Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Troubling Scenes

July 9, 2013

“John. . . ,” I said, and checked to see his reaction to my familiarity. Saw nothing more than a hint of a smile. “I want to thank you for the help you’ve given me.”

He nodded. A little more smile this time. “Come on, sonny, out with it.”

I’ve written a scene and something about it. . .” I closed my eyes and shook my head as I remembered my reaction when I read and reread the words. “Something about it doesn’t ring right. And before you say anything, I know I should keep charging forward. But I can’t help it—my mind goes back there. What do I do?”

“It’s happened to me more times than you can imagine. That scene in the boxcar in Grapes of Wrath. Part of what I wrote never made it to print. Like you say, it didn’t ring right.”

I nodded. “I understand the need to edit and tighten. This is a whole scene. Grapes wouldn’t have been right without the boxcar scene.”

“True.” He cupped his chin between thumb and forefinger. “Hmm. For your problem. . . If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

Here’s the link to my Facebook page-- https://www.facebook.com/bobthestoryman

Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, July 1, 2013

Who do I write for?

July 1, 2013

“Mister Steinbeck,” I said, “I’ve been trying to practice what you said about not re-writing on that first draft for the past few weeks. What’s on the paper isn’t as pretty as I’d like to see, but the story is coming together so fast I’m having a difficult time getting it down.”

“It’s John, Sonny. Never did go much for formality. What do you mean it’s not pretty?”

“I have misspelled words, missing action and speech tags. Sometimes I know a beat should be there for balance and flow. I type BEAT in caps and fly on with the narrative or dialogue.

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll fix all those things the next time around, or the next.”

“Or the next?”

He laughed. “That, too.”

“I hope you have more advice for me.”

“Hmmmm.” He pursed his lips. Let’s see. . . How about this? Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”

“Thank you.” Now who should that one person audience be?

Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Waking up after a long sleep

I’ve shook my head and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes.

"About time you woke up, lad.”

I stared at the man who looked at me with a piercing gaze. Oval face, prominent nose, hair combed straight back, a neatly trimmed Van-Dyke beard. “How did I. . . Who are. . .”

“Make up your mind, lad.”

“Let’s start with the first question. How long have I been here—sleeping?”

“A long while. I haven’t been here all the time, but I’d guess a couple of years—maybe more. What are you doing down here with the likes of us?”

I think I figured out the identity of the man. “You wrote some of my favorite novels. “East of Eden”, for instance.”

He gave me a small nod.

“Any advice about writing for a neophyte like me?”

He stroked his chin a moment. “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.”

Interesting thought – to re-write while doing that first draft could be an excuse for not going on. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Until next, time, that’s it from The Storyman. . .

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Writer's Secrets for the New Year

So, Mr. Dickens” I said, “you must have taken a lot of time to let all those ideas grow in your mind to produce all the books of yours I’ve read.” I mentally catalogued over a dozen major novels, collections of short stories. The man was a legend.

He set down his pen and stroked his beard. “Not too much I’m afraid.

“Why do you say that?”

“I have a secret plan.”

“Would you be willing to share it?” I thought it might be close to time to make a resolution for the new year. I had no calendar, but I’d been mentally calculating each day since I’d entered the rabbit hole. Four hundred seventy-three and counting. His secret might be a bonanza.

Certainly. “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

Concentrate on one subject at a time. Hmmm… All the while I thought muli-tasking was the apex.

Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, December 27, 2010

Searching for ideas

I must have fallen asleep again, for when I opened my eyes Mr. Carroll was gone. I stretched and heard my joints complain. I had no idea how long I’d been asleep.
I stood, looked around, and called, “Hello.”
No response but a muffled echo.
“Is anyone out there?” I said, raising my voice.
If I wanted to meet someone new in my quest for knowledge in this subterranean warren I must venture on. It still amazed me while I trudged underground in this maze of tunnels a dim light glowed, but I couldn’t find it’s source. Something for the scientists to puzzle over. On the surface in the real world, they’d get a government grant and spend gobs of money to discover what I already knew. Couldn’t be figured out.
Ahead a few yards I saw what could be another branch of tunnel or an alcove, which might reveal another soul. I quickened my pace. As I neared I saw a writing desk, then a man sitting hunched over a piece of paper with pen in hand which he frequently dipped into an ink bottle.
“Pardon me, sir. Are you a writer?”
He looked up with penetrating eyes. “Who wishes to know?”
I introduced myself and said, “I’m using my time here to learn from other writers.”
“Ah. Good enough. I’m Charles Dickens. I’m please to make your acquaintance, Mr. White. And what would you like to know?”
“How do you get your ideas? How do they grow in your mind?”
He smiled. “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Monday, October 11, 2010

Secrets from my protagonist

A little of Alice’s madness took over my mind as I tried to think. What, I wondered, should I ask Mr. Carroll about my craft?
He settled back in his chair and smiled an enigmatic smile that faded away to nothing. I thought of the cat he’d written about and realized I truly was in a mad world. I could only do as he’d suggested, watch those people I created. The time for questions was up.
I thought of one of my characters and watched him… tried to get inside his head.
I’ve known Tony Petrocelli for a few years now. Part of him had always been a mystery until I drifted to sleep beside Lewis Carroll’s desk.
I guess it was in a dream… (I have no other explanation for what goes on in this mad world of the rabbit hole). A dream where Tony told me everything. The parts of his life he’d hidden from me. The glory and adulation he found as a young football star. His dreams and hopes. Then the pain and anguish he’d endured as his life crashed around him. His battle with drugs that he used to dull his mind so he could survive another day. And how he found himself.
It was quite a conversation I had with my protagonist.
Then I remembered a line in one of Lewis Carroll’s books. 'What is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?’
Here’s the link to my web page: http://www.bobwhite4stories.com .
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman ….

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wild Roads

“Any road for my story, huh?”
“Why not?” He leaned back in his chair, obviously enjoying himself. “Haven’t you heard it’s the journey, not the destination?”
“Sir,” I said. “That’s a saying from recent times. Long after you...”
“After I passed on? Come now. How did I know what publishers want these days? Give me some credit.”
“So you know...”
“Of course I know.” He waved his hand in a grand arc. “All of us know. Now let’s get back to your storytelling. That is why you stopped to talk with me isn’t it?”
I nodded. “It seems to me my story won’t have structure if I don’t have a destination for it.”
“It’s not your story. Concentrate on your characters. Give them lives. Give them personalities. Let them take risks. They’ll try to do what they want to do, and if you let them they’ll interact with each other.”
“What if they take off on some wild tangent? What do I do then?”
A wry grin appeared. “Watch them.”
“Sounds like my story could get out of control.”
“Probably.” He steadied his gaze on me. “I’m reminded of something my characters said.”
“What’s that?”
He scratched his head a moment. “Let me see if I can get this right. ‘I don't want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the cat. 'We're all mad here.'”
Until next time, that’s it from The Storyman…