Saturday, July 30, 2011

Plugging Holes

By Keith N Fisher

When the tenants move out, the owner of a rental unit will often bring in a crew, to prepare the walls for painting. The process involves plugging nail holes with spackling paste. If the tenants were abusive, the procedure includes the use of wall joint compound and perhaps sheet rock patches.

Frequently, the crew must get close and rub their fingers on the walls, in order to find all the nail holes. Sometimes they miss a few.

Occasionally in our hurry to plot a story, we leave holes that sometimes don’t get plugged. I want to tell you about one that I found.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about re-reading the Deathly Hallows in an effort to refresh my memory before seeing the movie. I also watched the previous movies with my family, launching me into Harry’s world. While working one night, and thinking about the story, I stumbled onto a supposed plot hole.

Spoiler Alert!

Okay, so this might spoil the story, but if you haven’t read the books by now, you might never read them.

When Lord Voldemort went to eliminate baby Harry, he killed James and lily first, then turned his attention to Harry. The curse rebounded and killed Voldemort’s body instead, but because of the horcruxes in which he’d placed part of his soul, he didn’t die. He lived in lessor animals until the time he found Professor Quirrell.

Eventually, he was brought back using a spell, and some of Harry’s blood. After coming to himself in the graveyard, that night, he turned to Wormtail and said, “Give me my wand.”

Later, we learned that Voldemort’s wand and Harry’s wand, have twin cores and we assume that is why, the two wands locked.

So, here is my question. What happened to Voldemort’s wand? What happened to the wand that chose him at eleven years old? The Wand that shared the same phoenix feather as Harry’s?

Let me explain. When Voldemort tried to kill Harry and lost himself, the wand would’ve fallen to the floor. He couldn’t carry it out. What happened to it? How did he get it back? He didn’t have it in the first book. The memory of Tom Riddle didn’t have it in the second book. It wasn’t an issue in the third book, but when he got another body in the fourth book, we see Wormtail giving him his wand, the phoenix feather wand, the twin of Harry’s wand. So, who kept it for thirteen years? How did Wormtail get it? Remember he was kept busy being Ron’s pet rat.
When the wands locked in the graveyard, Voldemort became obsessed to find out why, and determined he couldn’t beat harry with the phoenix wand. In the fifth book, he tried another one, but to no avail. The obsession continued.

In The Deathly Hallows, we learned about wand lore and the fact that wands choose the wizard. Either it will work in tandem with the wizard or it won’t. There is a big issue made of the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world. Voldemort steals it, but it’s not really his.

Okay, back to the question. I was curious, so I invented several scenarios. In one, someone from the Order of the Phoenix came to the house in Godric’s Hollow, found James and Lily Dead, and took the wand. It probably would have ended up in the Ministry of Magic somewhere. Perhaps that’s how Wormtail got it.

Now that I’ve seen the movie, however, I have another theory. There is a scene where Snape arrived at the house, right after Lilly was killed, and his heart broke. The scene left me with another theory. Snape took the wand, but there is a flaw. Snape didn’t contact Voldemort until well after he’d returned. So how did Voldemort get his wand back?

All of this talk about wands brought up another question, are you ready? If the elder wand became Draco Malfloy’s when he disarmed Dumbledore, and Draco’s wand became Harry’s the same way, then what about all those other wands? In almost every book, Harry disarms somebody. Look at Dumbledore’s Army in the fifth book. They disarmed each other several times.

Okay, you can say it has to happen in real combat. So, what about all the wands from the battle to keep the prophecy? What about the wands of the wizards who came to get Harry in the coffee shop in the last book? That’s just a few of the incidents. If the wand chooses the wizard and wands become the property of the victor, then why don’t wands change hands all the time? See it’s a plot hole.

End of Spoiler Alert

I know I’m splitting hairs, but it’s been fun to explore the question. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, because if the truth were told, no writer can find all the holes in a plot and plug them. Like the patching crew in a rental unit, writers sometimes miss the holes.

As writers, we need to run our fingers over the wall of our plot, searching for holes we might’ve missed. As I said, its impossible to find every hole, and there will always be an alert reader, who finds the ones we missed. I hate it when my critique group finds a hole in my plot. It would be much worse if a reader finds one after the book is published.

Remember the plot when you edit, and try to plug the holes. Your book will be better for it.

By the way, I loved the new movie. They left out all the negative stuff about Dumbledore, but it followed the story line for the most part. They added some things like the embellishment of the windup scene, but I liked it. Also, I’m glad they did the epilogue.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Developing Your Writing Talent

By Keith N Fisher

Last week I talked about the phases we go through in becoming the writers we want to be. Then I went to church and heard a lesson on developing your talents. I realized what I should’ve written last week, so I’m going to share it this time.

In the book, Outliers, by Malcom Gladwell, the author talks about studies made where they analyzed what made some musicians great, as opposed to good or mediocre. They found that in every case, the separation happened because of ten thousand hours. All the great ones put in at least ten thousand hours of practice.

The author went on to compare other successful people, He talked about Bill Joy, the author of the current versions of Unix computer systems and Java, he is co-founder of Sun Microsystems and is sometimes called the Edison of the Internet. Yep, he spent ten thousand hours learning to program at night.

As long as we are talking about computer geeks . . . You guessed it, Bill Gates started programming in high school and stealing time on the computer. His mother said about those times, “we always wondered why it was so hard for him to get up in the morning.” Yeah, ten thousand hours.

Are you familiar with the early career of the Beatles? They played in strip clubs in Hamburg for eight hours a day. They were forced to develop a style and play songs they had never heard. They passed through the crucible and emerged as one of the most popular and entertaining bands in history. They found a style all their own, and learned the craft during more than ten thousand hours in Hamburg.

The interesting thing about the study, mentioned above, is they didn’t find any natural born anything. None of the great musicians rose to the top without putting in the practice. And to quote Gladwell, the people at the very top don’t work just harder, or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.

I’ve written about this before, although I didn’t go into detail. I think I’m getting close to my ten thousand hours, are you?

While listening to the lesson on Sunday, I wrote down the six steps to developing a talent. I customized the list for writers.

1. Discover your talent
2. Develop it (be willing to spend the time) ten thousand hours?
3. Have faith in yourself, and God.
4. Learn the skills. (Learn the craft. Go to workshops and conferences).
5. Practice consistently. (Again we go back to ten thousand hours.)
6. Share your talent with others.

It was mentioned that talent is a kind of stewardship. I believe our God will hold us accountable for those talents we neglect. If you were given a desire to write, then do it, but do it with the goal of touching hearts and changing lives. The old saying, you reap what you sew applies here. Many of you are well on your way to putting in your ten thousand hours. Some of you have reached it. Some are getting the hours while reaping the benefits of being published.

Putting in ten thousand hours will not guarantee a contract. It will guarantee you will be a great writer. There are countless famous souls who reached the top of their game, and every one of them have the same thing in common. Ten thousand hours.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Patience is Part of the Craft

By Keith N Fisher

I read the Deathly Hallows again. Since the new movie was just released, I figured it would be prudent to remember what’s supposed to happen. Before I see the flick. I feel sorry for those people who see the movies, but have never read the books. There is so much more story in the book.

Besides, sometimes my imagination of a setting is much better than depicted by the moviemakers.

Anyway, while reading the book, I noticed a few writing and craft errors I hadn’t noticed before. I’m not going to refer to them directly because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I noticed them, I think, because I’m in the middle of editing one of my manuscripts and the mind grows oversensitive.

I’ve always contended that you can find errors in every writer’s work, no matter who he/she is. Some authors get lazy and nobody corrects them, because of who they are, Some authors, make honest mistakes that aren’t caught. The whole thing can be discouraging to unpublished writers.

It takes time, and a lot of practice, to become a great writer. Another truth is, some people are born storytellers. The problem arises when someone with a good story has trouble writing it. Have you noticed there are eight stages every writer passes through on the way to perfecting the craft?

Stage one-inspiration.

An idea hits and the person decides to write. The manuscript sucks. The person keeps writing.

Stage two-rejection.

The writer discovers he needs help. The story wants to be told.

Stage three-assimilation.

The writer learns about craft through conferences, workshops, and books about writing.

Stage four-transformation.

The writer is getting better, makes changes in their manuscript.

Stage five-second rejection, denial.

This usually comes when a critique partner finds a problem. The writer disallows the opinion. The editor doesn’t understand. After all, I made all those changes, didn’t I? This is a dangerous time because the writer sometimes gets argumentative.

Stage six-humble recognition.

After a great amount of soul searching, and more rejection, the writer discovers the critique partner might be right. Besides if one reader has trouble with the manuscript, others will also.

Stage seven-depression.

Why did I ever think I could write? By now, writing has become a way of life and cannot be given up. A writer must continue.

Stage eight-cognition.

The writing is getting better all the time. The writer actually edits his own sentences as he writes. He has written several manuscripts.

As in the case of many authors, sometimes a writer gets published at stage one, sometimes they travel through many more stages than eight. Some writers combine stage one with stage eight. It’s a matter of talent. It’s important to learn patience in the beginning, and remember a few things.

Great storytelling does not necessarily, equal great writing. Also, the reverse is true. As in some author’s case, getting published often comes down to being in the right place, at the right time, with the right story. Isn’t it better to have written a great story well, then to have trouble getting a second book published, because the story is mediocre and the writing sucks?

The most important lesson for most of us, I think, is to keep an open mind during step five. Getting angry is never a good idea, especially when that anger is turned on those who are honestly trying to help you.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Living in a War Zone?

By Keith N Fisher

I have no words of wisdom about writing today except, keep the faith. While thinking of subjects for this blog I realized, I went through the whole weekend and never wrote about Independence Day. I figured I should write something, so . . .

What did you think of the fireworks this year? Not the commercial ones displayed by municipalities, I’m talking about the at-home do-it-yourself kind. I tried to nap before going to work on Monday and was kept awake by all the bangs, cracks, booms and whistles outside. Much of it reminded me of gunfire, but as I left for work that evening, I was surrounded by explosive displays that reminded me of the videos I saw on the news after the US invasion of Iraq.

There we were, in our own neighborhood, living in a war zone because of the celebration. Later, a friend told me how much he spent on fireworks to entertain his grandkids. I wondered how much my neighbors spent on their own displays. Then I factored in all the other neighborhoods. I came up with figures that boggle my imagination.

Don’t think I’m not a fan of fireworks, I am. There’s nothing like lighting the fuse on a colorful marketing ploy, and standing back. The next half-second brings the big pay-off with loud bangs, whistles, and sparks flying. You have to wonder, however, if it’s worth the often fifty-dollars each, price tag. This year, new legislation allowed us to buy certain aerial kinds that delighted the connoisseur. Perhaps that’s why so many localities resembled war zones.

With all the frenzy, it made me wonder . . .

In this day of budget worries, whole neighborhoods are being foreclosed. Politicians claim our national debt is out of control. The economy is causing unemployment, and people want to cut our government purse strings. Yet, with all this hoopla, we still find money for fireworks.

“But, it’s all about patriotism,” you say.

I remember when showing our patriotism meant traveling eighteen miles to a specific store. Fireworks were sold there, by the piece, like penny-candy. We’d shell out our cherry picking money and come home with bags, full of delightful specimens, (no illegal firecrackers, and no sparklers). It was all about the red, white, and blue—that special day of independence. It was cheaper then. Life was cheaper then, but if I didn’t pick cherries during a specific year, I didn’t get any fireworks.

Before you miss my point, you should know I’m not, anti fireworks. Consider this,

And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there.

THe detainees, and those who were imprisoned aboard ship that night, really thought their nation was in peril. They knew if the flag fell, it would indicate their comrades had fallen. The lights in the sky provided hope because they could see the flag still flying.

Other than a little missed sleep this year, I have no problems. Even with the new regulations, I’m pleasantly surprised. There were very few incidents of wildfires and accidents this year. What could be better? Well . . .

Each year, at Christmas, I hear stories about families who donate their entire Christmas budget to charity. The whole concept is fascinating. So . . .

I’m proposing an Independence Day outreach. Who can deny the warm feelings of love expressed at Christmas when a needy family is helped? Currently, victims of war and natural disasters in the world need help. That’s not, to mention the suffering of US citizens.

Let’s turn our nation’s birthday into, a gift from democracy holiday. Since we are so affluent, lets show it. What better way could there be of transplanting freedom across the world? We could be known as the country that cares. I know, many others collect money for those victims, including two ex-presidents, but . . .

Well, okay. I’m plagued with hope that someday, we will have peace. Still, there were a lot of cool fireworks this year, don’t you think?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blank Slate

A book review by Keith N Fisher

Blank Slate, by Heather Justesen, is a story ripped from the headlines. How would it be to suddenly wake up living somebody else’s life? Then to be accused of fraudulently deceiving those you’ve grown to love?

I was scheduled to review this book on Thursday, but with all of the drama that is life I failed. If you’ve been riding the blog tour bus. I’m sorry this stop bogged you down.

When I was asked to contribute my fifty cents about Heather Justesen’s new book, Blank Slate. I gladly accepted. Heather is not only my friend, but also, a mentor. Her writing abilities constantly impress me. She has taken a real life incident and expanded the possibilities.

“What a lovely song,” Adrianna tried to redirect him as she slid from his embrace. “Is it classical?” She was still trying to figure out which songs fit into which musical style.

He released her as if he’d been burned and looked her in the eye. “This is Giovanni Garieli, the Italian Renaissance composer, and the song isn’t simply lovely He threw his hands up and turned from her, taking two steps away, then flipped back around to face her. “Who are you? I swear you got a total personality transplant in that accident. You won’t kiss me. You refuse to even try playing the piano. You can suddenly spell words I didn’t think you’d ever heard before. And worst, you know absolutely nothing about music—music that was your entire life before the accident.”

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, but it’s obvious to most readers what has happened, but you don’t mind. Heather weaves a tail of intrigue wondering when the mistaken identity will be revealed.

This book should be a must read on your list of new releases for the season. You can find a copy at the following links:

Smashwords version
The author's website

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Take Courage Dear Writer

By Keith N Fisher

I watched a documentary on PBS the other day. It claimed women just aren’t recognized for their contributions as artists. The feminist program discussed the sacrifices women have made to answer their callings as artists. I noticed they didn’t discuss women writers.

A couple of years ago, Tristi Pinkston made a presentation at a Storymakers conference and talked about how hard it is for women to be a wife and mother and still find time to write. At one point, she asked me to share my feelings from a man’s point of view. I believe I said it’s hard for fathers, too. I think all artists and writers, women or men, struggle in that way.

While watching the program, I recognized the feelings they were trying to convey. During the past couple of years, I’ve undergone a forced renovation in my life. Through loss of job and personal upheaval things have not been easy. I’ve tried to lean on my family and my writing to get through, but I’ve also run headlong into other people’s expectations.

One of the artists in the program talked about her struggle with her now ex, husband. He felt he needed more from her, and was unwilling to share his needs with her art. They reached what she felt was a fair and equitable divorce, but he dragged her back into court. He sued for custody of the children and called her mothering into question. She struggles with validation and feels a need to prove herself to everyone by being the best artist she can be. I think there might be a lesson in that.

Another artist on the program talked about her membership in the Mormon Church. She has been blessed with a “forever family,” and they understand her quirks, but there were undertones of strain about the time she takes for her art.

One of the major points of the program was the claim that male artists are paid more, and get more recognition, than do women artists. That might be true for painters and sculptors, but there are more published women writers than men in the world. Especially, in the LDS market.

I’m not trying to downplay anyone’s struggle. The truth is, we all have demands on our time, but I’ve noticed something in my culture. You see good husbands are characterized by how much they help around the house in the hours after they return home from the workplace. The unstated expectation is, he should take over while Mom has a few hours for herself. That’s a little hard to do and write, too. I should point out that I fail miserably at that.

In our culture, men are expected to make a living. If their family must go without some luxuries, it better not be because they work at mastering a craft like art. After all, the odds of success are astronomical.

My point in writing about this subject is to call attention to the plight of artists everywhere. Men or women, Artists, teachers, ministers and the like are paid less and gain less respect than do other occupations. There is a reason the phrase “starving artist” was first coined. Of course almost everybody gets less than sports figures. Seems like our value system is messed up.

I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, but I know several successful writers who still struggle. The best advice for everyone is keep trying to make it work. The Mormon artist I wrote about has sold so many pieces of art that she honestly can’t remember working on some of them. She takes gratification in her success. It does become worth it.

During the Whitney Awards this year we honored the writer of many works including two hymns in the LDS hymnbook the author is Susan Evans McCloud and my favorite hymn she wrote is Lord I Would Follow Thee. It was said by the presenter that she often had her little girl come to her and say, Mom, Stop typing.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week