Dog Ear
Good words, bad sentence (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 23 May 2018 22:42

emember last week? I was sitting on the train, worried about the rain coming down and what I’d do when I ran out of train to hide in. And I thought (as I studied the puddles for raindrops, the cyclist’s gauge) about how this could be a good piece. Nobody sharing my rail car with me would know the tense drama unfolding. But once it becomes known (this fixation for drops as we worked progressively south), it adds something to the scene. Suddenly I’m not a guy on the train. I’m a guy on the train with a backstory.

Okay, so I thought it was pretty clever, pulling a writing lesson out watching raindrops licking at puddles. And then I wrote this…

I’m on the train, my nonplussed reflection reflects back at me against a leaden sky.

Really?

How did I miss using the same word twice? I was looking at my reflection doing what reflections do, i.e.reflect. So there I was, punching up the text so it would read really sharp and interesting. I probably liked that word so much that I focused my mind on it and described what I was looking at, not looking at the words together but as clever indivuduals.

I play the game Go, where you need to focus tactically but also look at the long game. And if there is a Go moment I’ll remember, it’s when I thought I was stalking my buddy Omar into a fix. I was so focused on my schemes that I didn’t give the board much more than a glance. Placed my evil move and went to lunch. Came back to find his move and four dead stones on the side of the board, my stones! While I’d stalked him, he’d stalked me and had reasoned that I’d get nailed before he would. So I blundered right into it, counting my unhatched chickens and all that.

So last week’s piece was a little like that. I was so focused on making each word right that I didn’t make each sentence right. So always keep that in mind.

And now I’ll let this sit for a few days and then look again – carefully – to make sure a piece about bad wording doesn’t contain… bad wording.

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Attention to Detail (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 20:52

’m on the train, my nonplussed reflection reflects back at me against a leaden sky. I’ve got my leg (the cuff still soaked from recent bus-train dash) tossed over my folded Brompton bike. As the backwall landscape rolls by, I’m paying special attention to the weedy gravel-bordered rain puddles.

Why?

Successful writing means you (the author) pays attention to the little details of life. You can describe a guy going out to his car for his morning commute, but if he picks his keys out of a tray (showing he’s got a living routine he follows) you flesh him out a little more. Sherlock Holmes’s whole gimmick was this, noticing the obvious details that make up lives. In Star Trek, the characters were fleshed out by nationality and accents, giving them a much more vibrant feel than a bunch of faceless white bread NASA-heroes. Details round out our characters. They make them stand out, and they give them depth.

Just giving them a repeating idiosyncrasy will do it, a turn of phrase, a cadence of speaking, a nervous twitch. These are the things readers enjoy discovering, the story within the story, the details that make life what it is.

And why was that author riding on a train through gloomy skies with his bike and wet pants, looking so intently at rain puddles?

I’m seeing if the rain is letting up for when I get out two stops down the line. I still have a ride ahead of me and looking at the puddles is the easiest way of telling if it’s still raining or not.

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p.s. and yes, the rain slacked off by the time I stepped off at my station.

 
Grasshopper (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 09 May 2018 21:19

n interesting test for a writer.

Today (after my enjoyable bike/train/bus commute and some sit-on-my-can meetings) I slipped quietly out of work and drifted over to a fast food place. Early lunch, it isn’t too noisy and they keep the muzak to a minimum. I sat down and ate lunch while reading my prior efforts on my tinytop, then easily slid back into the story line. This was enjoyable. It’s the way writing should be. Even in a noisy plastic environment I sipped my coke and wrote. I was like a shopper in a market, picking out the words and phrases that were the most clever, the least stale. I really felt good about writing (and smiled all the way back to the office).

So now it’s last afternoon and I’m sitting here after a long day. I’ve got a couple of windbags yacking seven feet from my desk. I’ve been data-harvesting all afternoon and suffered a tedious staff meeting. Now my energy is low. I’m sipping stone-dead coffee and thinking that I’ve got a DOG EAR to get out tomorrow and I need to come up with something. I can’t seem to think straight.

But three hours ago, I was writing like a concert pianist. Now I’m like a gorilla with a suitcase.

So which is the sign of the better writer?

I considered this as a started writing this email home (which, by tomorrow, will be a blog entry). I thought about the difference in effort writing can take; spring-day-in-the-garden writing (which we dream of) as opposed to 2-am-before-the-deadline writing (that we are forced into). And if you are going to be a versatile writer, one that can work with editors under pressure and come up with solid skillful writing, you’re going to have to learn to get yourself moving when your energy levels are low and your enthusiasm is as slimy and cold as a garden slug. The interesting thing is, as I write this, I don’t hear the conversation much at all. The words are coming easier. And I’m back in my groove.

So keep this in mind – you need to be able to write when you need to, not when you want to, if you are going to produce professional prose.

Now if I could only get myself enthused to go back to work.

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Stories (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 03 May 2018 17:04

love stories. Stories determine our past, present and future. The world is a web of stories.

So there I am on a sleepy suburban rail platform (story) with my Brompton folding bike (ongoing story) with my NYC subway map t-shirt (old story).

To this story, let’s add the Sunrail ambassador and make a new story.

She’s the lady who helps you to buy your tickets and not tumble onto the tracks (explanative story). And she’s crazy and vibrant and more animated than a Disney flick (background story). So she comes over and points to a spot on my chest-map, up about Lexington Ave, maybe towards Queens. And that, she tells me, is where she was born.

Years back, her mom was out shopping and was coming home on the subway and her water broke. Somehow she got word to her husband that their daughter was on the way. She made it to the hospital, met her husband in the hall, and suddenly our feisty, two-fisted, can-do, no nonsense Sunrail ambassador was pushing into the world. Out popped her little pink head. Her dad (a man I want at my back in a crisis) caught her as she ejected, right there in the hospital hall.

I mean, blood on the linoleum, a spool of umbilical cord and then the cry of a new life. What a story.

That’s why I like riding the train. I talked to another ambassador about her purse collection. And the bus-link driver about recently snagging a winning lottery ticket.  I even had someone on the bus tell me that a friend of hers was bitten by a rattlesnake, incurred $25,000 dollars of medical bills but her insurance claim was denied as an “Act of God”.

That’s why I’m perplexed by all the phone users I see. Nothing can compete with talking with other people. The stories you get might be long-winded or boring, but they could be crazy and unique and special. And I’m willing to take that chance.

Just say hello. Then listen.

>>>AND IF YOU WANT A REALLY GOOD STORY, BUY ONE OF MINE. THIS LINK WILL TAKE YOU TO MY AMAZON GIFT SHOP<<<

 
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