Thursday, May 31, 2007

Feel the love

OK, so I like animals and have a weird fascination with their social structure. Sue me.

But this article, Feel like telling them 'get a room,' is just about the coolest thing I have read in a long time. It gets the information out at a human level. And the reporter's word usage is very awesome - alliteration and metaphors galore.

What's funny, is that at Sue and Brad's Farm-B-Q this past weekend, I saw two horse flies doing just this amid the 20 horses and larger-than-life pig. Romantic.

So, read the short article and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Complication/resolution without the resolution

Since we've been talking about complication/resolution stories we've also talked about how some stories don't have the classic ending you need for such a structure. Here's a piece in which a friend of mine who's appeared in this blog from time to time, Dustin Long, basically immersed himself with NASCAR driver Mark Martin's team as they prepared their car for last weekend's race, with their narrow loss in the Daytona 500 still haunting them.

Had Dustin reported through the race itself, he would have had his ending. But he and his editors decided they wanted the story to set up the race, so there is no classic resolution. Yet -- and this is why I'm posting this -- the story does end. In fact I think Dustin found a pretty strong, satisfying ending for this piece -- and as writers and editors, that's what we're going for.

There are some other things he does well in the story -- in particular, most of the quotes he uses are in the form of dialogue, which I think really helps the story (any story).

Anyway ... take a look and judge for yourself.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The genius of Wayne (Tony, actually)

Tony Ryder of the band Wayne Supergenius dropped by Wednesday to share thoughts on writing, music and other stuff. Although we write in different worlds, there's a lot of crossover, such as:

  • We're always seeking to hold a reader's attention, which is part of the reason for the emphasis on storytelling this year. Someone asked Tony what makes a good story. A universal, emotional connection, he said. "...if you find that connection, that personal connection within the story or song -- If you can make an emotional connection, a spiritual connection ... that's what holds you to (the story)."

  • We're always revising stories ... sometimes briefly; sometimes we are poring over each sentence and word. Does he revise only to enhance that universal story connection, or does he get down to evaluating each word and its rhythm in the story (song)? "I don't get all James Joyce about it and labor over it word by word. (But) sometimes I will try to think of a word that actually will work better -- it means basically the same thing, but it's got a flow. A lot of it has to do with the interest in poetry. Great poets know exactly how to command you -- how you're going to read those words."

  • We know that the best stories will be the ones where we identify, and write about, the universal element, the thing that touches each person who reads it on some deeper level. Here's Tony on the universal experience: "We have a tendency to believe our experiences are unique only to us. But our experiences are really pretty universal. ... Sometimes it's allowing yourself to work outside yourself -- to make the connection with someone else's experience." He said to know there are some universal themes "that anybody is going to understand."

Thanks to so many of you for being there. Anyone else want to share what struck you about Tony's talk, or what you can take from him and apply to your own writing?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Writers group challenge

Hey. Tom here.

At the writers group meeting on May 16, we talked about metaphors and similes. And we tried this exercise I found online. Give it a try. It's tougher than it looks, but it gets your mind working. Some of the phrases are pretty weird -- I figure that's intentional, to keep you from falling back on cliches.

Here's the exercise:

Remember, don't think too much. Just write down whatever comes into your head. The idea isn't coming up with brilliant metaphors, so much as getting in the frame of mind where they occur naturally.

Anyway, this is the challenge. Take the test and post one or more of the metaphors or similes you come up with. Here are a couple of mine:

The fog plumed through gunshot holes in the car windows like tentative ghosts.

The security guard walks the lobby as if angry at the floor tiles.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sounds like...

You might have already seen this on the Poynter Web site, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea to make us think about how to show (I mean, hear) what a character in a story sounds like -- whether it be Random York Resident or John Brenner or a famous baseball player.

Check out the article at:

Anybody want to try describing what their favorite source/character sounds like? Post it in the comments so we can all enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Be skeptical

Over on, there are two articles that show how The Fresno Bee was fooled.

Turns out this was false.

If it sounds a little out of the ordinary... maybe it is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Quite a find

In hunting for Jon Franklin's highly-regarded narrative about a day in the life of a dogcatcher, I came upon this story by Franklin -- one I'd never read and never heard of, even though he lectures widely and a lot of his work finds its way into writing seminars, etc.

It transfixed me; I could not stop reading it. It's creepy, poignant, disturbing and uplifting all at once.

Note how he starts immediately in a scene.

Note how he introduces a nearly intangible concept in the second graf.

Note that before you have time to dwell on that nearly intangible concept and get mad that he doesn't explain what it is, you're back in the scene. If you're like me, you're invested in the story once he starts describing the students.

Note how when the main character speaks, you might say, 'what the...?' ... but note how his response comes back at the end with a new meaning.

Note how the intangible slowly becomes tangible.

Ah, heck, we could do a whole brown-bagger on this story. Just read it. And let me know what you think.

Another success story

This one from Ted Czech, "Family dog dies a hero," in today's paper.
Note the construction -- a riveting opening scene, immediate conflict, then the line that, in 11 words, captures the heart of the story: "But, she said Tuesday, she did not take care of him."
And then immediately back to the action.
I wager a lot of people will have read this one all the way through this morning.
Thanks, Ted, for a heck of a story.