Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Some alphas are family men by training and/or inclination

Many think sports-stars are solitary alpha males. Well alphas, they may be. But solitary they are not. They learn everyday they play or practice to rely on others. You may see them make the big play but they work as part of the team and know it. They will often credit their teammates when being interviewed and they ain’t kidding.

They may start their career carousing with the boys and taking on as many groupies as their health will allow, but as they mature, they make excellent family men because the best play for the team. These heroes you want on your character team.

Have you cared to describe this type of arc when writing your sports hero including back-story? Excellent at this and a good example for all writers is of course, Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Quarterback Philip Rivers on Faith and Family:

 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sometimes you just have to let go

I’m often a perfectionist, when it comes to publishing product. But life is only so long or short. Rather than making a vow to release by such and such a date, I took a different course. I was inspired by a new RWA chapter mate. A guy like me, dared to join the hen party that is RWA San Diego. He has published many non-fiction books and wants to give romance novels a go. I’ll be the first to buy his stories. Our new mate, Gregory Godek, has written the nationwide best seller, 1001 Ways to be Romantic (A Handbook for Men — A Godsend for Women). He has written twelve books. BTW, he’s a great conversationalist and good guy.

This brings the conversation back to my stuff. I’m sitting on three books, basically, to add to my five. I need to stand up and give my creations a little air.

First, my try at non-fiction, is this blog over the years.

Inspired by Greg, I stopped editing after I got to the 101th post and decided the rest would someday comprise the next 101 tips on the how to write male characters (primarily for romance novels).

Fini.

That is, except for formatting and choosing a title.

Any help here is appreciated.

HELP!

101 Tips on Writing Male Characters???

101 Tips on Writing the Hero in Romance???

What I want to say, and it doesn’t have to be in the title, is that there are some misconceptions about how men think and act. There are also renaissance men, I call them, who can be alphas and betas who can be Navy Seals, etc. The tips are not all fascinating little gems commonly missed or common mistakes made by some romance writers, but include my take on writing using the typical “Harlequin” tropes and I do mix in general comments on writing (that include the heroine).

So, please, please, title advice.

Next up: I’ve been sitting on a bunch of short stories. Out they go by Christmas, in one collection, for two reasons.

1. I’m clearing the slate.

2. The lead off story is called Wings by Christmas (a take on the Jimmy Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life). In short, I want my wings.

I’ve been sitting on and fiddling with my first romance novel for years. I’m tired of guessing whether it’s good enough. I’m going with my gut. Out it will go, sometime in January, no matter what. Angel’s Eyes.

So, at the end of January, I’ll be able to get back to writing Seven Boyfriends which has been stuck on page 89 for a long while. Then I’ll have something fresh to pitch to the wonderful agents and editors I have met on my RWA and life journey.

Does this all sound rational to you? Call it my New Year’s resolution (on both sides of the year’s end) if you like. But it really a different way of mixing promises and action.

What are you doing with your writing?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Study finds no difference in male vs. female brains

According to a study that examined sex differences in the brain as a whole, there is no "male brain" and "female brain."

Hamilton Spectator by Allie Shah
Also reported by the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) DECEMBER 13, 2015

The brain, it seems, is not part of the battle of the sexes.

There is no such thing as a "male brain" and a "female brain," according to a study that examined sex differences in the brain.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University analyzed MRI scans of more than 1,400 brains.

They concluded that the brain does not reflect a clear dichotomy based on gender differences in the same way that — say — sex organs do.

Instead, human brains are unpredictable mash-ups of "masculine" and "feminine" traits. Researchers also found no distinction between men and women when it comes to grey matter.

"Brains with features that are consistently at one end of the 'maleness-femaleness' continuum are rare," the authors wrote this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 
"Rather, most brains are comprised of unique 'mosaics' of features — some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males."

Bob your blogger writing here; I was completely surprised and delighted by this study. It helps me continue the argument that a good writer (even of romance) is a good writer, no matter the sex of the author.

Since the article above is meant to challenge pre-conceptions, perhaps a trip back to that ground we thought we all stood on would be appropriate. If you remove brain function and topology  (that is, each brain whether male or female is unique!) from the argument below, you end up with a much stronger case for cultural, social, historical, generational influence and imprinting to explain why we do all the silly things we do to drive each other crazy.

Are There Differences between the Brains of Males and Females?

Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD

That men and women are different, everyone knows that.

But, aside from external anatomical and primary and secondary sexual differences, scientists know also that there are many other subtle differences in the way the brains from men and women process language, information, emotion, cognition, etc.

One of the most interesting differences appear in the way men and women estimate time, judge speed of things, carry out mental mathematical calculations, orient in space and visualize objects in three dimensions, etc. In all these tasks, women and men are strikingly different, as they are too in the way their brains process language. This may account, scientists say, for the fact that there are many more male mathematicians, airplane pilots, bush guides, mechanical engineers, architects and race car drivers than female ones.
 
On the other hand, women are better than men in human relations, recognizing emotional overtones in others and in language, emotional and artistic expressiveness, esthetic appreciation, verbal language and carrying out detailed and pre-planned tasks. For example, women generally can recall lists of words or paragraphs of text better than men (13).
 
The "father" of sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson, of Harvard University (10), said that human females tend to be higher than males in empathy, verbal skills, social skills and security-seeking, among other things, while men tend to be higher in independence, dominance, spatial and mathematical skills, rank-related aggression, and other characteristics.
 
When all these investigations began, scientists were skeptical about the role of genes and of biological differences, because cultural learning is very powerful and influential among humans. Are girls more prone to play with dolls and cooperate among themselves than boys, because they are taught to be so by parents, teachers and social peers, or is it the reverse order?

However, gender differences are already apparent from just a few months after birth, when social influence is still small. For example, Anne Moir and David Jessel, in their remarkable and controversial book "Brain Sex" (11), offer explanations for these very early differences in children:
 
"These discernible, measurable differences in behaviour have been imprinted long before external influences have had a chance to get to work. They reflect a basic difference in the newborn brain which we already know about -- the superior male efficiency in spatial ability, the greater female skill in speech."
 
But now, after many careful controlled studies where environment and social learning were ruled out, scientists learned that there may exist a great deal of neurophysiological and anatomical differences between the brains of males and females.
 
Bob again: In the doctor’s last sentence, he writes “may exist.” The problem is the doctor didn’t know. But now we do.
 
Go write, ladies and gentlemen.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Part-Time Romances

It’s a two-thought-for-one Sunday

1. Many romance novels start out with a cute meet and then devise ways for the hero and heroine to be thrown together in struggle. Often in real life, potential couples struggle to see each other once or twice a week and in the case of long-distance, much less.

As an author, don’t miss the chance to show how these want-to-be couples feel and change, rather than say something like he missed her so much and move on to the "scene." The characters’ arcs depend on keeping it real with a good dose of emotion—specifically yearning, worry and expectant joy can be recommended. Most of us have experienced this in our lives, so it shouldn’t be too hard to recall. Writing a part-time romance is difficult if only because the template or journey is wide open.

Example: Carrying on idle talk with mutual friends, he kept looking over his shoulder, they’d probably have figured out his crazy in-love heart by now and forgive his partial attention. She’d be here anytime now. Then she rounded the corner onto the too long hallway. His breath caught as he took in her puckish, Tinkerbelle jaunt. He broke out into a huge smile he could no more stop, than  quit breathing. She returned the emotion and put up her hand for a swat. Nonchalantly, “how you doing, Joey?” She challenged him with that “shut up and dance with me” smirk and flirt but he wanted more, much more.

It struck him, he wanted her for the rest of his life, but what was stopping her from saying I love you? he desperately wished today would be the day she'd catch up.

2. Writing part-time romances or the like needs subtlety, which brings me to a great movie I saw last night (which isn’t exactly part-time, hence the two-for-one post), Hallmark's, Just in Time for Christmas. The world-premiere holiday movie stars Eloise Mumford as Lindsay Rogers, Michael Stahl-David as Jason Stewart, William Shatner as Coachman, and Christopher Lloyd as Grandpa Bob.

The writer sneaks in an homage to It’s a wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart with a subtle look at what life would be like if the heroine didn’t choose love. This movie is much more than a part-time or even very little-time romance. It’s a mystical alternative-time romance. Through the use of allegory and homage, the writer manages to speak to what is most important in life and, in so doing, twists our hearts into pretzels. Eloise Mumford is my favorite Hallmark actress, very easy on the eyes and with an incredible range of emotion and acting skill.

See this movie.
Here's the Just in Time for Christmas trailer (1 minute):
 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Loving in the Moment

Loving in the moment is not very different from living in the moment.

My mom lives in the moment because she has a disease similar to Alzheimer’s. At Sunday Mass, she remembers most of the words of most of the hymns and sings along. For the newer songs, she can’t remember, and then, unfortunately, she whistles. At least her whistle is hardly noticeable.

My mom also loves in the moment. Aside from singing, love is all she has left. She’ll tell everybody she meets (even for the hundredth time) she loves them. She’s focused totally on the person before her to the likely point that everything else around her disappears.

You don’t need Alzheimer’s to love or live in the moment. When you are with the person you love, you may have tunnel vision and literally not see anything around you except the object of your passion. You may not be able to think of anything else, your emotions may overwhelm you. You are crazy in love. Like moths to the flame, nothing else matters. And there’s not a better feeling.

This condition can be both a guy and gal thing. I know.

Male POV: Don’t hesitate to write some of your heroes this way. This might not work too well for a hero who needs to be observant, i.e. detective, soldier, spy. On the other hand it could be seen as a fatal flaw.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Don't adjust your TV

Hallmark romance movies are often great entertainment and suited for any romantic soul, but—I haven’t seen them all—hasn’t every hero and heroine of the thousands of movies they produced been white?

I’m not much of an activist—was when younger—I marched for equal and civil rights, but would someone tell me I’m wrong and could they site the title or plot of the movie in which either the hero or heroine or both are not white?

RWA has formed a diversity committee. TV has many interracial or multicultural shows. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Harlequin dedicated (segregated) black stories? Isn’t it time to acknowledge that stories and people are crossing boundaries all the time? Does anybody feel like I do—ashamed that our romance industry isn’t colorblind?

If you feel like I do, send Hallmark an email. BTW, I did this, months ago, and received no response. I don’t count. They know better.

I’m not going to stop watching Hallmark, I’m just going to adjust the hue.

Here’s a clip from my favorite Hallmark, Christmas with Holly, a story of a little girl who when her mom dies, stops talking. She is raised by her three uncles which isn't featured in the clip below, but the interplay of the three uncles and the little girl almost steals the show.

 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

First Person versus Third Person

The jury is out (forever). Suit yourself, but most agents and publishers prefer you use the third person. This week I thought I’d have a little fun with the choice by summoning and then observing the travails of another medium.

Back in 1948, The Mills Brothers recorded Gloria in third person using the mellow, sweet tones the greatest generation came to love them for. The song reached 17th on the charts for the year.
 
In 1954, The Cadillacs recorded their own version of Gloria (in the ever evolving doo wop) retooling the lyrics to use first person. It reached 6th on the charts for the year as the baby boomers began to take over the music scene. My mom and dad would take a couple years yet to get used to this new music, but then, they got with it.
 
The first version inspired a few covers but the Cadillac’s take was recorded by more than thirty groups. Billy Joel was asked in 1996 what the attraction was when he added it to his River of Dreams album. He said when he was young and his buddies crossed over to Jones beach, through the tunnel, they harmonized a magical version of Gloria. He went on to say that if a doo-wop band wanted to prove they could sing, they’d belt out Gloria. It’s challenging, with a multi-octave vocal, low bass and complex harmonies. 'Gloria' is a girl's name, but the name also has religious connotations, and there is something spiritual and uplifting about rendering or listening to it. This love song leaves the listener with a feeling of pure devotion, as it should be for anything well written in romance with a celebration of love. God is love and when you write of love you honor the Creator.

Listening to these two versions of Gloria will not decide the issue of whether to use first or third person, but you may find it food for thought.  

The Mills Brothers, Gloria, 1948

 

The Cadillacs, Gloria, 1954
 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Heroes with fatal positive qualities

Heroes with fatal positive attributes

Fatal flaws aren’t really fatal ( to the plot) and neither are fatal qualities.

Just like heroes with flaws, heroes should have positive attributes, but in this case, he should keep them. You’d think writing a character with  a positive attribute is common sense, but some romances are just an awakening into love, the rest of the world be damned. (Some writers think writing in something altruistic is corny.) Just as not employing a fatal flaw is naïve writing, so should forgetting a positive attribute be the same way, naive.

For example, suppose you subtlety write in a little faith, hope or charity (by showing not telling).

By faith, I don’t necessarily mean faith in the hereafter, although if he doesn’t have faith, the heroine might ask him “what are you here after.”
 
In Hallmark’s premier last night of Ice Sculpture Christmas, the hero isn’t happy as a lawyer in his dad’s firm. He’d rather work on promoting or starting charitable organizations. His dad, in turn, it turns out only wants his son to be happy. There’s still plenty of tension and drama to carry the plot. But there’s more. The hero becomes more endearing, more real. He’s a hero with a fatal positive attribute.

Click below for the movie's promo:
http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ice+sculpture+christmas+hallmark+movie&FORM=HDRSC3#view=detail&mid=4EA05AED8C5F7DD0169C4EA05AED8C5F7DD0169C
 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Viral writing

What’s the difference between a popular book, video or song?

Not much.

They all hit you with strong emotional content, easily identifiable by the reader/watcher/listener.

They all have amazing voice, tone* and imagery.

In scene one, we have been taught to introduce the inciting incident, but it’s more than that. The reader must identify with and feel a strong pull from the character.

*Tone: I have discovered (listening to NPR) that across the world, in all cultures, we make similar “nonsense” sounds to our babies. We modulate our voice in pitch, tone and quickness to either award behavior, say no or stop, offer encouragement etc. I believe the best singers and writers know how to communicate with their audiences at a subconscious level and that the sounds of love or the honesty of the written word will carry the same basic tones as our coos to a baby. You will forever hear these hit (whether book or song) melodies in word or voice and the sounds mean something deep within you.

Almost any song today or yesterday has these so-called human nonsense sounds (especially doo-wop). In good writing, it’s the emotion of the character on display that creates these resonances within us.

(Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Natural Born Charmer). There was something visceral about a girl in a beaver suit and the quarterback in his hot car screeching to a halt. You feel it, immediately. He was not only tired of all the perfect girls with nothing interesting to offer him. He wanted more from life and he hardly knew it.
 
Her first paragraph in the novel: It wasn’t every day a guy saw a headless beaver marching down the side of the road, not even in Dean Robillard’s larger-than-life world. “Son of a…” Dean slammed on the brakes of his brand-new Aston Martin Vanquish and pulled over in front of her. [simple words, right? their impact is unforgettable and immediate]

Here's a song I was attracted to when she introduced "nonsense" sounds, especially the ones half-way through. You might not like this character, but it's not a romance. I think her sounds are easily translated. As a father, I see a lost soul and hope for her recovery.

Tove Lo, 2013, Habits

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sealed with a kiss

Are you overwhelmed by emotions, crazy about the opposite sex, plagued with needs, hormonally driven, in love desperately? Well maybe you’re a teenager, young or new adult.

For the rest of us: do you collect social security, babysit grandchildren or are now raising children? Have you forgotten or are your feelings diminished?

We forget and for many of us we do not either feel love or our love has matured. Less hormones equals less passion, right? Also, the culture has changed from when we were dating. So, avoid summary thought while writing our characters if it is just because we can't generate the entire thought process.

Do you need to be under thirty to write a good romance? Or will research carry you through? Recalling (partially) how you felt is not enough. Listening to kids speak isn’t enough either. I recommend allowing their song and culture to overwhelm your heart. Dedicate a little time each week to immersing yourself in the culture of the age group you are writing about. Being flexible is being real and therefore believable. Dig deep.

When you listen to an old favorite song of yours, do you think your granddaughter would appreciate it as much as the latest from Taylor Swift (who, IMO, is great)? Does that old song speak to your babies? Do you get the Big Bang Theory or the like on TV? Invest a little time. I promise you’ll stay younger (more with it) and produce a better romance. Hey, maybe, if you are single, you’ll fall head over heals.

Try Brian Hyland's 1962 hit, Sealed With a Kiss on your babies. Will they get it? Do people still mope if separated when there is all this social media? Skype? I think a kiss carries the same impact, even if it is only to seal a letter. Obviously,  it's emails etc. not letters. So do kids sign off with SWAK?

Kissing for any purpose needs practice.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Write what you feel not what you know

If you feel strongly about something and can express it in story, you have a great start.

If you can feel your characters vicariously, you can’t lose.

If you feel you are saying something that will uplift, inform, scare, inspire and your heart is in it you’re on your way to the great American novel.

I know many of us see writing as a business and/or are driven by what the publisher’s vision of what the readers’ preferences are. Fine. Do that. Feeding one’s family is important. But ask yourself will your novel stand the test of time. If that isn’t practical and you need to make a living consider engaging your heart, baring your soul, opening a vein and pour out that one story that you feel will contribute to the human race. and be known forever. Make it your To Kill a Mockingbird.

If you must hide this manuscript from your agent or publisher, do so. We want to know the real you. We want to feel something outrageously special when we read your masterpiece.

IMO, most midlist authors are listening to what their publishers know rather than that which burns within. If nothing burns within, that’s okay, you are a professional. I have read many an enjoyable novel full of all the right tropes, fatal flaws, plot twists etc. and have thanked the novelist/friend for it.

If you love to write about cowboys, or rom coms with cute meets, or vampires with toothaches and a fear of dentists, then that’s very okay. Because it is you and that’s all I ask for. Because you feel.

You might ask how can I write what I don't know. Aside from pointing out that that's what the publishers ask of you the real answer is we learn. We can learn almost anything.

Next week as a follow up I'll suggest you stay tuned into popular culture if you want to write about romance, because the times, they are a changin'.

Sometimes it's as simple as blocking out a little time for what you love. Raining on Sunday, 2003 sung by Keith Urban:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Wired for Story

Last month, Lisa Cron lectured at the RWASD meeting on discoveries she presented in her book, Wired for Story. I bought the book and found her presentation and the actual book unique in its approach to the craft of writing.

I’m writing about one idea that was very hard for me, an ex-engineer, to wrap my head around.

“Cognitive secret: Emotion determines the meaning of everything…”

If I design a widget, I expect it to work because I had invested logic and know-how in building it. Ms. Cron, using well-researched materials, shows that one can’t or won’t do [design] anything if there is no emotion permeating whatever you are doing. Her research boldly states, you will do nothing or find yourself incapable of making a decision.

I’ll add a corollary to that by saying a guy is never devoid of emotional reasons when he tries to “hook-up” even for so-called casual sex. It’s for the writer to discover and present the guy’s hidden intentions, even if minimal.

I highly recommend her book, as it covers writing from head to toe and doesn’t ignore the heart for either male or female characters.

Can you think of a case of someone doing something that is only based on logic?
Have you written a heartless antagonist?

The movie, The Martian, 2015, is a great example of emotion trumping logic (and all us smart-ass engineers). 3 minutes.

 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I'm sorry


I watched a retrospective about Saturday Night Live last night.

Lorne Michaels stated his methodology, which can be applied to romantic comedies or any light moment in your novel.
1. When constructing a skit, if it is about things unsaid by the object of your humor and you* say it, it is funny.
2. Humor is truth. Sometimes telling the obvious lie illuminates the truth.
*You = the character who says or thinks something funny.

Would anybody like to supply a humorous exchange or monologue from his or her novel?

If you don’t have a funny bone in your body or you have no clue what I’m talking about…well, then, I’m Sorry, (so sorry), by Brenda Lee 1960. She belts this number one hit out at the age of 15.


Okay, what's so funny about I'm Sorry? Or how does this song apply to the subject of this post? Or am I pulling your leg? Or is this haunting melody, something I just couldn't get out of my head when I heard it again recently?

Coincidently, I'm sorry my romantic comedy, Double Happiness, doesn't have a bigger audience. If you too lament your sales numbers join me in feeling forlorn.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

DO ONTO OTHERS

Pope Francis carried a briefcase on his trip. He kept a toothbrush, novel and other things in it. I couldn’t find out the name of this novel but I do know his favorite sitting-on-the-beach summer read (as if he had the time) is Late Have I Loved Thee by Ethel Mannin. Ethel was a non-Catholic anarchist (some say atheist).

We do not have to write inspirational novels to inspire. Whether we tell or show (better to show) our hero and heroine practicing the golden rule we are doing what readers want. They want their heroes to be good or struggle to become good. The reader identifies best with characters she could aspire to be, in some small way.

Many writers pen a hero or heroine subconsciously acting in a loving way. Because love attracts love. Love tears down barriers to that happily-ever-after.

In my WIP (work in progress), Seven Boyfriends, I show the heroine inviting an elderly man with walker into her lobby and out of sweltering heat, for a cool glass of water. Waving his cane at her, he refused, “I’m fine.” This little side step from the plot came out of my subconscious mind. Showing off the hero or heroine’s good qualities should be second nature to us and is certainly a sign of not only a good writer but of a good story. To me, being capable of love, includes an attitude to thy brothers and sisters, i.e. every person. Sure, the story and character arcs should carry this preferably hidden subtlety throughout the book.

Is your hero heroic?

Here's a 14:31 minute piece on 60 Minutes about the Pope.



Below are some things about this Pope that will forever impress me. They might not impress my more conservative friends, but that's okay because I respect and love you:
The Pope asked for our prayers and for those who didn't believe or could not pray to send good wishes.
Francis tied climate change to the deaths of the poor and insisted we act because that is a tenant of Christianity.
When asked about gays he said who is he to judge.
 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bobby Fischer

At our RWASD meeting, Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story, made an excellent presentation. One of her points is the subject of this post along with a personal remembrance that ties it into a neat bow.


The hero or heroine's misbeliefs can change over the arc of the story or scene. If the author writes well enough, we root for this change or changes.


Not many of you know that I'm a U.S. chess master. I knew Bobby Fischer. We analyzed games together along with a group of his friends. Yes, he had friends, and always had time from his rigorous ascent to the World Championship to kibitz. He was witty but never veered far from the point, chess, our chess and how we could improve.


A young Bobby's mom was the subject of constant surveillance by J. Edgar Hoover's overly zealous FBI during the McCarthy and blacklist era. A young Bobby internalized this justified paranoia and with no father and desperately wanting to both love and run from his mom—his mind cracked under the strain, IMO.


The movie, Pawn Sacrifice, simplified the story and stayed on point. I want to present a lighter side of Bobby, the side I knew. I abhor his anti-Semitism but find his cold war instincts compelling. Bobby was Jewish but when you see his backstory and understand his need to be loved by someone Jewish (his mom) the U.S. government harassed (and perhaps rightly, I don't know) you may at least understand him a little better. If you see these signs of abandonment in a child try to find a way to help. All Bobby knew well was chess, even though his IQ was a 210. This genius made it easy for him to quickly jump to conclusions without missing any proofs along the way. Unfortunately, chess is a closed system and the world is not.


Here's the great Bob Hope versus Bobby Fischer, 1972:




Can you write a character like this? Would you want to?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ex's and Oh's

We all agree that if your heart isn’t into it, don’t write it, whether it be prose or poetry (or song). Sometimes our creative energy is low. In that case, there’s nothing wrong with working on an idea, which in my case is a sequel based on another artist’s/writer’s work ,as long as you don’t publish it without permission or you are collaborating.

Hit songs are like well-written novels because their emotional content is well drawn. Has to be. In 3 minutes you must get your points across, starting with emotion, then story. Because nobody follows a flat character no matter how compelling the plot.

Rarely, hit songs can be reprieved as a sequel. That’s why the following creativity challenge I gave myself is probably just an exercise.

The original number 1 hit starts this way:
Call Me Maybe

By Carly Rae Jepsen

I threw a wish in the well
Don't ask me I'll never tell
I looked at you as it fell
And now you're in my way
I'd trade my soul for a wish
Pennies and dimes for a kiss
I wasn't looking for this
But now you're in my way

Your stare was holding…

Here’s the beginning of my offered sequel:

Kiss Me Maybe

I know I asked for your love
I promised I’d never tell
But your friends knew I fell
Then you threw your heart away
I'd trade my soul for a wish
I’d settle for a kiss
I’d wake up your soul with this
But you threw your heart away…[if you’d like to see the whole song, write me.]

So Carly can call me maybe, no definitely. Call Me Maybe was written about and for a new adult or teenage girl looking for love with a certain guy and not knowing how to go about it. You might not be a listener/reader for this song/story but it was huge. Kiss Me Maybe is written about the same girl who doesn’t quite get what she asked for when with the same guy.

I use songs to inspire scenes or themes in my stories.

Here’s a fun song called Ex’s and Oh’s, which has already found a home in my WIP, Seven Boyfriends. Ex’s and Oh’s was recently released and will (I bet) rise quickly on the alternative and pop charts. Nice to have your cake and eat it too and Elle King (the artist) does just that with her boys. Ever notice titles with double entendres? No, it’s not a reference to the start of the football season. Ex’s and Oh’s can be about hugs and kisses just as much as ex-boyfriends and oh so good experiences! I think the ladies in this blog’s audience will enjoy Elle’s take on eye-candy. I think the ones who ain’t no ladies will enjoy it even more.
 
Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King, 2015:
 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Latin From Manhattan

I’m starting phase two of my blog. The first phase is being collated, edited and will be released as a book, The Art of Writing Male Characters.

I may not have exhausted my male POV ideas but will start mixing up this blog with more general topics about writing.

A Latin From Manhattan (adding charm to your plot)

All habits are pleasurable or you wouldn’t do them. Some are harmful. Some are great for you.

One insidious habit for a writer is block. This is usually self-inflicted. The longer you wait to start writing again the less likely you will. Why? Because, to simplify the science, a habit is formed after 21 repetitions of anything. Once a habit is formed, it is painful to break it. Call it withdrawal if you like.

Because of my daughter’s wedding and caring for my elderly parents, I made every excuse not to write.

I’d love to hear your ideas on breaking the non-writing habit. I’ll make some suggestions.

1. Write out a list for every day and then follow it.
2. Find a critique or writing partner that is willing to prod you, persistently.
3. Find that missing pride, that belief in yourself.
4. Remember the parable of the talents and realize you are not going about the Lord’s work or if you are an atheist, you are not contributing to your fellow man.
5. Even if, at present, hardly anybody reads your stuff, someday they will, if you have something to contribute.
6. If you have nothing to contribute to literature, than look within to find your true talents and don’t waste a moment more. Start giving back.
7. Giving back will improve your self-worth and image, which influences your health. You’ll be a better person to be around.
8. Use your heart and mind and if you are creative, enjoy and celebrate your inner powers.

Now, if I could only start writing again.

LATIN FROM MANHATTAN is a fictional dance studio and nightclub in NYC that I had to work into Autumn Breeze. Why do this? The art of writing in general is to give more, enrich the story, keeping pace in mind. In this case, the hero knew the heroine to be a dedicated dancer. He claimed not to know how to dance, so that someday he might surprise her when they could ease off saving the world. Isn’t that little subterfuge in the hero’s mind a good hook? If any critiquer had told me that the dance scene didn’t advance the plot (and no one did) I would have politely listened and then not change a thing. Why, I’m an artist. I’m a writer. I believe in my talents to tell a story and entertain.

So I'll present a song that makes no sense logically, is put into a movie to showcase the actors but is unforgettable and part of our culture. Latin From Manhattan, sung by Al Jolson and danced by his wife, Ruby Keeler in the movie, Go Into Your Dance, 1935.

 

 Do you sense the joy in the writing of this scene and isn't that enough to wake up your muse?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Once in a blue moon

ABC has struggled for years with spin offs of their successful shows, The Bachelor and The Bachelorrette. Bachelor Pad mixed winning $250,000 with Survivor type tasks. The show blurred the theme of finding love (it was a joke) and lost viewership. Finally, with Bachelor In Paradise, ABC went back to one unifying idea and has produced a winner. Multiple guys and gals, usually from ABC’s previous bachelor and bachelorette shows simply have to form partnerships with their opposites to stay on the show and at least enjoy a beautiful vacation.

Something funny happens. The pairs are with each other all day and sometimes all night for weeks or months and they begin to care or drift apart. Last year, the first season, ended with one proposal. The same couple began this season with their wedding televised. Of course, a major problem with all the ABC shows is geographic undesirability which diminishes it’s chance at success (in the happily-ever-after department. People don’t like moving away from family and friends.

Here’s ABC’s promo for the show:



For those who can’t get enough when it comes to observing love and are a little adventurous, a surprisingly good show is Dating Naked. I turned it on for the laughs and found a guy who looks beyond skin deep. He kicked off the show a rare beauty who was a touch manipulative and chose instead a bald (her mother had cancer) weightlifter with a striking personality and honesty. Bravo, his inner compass (and the point of my male POV blog). Although he didn’t keep her long (insufficient chemistry), he is amazing in his assessments and caring for everybody he meets.

The song Blue Moon was sung at my daughter's wedding as the bride and groom dance. I'm also dedicating it to the dreamers at ABC. BTW, there ain't nothing wrong with dreamin' because in the case of my daughter, dreams came true.

Billie Holiday wails, 1952:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wedding Day

Our youngest of two daughters married our wonderful new son.







The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack, 1972






https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9jmusgMgro


Del and I are so happy these two met and fell in love.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A FATHER DAUGHTER DANCE



Don’t overwhelm friends and family with your writerly skills at a wedding when you’re asked to give a speech. My daughter is getting married this week and right before the dinner I and the father of the groom will be asked to speak.

As far as writing goes, I know not to use cliché, as in, “I’m not losing a daughter but gaining a son.” I change that to either, “I’ll treat you as if you are my own son,” or “know that I love you and I will never waiver.” It’s easy. Ben and Laura are a great match.

Next problem, it’s a civil ceremony. There will be no prayer, except through the philosophy of various readings, toasts and the words of the friend who is marrying them. My toast comes before the meal. I, being trained to the point of almost becoming a priest back when, think of strange things like the symbolism of a reception meal and comparing it to food that feeds the soul like manna or Eucharist. So, I’ll say something like, “I’ll keep this short because of our supper, but consider that this meal represents our communion with the newlyweds and our promise to love them.”

Next, is just me, with the me diminished, because the wedding is not about me.

When I was a freshman in college I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart and miserable. I shared with my mom that I worried about never getting married, that nobody would want me for the rest of her life. Mom counseled me about how I was great catch but more importantly started in on a Catholic lecture about vocation. “You son, may find a calling to become a priest or stay single or marry.” One is not better than the other, it depends on what path the Lord has set for you to walk.”

Interesting, right? It was the sixties; I marched for civil and equal rights so when it came time for Del and me to raise two daughters I remembered my mom’s words and applied my own twist. “Daughter, you are a complete human being, God has given you many talents. Follow the golden Rule. Use your gifts well and show me what you have done with them. You choose which vocation you feel is right for you and we will support you. This man, our new son, is so right for you. I know you have chosen the right path.”

The worst thing you can do at a wedding right before a meal is go on and on, so I’ll raise my glass, “To Ben and Laura.”

So what possible entertainment (via video) can I unleash on you this week? Someday I’ll find that classic scene form a movie, I’ve forgotten the name of, that shows brides in dresses for different times of the year, but for now—let’s lighten it up with counterpoint to the heavy I put on you above:

Oh Daddy by Adrian Belew, 3 min video 1989:

 
Okay, for those who insist on crying at weddings and who took the title of my post literally, here's a father daughter dance that should come with Kleenex:
 
 
 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

THE ART OF WRITING MALE CHARACTERS

After I'm done editing 2.5 years of posts, I'll release this blog as a Kindle non-fiction book on the craft of Writing. I could use your eyes on the draft preface below to see if it is impelling. I also will be able to navigate the material and put together an online course for RWASD, if anyone is interested.

PREFACE

How to use this book.

This is not a ‘how-to’ book on writing. You will get very little, please change “It was a dark and stormy night” to “No one he knew would care that the dreary and loud storm matched his misery.”

I list books I recommend here and finish with:

It’s closer to a book on advanced subtleties like:

BETWEEN THE LINES by Morrell

So what is it exactly and how can you use it?

It is a philosophical approach to writing male characters taking into full account their maleness in contrast or in comparison to female characters. What makes a man/character who he is? What gives him meaning? How real is he?

  • Is the hero or supporting guy written one-dimensionally like a comic book hero?
  • Is the character written two-dimensionally like an alpha hero with a flaw?
  • Is the character written three-dimensionally to show his heart?
  • Is the character written four-dimensionally to show his approach to life in specific ways that set him apart and make him memorable? The author goes there.
  • Or is he into the fifth dimension? That is, he’s a fan of the sixties and seventies band, The Fifth Dimension. The author doesn’t go there.
There are numerous texts covering character development in all genres. Although this book will seem slanted toward romance novels, it can be used to fully develop the male character in any genre. In a story, when a guy and gal have any kind of relationship, the reader will want reactions, actions and thoughts that feel real. Consider a four-dimensional approach. The female perspective is beyond the scope of this book but can be derived by comparison. The posts are often written in a romantic tone (see example at end of the preface.

This is a niche book for when you are stumped or your husband’s not around to say that feels right or not. Or you don’t trust your years of intuition, interaction and observation with that beast you live with or have met in dark alleys.

In a story devoid of the opposite sexes interacting in any way (thought or action) the writer will use non-gender specific traits to propel the story forward. That is, it would likely be possible after reading the story to change William’s name to Betty without ill effect. As a thought experiment, consider this opening line. “Call me Isabelle.” Picture the entire crew in the novel Moby Dick as female. Did you laugh and/or find it a fanciful journey to a planet where women could do what they want?

This book transitions from busting stereotypical conventional wisdom one point at a time to finding gems or unique ways to write a male character and finishes with classic errors and how to correct them before they ruin a novel.

There are three bonus short stories by the author, which are labeled in the table of contents along with all the topics.

POV = point of view.

Here’s an example of the typical length (short), content and style of the posts, now chapters in a book on writing:

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I insert the July 5tht post here.

For today, we had better shape up! (our books)
You're the one that I want - Grease - John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John 1978

 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Honey, I'm good

Honey, I’m good.

This is my 181st weekly post about the male point of view in fiction. I intend to collate, edit and publish up to this point and could use your help with a catchy title.

Here lies a cautionary tale marking the end of book one:

If you are writing in the hero’s point of view, consider the arc (change) that the hero goes through especially if the story is a romance. [Change is good in all genres because it creates tension and page turning.]
 
Mainstream science teaches us that male monogamy is myth. One man wants to populate the Earth and needs no help from anybody else, thank you very much. If you write your hero and he doesn’t confront this basic urge you may miss an important dramatic opportunity. Leaving the “real” out might create a comic book hero or someone not textured.
 
Males approach their basest needs in six different ways:

1.      Cheat. They’re married or coupled but don't want to resist other women.

2.      Swap. They talk their mate into spicing up their marriage or arrangement.

3.      Sublimate. They do their best to sit on urges by keeping themselves busy with harmless substitutes (bowling with the boys, video games, etc.). But someday the video console might crack and that cute girl at the office will want to play Mario with him.

4.      Control. Their strong personality allows them to apply mind over biology. Will they falter in a moment of weakness?

5.      Drift. They’re passive, meak. They go with the flow. One take-charge woman can drag him off to her lair.

6.      Believe. Here’s where many romance writers hang their hat (a bit too easily?). The hero believes (strongly) in soulmates. Or has a religious or world view that contends with conventional wisdom. Will this evolved man flip-flop? Please note that science is not unanimous on the subject of whether a man is wired to want more than one woman.

Is what we write merely fairy tale, escape? I personally feel that the hero has two struggles: the need for sex and the need for love. Which one is stronger? Which one fulfills or adds meaning and joy to his life and those around him?

My literary point is: you’ll enrich your story if you include a struggle (internal and/or external) using one or more of the six points above. For romance, it is clear. The reader demands a happily-ever-after. That doesn’t mean you should have your hero lay down for the reader. Well, maybe in her imagination.

Honey, I’m Good*, 2015, sung by Andy Grammer from his album, Magazines or Novels. In this cute song, the protagonist struggles with monogamy. He’s a 4 or 6 or both (*is a play on words):


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Who cares if there's a plot or not

Dames

What do you go for,
Go see a show for?
Tell the truth
You go to see those beautiful dames...
 
DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT to take time to show a romantic interlude or wax ecstatic on the beauty of women? Some say you need to tie it to the arc of the hero and heroine. Some would say you don't need a reason, people love love scenes or the like. Certainly erotica sometimes has this feature. Some just love women but most romance readers are women.
 
Last week I wrote about how prejudices diminish over societal years.
For instance:
How the young feel about anybody older than them.

This week: the song Dames doesn't mind focusing on half the audience (men). The writer of the song, might not have even thought about it. Yet shows like that which the Rockettes put on are still popular to both sexes. Women watch or read the hero and enjoy the story and probably live vicariously through those beautiful Dames.The women who originally watched Dames probably also enjoyed the genius and artistry of Busby Berkley and the looks and voice of Dick Powell (the hero).
 
I told the writer in my critique group with girl problems to write-on. Some others disagreed.
 
I couldn't find the movie clip in which Dick Powell tries to persuade the producers and backers of the show that writing about and hiring Dames is the way to go. It's great. He, through his secretary, refuses to see George Gershwin and other luminaries but lets all the girls into his office and then, still singing, tells them not to be tardy for the rehearsal. If I ever find it, I'll insert it below, but for now know that some of the lyrics below will not show up in the clip I present and some of the lyrics are missing in the much shorter version below. You'd have to watch the movie.

Verse: Who writes the words and music for all the girly shows? No one cares, and no one knows. Who is the handsome hero some villain always frames? But who cares if there's a plot or not, when they've got a lot of dames!

Chorus: What do you go for, Go see a show for? Tell the truth, you go to see those beautiful dames. You spend your dough for Bouquets that grow for All those cute and cunning, young and beautiful dames. Oh, dames are temporary flames to you, Dames, you don't recall their names, do you? But their caresses And home addresses, Linger in your mem'ry of those beautiful dames.

I know I've been on a Busby Berkley kick. Maybe next week I'll get I'll take my time machine back to the 21st century as long as you, my dear, are with me.

Dames, 1934, written by Harry Warren (music) & Al Dubin (lyrics) song by Dick Powell and a chorus of beautiful dames (7 minutes):

EXTRA credit: do women prefer to watch men or a man in a movie or read about one or many in a book? Are women fundamentally different than men on this issue? My personal preference is to follow the heroine's story with great interest but to enjoy the chorus and in the case of Busby Berkley become engrossed in his artistry.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I'm Old and Healthy

 
I'm Young and Healthy, 42nd Street, 1933, Dick Powell sings:
 

I've always loved this song and the dance constructed by Busby Berkley. But I laughed at the line, "maybe in a year or two or three we'll be too old." I assumed it was his pick up line rather than a pervasive prejudice directed against older (over the hill) people.

As society progresses one prejudice after another is weakened. Today, we have young men singing about Michelle Pfeiffer. We have the press and the audience admiring a brave Caitlyn Jenner. On and on.

The baby boomers 50s & 60s are a huge part of our society, so why not write or produce what people of all ages want?

Dear network exec,

I've got an idea for a show. It's working title is Second Chance. It stars 50 & 60 year olds in search or love but instead of handing out roses, let's make it carnations.

Sincerely yours,
RW Richard

For those who abhor reality shows, and I know you are out there, step back, wait a minute. This basic idea could be a best selling book as well. Go ahead, write it up. I have too much on my plate right now.

I'll leave you with this thought: with the divorce rate so high and so many lonely people wanting to get it right the second or more times around, aren't your readers waiting for you to tackle this? It doesn't have to be about 1 gal and 25 guys to tell a good story.




 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Trying on wedding dresses

I'll assume every dad thinks his daughter is the most beautiful bride since God created the Earth. In this case it's true. This is not the dress she finally chose, but we all loved it.

A bride's gown is symbolic of the way she sees herself and her union. My baby wanted something elegant and sophisticated. Laura is elegant and sophisticated. She earned her undergrad in film from UCSD and her MFA (in film directing and related arts) at NYU. She's a successful director now. Don't let that angelic face fool you, there's much power and skill in this driven woman. In case you're wondering about her exotic looks, my wife is Filipina and I'm half Italian.

The wedding will be in August. Stay tuned for some pictures,

The reason brides look so incredible is because the combination of dress, bride and meaning, which makes what we see so much more than a pretty picture. We invest our wishes, we see our own dreams, we see her expectation, maybe share a little in her joy. We see life being lived and a very special part of the journey about to begin.

If you have the time, choose one or more of the below.
Top 10 classic wedding songs (8:23 minutes):



Top 10 modern wedding songs (9 minutes):

I've received many requests for the incomparable Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Cheek to Cheek, from Top Hat, 1935, written by Irving Berlin and with all my love for you: