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 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 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.

INSIDE THE WORLDS OF JOSEPH CARRABIS, AUTHOR OF THE AUGMENTED MAN

Hey Joe! Tell us a little about yourself.
I consider myself boring and dull.

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

It starts with “Not only is Joseph Carrabis a fellow Black Rose Writing and Book Fiends author friend, he’s an amazingly nice and generous guy. I am looking forward to meeting him in person in November, but right now you can get to know him a little better with my next World-building Showcase interview.”

The Mighty Phoebes (Steampunk author Phoebe Darqueling, for those who don’t know) asked me lots of questions, I fumbled through several answers.

The real kicker is where I wrote “I’m told that my work is so tightly written that it’s tough to remove stuff without throwing everything else out of whack.”

The Mighty Phoebes, proving the lie, pulled about four pages from my responses and you’d never know.

The Mighty Phoebes is a Mighty Editor, she.

Take a read, hope you enjoy, be sure to leave comments. She’ll like that.

“Why This Were Here, Now?” now on TimothyBatesonAuthor.com

Werecreatures are nothing new. Cave drawings frequently depict humanimals. Study any culture’s mythology and one wonders who wasn’t a werecreature. The concept of versipellics as evil is relatively new compared to human recorded history (about 800 years v 35,000 years).

Timothy Bateson put a call out for his 31 Days of Halloween and I hid.

But he found me. I was cringing behind my mobile (it’s a big mobile. Not quite so mobile a mobile, you might say).

Anyway, he wanted something about were-creatures. I’ve written a few stories about were-creatures. Therefore, I’m an expert.

NOT HARDLY!

But I came up with something and he, being gracious (probably also taking pity on me), accepted it.

So make him happy, do yourself proud, and go take a read of Why This Were Here, Now?

Here’s a tease:
Let’s say someone wants to write about werewolves but nothing they’re coming up with fits “werewolf.” Probably they’re putting the hearse before the horse. Their interest is on the were, not the were’s purpose in the story.

Be sure to leave comments. He likes them.