Rita Mae Brown’s “Starting from Scratch”

Okay, first thing and before anything else, Get This Book!

I don’t care where you are in your writing career, Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch will give you a chuckle (several hundred, probably) and clarify things that were not only muddy, but had been pushed aside because they were just too damn hard to figure out.… Read the rest

Okay, first thing and before anything else, Get This Book!

I don’t care where you are in your writing career, Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch will give you a chuckle (several hundred, probably) and clarify things that were not only muddy, but had been pushed aside because they were just too damn hard to figure out.

Worry no more, Rita’s got you covered.

 
I didn’t know who Rita Mae Brown was until a friend suggested I give her a read. This was back in the early-mid 1980s. He thought she was brilliant and hilarious.

That didn’t tempt me.

Then he told me she could benchpress 225#.

Yes, I was that much of an assh?le (may still be) that that caught my interest.

But I didn’t pick up one of her books (that I remember) until my first go-round as a writer. That book being Starting from Scratch.

Reading the book recently, it’s obvious I had read it at least once before; there were highlights in it. There were highlights of concepts I remember, if not exact phrasings. Truth be told, I was probably unprepared for the book when I first read it (my copy was published in Feb 1988). I’m glad I kept it around.

Starting from Scratch is a mechanic’s manual of the English language. Brown explains the purpose of first v third person POV with duh! level examples and lots of them. Ditto subjunctive case (trust me, you need to read this section). Ditto strong v weak verbs (another must read). Imagine someone showing you a crescent wrench and a 9/16″ box-end, showing you they can do the same thing, then demonstrating why one works better on these types of nuts, the other works better on those types of nuts.

Her Exercises chapter…remember what I wrote above about being impressed by her bench? Here’s your cardio and resistance training in one incredible package.


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Character is… (Part 2.1) – Exposition is…

This the second in an ongoing series of StoryCrafting/StoryTelling posts I’m publishing for my own benefit; explaining something helps me determine if I’ve truly learned or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study more, et cetera.… Read the rest

This the second in an ongoing series of StoryCrafting/StoryTelling posts I’m publishing for my own benefit; explaining something helps me determine if I’ve truly learned or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study more, et cetera.

Previous offerings include:

  • Atmosphere is…
  • Character is… (Part 1)

     
    And note that I’ll update/upgrade/edit these posts as I learn more.


    I ended Character is… (Part 1) with “The next in this series starts the exploration of the third character aspect, the techniques used to make the character real/alive to the reader.”
    So far as I know, these techniques are:

    • Exposition – the author explains (tells) the character to the reader. Most economical and least effective storytelling form. Improve it by sharing some sharp details, by having a character do the explaining (thereby revealing character as well as providing exposition).
    • Description – Second most economical, second least effective. If you must provide a list of details, make the last one explosive, eye-catching, something highly contrasting with the previous, preferably bland, descriptive details.
    • Action – most effective way to both show and demonstrate character.
    • Shading – building a character by revealing contradictions about them.
    • Gestures and Mannerisms – establish character by the little things they do, the non-conscious things they do, their habits.
    • Settings, Tastes, Interests – what someone has in their environment, how someone interacts with their environment
    • Opinions of Others – reveals both speaker and character.
    • Dialogue – Character reveals themselves through their own words or through dialogue with another character.
    • Thoughts – the author reveals character by sharing the character’s inner thinking about something.
    • Narrative Voice – 1st person POV, the narrator talks to us and is revealed via their words and thoughts.

     
    Exposition is…
    …a disaster waiting to happen. As stated above, exposition is the least effective storytelling form. It does have its uses. Quick transitions in time, space, or character are an example: “Jenny drove home from her office.” “Karl glanced out the window and waited for his stop.” “The Carsons walked out as the Davidsons entered.”

    In all three cases, the events aren’t as important as the fact that something’s changing; Jenny’s environment is changing from office to home, Karl’s waiting for the next thing to happen. The players are changing from one group to another (Carsons to Davidsons). All are single lines that provide little information other than letting the reader catch their breath before the next big thing occurs.
    Continue reading “Character is… (Part 2.1) – Exposition is…”

The Proper Way to Describe the Itsuro-Shegami Technique When Applied to Nipple Joints

 
Rahki World author Rennie St. James invited me to guest blog WRITING REALISTIC HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT SCENES and I did.

I did I did I did!

Can’t tell you how many versions I came up with.

No, actually I can because I revision everything – four.

Some of those early versions…a beautiful demonstration of not knowing what to write about. There were lots of ways to go at it. Do I write about my many years teaching hand-to-hand mixmaster beef loin braising techniques at the Academie du HaHa in Paranormal, France?

Probably too graphic for most readers. No.

Instead I went with how to write a combat scene such that the reader believes it.

Hope it worked.

Let Rennie and me know, okay?

And thanks.

“Writing Something Horrifying” now on TimothyBatesonAuthor.com

Remember last week I wrote “Why This Were Here, Now?” now on TimothyBatesonAuthor.com?

Remember that amazing post?

You’d think he’d learn, ya know?

Well, he asked me to do it again. Or something similar.

This week’s theme is horror and I thought he wanted something horribly written.… Read the rest

Remember last week I wrote “Why This Were Here, Now?” now on TimothyBatesonAuthor.com?

Remember that amazing post?

You’d think he’d learn, ya know?

Well, he asked me to do it again. Or something similar.

This week’s theme is horror and I thought he wanted something horribly written.

No, he assured me. That wouldn’t prove a challenge for me.

He’d much rather I write something about crafting horror.

Hopefully I did, and hopefully it’s not too horrible.

Give Writing Something Horrifying. Leave a comment or two. He’ll like that.

And thanks.

Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Sep 2019’s Great Opening Lines)

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

“A sharp clip-crop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.” – Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage
I mention on Goodreads that Riders of the Purple Sage is one of my perennial reads.… Read the rest

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

“A sharp clip-crop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.” – Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage
I mention on Goodreads that Riders of the Purple Sage is one of my perennial reads. I started it again this month and stopped with the first line. Prior readings, I wasn’t sensitive to opening lines. Since my last read, I’ve done some studying of opening lines; what works, what doesn’t, and specifically what makes one opening line great and another ho-hum.

Readers unfamiliar with Gray’s work are missing out on so much. He is a old school master storyteller, meaning his storycrafting blends so much and so expediently that the reader is either in or out of the book’s mythos as rapidly as possible.

Case in point, Riders of the Purple Sage‘s opening line, “A sharp clip-crop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.”

You have auditory (the hooves), visual (clouds, cottonwoods, sage), and tactile (yellow dust, heat) sensory information. Strong words; sharp, iron, deadened, died. Juxtaposition; nearby harshness, distant softness.

This first line also foreshadows the story; a near harshness – elegantly demonstrated in the first chapter – yields to a distant warmth and softness (not going to tell you because it’ll give too much away.

I don’t know about you but I want to dust myself off after reading that sentence. And I want a drink of water (which also plays a character development role in the first chapter). I can feel the heat of the sun, the harshness of the environment, and am primed for the conflict to come (again, the near-far juxtaposition).

Must reading, folks. Must!
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Sep 2019’s Great Opening Lines)”