My Ode to My Wife

I wrote a poem for my wife. Not just any poem, but lyrics for a song. It has been over 15 years since I have written any kind of poetry, but I felt moved to do so. At the urging of my fellow 5Artz Creative Affiliations members, I have decided to post the first draft of what I wrote to this blog. If any musicians decide to pick it up and use it, all I ask is that you give me the credit for the lyrics.


WifeAndMe

My Quest

By

R.M. Almeida

You are my quest,

You are my dream,

My eternal crusade,

Even when we fought, you always stayed.

You are my quest,

I am your art,

Your strokes sometimes hurt,

But I’ll follow your heart.

~ Refrain ~

You are my quest,

You show the path when there’s none,

You make challenges simple,

The impossible…done.

You are my quest,

We’ve laughed and cried,

Lived through tough times,

To find each other each night.

~ Refrain ~

You are my quest,

You see past my flaws,

You forgive my mistakes,

And you break down my walls.

You are my quest,

My blue sky above,

You are my partner,

My eternal love.

~ Refrain ~

We’ve come a long way,

From those chats and retreats,

Such a long way,

From our texts and retweets.

When I look back,

From those cold days alone,

I think of your smile,

And your voice on the phone.

Creative Series III: Dialogue, Breathing Life Into Our Characters and Stories

group-1825509_1920Dialogue is how we can allow our characters to breathe life into our story.

It is important to allow our characters to “own” their part of the printed page. What do I mean by making this statement? What happens when we do not allow the voices and images that we have in our minds and creative memory to “own the page”?

Let’s take a look at a sample story, by studying some old work I have not touched for a very long time. I have copied and pasted an excerpt from a chapter I worked on almost 25 years ago.

rieti-106848_1920

     The town was quiet as Talia and Anise walked to the inn.  Nate greeted them as a father would have welcomed part of his brood.  “Talia!”  A deep bass voice boomed out across the room. A tall, large hulk of a man with thick eyebrows, thick moustache and even thicker mop of hair laid a towel down on the bar he’d been cleaning and approached the women in two steps. The tall man gave her companion a warm hug. He turned to the princess. Despite her elaborate disguise, he deduced what she was in less than a minute.  “And who is this?  She looks of royalty, but I’m wondering where her escort is.  Are you both in trouble, lass?”  Talia smiled and nodded.  “Nate, this be the princess, Anise.”  He grasped her hand and shook it violently, then pulled her close to him, a hug strong enough that Anise felt as though she’d been waylaid by a bear.  “Welcome to Forth, princess.  My name is Nate, I am the town’s innkeeper and leader.  May your stay be a pleasant one.”   Talia smiled, saying “We need to find Kalen, Nate.”

     Nate’s eyebrows raised.  “What happened? Why are you looking for Kalen?  Is there something we need to know about Laifetre’?”  Talia nodded.  “Yes,” she replied quickly.  “It’s finally happened, Nate.  Matrime has declared war on Laifetre’ and will attack us soon.  The problem we got is that much of the army is gone.  We’ve only a handful of the royal guard to protect the king.  They demanded the princess be wedded to that dog of a prince, Gerenoux in exchange for peace.”  Nate’s eyebrows seemed to furrow into a single line as he pondered the implications of a war with Matrime.  “I thought that Matrime had no army,” he said slowly.  Talia nodded again.  “You’re right, they didn’t until a year or so ago,” she said, choosing her words carefully.  “It’s said that King Hautered closed a deal with the King of the Trolls, and that he’s got a huge troll army behind him and his men.”  Nate’s face suddenly turned red with rage at the thought of trolls overrunning the countryside.  “Then we’ve all got to fight for King Rosenet!” he roared, slamming his fist down violently on a nearby table.  The entire inn seemed to shake with his wrath as he disappeared into a small back room behind his bar.  “Where’s my wife?  Antimony?  Antimony, where’s my armor?”  They could hear sounds of things being tossed about, bumping into walls.  “Antimony?” he roared again.

     “All right!  All right!” returned a woman’s yell.  “What’s this all about?  ‘Ere you!  What’re you up to?”  Nate’s voice could be heard above the bumping sounds in the next room.  “Where are my armor, and my sword?  We must call the people to arms!”  The woman’s voice was clearly aggravated as they heard scuffling sounds in the back room.  “What?  You going off to war?  And leaving me to care for the inn while you’re gone gallavantin’ all over the countryside?  No!  No!  No!  As the mayor, your place is ‘ere with the town!”  More scuffling sounds ensued until they heard a plaintive “‘Ow!”.  The curtains parted to reveal a small, frail-looking woman leading her large husband by the ear.  “You’re not mucking about in your armor again, to get stuck in that old thing again.  And as for your sword, you sold it to Magle for a good rake, remember?  Now you get back to work cleaning the inn, and let me know when you’re finished so’s I can start with the linens.”  Nate’s face was now red with embarassment, his ear red from the pulling it had received.  “Well,” he said sheepishly.  “Perhaps I can tell you how to find old Kelan…”  Talia smiled in return.

faces-2148341_1920

It contains a lot of dialogue that can help move my story along. I however, see 3 paragraphs containing condensed material that seems to blend into each other. The plot seems pretty good, but I can’t tell, because the story is so condensed. What can I do to improve what I wrote? Well, let’s start by untangling the narration from the dialogue. (By the way, I handed this to my mentor, a former editor of a large newspaper. I had not seen so much “blue pencil”, in a very long while.)

silhouette-1793916_1920

The town was quiet as Talia and Anise walked to the inn.

Nate greeted them as a father would have welcomed part of his brood.  “Talia!”  His deep bass voice boomed out across the room. A tall, large hulk of a man with thick eyebrows, thick moustache and even thicker mop of hair laid a towel down on the bar he’d been cleaning and approached the women in two steps. The tall man gave her companion a warm hug. He turned to the princess. Despite her elaborate disguise, he deduced what she was in less than a minute.  “And who is this?  She looks of royalty, but I’m wondering where her escort is.  Are you both in trouble, lass?” 

Talia smiled and nodded.  “Nate, this be the princess, Anise.” 

He grasped her hand and shook it violently, then pulled her close to him, a hug strong enough that Anise felt as though she’d been waylaid by a bear.  “Welcome to Forth, princess.  My name is Nate, I am the town’s innkeeper and leader.  May your stay be a pleasant one.”  

Talia smiled, saying “We need to find Kalen, Nate.”

Nate’s eyebrows raised.  “What happened? Why are you looking for Kalen?  Is there something we need to know about Laifetre’?” 

 Talia nodded.  “Yes,” she replied quickly.  “It’s finally happened, Nate.  Matrime has declared war on Laifetre’ and will attack us soon.  The problem we got is that much of the army is gone.  We’ve only a handful of the royal guard to protect the king.  They demanded the princess be wedded to that dog of a prince, Gerenoux in exchange for peace.”  

 Nate’s eyebrows seemed to furrow into a single line as he pondered the implications of a war with Matrime.  “I thought that Matrime had no army,” he said slowly. 

 Talia nodded again.  “You’re right, they didn’t until a year or so ago,” she said, choosing her words carefully.  “It’s said that King Hautered closed a deal with the King of the Trolls, and that he’s got a huge troll army behind him and his men.” 

 Nate’s face suddenly turned red with rage at the thought of trolls overrunning the countryside.  “Then we’ve all got to fight for King Rosenet!” he roared, slamming his fist down violently on a nearby table.  The entire inn seemed to shake with his wrath as he disappeared into a small back room behind his bar.  “Where’s my wife?  Antimony?  Antimony, where’s my armor?”  They could hear sounds of things being tossed about, bumping into walls.  “Antimony?” he roared again.

     “All right!  All right!” returned a woman’s yell.  “What’s this all about?  ‘Ere you!  What’re you up to?” 

 Nate’s voice could be heard above the bumping sounds in the next room.  “Where are my armor, and my sword?  We must call the people to arms!” 

 The woman’s voice was clearly aggravated as they heard scuffling sounds in the back room.  “What?  You going off to war?  And leaving me to care for the inn while you’re gone gallavantin’ all over the countryside?  No!  No!  No!  As the mayor, your place is ‘ere with the town!” 

 More scuffling sounds ensued until they heard a plaintive “‘Ow!” 

 The curtains parted to reveal a small, frail-looking woman leading her large husband by the ear.  “You’re not mucking about in your armor again, to get stuck in that old thing again.  And as for your sword, you sold it to Magle for a good rake, remember?  Now you get back to work cleaning the inn, and let me know when you’re finished so’s I can start with the linens.” 

 Nate’s face was now red with embarrassment, his ear red from the pulling it had received.  “Well,” he said sheepishly.  “Perhaps I can tell you how to find old Kelan…”  Talia smiled in return.

 

 metaphor-1209691_1920

Well, it looks a little better, but still seems to stumble all over itself. Looking at what I have separated, it feels flat, like it was run over by a truck.

One of the most effective techniques about working with dialogue is to separate it from our narrative. That means getting rid of “he said”, “she said”, “she cried”. What we can do instead, is to further allow our characters to breathe by giving them and their emotions total rein over our story, by separating the narrative and action from the dialogue.

faces-1793994_1920

The town was quiet as Talia and Anise walked to the inn. 

Nate greeted both of them as a father would have welcomed back part of his brood. 

“Talia!” 

A deep bass voice boomed out across the room as he laid a towel down on the bar he’d been cleaning and approached her in two steps, covering a distance of what seemed like yards to Anise.  Giving her companion a warm hug, he turned to the princess, a tall, large hulk of a man with thick eyebrows, thick moustache and even thicker mop of hair. He sized her up in less than a minute. 

 “And who is this?  She looks of royalty, but I’m wondering where her escort is.  Are you both in trouble, lass?” 

 Talia smiled and nodded. 

 “Nate, this be the princess, Anise.” 

 He grasped her hand and shook it violently, then pulled her close to him, a hug strong enough that Anise felt as though she’d been waylaid by a bear. 

 “Welcome to Forth, princess.  My name is Nate, I am the town’s innkeeper and leader.  May your stay be a pleasant one.”  

 Talia smiled.

 “We need to find Kalen, Nate.”

  Nate’s eyebrows raised. 

 “What happened? Why are you looking for Kalen?  Is there something we need to know about Laifetre’?” 

 Talia nodded. 

 “Yes. It’s finally happened, Nate.  Matrime has declared war on Laifetre’ and will attack us soon.  The problem we got is that much of the army is gone.  We’ve only a handful of the royal guard to protect the king.  They demanded the princess be wedded to that dog of a prince, Gerenoux in exchange for peace.” 

 Nate’s eyebrows seemed to furrow into a single line as he pondered the implications of a war with Matrime. His voice became slow and deliberate.

 “I thought that Matrime had no army.”

 Talia nodded again, choosing her words carefully.

 “You’re right, they didn’t until a year or so ago. It’s said that King Hautered closed a deal with the King of the Trolls, and that he’s got a huge troll army behind him and his men.” 

 Nate’s face suddenly turned red with rage at the thought of trolls overrunning the countryside. 

 “Then we’ve all got to fight for King Rosenet!”

 He slammed his fist down violently on a nearby table, as his voice crescendoed into a roar.  The entire inn seemed to shake with his wrath as he disappeared into a small back room behind his bar. 

 “Where’s my wife?  Antimony?  Antimony, where’s my armor?” 

 They could hear sounds of things being tossed about, bumping into walls.

 “Antimony?”

 His voice could be heard very clearly through the wall.

 “All right!  All right!”

 A woman’s yell resounded from the upper floor of the tavern.

 “What’s this all about?  ‘Ere you!  What’re you up to?” 

 Nate’s voice could be heard above the bumping sounds in the next room. 

 “Where are my armor, and my sword?  We must call the people to arms!” 

 The woman’s voice was clearly aggravated as they heard scuffling sounds in the back room. 

 “What?  You going off to war?  And leaving me to care for the inn while you’re gone gallavantin’ all over the countryside?  No!  No!  No!  As the mayor, your place is ‘ere with the town!” 

 More scuffling sounds ensued until they heard a plaintive, “‘Ow!”

 The curtains parted to reveal a small, frail-looking woman leading her large husband by the ear. 

 “You’re not mucking about in your armor again, to get stuck in that old thing again.  And as for your sword, you sold it to Magle for a good rake, remember?  Now you get back to work cleaning the inn, and let me know when you’re finished so’s I can start with the linens.” 

 Nate’s face was red with embarrassment, his ear as red as his cheeks from the pulling it had received.  His voice became more sheepish, less enthusiastic. 

 “Well…perhaps I can tell you how to find old Kelan…” 

 Talia smiled in return.

I can compare what we did to painting our ideas – in print.

color-2181987_1920

Our canvas was something like this – cluttered and almost one-dimensional.

color-1908774_1920

In our next step, we were able to separate colors, but it still seemed to lack any kind of substance or shape.

colorful-mountain-1737519_1280

By allowing our characters to “own the page”, we could display each character as distinctly as our painting above; each character mixed with their own dialogue, separated by either description or action, a culmination of separate colors, shapes, sizes and dimensions. We allowed our dialogue to create action within our story by separating the different voices on each page. I still see areas where the plot can be reworked or even restructured. One very good reason I am able to see changes that can be made to my story,  is because I separated the dialogue between my characters.

ferry-1752634_1920

Our result is a clear-cut story taking place in an inn. With a little more work, our characters can now come alive because we separated dialogue from description or action.

Note: This article was painstakingly edited and proofread by booksellers and a former journalist/editor.

Next in our Creative Series


Creative Series IV: Planning, Outlining and Editing…A Second Set of Eyes.

 

The Newest Peeve Post: “Peeved About Relatives”

Click here to head over to my newest post!

frogs-1413787_1920If you’re one of those people who has been feeling ransacked, waylaid and dismayed about your relatives, or their visits, this Peeve post is for you!

venice-2221095_1920In this post, I discuss many of the problems that happen, can happen or do happen to you when relatives decide to come and visit YOU.

Creative Series III: The Creative Writer

So, why develop a blog about how to write creatively?

puzzlementSome of us DO have problems writing creatively (or thinking of what or how we want to express ourselves) at times. How do I know? Probably because I have been a professional trainer for the better part of 40-odd years. (Yes, I started as a student, teaching other students how to write, when I was in high school. So yes, I know what I’m talking about.) For some of us the writing process, especially writing when you don’t “feel” like writing is really hard. Some of us feel that it is so difficult that we will downright procrastinate when we set ourselves down to write, or we may even “throw in the towel”, convinced that we can’t write creatively. We may even be feeling ill, perhaps we are feeling emotional about something happening in our lives or just feeling “plain, old, lazy”. So as a writer, what do you do?

The way to set your mind straight.

straight_mind

If you are a person who has ever held a position in a company for a period of years, how were you so successful in doing so? How about if you are a mechanic, who gets up at 5 A.M. and doesn’t stop until 9 A.M.? Or if you work in an office? You arise at 5 or 6 A.M. to get ready to go to the office to start work at 8 A.M. or 9 A.M. and you stay at the office until 5 P.M., get in your car or wait for the bus to return home so that you can start the process all over again in just a few hours. If you think about writing as a business (YOUR business), you are setting your mind along a specific path to success as a creative writer. The difference is that you are self-employed, so as a result, you answer to…you. Write like you are going to the office:

alarm_clock

  1. Set your alarm
  2. Take a shower
  3. Fix yourself up, put on some clothes (no underwear or pajamas)
  4. Eat your breakfast
  5. Go into your office or travel to a location where you can write undisturbed
  6. Look around you for a moment and pick up where you left off

I don’t know where to start, or I don’t know what is next.

mind_map

As a writer, I always map out everything before I write. It’s known as an outline. Would you like an example? Okay. Here is an example of me in with “my writing pants on”.

Creative Writing Exercise

I am looking at a magazine on the rack in my local Barnes & Noble Booksellers (isn’t having a local bookstore to visit, rather than depend on a website, marvelous?) I happen to look at a sports magazine today, seeing a picture of an island getaway on the cover. Let’s take an island in the Caribbean that we have always wanted to go to for a visit. Let’s go to Turks & Caicos, located in the Atlantic Ocean. Do me a favor, go to the link that I gave you and look at the island.

TurksAndCaicos

Look at the history of Turks & Caicos islands.

Just where exactly is Turks & Caicos in the Atlantic Ocean? Is it next to some hot spot country with all kinds of problems that you read about in the news? Here is what I do, I grab the CIA Factbook online for answers. At the very bottom of the CIA Factbook, are any problems that might be occurring in that country or island. Is it a spot that is not written about, except in travel journals? I have a character who is visiting the islands for a vacation. Can you see what is going on in your mind? Picture the person getting off the plane, not in an airport, but stepping off of a runway ladder into a brilliant sunny day. Our character can see the ocean from the top of the runway ladder.

thinker

What is our character going to do in Turks & Caicos?

As a creative writer, I was always taught to get my character in trouble, and to do it at a moment when I personally, least expect it. So, I put myself in my character’s shoes. What can happen to our character, as soon as our character gets off the plane? Are you seeing where I am going with this example? Click on the links that I gave you prior to this sentence, they are links to real life dramas that unfolded on vacation islands. I am giving you an example which required no thought, no real outline at first, but now that I am seeing a video in my head about my character, now I can start mapping out my story.

whereDoYouGo

So, now that I have you thinking about Turks & Caicos, what can happen?

Let’s start an outline…a very brief outline of our character and our story. I’ll make it easy for you. Follow the link that I gave you from Writer’s Digest, download and print out what they give you for your story and start getting an idea for this story. If our story going to be a drama, mystery or comedy? Is the island we are on filled with corruption?

knowledge-history

Take lessons from history.

There are all kinds of things that could happen to our character. Think of everything we could do with this character, not to mention the plot or story. We could start in our time, even go backward in time to…perhaps…the days of the pirates, when Turk and Caicos was beautiful and very, very dangerous. So, our story could shift from being a murder mystery to a fantasy time travel sort of story. What kind of fun could you have with that kind of story?

When I was in the service, my ship had docked at St. Thomas for about a week.

st-thomas-162563_1920

I remember one of our guys was attacked, leaving a taxi. He was so drunk that his attackers had no problem surprising him, beating him down with baseball bats and taking his wallet. He had 17 stitches into his skull the next day. How do I know? Because I was the person assigned to escort him to a neighboring ship, so that the ship’s doctor could suture his injuries. Our next port was about 4 weeks later. The shipmate who was attacked had been received his new paycheck, with a new ID card, so that he could get off the ship. He went out much wiser that night, not drinking so much, but became involved in an incident, because he “wanted some payback”.

equality-gender

Is our character male or female?

In our day and age, is gender THAT important? Yes! Gender is still an important issue today. When it comes to sales, it can sometimes make a huge difference. We (the world) are still in the center of controversy, when it comes to the differences between men and women. Your story could reflect those differences. A strong female character could mean a crucial difference between selling 500 copies and 50,000 copies or more. If you are a male and writing about a female, you better do your homework. If you are a female and writing about a male, use a fantasy you have about how a male should be.

Why am I saying this?

randy_pausch_book

Even Randy Pausch had to tell his students, “No shooting violence and no pornography. Not that I’m opposed to those in particular…but that’s been done in VR. All right? (Laughter from the room.)” Randy then added, “And you would be amazed at how many 19 year-old boys are completely out of ideas, when you take those off the table.”  Men rarely grow up. So, if you are a male…and you ONLY want to write to a MALE audience…or if you want to stay in a particular type of genre, I suggest that you try something different.

combat-1300519_1280

Is our character someone who will fight back if provoked?

We want to get our character in trouble and keep getting our character in trouble. Or as one might say, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Many travelers can get caught up in trouble. Trouble may come in the form of animal attacks as well. What about diving off the coast of the island, maybe a tour…and our character is involved in a shark attack. We could have our character survive a natural calamity, based on a theory that methane bubbles could have been a cause of the Bermuda Triangle.

puzzle-210785_1920

All you need is a little research.

Now, let your imagination run wild!

quizzical

Next in our series: Breaking it down: How to Breathe Life Into Your Character.

Creative Series II: The Pitfalls and Perils of Punctuation

If you’re like me, you might sometimes have problems with punctuation.

Let’s talk about punctuation first, and what it is for. Punctuation has a historical reason for being a part of our written language. The history of punctuation is actually quite fascinating, as presented by the BBC in an online article. A Wikipedia search shows us a number of reasons why punctuation has become such an important part of many written languages in our world today. “In written English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. For example: “woman, without her man, is nothing” (emphasizing the importance of men), and “woman: without her, man is nothing” (emphasizing the importance of women) have very different meanings; as do “eats shoots and leaves” (which means the subject consumes plant growths) and “eats, shoots, and leaves” (which means the subject eats first, then fires a weapon, and then leaves the scene).[3] The sharp differences in meaning are produced by the simple variations in punctuation within the example pairs, especially the latter.”

Reading a bit further in the Wikipedia example shows us: “The oldest known document using punctuation is the Mesha Stele (9th century BC). This employs points between the words and horizontal strokes between the sense section as punctuation.[6]” There is a lot of really cool content on the web today about the history of punctuation. I hope that you find a few moments to do some research about just why we use punctuation.

oldhands

So, what if we don’t use punctuation?

Did you know that the old Greeks recorded dialogues on parchment? There was a problem however, EVERYTHINGTHEYWROTEHADNOSPACINGANDWASWRITTENINUPPERCASELETTERS. Imagine even attempting to “decode” something that a scribe had written down for posterity. What a chore that would be! As a result, rules were created by Aristophanes of Bysantium to handle this increasing problem in Greek literature by adding spaces and accents to help people understand what they were reading.

Did you have ever read Chaucer or Shakespeare in high school?

If you are now, or remember how confusing or frustrating it could be to read and understand what many of us call archaic script, you would agree with me in saying that reading very old texts can be quite frustrating.

How about an example? I am going to use some material from Harvard’s The Geoffrey Chaucer Page, that was erected for just this purpose. Here is a direct copy from that site:

The opening lines of the Canterbury Tales constitute a learned version of the “reverdi,” a simple lyric celebrating the return of Spring after the harshness of winter, a common form of medieval French lyric. It became widespread in English as well. widespread in English as well. The most famous example in is the “Cuckoo song,” which dates from the twelfth century:

Sumer is i-comen in.
Groweth seed and bloweth meed
And springth the wude nu.
Sing cuccu!

I suppose that little songs like this go back to earliest antiquity — the reassuring return of vegetation and fertility, and of the sun — especially in Northern Europe – – after the cold and dark winter.

The standard love lyric builds upon this return of spring song by adding human love. Spring brings a great outburst of energy in nature, the birds begin to sing again, and nature stirs its creatures to love:

Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!

When Spring arrives, love comes with it. Here is a typical opening of a lover’s complaint:

When the nightingale singes
The wodes waxen grene,
Leaf and gras and blossom springes
In Averil, I wene,
And love is to min herte gon
With a spere so keen.

And on then into the story of his love.

How did you feel when you were reading the passages? Were you able to understand what Chaucer was saying?

If you have ever read any passages from Ovid, a roman poet who lived from 43 BC to 17 AD, you will find text that is very graphic in nature. More like reading something that might have been written by Stephen King:

P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses
Brookes More, Ed.

And Phorbas the descendant of Methion.
Who hailed from far Syene, with his friend
Amphimedon of Libya, in their haste
to join the battle, slipped up in the blood
and fell together: just as they arose
that glittering sword was driven through the throat
of Phorbas into the ribs of his companion.

What I am pasting is very tame, in comparison to the rest of Ovid’s story.

What I would like to point out however, is the punctuation that is being used. Would Ovid’s punctuation be corrected by an editor? Would you have been the editor?

Did you know, there are many sources available for guidance in using punctuation?

My favorite is right next to me. I always keep it next to my keyboard.

There are many scholars who claim that our modern punctuation started in the 16th century. Other scholars claim that the punctuation we use today began much earlier. Whomever is correct, the fact that modern punctuation has become so critical to our daily writing lives means that facing the challenge of punctuation’s sometimes massive role in our writing, is privy to how our readers judge us and our ability to write.

Punctuation

I recommend using Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

I keep Elements of Style next to my keyboard. If it is not, I have my source online where I can reach it at any time. If you take a look at the link I provided, you’ll find that you too, can have it at your fingertips. There are countless other sources that you can use to ensure that your punctuation is correct. Here are just a few that you can use:

Are just a few of the invaluable books, available as sources that you can add to your collection of tips and tricks to being a better writer.

Writing is fun for me. It has been a constant source of learning the art and craft of writing. I hope that you have as much enjoyment and reward from writing as I have through the years.

Next in my Creative Series III: How to Start Writing

Creative Series 1: Finding the Right Voice

When we write, as in a play, we may use many voices.

Many of us do not realize when we are using a specific voice. I refer of course, to the person who is impersonating a journalist in their prose. Examples of this voice are present every day. There are appropriate times to use a voice that uses common language, many times however, we don’t pay attention to the methodology we use when we write, one issue is that of repetition.

Journalism is an art form that must be appraised, just as one would judge a work of art.

Here is a sample paragraph as it stands: ” This girl’s 16th birthday gift from her grandpa will melt your heart. For the very luckiest teenagers, the milestone 16th birthday brings with it the ultimate gift: a car. As cool as it to have four wheels to call your very own, that present has just been downgraded thanks to one very special grandfather in Texas and his exemplary gift-giving skills.”

The paragraph possibly written by a journalist: ” For the luckiest teenagers, the milestone 16th birthday brings with it the ultimate gift: a car. Many 16 year-olds may feel it is “cool” to have a car to call their very own. A Texas girl’s 16th birthday has become memorable, thanks to one very special grandfather in Texas and his exemplary gift-giving skills.”

Look very carefully at the use of language between the two examples.

The article is supposed to be uplifting. It needs to be written in such a way that when one reads it, a tear comes to an eye. I’m unsure of your response, but I do not feel as though my heartstrings are being pulled. Instead, I feeling a twisting knot in my stomach as I continue to follow the prose. By the time I finish the article, I don’t know what to think. I feel that the voice of the teenager was much more alive than the voice of the person who wrote the article. “It wasn’t me being famous, it was about my grandpa’s love for me becoming famous,” she says. “It’s touching so many people’s hearts. When they look at my tweet, they think, I need to spend more time with my grandparents.” (That is a voice!)

Aspiring journalists are often encouraged to find their voice from articles written in the past.

 

I am referring to the Pulitzer. The prestigious award sought after by so many journalists today. Countless writers aspire to become inducted into that hall of fame, but often fall short of the standards for the award. What countless writers of the past learned to work with instead, was perseverance and hard work. Learning to perfect the art of writing really is very hard work.

As a published short story writer, I learned to survive on rejection.

Home of “The Hoist” – The buildings to the right

At one point of my naval career, I had managed to finagle a temporary position with a long-running newspaper as a junior copy editor by using my connections in the service. I was only supposed to be at the newspaper for 3 weeks, I was there for 8 weeks. During my very short tenure as a reporter and journalist for “The Hoist“; a once continuous weekly newspaper for the U.S. Navy, I found an editor who was kind, supportive and left me hungry to learn more about what it meant to be a journalist. I started as a fish-out-of-water (my chosen field of work in the Navy had been that of an operations expert).

I’m in the middle, the young guy with the glasses and the goatee

At first, I was not needed. What I lacked in education and preparation, I made up for with raw determination. I arrived at the office, 6 a.m. sharp and did not leave for home until 8 p.m. 90 percent of my time was spent editing what I had written, ensuring that my copy was perfect for the next issue. By the end of my stay, my editor continually reminded me that I had “missed my calling”. He told me that as a writer, I had more raw talent than many navy journalists he had met who graduated from the Defense Information School. When I entered the service, I was young, desperate and unwilling to wait to attend the school.

I learned to become a journalist the traditional way. As an apprentice writer, I worked in the company of more seasoned journalists and reporters who were employed with The Hoist. Due to their influence, I was rewarded with my byline on the front page for almost eight weeks. The time that I spent with that family of professionals reshaped my life as a writer. For journalists who possess a talent for writing today, a career as a newspaper journalist poses a struggle to remain employed.

Many journalists today not only struggle, but often feel powerless in their job.

The job is and has been often laced with its own brand of politics. Many journalists learn early in their careers that they must have skin of steel. Adaptability is the key to success. Those journalists who are unable to adapt, who desperately wane in the face of change, keeping their typewriters in opposition to our new technological way of life. Those journalists who insist on the written word, rather than accompanying video are often “left in the dust” of the past. The age of modern journalism comprises an industry. This industry however, often seems to be one that is perceived to be precariously suspended on a silken strand, its lofty towers crumbled with age, in danger of catching the first strong wind to send it crashing to its doom.

There are others who feel that the business of journalism has become lost as an industry.

Perhaps the art (journalism) is gone, taken over by slick corporations, muddled by the World Wide Web and the ever-present need for sensationalism. There are many pundits who argue that the worse something is, the better for the journalist, in our competitive world. Perhaps the industry needs journalists to pay more attention to how they write any published article, whether it is digital or in print. There are some who even feel that we have become a more careless and thoughtless society, due to our spread of technology.

Imagine what the web be like if every person publishing to the web suddenly found their voice.

I personally believe that you would find a web filled with written work of the highest quality. The web would possess a close focus on professionalism with a hint of caution. Sales of books and magazines would probably increase as professionally trained writers returned to replace what many have termed as the “obsolescence of grammar“. Many older readers have stated in the past that complacency that has taken root in our present day culture. For any writer, finding the correct voice to use to match their particular style of writing should come first.

Next, we will talk about the second important lesson for any writer: style.

Creative Series 1: Writing and Perspective – How Controversy Can Become Unforgettable Stories or Articles

So, what kinds of problems can we find that could make “killer” stories or ideas?

Well, controversy sells. One issue that is hotly debated by politicians, communities, friends and family alike is the issue of guns. The NRA (National Rifle Association) is a non-profit organization that is predicated to the United States 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms (if you don’t know). There are countless organizations and groups which ally themselves to this organization.

There is a non-profit organization that is diametrically opposed to the NRA.

The organization opposed to the fundamentals of the NRA is Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit grass roots organization of “Americans fighting for common-sense reforms to reduce gun violence”. Founded in 2014, two existing groups came together: Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Our world continues to become smaller and smaller.

holding-earth-1242108-639x427

We are bombarded by tragedy every day. Perhaps overcrowding is beginning to seep into the metaphysical soul of our world. Perhaps, like caged rats, we are beginning to eat each other, scratching and killing each other to make room. As our world continues to shrink, we feel pummeled by death and destruction that prompts some people to shut off the local news. Our news media has proliferated to become social media, the worst of the world outscreaming the best. The worst tragedies relate to muggings, shootings, break-ins, robberies and other violence occurring all over the United States, even the world.

As far as we can tell, it is (for many of us) as if our world has gone crazy.

Perhaps that is not what is happening at all. Due to the proliferation of cell phones in the hands of billions of people, news that once was delivered by professional journalists and photographers is now in the hands of anyone who snaps a shot on their cell phone, and posts to a news site, or a social media site such as Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat. Therefore, tragedy that was once the purview of the News Editor is now in the hands of any person who owns a connection to the World Wide Web.

The most prevalent discussions, by presidential candidates or news media, have been about terrorism or religious extremism. Yet, all other violence that is depicted, pales compared to the annual rate of gun homicides in the United States.

This chart was released in June of 2015, 6 months before what many of us now know as a very controversial speech from a candidate running for president in December.

Infographic: America's insane rate of gun homicide in perspective | Statista
You can find more statistics at Statista

Guns, unfortunately, have been a part of the American culture since its inception in 1776. If you are one of those people who denies this fact, just ask any person outside of this country is depicted as, and they will tell you. Americans stand out as “gun-toting”, gun-crazy zealots in a country that shows as much pride in its gun laws, as in its contributions to our modern way of life.

Though I grew up on military bases, I was not raised to arm myself with a gun.

I served as a weapons specialist in the military for 20 years, was taught by my friends how to hunt for food as a teenager, using a rifle to bring down my first deer. I am an avid lover of violent action movies and have been one since I was a child. The difference between billions of mature males and myself who enjoy action and adventure as entertainment, is that we know the difference between right and wrong, believing in the predication of an agreeable common code of ethics and respect over violent extremism.

Entertainment centers around guns.

Take one of the most popular movies in the world, Star Wars. Its characters employ guns. They may be the stuff of science fiction, but they are weapons nonetheless. Look at some of the most popular movies throughout the passage of time, and you will find a great many of them (probably the higher percentage of shows) featuring guns as a part of the “story”.

Is this post against guns?

I am NOT writing this post for or against against guns or as a political platform for gun control. I am writing this post to mention that guns have been a part of our American and world culture for at least since the year 1364.

Yuan_chinese_gun
Hand cannon from the Chinese Yuan dynasty (1271 – 1368)

Guns have become as common in the United States as the cold virus.

The United States has become a country of hypocrisy. Laws have been enacted to control the sale and use of firearms. Laws have been drafted, lobbied and supported by hundreds of thousands of mothers. Yet, more firearms are carried by women than men in The United States. There are people however, who have in one way or another, stockpiled weapons, ammunition and illegal firearms in conflict with laws that were created to protect us as citizens, believing that they are within their rights as citizens. There are many countries with laws more stringent than those the United States has created to control the onslaught of more and more private citizens licensed to carry weapons for protection. Unlike many countries in the world today, the United States has been in a state of war, or involved in at least one world conflict since its inception in 1776.

The world continues to develop technological marvels.

Thanks to the advent of the 3D printer, a person can search for, download and manufacture their own weapon in the privacy of their home. Perhaps we should take it upon ourselves to not only become more proactive about those around us, but develop preventive actions to neutralize the possibility of an individual developing into a killer by setting specific monitors in place or gangs purchasing 3D equipment to manufacture unregistered firearms which can be deployed anywhere. I have linked two different articles. If you are reading this paragraph, please note that the person’s optimistic speculation about the future of 3D printed weapons, did not take into account the reality of our world. Not a good thought.

Image result for 3d gun
3D-printed AR-15-based .22 pistol

Courtesy ExtremeTech.com
By on July 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

Focusing on targeting problems before they become problems.

Instead of pointing fingers or conducting witch hunts of specific religions, cultures or countries, perhaps a better solution would be to come up with solutions to the serious problem of gun-related killings. Our present-day culture takes pride in our ability to develop, create and manufacture superior technology. If someone does not understand the difference between right and wrong, or has arrived at the point that the murder of innocent people are part of their plan for global domination, perhaps we need to devise a technology or methodology that is able to pinpoint such a personality before it reaches the point where it wants to do harm.

Are we all driven by some kind of causality to act on our emotions?

Such a motivation can drive us to fulfill certain behaviors. Perhaps what must be developed is a drug or technique that modifies the behavior of a potential murderer. Suppressing the receptors in the brain that motivate a person to act on specific emotions that would cause others harm could be such a solution. Knee-jerk reactions after people have died from wanton mass murder is hardly a solution. Lives have already been lost, therefore, no solution has been made.

Guns are an effective deterrent to violence.

Yes, there are people who will argue with you until they are blue in the face that guns deter violence. Really. They do. I know many of these people. Yes, they are my friends and I place much value in them as my friends. They are entitled to their opinions as I am entitled to mine.

Summing up how a controversial subject can make for really good writing.

If this article is driving you to say something, post a response or even click on a raised or lowered thumb, I have done my job. I have effectively shown you how to take a subject that can be highly controversial and turned into a story, article or book idea that any writer can use to evoke responses emotional enough to garner attention to what they are writing.

What will we discuss next? The highly controversial subject of writing well.

Creative Series 1:Getting Ideas

When I am developing a book, song or image, I sometimes think about its salability.

More often than not, I write because I enjoy what I writing. I watched a movie recently distributed on DVD and video streaming outlets (though none of the lists I found even mentions “vudu.com”; which I personally feel is a terrific site, not really certain why) last night, called “Passengers”.

The character Aurora Lane,  brilliantly played by Jennifer Lawrence, is the daughter of a former Pulitzer prize-winning writer. She is engaged in a conversation with her fellow passenger regarding just why she decided to leave behind all of her friends and family to undertake a 120-year trip to a distant planet. This insightful conversation includes some pearls of wisdom, given to her by her father, regarding what can separate good writing from exceptional writing.

Her character quotes her father once saying, “If you live an ordinary life, all you will have are ordinary stories”.

As a writer, I agree wholeheartedly with that statement.

As a former sailor, I quite literally sailed all over the world. I have been to some of the finest areas in countries and islands that many people dream of. I have also been in slums and back alley dives that many would avoid. I have come to know or meet thousands of people. I have been afforded the opportunity to marry a fellow human being who has not only enriched my life, but has shown me what a happy life really means, with all of its arguments, kisses, challenges and smiles.

I have come to know loss. I have come to know reward. I have had lovers in my time and have hurt just as many along the way. As I have matured, so have my stories. My characters all reflect the love, hurt, anger, frustration, desperation, sadness and all those feelings that make us who we are.

Having knowledge of the outside world helps me as a writer…a lot.

There is something to be said about living in this world, as well as writing about it. If I want someplace dingy or forgotten, perhaps I might remember a back alley of unmarked shops and warehouse doors in Wanchai, Hong Kong.

Related image
Back Street, Hong Kong by David Izatt

www.pinterest.com236 × 314Search by image

 Perhaps I might bring myself back to walking the streets of Costa Rica and finding the New York Bar in the 1980’s, an expat “watering hole” for those who did not want to be found.
Image result for costarica "new york" bar
New York Bar, San Jose, Costa Rica
Maybe I’ll think back to the pretty vendors on the topless beaches of Martinique, selling bikini tops to women who would crowd around them.
Image result for martinique topless beaches
French Caribbean

My style as a writer has changed as I have aged.

I can always find plenty of critics to harangue my style, everyone thinking that their particular writing style is superior to mine. My style, however, seems to have accrued a more positive acclaim from others. There is always room for improvement, but what I value more is the ability to develop a style that is unique to my characters as a writer. It is important that once I have established a particular dialogue that is peculiar to the character I am describing that I allow my characters to tell the story.

 

If you truly feel you are a writer, or you have struggled to find something to write about, how about experimenting with an exercise that many “old-timers” were exposed to? Find a drawing, image, picture or photograph that catches your eye and create your story, imagining that your character move through a life that from what you allow them to see. Let them discover their world one piece at a time, as you slowly begin to paint your own picture. Add some romance to their life. Perhaps some twist of fate, or even trouble that ensues from a place they visit every day. Get that character into trouble…something small, perhaps. Then allow the trouble to bloom, to blossom into an all-out nuclear explosion of a problem. Stick to the weaknesses and the strengths of the character in your world. Don’t “overblow” the rules of the world you create, don’t invent anything new. The challenge of your story will be to overcome the issues you create with the talents of your character.

Now, my friend, you are on your way to creating a truly great story.

Reviewing Old Chapters: The Process of Editing

file0002057778750

  I have started the ever-tedious process of going through my old chapters before creating any new material. I highly recommend this technique to anyone who is creating any new material.

So far, I have found paragraph errors, single line errors and a few errors in punctuation. It is critical that you ensure whatever you are writing is grammatically ready for press. There is no excuse for laziness, when composing anything for sale.

I have also been glancing furtively at my use of language in my story. I’m pleased with the exchanges between the characters at times, but I do find certain areas where the conversation between them gets lost at times. Conversation is an important part of any book. Always remember that your characters are the ones telling the story, not you.

Lastly, save copies. Save, save, save. Redundancy is the key to success.

There Can Be No Joy Greater Than Revenge — Noisy Upstairs Neighbor

Vengeance is mine, sayeth me!  I cannot believe that I have found my upstairs neighbor’s Achille’s Heel.  I was playing some music on my computer when I heard a foot stomping on the floor above me.   I chortled in hacks of mirth as I contemplated this new discovery.  At long last!  I believe I have found the holy grail, and my answer was right in front of me all this time.  From now on, I will exact my vengeance with evil intent and methodical regularity.  I will teach my upstairs neighbor a lesson for all the sleepless nights he and his roommate have mercilessly visited upon me.  But then, I could have always complained to my landlord regarding the noise and sleep my neighbor has cost me.  But this…this will sweeten my dealings with my upstairs neighbor.

Before I go however, I do want to say that having a noisy upstairs neighbor is akin to dealing with rats in your ceiling.  They never seem to go to sleep, no matter how hard you hit the ceiling.  I remember having an apartment (a very nice apartment with deep wood panelling and marble floors) long ago in the Philippines.  There were no clauses in how to deal with the rats that regularly would climb straight up the walls, to nest in the crawlspace between the roof and the ceiling of the home.  I would use a mop handle to pound on the ceiling in order to shut the rats up.  They would stop for a moment, then continue to squeal loudly.  I developed a resolve in dealing with the rats — finally settling on complaints to my landlord about it, and eventually contracting with a pest control company to get rid of the pesky buggers.  It would take five months before I was finally able to get a decent night’s sleep.  But…I dealt with the rats…my way.