Sunday, December 19, 2010

Characters Trial by Fire (or Judge Judy)

Judge Judy and side kick Byrd
Judge Judy, that pint-sized bundle of legal dynamics and electric energy—what a personality.

She’s a no nonsense, don’t lie to me judge of human character, motive and probability. Whether or not you find her particular brand of justice, the way she has of grilling defendants and/or plaintiffs too strong and harsh, or just right, here is something you may not have thought to include in your writing arsenal. The printed word will be all the better for it.

What Judge Judy can do for your writing? If you are a novelist, Judy can help your writing whether you write crime, mystery novels, or some other genre.  If you are a novelist, no matter what genre, listen carefully to her words.

“Don’t tell me what you feel. That’s conjecture and that calls for a conclusion. Don’t tell me what she/he knows. Just tell me in, your own words, the facts. You can’t know how he/she feels; you can’t get in his/her head/mind. Don’t tell me we—you only know what you did, said, and saw—you can’t be in another person’s eyes, ears or thoughts." No head hopping for Judy - stay in one person's view point.

Judge Judy demands eye contact. “Look here, don’t look down, don’t look over there, look right here.” Looking her straight in the eye, would you dare tell her anything but the truth? If your eyes wander, so does your truth, focus, as you would keep your character(s) focused. 

Conversation—what you said, what he/she said, not an interpretation or generalization of what transpired. I want sentences, verbatim, what was said. You asked, she answered. She/he asked you answered. Don’t give me the gist of the conversation; give me the meat and potatoes – the word for word conversation.

The characters in your novel need to answer to Judge Judy’s directions. Show me, prove it, don’t generalize—show don’t tell. Give me your interpretation and I’ll be shouting—I’ll be the judge of who is right or wrong.

 She gives a whole new meaning to the phrase—show, don’t tell—doesn’t she?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Not All Mysteries Are of the Fictional Variety

“When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one but, you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” Leo Burnett

Case in Point!
A mystery, no actually two, surfaced in our small community the past week that ended our, perhaps, laid-back, serene-country atmosphere. I’ll only discuss one here today.

Perhaps the least mysterious, or maybe not…Let's test it out.

Can you imagine an armed bank robbery?  A bank robbery in a town of maybe 500 people if we stretch a little and count the dogs and cats too.

In the summer time, summer people and with the weekenders and cottage vacationers we may stretch up to 1,000.

If even half of those people that live here use the bank in our town, most are retired. There are four businesses in our village. Given the current state of Social Security (and believe me payments are meager and they doesn’t stretch very far) and the limited resources, there is very little money in this bank.

Now, picture Monday morning, peak traffic time is usually 9:30 or there abouts when everyone is going to pick up their mail (there is no postal delivery in our town/village – unless you live on the outskirts at least several miles away). This is the time the armed robber thinks will be a great time for a heist.

What would possess anyone to think he could rob a bank at gun point and get away any day, but particularly given the scenario I just described.

He didn’t— succeed--that is...12 minutes later he was sitting in a squad car about 9 miles away, wondering what happened.

Clues—every mystery writer needs to ferret out clues. Even if your book starts with the crime solved, the reader wants to know why—if not—how and a myriad of other answers to questions he may not know to ask.

Three essentials in every mystery are:
Motive: maybe he needs money – desperately, is a given

Means: He has a gun, a truck and he has done something similar before –he was just released from incarceration we find out later. How he came into the possession of a gun is another mystery if he is already a criminal.

Opportunity: Driving along a deserted or nearly deserted section of highway, there right next to the highway a bank—quickly he surveys the area, a gas station to the south—neat rows of storage sheds to the west, quiet street, fairly early(for him but not us country folk)…He parks his truck in the driveway between those storage sheds, out of sight. He meanders back to the bank, a 1/2 block away. The rest, as they say, is still a mystery.

If jail didn’t teach this man anything, there is something wrong with him, our system or both. It’s a mystery to me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Printed Words: Thoughts Are Things

Printed Words: Thoughts Are Things

Thoughts Are Things

Thoughts and Little Notes From Out There That Float on the Ether
“Apart from its vulnerability to fire, human hair is almost impossible to destroy. It decays at such a slow rate that it practically takes forever.”

“The polar bear has absolutely no fear of man—and will stalk people at every chance, even in the face of gunfire.”

            Writers are an information sponge. Facts, quotes, over-heard words, their ears and mind ever alert for that brilliant addition to their vocabulary, method, motive or anecdote to inject into just the right paragraph to mold their prose to fit the reader’s ear. The above tidbits come from as diverse sources as readers and writers are unique. They are from instant oatmeal packets, to books of notable quotes, to a tiny magazine called “Bits & Pieces” and motivation from internet marketing gurus.

Open up your mind’s eye and be ever alert for that gem that might change your thinking and your life. For, as Florence Shinn author of The Game of Life says, “The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.”

Thoughts drift like snowflakes accumulating in the nooks and crannies of our minds undisturbed until we need them. “Thoughts are things. Choose the good ones,” says Mike Dooley author of Notes From The Universe.