Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Back Story

Boy did I screw this up.

In fiction writing, the back story can be an author's friend or worst enemy.  For me, it drove me crazy.  In my first manuscript, I had no idea what I was doing, thus the back story scenes I wrote were awful,  cumbersome and boring.  They were what editors call 'Information dumps' and they are also a no-no.

I fell into the trap of many a rookie writer by leaving important information out of the story and then deciding to provide that info via a few segments of back story.  In other words, I took the reader on a jaunt back it time to fill in some missing gaps.  All it really did was cause confusion and in some cases, the information given in the back story wasn't even needed. 

Of all the errors I made in the first manuscript, this was the hardest to fix and as of this blog date I am still re-writing the beginning trying to fix the timeline in my story so the back story can be made clear without there actually being a back story.  In my case, quite a bit of information needed to get to the reader that had happened in the past and I'll be damned if there was an easy way to do it.  Who knows...I may have to leave it the way it is.

But enough of my problems.  Sometimes taking the reader back in time is a necessity and can often be very entertaining if done correctly.  Numerous writers use it and use it well, though most editors will probably tell you to avoid it at all costs, or if necessary, spread the back story throughout the book, giving tidbits of history here and there so as not to bore the reader to death as you leave the current storyline.

If you decide to use back story, take a hard look at what you are trying to accomplish with it and see if there might be a better way around it.  Keep it short and to the point and return to the main story line as soon as possible so as not to lose the reader.   Just remember, the story is the story and everything else is cake.  Or is it pie?

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Blog Theme

Someone asked me the other day, "What's your blog about?"  I didn't know what to say.  I thought for a minute and finally said, "It's about everything."

This person looked at me and said, "You mean it's about nothing."

"Pretty much," I said.  "But it's about everything too."  He just shook his head.

Does the blog need a theme?  I mean the title is my name.  Richard C Hale.  I know that's not really a theme, but the blog is pretty much me.  I'm kind of unpredictable and that's kind of what I wanted this to be.  I wanted it to be whatever I felt like at the moment.  If I'm feeling goofy, I'll write something goofy.  If I'm feeling melancholy, I'll write something sad.  If I'm feeling horny, I'll write something sad again...you get the idea.

I did not want this to be about one thing or one theme.  I'd probably get bored quick.  I wanted it to be about whatever interests me at the moment.  Whatever happened to pique my interest for the day, or kept me up late at night.  Whatever whim or idea struck me as interesting or at the least, entertaining.  Sure, I may bore the reader sometimes, but that only means I may find something the next time that is special.

Maybe I could have a theme week periodically, like My Job Doesn't Pay Enough week, or I Hate Cats week, or even Cheese Gives Me Gas week.  I don't know...I don't think I could read a whole weeks worth of stuff on QVC:  Addiction or Affection, much less write about it.  Shoot me if I ever do.

So, as far as the Blog's theme?  I'll just leave it theme-less for now.  Actually, I'll leave it theme-less forever.  This is too much fun the way it is.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

John Grisham's The Confession

I just finished The Confession by John Grisham and I have to say he can still tell a story which stays with you.  When a story can cause me to think about it for days or even weeks after I finish it, then to me, it is a great story.

Donte Drumm is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit, and as his lawyer exhausts all last minute appeals, a dying criminal confesses to the crime Donte was found guilty of.  Can the execution of an innocent man be stopped or will the system fail at it's most critical hour?

The story draws you in and envelopes you in its heart wrenching drama as you live the intensity of the last days, hours, and minutes of a death row inmate leading up to the time of his execution.  Very intense and emotional, the story will invigorate you and leave you drained at the same time.  A must read.  A superbly crafted tale that grabs you from the start and accelerates to the dramatic end leaving you breathless and exhausted from the ride.  If you read it, let me know what you think.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Six Million Dollar Man

I saw today that 'The Six Million Dollar Man' series is out on DVD.  I loved that show!  "Steve Austin, a man barely alive.  We can rebuild him.  Make him better, faster, stronger..." Cue the music.  What a great show.  I distinctly remember laying on the living room floor, my Dad reclined in his favorite chair, my little brother and sister off to bed, while Steve found himself embroiled in some new danger or conflict.

I even watched the Bionic Woman for a while, but sadly when they started with the family and the dog, even I at a young age found it lame.  Bionic dog.  What the F?

Television in the 70's sure was different back then.  Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, The Wonderful World of Disney, Laugh In, just to name a few.  These are memories from my childhood and it's almost laughable now to think that I used to get in trouble on Saturday nights if Mom caught me up late watching this new show called Saturday Night Live.  It was not appropriate my mother would say.  I'm sure that was part of the appeal.

SNL is still inappropriate but I love the show anyway.

I don't know why I chose to ramble on about this today, maybe I'm feeling a bit nostalgic, or maybe I feel like my kids are getting ripped off because they don't get to enjoy the same things I did as a kid.  I'm sure they would feel the old Six Million Dollar Man was a loser show or boring, but to me, it wasn't just about the content of the show.  It was about the time I got to spend with my Dad, even though I didn't realize it at the time.

Cell phones, the Internet, school, travel teams, my job, all these things represent a lifestyle that I'm still not sure has improved.  Kids just don't get to be kids anymore.  Hell, I used to leave my house in the morning, be gone all day playing and come home for dinner.  We would never let that go on now.  Too many dangers out there.

I remember watching Steve Austin and his bionic parts and thinking the future would hold so much promise and life would be so cool as science and medicine advanced, improving our lives and making the world a better place.  I don't think we've achieved that.  I wonder if we've actually made it worse.  Time will only tell.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

As my wife and daughters contemplated whether or not to venture out into the throng of holiday shoppers, scouring the adds in search of some item they felt they desperately needed, an item supposedly deeply discounted, I thought to myself, "Why do they call it 'Black Friday'?"  A little research was required.

When  a new writer sets out to start a project, they often ask what they should write about.  Some veteran writers will tell them to 'write what you know'.  If you're a know-it-all, that's fine and good as you could probably tackle anything, but most of us do have severe limitations on knowledge.  Ok...maybe just me.  In most cases a little research can play a vital role in creating a story with useful, accurate, information.  Plus, it can be fun and very enlightening.

When I started writing my first manuscript I had a few ideas rattling around in my head, but the one that appealed to me the most was the one I felt I could finish with the least amount of research.  I just didn't want to be bogged down with delays while I eagerly sought counsel on some small tidbit of information which would probably only account for 10 words of actual composition.  I just wanted to get in to the mechanics of writing again since it had been quite a while for me.  What I found though was the project still required some research and I actually enjoyed the small breaks it required as I pondered ways to plagiarize without plagiarizing.

Some authors live for the research.  I know many who spend a year or more on a manuscript and over half of that time is spent in various forms of research, either interviewing, reading, or traveling to exotic places as they dive headlong into unknown territory.  David Morrell tells in his book on writing, The Successful Novelisthow he took a survival course which involved many weeks of training and a final exam where he was left in the wilderness and had to find his way to a specific rendezvous within so many days.  He went through  the ordeal for his research on his novel Testament.  I've heard Steve Berry visits the local used book stores and scours the shelves for older literature to fuel his very historically accurate thrillers.  He usually emerges with over a hundred books for his efforts and when you read his exciting stories, you feel the work come alive.  My friend and thriller writer, Chuck Barrett, made several trips to Savannah for his novel The Savannah Project and as his characters were thrust into action during St. Patrick's day in the historical city, you couldn't help but visualize all Mr. Barrett had painstakingly researched as the accuracy and detail made the landscape come alive in my mind.

I for one am not a big research hound.  I will probably never write a historical thriller or pour my heart and soul into exotic places and cultures, but I do believe every story should lend itself to accuracy and because of that will always do what is needed to provide it to the reader.  Plus it usually is kind of fun.

As far as Black Friday, if you Google the term, you'll get your answer.  The Black Friday we are concerned with in this little blog, originated in Philadelphia in the 1960's and was attributed to most retailers "getting out of the red and into the black" as far as their profits go.  In other words, they are finally making money.  One word of caution on research.  If you use the Internet, make sure you are able to verify your information.  Wikipedia and the Internet are great sources, but sometimes can be riddled with opinions and misinformation.  Did I get it right?  Look for yourself.  Have fun and a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


My father was a Marine Aviator, flying the A4 Skyhawk during the early days of the Vietnam war.  I know the cost of that war weighed heavy on his heart throughout most of his adult life.  It took many years for him to be able to share his experience with me and I don't know if I ever thanked him.  He gave up so much and carried such a burden throughout his life so that his wife and children would be able to live happy and free.

Living the life of one who has never served, I find it hard to comprehend what my Father and all veterans face after the battle is over and life must somehow continue for them. 

These men and women deserve our thanks and on this day I give it.  Your dedication and sacrifice for me and my family, so that every thing we hold dear continues to bless this family and this nation, is a measure of your courage and fortitude.

Thank you for your service.

And Dad...you always have been and always will be, my hero.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What if?

Once upon a time (sorry, I couldn't resist) there was this Air Traffic Controller/Respiratory Therapist/Bartender/Greenskeeper/Musician/Radio control pilot/Christmas Light enthusiast who pondered his life and asked "What if I had done something different?  What if for the last 20 frickin years I had persued something a little more stable, like Floral arranging, or insurance sales?  What if I liked broccoli sprouts?  Would my life be better?"

The Greenskeeper in him liked this, but the Musician wanted to commit suicide. "You can't look back, man," the musician said.  "Just keep moving."

The Air Traffic Controller/Respiratory Therapist/Bartender/Greenskeeper/Musician/Radio Control Pilot/Christmas Light Enthusiast couldn't seem to get past it so he pondered some more.  "What if I had been that porn star I always dreamt of becoming? Is it too late?"

"You don't have the equipment," the Bartender said.  "Move on."

The Air Traffic Controller/Respiratory Therapist/Bartender/Greenskeeper/Musician/Radio Control Pilot/Christmas Light Enthusiast, dejected now, thought, "Maybe I should have gone back to school and become the real pilot I always wanted to be?  That would be cool."

The Christmas Light Enthusiast in him said, "Yeah!  You'd be able to see the Christmas lights from space!  Get over it.  Move on."

The Air Traffic Controller/Respiratory Therapist/Bartender/Greenskeeper/Musician/Radio Control Pilot/Christmas Light Enthusiast suddenly realized he could be anybody he wanted to be.  As long as it didn't involve doing something he loved.  As long as he could stumble through life, bored and unsatisfied, the sky was the limit!  There would be nothing that would hold him back.  Sitting and pondering where his new found attitude would take him, he suddenly had an epiphany.  "What if I do absolutely nothing?  That would be cool.  I'm close to retirement (ha), maybe I'll just start early."

The NON Air Traffic Controller/Respiratory Therapist/Bartender/Greenskeeper/Musician/Radio Control Pilot/Christmas Light Enthusiast WIFE said, "Bullshit, you need to work!"

So, he just decided to write.  Go figure.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Jags sit atop the AFC South for the first time in quite awhile.  Should we be excited?  Run outside and bang pots and pans with spoons yelling "Go Jaguars!"?  My neighbor across the street does this whenever the Gators win.  She has been suspiciously quiet this year. 

I think I'll wait to celebrate just a little longer.

It can be said that the 'Cardiac Cats' have been back over the last couple of weeks with two last second almost miracle wins that in the past, the old Jags would surely have lost.  A little luck has seemed to drop in their laps and I'm holding my breath hoping it will continue.  I do believe, though,  that if they are still atop the AFC South in a couple of weeks, the Jaguars stand a very good chance of making the playoffs. 

The defense has been playing better, even with the loss of Kampman, as the increase in sacks and interceptions has been fun to watch.  MJD had a great game and it's nice to see him juking and jiving down the field dragging linebackers along with him.  Great Job  Jags!  Keep it up.  We love ya!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weather, whether, and we're there, Part 2

Today we'll continue with POV (point of view) concepts.  If you haven't read Part 1 you'll find it here.  Let's dive right in:

Peter and Annie held hands as they stared into one another's eyes.  They both knew their love for each other would overcome Peter's addiction to cheeseburgers.
As he reached for the half pound Thickburger, Annie said, "Don't...you don't need this.  I love you."  He sighed and placed his hand back in hers.  He cried.  She slowly brushed the tears from his cheek and kissed him softly there.  It only made him cry that much harder.

Ok.  Besides making the reader vomit, what's wrong with this passage?  For starters, if the author is writing from a third person perspective, how can he/she convey knowledge belonging to both characters?  The second sentence tells the reader both characters believe their love will overcome Peter's addiction.
What about the rest of the passage.  Nothing's wrong with it as it stands, but if you look over the whole paragraph again, other then the author inferring their profound love, the rest of the sentences only convey action or dialogue without letting the reader know whose head we are in.  Can the reader tell whose point of view the story is being told from with just this limited information?  He/she may guess, but truthfully, no.  Let's try and fix it.  First we'll tell the story from Peter's POV:

Peter and Annie held hands as they stared into one another's eyes.  He knew she loved him more than anything and because of that love, he was sure she would help him overcome his addiction to cheeseburgers.
As he reached for the half pound Thickburger, a craving stronger than any he'd felt before overtook him.  He thought he might even kill for just a bite.
Annie said, "Don't...you don't need this.  I love you."
He sighed and placed his hand back in hers.  He cried.
She slowly brushed the tears from his cheek and kissed him softly there.  It only made him cry that much harder.

Not great, but workable.  Let's try it from Annie's POV:

Annie held Peter's hand and stared into his eyes.  Her love for him was so strong she knew in her heart he'd be able to beat his addiction, if only he would let her help.
His gaze shifted from hers and the wanting look in his eyes frightened her as he reached for the cheeseburger.
"Don't", she said.  "You don't need this.  I love you."
He sighed, but placed his hand back in hers.  She thought she saw a hint of anger just before he began to cry.  She slowly brushed the tears from his cheek and kissed him softly there.  It only made him cry that much harder.

A little better I think.

Just because we want to be careful not to confuse the reader doesn't mean we never shift point of view.  There are times when the message cannot be conveyed from a few lines of dialogue or body language alone.  It just needs to be set apart so the reader knows the shift has happened.  Usually acceptable practices are a new chapter, a shift in time, or a break in the chapter represented by 3 asterisks or 3 to 4 spaces.

Another problematic issue involves how many different POV's you want to have in the story.  Too many will often lead to overload on the reader's part as they try to keep track of all the characters. Usually getting into 4 or 5 characters heads is plenty to tell the story.  Be careful with more.  You could lose the reader.

On the other hand staying inside only one character's head (third person limited or first person) can be quite beneficial, though a little creativity is needed to get certain information to the reader.  J.K. Rowling loved this point of view and used it in her Harry Potter series exclusively.  She rarely left Harry's head, but with her own world and all its charm at her disposal, she could create certain aspects that allowed the reader to recieve information to help the story along.  For instance the invisibilty cloak.  Harry could evesdrop on any conversation or action she deemed necessary to propel the story forward.  Normally a different POV would need to be used for the information to get to the reader.  Pretty cool.

I love the line from 'Pirates of the Carribean' when they talk about 'the code', how it's more a set of guidelines than actual rules.  So true.  Poetic liscense  lets the author pretty much do whatever he/she wants, and if it serves the story, so be it.  Many authors abuse POV and are very succesful.  When I see a famous author make what is considered a POV error, it is hard for me to decide whether they are being lazy, have no idea they've made it, just don't care, or have an editor who lets it slide.  In either case, if it propels the story is it up to me to be critical?  I think not.  The story is the story.  Unfortunately, as a rookie writer, I must obey the guidelines along with making the story the story.  At least until I become good enough at this to break the rules and not care.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I don't know

Do musicians make better lovers?  Do soccer players make better spaghetti?  Do writers paint better paintings?  I don't know.  Who the heck really cares?

What I want to know is if a musician plays more music will he be better?  Not necessarily at lovemaking, but better at let's say...music!  It would make sense, wouldn't it?  If a lover practices his/her trade will they be better at it down the road?  Couldn't hurt.  Sometimes I practice a lot with myself.  If I wrote about a soccer player who paints pictures of spaghetti, would the musician love more?  Once again who cares?

Most professionals know that if they want to become better at their respective talents, they must practice, practice, practice.  If a writer wants to be better, he must plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...no...wait...practice, practice, practice.  Please don't get the wrong idea, I'm trying to be cute.  Anyway, the only real way to become prolific at what you do is to keep doing what you do.  Over and over again.  Simple enough.

What I failed to understand was I needed to write NEW stuff, not the same thing over and over again.  The point I'm trying to make is now that I'm in the self-editing process of my manuscript, I feel like I'm writing the same things over and over again.  Going over the same paragraphs again and again, changing a word here, deleting a paragraph there, dropping that awesome sex scene because it just doesn't propel the story forward (it was fun to write though).  How many times do I need to change things? 

Some folks who have been doing this a hell of a lot longer than I say you should never start a new project until the old one is finished.  What if the musician played the same song over and over and over again?  Yes, his technique and knowledge of the notes would probably be almost perfect, but over time everything would get stale.  The music would sound wooden, bereft of emotion or feeling.  Plus this person would almost certainly want to kill themselves, probably by tying a rope to a cinder block and jumping off of a pier while thoughts of cheeseburgers danced in their head.  How many times could you stand playing 'The girl from Ipanema' on your kazoo?

So, I'll probably move on.  Oh I'm not done with the first novel.  It still needs a lot of work, but if I'm going to get any better at this, I need to write, write, write.

I'm feeling a little anxious now, so maybe the lover in me better go practice, practice, practice.  Probably alone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Idea

When most famous authors are interviewed, they are always asked, "Where do you get your ideas?"  Their answers are usually either based on something profound or they are messing with the interviewer. 

"I fell and hit my head on the toilet and I had a vision of this...the flux capacitor." 

Wait...somebody already did that.  Anyway, for me it wasn't anything that dramatic, although to this day I still don't quite know why my brain wandered in the direction it did.  It went something like this:

I was standing in the bathroom, slipped and hit my head... Just kidding.  I was actually sitting in the bathroom, occupied with a daily function which for me seems more important than, say, breathing, when I decided it was time to write.  My friend at work had just published his first novel (well, not at that exact second) and after talking to him at length about it (once again, not at that exact second) I felt the urge (not that urge...OK let's get the hell out of the bathroom for this scene).

At work now, I went through in my mind an idea which had rattled around in my head for ten years or so.  It involved Air Traffic Controllers (write what you know) and terrorists.  But as I sat in the cafeteria, pen in hand, I couldn't seem to get very excited about it.  Maybe it was because I had thought about the idea off and on for so long, or maybe I didn't want to write about what I do every day.  Probably the latter.  So, I thought hard...thought a little harder...and finally just gave up.  Great start huh?

I went back to work.  And as I was telling some general aviation pilot he'd better climb better, an idea jumped into my head.  What if a guy, we'll call him Peter, was flying his plane and he had a mid-air with a vampire.  Inspiration!  I turned to the controller next to me and said, "Would you read a story about a pilot who had a mid-air with a vampire?"

He just looked at me and said, "No."

"What if the pilot was on a suicide mission, eating a cheeseburger, and he had a mid-air with a vampire?  Wouldn't that be cool?"

My friend rolled his eyes but did not respond.  OK...strike one.

The next day I'm back at work but on my break in the cafeteria again, reading the latest Lee Child novel and wishing I could tell a story like he can, when a thought occurred to me.  What if a bunch of kids at a special school were learning how to become wizards and they all decided to hijack an airplane and fly it to Istanbul, but on the way, they had a mid-air with a vampire who sparkled in the sunlight.  Yeah baby!  I jumped up and ran into the control room to tell my friend.

He told me to never talk to him again.  Dammit!  Strike two!  What the 'F'?

Later that night as I'm listening to some pop singer tell his girlfriend he was sorry, he couldn't afford a Ferrari, Zombies invaded my brain.  I called my friend and said, "What if Zombies took over the world but were later killed by vampires flying around in airplanes?"

'Click' and then a dial-tone.  Strike three!

Alright...enough.  What I'm getting at is for the most part, most writers don't just sit around trying to think up things to write about.  It usually happens as one lone arbitrary thought links up with another lone arbitrary thought and when the two are put together, something interesting usually occurs.  For me it just surfaced out of the blue while I was surfing on the internet.  One idea connected with another and presto, it spoke to me.  What was the idea?  When it gets closer to publishing time, I'll let you know.  I promise it has nothing to do with vampires, wizards, zombies or cheeseburgers.

Let's hear some of your ideas.  Ha!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Weather, whether, and we're there, Part 1

Whether the weather impacts your daily life by interfering with your work, your fun, or prolongs your agony as the kids in the back keep asking if  "we're there", it still is an important part of life on this planet.  Without it we couldn't survive.  Personally it's all a perspective thing for me.

If it's thunderstorming outside, it usually means work will be somewhat unpleasant.  If it's broiling out, the pool could be quite pleasant.  If it happens to be snowing in Florida, there is a possibility the world is coming to an end, but more than likely it's just a fluke of nature.  Hurricanes, monsoons, nor'easters, all these phenomena could be detrimental or beneficial depending upon your perspective.

From the Encarta dictionary:  Perspective - a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person's point of view.

One person's point of view.  Cool!  Who gets to be that person?  Do I get to chose?  Do you?  All kidding aside, my perspective on any given day could be worlds apart from your's.  Fortunately in fiction, point of view should usually be quite obvious.  It may not be something you think about while you read, but if it is not handled correctly, if may leave the reader with a feeling that something is not quite right.  For example:

Peter knew instinctively the weather was going to be horrible.  The climb needed to be delayed, but Peter had a feeling Annie would have none of that. 
"We're going," she said, "I'll be fine."  Annie couldn't help but think her husband was a wimp.
Peter shrugged his shoulders but thought today would be the last day of his pathetic life.

Right off the bat we know we're in Peter's head.  He knew instinctively the weather was bad.  He then tells us he believes Annie will not want to delay the climb just because of the weather.  The next part is the problem.  Annie makes a comment but then the author puts us into her head with the wimpy thought.  This is now a different point of view and in most editorial circles this is considered a no-no.  Finally the last sentence puts us back into Peter's head.  Three different point of view shifts in one small paragraph.  I've seen as many as 5 point of view shifts in one sentence.

When I started my first manuscript I had no idea about any of this and I made numerous, I mean hundreds, of these errors without realizing what I had done.  I wanted to make sure the reader knew if a character was feeling a certain way and this is usually why the error is made.  When I learned about the all important perspective, I spent most of the first edit fixing all of my POV (point of view) errors.  Some were easy and some were not.  Let's take the above example and fix it.

Peter knew instinctively the weather was going to be horrible.  The climb needed to be delayed, but Peter had a feeling Annie would have none of that. 
"We're going," she said, "Stop being such a wimp.  I'll be fine."
Peter shrugged his shoulders but thought today would be the last day of his pathetic life.

See...we never left Peter's head.  Annie was able to convey her feelings through the dialogue.  In some cases you can convey important information through action, like facial expressions or body language and some times you can just delete the offending item without any effect on the outcome.  Let's look at another example:

Peter wanted to die today.  He felt there was nothing left to live for, except maybe cheeseburgers, so he decided today would be the last day of his life.  He hoped Annie wouldn't hate him.  Suddenly, the door flew open.  Annie burst in and pointed a gun at Peter's head.  She hated him and had decided today would be the last day of his life.
"What the frick, Annie?" Peter asked.
"Shut up asshole!  I've had it up to here with your crap."
She fired the gun and smiled as Peter's brains splattered all over the wall.

We can fix this in a couple of different ways, the easiest being the quickest, deletion:

Peter wanted to die today.  He felt there was nothing left to live for, except maybe cheeseburgers, so he decided today would be the last day of his life.  He hoped Annie wouldn't hate him.  Suddenly, the door flew open.  Annie burst in and pointed a gun at Peter's head.
"What the frick, Annie?" Peter asked.
"Shut up asshole!  I've had it up to here with your crap."
She fired the gun.

Or we can use some body language:

Peter wanted to die today.  He felt there was nothing left to live for, except maybe cheeseburgers, so he decided today would be the last day of his life.  He hoped Annie wouldn't hate him.  Suddenly, the door flew open.  Annie burst in and pointed a gun at Peter's head, her face twisted in rage.
"What the frick, Annie?" Peter asked.
"Shut up asshole!  I've had it up to here with your crap."
She fired the gun.

Nobody actually came out and said Annie hated Peter, but the meaning is pretty well conveyed just by the act of her shooting him.  At the least the reader knows she's angry at him.

Tomorrow, in part 2, we'll look at some POV errors that are a little more subtle.  Hopefully the weather will be good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

That all important first sentence

As a rookie writer, I don't have the luxury of relying on a fan base.  Actually, no one even knows I exist, so I'm being told that to pull the average reader to my story, I must grab their attention with the first sentence.  Something which will set the hook and leave the reader dying to know more.  Pretty simple, huh?  Let's try one.

    Peter stood at the end of the pier staring at the sunset, rope tied to his leg, cinder block in hand, thinking he could really go for a cheeseburger right about now.

Does this simple group of words strung together make you want to know more?  Why is Peter there?  Is he really going to commit suicide?  Is the story over before it even gets started?  What's the significance of the cheeseburger?  Probably not very thought provoking so let's try another one.

    Peter drove off the pier.

Ridiculous.  Or is it?  If I opened a book, read this first sentence, and was then distracted, would I eagerly return to it once my undivided attention could be devoted to it?  Maybe. 

    Peter reached for the volume control, and as he cranked the knob all the way to the right, the vehicle became air born, tossing his cheeseburger and milkshake onto the floor as the car dove off the end of the pier. 

Here's the cheeseburger again.  Was he drunk?  Did he get to eat any of the cheeseburger?  What was he listening to on the radio?  One more.

    Peter tore through the wrapper, devouring the cheeseburger as if it were his last meal, only to realize he had made a fatal mistake letting Jane drive his car.

Now this is more like it!  The cheeseburger's back.  Something fatalistic is about to happen.  Why is Peter so hungry and why would he let Jane drive if she sucked so bad?  Things to ponder.  I want to know more.

    See Peter run.

Yeah baby!  Doesn't get any better than that!  I mean, come on...I've got to know more.  Not only do I feel nostalgic at this simple three word gem, I get to wonder what Peter is running from.  Or is he running to something?  Did the author mean to use the name Peter instead of Dick, and if so, what is the significance of this?  In the sequel do we get to see Peter walk?  Or maybe swim?  Maybe it's a typo and it was supposed to read See Peter's urn.  Whatever, all I know is it's very thought provoking.

    Peter, allowing himself only the briefest moment of sadness, removes the cinder block from in front of the tire and watches as his Buick, Jane strapped into the driver's seat, slowly rolls off the end of the pier, cheeseburger in tow.  He cries.

Ok...that was two sentences...sorry.  I'll keep working on it.  I'd love to hear some of yours.


The Beginning

Somewhere along the lines I figured I needed to do this.  If I'm going to be a serious writer with serious dreams, serious fans, and serious bills, I better find a way to get on with it.  Just start.  That's all I have to do...just begin.  So, 8 months ago, I did just that.  Not that I hadn't tossed it around numerous times over the years, but for some reason it seemed time.  For some reason  it seemed right.  I pulled out the laptop, opened Word, and wrote the first sentence.

It was liberating.

3 and a half months later, I had 93,000 words stored on the hard drive and an excitement that was palpable.  My first manuscript.  It consumed me.  I had no idea what I was doing and I didn't really care.  I only knew that I had to get it out.  Once it started, there was no stopping it. It didn't matter if I had to use my breaks at work.  Didn't matter if I found myself waking in the middle of the night, the story rattling around in my head, begging me to put more of it down on paper.  Didn't matter that the grass went un-mowed or the pool turned green, whenever I had the chance, I wrote.

It was pure joy.  Some days I giggled, some days I cried, and some days I just smiled.  I was amazed at the process and giddy at how the story took on a life of its own.  It wrote itself. 

I'm not sure what I will put in this space, not sure how often I'll visit, but I am sure that whenever I do, I will not be too serious.  Who wants to be a serious writer with serious fans and serious bills?  It's too much fun.  I only hope I can keep it that way.


Richard Charles Hale