Category Archives: Creative Writing

Keys To Success

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All of us have some sort of aspirations for our Creative Writing careers. Success is different for each of us. While we may realize that triumph does not come about merely by well wishing, too many times we act as if it will. True victory in life, regardless of how we define it, will only come about by focus and dedication.

Like A Dog On A Bone

Have you ever seen a dog chew on a bone? He knows it’ll be a long and difficult process, but I have never seen focus in my life more than a dog on a bone. When I see that a dog has a bone, nothing can distract him from his task at hand. Even time does not weary him. You cannot take it from him, and after trying once, you’ll know not to try again. Not only will the dog win that tug-of-war, you could receive a war wound from this. You don’t even want to pet a dog when he’s working over a bone.

If we are going to find success in life, we needed to be as focused as a dog on a bone. Some people strive for success, but give up when the meticulousness of achievement wears down on them, but not a dog. Certain folk desire achievement, but strangely will let others take it from them. They don’t have the dog on a bone mentality. And just like a dog doesn’t like to be petted when he as a bone, we need to be weary of friends when it comes to our accomplishments. Our loved ones can be the one thing that can derail our victory train, and only if we let them. We don’t want to hurt our loved ones, and yet we will allow them to hurt us by blocking us from achieving ultimate victory in life.

Like A Gazelle Being Hunted

Sometimes you can define something by looking at its opposite. Success is not failing. Life is a pass/fail exam. So to do the things that keep you from failing will be in line with carrying out what you need for success. This is important because some people feel as if they can still fall just short of their aspirations and still be considered successful. That’s like saying you can strike out in baseball but think of it as a home run because you were close. If you strike out, you are out. No one in archery misses he target and yells, “Bulls eye!”

From the Bible, the sixth chapter from the book of Proverbs deals with the need to be industrious and productive. In the fifth verse, Solomon says, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.” For a gazelle, success is not getting killed. Failure is not acceptable. Close enough and almost there still leave you as a trophy head on someone’s wall and steak dinners for the family. Run toward success, but also run away from failure. Run as if failure cannot be acceptable. Succeed or die! This is the only path to victory.

Going To The Mattresses

We have all heard the phrase “go to the mat,” especially when it is someone telling us how committed they are to some goal or project. They are willing to “go to the mat,” in other words, do what ever it takes to accomplish what they want. The phrase has grown threadbare and means little today, but its origins should breathe new life into the power of this claim.

It comes from the 1972 movie, “The Godfather,” and actually the phrase is “go to the mattresses.” Clemenza tells Pauly to see a guy downtown about picking up a bunch of mattresses (about 25 of them) because “Sonny is ready to go to the mattresses over this thing.” To go to the mattresses is gangster slang from this time meaning to go to all out war with a rival gang. These mobsters would have several rooms with nothing but mattresses covering the floor. These were for the soldiers in this makeshift barracks of sorts. If you are at war with another gangster, you are either on the street to kill someone or sleeping.

If success for us is just a little “it would be nice to” kind of fantasy, we will not succeed. Achieving our goals or not is the difference between eating and being eaten. It is winning and losing a war. All of these phrases have to do with survival. Human achievement is unique to people of dedication, and we need to keep it. We should all want something we can focus upon. If we have no dreams, no aspirations in this life, if we are not noted for accomplishments, but merely eat and sleep, nothing more, then we might as well be animals since this I how they exist. Dreams make us human and reaching them keeps us truly alive in every sense of the word.

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Book Jacketing

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Creative Writers compose stories that begin in one place and end in another. But this is not done in a vacuum. It is done within the lives of people, albeit completely fictional. Why do we start here and end there? The lives of the characters begin long before the book starts, and unless they die on the page, their lives go on. Why we seemingly pick two arbitrary boundaries is not a real problem with readers, but subconsciously it’s prickly. A good way to psychologically handle this problem is with a technique called book jacketing.

Just like a good, old fashioned book jacket, sometimes called a dust cover, the book jacket wraps around the front cover and around the back cover. In a literary sense, book jacketing is when the author references something at the beginning of the story that we bring back at the end. It provides a satisfactory sense of closure to the story as a whole. It sort of makes sense of why we begin here and end there.

Prince

I’ll give a few examples from my own novels, since I am more familiar with them than anything else. In my third novel, Prince, the main character, Charlie, proposes marriage to his sweetie, Lizzie, in chapter one. After she says yes, they talk about their future. Charlie thinks it’ll all be bluebirds and sunshine and Lizzie is worried things may go poorly just because life does at times. They leave chapter one with a wager, if it isn’t happily ever after then I’ll owe you a coke.

I don’t have to tell you things went south quickly. They never got married. As they are saying their good byes at the end, Lizzie reaches into a brown paper bag and pulls out a six pack of Coca-Cola. Charlie refuses them and insists that they will someday have their own happily ever after, just not at that time and not in that world. It’s such an incidental thing, a can of soda, just it ties the story in a bow for the reader.

Prince is available of Amazon and Kindle. You can click here to find it.

Pietas

My fifth novel, Pietas, begins with a nuthouse burning and patience running free while being chased by doctors and attendants. Two of these escapees are my main character, Darl, and his best friend, Benjy. Darl set the fire in order for the two of them to escape, which suits him since he was put in the asylum for burning down a barn. As they run away from the inferno, Darl says that the first thought that ran through his head was that he had no more excuse and had to visit his mother’s grave.

Darl and Benjy, followed by others from the asylum, have adventures all over Mississippi during the Great Depression before settling down in Panther Burn. The citizens are slow to include these people, but with Darl’s help, they end up on big happy town. But Darl kills a man and has to leave. As he rides off, he thinks about heading towards Jackson where his mother us buried. Here the book jacket is not an item but a thought. It functions just as effectively in summing up all the action of all these people into a single story.

Pietas is available of Amazon and Kindle. You can click here to find it.

Entanglement

Entanglement is my seventh and last novel. It begins with Rex shooting a mouse in the corner of his living room. His cousin, Axel, runs into the room and takes the gun from him. The gun belonged to Axel’s dead father and he didn’t like Rex playing with the gun. Later, Rex and Axel fight in public and neither are willing to let it go for reasons of their own pride. About halfway through the novel, Rex takes the same gun and kills Axel on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Rex flees to Cuba and settles in Havana. But after a decade there, he has the need once more to leave in haste for killing another man, so he returns the St Petersburg. His plantation is in ruins and the mansion is abandoned except of the butler. He used Rex’s so it still worked, and he took it to go to the Governor’s New Year’s Ball that night. Things go badly for Rex, and driving away he almost has a wreck from being distracted. When he stops suddenly, the gun slides out from under the passenger seat. A policeman pulls Rex over for his erratic driving and Rex, a crack shot, unloads his gun on the cop, who ends up unharmed. The policeman returns fire and Rex dies. Here the book jacket item is important to the telling of the story.

Entanglement is available of Amazon and Kindle. You can click here to find it.

Not all of my novels are book jacketed, but it is a device available to writers. It can be something the story centers around, like a gun. It could be a thought like I need to visit my mother’s grave. Or it may be something as innocuous as a can of Coke. Anything can be used as a book jacket.

 

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Top Ten of my Favorite Writings of the Lost Generation

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In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s posthumous autobiography, Gertrude Stein is credited with describing the post Great War writers as part of a “Lost Generation.” Most of these are Americans expats living in Paris. The period in between the two world wars best cover what is known as Modernism, although it also shows us Fauvism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. These are my favorite works of Modern American literature.

10  USA Trilogy, a set of three novels by John Dos Passos (1938). Thought to be too political, even preachy (unless you’re a Socialist).

9   “Many Marriages”, a play by Sherwood Anderson (1923). Rarely performed, if ever, but Fitzgerald said it was Anderson’s best work.

8   “HIM”, a play by e.e. cummings (1927). Long before Seinfeld, here’s a play about nothing, just not as funny.

7   The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, a novel by Gertrude Stein (1933). Written as an autobiography, but only because the narrator of this fiction was well known to Stein.

6   “Atlantis”, a poem by Hart Crane (1930). The bridge is a metaphor for a metaphor, if that helps.

5   “Ars Poetica” a poem by Archibald Macleish (1926). There have been many, but this is still the capitol example of the art of poetry.

4   “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, a poem by T.S. Eliot (1915). The most unmanly man is poetry.

3   The Sun Also Rises, a novel by Ernest Hemingway (1926). An impotent man falls in love with a nymphomaniac. What could go wrong?

2   The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925). You can’t turn back the clock.

1   Ulysses, a novel by James Joyce (1922). A father finds a son, and a on finds a father.

I’m not saying that these are the best, just that they are my favorites. What are your favorite works of Lost Generation literature? Are there any Modern American writers I left off? Make your own list or Comment about who you would change the list.

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Haute Cuisine & Creative Writing

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Some people dive into a book the same way they would a juicy steak, and find just as much sustenance. Great chefs are dependent upon fine diners just as great authors rely upon refined readers. But no one wakes up one day and thinks that since he likes eating that he would make a good chef at that point. It takes years of training and hard work to become a master chef. But any old dingus can write a book, right? Wrong! Without training, you may be a line chef in some greasy spoon or you might write some mindless pop-lit drivel. People may eat it up, too, but you’ll never be any good, much less great.

Some people confuse popularity and acceptance with ability. The best has not always been popular (that does not mean that anything popular is not well done). The Great Gatsby did not sell well until after the Second World War, which was after Fitzgerald died. Vincent Van Gogh did not earn enough from the sale of his art to pay for all of the paint that he ate. And while McDonalds may have served billions, Ruth’s Chris will still be serving the best food in town on any night.

A Keen Palate

Before you can even begin culinary school, you have to had eaten a lot. And just as the chef needs to be well-fed, the author must be well-read. A chef needs a refined palate so they will know the flavors of food and how they will taste in combinations. Maybe you’ve seen the bit on TV where chefs are blindfolded, fed something, and then have to identify it. It’s funny how much they get wrong.

People want to be good writers, but they’ve never read anything, or at least they’ve never read anything good. The Classics are the Classics for a reason. They are the best that the literary world has to offer. As Mozart was above Salieri, anything by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Joyce will always be better than anything written today considered popular literature. You will never write better than the level you read, and if all you eat in cotton candy, you’ll end up as a terrible chef.

Cordon Bleu

There are cooking techniques student learn in culinary school. I didn’t know that for a long time. I thought they learned recipes. There may be a few they learn near the end, but for the most part they are developing the necessary skills to carry out the instructions of any given recipe. And once they graduate, they should be advanced enough to put together their own recipes.

When any serious author takes the time to learn how to write, they are developing the skills that are necessary for a great story. They train in plot and character development. They learn how to write dialogue and build worlds. Most of all, they work on finding their voice. That is the most difficult part of all to any Creative Writing.

I have run across people who call themselves authors, even though they have no training. Their mommy told them they write the best stories, and that’s enough validation for them that they can start that novel at 16 or 21 or maybe 35, but it all reads like it was put together by an 8-year-old. And as beneficial as a subscription to Writer’s Digest may be, it’s articles can never substitute for time spent in classes under professors. The finest culinary school in the world is the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Its name means Blue Ribbon. The best validation does not come from mommy, but from professionals. Have the courage to learn from them.

Knife Skills

Chefs are known by their knife skills. They cut everything the same size so it cooks evenly. Writers are also known for our knife skills, but these knives are the cutlery used in editing a piece. The untrained writer falls in love with his work and does not have the knowledge or the heart to take anything out. Nothing is beyond editing.

Any given writing project is very personal to the writer, but the most advanced know how to distant themselves from the manuscript and stare at it coldly and let go anything that doesn’t work. Editing is not just fixing the commas and misspellings. It is fixing the story. We flush out the flat scenes and cut out is filler. We fill in the plot holes and tighten to story arc. Writing is rewriting.

Anything ever doing at all is worth doing well. In fact, if you’re not going to try your hardest and do your best, why do anything at all? This goes for the short story from the hobby writer to the professional author and everyone in between. If you are a Creative Writer, you don’t have to be the literary equivalent of Wolfgang Puck, but don’t settle for burger flipper, either.

It still takes 10,000 hours to master any discipline. If you are going to be a serious writer, put in the time to learn, and then put in the time to exercise what you have learned. If you are going to be a serious author, you need to take your preparation and execution seriously. If you do, folks will read your stuff and ask for seconds.

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“Of All The Gin Joints In All The World:” The Power Of Coincidence In Fiction

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One of the most beloved and best quoted movies in the 1942 classic Casablanca. It’s set in the costal Moroccan town during the Second World War. Our hero, Rick Blaine, is an American expat who for runs a nightclub and casino. A Czech leader of the Resistance, Victor Lazlo, comes to Casablanca and to Rick’s place with a woman, Elsa Lund, one with whom Rick shared a romantic past in Paris. They decide to leave when the German Occupation is upon them, but she abandons him at the train station with only a note of goodbye.

The Germans are trying to keep Victor from leaving for America. In the end, Rick helps them escape, even though he sticks out his neck for nobody. He is strongly tempted to disappear with Elsa and leave Victor with the enemy. He nobly sacrifices his happiness for the greater good, the fight against Nazism. One of the most familiar lines comes the night Rick sees Elsa again after the club is closed. He says, “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to come into mine.”

It Just So Happens

It is the greatest of coincidences that she had just happened to come with her husband to the club ran by her ex-boyfriend. But the movie would be nothing without that coincidence. It’s not just the arrival of Elsa. There are a series of coincidences that make the story possible. It just so happens that letters of transit were stolen from German couriers, and it just so happens that the thief asks Rick to watch over the letters. Another coincidence is that the thief is shot. Now Rick is in a place to help Victor or himself or no one. The string of coincidences begins long before all of this. It’s coincidence that some time before Victor was a prisoner of the Germans and Elsa thought he was dead, that as a grieving widow she happens to meet and fall for Rick, and finds out Victor is both alive and free just as she is supposed to leave Paris with Rick.

Great storytelling relies on the wonderful power of coincidence and how it connects the dots of the plot. Coincidence arranges for Jay Gatsby to live across the bay from his former girlfriend, Daisy Faye, now Daisy Buchannan. This same coincidence just happens to arrange for her cousin to move in next door to Gatsby, and he uses this to arrange a reacquaintance that steers the rest of the story. Sometimes the coincidence helps with the plot twist. Pip just happens across an escaped prisoner and helps him, and coincidentally he grows rich and becomes Pip’s benefactor. Pip and the reader assume this will help him win Estella, but it doesn’t. She is such a manhater like Mrs. Havisham that Pip is better off without her. And the twist is the help of the benefactor places Pip in a better world with class and status.

Suspension Of Disbelief

The British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge popularized the idea of the need for a willing suspension of disbelief on the part of any reader of fiction. Without this, the reader constantly exclaims, “That’ll never happen,” and never get around to enjoying the story. Try reading and enjoying “Oedipus Rex” with your skepticism barking as a guard dog at every fantastic occurrence. In genre like Fantasy and Science Fiction, it is clear how the suspension of disbelief is indispensable. But even in more mainstream stories with realistic settings, a willing suspension of disbelief is needful. One place this works is in the story’s reliance upon a heavy use of coincidence to make sure everything happens just as it should.

The Creative Writer needs to be aware that coincidence is necessary for fiction and not be afraid to use it. We can hope that the reader will do their job and chain up the dog. Still, we need to be careful in how we apply the use of circumstance to suit the story. If it’s done in a ham-handed manner it will be a weight to the suspension and help the skepticism poke through. We need to take care to apply the coincidental in a manner that is still believable, something that makes the reader say, “I could see it happening like that.” It needs to resemble the time and chance that happens to us all. If coincidence does not look like the regular occurrence of life that happens to everyone, it’ll be hard to swallow. So when our characters have their own “of all the gin joints” moment in our stories, the reader consoles the character, and says, “I’ve been there before, too, buddy!”

 

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Creativity – As Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Many are familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Long before he began work on any of these stories, he wrote something he called The Book of Lost Tales, which was published posthumously as The Silmarillion. It serves as a prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as a reference book for the history of Middle Earth for the few thousands of years of the beginning of Tolkien’s legendarium.

The story of Sauron and the Ring of Power is the final section of The Silmarillion. A good deal of the book discusses the origin of Middle Earth, Tolkien’s creation myth for his fantasy world. The One true God creates his angels, and through these, He creates the rest. This is not some Gnostic demiurge creation story because God still is the sole creator, but his creation is simply mediated by these angels.

Sub-Creation
These angels are sub-creators, according to Tolkien. The notion of sub-creation is a big element in Tolkien’s entire mythology, and it relates to all of us who are Creative Writers. Tolkien writes of angels as created beings who help create the world as a means of indicating his idea that mankind is intended to be God’s sub-creators in the Primary World.
Before we read about the love or the holiness of God, we see His creative powers. He creates the world in six days. Man in the highest order of God’s creation, made in His image, and into whom is given a soul. Since God is a creator first, then that made in his image is creative, as well. All artists are specifically sub-creators, but so is the doctor and the nurse, the lawyer and the judge, the smith and the mason. In this, man has not only the ability to create, or the right to create, but the obligation to create.

Leaf on the Tree
We will limit our consideration to writers. Tolkien did not think that writers originated anything. That would be creation. We are still sub-creators in that we only deal in representation of what God made, even in worlds of fantasy (here’s a little secret: all fiction is fantasy). Fiction is not invented, but rather discovered. He compared it to a leaf on a tree. Each story is a single leaf that indicates there is a whole tree full of others leaves from which it sprang.

The job of the author is take the leaf given to him by the tree and talk all about that leaf, not forgetting the tree, but not mentioning it, either. How artistic the author is seen in how he relates the leaf to others and allows them into the tale of that leaf. Each leaf is on its own glorious, but still a single leaf from an even grander tree. God made the tree and lets us have whatever leaves He will in His own time and in His own manner.

Escapism
Another image Tolkien used to describe the concept of sub-creation is that of light and a crystal. God is the light, and is described as a single shaft of light that comes down from above and strikes a piece of crystal, which represents the individual person as sub-creator. The light is fractured and comes out of different sides and at different angles, and often in different colors. These different individual branches of light is the story sub-created by the writer. The splinter of light is impossible without the one true shaft of light coming down from above. Likewise, our individual tales of fiction are only possible because they come from the Great Creator down into us and through us as His sub-creators.

The fact that all human sub-creativity comes God as Creator feeds into the reason and purpose of our fiction. Tolkien wrote of his books as means of escapism, but not in the way it is often used today. People say they want to read a good book and escape this world and all of its problems. Tolkien calls that foolish. As a Christian man, Tolkien believed in Heaven, and that this world is not all there is. Escapism is considering the world to come, that there may be something better than this one. For Tolkien, this is the stories ability to remind the reader of the greater tree.

We all have the ability to be a sub-creator of God. The author who writes as well as the reader who recreates what the author wrote all use their creative capacities given by God. This is more than a talent, but a task – but what a wonderful obligation it is!

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Creativity: Part One – As Inspired by Osho

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Anyone can benefit from a study of Creativity, but all artists are dependent upon it. And to be sure, Creative Writers need to develops a continual sense of Creativity. In this first article, we will consider the book Creativity by Osho. She gives us four points that should help us work on our own use of Creativity.

Be a Child Again

Our brains are separated into a pair of hemispheres, the left and the right. The left is the more reasonable and intellectual side and the right is more emotional and creative. Children are very creative and imaginative. But it seems our school system and society at large restricts and shuns this right brain work far too often. Bosses say they like people who think outside of the box (which is such an inside of the box sort of phrase), but it’s usually the innovators who are fired and the people who plod along with the expected who advance. Remember Jerry Maguire?

We need to learn to be like a child again so we can regain the right brain use we have lost in our present world. We need to spend time being imaginative and innovative. Ask the eternal What? but always follow it up with How? and most importantly Why? Curiosity is that vital first step in Creativity. Imagine things both real, potential, and impossible.

Be Ready to Learn

It takes 10,000 hours to master any subject or discipline, at least that’s what the experts say. No one says I always wanted to be a musician and picks up a saxophone and starts playing, even trying to be a professional. They take lessons. It has to be the same for Creative Writers. I have read far too much stuff from people who always wanted to write, or their mommy told them how good their stories are when they were kids, and it’s always awful. They think they can write a novel just because they have the desire and determination.

I spent a good five to six years learning the craft of authorship before I began a novel. I wrote many short stories, and each of them was an exercise. I took as many Creative Writing classes as I could get into. I knew I wanted to be an author and took it seriously enough to learn how to write the English language. And I am still learning because I don’t know it all. Every novel is an exercise where I try to develop this or work on that. I read books and articles on writing. Maybe the best schooling is from the masters themselves. I read the greats to learn how to write as well as I can.

Be a Dreamer

Many will call it a waste of time, but Creative Writers need to give themselves time to daydream. Part of this has to do with being a child again, and some it has to do with letting scenes and characters act things out before our eyes. But mostly, daydreaming is like anything else in that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Take time to daydream, but not necessarily about any writing project, just dream about anything, everything. Try not to control it, but let it happen. The best daydreaming is intuitive. That’s because the best daydreaming is actually a line of communication between our conscious and sub-conscious minds. This is the true self, and that part our conscious mind often tries to hide from us.

Here’s a little secret: all of my novel ideas come from dreams. I don’t mean daydreams, but sleeping dreams. I’ll awake and remember if I’m lucky, and think about it for the morning or the day. And if I think it’s got enough juice, I’ll develop it and write it. So when I say be a dreamer, I mean both kinds.

Find Greatness in Ordinary Things

This blends the analysis of left brain with the wonderment of right brain. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to do. But like anything else, if you do it often enough and consistently enough, it can be a habit. And what a wonderful pattern for your life, to watch a bug on a leaf, a bird eating tossed out bread, or a sunset from beginning to end.

This is one reason I like watching some of these nature shows (another reason is there is nothing good on TV these days). But when I speak of ordinary things, I mean look at your life and the ordinary tasks of human existence we all do every day. Find pleasure in the simple things and enjoy what most ignore as mundane. This will keep your minds active, both left and right, conscious and sub-conscious. This works the soil for Creativity and makes sure your brain is fertile ground for anything you may write or do.

We are made by God to be Creative, but like all other personal aptitudes, it takes work to develop and maintain it. Anyone will benefit from a Creative mind, but authors and artists are skilless without it. Try these things and you’ll see an improvement I your writing and your life.

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“There Are Two Kinds Of Men,” A Study In Foils From Doctor Zhivago

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Whenever there is a novel-based movie in the theatres, someone will say, “The book was better.” Almost always it is, but there are always exceptions. David Lean’s 1965 film Doctor Zhivago is at least as good as Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel by the same name.

There is one scene I enjoy in the movie not in the book, so the credit goes to screenplay writer, Robert Bolt. Larisa Volokhonsky has just introduced her fiancé Pasha Antipov to her mother’s “advisor” Viktor Komarovsky, with whom she had been having an affair. Afterward, Komarovsky expresses his disapproval of the marriage because it’s basically a mismatch.

He says, “There are two kinds of men,” and Antipov is the first kind. “He is pure. He’s the kind of man the world pretends to look up to, and in fact despises. he’s the kind of man that breeds unhappiness particularly in women.” He follows this with the second kind of man, which he insists is “not pure, but alive.”

Two Kinds Of Men

Antipov and Komarovsky are two ends of a pole, the prig and the libertine. In literature this is called a foil. This serves as an example for those of us who are Creative Writers. We can learn how to further develop our characters with the use of foils. It is common to foil the protagonist against the antagonist, but that is really the low hanging fruit of authorship. This model is more exciting and provides more options for us.

While there are many opposites that can be foiled, the prig and the libertine may be the most common and the easiest to attempt. Antipov is a revolutionary committed to ending the rule of the czars and bringing about a worker’s state. He is the high-minded idealist. Komarovsky is a rich lawyer who likes to drink, gamble, and eat at fancy restaurants. He has political opinions, but they don’t move him as his appetite. Pasternak, as well as Lean, show us two kids of men as dissimilar as they can be.

Two Kinds Of Women

After Komarovsky tells Larisa about the two kinds of men, he says, “there are also two kinds of women, and you as well both well know are not the first kind.” He follows that with, “you are a slut.” She may not this depraved, but she is far from being the prig. She is indeed alive and willing to experience life. A woman of the first kind would be Tonya Gromyko. She is not as snobby as one thinks a prig to be, be she is rich and proper and fits the bill of the idealized woman.

The main character, Doctor Yuri Zhivago, marries Tonya, but has an affair with Larisa. This is after her husband, Antipov, has left her to fight in the revolution. While Tonya and Larisa might not be as severe as a prig and a libertine, they do foil each other as Antipov and Komarovsky do, just not as extreme.

What About Yuri?

So what kind of man is our main character, Doctor Zhivago himself? Neither, or more to the point, both. That is why I feel that we as Creative Writers can use foils in major character who surround our main character, and not have the two foils be the protagonist and the antagonist.

Zhivago has the best qualities of both men without their excesses. This helps put his affair in a literary context. As both kinds of men, Yuri despises both Antipov and Komarovsky, but he loves both Tonya and Larisa because just one type of woman would not do. Zhivago has ideas and is ideal, he knows life and how to live, he is simultaneously the doctor and the poet.

The challenge to us authors is to learn how to use foils, and maybe even form a foil triangle of sorts as both Pasternak and Lean did. These are the sorts of things that make our texts more full and our characters more developed.

 

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Animal Group Names & A Collection of Characters: Part II – Land Mammals

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In my last article, we looked at the idea of group names for animals as metaphors in fiction. It is such a long list, so we began with groups names of birds. For example, we have all heard of a murder of crows. You can refer to group of characters, let’s say – assassins, as a murder of crows.

We are on land today. There are many mammals who roam the earth, and their collective names are just as varied and interesting as those of the birds. Think of the phrase, “a pride of lions.” If you have a collection of characters who are particularly arrogant, this would fit marvelously. So here is the list.

  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A cauldron of bats
  • A sleuth of bears
  • An obstinacy of buffalo
  • A pace of donkeys
  • A parade of elephants
  • A gang of elk
  • A business of ferrets
  • A tower of giraffes
  • A tribe of goats
  • A band of gorillas
  • A thunder of hippopotamuses
  • A cackle of hyenas
  • A shadow of jaguar
  • A mob of kangaroo
  • A conspiracy of lemurs
  • A leap of leopards
  • A barrel of monkeys
  • A romp of otters
  • A passel of pigs
  • A prickle of porcupines
  • A warren of rabbits
  • A crash of rhinoceroses
  • A streak of tigers

I find this list wonderful. I’ve already used one of the collective terms of birds in my work in progress, a scold of jaybirds. Using these group names of animals as metaphors for your groups of characters will add a layer of flavor and color to your prose, and you’ll be glad you did it.

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Another NaNo In The Books

nano16win

I haven’t posted in a while, and for I am sorry. But I’ve been busy preparing for and participating in this years National Novel Writing Month, best known as NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo, tout suite.

And now that it’s over, it’s only eleven months until the next NaNoWriMo, so start working on those outlines. I know this sounds funny, but if you’re like me, you already have an idea for NaNoWriMo ’17. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably change your mind about what to write somewhere around July, and then again near the end of September, and once more November 2nd. But this is not the time to prepare, but reflect. And so looking back on yet another NaNoWriMo experience, I’ve been reminded of one unexcapable fact.

Writing Is Hard And Fun

How many times have you heard or even said that writers write because we cannot not be writers? It’s true for any artist. We must create. If we were not doing NaNoWriMo, we’d be working on a short story or finishing yet another draft for another novel. NaNoWriMo just gives us all a mutual target.

And we all know that creating is pure joy, mostly, although sometimes barely. And yet we create, because there is a pleasure in it not determinable anywhere else. But the joy comes with tears because being creative is difficult. I mean much more than writing 50,000 words in 30 days is hard, but being an artist who makes something from nothing is problematical, at best.

And this hardness brings tears because we genuinely care about our product. We are truly angered when what we love so much appears to us as something quite ugly. If we didn’t care about our art, we would write garbage and be satisfied, or give up when to gets too hard. But we cherish our writing as a mother does her newborn, and we want nothing but the best for it. So when our baby hurts, we suffer, too. But we would not have it any other way.

The Only Way To Fly

As truly difficult as it is to be a creative writer, difficult even to the point of pain, we love being a writer because of the joy it brings on so many levels. Coming up with that perfect word, that most beautiful sentence, or the best-written paragraph we ever produced – these things brush the tears from our cheeks and turn the corners of our mouths up in a well satisfied smile.

We write because we have to, and we have to because we know first-hand of the unmitigated satisfaction that arises from getting it just right. And we know that there is nothing else under the sun that can bring about that sense of this-life fullness, and we cannot have it any other way. Maybe writing is fun because it’s hard, or hard because it’s fun. Either way, I’m grateful for NaNoWriMo, but if it were not there, I’d still be writing something else.

And now if you would excuse me, I need to start working on next year’s outline.

 

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