Thursday, November 16, 2017

Observations from Writers' Group

Just want to get a few of these ideas down before I forget them. 'Course, I've perhaps already forgotten some, but they'll come back to me.

Be aware of your writer's tell. No, not William Tell. A writer's tell is a subconscious tic added to your writing. It's neither good nor bad, it just is. Mine is using the word 'just', as I just did three times in the last two paragraphs. It's not a bad thing. But when you use it all the time it can pull your reader out of the story.

For a little more about the writer's tell, click here: Writer's Tell

"I don't know what to do about this," John responded. Or John exclaimed. Or John yammered. Just use 'said'. Dialog tags should be invisible. They're messengers, and just like messengers, we don't need to notice them. "Only the message," John said. Oh, and did you notice, my tell slipped in twice in this paragraph? Annoying yet?

Watch for shifting perspective. If you're doing the third-person omniscient thingy, otherwise known as the god view, then, yeah, you can slip in and out of your characters' heads. But if you're doing, say, third-person limited, where you're mainly in one person's head, or a first-person perspective, then all of a sudden, you're writing from a different character's viewpoint, that can be troublesome. Just something to watch out for. And, oops, slid another tell in.

More later.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Fun Romantic Comedy in Singleland

Okay, folks, time for a quick ad. My wife, Wendy Currier Zumwalt, penned this terrific comedy about a young woman trying to find the ideal man. But then, she decides, perhaps she's better off remaining single. So.... she takes a class called... Singleminded.

Getting close to Christmas, and this would make a great gift. Here's the link:


Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Was He Mad or Just Really Angry?

Madness. I like a little bit of madness in a film, especially when it's Vincent Price playing the part.

First, though, what am I talking about? Why, none other than one of the finest madness-imbued stories, Diary of a Madman. Guy de Maupassant wrote the story (The title of his story was "The Horla", one I kind of remember reading way back in high school.) back in the 1800s, and it made it to celluloid, released March 6th, 1963. Last night, fifteen of us brave Scoobies managed to stay relatively sane while watching the horla toy with us innocent humans.

Well, okay, perhaps the characters in the movie weren't totally innocent. But, they weren't murderers. At least, not until the horla dropped in for a visit.

I think I've seen bits and pieces of the movie over the years, so I enjoyed seeing it in its entirety last night. And, yes, it's cheesy at times, but it's 1960s cheesy. You just can't go wrong when Mr. Price soliloquizes. Lavish Victorian sets, tall hats, horse-drawn carriages, and everyone's wearing the curtains. Really had that E. A. Poe feel, especially with the looming madness. Mr. Poe would've smiled.

Also, Mr. Lovecraft. I just the meaning of horla in Wikipedia (yeah, I know, it's not an authoritative source), and according to Mr. Wiki, horla is a loose derivative of the French words "hors" ("outside") and "la" ("there"). Stretch it a bit, and you have "out there". Okay, stretch it a lot. But it does have that Lovecraft theme of the "outsiders".

So, Diary is about a kindly, law-abiding French magistrate, played by Mr. Price, who becomes possessed by this evil spirit called the horla. Gradually, the evil beastie exerts its influence over Magistrate Simon Cordier, getting him to commit murder. I love one of the taglines for the movie -- "He upholds the law, except when he murders".

Watch for supreme character actor Ian Wolfe, who plays Cordier's butler, Pierre. The man was literally in everything over the span of his career, with more than 300 acting credits.

This is an entertaining film, and it really held my attention. You can pretty well figure out the ending, but don't let that stop you from watching it. Everyone goes mad a little every so often.

Cue maniacal laughter: Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Frightening the Normals

Finally nearing the end of editing my novel. Well, I still have two or three hundred pages to go, but this is it. The last run-through. I'm at the place now where I'm reading it aloud to myself, hearing the words, how they sound. Also, as usual, music is involved. As I've written my novel, selection of music is important. At the moment, I've been listening to some classical selections -- some of the Romeo and Juliet Ballet by Prokofiev.

Something to keep in mind, if you writers out there haven't already discovered, is that sometimes, especially during battle sequences, it requires you get loud. I do occasionally scare my cats, as I get looks like, "Well, we love him, but he's waving his arms about at nothing we can see, and shouting like a maniac." Also, it's not a good idea to do this part of editing at coffee shops. Coffee can get sloshed about, and they will ask you to leave. Unless it's a coffee shop that caters to creatives. Then they're used to that sort of thing.

Uh oh. Got to work on my battle sequence. Carmina Burana is playing. Where's my sword?

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Voices of the Walls

What these stone walls could tell us.

Set in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, we found the ruins of an early twentieth century-castle. Constructed from the native stone and timber, this was to be the home of Kansas City businessman, Robert McClure Snyder. Unfortunately, in 1906, Snyder died in an automobile accident, never seeing his mansion finished.

Some time later, a stray spark destroyed the structure.

Walking around the place, you can feel the history. It has very much a European, and an ancient, feel. The stone looked like sandstone, but also perhaps granitic. It's impressive and magnificent up close, and perched as it is on a high bluff in the park, we could see the trees and waters below.

We heard the echoes of his dreams there.

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A River Runs Through It

Well, not exactly through it. More like alongside it.

Once upon a time, back in the 1800s, actually from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, the port city of Cairo, Illinois was a boom place. Even Charles Dickens visited it. but Cairo has had its problems, and now, sadly, it's a shell of a town.

Wendy and I and a couple of good friends of ours drive through this southernmost Illinois city the other day, mainly because it's such a fascinating place of contradictions. Of formerly beautiful and magnificent Victorian mansions that now have the Addams family look.

Cairo bumps against the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, but, traffic was diverted away from the city many years ago by two bridges. Now there's not much to support it. Seemed appropriate, in a way, to post these photos of the once-thriving community on Halloween.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's About Time

Yes, it is. Time travel, it is. And a few other matters fantastical, science fictional, and horrifical.

I was in one of those near-dream states while trying to wake up or go to sleep the other day, I don't remember which. You know, where the half-real blends with the half-not-so-real. Anyway, I was thinking about a few issues involved in supernormal writing.

Time travel, for example. Ya gotta be real careful when writing about time travel. I love time travel stories, have been fascinated with them ever since I read The Time Tunnel back in the late 60s. As with so many other science fiction themes, it's easy to get hung up on the idea of time travel. You know, the old "Well, if I go back and throttle Adolf Hitler before he came to power" sort of deal. That becomes the stuff of late-night-too-much-coffee-or-other-chemical conversations between fanboys or other writers.

When using time travel, it's best to have it as just another tool. It's a vehicle. It can get you to the past or the future. Just don't let all the minutiae get caught up in your story. 

Not to be ragging on other works, but there was a TV series Wendy and I watched for a while called Heroes. Great show until they got lost in their plot devices. They had this character named Hiro, who could hop about in space and time. So, they fell into the trap of having him change things in the future or the past anytime they needed to write themselves out of a jam. Uh uh. No can do, folks.

Which leads to another theme in the fantastical. Godlike powers. Take Superman, for example. Sometime in the late 60s to 70s, I don't really remember when, he lost his kryptonite weakness. So, he became pretty much ultra-powerful. Nothing could stop him. And with that, he became uninteresting. There's no conflict for a character like that.

And that's a topic for the next post. We'll pick up there later.

Keep writing, friends.