Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Few Thoughts

By Keith Fisher

In thinking of subjects to write about, I had many things come to mind. Now that Black Friday is over, it’s Christmas. I wondered if I should write about that. I could write about politics and the feeling of being singled out and excluded because of your political views. I read an article about a man who was fired because of his support of Prop 8. The article raised concerns about making people feel they can’t have a dissenting opinion. I understand that feeling, and I want to tell you it’s nothing new. But this is a writing blog.

I could write about the economy and the bait and switch that retailers use on Black Friday to get you into the store. What’s next with them? Will they lock the doors once you pass though, and not let you out until you buy something? Then there is the person in the store who knows they have financial problems but they buy anyway, putting it on a credit card, adding to their financial woes. But this is a writing blog.

I finished reading the Summons by John Grisham this week and I’m reading Abinadi by Heather Moore. I also started Pontoon by Garrison Keillor. Maybe I should write about those books. I liked the Summons although I figured it out in the first chapter. Maybe that’s what Grisham wanted us to do. Abinadi is all I expected it to be. Moore has a talent for bringing scriptural characters to life. Keillor is the master of the complete character, and he writes almost poetically. If it weren’t for his adult language and descriptions I would recommend him.

I had a friend ask me how my blog is going and I said I was stewing about it. She suggested I talk about stew and the analogy of a plot. You know, like a stew, a plot needs to cook a long time in your head for the flavors to blend together. So the subplots mesh and the characters know their place in the plot. Good analogy, but not what I want to write about.

I finished, and sent one of my manuscripts to a publisher. I’m waiting to hear back while I edit another. It seems the edits never end, but I don’t want to talk about that either.

I dreamed a book the other day. I woke up and drafted it. It’ll be a good story when I write it. Life is like that you know, plots and characters stand in front of us everyday, and many of us are too busy writing to notice. Also, an old friend contacted me and told me her story. What a great plot her story makes. She said she will write it, so I promised myself I wouldn’t steal it. I seem to be getting more ideas than I could write in a lifetime. Still, I have resolved to write every one of them. Life is good when you can find bits, pieces, and whole plots in the scenes that pass in front of you.

I still don’t know what to write about this week. But when I look above, I find Ive already written my article.

I did want to say few words to those who read our blog, and comment. Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope I can strike a nerve inside that will please you. To those who read and don’t comment, thanks for stopping by. Because of your visit we know we do not write in vain. To those who are struggling to become an author, Come in, sit down, and take your shoes off. You are the reason why write this blog. If we can write anything that will inspire you, and build you, then we have accomplished our goals. As a popular television character, Red Green, is fond of saying. "I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together."

At this time of giving thanks and remembering our Savior, I’d like to pause a second and thank Him, the giver of all blessings, for a desire to write. To tell stories and create worlds. It’s the best job there is.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks—Getting Blessings

By Keith Fisher

How do you like the new look? Some of our group felt we were in need of change. Leave comments and tell us what you think.

Over at another blog, I’ve been talking about giving thanks in a series of blogs about Thanksgiving. Since the big dinner is this week, I thought I’d mention a promise. "He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold" (D&C 78:19).

Is there a specific blessing you are supplicating God for? Show gratitude to Him by giving yourself to others. I know it’s hard to look past the turkey and stuffing, but there are people in need in your life. If your kids asked you for a dollar and didn’t thank you for it, how eager would you be to reach for your wallet next time?

May all the joy and happiness of the season be yours this year, and may all your associates be blessed because they have known you.


Just a quick note about last week’s blog then I’ll stop talking about it. I received a comment from Kent Larsen (here are his credentials). It was a great comment. I would like to clarify a few things.

Thanks for sharing Kent. You asked if I remember John Jakes. Yes, sir, I do. In fact, I loved The Kent Family Chronicles when it was new. It is a wonderful treatise on the birth of America and early US history. Im sure you know he is still selling new books.

I'm sorry, if I gave anyone the impression that I want to "throw out classic literature." Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact I want people to learn about, and have access to every book ever written. In the sixties I read Child's Garden of Grass, Breakfast of Champions, Catcher in the Rye and many other books of the time. Have you read Kurt Vonnegut? His books are full of, in your words, . . . "great ideas--social criticism, messages about how society should form itself and act".

Perhaps he’s not a classic author because he is also a little controversial, and not to everyone’s taste.

In my short life, I’ve discovered people are either interested in something or they aren't. I totally agree with you about Dickens. I love the way he talked about people in need. I love Victor Hugo for the same reasons. It never ceases to amaze me, however, how many people love to watch Les Miserables in the play, but they never catch the spirit of it, and they never begin to use their blessings to help others.

The point I’ve been laboring over is not bashing classic literature. The point is that literature shouldn't have to be literary. I want people to stop judging popular fiction by the yardstick of the English teacher. During the time that many of the "so called" classic authors were writing, Mark Twain wrote popular fiction. Plain and simple—you don't have to search between the lines to find the social lessons. They hit you square in the face.

Twain was compared to the authors of his time and found lacking, but many people read his stories because they liked to read them. For whatever reason, they liked them. I don’t like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstien, and I don’t like much of Ernest Hemmingway. I have friends who love Twilight, but I don’t. I have friends who hate The Children of the Promise, and Hearts of the Children series’ but I love them. The point is everyone has different tastes.

As for the question, will reading popular fiction lead to reading the classics? Maybe not, but forcing a kid to eat Green Beans at the dinner table probably won’t teach that kid to love green beans. Likewise, forcing a kid to read classic literature because of the great life’s lessons contained therein probably won’t teach them to love the beauty of it, or even teach them the lessons.

Thanks again for letting me rant, and Thanks, Kent, I like the way you think.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week, and don’t eat too much on Thursday.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Judging a Book

By Keith Fisher

There is an author’s event today. Several LDS authors will be on hand to sign their books, offer encouragement, and be your friend. Most of these authors have never been recognized nationally, like Stephanie Meyer, or J. K. Rowling. I very much doubt any of them will be compared to Herman Melville, Mary Shelly, or Rudyard Kipling. Although, some of them should be compared to Mark Twain, he’s one of my favorite authors.

I’ll tell you about the event in a moment, but first, I want to talk about an argument that ensued at work the other day. My friend is an English major and has strong opinions about many things, but so do I, so we get along. I got involved after overhearing a discussion about Twilight. The movie, by the way, comes out in 5-days 19-hours and 8-minutes (according to Nichole’s counter at the moment I write this).

Anyway I believe his statement was, "No LDS author has written good literature." Or something like that. I thought about all the national market authors I’ve heard about who make six figures a year, and many people don’t even know they’re LDS. Of course, his response condemned the use of a monetary yardstick. He wanted to talk about "literature".

I’ve written before about a Dead Author’s Society. And I’ve been critical of the so-called classic literature that school kids are forced to read. My friend wanted to compare all fiction to Moby Dick, because the lessons learned about life are priceless. Then he went on to condemn Twilight.

I tried to persuade him to realize that a book is worthwhile if it gets people to read who never would have before. The discussion turned to Harry Potter and others. We went around and around, as you might guess. I asked him how he can discount the fact that J. K. Rowling probably single handedly influenced thousands of people to turn to books instead of movies. More people are reading today than before, none of them, I’m sure, would’ve considered reading the classics.

So, if we judge a book by the yardstick of how it changed or helped the lives of those who read it, Stephanie Meyer, J. K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson and Janette Rallison along with dozens of LDS writers, should be ranked with all the so-called, classics authors. When all is said and done, the classics of the past were popular fiction in their day. Maybe in 75 years Harry Potter will be a classic too.

LDS writers, although sometimes not celebrated as such, are writing books for the masses. Books that can help the readers improve their lives. Thanks to popular fiction, those readers are more inclined to read Moby Dick than ever before. The classics are coming back. People are reading them because they want to, because a popular fiction novel persuaded them to make the journey into the satisfying world of reading.

The event I spoke about is at a new independent bookstore. Provident Book/Humdinger Toys. 661 W State Pleasant Grove, Utah There will be drawings and fun stuff. Look here for a signing schedule.

By the way, when pressed, my friend admitted he had never read Stephanie Meyers books or J. K. Rowling’s. Also, the counter now says 5-days 17-hours 18 minutes, but I don’t like vampire books, just thought you’d like to know . . .

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Writing is Continuing Education

By Keith Fisher

In the interest of being accurate, and not wishing to have my manuscript rejected on grounds of doctrinal correctness, I did some heavy research this week. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. I discovered so many things about the subject that I’m beginning to think of myself as knowledgeable.

After a while, I began to reflect on the things I know, and how I acquired that knowledge. I, like all of you, learned the basics at my mother’s knee. Crawling around the floor of the house helped too. I went to grammar school and learned my readin, writin, and arithmetic just like everyone else. There were other lessons I learned there too. Lessons like, how to play sports and how cruel kids can be to each other.

All through our lives we force knowledge into the onboard, computer hard drive we call our brain. Some of the learning, we considered useless information, but we crammed it in, and regurgitated it on a test paper. Some of that knowledge remains, some of it leaked out years ago, and some of it resides in our head, just out of reach. "Why can’t I remember that?" we ask.

The scriptures, and the prophets, have admonished us to be constantly learning. Most of us, however, can’t afford the time and money it takes to attend college or adult education classes. We end up collecting facts from the media, or office gossip. Many of us read books. Whether we read fiction or non-fiction, we learn things.

What a great advantage we have as writers. Even if the stories we write are pure fantasy, there is always some degree of research involved. I remember writing a scene once, where a man accosted a woman while she was holding a baby. I became concerned that the baby would be crushed. Also, I wondered if it were possible for her to extricate herself from him in the way that I had written. Using my wife and a teddy bear, I conducted some experiments to find out. I had to rewrite the scene, but my research had shown me an answer.

With all the research we do as writers, isn’t it great that we can continue to learn? Facts go into our hard drive that we later call up and use as an obscure fact somewhere in our story. If, in our writing frenzy, we have a character quoting from the bible but later, find out the quote was really from Shakespeare, we can be glad for research. If your character gets arrested, isn’t it nice to know that at some point before the cops take him away, they must read him his Miranda Rights?

After all the research I did this week I have developed a new appreciation for study and for the hard drive in my head. I’ve filed and categorized facts up there for later use. I just hope I can retrieve it all, when in the coming years, I get old and scary.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Remembering the Writer Within

By Keith Fisher

I ran away from home last week. Pressures and interruptions became overwhelming, so I packed up and hit the road. No, I didn’t hop a freight train, or put my thumb out on a freeway onramp. I made up my mind that I would finish my edits, or die trying. I hooked up the trailer, found a quiet place, and spent the weekend plowing through the final chapters.

Did you ever see the Twilight Zone episode where a man wishes to be the only man in the world, just to avoid interruptions, to get caught up with work, and he gets his wish? My weekend wasn’t like that. In the show, the man spends about twenty minutes, gets all caught up, then gets so bored he goes out of his mind. It took me twenty-five minutes just to get organized.

Partway into my task, I noticed something. I was alone. I looked around at nature and back to my manuscript. Something happened to me. Without the hustle and bustle of dealing with everyday tasks, I found myself transported. I was living my story again. My characters visited me and brought back the clear picture of where we were headed in the book. The red ink marks on the papers returned to what they were. The marks were only a guide, not some daunting and overwhelming testament of my lack of writing abilities.

I was writing again. My soul became connected to my story and I sailed through the pages correcting was’s, putting commas in where needed, taking them out where they were not. Most importantly, the side notes, written in red ink, became only a minor disturbance, because I knew what I had written, and why I wrote it in the first place. I added words for clarification and fixed those things that confused the reader. I was on fire.

After what seemed like a short moment, I discovered my back was sore from sitting too long, and there was a gnawing hunger in my stomach. I stood up and found that working at a booth style dinette in my camp trailer, may not have been the best choice for me. Being overweight, the table is too close to my mid-section. I grabbed a piece of lunchmeat, slapped it on some bread and returned to my torture chamber.

Being engrossed in the work has its own rewards. I never noticed my aches and sore muscles until I took a break. Then I found I was caught up in my story, solving story problems while cooking, plotting and planning while I stretched my legs outside.

After three days of living like a full time writer, I returned home. I was a new man. The petty problems I’d ditched, were still there, but my family was glad to see me back. Life hasn’t changed because I ran away. It’s still just as pressing. I’m not more capable of handling stress. I’m not a better writer, but in the time I went away, I re-discovered why I became a writer. My characters reminded me.

Of all the lessons I learned from my "Personal Writer’s Retreat" the one most valuable to me is, never let everyday responsibilities detract from your writing. I must return to the well, if only for a moment, in order to remember the pure joy of writing from my soul. To rediscover why I became a writer, to listen to my characters, because they know . . . they know, why I became a writer. After writing that statement I guess my retreat really was like the Twilight Zone episode. Maybe I did go a little crazy. But then again, maybe I always was, or maybe . . . I’m a writer.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.