Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Constant Conflict

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

One of the Oscar Best Picture contenders earlier this year was Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson and based on the 1967 book The Unlikeliest Hero: The Story of Desmond T. Doss.  HBO just had another of their free weekends, so I watched the film again, and doing so reminded me of something:

I love boot camp.

Mind you, I'm a peace-loving guy with pacifist leanings, but I've always been riveted by scenes involving new recruits meeting their drill sergeant and being taken through the rigors of basic training.  

Hollywood loves war movies. Conflict is perhaps never portrayed bigger and bolder than in a battle scene.  But the face-to-face tension of an underdog trying to keep it together under dire conditions is human drama we can all relate to.

A workplace with a tyrant boss, a classroom with an unreasonable teacher, in-laws who can't be pleased, even domestic quarrels, are ready sources of inherent tension that can escalate our protagonist's real problems. Such challenges come in infinite varieties, but if they are resolved as part of a happy ending, these subplots are typically addressed in one of two ways:

1. The troublemaker gets their comeuppance. The conniving co-worker is exposed, the miserly uncle gets arrested for embezzlement, the contentious neighbor breaks a leg falling off a ladder, and the hero is right there to enjoy it.

2. The troublemaker turns out to be ally. The overzealous drill sergeant eventually reveals his human side. When the hero rises to the challenge and their strained relationship takes on a hint of mutual respect, it becomes clear that everything the sergeant put him through was for his own good. That moment feels like a satisfying character arc in its own right.

As we talked about in my recent Suite T post ("Who Is Your Contagonist?"), anyone or anything that stands in the way of our hero's success makes for good conflict along the way. Those everyday scenarios that we inflict on our hero can cause hardship right along with the actual antagonist.

Page-turning prose relies on the story's ability to keep the problems coming.  Providing that steady supply of friction in your fiction can ensure that your reader doesn't go AWOL.


Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Not Fatal

By Deanna K. Klingel

Everything we do naturally, in our lives, is cyclical. Some days are better than others, right? All kinds of creativity are cyclical. How does the potter, after weeks of mediocrity, suddenly in one day, create something astonishing? Think about the song writer who muddles along, then, one day, by a stroke of genius comes up with a winner. The writer, who fills the wastebasket to overflowing and then awakens one morning with a bestseller; it’s a mystery, isn’t it? Some days we are naturally more creative, other days we’re in a slump. Writers often refer to this slump as Writer’s Block. They look for cures. They talk about it as if it were a fatal disease.

In truth, it isn’t even a setback. It’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to slow down, breathe, learn something new, all of which will help us get better at our craft, in the long run. Take a class during your slump time; learn something new. Take time out to read for pleasure. Read a genre you don’t normally read. The more we read and listen the better we can produce fluidity in our own work. 

When the flow of words slows down, just stop. Don’t angst over the betrayal! Don’t look for a foundation to fund your recovery. Take time to refresh. And listen. Sit in a food court at a mall and listen to the dialog around you. Click on YouTube and listen to great American orators speaking about anything. You don’t even have to understand the subject matter. Just listen to the flow of words. Listen to poetry readings; listen to the rhythm of the words. Go for a walk and sing great lyrics for a song you’ll probably never write. Enjoy nature; describe what you see to yourself. I’m not a poet, but after reading poetry, my prose is more fluid. These are all ways to get your words flowing again. You can call it writer’s block if you want. I call it opportunity to be a better, more fluid writer.

No one can be productive every day, every hour. We need to refresh, re-energize, rest and breathe in fresh air and fresh words. The slump is normal.
Deanna K. Klingel is an award-winning author of children's literature, writing for the young and the young at heart. She lives in western North Carolina. She's a member of SCBWI, NCWN, and Catholic Writers Guild. She speaks in schools,museums,and at conferences, traveling with her books around the Southeast and beyond. Her social media links are: booksbydeanna.com
@deannakklingel   and booksbydeanna.com/blog

Friday, July 21, 2017

First Time Blogging as an Author

By Christopher Myers

Hello, Chris Myers here. I have over 30 years of professional experiences in marketing, strategy, customer communications, brand management and creative writing with FedEx, AT&T, Thomas&Betts and McDonald’s, among other companies. I also hold a MBA in International Marketing from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. From a creative writing perspective, I have won some writing awards and am a two-time author including the most recently released IN JUST TEN DAYS, a political/spy thriller originally set in Washington, D.C., with stops in Beijing, Sydney, London and yes in Memphis among other places! It is a fast-paced story with lots of action, deceptions, car chases, romance and I am told by my readers a very interesting twist at the end. This is the first in a series with the next one, ST. CHRISTOPHER, due out later in 2017 or early 2018.

I am a first-time blogger, so I am not really certain what I should tell you in the initial post, but I believe one of the most important aspects of creative writing is PASSION and good PRE-PLANNING. Specifically, you hear people should write about what they know, and that is very true, but also really enjoy the subject that you are writing about. I have read so many wonderful books, articles, stories, etc.  over the years that really captured my attention and imagination because I could feel the author’s energy and interest in the story, characters, plot and putting me in that person’s mindset. That is how I write, too. I truly invite the reader to try to imagine what I am thinking about for a particular moment in the book, chapter or with a specific character. I really think that is what readers want today – fast-paced, good character development, and a sense of the author’s creativity and imagination to “invite the reader into the author’s world”. Also, I am a big believer in pre-planning, meaning, I spend a lot of time conceptualizing each chapter, character and part of the story from beginning to the end before I put one word on paper, and then write and re-write a more comprehensive outline to review and update. I must have updated the outline for IN JUST TEN DAYS a dozen times! I think that makes for a better story and book, in my opinion.

I look forward to your feedback and am happy to discuss your ideas or writing anytime. 

My name is Christopher Myers but I go by Chris. I enjoy writing about political intrigue, events and situations, with some twists and turns and a bit of humor mixed in. This is my favorite topic because I like the subject and that I went to college, lived and worked in our nation's capital for 10 years and love going back whenever I can! Traveling to fun and interesting places, sports (those I can still play and others I enjoy watching like my daughter in competitive volleyball) is another priority and movies - I LOVE GOING TO THE MOVIES! My personal email is clmyers1229@hotmail.com. We can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Novel Inspiration via John Grisham

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

In a recent interview, John Grisham gives a glimpse into how his hobby inspired his 30th book, Camino Island

It's been 25 years since Grisham has done a book tour and current technology has allowed everyone to share in the experience via a podcast titled Book Tour with John Grisham. Available at iTunes and Google Play.

Watching the podcast of Grisham may give you ideas for promoting your own book/books. It could even provide you with inspiration for your own book tour. 

I'm a fan of John Grisham. We were both born in the same town and both raised and worked in a bigger river town. His books have the ability to stay with me, and his plot lines flit through my mind from time to time. He is a collector of books, as am I. Albeit, his book collection is classic first editions, and mine are not. Sigh. I'm now collecting signed Grisham first editions, wishing I had started sooner. 

The plot line of Grisham's new book finds inspiration in his own hobby of collecting first editions. As Grisham says in his interview, "I collect first editions. I have a number of Faulkners, Steinbecks, and Hemingways. Fitzgerald only had five (novel) manuscripts but a ton of short stories, which he was better known for when he was alive. After his death, Gatsby became his big masterpiece and his best-known work. But Faulkner had forty books, forty manuscripts. They are all stored in one place, at the library at the University of Virginia. I’ve seen them; they’re very well taken care of. But there are forty of them; they would be kind of hard to steal. Hemingway’s stuff is scattered, as is Steinbeck’s. And that left Fitzgerald. As I learned when I was doing the initial research, all five manuscripts are in one place, at the Firestone Library at Princeton. If you’re going to steal stuff that’s truly priceless, that’s a good place to start."

I love that Grisham has written a book about rare book collections and picked F. Scott Fitzgerald books as the focus. "Grisham tells CBS This Morning, a list of writing tips:
  1. Do write a page every day
  2. Don't write the first scene until you know the last
  3. Do write your page each day at the same place and time
  4. Don't write a prologue
  5. Do use quotation marks with dialogue
  6. Don't keep a thesaurus within reaching distance. 
  7. Do read each sentence three times in search of words to cut out. 
  8. Don't introduce 20 characters in your first chapter. 
Grisham also weighed in on plotting in the CBS interview. He talked about writing and says the idea that an author will create a great character and that character will then take over the action is 'total B.S.' Plotting takes work. You have to carefully plot and outline your story before you start. Especially if you are writing mysteries, or suspense or thrillers where the plots can be very intricate. It takes a lot of work. I spend a lot of time outlining before I write the first word. Prologues are 'gimmicks to suck you in.'" 

What hobbies do you have that could provide a inspiration for your next book?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Writers Do You Do Groups

By Kristi Bradley

Writer’s groups can be an acquired taste. Some swear by them. Others swear at them.

I’m personally a fan, or at least a fan of my club. I shopped around for a writers group when I decided to seek publication for what is now MYSTA, a paranormal romantic suspense, available at www.darkoakpress.com/Mysta.html, Amazon and other outlets. In fact, I tried on several groups, had a few bad experiences too before I found a good fit with Malice in Memphis Mystery Writers. I didn’t really consider myself a mystery writer at the time, but I was intrigued by the talent in the group and the temptation of a publication credit they offer their members by issuing anthologies.

So I pondered, and realized most fiction centers on a mystery in some form or fashion. Could be as simple as the secret the hero and heroine are keeping from each other to the intricate political thriller with constant twists and turns that keep you on edge until the end and then the rug is yanked from under you again.

Even horror revolves around mystery. What happened to the mild-mannered man that turns him into a killer after dark? Why is the house haunted? Who died that won’t go toward the light? Life itself is a mystery. So I joined Malice in Memphis.

And learned I knew nothing about writing.

But you know what? The founders of the group already well established with their publishing careers, took the time to share their knowledge and experiences with us newbies. I can’t thank them enough for their help and encouragement.

Need help with Point of View? Point of who?

Plot holes? That anything like black holes?

Rejections? Probably have hundreds between us. Crooked agent? You betcha. Theft of work? 

Someone has already been there, done that. You can keep that particular T-Shirt, please!

Malice offers invaluable programming for our membership which includes professional guests such as publishers and editors to police detectives, forensic technicians and paranormal researchers.
So don’t be afraid to try out a writers group. Walk away if it doesn’t feel right and try another. It might take some time to find what you’re looking for. Some of our members drive an hour and a half to reach us. The purpose of a good writers group is to provide a means of inspiring the craft of writing, and to encourage and assist each member toward the goal of publication. Plus, it makes a world of difference to associate with like-minded people who understand the trials of the business and the voices in our heads.
Kristi Bradley was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, she disappeared into parts unknown after a brief marriage to a wanna-be-crime lord, lived under an alias while gaining self-defense and weapons training, only to re-emerge as a seemingly normal wife, mother of three, step-mother of one, grandmother of three, owned by three dogs and three cats, lots of threes to thwart questions about her suspicious past. She is President for Malice in Memphis Mystery Writers Group and writes and paints her own versions of reality. Her first full-length paranormal romantic suspense MYSTA is now available from Dark Oak Press. You can find her short story A Haunting in Midtown in Malice in Memphis Ghost Stories. Also, her short stories Murder in Midtown and Voodoo Village can be found in Malice in Memphis Bluff City Mysteries, also published by Dark Oak Press. Please give her author page a LIKE on Facebook. She’d hate to have to hunt you down...Check out Malice at www.maliceinmemphis.com or on Facebook. You can find me at www.facebook.com/KristiBradley101/ or email me at kristibradleywrites@gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do You Feel Fragmented?

By Susan Reichert,  Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Well, I am sure we all, at one time or another, have felt fragmented. You know that moment you feel like you are broken into bits and pieces. Hopefully, we don’t stay that way too long, it can be debilitating. Or those times we are utterly disorganized and having a hard time pulling things together.

Now, that’s what a fragmented sentence is like. They are bits and pieces of words but they don’t make a complete sentence.  Why? They’re lacking a proper subject-verb relationship within an independent clause.  So what is an independent clause? Any group of words containing both a subject and a verb and can stand on its own. To me the fragmented sentence is like having a few pieces of the puzzle Without all the pieces I can’t finish, therefore I won’t see the whole picture. To find more info on fragmented sentences check Capital Community College website

There are times we do use fragmented sentences in writing, like when we are trying to convey a special tone or meaning. Here are a couple of examples from Moonraker by Ian Fleming and Journey Home by Edward Abbey: “He looked levelly at the great red face across the desk. It's a remarkable case-history. Galloping paranoia. Delusions of jealousy and persecution. Megalomaniac hatred and desire for revenge." (Ian Fleming, Moonraker, 1955)

Read more at this link"The hawk sailing by at 200 feet, a squirming snake in its talons. Salt in the drinking water. Salt, selenium, arsenic, radon and radium in the water in the gravel in your bones." (Edward Abbey, Journey Home) 

A fragmented sentence can be a useful tool to a writer if used correctly. It can get across what a writer wants to say using fewer words. So when you see that line under a sentence you’ve written, go back, reread the sentence, does it need to be revised? Is it conveying what you want to say and the way you want to say it?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pausing Between Poems: Try Not to Fret When Words "Fail" You

By Terri Kirby Erickson

I've learned over the years, after authoring five collections of poetry, numerous published essays, guest columns, and magazine articles, not to panic when words fail me.  Sometimes my heart, mind, and soul need a break from language—time to just "be" and to take in the wonders of this gorgeous and ever-changing world of ours, without translating my experiences into poems or stories.  At least, not yet. 

Weeks may pass, even months, without my having written anything more than emails to friends and family, and signing the occasional greeting card.  It used to scare me when I wasn't writing.  I'd look at my previous work, books of mine sitting on the coffee table, and wonder how I'd written them and why the "magic" had left me. 

I know now, after a decade of writing (and sometimes not writing) poetry for publication, that taking time off from sitting in front of my computer screen, fingers flying over the keyboard, is a necessary part of the process (for me, anyway!) and that doing "nothing" isn't really "nothing" to a writer.  Taking in what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell in such a way as to recall it vividly for the purposes of writing about it later, is living in the moment at its finest. 

When I hear or read "self-help" type statements like how important it is to be "present" in our own lives, I know without a doubt that I have been and continue to be present and accounted for unless I'm actively writing, which usually means I've left the "now," altogether—this room, this house, this place in time—and have entered the sacred space of recall and reflection from which my best writing flows. 

Of course, others may work best when they get up every morning and start writing something, anything, regardless of how they feel.  Personally, I have to be motivated, moved, and inspired in order to write a poem that, in my view, others might want to read.  If my writing is forced the poems might look pleasant on the page, structurally speaking, but they have no heartbeat, which is the difference between writing what might be a halfway decent, though unmemorable poem, or one your readers won't soon forget.

And I have realized, through experience, that the "dam" of unwritten words will eventually break and the thoughts, feelings, and impressions over however long I've been "away" will coalesce into an attempt to capture on paper what I experienced in real life, or what I make up or imagine as a result of those experiences.  And if this doesn't happen as snappily as I'd like, well, patience is the key.  A writer writes, either now or later.  What we do in the meantime, is to live our lives.  There is no better inspiration than that.
Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of five full-length collections of award-winning poetry, including her latest book, Becoming the Blue Heron (Press 53, 2017). Her work has appeared in the 2013 Poet’s Market, Ted Kooser’s "American Life in Poetry," Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, JAMA, Literary Mama, NASA News & Notes, North Carolina Literary Review, story South, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press), The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Verse Daily, and many others. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nazim Hikmet Poetry Award, Atlanta Review International Publication Prize, Gold Medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.​  Her website is www.terrikirbyerickson.com  Her bio page is at Press 53:  http://www.press53.com/BioTerriKirbyErickson.html  This is  her the link to her Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/terri.k.erickson . Her books are  available on Amazon and other Internet sites, and can be ordered at any bookstore.You can contact her at tkerickson@triad.rr.com. She loves to hear from readers!