Saturday, February 26, 2011


By Keith N Fisher

I love this time of year. Days begin to get longer, the promise of spring lingers in the air, and hope is reborn. I finally cleared the last hurdle and submitted The Hillside this week. It has five solid story lines and several points of view. It’s written like an LDS version of Fantasy Island, or The Love Boat. Four couples and a stranger check into a bed and breakfast for the weekend. The stories that follow are as diverse as the characters. There is something for almost everybody to identify with.

Now, I’ve written my elevator pitch, its time to move on with the subject.

As a writer, I’ve learned to embrace my oddities. Since childhood, I’ve enjoyed sitting in a room full of people, watching them, and imagining scenarios behind their actions. It’s really not all that voyeuristic, since it’s one of the ways I develop characters. My watching becomes fodder for new projects, a defense against writer’s block.

It’s surprising, how many different story ideas you can get in a grocery store. Have you ever seen a young mother with several kids? She is obviously overwhelmed and some, kind soul picks up the crying baby to help out. Why do the mother and the spectators automatically see it as kindness? Why don’t we suspect a kidnapper at work?

One time, I watched a well-dressed man walk past a bank of phone booths once. He checked every coin return on every phone. His dress indicated his wealth, but he searched for loose change like his livelihood depended on the quarters he might find.

On another occasion, I couldn’t avoid listening to a person on the telephone as she sat right next to me. The whole scenario played out in my head and the woman became a character in a book.

I’ve seen many beautiful women treated like crap by their not-so-handsome boyfriends, and the women seem to eat it up. In the same way, I’ve seen incredibly nice guys raggedly running around trying to please old hag wives.

Yes, watching can be fascinating, but your subjects will provide stories and strong characters for you. Have you ever wondered, however, what happens when the watcher gets watched?

In the lobby, during a writer’s conference recently, I watched the people coming and going. As usual, my mind played with many scenarios about them. Then I realized I was watching a bunch of writers and they were also watching me.

I began to wonder what kinds of stories the other writers were drafting because of something I did. Talk about self conscious, it was like being in a room full of psychoanalysts judging my sanity.

My peers were watching me watching them watching me . . . When our imaginations run wild, and our neurosis kicks in, its nice to know we’re not alone. There are others like us, but networking provides more than strength, it’s an idea factory.

Yes, it’s a great way to draft characters and plots, but be careful. I’ve had angry people ask what I’m looking at. Everyone seems to hold onto a false notion of privacy. Little do we realize how much like a play, our lives really are. Someone once said, All the world is a stage and the people, merely players or something like that. Watch it, imagine it, and write it down.

Good Luck with your writing, and your watching—see you next week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Strong Characters

By Keith N Fisher

I’m at LTUE this week. I hope to see you here. I’ll be the one lurking in the back someplace, looking like he knows more than he does.

As part of the conference on Thursday, I attended a panel discussion, called Writing Strong Female Characters. Since I write women’s fiction, I figured it would be wise for me to attend and learn how to make my female characters more believable. You know, Strong? As in well written?

You see I was born male and although I try, I can’t completely fathom the minds of some women. I’m the only male member in a critique group with four women. Also, I’ve learned to listen to pushy women characters, who tell me what they want me to write, but I still need all the help I can get in drafting believable women. So, I attended the class.

It was not what I expected. The panelists began to talk about women who are strong physically and mentally. Feminism was mentioned, as well as not making your characters into men with breasts.

Okay, I’m all for, writing characters who are a little heroic, as long as they have a few faults, but why should all women be able to deal with forces beyond their control? Why should any character have to be stronger than normal people?

Throughout the series, Harry Potter spends a large amount of time whining about his woes. He makes me want to pull him to his feet and tell him to man up. You see, Harry was a great character. He was real. He rose to the challenges presented to him and he made it through. Most of the time it was dumb luck, but he made it through.

So, if we can love a male character like Harry Potter, why do women characters have to be stronger? I guess the big question is why do these discussions have to turn into gender role issues?

I’ve written females who are like many of the women I have known in my life. They rise to a challenge with quiet dignity and bravery. I’ve also written females who are larger than life. Under some circumstances, they could be considered heroes.

I’ve also written males that have the same traits. None of my characters are limited to gender roles unless the plot requires it. I’ve heard many readers want characters who Are larger than life, but I want to write people who are normal.

I sat in the auditorium hoping for advice on making real characters. Instead, I worked on a part of my story that has been troubling me. I deleted several paragraphs, and tried to make my first sentence more compelling.

I’ve met a lot of new friends at the conference, renewed old friendships, and learned a lot from great presenters. Thank you to those who labor long, and hard, to produce the symposium, Life the Universe and Everything (LTUE).

Do you have a favorite female character from a book or movie? Leave a comment and tell me about her and why she is your favorite.

One of my favorites is Celie Harris, from The Color Purple. She was abused from the day she was born. Then certain events and a good friendship helped her rise above the fear and stand up against it. She is a character to be proud of. You can see a clip from the movie here, but be warned there are a few bad words.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

St. Valentine, My Hero

By Keith N Fisher

What are you doing on Monday? Hopefully, you’ll remember to kiss your loved one and wish them a happy Valentine’s Day.

In 2007, I wrote a blog lampooning Valentine’s day and making light of the fact that I didn’t write Romance. I talked about the mad frenzy experienced by husbands who forget to buy a present or put it off until the last minute, forcing them to choose from the remaining offerings.

In 2009, I advocated we, (husbands), band together and become each other’s personal shopper, making sure we are covered, whether or not we forget.

When I sat down to write this year I realized how much had changed in my life. I write women’s fiction now, and that translates to romance. I read romance and watch romantic movies. I’ve become a connoisseur.

I’m a big fan of boy meets girl, they fall in love, overcome obstacles and have the once in a lifetime romance everybody dreams of. In my writing, I plot ways of making two people fall into each other’s lives. I cry when somebody gets a broken heart.

Last night, I watched Valentine’s Day on DVD. In the movie, several plots merge into one. I thought I knew what would happen, but the writer sufficiently surprised me on almost every turn.

It’s written in the same way I wrote my newest submission, with several plots merging into one. I worry about my readers getting confused with the story lines but I think I’ve done a good job. You will laugh, cry, hate the villains, and love the heroes all at the same time.

Anyway I digress . . . According to Wikipedia, in about 496 BC, Pope Gelasius the first, proclaimed a feast to be celebrated every year on February 14. This was to honor three martyred saints of ancient Rome. One of them was allegedly Saint Valentinus.

The feast was slated to replace an old Pagan holiday of Lupercalia that had been celebrated for many years on February 15.

In the Middle Ages, the legends and the feast became associated with romantic love.

In the movie, a character claims St. Valentine was a priest who secretly married several couples who loved each other but were forbidden by the government to marry. I haven’t checked those facts but isn’t that a romantic story?

It kind of reminds you of Shakespeare’s Friar Lawrence who in his compassion married the star-crossed lovers.

Ah, Love. So much of life, begins and ends with the three little words, I love you. Teenagers swoon, men fight wars, girl friends cry, and mothers fuss, all for the idea of love.

It must have been hard for Valentine, to follow his heart and give those couples what they wanted. To be married in the eyes of God, even though they could not live together in the eyes of society. Now that I’m of a romantic mindset, St Valentine is my hero.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Good luck with your writing—see you next week

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Relearning the Craft & LTUE

By Keith N Fisher

I had a great idea for a blog. I thought about it several times during the week. When I sat down to write, it was gone, like so much hot air from a leaky inner tube.

No, I’m not going to belabor the point of writing down ideas when you get them, or carrying a notebook so you can. I’ve written about that before, and I’m sure, you’ve given that message a prominent place in your writers tool kit.

Each week, on this blog, I try to think of subjects that are helpful and timely for those who struggle with the desire to write. If for no other reason, than to provide reassurance that you are not alone in your struggles, others toil too.

I often wonder how I can be so presumptuous? What qualifies me to offer writing advice? The answer, plain and simple, is nothing.

Each week in critique group, I labor to relearn lessons. Last time, they suggested doing something I’ve already done. I wonder if I’m not capable of holding onto the knowledge.

Still, I write to you, each week, hoping to encourage you to keep working. Knowing full well many of you will soar to greater heights. Many of you already have. I hope I’ve been helpful in your journey.

I started down the writer’s path with the assumption I would turn the LDS market upside down. When I won third place in the 2007 LDStorymakers first chapter contest I thought I was on my way.

My belief in my success, and a love of writing, have kept me going. The many friends I met along the way have also lifted me and sustained me. I know I will succeed, some day. How could I fail?

On the 17th-19th of Feb, BYU is holding a conference of sorts. Its for writers and others with a focus on fantasy, science fiction and paranormal. Yeah, that’s what I thought when I heard about it the first time. But I don’t write in that genre. It’s okay, there are plenty of great writing tips. It’s called Life, the universe and everything (LTUE).

I’m going in order to learn more about my craft, check out the cool science fiction, and re-connect with my writing friends. Being around so many creative people charges me, and renews my belief in my ability. I hope to see you there. Maybe we can give each other a boost.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.