Saturday, August 25, 2012

Finding Waldo

By Keith N Fisher

I sat on my porch the other day chatting with my friend about the many facets of life. During the course of our discussion, I discovered I’ve held on to many dreams over the years. Some came true, others fell by the wayside, but all of them merited my undivided attention while I dreamed.

Always, my dreams beget goals, which turned into plans that forced me to action. I used to lye awake at night working out the details. Now, my writing goals and wishes consume most of my thoughts. My characters keep me awake at night, as I try to craft the manuscript that will propel me toward my goal.

It occurred to me that we sometimes put too much time and energy into our dreams. Have you ever seen the Where’s Waldo? Books? Each page is a masterful collage painting of people and things designed to hide the Waldo character. Your job as a reader is to find the hidden character on the page.

Often, a scouring search turns into an all consuming quest to find that little guy. My daughter had severalsimilar books called I Spy where you’re given a list of things to find before you turn the page. The searches kept us busy for hours, but left us with time spent with each other and not much else accomplished.

Several of the writers I know, including myself, are like the readers of those books. We dream and plan. We work hard plotting and crafting, trying to write the perfect manuscript. We sweat blood during lean times and find joy in winning a writing contest. Through it all, our all consuming goal is to find Waldo and get our dreams fulfilled.

But what, then?

I’ve known published authors who revel in their success, then founder, because their dreams were brighter than the reality. They spent many hours looking for the little guy on the page and were disappointed when they found him.

My advice for me, and you, is to enjoy the journey. Take time to look up from the page. Don’t fall victim to the Things will be different when I get this manuscript published syndrome. Finding Waldo can be a glorious thing, but finding Waldo isn’t everything, and it can be so much better if you have someone to share it with.

Writing is often a solitary thing. We dream in private and work in silence. The key is in finding more things to dream about. Spend time with other, non-writing, goals and be prepared for when you find Waldo.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

By Keith N Fisher

I’m sorry for my erratic posting. I used to post just after midnight every Saturday. Isn’t it funny how things combine to force us into lifestyle changes?

In a busy week of mediocre problems, (I say mediocre, because I know many of you face larger problems.) I had trouble thinking of a subject for my blog post. Then, last night I was reminded of human trait to which, I succumbed.

While at work, I sold several batches of nachos, and walked by the display many times. Each time a customer brought them up to the register, I enjoyed the aroma. There were many different combinations depending on personal tastes. Some customers added peppers, some didn’t. Others added onions. Some added chili while others added Pico de gallo.

Some people mixed chili and cheese in the container and waited to add the chips so they could savor the crunchiness. I’m not one of those.

As I get older, I’ve learned that avoiding certain food items, and snacks, saves me from sleepless nights and embarrassment from bad teeth with cheap dental work. I usually avoid nachos these days. Although I admit, I like to let the chips soak in the cheese sauce until they’re limp like a wet noodle.

I love to pick the chips out of the sauce and get gooey fingers. It takes several napkins to wipe sauce from my beard and mustache. It’s like eating BBQ ribs, lobster, and corn on the cob. Getting messy is part of the fun.

Still, eating nachos before going to bed these days, is a recipe for disaster. When I got off work this morning, however, I purchased some. I couldn’t help myself. I was the victim of the power of suggestion.

As a writer, it’s my job to combine words that suggest an idea to a reader. If I do it right, the power to influence feelings can fall on my fingertips. Just as I might’ve influenced your taste buds by writing about my nacho experience, writers can influence good and bad thoughts.

Now it’s true, a story can influence one person in a different way than it does others. I’ve heard serial killers say they were influenced by a movie or other media. I’ve also heard high praise for how a book changed a life for good.

Many writers don’t realize the influence they have. They write things on social media, and other places, that readers take to heart. We write things on blogs and readers think we are experts. The danger lies in not being careful about what we say. Followers could fall victim to the power of suggestion.

It’s an awesome responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Dream of the Future

By Keith N Fisher

Not too long ago, the printed word on paper was still the way most of us caught up on current events. Television news was great, but nothing compared to reading a morning newspaper while eating breakfast. The paperback book had gained a large share of the market, and I wrote novels on a manual typewriter.

Although, I’m not the only person to get the idea, I later, caught a vision of the future. It came while watching Star Trek on TV and in movies. I noticed that reading, writing, and even maintenance reports in the ST universe, are done with electronic pads. It made perfect sense to me. I predicted we would spare the trees and imbed everything on computer chips. In the future we would check out electronic pads from the library. The required shelf space would be cut in half.

My prediction came before the World Wide Web really took hold. I figured research would be done with a stack of electronic pads sitting on a desk. I never considered the actual electronic file.

I walked by a newsstand the other day and had to stop and read the headline. It was the fulfillment of my prediction, it read, Libraries countywide begin putting serious cash into e-books. The article said that libraries are bowing to the patrons who own e-readers.

With the advent of e-books and e-readers, the future is here. Even though I was wrong about the way we would receive the books, we can check out and read them on our pads. Writing can also be done on those same pads. I now, write on an 11-inch laptop.

Even though we are living the inevitability of the future, I think we’ve lost more than we’ve gained. It’s true I use the Internet for research, and I get my news from TV and Yahoo. I take my laptop almost everywhere, but I can’t see what’s on the screen. E-readers are small, but they will never replace the look and feel of a newly printed book. The pleasure of spilling my oatmeal on the paper, with it spread out on the table, will never be replaced. I’m learning to do without. I don’t sit down for breakfast anyway.

I’ve written before about e-book pricing and my feelings concerning selling our work too cheap. Therefore, it’s probably best to not bring that up again. Nevertheless, the cat is out of the bag, we must deal with our creation. We probably won’t suffer the burden of too many e-readers on our desks, as in Star Trek, but I don’t think readers will grow tired of paper either. Then again, maybe I ought to seal my books in a vault for the future. They might be antiques someday.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Watching a Full Moon Through Tree Branches

By Keith N Fisher

I attended an event to support the Pleasant Grove, Utah library. It was also the launch party for Tristi Pinkston’s new book, Turning Pages. There were several authors selling and signing their books then donating a portion of the proceeds to the library.

During the event, organized by Tristi, I sat next to one of my favorite authors and chatted about her books. I also listened as many unpublished writers talked to her about different parts of the writing craft and the trouble they were having. I was reminded of the many facets of the craft and the difficulty in mastering it.

While plotting might be easy for some writers, characterization might be difficult for them. Maybe its visa versa, and so on.

One writer talked to my friend about description and I perked up, knowing that has been one of my troubles over the years. In an effort to avoid flowery descriptions, I had developed a habit of getting from point A to point B in the quickest way possible. Then, an editor suggested I add more description because I had written the facts, but left too much for the imagination. I learned that being succinct is preferable in articles and short fiction, but novel readers want more details.

In order to fix the problem, I began to add more description and setting, but I’d made it too wordy. So, I re-discovered metaphors. Inserting details into a reader’s mind, with a few words, however, is not an easy task.

For an example, consider this paragraph I’ve been working on,

Two weeks later, the doorbell woke Rebecca from a nap on the couch. She kicked an empty Vodka bottle across the floor on the way to answer it.

It still needs work but you begin to understand what’s been going on in Rebecca’s life for the past two weeks.

If I described the light of a full moon through the branches of the trees, You’re mind would jump to a conclusion about setting. Now, if I take that same moon, and tell you about the light shining through broken dark clouds, you get a different idea. Then if I add the wind and perhaps the howl of a wolf in the distance, what do these words tell you about the setting?

A word of caution, however. The metaphors we use must provide an image for our readers. If you’d never seen a full moon through broken dark clouds you might have trouble getting the picture. You might not understand.

For a case in point, turn to a Star Trek the next generation episode. In Darmok, episode 2 of season 5, the Enterprise encounters a race of aliens who speak entirely in metaphor. Realizing that fact didn’t help, because the Enterprise crew had no frame of reference to understand the metaphor.

As writers, we must consider who our intended readers are. Will they understand our metaphors? Another problem occurs with too much familiarity. A cliché will provide resonance but it will also bore the reader.

Writing is like Tony Stark fine tuning his Iron Man suit in order to make it fly. Sometimes a writer hits the wall like Tony. If that writer keeps working at it, they will eventually get it right. They will have drawn a perfect picture in a reader’s mind with few words.

Notice the simile above? Like metaphors, similes can also get you into trouble. If you didn’t see the movie, you probably won’t understand the simile.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.