The Saturday Morning Blogger – The roots of a story


The Saturday Morning Blogger – The roots of a story

James Barrington

This week I will lay some of the groundwork of the novel that is taking shape in my mind and on the computer screen. It is a story of small town life and how the lives of classmates change between their high school days and their twenty-year class reunion.

Teenagers tend to think that what they are in high school will profoundly impact what they are in life. Those of us who have been there know that to be both true and false. High school can solidify the groundwork for our decision-making patterns throughout our lives, but the details are much more profoundly affected as we move into real-world decisions.

There are many allusions in literature to “crossing the Rubicon” and observations that “you can never go home.” Some real life choices are irreversible, but Christians come to understand that even bad choices don’t have to be the end of the discussion. Sure, the effects of some choices are irreversible, such as murder, for example. But the eternal consequences can be changed as long as there is life in our body and a repentant heart. Saul of Tarsus and King David are both examples of that.

The novel that is my current project has a working title (subject to change) of The Reunion.

The story opens with class members gathering for their twenty-year reunion. The jocks, the nerds, the students and teachers, all come back to remember and renew, but it only takes minutes to become apparent that high school stereotypes frequently break down under the stress of real life. The “popular kids” have largely fallen onto hard times, while the class nerd has become a soldier on and off the nation’s battlefields. Disaster has struck the home town and the pieces are still an open wound.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. The battles of the world have had real life impacts on this small Texas town and acts of war on the opposite side of the world impact people and places everywhere.

Examining the lives of the classmates exposes the good and bad choices they made as youngsters and how those choices built derelicts and heroes. Some of those outcomes are immediately evident, while others fester inside, marking some for success and others for failure. But even those labels are tenuous, depending on the measuring rod.

Undercurrents run through the town that are generally invisible except to those who are directly involved, and the stalwarts of the community come face to face with the darker sides of the world that are as easy to ignore as turning off the television. When evil and avenger come home to the same reunion, the classmates can be left wondering which is which.

We’ll begin developing the characters and story next week.

Thanks for reading!

Reading Challenge


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Reading Challenge

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I found this challenge on line and got my attention. Let’s all give it a try.

During this year I am challenged to

  1. Read a book I read in school.
  2. Read a book from my childhood.
  3. Read a book published over a hundred years ago.
  4. Read a book published in the last year.
  5. Read a non-fiction book.
  6. Read a book written by a male author.
  7. Read a book written by a female author.
  8. Read a book by someone who isn’t a writer.
  9. Read a book that became a film.
  10. Read a book published in the 20th century.
  11. Read a book set in my hometown.
  12. Read a book with someone’s name in the title.
  13. Read a book with a character with my first name.
  14. Read a book with a number in the title.
  15. Read a book with over 500 pages.
  16. Read a book I can finish in a day.
  17. Read a previously banned book.
  18. Read a book with a one word title.
  19. Read a book translated from another language.
  20. Read a book that will improve a specific area of my life.
  21. Read a book written by someone younger than me.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

Current Reading Material


Current Reading Material

by Adam Huddleston

 

I’ve nothing too deep (or intellectually stimulating for that matter) this week. I’m just letting ya’ll know what I’m currently reading.

My bookmark currently rests about a quarter of the way through the second novel in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy; Finders Keepers. I finished the first novel Mr. Mercedes awhile back and have the final book, End of Watch sitting on my bedside table. I’m also making my way (slowly) through the graphic novel Watchmen.

What wonderfully written works are you reading?

Jump-start your writing: A photo in the newspaper


Jump-start your writing: A photo in the newspaper

Rory C. Keel

The Local newspaper carried a story of the tragic work accident that resulted in the death of a young man. After reading the story, I decided to write about the photograph of the young man that was published. My hope is that you can see the picture through my words.

A picture is simply a snapshot of a brief moment in time. I get the feeling that at the very second the shutter of the camera snapped, this young man was happy.

A red and white striped shirt drew my attention to the center of the photo. A tall slender man stood with his arms folded covered with the long sleeves of a white undershirt. His head is tilted and resting on a wall above his right shoulder. He wore a slight grin on his face that exposed the shallow dimples in his cheeks as he stared back through the lens at the photographer.

The room he looks into is a kitchen, confirmed by the cast iron skillet and dishtowels that hang by a hook on the wall. Further evidence is the foil-covered dish and meringue pie near the end of the counter where he stood.

Behind his head, in another room hung a frame containing a picture. While out of focus, the outline of people reveals that it is a family photo. Beside the family picture hangs a smaller portrait of a young couple and below on a small table sits a picture of small boy with his arms crossed and covered by long white sleeve of an undershirt beneath a dark blue polo.

I wonder how many years have passed between the photo of the small boy and the young man he became?

Point of View: Omniscient


Point of View: Omniscient

Natalie Bright

“The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the gentleman in brown. His breakfast-table was drawn before the fire, and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal, he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for his portrait.

… He wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxen wig, setting very close to his head: which wig, it is to be presumed, was made of hair, but which looked far more as though it were spun from filaments of silk or glass. His linen, though not of a fineness in accordance with his stockings, was as white as the tops of the waves that broke upon the neighboring beach, or the specks of sail that glinted in the sunlight far at sea.”
The exert above, from A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1946) is an example of storytelling in an omniscient viewpoint.

I’m working on a story with alternating 3rd person and first person, but wondered if I should consider rewrites in omniscient. I need to review point of view to decide, so I’m sharing the information with you as I refresh my memory. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome.

Omniscient Defined

There is no identifiable character observing the scene above and relaying the information. Instead a narrator, who is not identified, tells the tale.

This is not to be confused with head-hopping, where the reader gets into the head of one character, to another, and then back to another. Normally, when the writer changes the viewpoint, or gets into another character’s head, there is a paragraph break or double-double space into a new scene. We’ll take a closer look at head-hopping in a future blog.

With omniscient viewpoint, the narrator conveys the scene without allowing characters to know what they shouldn’t. The narrator in the above example does not let us know the gentleman’s internal thoughts or feelings. We have no idea what he is thinking, however we might have a clue based on his actions.

Here’s another example from Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities:

“”Good Day!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white head that bent low over the shoemaking. It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at a distance:

“Good day!”

“You are still hard at work, I see?”

After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes—I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful…”
As a reader, we are never told what the shoemaker is thinking, but obviously from his actions, he is weary and maybe a little aggravated at the interruption.

Have you writing in Omniscient view point? What difficulties have you encountered?

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

New WordsmithSix Member – James Barrington


james-darlene-f01_6324-twitter-profile-pic

The Saturday Morning Blogger

I am James Barrington, and honored to be the newest addition to the wordsmithsix family.

My wife, Darlene, and I were married in 1973. We have two grown daughters and six grandchildren. Half of them are here in Canyon and the rest are in New England.

With a master’s degree in public administration, I spent 30 years working in local government. Twenty-four of those years were as city manager in three different communities, in Texas, Florida and New Hampshire.

After moving back to Canyon in 2006, I have done photography and news reporting. I retired in 2015 in time to take on “Elder” responsibilities with University Church of Christ and make a trip to Israel in November of that year.

Since then I have been busy with visiting the sick and shut-ins of the church.

Having written five unpublished novels since 1991, I decided to start writing again, as time permitted. With the help of Harry Haines, I’ve begun studying the craft, seeking to improve my fiction writing. Needless you say, I have done a lot of writing over the years in the form of legal documents and memos and letters to government officials. I have been interested in writing fiction since my high school days.

I enjoy writing, just for the sake of writing, but I am beginning to learn that there are “rules” for fiction that are far different from technical writing and journalism. Each style has a different purpose and different rules to help the writer accomplish that purpose.

I have personal Facebook and Twitter accounts: James S. Barrington and @oneJamesopinion respectively. My email account is james.barrington14@yahoo.com.

With an assignment to contribute the weekly Saturday blog at wordsmithsix.com, I expect I’ll be writing about a variety of subjects. I plan to open with a few thoughts about the novel I’m working on now, with some previews and some of the “before and after” versions I’m learning from my colleagues in our critique group. I’ll probably go off on a few tangents about some of the earlier works I’ve “completed.” I suspect I’ll do some serious editing of some of those works as I learn more of the craft of fiction writing. I personally think I had some good story ideas, but simply fell short on the craft of telling those stories as works of fiction.

Thanks for tuning in to my self-introduction. I always appreciate constructive criticism and ideas for future blogs.

THE MUSE


A Postcard from the Muse

THE MUSE

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I pulled the package from the mailbox. I was so excited I nearly dropped it, and what a horrible tragedy that would have been. Especially after what happened to the first mug. I had been walking into the break room to get a cup of coffee. I raised my right arm, just like always (since I’m so hopelessly right handed). And, at that very moment, the old injury to my shoulder decided to groan, which caused my hand to open mid arc. My precious Stephen King autographed mug flew across the room and smashed on the floor into a million pieces. I was so stunned I could barely breathe. My. Stephenkingautographed. Mug. Smithereens.

Yes, it had become a very dark day indeed. Oh, I know the autograph was just a print on the side of a simple white coffee mug, but what it represented! All those shards of ceramic on the floor—some of them no more than white powder—looked like all the words I had ever written, ever would write, sitting in ground-up piles in my head. Nothing but trash, and dangerous to touch.

The morning crowd of zombies hunting for coffee looked at me and I could hear their thoughts. Did she just throw a coffee cup? Is she crazy? Why in the world would she do that? Look at that mess! Guess who’s going without their morning pot of black gold? Glad it wasn’t me. I fought the tears back from my eyes as I knelt and begin picking up the pieces that were still big enough to pick up. Carefully holding the remnants of my cup, I tried to turn myself invisible and tiptoe to the trash can. I was not to be allowed a moment of grief because I was holding up the traffic of bodies squashing around each other and my pile of Stephen King’s autograph. I closed my eyes and let the bigger pieces fall from my hands into the abyss of rubbish. A broom stood next to the trash can and I went back to my pile of smashed dreams and began sweeping. Another woman ran to get the dustpan to help sweep the rest of “my precious” into it.

I thanked her as I pretended to be aloof regarding the silliness of the situation. “I guess that’s a fitting end to a Stephen King autographed cup.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry. Well, there are the Styrofoam cups there.”

“Yes, I’ll just use one of those. As long as I get my coffee . . .” I trailed off.

“Yes! Must have the coffee! Well, if there’s anything else I can do, let me know.” She smiled and blended back into the crowd yawning and waiting in line for coffee.

You could conjure a new Stephen King autographed cup for me, I had cried out in my mind. My cup is broken. My dreams were in that cup. No one understands what that cup did for me.

That was six weeks ago. Today my new cup came in the mail. It’s still just a simple white ceramic mug with “Constant Reader” and his signature printed on the side. Same loops, same whirls, same angles, all the letters are exactly the same. And something else is the same. The spirit of the cup.

I’ve always loved Mr. King’s books, and stories. I was in high school when his first book, Carrie, hit the shelves. The story is about a girl in high school with no friends, and I identified with her in some ways.

In the 1970s, a lot of stories and movies came out about people with telekinesis. I enjoyed those stories because, for one thing, they were eerie. But also, I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to suddenly discover I could move things around with my mind. I would sit for hours alone in my bedroom at night, when I wasn’t working at the local Sonic Drive In, and try it. I would stare at the light switch next to my bed and concentrate until I couldn’t see anything else in the room but the light switch. “Flip off,” I would think in my head over and over. Of course, it never did. So I decided maybe I needed to say it out loud. “Flip off.” After repeating this command uncountable times, my mother would stick her head in the door thinking I was cursing at something.

“What are doing in here? And we do not say those words in this house!”

“I’m doing my homework, and I wasn’t saying bad words.”

She would look at me sideways with an I-really-don’t-believe-a-word-you-say look in her eyes. “Well, hold it down.” And she would leave.

So, Carrie. Carrie is one of those telekinesis stories. The other kids are cruel to her and her mother is crazy and she uses her powers to get back at everyone around her for their bullying all her life. Well, I didn’t have telekinesis, and I did have friends, but there were times when I felt alone and bullied. So Carrie was MY kind of story.

Then Mr. King’s Salem’s Lot came out and I was over the moon. Vampires! I had loved vampires since I was in elementary school, and now here was a book about a whole town of vampires.

The next book to hit the shelves was The Shining. By that time I had graduated from high school, married a mortician, and we lived in a duplex next door to the funeral home. The Shining was one of those books with so many layers that I didn’t even see half of them. Even now, as a writer in my own right, I still find new layers every time I read that book. Mountains in Colorado, snowstorms, a massive hotel, troubled parents, a child with ESP, and to top it all off, ghosts. Every single element I’ve craved in a good story since learning to read. And Mr. King added so many interesting layers that it would take the rest of my life to see the whole thing. Reading that book is like discovering a new cave, and the deeper I go, the more new rooms I find.

After that, his books came out so fast it was hard to keep up with them. I’ve read a lot of  his stories, some I have not read. Some I’ve started but not finished because my life became so busy with motherhood and my own attempt at writing.

But I can truthfully say that even though I’ve never met Stephen King face to face, he’s taught me everything I know about writing.

So, my cup. One night I had wandered onto to his website. I realize it’s maintained by a staff he’s hired just for that purpose. But still, to put the pointer of my mouse over his site and read the King News is thrilling. And then I noticed he has merchandise other than his books. So I clicked. T-shirts, towels, dog bowls, liquor flasks, pillowcases, tote bags, silver trays, computer skins, shot glasses, tumblers, and coffee mugs. And not just generic stuff. Some of it is specific to certain books. But there’s also a line of merchandise labeled “Constant Reader”, what he affectionately calls his fans. And I definitely qualify to be Constant Reader.

I ordered my first cup.

When it came in the mail I danced circles around the house waving my new coffee mug, which declared to the world that I am a Constant Reader fan of Mr. Stephen King’s books. And I made sure to point out his printed signature to everyone who had been unable to avoid me. My. Stephenkingautographed coffee cup.

I took it to work and, after waiting in line, holding my version of the Holy Grail close to me to keep from being jostled, I filled it with coffee. In my opinion, that was the best cup of coffee I had ever had in my life. From that moment on, I knew I would never drink coffee from any other vessel while sitting at my desk reading contracts and assuring customers their retirement funds were in good hands.

The next morning the cup sat waiting for me on my desk where I left it the night before, and I noticed the lipstick mark on the rim. As an adult woman past a certain age, I make sure I look presentable each morning, which includes my favorite lip gloss. Now, looking at my autographed mug, I saw the symbolism of my lipstick mark on the brim and my heart danced again.

But something else happened during my lunch hour that day. I know that my most creative time of day is noon, so I use my lunch hour to write my own stories. However, I had been in a sort of stalemate with my current work-in-progress. Writer’s block, if you will. And I’ll just tell you, there is nothing more miserable in the whole world as a writer who can’t write. That’s like a breather who can’t breathe. I had writer’s block so bad I was on the brink of giving up and chucking the whole idea of story writing.

Until the second day of being a Constant Reader. That day I opened up my little laptop I brought to work tucked into my work computer bag. It booted up and I put my hand on the keys. The next thing I knew, my hour was up and I had written four thousand words without even realizing I was writing. I had gone into “THE ZONE” and words had shot out of my hands onto the computer screen. And I knew it was because of my fabulous cup.

And then the unspeakable had happened.

Needless to say, the words stopped pouring out of my hands again, the characters in my head lost their voices, the color went out of the world.

Satire


Satire

by Adam Huddleston

 

This week’s literary term is: satire. Satire is defined as the use of exaggeration or humor to expose the fallacies or corruption in government or individuals. It is closely linked with irony which is defined as: a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

One of the most well-known pieces of literature that employs satire is “Gulliver’s Travels”. Written by Jonathan Swift in 1726, this novel pokes fun at English government, religion, and Western Culture. Another example is “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. His work brings to light issues concerning slavery as well as other facets of American society in the 1800’s.

Generally speaking, the main purpose of satire is to affect a positive change in society. While their approach is humorous, the desire of the writer is not to have the reader laugh at the foibles they are bringing to light, but to excite them to confront those wrong-doings.

Write the Story


Outtakes 278

Write the Story

Cait Collins

 

You are leaving a restaurant one Sunday morning and spot an elderly lady sitting in a booth alone. She smiles and wishes you a good day as you pass. What would you do? Would you acknowledge her greeting and walk on by? Or maybe you ask for her ticket and pay it without the lady knowing of your kindness. Or do you walk by without acknowledging her greeting.

Who is the lady and how does she respond to your actions?

She is just as she appears to be. Our lady comes to the restaurant once a week and sits alone. Why? Maybe she doesn’t have friends or a family. She’s sitting in the booth just hoping someone will speak to her.

Maybe she’s like Hamilton Bedford Tipton, the wealthy philanthropist from the old The Millionaire television show who is looking for the worthy man. She’s hunts for a good man or woman to bring into her company. She wants to provide excellent employment to a good Samaritan.

Or perhaps Granny is a serial killer looking for her next victim. Snub her and she’ll make sure you’ve just enjoyed your last meal.

So do you greet her, treat her, or snub her? She’s Granny enjoying her Sunday breakfast, or a head hunter, or a killer. Which is it?

Now write the story. One more thing, her accomplice is out in the parking lot standing by an old pickup truck. The hood is up and the elderly gentleman is holding a set of jumper cables.

Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age


Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age

Natalie Bright

 

I wandered into a used bookstore one evening. The atmosphere, sights, and smells were everything you’d expect—glorious. The owner obviously loved his books and had an impressive inventory. He mentioned that he had over 1,000 more books in the back waiting to be shelved. I shook his hand and handed him a few of my bookmarks. While digging in my purse to find a business card, I had meant to say, “My picture book series about rescue animals are eBooks now, but I will have print books sometime this year. Do you host events for authors?”

I never got past the word “eBooks” because he interrupted me with an emotional rant. “I can’t do anything with an eBook. How do I put an eBook in my store? Don’t you love books? I love books. My customers love books. They want something they can hold them in their hands…” and on it went.

My reply was less than professional because I didn’t really think it through. I said, “I want my bookmarks back,” and then I grabbed them and he held tighter and we had a little tug-o-war with a few people staring, wide eyed and aghast. He said, “They’re mine. I’m not giving them back.” It all ended with a few laughs, hugs because this is Texas after all, and then he showed me the Texana section.

Honestly, I am a professional book hoarder. We added a wall of shelves when we moved specifically to hold my dad’s Time Life Series collection. My uncle tells me that he’s leaving me his book collection someday, and I will gladly make space. My heart flutters with joy when I see a pile of used books; stained pages and tattered covers just waiting to be rediscovered. I will never stop buying print books.

Unfortunately, not all the world is as devoted as the bookstore owner and I. The revelation struck me about five years ago. My part-time office help was complaining about her mother who kept insisting she read a Nicholas Spark book. This straight A student confronted mountains of text books and she didn’t want anything else added to her reading list. So her mother said, “Take my eReader. You’ll really love this story.”

My office helper did in fact love the story, and got an eReader of her own. She became a voracious reader, consuming three to four literary novels a week. We had wonderful talks about authors and their stories. There was me lugging my precious book club hardbacks around, stacking them on the floor around my house and office. There was her on the other hand, with her snazzy eReader in a decorative cover, slipping it in a backpack and taking hundreds of books with her wherever she went.

My teenagers have learned to love books because they’re surrounded at home, but their friends tell me they “don’t like books”. Those same kids are ‘reading’ and sharing tons of memes, blogs, poems, clever bits of prose. As writers, we understand words are words, and that someone wrote those words no matter the form. Perhaps a new generation is discovering the joys of reading but on their own terms.

The Future is Now

Way back in 2010, as an Indi Author, I lugged cases of books to events, visited bookstores, and mailed flyers to school librarians trying to get my name out there. In 2016 I launched a new photo-illustrated picture book series about rescue animals, only to have a lot of mom’s tell me, “We want a print version, too.” With limited funds, I’m learning a new software program so that I can duplicate the stories in a format that will be acceptable. Then there’s the money I’ll need to print a high-quality colored book, which I will worry about later. For now, I just want to learn the software.

Apparently, people still love holding picture books, but families are more mobile, too. They live in efficiency apartments or neat homes where they don’t want the clutter of books. The business of books and publishing is topsy-turvy, frustrating, ulcer inducing, and the worst migraine headache you can imagine. The good news about being a writer today is that there is a world out there needing original, quality content.

A World Full of Readers

I truly believe that more people are ‘reading’ now than ever before. Their focus is on a screen.

My eReader is bursting and yet I’ll probably buy two more .99 cent special promotion books before the day is done. I will do everything I can to support brick and mortar stores, too. I will tirelessly volunteer and attend events at libraries because there is no better place to introduce kids to the joys of reading. I will promote other authors and their books. But, I’m not giving up my electronic reader. There is no going back.

The only way is forward.