Tag Archives: Reading

Let the reader be unaware while being aware

In a previous blog I talked about ending a chapter in my book with a character named Pamela slowly opening the door to a shack deep in the woods. A writer always hopes to end a chapter leaving something that makes the reader start the next chapter, always a good idea because it prevents the reader from raiding the refrigerator or cupboards for comfort food while reading your comfort story. You kids out there-eat healthy snacks.

There are two good methods for this. One is to pick up where you left off and this I did at the beginning of the next chapter. You keep the action and story moving.

But there is another method and that will frustrate the reader-and in this case it is a good thing. And that is to delay what the reader expects is going to happen. At the end of the chapter in which we find out what is in the shack, three characters are deciding what to do with new information they learned that clouds the murder investigation they are working on.

This time I do not pick up where I left off, but begin the next chapter with what would be termed in film language as a jump cut. I cut to a conversation with an unknown person telling a story. But who? After whoever tells a lengthy story one of the three characters from the previous chapter asks a question of the unknown narrator of the story. So the chapter begins with a story and reader has no idea who is talking. Only after the three characters ask questions of the storyteller do they find out who he is and how they came together for the conversation.

Good writing gets the reader to the point where they must know what happens next-keeps them away from cookies and such you know-and cutting the chapter with a cliffhanger is one way, and beginning a chapter with something unexpected that keeps the reader reading to find out what is going on is another.

If you can do this trick with seamless precision the reader is unaware of what you are doing-and if they do they are glad you know what you are doing- and they are aware they must keep reading.

The following e-book has no chapters just short stories, but I think you will keep reading them. It is here at Amazon

coyotemoon_cemetaryb

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Writers are liars

Let me be specific. While non-fiction writers and journalists sometimes make errors in research, get their facts wrong, or shade their story to suit their bias, overt or otherwise, I am talking fiction writers. They are all liars.

Their is no Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. No Sherlock Holmes or James Bond. There was no Ahab chasing a whale (didn’t he have something better to do?) and there is no Count Dracula with a neck fetish. All lies. None of it is true.

Jane Austen lied to you, as did Mark Twain, and yes even contemporary writers like Thomas Pynchon, Gillian Flynn, Roberto Bolano, Umberto Eco, Paula Hawkins, and every other writer in the entire history of literature. Al liars.

So why do we read these insidious devils who have trampled on one of the ten commandments? I think lying is one, but I’m not sure, I don’t pay attention to most of the commandments; but if it isn’t a commandment it should be. And while we are at it, there is nothing wrong with looking at my neighbors wife. Touching is out, but looking should be okay.

We read these liars, to get back to the point, because in reading these lies we see truth. For within the lies are emotional truths we recognize as our own; the experience we see that happens with the characters we recognize as our experience, even if the action is crazy. We might not be astronauts, but the feelings they have, the experience they have we can identify with. We can empathize.

Unlike Ahab, I will not chase a whale. I get seasick. But I understand his motivation; I know why he goes on the insane hunt. I will not venture to Dracula’s castle (yes there is one) for I have heard rumors about him and know to stay away from people who avoid the sun. I also know to use garlic and carry a cross. This is what happens when you believe the lie. It becomes real, you see.

So if you want to be a writer who wants to tell the truth of the world, then start writing lies. We all do. And it works.

My lies at Amazon

 

 

 

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Don’t think when writing, instead see

The worst thing a writer can do is think. First, it is a waste of brain cells, and second, thinking gets in the way of creativity. Call it Zen. Ray Bradbury did in his book “Zen and the Art of Writing.” He says what other writers have said and when more than one tell you it is so, and you can verify by your experience, you know they are correct.

I have experienced it many times, none more so, then when I wrote 2,700 words in three hours.

When writing you visualize in your cinematic brain what is happening in the scene. As a writer you know every scene has a purpose, a beginning, middle, and an end, or at least a hanging chad type of ending, one that leads the reader to the next scene, because they can’t put the book down, not yet anyway, got to keep reading, because there is that chad hanging on and the need to find out what that chad means.

Example: I wrote a scene where three people come across a car they were looking for, the car of someone who is missing. The car is on an isolated road. They follow the dirt road in a misty rain, the road overgrown with weeds, hardly, if ever used. (since I write on the fly, I have no idea where they are going). But as they go down the road, I see the road in my cinematic brain. I see the rain- and see it is misty, so I write that it is misty. I see the weeds, I see the tall grass, and I describe what I am looking at. I see the bear in the middle of the road. I see the bear raise up and let loose a tree shaking, knee buckling growl.

What happens then is not important (hanging chad), at least to the point I am making. A writer sees and writes what he sees, and what he sees is shaped into a story. So don’t think, sit back and visualize and then report what is going on, what is being said. At the end of the day-or days, you will have a story.

The hanging chad resolved: one of the three, a woman raised in an area where bears would be encountered, knew how to shout and yell to scare the bear off. They then come upon a weather beaten old shack that they approach slowly; the woman who scared off the bear slowly turns the knob on the front door. (another hanging chad)

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A book lovers dream house

room with viewA book lover by nature wants a house with a view and especially a view of water. Here we have a nice corner nook with a wooden floor (book lovers don’t go in for plush shag carpeting) with a tasteful rug, and a comfortable chair with armrests. And of course you notice two shelf bookcases filled with books. In the middle of the picture between those two cushions is an area for cheese and crackers and a glass of wine. Or, if you are like me, a dozen maple bars.

This area is one in which you read the classics. It is perfect for Homer’s Odyssey, The Last Days of Socrates by Plato, Paradise Lost, but nothing of Thoreau. You take Thoreau when you go camping.

Having immersed yourself in the classics during the week, you can read cozy mysteries here on weekends.

 

 

 

home libraryTo the right you is a picture you see a wonderful library guarded by your dog-he comes with the house-and you notice his front legs are ready to spring into action as a true guard dog would do in protecting your library. On the other hand he could be thinking you are bringing him a treat. And look at the most comfy chair to snuggle up with a book and the small side table for more wine-Riesling, for this room, red for the corner nook above. A must have spiral staircase and a ladder for checking out all the great references books like The Oxford History of the Classical World, or The Complete Sherlock Holmes, or perhaps John Fowles, but not Harold Robbins or Jackie Collins.

And I am sure you notice the window facing the armchair. If you don’t like the view you can place a High-definition TV there in order to watch Masterpiece Theatre, then read Thackeray, Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and Kurt Vonnegut.

 

 

closet book nookAnd here we have a wonderful Nook. This can be your office. I think the room is too feminine and the horse and rider must go along with the wallpaper. This room is a fixer-upper.

But it has great potential with perhaps the most comfortable place to read in the house. It is also a place where you are more liable to fall asleep so you want more light reading here. Or books you don’t want any visitors to know that you read. You know who I mean, Harold Robbins-but Tom Robbins is perfect; not Jackie Collins, but Willkie Collins is okay.

It is also a cozy place to settle in with your significant other and read erotica together. If no ‘other’ is available, this is a good spot for your cat to settle onto your lap and purr as you read the play script of Cats. And you can serenade your pet with songs from the play.

I suggest doing that last bit when no company is in the house, otherwise you are likely to end up in therapy.

 

Here we have a unique chair. The cushion looks comfy, but your elbows may have to rest on the tops of books as they are taller than the chairs side. I recommend paperbacks on the top so that problem is eliminated. The type of books are cop thrillers, suspense, horror-Dean Koontz and Stephen King-and fast summer types of reads.

book chair

 

 

 

 

 

And now to bed.

 

bookbed

 

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Dispatch from the proofreading war zone; casualties reported

writing

The reason I look like our friend to the left is because I emphasize with him after 1, 269 run-throughs of proofreading my new e-novel “Silent Murder.” I have the book in the formatter and am finding missing periods. Were they not there previously? Have they left of their own accord? Are they holding out for some reason? Have I mistreated them somehow?

Then there are quotation marks. Some are indented the wrong way; some, of course, are missing, having no doubt run off with a  few periods. They do hang out together from time to time. I am in the sixth chapter of proofreading and so far these are the two main attacks on my story.

Yes I said attacks.

You see I am suspicious of the formatter. I try to edit and change the punctuation, but every time my finger hits a keystroke nothing shows up for about 30 seconds. I receive a message that it is slow to respond. Thank you for the update. Otherwise, how would I have known.

It would appear the formatter is aiding and abetting the escape of periods and quotation marks; not only that, it will not correct the quotation marks that are there, but need to be moved one space. It would not surprise me in the least if the formatter is behind the plot, but more investigation is needed.

The thing is you see, I had done proofreading prior to uploading to the formatter and though after innumerable run throughs where everything looked on the up and up, I expected a few aberrations, but really, what I have found leads me to suspect sabotage. It is as if punctuation either does not like the formatter, have been killed in the transfer, or do not wish to live outside word.doc. Perhaps they are afraid of getting lost in the Amazon jungle of a million e-books.

At any rate. This is where I am. Resting on a branch, exhausted from chasing down escaped punctuation.

The war will continue despite the brief respite. It is far from over. Like Douglas MacArthur I shall return, and in the end I shall be victorious. Until some reader points out an error in my book. War is Hell.

My website is here-unless it too has disappeared.

My previous books with included punctuation are here.

 

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The Last Tycoon’s great advice for fiction writers and screenwriters

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel “The Last Tycoon” could have been his greatest had he not died after 60,000 words, but it does have one scene between Hollywood mogul, Monroe Stahr (based on Irving Thalberg, the boy genius of MGM) and a novelist and would be screenwriter named Boxley. Here is the scene from the novel that worked so beautifully in the movie directed by Elia Kazan with Robert DeNiro as Stahr.

Stahr is talking.

“Suppose you’re in your office. You’ve been fighting duels or writing all day and you’re too tired to fight or write any more. You’re sitting there staring— dull, like we all get sometimes. A pretty stenographer that you’ve seen before comes into the room and you watch her— idly. She doesn’t see you though you’re very close to her. She takes off her gloves, opens her purse and dumps it out on a table -” Stahr stood up, tossing his key-ring on his desk. “She has two dimes and a nickel— and a cardboard match box. She leaves the nickel on the desk, puts the two dimes back into her purse and takes her black gloves to the stove, opens it and puts them inside. There is one match in the match box and she starts to light it kneeling by the stove.

You notice that there’s a stiff wind blowing in the window— but just then your telephone rings. The girl picks it up, says hello— listens— and says deliberately into the phone ’I’ve never owned a pair of black gloves in my life.’ She hangs up, kneels by the stove again, and just as she lights the match you glance around very suddenly and see that there’s another man in the office, watching every move the girl makes -” Stahr paused. He picked up his keys and put them in his pocket.

“Go on,” said Boxley smiling. “What happens?”

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. “I was just making pictures.”

Boxley felt he was being put in the wrong. “It’s just melodrama,” he said.

“Not necessarily,” said Stahr. “In any case nobody has moved violently or talked cheap dialogue or had any facial expression at all. There was only one bad line, and a writer like you could improve it. But you were interested.”

“What was the nickle for?” asked Boxley evasively.

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. Suddenly he laughed, “Oh yes— the nickle was for the movies.”

The two invisible attendants seemed to release Boxley. He relaxed, leaned back in his chair and laughed. “What in hell do you pay me for?” he demanded. “I don’t understand the damn stuff.”

“You will,” said Stahr grinning. “Or you wouldn’t have asked about the nickel.” F. Scott Fitzgerald (2015-05-14). The Last Tycoon (p. 39).  . Kindle Edition.

What Stahr is saying works for both the screenwriter and the novelist. That being, show, don’t tell; action speaks louder than words. Why did she lie about the gloves? Why did she burn them” Who is the other guy in the room?

Whether you are watching a movie or reading a book, you will continue to watch or read to see what happens next. Don’t explain everything, that is boring. Reveals should be slow and tantalizing.

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What I would like to do but can’t

As a writer I would love to do two things. One is to thank the people who took time out of their very, very, very,  busy lives to give good reviews of my books on Amazon. The second is to castigate those who wasted their time on a bad review. But I can do neither.

A number of years ago I wrote an article summarizing the draft picks of an NFL team on a sports website. One person commented that I was full of s… among other choice remarks. So I commented on his comment that he can disagree all he wants, but that his language did not help his point of view. Naturally many took his side, not mine. As someone wrote, “You can’t win.” Lesson learned. It was my first encounter with an Internet troll.

I decided to write this article after going on to my Amazon page and reading a four star review (my second) for the first book I wrote, one that is close to me for many reasons. The review was well written, well thought out, and it made me feel great. And I did not know this person in case you are wondering.

But I have also had a bad review on another book, a one star review. I did not mind that so much except he gave away the ending. Clearly he has no conscious. That being said, he took the ending literally. He may be right-if you believe the story of the person in question. The person could have been lying. Or could have been telling the truth. But the story is more than who did what and why. Some people get it and some don’t.

The point is one can not thank those who give you a good review, as much as you want to, nor can you rip those who hate your story, as much as you want to. You just have to go on writing and publishing and hope for the best. Nor can you ask Amazon why a four star review of a book disappeared. They will just blame those tricky, sneaky algorithms. I think that lost review bothers me more than the one star review.

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