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How a rubber band can help creativity for writers

Many moons ago, before the Internet and social media, when our culture was a primordial miasma of goo, I spent a Saturday on the USC campus taking a test. Not just any test, and not one having anything to do with college. There were hundreds of people from all over the country, some from foreign countries for all I knew and all of us vying for a handful of spots in Hollywood’s entrance program for second assistant directors. 

Being young and dumb I thought the test would have many questions related to filmmaking. I was wrong, for the most part at least. Most of the test was standard IQ garbage; math, English, and those stupid questions regarding how to fold something that only engineering students could figure out.

But there was something that was challenging. It had to do with everyday objects and finding another use for them. It challenged your creativity. Name five uses for a rubber band for instance other than its intended use. I will give you one. Dental floss.

This is a good exercise for writers. Not only does it spur one’s imagination, but is useful for character development. Imagine a character in a story who periodically takes out a rubber band and uses it to floss. Why? Maybe he is eccentric. Maybe he doesn’t like that minty flavor. Maybe he has a rubber fetish. The point is that it becomes a character signature. I imagine this character with the rubber band floss to be a villain. Ian Fleming’s Blofeld had his cat, my villain has his rubber band.

Of course the character does not have to be a villain. The character could be psychologically compulsive, neurotic, or the rubber band could be used as a security blanket for a damaged character.

So for all of you writers or artists, or those who just want to test themselves. look at everyday objects and find a different use for them. A tire, a mug, a pencil, your underwear. It does not matter what it is. Whatever you see, come up with some creative use.

As for my test results, I did not make the final cut. Not even close. I did so poorly they told me to never come back. In fact I was barred from Hollywood and greater Los Angeles. Had I been thinking smartly I would have found creative uses for this one page notice I received in the mail. Pin it to the wall  to use as inspiration and motivation, the ‘I will show you’ signature. Or use it to create a paper boat and then take a bath and have my rubber ducky attack the boat and destroy it like Godzilla destroys a cruise ship.

Now you know why I failed. But don’t let my failure stop you from this exercise. It does work. The dental floss proves it.

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

Website: http://terrynelson.net/

 

 

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How is this beginning for my new mystery novel

 

 

I would like your opinion on the beginning of my new e-novel. I would reveal the title, but I love it too much to share until it is released next month. This is a preview if you wish, the first five paragraphs of chapter one.  Does it hook you into the story?

 

I have never killed anyone. I’m a writer for God’s sake. I have killed off fictional characters, but never a real person. But events beyond my control would change that.

If you have gone to work and discovered a dead man sitting in your chair, his head lying on your oak desk, blood pooling up with thick red droplets spilling slowly over the desk’s edge to splatter on the tile floor, his arms hanging limply towards the floor, one eye closed, the other vacantly staring at me, then you have an idea how my day started. I am not being insensitive. His day was worse than mine. But why was he at my desk? He was no stranger as I met him once, but at that time I knew little about him and when I discovered who he was, well, it was both a surprise and a mystery. Funny he never said anything about it when we met.

This was my second encounter with murder, having five years earlier solved the murder of film director William Desmond Taylor. I say solved as if I am a detective, but the truth of the matter, for I will only tell you the truth, is that the killer confessed to me, and did so at my office at then Famous Players-Lasky, now called Paramount, where I wrote scenarios and title cards for movies. I use the word ‘wrote’ in past tense, for I will no longer write title cards, but scenarios with dialogue. But that is my problem.

Anyway, only the killer of Taylor and I know the truth. Well, we two, along with the killer’s mother, possibly the sister and grandmother, maybe a policeman or two, assorted studio heads, and certainly the former District Attorney. As you can guess the case is solved only unofficially. Perhaps the case is still open, but I doubt if anyone is seriously trying to find the killer, and if so, they will never find him-or her. I have not even told my dear wife Eveleen, which I feel guilty about because she was with me at each stage of my so called investigation, though adventure is more like it. She is more adventurous than I am, and though I will not tell her this, she is also smarter. The killer swore me to silence and I honor my word, even to killers. I could have been a priest, except I am not Catholic, and not really religious, but people for some reason confide in me. Besides, the killer told me what happened, that it was an accident, and the explanation had the ring of truth. Eveleen, however, may not agree, and I want to put all that behind me; nothing to be gained now. For the record I am not convinced it was an accident.

But I am guessing you are more interested in the murder of Hans Bachmann. That is the man sitting in my chair; his head on my oak desk, blood flowing from a gaping slit across his throat. He had not been dead long.

Comments welcome

http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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Writers should type slower and read slower

I have discovered why I was making numerous-and I mean numerous- typos when I wrote and it has to do with my brain-and possibly your brain as well. My problem is that my mind works too fast, or should say worked too fast, because I have slowed things down.

What I mean is that when I typed my brain saw an entire phrase or entire sentence and my fingers could not keep pace with the speed that my brain was pouring out words like a monsoon in June. Now when I type I see one word at a time-though there is a long line of subjects, verbs, nouns, and assorted other cousins behind the first word, they do not get lost, nor do they leave to return when the line is shorter. At first the slow pace was frustrating, but with practice the pace picked up and I see the keyboard better and the letters I must stroke come quickly, but not at the break neck speed that created typos so ridiculous that some were not translatable.That is scary believe me. I can’t write long hand because my handwriting looks like something carved on a stone in ancient Egypt in need of a cryptologist.

Reading slower is also good for another reason. I do read, or try to read, fast when reading a book, just not my own. (For some reason I can read a book on Kindle faster than a hard copy, real book.) As a writer when you proofread you must read slow; I repeat you must read slow. Chances are the entire paragraph is set in your mind, perhaps the entire chapter if not the entire book are embedded in your mind and when you read the page your mind sees what is set in your mind, not what is on the page. Your brain must read slow, letter by letter, comma by comma. It is too easy to miss if you read fast.

Thanks for reading. I hope you did not read the blog to fast.

 

 

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How my biggest flaw affects my writing

Here is a list of books that all have one thing in common: Walter Johnson-Baseball’s Big Train; Willie Mays-The Life the Legend; Jane Fonda-My Life So Far; Making Movies by Sidney Lumet; I remember Nothing by Nora Ephron; Tinsel Town by William J. Mann; 2666 by Roberto Bolano; Clouds over the Goalpost by Lew Freedman; Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck; Winter Moon by Dean Koontz; and If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock. These books plus the Kindle version of Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas and a collection of locked room mysteries add to thirteen books. (If I counted correctly).

As you can see they represent a wide range of interest-baseball, football, biography, movies, popular fiction, and literary fiction. What they have in common is they are books I have started, am currently reading, but have failed to finish.

Honest.

It’s sad I suppose, but let me explain. All the books are well written, all are interesting, but my problem is I want to read everything all at once. I also have other books I could start, but am trying to hold off. I do know I will finish Brock’s novel first as I am hooked on it for personal reasons. I will finish all the above, but probably other books will get read before some of those unfinished ones.

In addition to wanting to read everything at once-and I always seem to remember everything once I get back into the book-I believe my character flaw is that I like the journey better than endings. I love beginnings, get engrossed in the journey, but don’t want the journey to end. Perhaps it is because an end is like a death and I enjoy the living journey. Endings in fiction are better than real life, but I have this psychological issue that has come with aging.

This affects my writing in a negative way. It means I love to start a book, getting things going, then I slow down because I hate to end my story. The book I am currently writing should have been done months ago, but I find reasons-excuses-to not finish. Some reasons are good. A friend of mine was dying so I made two trips to see him before he passed. Other excuses are doing things that you tell yourself are important, but aren’t.

In truth I want to finish my book so I can start another. And despite what I just said I do like to finish my books. I am inconsistent in my thinking, being a flawed human you see.

But I have finished two e-novels and a collection of short stories so I know I can get it done. And I absolutely loved the endings of my stories.

If you want some endings my Amazon page for my e-books are found here: http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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Spell Czech the writers worst enemy

Most writers believe their worst enemy is a bad review, but it is  not. I have one bad review-the person had trouble reading the last chapter, but no matter. I went to new Orleans and found a Cajun voodoo priestess who took care of that person for me.  I will not reveal her name or what she did. I am sure you understand why. The real enemy is spell check. We know the problems with spell check, but it can not be stressed enough.

The computer is smart, but not smart enough to know what you mean and the grammar is suggests is sometimes laughable. I bring this problem up because even professional writers in their Kindle eBooks have misspellings.  It is easy to miss certain words when you don’t see the obvious red squiggly line underneath a word when you look at the screen. Even during an edit words can be missed. Two words ‘there’ and ‘their’ can be a problem and ‘are and ‘our’ are another. And in the first paragraph above I found the word ‘stresses’ and it should be ‘stressed’. I found it when I proofread.

The problem during an edit is that the eyes read faster than the mind can process and ‘there’ can be missed for ‘their’. During an edit it is easy to scan. You know what you wrote so the mind is familiar, it does not give it a second thought-just like a programed spell check. I hate to point this out, but the only way to catch some of the misspellings is not to read, but proofread and that is a pain in the hemorrhoid.

In proofreading you do not read the word, you look at the letters. It is a slow, and I do mean slow process. Slugs move faster. But in the end you do want the work to look professional, so you take the pain.

I read the paragraph first, then a second time a read a sentence, then read the word. If you have a method, a process, you find yourself inching faster just a wee bit. I would also point out that regular books published by New York publishers sometimes have errors in them. That means the author, the editor, and the proofreader, all missed the word. Mistakes happen, but we should work to eliminate as many as we can. Readers will catch those darn things you know and we need not subject them to that. And yes, I am sure I have made some. If you find any in my books feel free to point them out to me.

http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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Stephen King blows up plots

I can’t count the number of times I have heard writing coaches, or read in magazines like Writers Digest, or in books on writing, discuss plot . . and blah, blah, blah.

But Stephen King in his book “On Writing” has blown up plots. He writes that plots are incompatible with creative spontaneity. He believes stories “pretty much make themselves.” He is right.

Plotting a story is cumbersome and if a writer maps it out before setting out to write the story, then he must follow his plot outline. Having a plot stifles; it dictates what you have to write, where you have to go. There is no room for creative spontaneity.

I believe, as many writers do, that characters tell your story. Before I became a writer I heard writers talk about characters dictating the story. I thought they were nuts. But when I set out to write my first e-novel and the other books I have done or am doing, I found it to be true. The characters you create take on their own life, they move the story forward. Plot? Don’t need it, don’t want it.

I will go even further. It is heresy I am sure, but I pay no attention to story arc or character arc. Rules, blues. Liberate your self from the constraint of constipated dictums.

First comes the situation. In my short story “Flowers for Martha Clemens” an elderly man goes to a cemetery, digs up a grave, and then does something shocking. The story unfolds with two threads; one followed by a missing persons detective, the other by a young cop, neither of which realize their threads are part of the same case. I knew what the man with the shovel did, but I did not plot the story. I made things up as I went along, letting the detective navigate what he discovered back to the grave in the cemetery.

I like all the characters I have created. They live in their world and they neither want nor want a plot. They like their freedom.

My short story mentioned above is found in “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms.” http://www.amazon.com/Cemetery-Tales-other-Phantasms-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00G9JND9Q/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

And by the way, Chet Koski, a character I created for two novels with his third story on the way, has another blog for you to read. https://myrealfictionallife.wordpress.com/

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What John Gould taught Stephen King

I have not written a blog since December 14th. Hard to find the time when shopping for gifts and stuffing myself with Christmas cookies, cupcakes, candies, assorted treats, ham dinner, and New Years Eve Kahlua. There are other excuses, but we won’t go there.

Let’s begin the new year with what John Gould, editor of Lisbon, Maine’s, newspaper, who, according to Stephen  King, taught him the most valuable lesson on writing. King writes about it in his book “On Writing,” a book every aspiring writer should read.

What Gould said was, “When you write a story, your telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” The advice is simple and makes sense. The first sentence about writing the story for yourself tells me to write it the way you want to, using anything that comes to mind; forget editing, let your mind go and worry about everything else later. You are writing for yourself. The second sentence is when you have to let go. When you rewrite you are telling the story to the reader. You must ask yourself if every scene, every bit of dialogue, every scene, helps the reader.

In my first e-novel, “Loonies in the Dugout,” I cut out an entire dream sequence near the end of the book. There was nothing bad about the writing, but the scene did not advance the story, did not enlighten in any way, did not reveal anything about the character we did not know, and I asked myself why in the world do I have a dream sequence when I hate dream sequences. Out you go. I deleted the scene into cyberspace where it floats for eternity with no place to go. Good riddance.

You can not fall in love with your story when you rewrite and edit. That is why it is set aside for a period time long enough for you to approach with some degree of objectivity, looking at through the eyes, not of an author, but through the eyes of a reader.

My Amazon author’s page. http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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