Monday, February 28, 2011

What does your Antagonist/Protagonist Believe, Philosophically

The philosophy of my antagonist Smitty is as described below. He, Smitty, may very well believe he is not philosophical, but everyone some extent. If you believe or disbelieve in something then you are philosophical to the exact extent.

Here's how Smitty thinks: Life is about pain. Every experience is based on our need to eliminate pain, to make pain more bearable or to escape pain altogether. The thought appears pessimistic on the surface, because vanity demands that all is well with us. The reality is that there is a price to pay for whatever we want. If we make choices based on the concept that the end is more important than the means, we sacrifice integrity and through this act of vanity, we sometimes sacrifice our soul.

The price we pay based on immoral choices is much greater than that which we bargained for. The price we end up paying is much greater, because vanity like evil is a most demanding master. This thought does not irritate Smitty in the least. It should. The thing is, due to his background of struggle and poverty, he is willing to pay almost any price for a few years of luxury, even if it means sacrificing his soul. It's a natural conclusion for Smitty because he does not believe in the hereafter, nor does he care.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Say What You Mean

Choose your words carefully. Not any word will do. Keep it simple (K.I.S.S.) but effective.

Words are like medicine or bullets, depending on your perspective. The point is few words are absolutely synonymous. Meaningful connotations rest in the root of words and its significance is not always hidden. Meaning is more apparent to people who speak the language from which the root word originated. Whether we use words in a narrative or from spoken dialog of a character, it is important to choose words commensurate with the speaker's personality and equally relevant to the subject.

For example, You can say you like something, someone or an event, or you can say you were enchanted by it. Can you feel the difference? The impact you feel derives from the latin root of word encantador which means charming or delightful.

Encantar (latin) means to cast a spell on or to bewitch. In light of this explanation, would you rather you spouse confess he likes you, or that he is enchanted by your presence?

The above example reflects emotion and subjectivity, however, words convey practical significance, also. Words are important in business communication. For example, consider the word "authentic." This word will imply a hybrid thought. The writer should be cognitive of the presented duality: authentic and artificial. Let's say you were to invite a business personality to an event. If you are competitive you will want to point out precisely why you are inviting this person, beyond consideration of her/his general professional credentials. For instance, if you needed a doctor, why this particular doctor? Well, he specialize in surgery and surgery is the nature of your interest. Not good enough. There are many surgeons.

If you want to genuinely flatter this person and provide a real service to your audience, then bring the topic to a personal level and use words that describe your insight. For example, I invited another published writer to crit my work, not simply because she was published. The fact that she wrote thrillers, also, is important but that was not good enough. I invited her (begged her) to help me because she was particularly strong in areas where I am weak. I pointed that out to her as we spoke. "You provide a genuine benefit to me particular to my weakness."

Can you see how this word "genuine" implies an open end question and provide intelligent exchange?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Top 20 Opening Chapters/thrillers

Here is a list of the top 20 opening chapters I have discovered. If you find more challenging openings, please let me know. I would love to see them. Obviously, there are many good books with interesting and well written first chapters. We are looking for the most compelling opening chapters in thrillers for this exercise, however a couple books are selected from a different genre. Go to and read those first chapters.

Here they are:

The Water's Edge by Karin Fossum
Hardball by Sara Paretsky
The Unquiet by John Connally
The Listener by Shira Nayman (no killing, just great suspense)
The Watchlist by Jeffrey Deaver

The 5th Victim by Jeffrey Deaver
Last Girl Dancing by Holly Lisle
Tonight You're Mine by Carlene Thompson
Homicidal Intent by Vivian Churn
Hit & Run by Casey Moreton
The Confessor by Daniel Silva
The Guesser by John Connally
The Hard Way by Lee Child
The 9th Judgment by James Patterson
Double Take by Catherine Coutler
The Inquisitor by Peter Clement
The Escape by Dr. Marcel Crespil
Jar City by Arnadul Indridson
Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen
The Shack by William P. Young

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to Write Extremely Colorful Dialog

I challenge you to complete an exercise in dialog, only. No tags or blocking (that means no 'he said,' she said" etc.)

Try to evoke character, conflict and plot.
Create a conflict using only two individuals.
Do not use narrative or exposition, dialog only.

Run it from one to 5 pages. The idea is to see how well you can create fast moving dialog without exposition. Use no description of the surroundings unless it is done through relevant dialog.

This can be a short story, the beginning of a novel or, perhaps the start of a novel.
Terry Bisson did a great job with this in his short story, "They're Made of Meat."

Here is an exercise I completed which I will use in an upcoming novel called Bank's Vice. (Let me know if you accept the challenge).

“Why are you looking at me that way?”
“You know more than you’re telling us, don’t you?”
“Like what for example?”
“You know who did it.”
“I don’t know anything. “
“Then tell us, why did you run?”
“You came down the alley driving like crazy. You didn’t have any sirens on. How was I supposed to know you were cops?”
“You could have jumped out of the way if you thought you were in danger, but you didn’t. We chased you damn near two miles on feet, all the while screaming, police stop. But you didn’t stop did you?”
“What do you want from me?”
“Names. Addresses.”
“Like I said, two guys were running from the building when I got there. I didn’t see their faces.”
“And you didn’t have a conversation with them?”
“No. I don’t usually stop armed men and make friends with them.”
“Then why would someone testify that you did?”
“Who said that?”
“Did you?”
“Did I what?”
“Did you talk to the killers?”
“Someone saw you talking to those men in front of the library, yesterday.”
“Yesterday? Yes, I …I talked with two strangers ….at the….library, yesterday.”
“Why did you deny it?”
“I didn’t deny anything. Are you trying to tell me those strangers are the same men who killed those people tonight?”
“Who said someone was killed?”
“I heard gunshots. People often die from that you know?”
“How many shots did you hear?”
“Five. Six or more. No more than ten.”
“But probably more than five?”
“I thought you said the men were fleeing the building when you arrived.”
“They were.”
“But you heard shots. How much time exhausted between the time you heard the shots and the time you saw the fleeing men?”
“Where were you when you heard the shots?”
“Just around the corner. About ten feet away.”
“And then you approached the building?”
“You put yourself in harms way after you heard the gunshots?”
“I work there.”
“So, because you work there you decided to walk in the directions where you heard the shots.”
“You weren’t afraid.”
“I guess not.”
“You weren’t afraid of the bad guys, but you ran from us…the cops? Do you own a gun?"
"Let me guess. A nine milimeter. Silverplated?"
"Where is it?"
"It was stolen."
"Did you file a police report?"
"No. What are you getting at?"
"I'm getting at two men. Men you know. Men who killed tonight."
"You're not planting this on me. I don't know anything about it. I was simply going to work when the killing started."
“What time do you normally report to work?”
“Seven forty five.”
“Seven forty five sharp over the past three years isn’t that right?”
“But you were late today. Why?”
“I stopped for donuts.”
"Any reason why we would find a 9 milimeter silver plated pistol ten feet from where we stopped you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Any reason why your fingerprints should be on it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
“ Donuts. Where?”
"Where what?"
"Where did you stop for donuts?"
“Krispy Crème.”
“Which one?”
“The one on Peachtree and tenth.”
“Will anyone remember you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you often stop there?”
“Why stop by this morning?”
“I was hungry.”
“Those men, the suspects stopped by Krispy Crème this morning, also. The clerk said there was a third man. Know who that might be?”
“I wanna see my lawyer.”
“You’ll need him. Stand up and turn around. Put your hands behind your back.”

Next Saturday, I will demonstrate how to make the reader remember you forever, based on the machinations of this type of dialog. See post February 19, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Succeed In Writing Because You Love It

Your gifts will make room for you and bring you before great people - Proverbs 18:16

This post is just a kind reminder of what you already know.

Don't worry about agents, publishers, genres nor question who will read your book. That is stinking thinking and ultimately counterproductive to success.

Just write it. Make your story the best it can be and don't worry about the results. After all, we can't control results. To think so is a grand illusion. We do have control over the chapters we write, the characters we create and the overall input we invest in the written product.

The only secret to success is to do what we love. We must do what we were born to do. God did not give us talent to waste. He gave us this gift so that we can positively impact the lives of others. The above subtitle bears repeating. Your gifts will make room for you and bring you before great people.

There is a space reserved at the top for each of us who live out those most viable principles of success. A study of extremely successful people share those principles in common. Here they are.

* Do what you love.
* Do your very best.
* Reach out to others with an open mind and pleasing personality.
* Give of your talents freely to help others.

Many successful entrepreneurs tend to give the above advice in many ways. Stanley Marcus, founder of Neiman Marcus stores will tell you "Take care of the product and it won't come back. Take care of the customer and she will."

He's simply giving us his perspective on the above formula: love what you do and create the best product possible. The customer, in this case, our readers will come back because we have loved our work and made it the best it can be.

On the contrary, do not write anything you don't believe in. Here's a case in point. Last year I was asked to ghostwrite a book for a handsome amount of money. I needed the money but I rejected the offer because the nature of the book was opposed to everything I believe in. It would have been a poor use of time and spiritually unproductive to entertain the thought beyond the time it took to thank the gentleman for the opportunity and dismiss the idea. I am not bragging, as it was emotionally taxing to have been exposed to an offer to which I am so opposed, especially because it involved a good deal of money. Here's my point. If we compromise on principle, we block out that space in which our gifts are creating room for us.

There is a new book entitled, "Do You," by Russell Simmons. Mr. Simmons is a man who was born broke, surrounded by shady characters in business, yet he became a billionaire at a relative young age. I plant to read this book, thoroughly during my next trip to the library and I will probably purchase it for my collection.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Magical Power of Perspective

Have you found the magic? The good news is that you don't have to look for it. It will find the real you. Now, that's the trick. The operative phrase being: the real you. Someone once said that if you don't know where you're going any road will get you there. Hackneyed? Yes, but it's equally profound.

If we are spiritually connected, our true destiny will find us. If we can overcome the gravity of materialism and people worship, we will find diamonds in the rough by way of the people we meet, the ideas and values we embrace and sometimes, even in our dreams.

The Buddhist believe strongly in the power of what is called Nyo Ze Factors. Here they are: nyo ze so, nyo ze ze , nyo ze sho, nyo ze sa, nyo ze in, nyo ze en, nyo ze riki, nyo ze ka, nyo ho and nyo-ze-hon-mak- -kyuoto. These are ten factors of nature, designed to expiate one's bad karma caused by one's negative thoughts and behavior. Interpreted, they represent: Appearance, Nature, Power, Influence, Internal cause, Relation, Latent effect, Energy and drive, Manifest effect and Consistency from beginning to end.

When I lived in Los Angeles (where I grew up) many of my friends were involved in Hollywood, one way or another. I loved them, but I never had an interest in Hollywood. That factor probably helped to produce our friendship in an abstract way. For example, when out in public with them, I observed first hand, the pathetic nature of star gazers and paparazzi. While I don't feel sorry for my most fortunate friends, I understand the madness. They could not sit down to a decent meal at a restaurant without the gazes and inteterruptions. Because I am not famous, I saw upfront what we regulars must look like when mesmerized by famous personalities. What does that have to do with writing? Everything. Read on.

During my visit to the far east, Seoul Korea in particular, I attempted to soak up some Eastern culture. Oh, how we are so different in the west. It is relatively enlightening to ensue the other side, to peruse a different perspective on life, a perspective diametrically opposed to our own. It's okay, don't defend yourself, just travel with me, vicariously, for a moment and bring your main characters along with you.

Before leaving for Korea, I spent time with a good friend of mine who happens to be a world re known businessman. As we spoke in a hotel lobby, a few people gathered around. Simultaneously, there were two businesspeople next to us who drew a large crowd of Americans. They were attracted to these gentleman because the men were famous. They listened to my friend for a moment, then returned their attention to the famous personality believing they would learn more from him. Little did they know, my friend, Nolan, was far more famous, more successful, more generous and knowledgeable in business than all of us combined.

Later, I asked Nolan why he had not mentioned his background (or his last name) when I introduced him. He responded, "...because I already know who I am."

The point of the story is that we in the west perceive value based on notoriety, material and commercial success. Although, individuals who rightfully exemplify those values are worthy of honor for their accomplishments, and although they have much to offer, it does not mean they are spiritually appointed to encourage each admirer toward his or her destination.

The nyo ze factors mentioned above are designed to put us in the company of the right people at the right time.

"They are looking to be sold," Nolan said. I did not understand his conveyance at the time, but I do today.

After visiting the far east, substantially, I began to grasp a part of universal wisdom which we rarely confront in the west. It is not about commerce. Our calling in life is not written on a brochure. Enlightment is not sold. Great fictional characters and great books emanate from the hearts and minds of passionate people, long before they become famous. The greatest works of the masters are often unseen, unread, unspoken. Some of John Lenon's greatest music was revealed after his death. The same will be manifested in Michael Jackson's music. The same is true among painters such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Their best work was done long before fame was realized. Tiger Woods best golf game took place during a causal match with friends, not at The Masters. As readers and writers, part of our call to destiny is to enjoy those diamonds in the rough, before the necessity of commerce destroys genius given to increased public appetite calling for prolific production, rather than quality art created in solitude free of commercial coercion.

So, consider the characters in your story. Are they more prone to follow the crowd, or, are they spiritually inclined to find themselves? That's a question we might put to our characters, and more importantly, to ourselves. At this point, our characters begin to grow and so does the writer.

One should be oneself, because others are already taken.

Buddhist believe in what is called "yo ze factors." Those are fundamentally, spiritual elements in the universe that affect karma. Among those factors are: influence, manifested reality, latent reality,