Hello April


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

Hello April

Nandy Ekle

This month, the month of April is dedicated to tips and tools. So I will try to blog about things that I think of as a good tip, or something I use as a tool.

The only tips I have, besides SYBICAW (Sit Your Backside In Chair And Write) are tips I’ve picked up from other writers. And since my very favorite writer is Stephen King, I’ll use a lot of his tips. As for tools, I’m a pantser, so I’ll do my best.

As far as a tip for today’s blog, Writers write. So there you go. If you write, you’re a writer. If you just want to write but haven’t written anything, you need to re-analyze whether or not you are a writer.

Today’s tool. One of my favorite things is music. Sometimes lyrics grab me and scream that there is definitely a story buried here. Sometimes a piece that’s completely instrumental (Electric Light Orchestra’s instrumental Fire On High) tells a story just from the sounds I hear. I get a lot of story ideas from my playlist. And in those moments of needing extra inspiration, I will close my eyes and play the piece over and over.

 

The Bait


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Bait

By Nandy Ekle

I am the daughter of a fisherman. My dad can catch anything that swims in the water. When I was a pre-teen, Daddy would plan family outings to the “barge”—a barn-type building that sits on the lake with big holes cut in the floor, rails around the holes, and chairs. We would sit in those chairs for hours with lines in the water, the line wrapped around our fingers, and books in our laps. He made his own homemade bait, and when that ran out, we would catch mayflies or other harmless bugs from the corners of the building to use as bait.

So, this is a blog about writing. Why am I talking about fishing? 

Our readers are like fish deep in the water and our job is to catch as many as possible. But you absolutely cannot catch a fish without bait. If you drop a line with a bare hook into the water, it will hang there until you reel it up and go home.

In the writing world, this is called “THE HOOK.” 

Another thing my dad would do is go out to the lake earlier in the week and drop a bucket full of “chum,” something to call his favorite kind of fish to the area so that when he showed up for the real action, the fish would be present looking for treats.

When you start a story, you need to feed the readers something to make them hungry for more. I’ve heard from successful writers to start your story the day something is different for your main character. For example, JK Rowling starts the entire Harry Potter series with a young orphan living with relatives who resent his presence. His life is not fun in the least. And what happens? He gets a letter delivered to him by an owl. In the world he grew up in, owls do not deliver mail. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be to him, a nobody. So the reader is immediately saying, “What?!” And they have to keep reading to find out why this little boy gets his first piece of mail ever, and it’s delivered by an owl. 

She fed the readers just enough to make them hungry for more.

 

Another Cliche Book Review


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

Another Cliche Book Review

By Nandy Ekle

Time for me to join in the ocean of reviews for the Harry Potter series, books one through seven. Yes, I love them as much as every other person in the world. As a reader, I have enjoyed every word of the epic hero on his journey to save his world. Bravo, Ms. Rowling! 

As a reader, I followed this poor orphan from the time before he even knew he was special up to the moment when I closed the last book and the only words that crossed my mind were, “But of course! How could it have been anything different?” And I’ve loved the books so much that I re-read them all, in order, about every other year. And I never get tired of them.

As a reader.

As a writer, I have a completely different view. Oh, I still adore the stories, the words, and the tongue-in-cheek writing style. I love the world, and I love the emotions that develop when it all comes together in such a grandiose way. But as a writer, I see much more than a good story.

Character development. Each and every single character in all seven books has a distinct arc. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Draco, and the other kids/young adults have what any reader would expect. Growing up, maturing, becoming adults. And Ms. Rowling captures the stages of growth perfectly. One of my friends says The Order of the Phoenix is her least favorite because the characters all so angry all the time. But since they are all 15 years old, it wouldn’t be as real if they weren’t angry.

But that’s a rabbit hole I’m not going through. The point is that even Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Snape, Fudge, even Voldemort all have character arcs. In the first two books, Dumbledore seems a little distant, a little dodgy, maybe slightly off his rocker. He does show whisps of insight and wisdom, but this is something that doesn’t seem to actually come out until deeper into The Goblet of Fire. McGonagall, the stern, no-nonsense professor begins to show compassion and sympathy in The Order of the Phoenix. And I’ve always said I knew about Snape all along because of the energy Ms. Rowling used to make us hate him. There had to be a twist.

Consistency. Never have I read a series more consistent in voice, tone, world, and facts. I am in the middle of reading them all over again and as a writer I am picking up on things I missed the first couple of times I read them. One small item mentioned in the first book, then not again for two more books, suddenly appears in a later book and has become a cornerstone. And I can only ask how did Ms. Rowling do it? Amazing. Also, I’m discovering hints to the last pages of the last book in the first book that go completely undetected until BOOM! There it is.

Hooking her readers. Ms. Rowling is a master of this. The first words of each book are like glue. And the last line of each chapter causes gasps. And she has the incredible ability to retell parts of the story in a later book and it’s not an “info dump” at all. It’s perfect.

So, JK Rowling, your stories are destined to be considered as classics in the future. And I definitely look at them as learning tools for writers.

The Most Classic of the Classics


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Most Classic of the Classics

By Nandy Ekle

I am a fan of horror. That’s not a secret to anyone. And there are so many great horror stories that are considered classics. Some I was assigned to read in school like Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde. I wanted more. So I made the decision to read Dracula, by Bram Stoker. 

And all I could say was WOW!

This story is written in the form of diary/journal entries and newspaper articles. Even though the book was written during an era of formal English, which makes some stories dry and hard to stick with, the language of this book was easy to digest. As a high school student with a normal attention span, I was completely captivated. I think I devoured the book in two days.

There have been hundreds of movies made based on the story. The legend of vampires goes back, probably to the beginning of time. And this was long before the romantic vampires with consciences who hate what they are. And I think we all know the basic Dracula story. 

Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to meet with the Count and discuss some property in England the Count has recently purchased. He leaves his fiancee behind with a typewriter and instructions to practice her typing. Mina, his fiancee, takes her typewriter to the country to visit her aristocratic friend, Lucy, who is being courted by three men. While Jonathan is abroad and Mina is visiting, a mysterious illness afflicts Lucy which causes her to lose blood at an alarming rate, and there seems to be no reason for her blood to disappear. Meanwhile, the count leaves Jonathan locked in the castle to feed his three vampire wives while he travels to England to view the property. Jonathan barely with his life and Mina is called to Transylvania to minister to him as he recovers. They are married and head back to England where they learn Lucy has died. Her three suitors bring in an expert to investigate the mysterious illness and the expert is convinced there is a vampire afoot. Soon Mina is also showing signs of the same illness. The group chases the count back to Transylvania where they finally kill him.

Really and truly, one of the best horror books I’ve ever read. As for versions of the movie, I love the one released in the 90s with Wynona Rider. They add a deep timeless romance to the plot which enhances the story extremely well.

If you get a chance, read Dracula by Bram Stoker.

 

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How to Write


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

How to Write

By Nandy Ekle

On Writing, by Stephen King. In my opinion, the best instructional writing book out there. 

The first half of the book is a very honest sort of autobiography (which I think, as a happy “Constant Reader,” is very interesting). The second half of the book is lessons and tips. Since Mr. King is a high school English teacher, along with the fact of his enormous success as a writer, in my eyes, he is a penultimate writing teacher.

The biography half of the book gives us, the readers, an insight into his thought process. He starts with his earliest memories and goes through his experience after being hit by a car in 1999. Extremely interesting material for those of us with a deep love of words, a smattering of talent, and small income vs. daily expenses. According to the book, the King family was next to bankrupt when his first book, Carrie, hit the market. An extremely encouraging epistle.

The writing part of the book is equally helpful. This part gives some grammar advice, dialogue advice, description advice, and insight into what your reader might be thinking. He gives a scenario and a challenge to the readers of the book to write a story (set up by Mr. King himself) and send it to him for review. However, the version of the book I, myself, own is from the year 2000. 

This is why I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft for anyone who wants to learn to write fictional stories.

Look Around


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

Look Around

By Nandy Eke

Stephen King once said he is asked constantly where his ideas come from. His answer is he doesn’t know. He mentions “the guys in the basement,” which is his description of a muse. He says he plays a lot of “what if” games that lead to the stories.

I agree with this to some extent. I play the “what if” game myself, and I get some interesting answers. But the stories I’ve written that I like most are the ones I can tell you exactly when the idea gelled. 

Some of that has to do with what’s happening around me when the idea starts to grow. I’ve seen the moon look like a giant eye in the sky. I pass an old abandoned gas station every morning on my way to the day job, and there’s always a car or pick-up sitting in the old parking lot. I don’t know why it’s there. The person inside wears a big cowboy hat and is always alone. 

One morning I went to the office and saw a pair of ladies pumps sitting in the alley. The shoes were white fabric with big flowers printed all over them. They were standing next to my office driveway as if some lady had just stepped out of them. 

There’s a famous quote that says we pass 5,000 story ideas every day. An author will see 20 of them. Tell me in the comments below what story ideas you noticed today.

Congratulations. You have just received a postcard from the muse.

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