Cheryllynn Dyess’s “The Soul Maker”

Ever read a story and say to yourself, “Wow! That’s how it’s done!”?

I get exhilarated when I discover a new author.

Let me clarify. There are lots of people out there writing books. In my opinion, few of them are worth reading (I’m a writing snob. There, I’ve said it).

But once in a great while I encounter some writing that so pulls me into its story, calls me into the story’s mythos so completely that my pulse quickens, my eyes open wider, my breaths deepen, … When readers have a physiologic reaction to your writing, you’ve arrived.

Such a story is Cheryllynn Dyess‘s The Soul Maker in Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 3.

The Soul Maker is a wonderful story because it combines great storytelling – do you have an interesting story to tell? – with great storycrafting – can you tell that story in an interesting way?
Continue reading “Cheryllynn Dyess’s “The Soul Maker””

Rita Mae Brown’s “Starting from Scratch”

A Writer’s Mechanic’s Manual for Any Car on the Road

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…

Bringing Your Character to Life via Exposition

This is the third 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 it or am simply parroting what others have offered. I learn my weak spots, what I need to study, 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

Ain’t nothing better for a wayward nipple

 
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

Psychologists and philosophers debate “horror” as a concept. Authors have it much easier. They want to give readers chills. They want to make readers nervous. Uncomfortable. They want readers to turn on all the lights, to check locks on the doors, to tuck their feet up under themselves so nothing can grab them from below, to check under the bed before getting under the covers, to look in their closets, to look at their loved ones suspiciously.

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.