will make us read to see what he decides to do.

His books are available on Amazon and should be found in good libraries. When your books are in print for over thirty years after your death, you must have written a book that stands the test of time. Egri is worth reading for creative writers.

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Fiction writing made simple

There are those who make writing fiction more complicating than it needs to be. Today I am going to share John Yeoman’s article from writing Village. Not only does he simplify plot, but he does so with humor. Worth reading.

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Do you want to be a famous writer like Ian Maclaren

In one year Ian Maclaren had the number one best selling book “Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush” and the number six book “The Days of Auld Lang Syne.” I am thinking you never heard of him or those books. I will explain shortly. The next year his book “Kate Carnegie and Those Ministers” was the seventh best selling book.

One of my favorite film scenes is the end of Patton, where George C. Scott as Patton is out walking his bulldog near a windmill. It is a long shot of Patton walking in the landscape, the voice over of Patton talking about a returning Roman emperor riding in a chariot in a parade where citizens on both sides of the road are cheering wildly. And Patton says, “And behind him, holding the golden crown was a slave, whispering in the emperors ear a reminder, ‘all fame is fleeting.’

The reason we do not remember Maclaren, except perhaps in Scotland, is that his books were on the best seller list in 1895 and 1896. Fleeting indeed.

You can say I am being unfair (1895!) and I won’t argue. But famous people from my era, the 1960’s, whom everyone knew, are merely names to new generations, names they have never heard.

So if you are a writer, especially an e-book self publisher, are you pursuing fame? It is only a temporary illusion as Maclaren  can attest, as well as Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Alastair Maclean, Irving Wallace, John McDonald, Marshall McLuhan, as well as others. I mention these  writers because they were populist genre writers, except for McLuhan, for it was he who saw the future and wrote about the “medium being the message.” McLuhan can be seen in a brief hilarious scene in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.”

What does fame get you other than a mansion near a beach, an Italians sports car, hot models, tons of money, getting on all the talk shows, having one million followers on Twitter, $85,000 swag gifts at the Oscars, invitations to all the hip New York parties (more models), a summer chateau in the south of France, and inside track to all the latest technology like the next generation of the smart phone called the Mensa.   

The more I think about it, fleeting is good.

For those of you who purchase my e-Books that help me get famous, I will invite you to my place in France and I will take you to the Cannes film festival. You journey starts with one or more purchases. Of course the more you purchase the longer your stay in France. Unless you want my Italian sports car. Take it, I’ll get another.

Loonies in the Dugout:

Loonies in Hollywood:

Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms:


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Is Thomas Pynchon the last invisible man

Thomas Pynchon is 76 and has published novels since his debut noel “V” in 1963. His third Book, “Gravity’s Rainbow” won the 1974 National Book Award and though recommended for the Pulitzer Price, the board over ruled the recommendation believing the book to be unreadable and overwritten, among other negative comments.

He is called, like J. D. Salinger, reclusive, and like Salinger is frequently known to lunch with friends in town,  but unlike Salinger, who has been photographed and filmed, the last know photograph of Pynchon is a black and white and an old one at that, possibly from hos college days at Cornell. CNN once had him on video walking down the street, but they did not identify him as requested by Pynchon himself. 

My point it there might not ever be a writer of his repute who has escaped the media. He does not like being photographed, nor does he do interviews, preferring his work to speak for himself. He likes privacy and, no doubt, secretly likes the mystique built up around him, which has taken on its own mythology. In today’s world of social media and will growing sales of e-Books can an author remain invisible? Authors need a platform we are told. They must market, socialize, promote, do interviews, become branded; in other words, a commodity.

Pynchon gained his reputation and fame as a writer before the digital age, something that surely must make him smile, knowing he comes from the old world of writing and publishing. He may be the last of his kind. The future is digital and perhaps there will be a writer who succeeds without the hoopla of jumping through e-World hoops. That remains to be seen.

The best invisible writer in terms of secrecy was B Traven who wrote, among other books, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “Death Ship.” No one knows his real name. It may have been Ret Marut, but he once claimed his real name was Otto Feige. Or he could have been Berick Traven Torsvan, or perhaps Hal Croves.

I will do my best to be invisible even if each of you buy one of my books.

Loonies in the Dugout:

Loonies In Hollywood:

Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms:

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My award winning e-books and yours

I have the feeling there are more awards in this country than there are people. I frequently run across writers on the Internet who have won awards and I concede we can not know every writer nor know every award, so I assume they are all legitimate, but who can say. I suppose the award can be googled , but I have googled legitimate things and come up empty.

So just between you and me, if you are an e-Book author I say we should give ourselves an award and promote as such.

Example: I can say my e-Book “Loonies in the Dugout” has won the Babe Ruthy Award for historical baseball fiction on pre 1920 baseball with slant towards satire on fame. Hey, my book fits that category to a tee, no wonder I won.

Example 2: My book “Loonies in Hollywood” has won the Cecil B. DeMole Award for Hollywood historical murder e-Novels solved by a fictional writer through a 21st century real writer. I am honored.

Example 3: My book “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms” has won the Edgar Allen Boo Award for a collection of spooky short stories written by a short person living next to a cemetery. I cherish this award. (As an aside-and this is true- yesterday I was listening to my radio and saw it turn off by itself. The radio is in the bedroom, and the bedroom is ten yards away from graves. This is why I write spooky tales.)

Anyway give yourself an award. Fiction writers write fiction-as in made up stories- so why not have made up fictional awards. It makes sense to me and I hope you join me in my crusade to see writers with more award ceremonies than the music industry which has one per month. By the way, my new novel won the Thomas Pinchoff Award for best unfinished novel of 2014.

My award winning baseball novel, humorous, satiric ,and pretty damn good:

My award winning mystery that solves the true life unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor in 1922:

My award winning spooky tales based on true life fiction:

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What’s bad for you is good for your fictional characters

Fictional characters need identifying traits. It goes beyond whether a character smokes a pipe, has an eye twitch, constantly primping hair, tattoos, vices,  their fears, bad habits and on and on. The character should also have things happen to them that can also be used to develop him or her and what better way than to steal from your own experience.

I will use an example of my own life. What you are about to read is from chapter four in a murder mystery I am currently writing. What happened is self explanatory.

I quote: Eveleen was in San Francisco for the weekend. Thanks to Eveleen I eat healthy foods, but left to my own devices with my conscious in Frisco, I am in big trouble. It takes too much time to prepare dishes, and then you have to wash everything. I must confess it is too much work and I am too lazy. The first day I ate a dozen rolls with butter and some grapes, but not much else; the rolls were not eaten all at once mind you, but throughout the day. I used the same approach on day two, though I ate no rolls. It was worse. I had a craving for chocolate pie, so I bought one from a bakery and, like the rolls, ate the pie periodically throughout the day. By nightfall I could feel sugar racing through my veins. I let the jitters play out before going to bed, though I was not that tired. I curled up on my right side in a fetal position, but after a few minutes my stomach was gurgling. It felt like a volcano about to blow, so I sat upright and breathed slowly until the lava flow subsided. Back in my fetal position, the rumbling, grumbling, gurgling started again. This went on four or five times. I gave up, took a blanket and pillow and sat on the sofa, leaning back, and curling into a couch version of a fetal position. I am not sure I slept as I seemed to be in a nether land, neither awake nor asleep. I won’t tell you about my morning bowel movement, nor any others during the day but I will say I had no appetite, not morning, noon, or night. I am aware I have this food disorder, but have trouble stopping myself, and when I found two dozen chocolate chip cookies Evy had baked and hidden in a cupboard I knew I had to get out of the house. I don’t like having dinner by myself, though have no trouble with breakfast or lunch, and since I hate preparing dinner and washing dirty dishes-though I will dry for Evy- I called Clancy to see if she would dine out with me this evening and thankfully for my health she agreed.

Every story needs a plot, but a rest is also needed from time to time and when there is a lull in the action, paint a picture using your experiences and give it to a character. We learn he loves sweets and rolls, does not eat well when his wife is away, and hates having anything to do in the kitchen other than eat, though he will dry dishes, so he’s a helpful husband. It is part of his character portrait that came from the writers experience.

I used life experiences in two novels taking place in 1911 and 1922 and also in my collection of short stories where there is a prominent cemetery where I did have some interesting experiences and used them is stories. Feel free to search and guess.

Loonies in the Dugout:

Loonies In Hollywood:

Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms:

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Warped psyches of writers, real and humorous

Robert DeNiro reading from a teleprompter said on Oscar night about writers, “The mind of a writer can  be a truly terrifying thing; isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

It’s funny, but true. We are always in those states, often in the same moment.

Compare the Oscar quote with Robert Benchley, famed humorist and member of the Algonquin Round table, who once said, ” It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.” Benchley in his humor essay on grammar and creativity said, “Very often I must wait weeks and weeks for what you call “inspiration.” In the meantime I must sit with my quill pen poised in the air over a sheet of foolscap, in case the divine spark should come like a lightning bolt and knock me off my chair on to my head. (This has happened more than once.) . . .

Sometimes, while in the throes of creative work, I get out of bed in the morning, look at my writing desk piled high with old bills, old gloves, and empty ginger-ale bottles, and go right back to bed again. The next thing I know it is night once more, and time for the Sand Man to come around. (We have a Sand Man who comes twice a day, which makes it very convenient. We give him five dollars at Christmas.)

Even if I do get up and put on part of my clothes–I do all my work in a Hawaiian straw skirt and bow tie of some neutral shade–I can often think of nothing to do but pile the books which are on one end of my desk very neatly on the other end and then kick them one by one off to the floor with my free foot.”

Benchley was writing with humor, but humor reveals truth, so from Benchley to today  a writers psyche has not changed. I only wish we knew what Shakespeare had to say about writing and procrastination.

If you want to see some of Benchley’s humorous short films, here is a list from YouTube:



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