Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting the Story Straight

By Keith N Fisher

I’m sixty-five thousand words into one of my stories and I just found out my protagonist collects crystal bells. No big deal except in one scene, she drops her purse on the floor and breaks a bell her daughter in law gave to her. I had to rewrite the first parts and establish the fact that she is a collector, hence the reason for the gift.

Don’t you just love it when you have to go back and get the story straight? In fiction, adding facts in the middle of the story can be confusing. In Non-fiction, being wrong can cost your credibility.

Lately, I’ve been reading a non-fiction book that deals with Utah history and I’m a little put out by some of the author’s interpretations. I’ve read many of the first hand accounts and I’m finding discrepancies.

It makes me wonder how many inaccurate facts have been written into the record. I’m sure you’ve heard that history is often written by the victorious. If that’s true, then can we trust it?

Thinking forward makes me wonder about fifty years from now. How will today’s news be reported in the history books? I sometimes doubt it will be accurate since I often hear reporters twist facts to make the evening news entertaining. Because of that guidepost I have to ask, is it okay to sacrifice correctness to make a book interesting?

Have you ever been in a room full of family members and listened to a story that is different from the way you remember it? Just because someone was there doesn’t mean they haven’t embellished the facts. The standard who, what, when, and where gets cut from the narrative.

My mother loves to talk about when her kids were young. I cringe when she talks about me because she often gets the story wrong. When I try to correct the facts my brother asks, what does it matter? Just let her tell her story. Would it matter to you?

In the book I’m reading, the author writes about the supposed Hiram Beebe connection to the Sundance Kid. He tells the story as if it were fact. Now, many of us believe Sundance was living in Fountain Green, Utah and went to Mount Pleasant for a drink in the bar. He killed a deputy who was trying to prevent him from driving drunk and died in the Utah State Prison.

The problem with telling that story is that it was never proven. If I forget to go back and establish my character as a collector, it will confuse my readers. If an author includes the Hiram Beebe speculation in non-fiction, a footnote is imperative. Getting the story straight is essential. Also, if there are several versions of a story the author needs to say that.

Often, non-fiction becomes a source of reference that textbooks are derived from. If the source is flawed, then so are the facts. People tend to believe everything in print.

I used to shake my head during church meetings when people stood at the pulpit and quoted from The Work and The Glory, by Gerald N Lund. Some of those people believed it was all historical fact, even though the author took great pains to separate the fact from the fiction. Some people actually believed the Steeds were a real family who lived during those times.

That’s a great testament to the author’s character building ability, but it also emphasizes the need to be accurate in non-fiction.

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, because readers want to believe, authors often become an authority on a subject simply because they wrote about it in their fiction. The News commentator, Paul Harvey used to talk about the time he was called upon to report about something that happened in England simply because he’d just returned from there. Later, he claimed his information was gleaned from an AP Teletype, but he was the authority. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if the AP reporter had given the wrong information?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


By Keith N Fisher

I'm late! I had to write this in a hurry. Please excuse my writng mistakes.

Last week, I was at the August Authorama and what a good day it was. I think they sold dozens of books. Of course, I made dump cobblers in Dutch ovens. We got a few compliments, but I was more gratified to see my cousin drive up with my aunt in tow. They’d seen the flyer and came to purchase my book. I had to tell them told them I was just the cook at that event, then I steered them to the books of my friends.

Understandably, the experience made me wish I was launching my own book and I reflected on my journey. I started writing several years ago, without much success. I got serious about it in 2005 and I’ve been learning the craft ever since.

Early on, without really knowing why, I supported others in their quest, while following my own. I’ve been pleased to see many of my friends, find publishing success.

The other day, while attending a church meeting, one of our friends handed us a flyer announcing a book signing for her daughter’s book. It was a children’s book telling the story her grandfather told for many years.

Of course, I admit a little jealousy. I want to see my own work in print. But then I remembered the lyrics to the theme song for both a movie and TV show:

I'm gonna live forever. I'm gonna learn how to fly.


I feel it coming together. People will see me and cry.


I'm gonna make it to heaven—Light up the sky like a flame


I'm gonna live forever. Baby remember my name.

I realized that everyone deserves the attention of their peers. In one way, or another, people crave it. Poets have written about it. Even mass murderers seek it. Mass murderers you ask?

Have you noticed that almost every time there is an incident like the Columbine High School massacre, the perpetrators leave notes talking about their feelings of anonymity? In their mind they’ve worked out a scenario that will make them famous. People will remember their name forever.

In large part they are right. Who can forget the name, Ted Bundy? It’s tragic to see any of God’s children come to that point.

Do you remember show and tell? Once a week while in grammar school we were encouraged to bring an item of interest and tell the class why it was cool. The activity taught many valuable lessons about public speaking and participation, but it gave us far greater rewards. You see, each of us were given or moment to be famous.

I mentioned above, that I didn’t really know why seeing my friends succeed was gratifying for me. I’ve written about it before, but I realized a few years ago, that one of the reasons I was given a desire to write was for others. Not just the people who will read my books, but those I network with. Perhaps my calling in life is to help others get their moment.

Back in 2000, I had my moment. My wife and I were competing in the Worlds Championship Dutch oven cook off. A local TV personality wanted to interview a few of us, and I was one of them. I was on television showing my cooking talents and I was famous for fifteen minutes. It was show and tell all over again.

In 2005, we finally took first place in that cook off. We were world champions, and were interviewed again. I talked about how lucky we had been. In fact, it came at a very hard time in my life. I needed the uplift in my self- esteem, so perhaps it was a blessing.

I can’t begin to explain how much I want that for others. Unfortunately, in our society, most people have to do something special, like write a book in order to be recognized. We can’t show up for show and tell, and not bring something to show.

Wouldn’t it be better if we all tried to help others feel special? Who cares if they never do anything noteworthy? Who cares if they’re too shy for show and tell? The news stories indicate mankind is feeling lost and alone. Perhaps she can do something about it.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m perfect. Like everyone else, I get caught up in my own troubles, but I have noticed a difference if I put them aside and help another.

Keep up the good work. Don’t quit—keep writing and be best you can be. I promise I will cheer for you. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Mouth Runneth Over

Okay, I know I shouldn't get political, but I have a couple questions. Why is it okay for Regan to triple the national debt spending money on the economy? Why was it okay for George W Bush to authorize a free money giveaway in order to get the economy moving? Why was it okay to spend money on the economy, but its not okay for FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, and Obama to do it?

No one wants to admit it, but the world has been in a depression since the the GW Bush administration brought the ecomony to its knees. Historically, we have thrown money at it, in order to stimulate the economy. It's what Nixon did, its what Regan did. Carter cut government spending and he got blamed for the national debt that Regan promptly tripled.

People, this country was founded on debt. We borrowed money to finance the revolution. We have been in debt from the beginning. Its nothing new. Do you remember the big counters in New York in the seventies and eighties? they counted our debt and displayed each citizen's share.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


By Keith N Fisher

I didn’t get any comments on last week’s blog. Therefore, I get to keep the chocolate bar.

Did you ever notice how much writing fiction teaches you? I’m not talking about the craft of writing, but facts and information about many different things. For example, I wrote a story about a girl who gets shot in New York’s, Washington Square. I spent hours on the Internet and reading books, just to get a feel for the setting.

Shortly after I wrote my story, I watched the movie, August Rush. As you probably know, much of that movie was set in Washington Square. With out knowing that, I watched with a sense of familiarity. When they showed the arch, I knew I had been there before. Writing about it is as good as being there.

I suppose my character could’ve gotten shot in Temple Square in Salt Lake, but she demanded the New York setting.

In another story, I researched a Subdural Hematoma because my character had bone shards in her brain after getting beat up and almost killed. The doctors missed it in the initial x-rays, and it eventually put her in convulsions.

In another story, a character was traveling with a wagon train full of freight. He is part of an altercation set in City of Rocks, Idaho. To write the scene, I needed a sense of place. Also, since the story is set in nineteenth century, I needed a historical background. I can’t count the times I have gone to Google Earth to make sure about a location.

Recently, a character couldn’t find anything to wear to dinner. She wanted to make a special impression so she went shopping. Of course she dragged me along with her. I went to the catalogues and sale circulars to find the perfect outfit, and laughed that writing had taught me how to shop for women’s clothes.

Once, I sat in a class taught by Robison Wells. Among other books, he wrote The Counterfeit and took us on a journey through the catacombs of Paris. As part of the class, he showed us his research. Between Google maps and many Internet sites, he learned enough to write the book.

As writers, we are all students of one thing or another. The threat of our readers finding a flaw looms over our heads and forces us to be accurate. Yes it is fiction, but if you write about a certain place, like Washington Square, readers will stop reading if you get something wrong.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending a picnic with some fellow writers from AI. Afterward, Lt. Gary Giles from the Orem City, Utah police department, taught us about weapons. He gave us hands on training in shooting, and talked about some of the things every writer should know. For example, Gary pointed out that if your character is firing an automatic pistol, the scene will be littered with shell casings. As opposed to a revolver, which doesn’t eject the shells.

Having grown up around guns, I enjoyed the training from a police officer’s point of view, but many of my peers had never been around a weapons fire. They were able to feel and shoot many different guns and learned a lot. Thanks Gary, for taking the time, and Thanks Nichole, for setting it up.

As a writer, I owe it to my readers to be accurate in my descriptions. Some things just can’t be described without a working knowledge of the place or the experience. Take the time task to a professional. Use the Internet, and learn all you can.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Help, I’m Stuck! And the Promise of Goodies

By Keith N Fisher

I wrote this blog without reading G Parker’s first. It seems I have a partial answer for her, at the same time I’m asking for help with a scene. I have dozens of ideas for my scene but I thought I’d make a contest out of it.

One night, many years ago, I went hunting rabbits with some of my friends. In those days, the rabbit population had exploded and we didn’t need permits to use spotlights, so we went hunting a lot.

Our method involved driving a truck cross country, around sagebrush and through ravines, but that particular night we were in a two-wheel drive, with very low ground clearance.

We stayed on the roads and didn’t see many rabbits, then we came to a place where the road went down to a low spot and back up the other side. A benign mud puddle at the bottom didn’t seem that threatening. Especially since the area around it was bone dry. I remember someone saying, “Just gun it, you’ll make it.”

Moments later, we came to an abrupt stop in the bottom of the wash and I hit the dashboard. (We didn’t have seatbelts in those days). My friend’s truck was buried to the floorboards in the mud bog from Hades.

Through the night, we tried everything to release the hold on that truck. Finally, the sun came up, and we sent two guys to look for a telephone. (No cell phones either). We looked around and discovered we had found the only mud within miles.

I don’t remember who came with a four-wheel drive to drag us out, but that truck had turned brown from a covering of mud. It was Sunday and I missed church. My parents never quite believed my story, and I learned a few valuable lessons that night.

I’m currently working on a story that has a great beginning and end. Most of the middle is written, too, but I need a plot twist. I’m stuck in the proverbial bog hole and I’m calling my friends for help.

My character is self-centered but she’s had more than her share problems in her life. I need her to cause the postponement, possibly the cancellation of a wedding between her son and the daughter of her former boyfriend.

Put on your thinking caps and tell me a few ways this could happen. If I use your suggestion, I’ll mention it in the credits of the book. Okay, maybe I’ll send you a large candy bar, too. I call that, chocolate incentive. As for my colleague, have someone else read it and make suggestions. Like my friends who came with the four-wheel drive truck, sometimes it takes a fresh approach.

By the way, stop by Pioneer Books in Orem, Utah next week. I’ll be making Dutch oven cobbler during the August Authorama. Tristi Pinkston is launching her new book in the Secret Sisters series. Cobbler is on first come, first served basis. See the flyer I attached.

Meanwhile, good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I'm making dump cobbler for this event. First come, First served.

Come celebrate the launch of Hang 'Em High, by Tristi Pinkston