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.

 

A Blast From the Past


A Blast From the Past

By Adam Huddleston

Several years ago, I entered a short story in a collection entitled “The Darwin Murders”.  This week I just wanted to share this brief “blast from the past.”

A Beautiful Sunday Drive

By Adam Huddleston

Well hello Mr. I-refuse-to-move-over-and-allow-cars-to-enter-the-interstate-from-the-onramp.  Yes, I realize that legally you have the right of way and I am sure that whoever you’re texting is anxiously awaiting your next dim-witted post.  However, it would be nice if I didn’t have to slide around your car like a road ninja in order to match the speed of traffic.

Now that I’m behind you, filling up my lungs with the fumes from an exhaust that needs attention, I see that you’ve chosen to drive a safe ten miles an hour below the limit.  Perhaps the mobile device in front of your face is affecting your vehicle’s RPMs.  

I see that Murphy’s Law is well in affect as we are destined to take the same exit.  I follow you to the next stoplight only to discover that both of our destinations are to the right.  Another five miles reading your banal bumper stickers and I decide upon the most appropriate course of action.

I notice that for some odd reason, you have chosen to move the speedometer’s needle to ten miles over the speed limit in a school zone.  As we leave said zone, I recall a car chase video I’d seen years ago.  A slight tap of your right rear bumper with my vehicle sends your heap out of control.

My rearview mirror frames the accident nicely.  A madman’s laugh escapes me as I watch your car first flip several times then burst into flames.  

I hope you hit the “Send” button first.  

Start with a Hook


 

Start with a Hook

Rory C. Keel

All of the exciting details, ports of call and the swashbuckling adventure of your story will mean nothing if the reader isn’t interested. To bring your reader along, you need to pique their interest, start with a hook.

Why would I go down this road?

Give me a reason to cross that line.

An image of a road to the horizon with text start

 

Narrative Fishing


Narrative Fishing 

Rory C. Keel

 

Yes, we are writing about story hooks this month at Wordsmith Six. We are learning how to keep our readers turning the page. So, we start with an action that pulls the reader further into the story. Anything that causes curiosity and interest from your reader is a narrative hook. It should cause a sensation in the reader to keep reading and turn the next page without stopping.

HOOK ‘EM


HOOK ‘EM

Lynnette Jalufka

This month’s topic is about hooks. A hook is the opening of a story that captures the readers’ attention enough to keep them reading the rest of the book. It usually means the first sentence.

I have been to several writing workshops that have used the opening line of Ken Follett’s The Key to Rebecca to illustrate a good hook: “The last camel collapsed at noon.”

Here’s another example from one of my favorite novels, Tahn by L. A. Kelly: “Tahn crept up the stone wall like a reptile silent after its prey.”

Would either of these openings make you want to read the next sentence, the paragraph, the entire chapter? Maybe, even the whole book? I have never read past the first chapter of The Key to Rebecca, but I’ve read Tahn many times.

Take a look at your favorite books. Were you hooked from the first sentence? Why or why not? Seeing how other authors opened their novels is the best way to learn how to capture your readers.

Due to health issues, I will be taking a break from this blog and hope to return later this year. Thank you for following Wordsmith Six. 

 

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.

DANCES WITH WOLVES -Book Review


DANCES WITH WOLVES

Book Review – Natalie Bright

DANCES WITH WOLVES sold over 3.5 million copies and was translated into 15 languages. The 1990 film, which Kevin Costner directed and starred in, won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Screenplay for Michael Blake. He also won the WGA Award and Golden Globes for his script. Local writers were treated with an unbelievable opportunity to meet this amazingly gifted writer.  You’ve probably seen the movie, but I highly recommend the book as well.

Michael Blake shared a heartfelt and grippingly honest reflection in the creation of his book, DANCES WITH WOLVES, during a visit through Amarillo many years ago. After becoming engrossed in Indian history, his long-time friend Kevin Costner, encouraged him to write a novel rather than a screenplay. Mr. Blake told us that he struggled with the ending. The L.A. atmosphere did not lend itself to the inspiration he craved. He moved to Arizona where he lived in his car, worked as a dishwasher, and completed the book.

What a treat to meet Mr. Blake and learn about his struggles and process. I wrote as fast as I could, trying to make note of every word. Following, are some of his best quotes that resonated with me personally from his talk to our Amarillo writers’ group.

  • “Writers are driven to create something from our heart and soul. This is in direct conflict with the agent, producers, and editor’s side of the business,” and for this reason he encouraged us to not be afraid of rejection.
  • “No matter what, keep writing at a level that people will want to read, and keep reading,” he said.
  • “American Indians knew things about the world that we had forgotten. Modern life has moved us away from life on earth. We need balance between earth and our existence.” This belief inspired him to write a story.
  • “Inspire with your writing.”
  • “It’s all about finishing. Power through and get it done.”
  • “Writing must convey feeling. Be different and devastating in terms of feeling.”
  • “Make every conceivable effort to put good words on paper.”
  • “Stay at it!” says Michael Blake. “If you remember only one thing from my talk, this is the thing I want you to take away—never give up.”

 

A DIFFERENT SET OF EYES


A DIFFERENT SET OF EYES

Lynnette Jalufka

Stephen King is the one author I hear mentioned more than anyone else at writing workshops and in articles about the craft. There’s only problem: I don’t read horror. So I was excited to learn King actually wrote a book I could possibly enjoy. It’s a fantasy written for his daughter called The Eyes of the Dragon.

The book takes place in the Kingdom of Delain. Sorcerer Flagg poisons King Roland and frames the heir to the throne, Prince Peter, who is imprisoned in a tower. He then gains control over the new king, Peter’s younger brother Thomas. With Flagg’s influence, Thomas makes decisions that erode the kingdom. But Thomas has a secret Flagg doesn’t know about. 

King makes sure you know the motivation behind each character’s actions. Although the narrator constantly inserts his opinion, the book is exciting. Peter attempts one of the most unusual and daring escapes I have ever read. If you want to know what happens, read the book. 

Book Review of “The Institute” Cont.


Book Review of “The Institute” Cont.

by Adam Huddleston

As I continue my journey through Stephen King’s “The Institute” I curiously notice that while the story itself is interesting, the characters are beginning to become rather stale.  Not only that, but there are (in my humble opinion) too many of them.  King has thrown together a motley crew of “good guys” and “bad guys” in the titular location, but the sheer number of them has made the plot rather confusing.  I’m having a hard time putting a face (and the person’s characteristics) to the name.

Overall, the tale is good.  King is at his best when he presents us with interesting, relatable protagonists and antagonists.  I’m looking forward to finishing the novel, I just feel that overall, he has stuffed it with too many characters.

A TOURNAMENT TO REMEMBER


A TOURNAMENT TO REMEMBER

Lynnette Jalufka

I waited a long time to read Michael Jecks’ medieval mystery novel, A Tournament of Blood. I made myself read the previous books in the series first. This was the one I was excited about because it concerns one of my favorite parts of the Middle Ages, the tournament. Jecks puts his crime-solving duo, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, the Keeper of the King’s Peace, and Bailiff Simon Puttock in the middle of one. Simon is in charge of organizing the event which puts him at odds with several people, including his teenage daughter who falls in love with a squire with dishonorable intentions. Then the murders occur. Baldwin and Simon must figure out who the culprit is, even though their suspects keep dying.

The best part is when a knight accuses Simon of murdering his son and challenges him to a trial of combat, a battle to the death to prove Simon’s innocence or guilt. Baldwin becomes Simon’s champion although he hasn’t fought in sixteen years. 

There are plenty of colorful characters throughout the book. Jecks has a way of showing all their viewpoints so it’s hard to figure out who is the murderer. I like that Baldwin tempers his desire for justice with mercy when the killer is revealed. 

Although there is a touch of language and sex, the book is a great read. Details bring England in 1322 to life. I love that there is not only a character list but also a glossary of terms that is very helpful in a historical fiction. Check it out.