Monthly Archives: June 2015

… ‘hooks’, ‘plants’ and ‘book-end closures’ for Writers…

digest

…when that remarkable publication, The Readers Digest, was in circulation years ago, it not only had well-written stories and articles, but also a generous smattering of half-page fillers, and bottom-of-page-enders, one of which I found of constant interest, called ‘A Guide To More Picturesque Speech’… this was replete with examples of words and phrases to brighten up yer vocabulary and yer writing if yeez were scribblers… if yeez broaden that concept to yer own writing masterpieces, the ability to make yer WURK more interesting lends it that extra bit of literary polish… here’s where this ol’ Jurassic has discovered (almost by accident, I must confess) that these ’hooks’, ‘plants’ and ‘book-end closures’  come into play for Writers… the ‘hook’ is a simple device which teases the reader into exploring further…

hooks

…sum’times getting readers past page one can be a major issue for some authors… but a ‘smack-in-yer-face’ opening paragraph or page overcomes that barrier… the use of ‘plants’ is a tremendous tool… ‘plants’ are the insertions of bits of information in the narrative which later turn out to have contained important elements of the story…

plants

…if these can be written in almost without the reader noticing them, then their eventual surfacing later in the book gives the reader those delightful wee ‘aha!’ moments… ‘bookend closures’ is an easy concept, frequently overlooked by novelists… closing the story with allusion to the opening chapter ‘rounds off’ a story neatly…

bookends

…in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s wonderful ‘Shadow of the Wind’, the closing paragraph almost reprises the opening of the book… highly effective and satisfying to a reader… it gives great balance to the writing, and leaves nob’dy wondering, ’but what happened to, such and such?’… for me, practice helps to make these techniques more polished as my own writing progresses… and I’m LUVVIN IT!… see yeez later … LUV YEEZ!

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…Authors… yeez can all be modern day dream-spinners…

…since ever I can remember as a young boy, I’ve had my nose stuck in some book or other… I’m sure many of yeez did the same… my upbringing in the Docklands Govan area of Glasgow is well known to many of yeez who honour me by following this blog… it was no different to millions of others in deprived slums in the UK’s big cities, and for many the escape valve back then was found in reading… even television was out of reach for most families in the district in the early 1950s… radio, or ‘the wireless’ as we called it, provided communal family entertainment, but NUTHIN compared to the WURLD of books for continued, limitless foraging into other universes… the pictures painted by the authors I first read took me alongside Enid Blyton’s children’s adventure escapades… Hansel and Gretel, Heidi, Black Beauty, King Solomon’s Mines, all diverted the rhythm of Govan life… then along came the ‘growing-up-a-wee-bit-more’ stuff… anything by Robert Louis Stevenson, (…aaargh, Jim, lad!)… The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Three Musketeers, Gulliver’s Travels, Jules Verne’s fantastical journeys, all provided much needed colour and diversion… the segue into adult reading broadened into the west-coast and east-coast American literary giants, John Steinbeck and John O’Hara, mixed in with devouring novels by Robert Ruark and F. Scott Fitzgerald… and the strongest possible common bond through all of the wonderful reading odyssey is the talent of the many dream-spinners called writers… those with the splendid talent of creating books for me to step into and inhabit for a while… to feel what their characters feel… to see, taste and smell the same things as they do… if this ol’ Jurassic comes even a smidgeon close to doing that in sculpting my own wee masterpieces, then the lifelong apprenticeship will have been well worth while… there’s the aim… Authors… yeez can all be modern day dream-spinners… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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Talk about being swept off my feet!

…here’s an authoress standing on the cusp of ‘getting it absolutely right’... show her a bit o’ writing family LUV, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land…

…m’Lady, Jeanette, you are gonna be SUCH a successful writer… you already understand the difference between Jeanette the writer, and Jeanette the self-publisher, and, come to that, Jeanette the anything and everything else you wanna be and do… JUST DO IT! ..LUVZYA!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

jeanetteford51

Something momentous happened to me this week – I came into facebook contact with Seumas Gallacher, author of the Jack Calder crime novels. What an amazing character he is! Meeting Seumas was rather like standing on the seashore and suddenly being caught up in an enormous wave. His humour and enthusiasm for his work is infectious and he has left me dithering at the crossroads, undecided about whether I am able to be so single minded about writing, publishing and relentlessly trying to sell my work or to go the other way, holding up my hands in surrender to leave it to people like him and all those other single-minded authors out there.

Fact is, I never intended to make my writing a career; I was shortly going to retire and it was ‘something nice I could do to keep my brain going’ once I no longer had my job…

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…if ye’ve got it, flaunt it… my new heroine, Johanna Colon…

…I’ve no doubt most of yeez have already seen this clip that has set the internet alight… I’ve watched it several times a day for the last week or so, and it fills me with laughter, joy, and admiration for a wee lassie that just ‘lets it all hang out’… the sheer SASS of the bairn is sum’thing the rest of it should look to emulate from time to time in our lives… like that saying yeez get from time to time on Facebook‘dance like no-one’s watching’… well the whole WURLD it seems has watched, and is still watching, Johanna Colon… sum’where approaching 30 million views ! (yes, 30 million!)… I’m in awe of the intensity of her dancing… the reaction from the audience tells yeez they enjoyed it as much as she did… so , whatever yeez might be doing right now, I’d recommend yeez stop and watch this clip again, and again, and again… if it doesn’t lend at least a smile to yer faces, then I suggest yeez go see a doctor and get a humour transplant… if ye’ve got it, flaunt it… my new heroine, Johanna Colon… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!...

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…contributing Blogger pal, Author Tony McManus has an excellent piece on WURD ‘padding’…

…ever had that feeling that an Author has decided, ‘why use only one WURD when two dozen will do?’... my pal, Author, Tony McManus uses just enough to tell yeez how to avoid it in yer own scribbling…

tony 

PADDING IT OUT

WORD INFLATION IN FICTION

 Ever picked up a novel, read it and come to the conclusion that it was not much of a deal, far too long, overblown and containing little meat? I’ve done it often, and no doubt will endure it again. I’ve read more than a few short stories that have been padded out and published as novellas or even full-house, novels. Maybe I possess what Hemingway called a “built-in shit detector” as I can sense this padding instinctively. It’s become a quirk that irritates me.

I recently read, on Kindle, a novella in the crime-thriller genre. Though competently written, it was packed with unnecessary scenes, vivid scenery descriptions, subplots, dinner table dialog, and comments on the dishes being served. A good, serious, editor would have cut this excess baggage out and reduced it to the short story that it truly was.

Is this inflation done by accident or design? I’d say both, but most often by accident. I’m sure many writers simply get carried away by their brilliance and feel they just have to put all this stuff in; they love it so why won’t the reader? I feel it in myself; the urge to write descriptive verbiage that reads great, but doesn’t advance the story one jot and even clogs things up. It’s a content editor’s job to bring us back down to earth. But what if we like it up there and don’t want to come down? In this time of digital self-publishing this is a problem, right? We can just go ahead and publish. I believe this is why padding is more prevalent today among indie writers than under the old regime.

Many indie writers in this age of Kindle, reject editors seeing them as representing the bad old days of publishing house dictatorship, intruders intent on destroying the purity of their ideas and narrative flow. Why pay someone to criticize, cut your work to ribbons and make your story theirs? And where a publishing house would exercise control over this foolishness and employ their in-house editors, today such writers are free to refuse all editorial restraint and publish.

One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing is: “Try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” A fine piece of advice I find. And with it in mind, I try to apply strict self-discipline. In the novel, I’m writing I had a description of how my protagonist, Mike met his Thai wife, Soraya, at the Ambassador’s Inauguration Ball in the US Embassy in Bangkok. A dramatic piece that read well, I polished it and made it better. Then, I remembered Leonard’s admonishment and reluctantly cut it out. It hurt, but as it didn’t advance the story, it was deleted. Who cares that Mike met Soraya dancing to Strauss?

It’s important for writers to recognize who they are and what they are capable of. And a writer who knows his limitations holds a powerful asset. Few writers could seriously take on a War and Peace. It took a genius to produce David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol; but, like Tolstoy, Dickens was a genius. Such writers are thin on the ground.

Apart from the ability to write well and tell a story, a fiction writer should have a good imagination. He should be able to weigh a story idea for what it’s worth. What might make a terrific short story may turn out a poor novel that requires padding to make the weight. But it won’t punch its weight.

My short story, Ray, created a minor sensation when I published it on a Thailand website. I got emails suggesting I expand it into a novel. I thought seriously about it. I could do it, but it wouldn’t be Ray anymore, and so I rejected the idea. Ray is a short story, and it’s going to stay that way.

Some writers seem destined for short stories. Jack London, always a favorite author of mine, was one. Jack, whose own life story reads like a Norse Saga, was a great writer yet he never wrote a great novel. He did write a great novella: The Call of the Wild a literary triumph that’s never out of print and been filmed many times. However, it’s for his superb short stories, tales of the Yukon Gold Rush and the South Pacific Islands; that he is honored. His short piece: To Build a Fire has been voted the best short story of all time. But try to find his novels.

The indie revolution that ended the injustices of the old publishing house dictatorship has no stronger champion than me. I’m grateful for the big break it gave me. But has not the pendulum swung over too far? For it too has a downside we should recognize and face up to; it’s totally undisciplined. Now anyone can publish anything. And they do.

Meet Priscilla Anne Case, a sweet, gentle single girl, 22 years old, working on the Costco checkout line in Laramie, Wyoming. She left school at fifteen and has never traveled east of the Mississippi River. She loves the television soaps, Facebook chat, and her smartphone. She’s never written anything above an email. But she’s about to write a romantic, paranormal saga, replete with vampires and neo-Nazi white supremacists, in the form of a two thousand word, bodice ripping, trilogy. She’ll write it in six months and self-publish it, free of editorial interference, on Amazon. She may even publish each book as a four part boxed set. Go for it, girl, there’s nothing to stop you.

An adage has it that if you take one hundred thousand chimpanzees, give each an easel, canvas and a pallet of paints, in a year you’ll get a Rembrandt. In the indie world it seems we’re still waiting for our literary Rembrandts. But wait, hold on. I’m convinced they’re there. Look hard and you’ll find them; beautiful, superbly written books in all genres, waiting like buried treasure, hidden beneath the surface of that sad sea of bloated mediocrity that is Amazon’s slush pile.

 

 

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Company of Men, the first book in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

He expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

 

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…Authors… it’s okay to let yer hard-ass characters have feelings…

…growing up in Docklands Govan in Glasgow bred a special kinda survival toughness in most of the good folks living there, as indeed, it did in similar slum areas around Britain in the 1950s… Manchester, London, Liverpool, Birmingham, all had their (un)fair share of austerity (the newly-found buzzWURD of politicians it seems)… in retrospect, one of its side effects which may have been grossly misplaced was the notion that males were not supposed to cry

crying-clown-head-tattoo

…weeping, sobbing, wailing et al, was apparently the sole property of the womenfolk… a couple of errors of fact exist in that ethos… firstly. the female of the species repeatedly shows itself often more stoic than their opposite gender… and secondly, the act of shedding tears comes as part and parcel of an emotion, and suppressing it is madness… pain is a trigger of course, but the feelings that push the button can include loss of a close friend or family member, it can also derive from a sense of hopelessness, as it appeared back then for many fathers trying in vain to put food on the table daily for their families… and sad indeed in my view is the man who is unable to be moved sum’times to tears with the most beautiful of emotions… this latter tied to music and art, or just honest-to-Gawd humbling unexpected good deeds by sumb’dy yeez never even knew… the first man I ever saw cry was my father… the reason matters not for the telling of this, but I never felt he was any less masculine in the circumstances, and at that moment, I understood it was okay for men and boys to give themselves permission to show vulnerability… in the same manner, I don’t shrink from allowing the tough-ass characters in my novels to let their emotions show on their sleeves when the narrative directs me that way… as a writer, I feel almost duty-bound to reflect that most basic of qualities… human frailty…I  welcome yer thoughts on this, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…Authors… join me in a ‘Salute to the Universal Reader’…

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…the WURLDs of the Arts and of Literature abound with Awards… the Movie Business has the Oscars and the Baftas… writers can strive toward the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Booker Prize…. the Sports Industry hands out gongs to Champion teams, managers, coaches, players, ad inforeverum… the Emmys laud musicians and their offerings… the Olympics take the entire ceremonial praising with medals to a whole new level… but, I’ve yet to see one specifically glaring omission rectified… Awards for Readers… for every WURD, phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, or book that comes out of a scribbler’s pen, none of it is WURTH a dime unless sumb’dy reads it… note I don’t say ‘reads it and likes it’… coz not everything that’s written finds applause… and that’s perfectly okay… each to his/her own reading taste…. but even for sumb’dy to judge whether or not they like a piece of writing they must, by definition, read the thing first… the author’s ying is the reader’s yang… the inverse to the obverse… so, I think it’s high time the publishing industry got the balance a bit better adjusted… inaugurate Reader Awards… think how much interest it would add to the already hugely popular pastime of reading… there could be subsections of JONGGRs to consider… and a loftier Award for Reviewers of Books

dddddddd

…now, wouldn’t that encourage more discussion about the merits and demerits of certain authors and titles, and by the way, p’raps put a bit of the missing emphasis on what the reading public actually likes to read?… to my feeble mind, every person who buys/downloads any offering from an author is already at hero status… if any publisher’s reading this, I’d be pleased to give yeez a list of authors who’d give their eye teeth to see an Award like this… look after yer Readers, meanwhile, I invite all Authors to join me in a ‘Salute to the Universal Reader… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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