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, May 31, 2015

Degrees of odd coupleness

As a guy, one of the first things I think of when writing a character is how are they different (from others). How do they relate to the other character(s) in an aggravating (or endearing to the reader) way. Some writing books call these quirks, fatal flaws, others call them charms. There’s something to work on, fix, change or live with. Of course, fatal, it is not, at least in any literature with a happy ending.

One of my editors complained, “When are is your hero going to eat anything else but spaghetti and meatballs?” This particular hero also had a problem being seen in the buff by the heroine. Every experienced writer inserts these cute peccadillos. I especially enjoy exploring the differences between genetically identical twins and how they love each other.

Why employ odd coupleness? Throw your hero and heroine into a mess and people will want to see how they’ll clean it up or make it worse. It’s human nature to identify with the characters and want to fix things that are broken. Making it worse makes us laugh. Humans, by their nature, work and create.

HelenKay Dimon gave her former Navy Seal, claustrophobia, but the heroine nurtured him without laughing aloud. Besides, that would have likely got them killed.

Odd coupleness is found in every type of well-written literature. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is so good at this. She mismatches hero and heroine all the time and I think she has the most fun finding out how and why they could love each other.

Mention any good movie. Showgirl and the Professor, You’ve Got Mail. Remember the ending of Some Like It Hot, “nobody’s perfect.”

Today, I want to pay tribute to The Odd Couple, originally a play by Neil Simon:
On Broadway 1965 with Art Carney & Walter Matthau.
As a movie 1968 with Jack Lemon & Walter Matthau.
On TV 1970 with Tony Randall & Jack Klugman.
Made into a female version in 1985 on Broadway with Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno.
On and on, including this year when it premiered on CBS starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon (8:30 PM Thursdays). If you like seeing Felix throw away hundreds of hamburger buns until he finds the right one to photograph and then having some sesames picked off, then you’ll be hooked. Please don't misunderstand the purpose of this blog. I'm not promoting shows, songs or movies. I'm casting light on writing techniques, generally from the male point of view.

Plot basics for those who have never seen the show in any of its venues—Wiki: Plot overview:

Felix Ungar, a neurotic, neat freak newswriter (a photographer in the television series), is thrown out by his wife, and moves in with his friend Oscar Madison, a slovenly sportswriter. Despite Oscar's problems – careless spending, excessive gambling, a poorly kept house filled with spoiled food – he seems to enjoy life. Felix, however, seems utterly incapable of enjoying anything and only finds purpose in pointing out his own and other people's mistakes and foibles. Even when he tries to do so in a gentle and constructive way, his corrections and suggestions prove extremely annoying to those around him. Oscar, his closest friend, feels compelled to throw him out after only a brief time together, though he quickly realizes that Felix has had a positive effect on him.

Characters:
Oscar Madison: A slovenly, recently divorced sportswriter.
  • Felix Ungar: A fastidious, hypochondriac newswriter whose marriage is ending.
  • Murray: An NYPD policeman, one of Oscar and Felix's poker buddies.
  • Speed: One of the poker buddies. Gruff and sarcastic, often picking on Vinnie and Murray.
  • Vinnie: One of the poker buddies. Vinnie is mild-mannered and henpecked, making him an easy target for Speed's verbal barbs.
  • Roy: One of the poker buddies. Oscar's accountant. Roy has a dry wit but is less acerbic than Speed.
  • Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon: Oscar and Felix's giggly upstairs neighbors, a pair of English sisters. The former is a divorcĂ©e, the latter a widow.
According to Neil Simon, the Pigeon sisters made the third act work better (credit a New England critic) and the play more successful. Naturally, along the writer’s journey one needs enduring and endearing secondary characters to interact with.

Here’s a peek at the 2015 TV version on CBS with references to earlier versions:
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Double romances

Plenty of full-length novels feature two romances, typically a major and minor one. Two major romances can be written if the characters are developed sufficiently, which IMO means more pages til the happily-ever-afters.

Occasionally, a mid-length novel (65,000 words) can do the job but probably if it’s a romantic comedy, in which the pace is queen. For those who would like to see how I handled this challenge, try out my romantic comedy Double Happiness. I’ve been accused of writing a very mannish book (for this one), but since I am one and this blog is about the male POV, I'll stand pat.

Sometimes, a TV try at this can go too far. I’m still watching Married At First Sight but I'm not enjoying it that much because it has, for me, become borderline clinical.

The best reality TV show for romance is The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Try to remember that relative degrees of staging is what we writers do and then take a good look at this show and analyze the educational and/or entertainment value of the product and what insights it may offer a professional writer.

This season of The Bachelorette, ABC lost a golden opportunity to showcase two budding romances. Probably they couldn’t afford to have two women (and approx. twice the primetime air) work together at eliminations and who to pick for dates. Did anybody say catfights, drama, men getting emotional, on and on? Actually, Britt and Kaitlyn had gotten along really well.

Britt, who is part Cherokee, Swedish and Hungarian (I’m hungry) is a 15 on a scale of 10 and as one contestant put it, she’s a billion.

Kaitlyn is beautiful in her own right and has a great sense of humor. Couple that with a little bad-girl she keeps trying to tame (unsuccessfully) and you have drama over her arc or progression to monogamy during the story.

Anyway, at the end of the first episode, the men barely chose Kaitlyn over Britt and Britt left the show, but not entirely. Perhaps some of them thought Britt too beautiful to be trusted?

A Nashville singer/song writer politely asked Kaitlyn to be let go because his heart was set on pursuing Britt. BTW, Britt doesn’t just have stunning looks, she’s empathetic and nurturing.

Have no fear, Britt fans, you will see her at least one more time on this week’s show as the Nashville suitor knocks on her hotel door.

Here’s a Brian Seacrest interview of the Bachelorettes:
 
 

BTW, one of my dear friends who in her fifties said of beauty, men need choose more than just beauty because we all lose our charms over time. My dear friend, look in a mirror, you are still beautiful and your personality is a “billion.”

Extar credit. Below is for diehard fans of the show:
An ABC promo for the remainder of the season (pick the first video if more than one shows up):

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shut up and dance with me

Are you writing jazz or pop? Are you living jazz or pop?

The gatekeepers (agents or publishers) will tell you it must be pop if you want to travel the traditional route to publishing. On the average pop overwhelmingly outsells jazz.
 
What is pop in writing? It’s an approved structure. You must have an inciting incident in scene one (something changes in a protagonist’s life that sets him/her on a new journey). Life must get progressively more difficult for your protagonist (black moments). The antagonist must be worthy of the fight. In romance, there must be a happily ever after.
 
What is jazz in writing?
 
A lyrical trip of beauty or ugliness in which the art holds sway over structure. The structure glimmers and is more likely felt than pinned down.
 
If you are self-publishing you have a choice. If you have an artist’s soul, sing your black and white song and watch as readers blossom under the colors of their imagination. But there’s nothing wrong with pop as long as you keep your integrity and pay attention to the beauty of your story.
If you are trying to pay bills choose pop. Either way, good luck.

In life, jazz is free spirit. Be true to yourself and walk your path with  head high.

Shut Up And Dance by Walk the Moon, 2014


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Brave

Do something for somebody.

Whether your words are saucy or serene
Profane or profound
Funny or serious
They tell the same story
Who knows the meaning of life
Love

A mother knows
She shares the beauty of her soul
Romance writers share
with their many babies
Who want nourishment
Love
 
Giving back to the many
Is the ultimate act of love
Write what you love
And love what you write
So many will be lifted by
Love


Brave by Sara Bareilles, 2013
 

Some of my sisters at RWA juggle children, husband, friends and other responsibilities with writing. All of what they do is loving. When some strangers pick up your book, smiles, lightens their troubles, leads the way through insight and emotion, you've done your job. Never feel guilty for sharing with the world your talents.
 
Happy Mothers (every) Day.
Men who know these simple truths appreciate and admire you. And some of us know enough to write about it!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

A helpful bit of advice

I'm on vacation, so I'll keep this short. I discovered when searching the name of one of my novels on the internet that there are site(s) dedicated to KDP select that are not affiliated with Amazon. That is, the site(s), using the Kindle lending feature you authorized, downloads your book for free. Keeps it indefinitely, offers it to everybody and doesn't police it's two week return and of course sends you no royalty.

This brings up another question. Look at the goods and services offered on Amazon. Nobody gives their stuff away for free except writers.

DO WE DEVALUE OURSELVES AND OUR HARD WORK SO MUCH THAT WE SEE NO VALUE IN IT?

If we don't value our work, who will?

Since I'm in a bad mood now. Look at the value of typically a year's work. Price it and compare it to the recommended $2.99.

Conclusion, our sales are down, we work for peanuts and somebody is stealing our peanuts other than that have a great day. I will, because I'm going to change the way I perceive myself and the fruit of my creative labor.

Love ya,
Bob