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. Another site very useful in categorizing books in their proper order is:

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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Stimulus, organism(s), response

One way and a very good way of writing is to always keep SOR in your thoughts and have it show up on the page.

It could be simple things. I’m currently in my third draft of The Chess Master. Here I copy a scene into Natural Reader (the free version is good enough) I listen and read along as it speaks and take notes. You not only catch missing periods, etc. but catch stilted sentences, missing reactions, or ways to enrich the story.

Not everything written need be reacted to by the other person on the receiving end of the remark or question. Sometimes it’s better to leave the obvious to the imagination of the reader. Especially at the end of a scene.

Stimulus: Something physical and/or mental is happening to your character.

Organism: The body and/or the mind reacts, which must be true to human nature and your character(s). If your character is not human, I always say, wow. That is hard, rewarding, and fun.

Response: Use body language to describe the response unless it is the POV character. The POV character can observe the body language, speculate on its meaning (or not), and also have some body language sprinkled in depending on how in depth you want the action of the moment to go. The none-POV character however can carry it further with extended reactions. Perhaps a fight ensues.

So I listen to my story and I note that the littlest girl in the family does not say anything while an older sister teases her. Okay that’s simple, but I forgot. So the mere sticking out of her tongue enriched the story.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The MacGuffin

The MacGuffin is a plot device. Wiki: “The MacGuffin(McGuffin) is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.

Director and producer Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term MacGuffin and the technique with his 1935 film The 39 Steps, an early example of the concept. Hitchcock explained the term MacGuffin in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University in New York City:

It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh, that's a MacGuffin'. The first one asks, 'What's a MacGuffin?' 'Well,' the other man says, 'it's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers, 'Well then, that's no MacGuffin!' So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.

Bob: But it is often something. In Pyscho, it’s the money stolen from the bank by a supporting character. In the Maltese Falcon, it’s the bird, which happens to be fake. In a romance, it could be a never-sent love letter, a lost charm, a mythical pearl. It drives the plot. Often it is a good substitute for horrible things happening to the hero or heroine, IMO. Why, because some stories are primarily interior driven. Since we need some action to propel the story and characters forward and something visual other than their pretty faces etc., the McGuffin serves as a focal point for the readers as an important reason to keep reading. There is some contention over whether the audience cares about the fate of the McGuffin. Hitchcock says no. Lucas says yes. I say it depends on how your story is written and what you hope to achieve. I like a novel in which there is a “b” story surrounding the McGuffin. In The Maltese Falcon, the bird represents greed and how far men will compromise their morals. So the “b” story is the corruption of men.

As my grandson informed me, it is important not to confuse the McGuffin with the McMuffin.

It’s a matter of taste.

Monday, July 12, 2021

I'm so tensed up


Verb Tenses exerpted from Grammarly

Verbs come in three tenses: past, present, and future. The past is used to describe things that have already happened (e.g., earlier in the day, yesterday, last week, three years ago). The present tense is used to describe things that are happening right now, or things that are continuous. The future tense describes things that have yet to happen (e.g., later, tomorrow, next week, next year, three years from now).

The following table illustrates the proper use of verb tenses:

Simple Present

Simple Past

Simple Future

read nearly every day.

Last night, I read an entire novel.

will read as much as I can this year.

Present Continuous

Past Continuous

Future Continuous

am reading Shakespeare at the moment.

was reading Edgar Allan Poe last night.

will be reading Nathaniel Hawthorne soon.

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

Future Perfect

have read so many books I can’t keep count.

had read at least 100 books by the time I was twelve.

will have read at least 500 books by the end of the year.

Present Perfect Continuous

Past Perfect Continuous

Future Perfect Continuous

have been reading since I was four years old.

had been reading for at least a year before my sister learned to read.

will have been reading for at least two hours before dinner tonight.

I’ve been writing for years and never knew there were so many variations on tense. Typical critique group comments go something like get rid of “was” in was drinking and write drank. Something always bothered me about it but I did not protest. The bother was in the feeling that I wanted to show continuous action. Was is alos associated with passive verbs. She was devastated can be mistakenly changed into She devastated. This changes the meaning and should be avoided. Perhaps I’m not saying anything you don’t know but if this helps just one of my friends then this post will have been worth it.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Love in the Afternoon

My wife and I found an incredible classic movie on TCM called Love in the Afternoon starring an aging Gary Cooper and a twenty-something Audrey Hepburn.

As a writer, I loved the witty dialogue, far better dialogue than anything I have seen or read recently.

As a man, I fell in love with Audrey all over again, and in this movie, it is especially easy to do. Also, Audrey is especially vulnerable here as she puts her inexperienced heart on the line for a playboy.

Me as one of the editors of my manuscripts, how could I not watch a Billy Wilder film? The story exudes charm, wit, fantastic dialogue, location (Paris), romance, intrigue, suspense, comedic moments.

The first time you hear Audrey speak, it is simple, “PaPa,” said with her famous lilt. She’s responding to her father’s call, Maurice Chevalier. He’s a private investigator who has Gary Cooper, a dissolute aging American industrialist, sighted in his binoculars.

Maurice reports to the jealous husband who decides he’ll shoot Gary.

Audrey is against violence and stops the attempted murder in a most hilarious way. Gary later said about her non-violence, “What are you, some sort of religious nut?” I possibly paraphrased.

The film is in black and white but that does not diminish the extreme beauty of our heroine. Funny thing about a film full of funny things. She won’t give her name to Gary, so he describes her as not his type by calling her, “thin girl.”

I won’t give away the plot. This you could do easily online. It is much better to just find it and watch it.

Disclaimer: This is not a review. I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’d love to hear how you felt about this movie.

Speaking of movies; For the fourth of July I recommend Yankee Doodle Dandy, which is being shown on TCM this afternoon.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The big if

 No, this is not about a plot point. I have been fortunate to land three author collaborators for my new novel, The Chess Master. Which is not out yet because I'm searching for a publisher. The Wild Rose Press does not do coming of age stories like mine.

Why am I fortunate because of the collaborators? Did you self publish and struggle to find an audience? I did? I even struggled with my traditionally published book, Cinnamon & Sugar. Okay so what's the secret?

1. If you have friends that are writers and are more advanced in success with sales than you than ask them if they'd like to collaborate for a percentage. Hint: try ten percent of your gross.

2. Put your ego aside. You have a great story but because of the flood of books people aren't finding you (me).

One collaborator of mine has written more than 50 chess books and is preeminent in his field.

Another, the best man at my wedding, was the former president of the U.S. Chess Federation and has written a few books. he refused the 10%, and suggested a gift if it does well. It will.

Third but not least is a non-fiction author who is also an editor. She has made suggestions as they all will.

You tell me if this is a recipe for success. Time will also tell.

Note: I know it is not easy to land a successful; author on your team but it is worth a try. After all some small percentage for little work helps anyone who is trying to write for pay.

Note: The Chess Master is like The Queen's Gambit, but contemporary and with a heroine from different circumstances.

A possible tagline or blurb: A little girl loses her daddy and is left with the chess he taught her to remember him by.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Rhapsody in Black and White

I sat through my grandson’s participation in a band concert at Buena Vista High School last night and marveled at how the kids did such a great job with Rhapsody in Blue. Could I find an analogy to writing? Maybe.

Rhapsody in Blue evokes strong emotions in me with no guide book or words. I don’t know how it affects you, but its mix of Jazz and Classical illustrates an ode to life in New York City. A never ending, never sleeping, always competing, always yearning story of living in the Big Apple. Of course, this cacophony is subjective.

What about writing? The best writing pulls on your soul, takes you somewhere beyond the black and white. It may be as simple as walking along with Sherlock Holmes as he solves a crime, or as joyous as Hamilton.

Our job as writers is not only to write concretely but to engage the reader emotionally. Anything less is not a rhapsody. It may be a jingle and that’s okay.

So how do I get from George Gershwin’s Rhapsody to writing? Maybe I don’t. The best I can do is say that even though Rhapsody has no words, it is as clear to me as the writing of Hemingway. Anybody care to complete this analogy?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Unique mix of abilities

If you are wondering how to make it big in publishing you may have missed an intricacy that I only recently spotted. Each one of us has a unique set of talents. Ask yourself what do you have in a combination of talents that no one or not many have.

Then write the story.

I’ll offer myself as an example. I’m a United States Chess Master and I also write fiction, mainly romance. But I have written using magical realism, historical, pre-historical.

I often thought I should write a story about chess but I wasn’t focused on what direction the story should take and besides my romances were selling. I pictured a chess master so good in his deductive reasoning that he or she becomes a consultant to the police, but I have yet to write it. Busy.

Then, The Queen’s Gambit, was released by Netflix (it follows Walter Tevis’s book of the same name). This gave me an idea. In The Queen’s Gambit, the story stops before the heroine has a shot at becoming the world champion. What if I could write a contemporary story following a child and his or her damaged family (they lost their father) as he or she develops their chess talent. Then take the story to where he or she actually wins the championship.

This concept has captured the interest of an agent and may also be sellable by The Wild Rose Press under women’s fiction. I haven’t asked them yet. I am sure it will get a publisher so stay tuned.

So, how are you unique and what will you write for us?