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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus



Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Shower Curtain

Strange name for a blog post, but it's what's on my mind today.

Yep.  My shower curtain.

See, my shower curtain functions a lot differently than the way most people use theirs.  Oh sure, it's obviously hung in the shower to keep water from flooding my bathroom floor.  But that's where the resemblance of my shower curtain and the shower curtain of others ends.

See some shower curtains come with several pockets, ostensibly to store shower accessories like shampoo, a scrub brush, razor, etc.  But not my shower curtain.

Instead, I have the pockets facing outward, and each of them, about 10 in all, have not shower accessories, but one line blurbs for novels I anticipate writing.

For example:  "The decisions a military man makes between duty and the enemy."  That's the blurb for my novel Principle Engagement.

They are not written as one line pitches, per se, but as one line blurbs to remind me of all the story ideas rolling around in my head.  Some of those blurbs represent not one novel, but series of novels.

In all, I'd say my shower curtain represents ideas for about 10-15 novels.

I put these blurbs in my shower curtain to give me a daily reminder of all the potential novels I could write and get out there on e-book shelves.  Only problem is, life constantly interferes with my plans.

Due to circumstances beyond my control I have less time than ever, barely managing to sleep 4-5 hours each night, much less meeting the basics of survival.  In the meantime, those story concepts sit lonely and waiting in the shower curtain.  The original plan in placing them there, printed out on white paper, was to color them in a bright bold color, one by one, as each novel was finished.  Only one, Principle Engagement, has been colored in (and I want to re-write it).  The rest are still printed on lonely white squares as always.

So that leads me back to the age old battle.  There is a truth that cannot be escaped.

Writers write.

But I'm not writing.

I'm barely scraping through the daily fight for life as it is.  But then that leaves the question: Will I go through life, ending it, wondering what might have been if I had only put fingers to keyboard and completed all those awesome story ideas rolling around in my head?  Or will I somehow, in the midst of life's daily battle, find a way to produce these books and get them out there, taking my chances and seeing what opportunities they may hold?

I don't know the answer.  But I can tell you I've recently been fueled to think about my writing due to a reason most people would not suspect.  Anger.  But that is the subject of another post. 

In the meantime, since tomorrow is December 1st, the first day of the last month of the year, I am asking myself to squeak out 700 words per week (100 a day).  It's not much.  It won't get me very far.  But it still gets me farther than -0- words per day.

I have traditionally been someone who writes in fits and starts.  I doubt that M.O. will change.  But we'll see, if for just the last month of the year, if I can produce a small word count and begin bringing creativity back online from the nothingness that has been this year.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Larger than life Characters: A Lesson from Kirk, Spock and McCoy

With a rare weekend of peace and quiet to think and simply be, my thoughts have finally had a chance to turn back to the world of fiction and how to pump life into my stories. These thoughts inevitably turn me back to the one question I seem to puzzle over relentlessly: what is it that makes unforgettable characters and stories?

And these thoughts inevitably cause me to recall perhaps the strongest, most long-lasting characters of all time--the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock & McCoy from Star Trek the original series.  Granted, its a bit of a cheat in the sense that these characters were brought to life on screen and were not limited to the pages of a book.

Still, with Spock as my all time favorite character, and Kirk & McCoy running a close 2nd and 3rd, I asked myself:  What is it about these characters that makes me come back to them time and time again?  Here's the list that came to mind:

SPOCK:
1.  Super smart
2.  Physically strong
3.  Loyal unto death
4.  Quick thinker--brings solutions
5.  Best friend
6.  Different from others around him
7.  The best at what he does
8.  Distinctive in look
9.  Analytical/logical
10. Feels deeply
11. Sense of humor

KIRK:
1.  Decisive/command abilities
2.  Best at what he does
3.  Feels deeply
4.  Fiercely loyal
5.  sense of humor

MCCOY:
1.  Best at what he does
2.  Sense of humor
3.  Feels deeply
4.  Not afraid to challenge authority
5.  Fiercely loyal

What I thought was interesting was that while each of these three characters have traits that are unique to them, I identified four traits that they shared in common:

1.  Loyalty
2.  Best at what they do
3.  Feel deeply
4.  Sense of humor

So then I ask myself: What's my favorite novel of all time?  Zane Grey's "Forlorn River."  It's main character, known simply as Nevada, also displays all four of the above mentioned traits.

The Hardy Boys series of books that I read as a kid and young adult, also featured characters (my favorite was Frank) who exemplified these four traits.

I recently finished reading James Scott Bell and Tracie Peterson's historical fiction series based on turn of the  century female lawyer Kit Shannon. In this case, loyalty and being the best at what she does definitely applied, and to some degree depth of feeling as well, though I'm not so sure about sense of humor.

So the question is, does every standout character in fiction require all of these traits? Some combination?  Or maybe standout characters don't require these traits at all and it is simply a measure of what I tend to look for in characters personally.

What are the standout traits of your all time favorite fictional characters?