The Mask

Batman and Robin, Darth Vader, Zorro, Spiderman, Hannibal Lecter, The Joker, The Lone Ranger, Jason, The Man in the Iron Mask, the Phantom of the Opera, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Jason Voohees, Stanley Ipkiss, Flash, Daredevil, Doctor Doom, Green Arrow, Yautja, Ghost face, Cyclops, Green Lantern, Batwoman, and many others have one thing in common.

THE MASK.

What is behind it? What kind of person wears it? Why does he/she choose to keep their identity a secret?

It all makes for an interesting read and/or a blockbuster movie.

In the world of Covid, I have been doing some thinking about masks—their function, the need for them, their effectiveness…

In the writing world, masks have played important parts in Suspense/Mystery and all types of Fiction, too.

Struggling with an idea for your next great novel? 

How about reviving the mask idea? 

Perhaps a new character is ready to emerge from the recesses of your creative mind…

Making Comparisons

Last week, we talked about Hyperboles. This week, we’ll focus on The Simile and The Metaphor.

These are also descriptions using figurative (non-literal) language, but they are not necessarily exaggerations.

They are both used to compare two things, actions, or ideas that are not alike. They make writing more descriptive, persuasive, and poetic. Writers of fiction, poetry, and song lyrics often use either or both similes and metaphors. 

An easy way to tell them apart is that metaphors do not use the words “as” or “like,” whereas similes do.

Example of a famous metaphor: Eyes are windows to the soul.

Here, the meaning is implied through comparison—that a person’s eyes can reveal a lot of information to the observer.

Example of a well-know simile: Without glasses, my father is as blind as a bat.

Here, the meaning is that someone’s vision is poor. He is not blind; he just needs to wear glasses.

I see the use of similes and metaphors more and more today, especially in historical fiction, suspense, and YA.

Can You Say It? Write It?

Hyperbole is a statement of exaggeration used for effect, to make a point, or show emphasis. 

It’s saying (or writing) things like: “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse” or “Your luggage weighs a ton.” 

Hyperboles are used in stand-up routines, sitcoms, advertising, and all types of creative writing, including fiction.

Writers need to remember, however, that a little goes a long way when using this tool. In other words, the less often you use it, the more effective it will be. 

Stay away from hyperboles that are tired and overused. Instead, they should surprise and delight your readers.

The trick is to give them an original twist. It’s fun.

Try changing on of the examples (above) into one that is original and fresh. 

From Ideas to Stories

Some writers have so many ideas that they keep them in journals or files.

So, where do most authors get their fantastic ideas? Some, from their great imaginations. Others are simply excellent observers.

Stephen King gives credit to using dreams as inspirations for some of his books. His advice? Record your dreams in a journal upon awakening. This keeps those ideas fresh, to be used at a later date.

Strange, wondrous, and horrifying dreams can all form the basis of a captivating story.

You can also get ideas from daydreaming. Whether you are observing, daydreaming, or recording your nighttime dreams, keep a pad of paper with you at all times. I have one in a kitchen drawer, on my bedside table, in my purse, and in the glove compartment of my car.

So, if you are thinking about using dream sequences in your fiction, the question becomes how to write them well.

From what I have read, observed, and written, here are several suggestions:

  • Keep them short.
  • Insert the dream on a night in which things seem to be on the cusp of happening.
  • Ease into the dream. No big announcement, such as “And his dream began.”
  • Make the dream feel like a dream.
  • Make the subject matter of the dream reflective of what is going on in the character’s real life. (For example, let’s say the character is afraid of fire. A big camping trip is coming up. He dreams about sitting around the campfire and suddenly it flares and…)
  • The character having the dream should be someone whom you have already introduced in the story.
  • Let images trickle through, unfiltered and unedited. Keep them moving through fairly quickly because dreams are snippets–not complete thoughts, and certainly not detailed enough to actually “solve” the underlying issues in the character’s life.

   

Five Things Writers MUST Do

I would say there are about twenty-five things writers need to do, but these top five are ESSENTIAL:

1- Know your audience and write for them.  I don’t write YA, but if I did, I would have to learn my readers’ interests… their unique vocabulary… popular phrases… wardrobe and hairstyle preferences… everything there is to know about them. No one—no matter how much they love to read—will invest the time in reading what doesn’t interest them or reflect their dreams and aspirations.

2 – Read. First and foremost, a good writer reads. Get to know what’s out there and how other authors approach their craft. All the while, read for fun and pleasure, too. After all, fiction writers must be able to offer their readers an enjoyable reading experience.

3 – Learn the writing “rules.”  Read books on plot, style, character, etc. Go to conferences. Talk to other writers. Ask someone to mentor you. (Don’t worry, after you learn the rules, you can grant yourself permission to break them!!! I’ll clarify. Don’t break all of them all of the time. Be careful. Pick and choose as you find your unique “voice.”)

4 – Make every word count. Be precise. I use a an average vocabulary because I want my readers to enjoy my stories and not have to look up unfamiliar words. I think this is good advice for most fiction. However, I can see that Sci-fi and some other genres may want to use a different standard. By reading other books in your genre, you will learn what to use for your specific story.

5 – Edit, Edit, Edit.  Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation stand out like a sore thumb and draw attention away from your story. Even though no book is perfect, you don’t want to be embarrassed by mistakes. Take your time. Use an editor, but also read through your own work several times before sending it off to them.genre

Are Your Ideas Dormant?

Two file cabinets were overflowing.

Time to clean things out.

To ease the burden of a complete overhaul, I decided to tackle the one that I hardly ever open. The one filled with stories in various stages of completion.

Due to waning interest, lack of time, or distractions of some kind, folder after folder contains “starts” but, alas, no completions.

I pulled all the folders out, stacked them on the floor beside the shredder and glanced at the clock. 

Thirty minutes. I felt pretty smug.

Until I opened the top folder, began reading, and was pulled into the story.

It needed some work, but I could see the possibilities.

I tossed some of the other folders. Saved others from the shredder and returned them to the file drawer now with some wiggle room to spare.

Then, I opened the first of four accordion folders labeled “IDEAS.” I created a new folder on my computer, typed in a dozen categories, and began sifting through hundreds of thoughts that had been locked away for a decade or more.

By the time my stomach rumbled, I looked up to a beautiful sunset. I’d been at it for nine hours!

This story does have a moral—of sorts. Learn from the mistakes of others, mainly moi.  Go through your things, often. Reorganize and refresh. Start computer files which you can easily categorize and add to (or delete) as fresh ideas come.

You’ve got some good ideas there, lying dormant.

Take them out. Dust them off. Shred. Reorganize. 

Then do what I did.

Watch the sunset.

What is Bitpunk?

What Is Bitpunk?

It seems like every day there are new categories of media to ingest, and it can be hard to keep up with the evolving genres. You may have no idea what “Bitpunk” means at all. 

I didn’t.

Some people are reluctant to move on from the games of their childhood, and many sources have noted the recent rise in retro, “old school” video games.

Bitpunk books have elements of retro classic video games and technologies of the ’70s, ‘80s and, in some cases, early ’90s. 

Bitpunk is still a relatively new genre to the book world, so there isn’t a huge variety out there yet. 

Characterized by its nostalgia for the classic technologies, you may want to try your hand at Bitpunk. 

The field is wide open for you to make your mark in this emerging genre.

Style in Your Stocking

I was shocked to find a few glaring grammatical errors in a book I was reading this week.

This was not written by an inexperience author, either.

Which brings me to the point of this post:

Errors in spelling and grammar distract and annoy readers. Before publishing, authors need to read through their own manuscripts at least a half-dozen times, submit to Beta Readers, and then on to their editors.

Once that process is finished, and the final copy comes back, it’s wise to do a final read-thru because the process of formatting can itself produce errors that weren’t previously there.

The mistakes I found in the book I was reading were grammatical:  there (a location) interchanged with their (possessive); and your (possesive) was used instead of you’re (you are).

Want an easy and quick way to make sure you are using the correct words?

For decades now, authors have been referring to a small book, named The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. I got my copy years ago. It was the Fourth Edition, printed in the year 2000. This book has been around so long that I was able to pick mine up at our local Goodwill Store.

In it, I found the answer to the correct usage of the word myriad. This is one of the most misused words in the writer’s toolbox. (Many writers insert the word of following myriad (myriad of). This is not correct, although to my human ear I must admit it does sound right…

If you question any wording at all, it’s best to refer to this book, or any number of similar ones. 

Put it on your Christmas list.

It’s Finally Here!

Do you like to read short stories?

Have you ever tried your hand at writing one?

I wrote a blog about short stories earlier this year. In it I told about a group of writers with the desire to publish such an anthology.

Perseverance pays off. When everyone works together toward a goal, amazing things can happen.

Last week, our book—in which I wrote four short stories—was published. 

Desert Tapestry is a cumulative effort by the Arizona Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. The cover is dazzling and the stories are heartfelt and inspiring.

The book, in both e-book and paperback, is available on Amazon.

It is reasonably-priced and would make a nice Christmas gift…

Movie or Bestseller?

Do you dream of having one of your books made into a Hollywood movie? If so, this is a good bit of research you might want to consider. 

Do you know which writing genre is made into the most movies? 

Here’s what my research turned up, starting with #1:

Sci-fi

Horror

Action

Comedy

Drama 

Fantasy

Thriller

Adventure

War

Mystery

Musical

When I began writing, I tried my hand at screenplays with some success. I wrote four comedies and two dramas before I threw in the towel.

It was a good experience , but the writing process is unlike writing for the reading market.

Take another look at the list. There is one genre missing. It’s the one—if I were guessing—that would have been at the top of the list. 

That’s right. Romance came in fifteenth.

Don’t tell that to Nicholas Sparks. I’ve watched several of his movies over the past five years or so.

Just goes to show you.

Don’t believe everything you read.