Category Archives: guest blogger

What The Bandit can Teach Us About Writing

by Kenneth Lawson
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This last Sunday I went with my son back in time.

40 Years ago, this week.

May 27, 1977.

I was still in high school. The movie was “Smokey and the Bandit.”

Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields, Jerry Reed, and Jackie Gleason as Buford T Justice.

The epic car chase across three states that ended in a big beer party. But that’s not the real story.

The real story is the fact that I saw this movie when it first came out in 1977 while I was in High School. Since then, I have seen it probably more times than I can count. My son has grown up watching this film we have seen it numerous times together over the years. It’s the first time we’ve seen it the way it was originally presented on the big screen.

The movie is just as silly and in some ways as stupid as it was 40 years ago. The now “Classic” scene where Burt Reynolds and Sally Field jumped the bridge that was out is just as good as ever, even better on the big screen.

But why does anyone care about a chase movie made 40 years ago?

Characters.

Afterward, in the car, my son and I discussed the film for about 10 minutes. We picked a picked apart the plot or the “sort of plot” and the silliness of the whole thing. The likelihood Sally Field’s character did not recognize Jackie Gleason’s character on the CB radio it’s pretty slim if she knew the family well enough to almost married the stupid son. Then she would have recognized his voice over the CB; having probably heard it there many times before. All that aside, the movie still works pretty good.

But that’s the reason the movie works is not the story; the story sucks. What works is the characters. The characters are memorable. Burt Reynolds character the Bandit is likable he’s Every Man’s anti-hero he just doing the best he can and along the way he manages to do things that other people have not been able to do and mostly have fun doing it.
Jerry Reed is also excellent as the Snowman. Snowman is dragged into this crazy bet, he asked Bandit why we want to this silly thing; Bandit explains;

“‘For the good old American life: For the money, for the glory, and for the fun… mostly for the money. ”  — Burt Reynolds as Bandit in Smokey & the Bandit, 1977

You may wonder what this has to do with writing?

Theses characters resonate they speak to us, we can relate to them. They’re doing something that we would like to do. Granted, the story needs work, but that’s okay. In this case, it’s not so much about the story.

Face it, the actual story of “Smokey and The Bandit” is pretty thin. There are holes in the plot we could drive both Bandit’s Trans Am and Snowman’s tractor through. But that’s OK.

This story is “character” driven. We like Bandit, and “Frog” and Snowman, in spite of ourselves we like Sheriff Buford T. Justice. That’s why it works. It’s not so much the grand adventure, or the danger. It’s watching them do stupid stuff and getting away with it. As a teenager, in 1977, I probably wanted to be Bandit so bad I couldn’t stand it. To drive a Bad-Ass car, get the girl, and generally, do whatever the hell I wanted. That’s what these characters embody.

So must you write clones of Bandit, and Snowman, and Justice?

No. But your characters should be something either your readers can relate to directly, or in the case of Bandit, someone they can wish they were.

Bigger than real life. Characters that take over the story. They should ideally be relatable on some level, either age, sex, or occupation, or situation.

But above all, they must be memorable. Granted the movie has the added advantage of “Star Power” The actors bringing the characters to life. While we can’t have a young Burt Reynolds playing our hero, or probably not even the old Burt Reynolds, we must build our characters in ways that make them memorable, and for our readers to care what happens to them.

If we build good enough characters, then the audience will go along for the ride, silly as it may be.

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Kenneth Lawson was born in 1961 in Western NY.  He was born with a heart disease, called Transition of the Arteries, and is believed to be the first in the US to survive the procedure called the Mustard procedure.

He started writing as a teenager. Today he lives in Central Virginia with his wife of 30 years and the youngest of their four children.

Kenneth enjoys classic movies and television, and a variety of music. When not enjoying movies, he can be found writing his eclectic mix of science fiction, mystery, and time travel.

Find Kenneth at his blog


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Can Acting Help You Create Memorable Characters

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Whether I’m writing a comic, a blog post or a screenplay, the cornerstone of my writing remains the character.

From the very first moment you welcome your reader, and he reads your first paragraph, you want to make sure he knows:

  1. Whose story is it?
  2. What’s happening around the character?
  3. What’s at stake for the character?

This is because, from Shakespeare to Ibsen, the whole idea of dramatic writing revolves around the character: The one we root for, and the one who moves the story along with its actions.

But building character for fiction requires a deep understanding of human motives. A knowledge I had no access to until I shifted my perspective to a more experiential approach: That of embodying characters myself.

That of Acting.

And it changed me, it made me more aware of human dynamics. From the very first moment I started reading Lee Strasberg, Stanislavski and Grotowski, I noticed the similarities between my career as a psychologist, dramatic writing and those stories I wanted to create. 

But the real question is: Can acting work for you and your fictional characters as it worked for me?

Even without knowing you, and whether you suffer from stage fright or no. I do believe a short acting workshop can help you breathe life into your characters.

Here’s why.

Acting is a space for practice and creativity

Think of acting as a playground for discovery. Your own.

Acting will help you find your voice and it will give you a thorough understanding of your body language. All of this, on a playful and safe environment.

In this controlled space, you’ll have the opportunity to test, propose and create with others. It’s human interaction at its best.  

When you get back to your writing space, you will find how the relationships and interactions between your fictional characters become more natural and innovative.

Acting can teach you how to show, don’t tell

Regular conversations might sound like this:

“I’m sad;” “I don’t want to be here;” “I’m about to cry.”

I know, it sounds dramatic, but it has nothing to with dramatic writing. These are real life examples, yet you’re writing fiction. And since there’s no emotional value behind those phrases, we’re taught as writers to show and never tell.

Acting is no different. That means dialogue remains an extension of action. For example, a good actor on a good play wouldn’t tell the audience he’s about to commit suicide; no, we would see the signs: the gloomy tone of his voice, his gaunt appearance, his vacant stare and saggy posture. The way he thinks of life and the places he visits on a regular basis.

He’s hinting us. He’s suggesting and planting an idea. And we follow him along because we want to know if he’s going to survive or not. He’s in control.

That’s the power of character.

Acting teaches you to put yourself out there

Ok, all of this whole acting thing might sound promising. But what if you have stage fright? Or, you are self-conscious about your body, or your voice, or the way others look at you…

Just… don’t freak out. I feel you.

See, I’m an introvert. I like to read, spend time on my own, and sometimes too much social interaction can leave me heavily drained. Yet I’m so comfortable with myself that I can give a speech, act or sing in front of an audience –without fainting.

I had to learn that from scratch though. And acting helped me a lot.

Before acting I was afraid of looking at people in the eye. I was insecure. I didn’t know what to do with my body, how to move or whether to smile or not. I felt people would just laugh or criticize everything I did. But even when I forgot my lines, or made a mistake, I would just try again.

I didn’t die.

And that’s a huge lesson for us writers and aspiring authors. Acting teaches you to put yourself out there. It will help you with your pitching and that arrogant publisher. You will become more in control of yourself. And that confidence will translate into your writing. You will suddenly become less self-conscious about what you produce and you won’t feel afraid of being vulnerable.

Should you take acting classes?

I don’t think acting is for everyone, and I’m not encouraging you to pursue an acting career. But I do believe that it can critically improve your writing.

It worked for me, and my screenwriting feels more natural ever since.

Even if it doesn’t improve your writing you will have some fun, you will find an alternative way to express yourself creatively, and you will exercise too. Besides you can meet some interesting people in your classes –they could even end up as potential characters for your fiction book.

If you liked the article feel free to share it. Or, if you have any questions about acting and writing you can leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Happy writing –and acting.

Dan

Find me on my blog Fourth Walled

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Dan de Abreu is dedicated to helping  others aspiring authors while studying the relationship between psychology and writing.
He holds a BA in psychology and  works as a copywriter, screenwriter, and comics writer.
His longtime goal is writing scripts for his own animated short films.

Jessica V. Fisette: How to Write a Review So Good That Authors Will Thank You

Reviews are important, and every serious author knows that. We beg and pester—and would even bribe readers if it were allowed—to leave reviews describing their experience reading our book.

When that review finally does go up, a moment of panic hits us as we start reading. When we’re finished, we are usually either left with a sense of gratitude or disappointment, a stroked ego or a bruised one. The reader simply either did or did not like our work.

Most times, the one thing we don’t take away from the review is why the reader felt a certain way. Sure, we hear them. They hated it—in all caps, I might add. Or, they absolutely loved it and it was the best book ever written. (Who doesn’t like reading those kinds of reviews?)

To grow as an author, we need more. More importantly, potential readers need more. When you post a review, people read it in hopes that they can learn something from it. Sure, you thought the book was great or that it was terrible. But, why?

Did you think Detective Sanchez falling in love with his arch-rival was clichéd or the perfect plot twist? Give a vague, spoiler-free explanation about how the main plot twist felt like a cliché. Did a specific character annoy you because they were unlikable? Or, did they make choices that seemed out of character? There’s nothing wrong with saying so.

What did you like about the book? Were you drawn in by the setting, the mystery? Was the narration funny or insightful? Did the characters feel authentic and the situations they encountered keep you engaged in the story?

This is the kind of feedback authors and potential readers need to know. Authors need constructive criticism to grow and write better books in the future, while readers need to choose a book that is right for them. They’ll look over the review section to learn about the quality of the book and if it’s something they would like to invest their time in. So when you go to write your review, consider what you did or didn’t like about it and why. Remember, you’re helping an author whose works you’ve already invested time in to write better books, and to help readers find books they would actually enjoy, so be encouraging as well as honest.

Overall, any review is better than no review at all (except in the case of outright trolls) so if you don’t want to include this sort of information, I’m certain your review is still greatly appreciated. However, if reviewing books has become a habit of yours—maybe you’re starting a blog and want to make a reputation for yourself—this would be the best way to leave professional, thoughtful reviews from which authors and readers alike will benefit.

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Have a book or WIP in need of peer feedback? Join our sister group

Writers Unite! Critiques and Review to learn more about the review process and connect with other writers willing to critique swap WIP’s or read/review your published works!

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Jessica Fisette is the author of The Vanquished, the first book in The Soul Reaper series, and Fragments, a short story. Her hobbies include discovering the benefits of natural medicine, wine tasting, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. She likes to unwind by typing out a scene or two in her latest obsession or indulging in a good book. Having been passionate about writing since she was a little girl, she is constantly coming up with new ideas for future stories and creating unique, strong willed- albeit flawed- characters to overcome the difficult obstacles she places before them.

Follow my blog at: www.jessicavictoriafisette.com Link to The Vanquished: http://amzn.to/2eq2Vzn Link to Fragments: http://amzn.to/2ftFdSS

Rylee Black: So, Here I Am, a Writer

 

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So here I am, a writer, and soon (hopefully) to be a published author. The thoughts I want to share with you here are two-fold. But first I’ll share a bit of my journey so far as a writer.

Growing up in a generation before electronics, we spent a lot of time playing outside. I tell you this to give you insight into what led, in part, to my love of writing. (Though I thoroughly believe that I was born a writer – but that’s a post for another day). When we gathered outside to play my friends usually turned to me. Why you might ask? Because it was my job much of the time to come up with what we would do. I took that job joyously and we would plunge into tales of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, or dragons, knights, and damsels in distress. Our Schwinn bicycles, complete with banana seats and tall sissy bars, became trusty steeds. Sticks morphed into six-shooters, bows-and-arrows, or swords. Thus armed we acted out the stories in my head.

Time passed and playing outside gave way to hours squirreled away in my room (ah the years of teenaged angst). It was during those hours alone (when my nose wasn’t buried in a book) that the stories we’d once acted out made their way to paper. I never shared them, I was much too shy for that, but I lived for the times when I could lose myself in either a world created by my hand or the hand of another author.

Sadly, I let life take me away from writing for years. It took a tragedy I will never recover from to lead me back into my calling. You see, one day in late January/early February 2009, two thing happened. The first was bad, but not terrible – I lost my job of five years. I firmly believe that the universe let that happen so that I would have the time to come to some kind of terms with what happened a little over a week later – my three-year-old grandson Bret died in a tragic automobile accident. That was one of those defining occurrences that give a distinct split to who I was before and who I became after.

It took a couple months to pull myself out of my haze of grief. But then with a job search during one of the worst economic downturns in history yielding no employment, I found myself with too much time on my hands. It was then my old love resurfaced. Within seconds of my idea to take up writing again, my mind was flooded with characters clambering to be included and a little fictitious town laid out before me. So in I plunged. In the almost ten months it took me to find another job, I wrote three novels.

Now I’ll get to what I originally began this post to say.

First point: Writing and the Rules

When I hit the keyboard all those years ago to begin what would become The Candice McGregor Mysteries series, I had a basic (though somewhat well-defined) understanding of the rules of writing based on a good education and hundreds, if not thousands, of books read (another topic for another post). It was only about five years later – after a couple relatives asked to read my books, and after prying the book from my terrified fingers, asked why the heck I wasn’t published – that I joined several writing groups and learned that there are A LOT of rules about writing I was completely oblivious to.

Here you might expect me to get on my soap box and preach the gospel of proper writing. But that is NOT what’s going to happen. You see, I found that the more I learned, the less I loved what I was doing. I spent hours agonizing about whether or not I was showing and not telling. If I should use said or something else in dialogue. If my characters had depth or my story arced in the right place.

I’m not going to say you don’t need to know the rules of writing, because you do, if for no other reason than to understand how you can break them well. But after you learn them, put them away on a shelf in the farthest back alcove of your mind you can, slam the door shut, and put a heavy lock on the door and then write. Let it flow. Love your character, immerse yourself in your settings, and tell your story. Don’t worry if it should be a comma, a semicolon, or a period. Don’t fret about ‘oh my gosh – is that telling or showing???’ – just write. Then when you type those two amazing words – The End (disclaimer >>> Don’t really put them at the end because like, nobody really does that) – THEN you go back to that alcove, take off that darn heavy lock, pull out all those pesky rules, and polish up your amazing story.

All that leads me to my second point.

Do NOT publish your book right away. (I hear your collective gasps and beg you to consider what I say next)

With the advent of self-publishing, you can polish your story (or think you have), create, or have someone else create, a cover that will draw people in – because yes, some people do judge a book by its cover – and press a few buttons, and bless the world with the amazing piece of art you’ve created. But I have a caution. Because I didn’t start writing to publish, it was several years before I revisited my original three books armed with my newfound understanding of the rules and regulations for fiction writing. And while I will stress here that I DO NOT believe in following all the rules religiously, there are some that simply cannot be pooh-poohed. Those three novels are proof of that. When I compare the now polished – and edited by an outside editor – books, the differences blow me away. And even if you go into a book full of knowledge, please, please, let your book sit for a few months before you push that button to launch your baby out into the world. So much perspective can be gained by simply stowing it away long enough to be able to revisit it without the rose colored glasses of new love.

So there you have it, a glimpse into my journey so far as well as a glimpse into my crazy mind. Light and love and well wishes to all you wonderful writers who have heeded the call of your heart to embark on a task that few will ever understand.

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About Rylee Black:

I’m a wife, mother of four – two (a girl and a boy) I gave birth to two (amazing girls) I was blessed with through marriage- and sixteen grandkids – I think…at last count anyway. By day I’m a staff accountant at a major aggregate/asphalt paving/ cement company. By night and weekend, I live my dream of writing. When I’m not writing, reading, or working, I enjoy spending time with family or playing outdoors (this part doesn’t happen as often as it should sadly enough), and pursuing a newfound dedication to fitness and eating well.

I’m originally an Air Force brat whose dad’s final stop in his military journey was Lompoc, CA – the place I call ‘home’. Lompoc is neighbor to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and a federal prison, and has the distinction of once being billed as a flower capital. Marriage took me from sunny CA to Grand Junction, CO in 1991. Divorce and remarriage kept me there. Grand Junction. is a beautiful high desert town at the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers surrounded by the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa, and the Bookcliff mountains. Both these states I call home provide unlimited inspiration to my writing.

Guest Post: John Yeoman

How to Bond With Your Readers: The Pain and Glory of Writing

Note from the Editor-in-Chief

We’ve decided republish this beautiful post by our treasured contributor John Yeoman as he unfortunately passed away unexpectedly this year.

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Have you ever shied away from writing a scene in your story because it was too painful?

Because it triggered memories you’d rather forget?

You were thrust back into trauma: a marital breakup, bereavement, personal humiliation or some other horrific event.

Yet, if you dumb down that scene you’ll wreck the storyEven if your experience is totally fictitious, it still hurts.

All great writing is a learning experience for the author.

We force ourselves into new places, dramas we may never have encountered, the minds of strange people whom we might never want to meet but must—somehow—portray.

It hurts.

And so it should.

Unless we force ourselves to feel our characters’ pain, the reader won’t feel it either. They’ll toss our story aside.

“It’s not real,” they’ll say. And they’ll be right.

I discovered this for myself when I depicted a funeral in an historical mystery novel set in the 16th century.

Imagine the scene. A church cemetery at midnight. No moon. Just three mourners holding lanterns. The narrator is burying his beloved wife in secret. She’d committed suicide so could not legally be interred in sacred ground.

Will her soul be saved? He doesn’t know. He prays beside the coffin—and is answered by a mocking owl.

I cried as I wrote that scene. Why? Too many funerals in my recent past perhaps, although their circumstances had been quite different. But had I skipped that episode and dismissed it in a single line—”And so the lass was buried. God rest her soul.”—it would have been a cop out.

I had to depict every graphic moment, even its fragments of noir humour when—in the darkness—the narrator falls into the grave, apologizes to the coffin then bursts into tears. Otherwise, his subsequent nightmares—vital to the story—would not have made sense.

 Face the pain and work through it.

Not only will your story gain strength but you’ll also grow as a person.

Aristotle put his finger on it 2400 years ago. When we live through an experience of fictional tragedy—on the stage or in our minds—we are ‘purged by pity and terror.’

Catharsis. It’s a cleansing experience. An inner confessional by which we are reconciled to ourselves and human nature.

Any author who is not a total hack does not write to change their reader—the attempt would be impertinent—but to change themselves.

Every story we write with feeling is a personal catharsis, a release of tension.

Do it competently and your reader will be changed as well.

Dare we bare our souls? And let it all hang out? And enrich our stories with revelations that will expose our most private feelings to the world?

Yes! Here are three ways to do it without (too much) pain:

1. Accept that people have felt almost all emotions. 

There’s very little you can tell people that they haven’t felt themselves.

The days of readers being ‘shocked’ by revelations in literature ended with the 19thcentury.

Even then, their shock was mostly sham. Privately, Victorian readers lapped up the indiscretions of Madame Bovary, Moll Flanders and Tom Jones.

Write those scenes of pain, scandal or revelation well, and your readers will relate to them. Because chances are they’ve experienced something like it themselves.

Or they know someone who has.

Those scenes are true.

2. Don’t think that scenes of intimate confession will reflect badly upon you.

Readers fall in love with authors who, through their characters and events, disclose their own fallibilities.

UK novelist Sharon Bolton has publicly admitted that she writes her gruesome crime scenes to exorcize the demons in her own soul.

Do we think the worst of her? No. Readers rush to clasp her hand at literary events and her novels are bestsellers.

US crime queen Patricia Cornwell portrays herself in her bitter, tormented heroine Kay Scarpetta.

Few readers would like to meet Scarpetta in the flesh but Cornwell has so many adoring fans, she has to hire bodyguards when she appears in public.

3. Use the painful scenes as opportunities for personal growth.

Creative writing has often been prescribed as therapy for people who are stressed.

Why?

By writing out difficult experiences, we gain control. We structure them. We impose order on random pain.

So we own it.

The secret here is not to wallow in reminiscence—at least, not beyond the first draft.

Go back. Edit it ruthlessly. Crisp up those long tortured descriptions.

Anguish piled upon anguish will bore the reader. Read it again in a few weeks’ time and it will bore you too.

Pack all that trauma into just one eloquent line. Then pain becomes metaphor. (We can handle metaphor.)

And move on.

That’s what our own lives should do, after periods of stress. Creative writing helps us do it.

But ruthless editing is the key. Be your own best friend. Spill it all out. Rein it all in.Then move on.

How to go beyond the pain and glory of writing to bond with your readers

Bare your soul.

Expose your most private feelings to the world.

You’ll not only create a story that will live because it’s ‘true,’ you’ll write one that will help you to live.

To get over past traumas.

And move on.

Have you ever read—or written—a story that helped you get over a painful event? Please leave a comment below! Every comment gets a fast, thoughtful response.

About the author: 

Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, taught creative writing at a UK university. He was a successful commercial author for 42 years and was a regular, much-loved contributor to WTD. He died unexpectedly in 2016.

 

Rick Jensen: The Writer Must Tell the Truth.

I am a cynic. Not a miserable grouch who doesn’t like anything, but a person who questions things, questions everything. I am passionate about many things but I also have doubt and trepidation about many things. The way I view being a cynic is not as a critic, but as someone who looks for the truth.

All great works of art tell the truth, this doesn’t just mean non-fiction, documentary or a true story but in a work of fiction also, a painting or a song the truth is there. This is a universal truth, something meaningful to others.

You need to ask yourself, what speaks to you? When you read a good book or story or article is it good because of the words used, the poetic structure, and the fully formed characters? If truth is there all of that matters, but it is beyond the writing on a technical or creative level and in the message and how that message is relayed to the reader.

I have always loved writing, when in school we had “story writing time” which was often when the teacher didn’t know what else to do, I loved it. When the teacher asked what we’d like to do I was always straight in there asking to write. I’ve always been creative in many ways, being a writer was one of my dreams, I make music, I take photos, paint and make films but as I grew older writing got pushed to the background. I eventually found a career in social care and as a once voracious reader of fiction found my reading habits turned to sociology, psychology and journals in my field and all related to my work. I grew up loving horror, movies and books and I wanted to do that, create horror stories but over time that dream faded, I eventually wrote my first book which was non-fiction about my career working with people with learning disabilities.

During the process I had more self-doubt than I had for years, I wondered is this good enough? Can I really tell these stories? Does anyone care what I have to say? But I knew I had to write it, whether I published it or not, it must be finished.

I did finish, and publish. What I learned the most was that the book had to tell the truth, my truth, the truth about my work, it had to be honest and that lead me to realise that all art, particularly writing must be honest.

As a natural cynic I’m very hard to argue with. Cynicism can protect us from what’s real, things should be questioned but often the cynic won’t take on what they need due to over-questioning, this comes close to narcissism, to an egocentric way of not having to deal with something they don’t like the idea of, I’m right and you’re wrong. The cynic criticises, which is valuable but the cynic can miss what is truly important. But ultimately, the cynic looks for truth, if the cynic has eyes open, they will be the first to see the truth.

This penchant has lead me to be highly critical, particularly of people. The inspiration for my writing has been people, the people I have worked with, the people I know and anyone I encounter or observe in my day to day experience and I try to write about the truth of experience and what I see.

What has made me good at my job is an ability to read people, I analyse behaviour whether it be a person with Autism presenting behaviours that challenge us, or whether it be managing a staff team I employ the same skills. Life is essentially just behaviour analysis, every day in every interaction we are assessing each other’s behaviour, finding ways to communicate, creating and resolving conflict. Some people do this very naturally, other’s need to work harder at it, the writer see’s this, the writer can articulate this continuous cycle of interactions and problem solving, and put this into a story so the rest of us can also understand it. This is the truth I’m talking about, the truth of the world, the reality of how people behave and interact, how people want and need, how people love and hate. You can relate this truth through a fantasy about dragons, or a horror about demons or a comedy of errors or a romance. Sometimes the truth of things can be better related through fiction, abstracting concepts and putting them into an epic poem or a historic saga may help people to see what you’re saying.

Many people can be disdainful of what might be “low art” or “trashy” but honestly, I enjoy Transformers as much as I like Stanley Kubrick films, I like pulp horror and detective novels as much as I like Thomas Pynchon, they offer different things but what always appeals in any work of art is that universal truth about ourselves, our behaviour, the human condition. George Orwell’s animal farm may feature animals as it’s protagonists but it’s considered a classic because it tells the reality of how humans behave, which is why it speaks to us. Think about your favourite book and you’ll probably find the same. When writing, this is what I seek to do, and what I hope others see in my work.

I won’t try to offer advice to other writers, I’m still learning myself, but in everything I do I consider the philosophy of it, the values that underpin it and why I do what I do whether it be an impulse or a well thought out process, all writers should assess this in their work, what are you trying to say?

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Rick Jensen has worked in the field of Learning Disabilities and Autism for over 15 years as behaviour and service development specialist. His first book “Being a Support Worker” is about this work. Rick also writes for his own blog The Everyday Behaviour Analyst and is working on his next book which is a collection of short pieces about how people behave collected from the blog and unpublished pieces.

https://everydaybehaviour.wordpress.com/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Being-Support-Worker-Learning-Disabilities-ebook/dp/B01IZWKGN0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472491527&sr=8-1&keywords=rick+jensen+being+a+support+worker

 

E. Rachel Hardcastle: Writers As Ghosts

 

 

Over the years, creative writing has been my candle in a world plagued with constant blackouts. I’ve struggled with everyday life and experienced loss, like many of you surely have, and being an introvert, I found writing to be an effective outlet for expressing my thoughts and feelings in a private and personal, but very public way.

The festering question was how can I fully experience life? The idea of merely existing between working, worrying about money or illness and watching the world attack itself through war, frightened me. I needed to explore the outcome of a berserk life like that.

Reading back through my published novels, I see traces of those morals and messages between the lines of every story. Like a journal entry, each paragraph acts as a personal signature, reading, there is blood and tears on these pages. They mean something to me. They can mean something to you. And, it’s been said by several of my loyal readers that there is an unintentional, almost spiritual voice nudging my words, urging people to change for the better, like a lingering ghost.

To me, writing a novel is a chance to explore my own beliefs and musings. I’d like to leave something of worth behind. Through this subconscious mission I type and my words find meaning. My voice is forever recorded. I want to haunt my readers in the best way because, like most authors, I long to be a memorable name upon the shelves; to have something drawing people to me and thrusting them forward as so many writers once did for me.

Now the Halloween season is upon us, take a deep breath as you write and feel a part of you cross over to the world you’re creating. Release a ghost that connects deeply with your reader. Release one that persists and exists as hundreds of characters living hundreds of adventures. Inject some of your memories, struggles and lessons learned into your writing.

You’re a writer for a reason, to be someone’s ghost when they’re on the train to work, in the bath or lying in bed at night. We’ll all be someone’s ghost for real, some day. May as well start early.

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E. Rachael Hardcastle
Author & Editor

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Tom Zumwalt: Here We See the Writer in Its Natural Habitat…



Here we see the writer at work. A breakdown of the writing process. Rewind the tape, please:

Arrive home, ready to write.
I’m thirsty, so get water first.
Nope, that’s not what I wanted. Get flavored water. Yes, that’s better.
Cat wants to go outside. Open door. Cat doesn’t want to go outside.
I want something hot to drink. Put tea kettle on.
Cat wants to eat. Other cat wakes up to sounds of other cat eating. Feed other cat.
Now I’m hungry, but I don’t want a full meal. Get low-fat snacks. Hot water’s ready.
Gather snacks, flavored water, and tea. Head downstairs. Turn computer on.
Cat wants to go outside.
Cat doesn’t want to go outside.
Now I have to go to the bathroom.
Those weren’t the snacks I wanted. Go upstairs to get other snacks.

Want coffee instead of tea.
Fix coffee.
Cat wants to eat.
Feed cat.
Cat doesn’t want to eat.
Come back downstairs. Forgot napkin.
Nails need trimming. Can’t type with long nails. Hunt for nail clipper. Trim nails.
Need handkerchief. Find handkerchief.
Need writing music. Find appropriate music.
Start writing.
Time for bed.
 
Keep writing, friends.
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Stuff I Write — Welcome to a place of writing. I hope this will be an interactive blog, where all of us who write, want to write, or have ever thought about writing, can share ideas. Enjoy.

Dan Ellis Crime Fiction: Why Your Character Might Commit a Crime – What Can Social Science Tell Us?

“He was slouched in a worn armchair positioned in the centre of a cluttered dingy living room. The amber streetlight permeated through the yellowed net curtains. The flicker of the TV screen gently illuminated his motionless face. A burnt out cigarette was wedged between his bloody fingers, and his other hand gripped an empty bottle of scotch. For hours he hadn’t moved, contemplating what he had just done.”

If you write crime fiction, there is no doubt you’ve had a character in a similar scenario to this. They have just committed a crime, attacked someone, killed someone perhaps? The reasons why they may have done this are probably tied into specific events in the character’s life or their personality. Or maybe the plot is to blame – the treacherous conditions you have forced them to go through?

But if you are looking to base the characters’ actions in reality. To create a set of circumstances that are believable and grounded in widely accepted theory, social science can help. I want to take you through some basic criminological and sociological explanations (without the jargon!) of conditions that may push your character to do the dirty deed. Just some questions to think about when you are planning a story or building a character.

What sort of person is most, or least likely to murder someone? What sort of background or upbringing makes the ideal recipe for a criminal? Or what in particular about a society creates the ideal environment for criminality?

Are we in control of our actions?

Let’s take the individual. Do you believe that we are rational actors that make our own decisions? Or do you believe in the idea that there are bigger forces in play that push us into certain behaviours?

These are good questions to start with when creating a character or setting up the ‘laws’ of your story. Depending on which one you lean towards will result in different characters and suit different plots. For example, a rational actor that consciously makes their own calculated decisions is very different from an actor that is not in control and has been influenced by various factors that ultimately have made them act irrationally.

An area of criminology called cultural criminology suggests that people get a buzz from committing a crime, there is a certain thrill element. So here, the actor is fully aware of what they are doing and they have proactively planned to do it, or even built a sub-culture around it. Good examples here would be joy riding or graffiti.

Graffiti is an interesting one because many graffiti artists don’t consider it to be a crime in the first place. This is something else to think about in your story’s world – what sorts of crimes are taken seriously? If a certain type of crime is not heavily enforced or does not carry a particularly harsh penalty, are people more likely to do it?

What about a serial killer? An obvious type of criminal for a crime story. This generally tends towards psychological explanations, but sociology has something to say too. It has been found that many serial killers or people that have murdered someone have had a traumatic experience of sorts. Perhaps as a child they were abused or witnessed horrific violence.

These are probably the more popularised theories of crime given the amount of movies and books based on killers. But the question here is, are they making rational decisions – or have they been influenced by external factors that have pushed them to commit the crime?

Does our socio-economic background determine our criminality?

This area of social science asks what influence a person’s environment has on their actions. The example of a murderer’s upbringing I mentioned earlier is an example, but it is more than just childhood experience.

Take a thief. They may be choosing to steal or get a thrill out of it, or maybe they have a starving family and have no choice in the matter. But going deeper than this, if they live in a deprived area where the authorities are less present, it’s probably more likely that there will be more theft going on.

Broken Window theory suggests that if a certain type of crime appears in a certain area and is not dealt with, it will become more commonplace. So if a drug dealer starts dispensing on a particular road and is never approached by authorities, it’s likely that more dealers will start operating in that area – this can then affect the residents growing up in that environment – or your character!

They may have had a poor education, in the academic and social sense. In this case they may not have developed appropriate morals, or the line between good and bad is distorted. They may not comprehend or understand the consequences of their actions. In a similar way, they may not have fully developed their social interaction skills. Here, they may become agitated or violent just because they feel they are not understood, or struggle to get their point across to someone in a collected manner.

What sort of society creates criminality?

When you are deciding on the setting of your story, the country will make a big difference in how crime is represented. Crime in Western countries like Britain or USA will be very different to crime in third world countries like Libya or Niger.

Depending on how the fabric of society is weaved will affect how its citizens perceive and react to crime. The government is probably the most influential institution here. Does the government enforce its laws appropriately? Are they locking people up for no good reason or torturing people? All of this will affect each and every citizen. The better the country governs their society and responds to crime; the less likely crime is to occur (well, that’s the theory).

Similarly, how are the countries citizens treated? Are there extreme policies in place that pressurise people’s everyday lives? For example, austerity measures in Britain which make it difficult for people on low income to get by, coupled tensions and conflict between different groups. Or, if the government are seen to exclude a certain group of people in society, like youths, this could encourage disorder such as riots.

Another example of this, and again a very popularised one, is how the criminal justice system works. Is it fair? Is justice delivered? If a murderer is released without charge how might that impact the victims – it could lead to vigilantism. What about prisons, if your story is set in a prison, how are the inmates’ rights upheld? Are they physically abused? All of these factors will all affect how your characters behave in any given situation. So it’s worth checking out government policies or researching where promises haven’t been kept – anything that might push someone into angst and act irrationally.

So I hope that this has helped to get your creative juices flowing! There is definitely a lot to think about in creating a relatable criminal story, but social science has endless amounts of answers that can help add depth to a crime fiction story.

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Dan is the creator of the Facebook group ‘The Crime Writers Den’, aspiring novelist, and social science student. The group has enabled writers to connect with criminal justice professionals, to help with technical questions, and just to chat about crime in a fun and supportive environment.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/631273680370573/?fref=nf

Mark Reynolds: The Passing of Prince

The recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan raised a few eyebrows. How could a lyricist possibly be worthy of one of the most prestigious awards given in our society? Mark Reynolds discusses the passing of our musical legends and the impact their losses have on us and what they leave behind. Not only their melodies but their words.

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LATE APRIL, 2016–

I’ve never really been much of a Prince fan, but his passing hit me unexpectedly hard, probably because of the immediate outpouring of support and grief that occurred on its heels. I have a few of his songs in my collection, but I wouldn’t–or better, deserve–to call myself a true fan of his, because I haven’t really followed his career.

That being said, this event was enough to inspire me to go home on Friday and write down an observation that occurred to me while on the drive home. Many of my thoughts have been selfish lately, but I’d like to think that this particular one isn’t. Thanks for reading it, if you make it all the way to the end, it’s rather lengthy. But when I’m inspired, I find that I have a lot to say.

LOVE THEM HARD, IDOLS AND FAMILY

I’m a pretty up guy. Those of you who I have friended here and have gotten to know me through my posts or my humble stabs at writing creativity I think can attest to this. However, something very down occurred to me on the way home tonight that I can’t get past. I”m not usually a doomsday monger, and ulitmately, this piece isn’t that, but it is something that I want and need to get off my chest.

The year 2016 has not obviously not been a good year to us when it comes to the artists we adore. The last 32 hours have been a testament to this. Generally, we’ve lost those that we love so deeply over a period of time–Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, to name a few. These passings seems to have been spread failry well away and apart from each other so that we have time to grieve and heal before the next one compels us to begin the process all over again. Time between can soften the hurting blows, although we always know and fear that it’s going to occur somewhere, some time again.

This year so far has been an imploded star, a black hole where nothing escapes, especially if you happen to be a physically or mentally-ailing aging musician. These passings have not been few and far between–they seem to have been many and often. I noticed this trend in the last couple of years, when first it was Gerry Rafferty, then Alvin Lee and Ray Manzarek in the same year. That was bad enough. At least, we had a lull. Now, in the span of just under four months–a shockingly quick period–we’ve lost Paul Kantner, Sir George Martin, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson. And now, sadly, Prince. I’ve never seen such a huge period of global grieving for the world of art and creativity in my life.

While the toll this year seems to be many all at once, that’s truly not what I discovered is troubling me. Relatively speaking, it’s a very small number, considering the hundreds and thousands of artists out there now that we all cherish in our own private, personal way.

Many of them are common to us all; many are some we personally learned about that no one knows about–those are the ones that I’m speaking of. Most of these common loves we have are artists who have been born in the same era and are getting on in years. Fortunately for us, they continue to exist as flesh and bone. But soon for a few, and years to come for many more, they’ll all eventually become only sound and memory. Personally, I’m dreading the days that my own personal heroes will be taken from me–Joni Mitchell, Roy Harper, Gilmour and Waters, Jagger and Richards, Gabriel, Clapton, Paul Simon, Elton John, CSN, and even Y. I’ll have to prepare myself that on those days, my world will progressively become a lesser place. All of these artists that have passed recently are all pretty much from the same era of creative Rock discovery, give or take a few years. And now they’re all gone. Prince, the youngest of the grouping, was only 57. Only 57. These guys aren’t getting any younger, you know.

So I get to the cloud that’s now settled over me, folks, and it’s this–this is not the end of these losses.

It’s only the beginning.

In fact, they’re going to become more and more frequent. Eventually, death will come to your favorite sooner or later.

I think as a species, we’ll need to circle up, join hands, and support each other over and over and over through those times. And I think that’s an awesome occurrence.

So I say that before our precious idols that are still with us–our precious families both blood and spirit that are still with us–let’s dare to love them harder than we ever have before. Let’s appreciate that these artists can take us back to being children again, or to our nervous first kiss, or through the loss of a loved one for which we relied on them to get us through.

I’ve seen an appropriate meme in the last day for which I wish I could credit the writer, because he or she nailed it–“We don’t mourn artists we’ve never met because we knew them. We mourn them because they’ve helped us know ourselves.”

When they die, parts of us die. It’s really that simple.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to die. So if I have anything at all to do with it, they’ll live forever.  Their words – and the words of all lyricists and writers I continue to follow – will inspire me, even in my last breath.

I refuse to let them die on me. They’ll die with me, I’ve decided.

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Mark Reynolds is from a small town in Upstate NY and now lives his life very close to a big city, just outside of Philadelphia, with his wife Jennifer, dog Max, and green-cheek conures, Cleo and Ruby. He knew he wanted to be a writer when he was recognized for contributing an origin story of how the Big Dipper came to be as part of a 4th-grade science project.  He hasn’t stopped reading, writing, or learning since.

His first novel, Chasing The Northern Light, is available as an e-book at Amazon, and in print from TheBookPatch.com. Mark is currently at work on a short story stand-alone piece for that work, a sequel to it, and hopeful to begin screenplay after the New Year.

He can be followed at “Mark My Words, Too – The Official Mark Reynolds author page”, on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Mark-My-Words-Too-The-Mark-Reynolds-Author-Page-143155692767514/?fref=ts