Once in a while, even a writer needs a bit of a change. So, here's today's tale.
The call came at ten o'clock at night. That's always worrisome. Especially with children, even if they are grown. But, at the other end of the phone was a timid, weak, little voice asking if she could please talk to Grandpa. It was one of our granddaughters. And with a poignant plea!
Could we please take her cat? The cat bite her dad and he said the cat had to go. She didn't want to take it to a shelter so if the cat could come live with us, she'd help take care of it. They lived close enough, only a few miles away, so she could come play with him and bathe him, feed him, take care of him, if Grandpa would say he'd take one orange tomcat. Her idea, not ours.
Of course, Grandpa agreed. I mean, who can deny the pleading of one of your grandchildren.
So, after many years of no pets, (the last pet passed away soon after the kids left the nest), and a great retirement, which meant time to travel and explore our country, we were suddenly the new owners of a big, mean, orange cat. Yes, he did bite and we immediately had to change his name. I'll only use the initials, and let you figure out the rest, because that cat was an animal with a mind of his own. He did his own thing in his own time, often going for an arm or leg with his mouth open. So his name became L.S. because that's what we called him when he was being obstinate or mean, which was most of the time.
However, somehow, over the next six years, that big orange ball of fluff grew into a loving cat, constantly needing a reassuring touch, a rub or a pat morning, noon and night. He even started talking to us when he wanted attention. Of course we couldn't understand a sound he made because we didn't speak 'cat'.
When one of our sons called to say his crew found a tiny black kitten under the shelves in a big box store, I looked at our big guy and said, "Why not?" L.S. probably needed the company. So the kitten came to live with us. Wally, a black tuxedo, wasn't much of a companion for L.S., though. Too much age difference, I guess.
We took a trip to our vet in search of a kitten, one who could be a playmate for Wally, and brought home cat number three, a three year old, part Siamese, with an attitude. At the vet's, Celine jumped into my husband's lap and stayed there. We really had no choice.
Since then, five years ago, we've discovered those cats are our entertainment, provide company, give us a lot to talk about and definitely lower our blood pressure. All three want attention, even when I'm engrossed on working on my latest novel, or my husband is involved in working on some of my promotional material.
L.S. is particularly fond of settling in on the hard copy of the latest manuscript my husband is editing for me. Celine is especially pleased when I decide to work at my desk, because she takes a giant leap, landing in the middle of my notes, then stretching out, scattering papers all over the floor, so I have room to scratch her back. All three love to jump on chairs, tables, desks, computers, even printers and sing loud and clear. "Time for us!"
And, yes, we do take time out and play with them. Okay, we admit it. It's good for them and good for us. That was one late night phone call we'll never regret taking. And maybe I just might feature a cat in my next book.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Sunday, December 8, 2013
As a reader, the first line draws you into the story. A strong line will compel you to read on. For me as a writer, the opening is important as well. It’s my jumping off point, it’s the key that starts the engine running. A good opening line is a way into the story, a way to drive it forward.
I spend a lot of time on first lines. It’s important, of course, to get all the lines right, to write a tight and well told tale is the goal of any writer. It is essential, though, that a story have a strong beginning.
Sometimes, the line comes along like a gift. I carry story ideas around in my head, often combined with an image or an opening scene. I won’t know quite how to begin and then the line comes fully formed and lets me into the story. The opening of Sweet Lenora was like this. I had envisioned the story, at least the beginning of it. I knew the first scene would be Lenora at her father’s funeral. And so came the line- “On the day of my father’s funeral, the gray October sky opened and shed copious tears.”
Sometimes, the line comes from someone else. The idea for my short story trilogy, the Lilac Hour, came as I was watching a beautiful sunset in Maine. I had gone there to run a writing retreat. Friend and fellow writer Kathy Pyle remarked that she always thought of the time right around sunset as the lilac hour. The idea stuck and the first line of the story was born—“We called it the lilac hour.”
Sometimes, lines get refined. P-Town Queen’s opener is perhaps one of my favorites. I wanted to start the story with a bang and a boom. So it began with a boat explosion. The original line was —“I did not blow up a boat called the Mona Lisa.” It led me into the story, but it wasn’t quite punchy enough. So I shortened it to “I did not blow up the Mona Lisa.”
And sometimes, openers need to be changed all together. The original opening line of Searching for Superman was “Where was she going to find Cinderella on short notice?” I loved the line. But I had to do a whole lot of ‘walking backwards’ to keep it, writing in past perfect and making the opening scene less immediate than it needed to be. So, much as I might have loved it, it had to go. I went with something that spoke to the central issue in the story—“If the perfect man existed, why did he keep eluding her?” Not as attention-grabbing, but it worked better overall.
Blueberry Truth originally had three first person voices. And Blueberry, the little girl in the story, was the one who compelled me to write on. She ‘talked’ to me one day and this became the start-“My mama call me Blueberry because that what she like to eat when she have me.” In the end, I needed to streamline the book to make it work and so I re-wrote it in single first person. Blueberry’s voice didn’t make the final cut, and I had to find a new way in. The opening scene became Beanie, the main character, waiting for husband Mac to come home for a romantic evening. “Johnny Mathis has sung “Chances Are” four times now, and chances are not awfully good that Mac will be home anytime soon.”
I’m getting ready to write the fourth novella in the Anton and Lenora series at present. The book will be called “Willow” and I have a general idea of the plot line. The opening is still forming in my head. Something like, “I first suspected on the day of the hanging.” Not quite right, but enough to get me into the story. I’ll probably go back and refine it later.
Do you spend time on opening lines? What are some of your favorites?
Till next time
Posted by Ute Carbone at 7:00 AM
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Hi folks! Amy Jarecki here.
Ahem. Today’s post is on adding sexual tension in fiction. Any manuscript which shows an attraction by one character to another must have sexual tension. Even Harry Potter has it. So what is sexual tension…
An attraction between two people, a heightened awareness of that attraction, and the resulting conflict caused by opposing goals and opposing emotional paths.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is attracted to Choe, but she’s dating Cedric Diggory and Harry is consumed with the conflict of fighting Voldermort. Sounds like they’ll never get together…
So…The big question? How to create sexual tension/conflict?
1. Start with character and internal conflict. First, readers want an emotional read. In a romance, the characters must have opposing goals and opposing emotional life paths.
a. In my contemporary romance, Chihuahua Momma, Matt is trying to get away from a broken relationship and Rebecca wants to hide in her dog world and forget about men. Sounds like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common, or possibly be attracted. Definitely a great place to start a romantic story!
b. I use the psychology book, Are You My Type, Am I yours, Relationships made easy Through the Enneagram by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, to define my character’s personalities. It lists the nine enneagram personality types and how they interact with each other, showing what each type likes and dislikes about the other. It is an excellent tool for establishing conflict as well as delving into your character’s psyche before you write the first word.
2. Character Actions and Reactions. What keeps characters from instantly proclaiming their adoration for each other? FEAR! Fear is a powerful emotion, and should be used! But then the characters start feeling things and doing things that they might not even recognize as attraction at first.
a. Let’s start with Linda Howard’s 12 Steps to intimacy:
i. Eye to body contact. Begin the journey by looking each other over.
ii. Eye to eye contact. We catch each other’s attention.
iii. Voice to voice contact. We talk, flirt, joke, become friends or enemies.
iv. Hand to hand contact. Often the first twinge of fear come at this step and this is a major turning point in a relationship.
v. Arm to shoulder contact. When a man puts his arm around a woman’s shoulder they have to be close. She can no longer run if she feels threatened.
vi. Arm to waist contact.
vii. Mouth to Mouth contact. This can be very passionate, or fleeting.
viii. Hand to Head. This is the last big move before heading into real intimacy. Head touching can cause great tension between two people. If a woman allows a man to touch her head, it’s a sign she could be open to more intimacy. And this is where many stories stop showing…
ix. Hand to body.
x. Mouth to breast
xi. Hand to genital
xii. Genital to genital (These last four are the most intimate and the genre will determine if they are shown or not shown).
b. We can make things tenser between the hero and heroine by skipping steps.
c. Sexual tension is about thinking about sex but not doing it. The longer you put it off, the more you add to the tension.
d. Use internal dialogue and Deep Point of View to show your character’s conflict.
3. Use Senses and Dialogue. Applying sensuality can elevate every scene from good to memorable:
a. The Five senses—use these instead of dialogue tags. Intersperse your dialogue with the character’s internal emotions about what he/she is saying:
b. Example: My current WIP, I show the hero’s thoughts and actions are in conflict with his dialogue:
“Is everything to your liking, Colin? From the scowl on your face I’d wager something didn’t sit well with you,” Robert said.
Och, something didn’t sit well with him. That fat-kidneyed codpiece spinning Margaret on the dance floor like he was a strutting pheasant. “Nay. I just need another tot of ale is all.” Colin tipped back his flagon and skulled it.
4. Body Language:
a. Men’s body language:
i. Preening behavior: Chest out, shoulders back, strut.
ii. Drives fingers through hair.
iii. Hooks thumbs in belt.
iv. Points foot and woman.
v. Intimate gaze—held longer than normal
vi. Dilated pupils
vii. Stands with hands on hips.
viii. Sits with legs spread or crossed.
b. Women during courtship:
i. Pupils dilate, cheeks blush.
ii. Shake their heads, flipping hair.
iii. Expose inner side of wrists with palms out.
iv. Hips roll when walking
v. Hold gaze just long enough for him to notice.
vi. Lips part and appear moist.
vii. Fondle object, like the stem of a wine glass.
viii. One leg tucked under, knee pointing at male.
ix. Cross and uncross legs
x. Voice lowers
xi. Rub palms on thighs
c. Both sexes use eye contact:
i. Intamate-between eyes and chest
ii. A sideways glance with raised eyebrows
5. Putting it together…When drafting a story, I layer my conflict. At first I might write my dialogue, and then I go back and add the setting, and then the conflict and the emotions. Remember fear is powerful and keeps us from getting what we want. Here’s the “meet” scene from my new novel, VIRTUE ©:
Stacking the plastic pool glasses, he sensed movement across the deck. He glanced up and stopped short. Long blond hair fluttered with the breeze, legs that wouldn’t stop, and a body so well proportioned, he’d only seen the likes in swimsuit editions of Sports Illustrated.
She looked his way and his breath caught. He quickly glanced down, busying himself with the glasses. Gabriel’s heart thundered in his ears as she approached.
“Hi,” she said, her American accent friendly, not bitchy like other incredibly beautiful tourists he’d encountered. “You think I could get a Diet Coke?”
Gabriel looked up. She smiled, white teeth, eyes that reflected the sea, flawless skin. “Ah. Sure.” He reached for a glass, one of the fancy plastic tumblers. He scooped in some ice and grabbed a toothpick umbrella, garnishing it with a lime and a red maraschino cherry. Holding up her special drink, he grinned. “Why diet?”
She lowered her extraordinarily long lashes. “I’m a dancer—always watching my figure, you know.”
Gabriel hoped she didn’t notice the heat that inflamed under his skin. “You’re a dancer on the ship?”
She took a sip. “Uh huh. Arrived last night.” When she leaned in, he caught a delicious fragrance like rain falling on orange blossoms. “I’m pretending I’m lost and taking a little self-guided tour on my way to the theater. I thought I’d have a look around before spending who knows how many hours tied to the stage.”
“Off to rehearse, huh?”
“Yep. Had to learn two shows in a week.” She pointed to her white flip-flops. “I’m wearing these to air out the blisters on my toes.”
He glanced down, but only made it as far as her well-muscled, slender thighs. Perfection. “Sounds painful.”
“It’ll be all right.” She leaned closer with the most adorable smile he’d ever seen in his life. “Know what?”
Gabriel hoped drool wasn’t draining out the corner of his mouth. “What?”
“The lead dancer is leaving the show after this tour, and I’ve been picked for the fan dance.”
God in heaven, why did that not surprise him? He’d choose her for any spotlight dance. He’d pick her just to stand center stage for hours on end. You want to drape those pegs across my bar so I can stare at them all day? Holy mother, she could do anything she wanted.
She flashed a questioning grin. “Did I say something wrong?”
“N-no. Not at all. I was just thinking how great it was that you got picked for a lead. That’s totally awesome.”
“Thanks.” She pulled back and giggled—cute.
He let his gaze slide to the top of her head and stood straight. She was only about three or four inches shorter than him. “I’m Gabriel AhKin from Belize.”
Her eyes slipped down to his badge. “I’m Zoe Marshall from the United States. Do you know Utah?”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Well, I’m from a small town in the mountains. Thanks for the Coke, Gabriel AhKin. You’re a life saver.”
He stood motionless as she walked away, the backside every bit as beautiful as the front. When she disappeared through the automatic glass doors, he ran his fingers through his hair. Focus. You’re here to work. Girls like her are way out of your league.
Well, my time’s up. You can find me around the internet:
Web Site: www.amyjarecki.com
My romantic suspense, Virtue, available everywhere in eBook, December 6, 2013, and Virtue—The Cut Scenes for FREE:
Sheltered, raised in rural
Utah, Zoe Marshall has never heard of the
Mayan Prophecy of the Golden Goddess—but she’s about to.
At the moment she’s thrilled to have landed her dream job dancing on a cruise ship where she meets Belizean Gabriel AhKin. The sizzling bartender stirs her passion.
When the ship docks in
Belize, Zoe disappears—spirited
into the bowels of a Mayan cult led by a reclusive fanatic. After the madman
sees her, he divines Zoe is the
Golden Goddess. She is “the one” to fulfill the prophecy. Now Gabriel’s driving
obsession is to rescue the woman who’s captured his heart.
Posted by linda_rettstatt at 12:01 AM
Friday, December 6, 2013
As I prepare for the coming Christmas holidays, I find myself not only thinking forward to how I’ll celebrate this Christmas, but also looking back to Christmases past. Christmas was a big deal in our house when I was growing up. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and relive a Christmas past. I can close my eyes and remember the sounds of Christmas carols and laughter and six conversations going on at the same time as family gathered. I can smell the sweet aromas—the pine tree, gingerbread cookies and still-warm pies. I see the live tree covered in lights—not those little bitty lights we use now—big honking lights that glowed bright. I can feel the anticipation and excitement, the warmth of being with family.
There’s a saying: You can’t go home again. We writers often, whether consciously or unconsciously, incorporate our own memories and desires into our writing, along with those 'what if' questions that pull us into and through our stories. What if we did go home expecting the Christmas we knew and everything had changed? Relationships weren’t the same. The once-homebaked goodies were now store-bought. The artificial tree was outfitted with new miniature lights. The same spirit of anticipation and excitement is lost.
(Photograph property of Linda Rettstatt)
(Photograph property of Linda Rettstatt)
Well, we all grow up and things do change. But Christmas is that magical time when we all become children again, at least on the inside. In Reinventing Christmas, M.J. Rich retreats to her family home for the holidays, needing comfort and the joy she knew as a child. Sidelined at the
airport by a blizzard, she ends
up sharing the last available rental car with Brady Cameron, a stranger who’s
headed across the state as well, but with a very different Christmas plan in
mind. While stuck in a deserted mountain cabin half-way between Philadelphia Philadelphia and ,
M.J. learns that Brady plans to spend Christmas alone. So she invites him to
experience the perfect holiday with her family. Pittsburgh
Except everything has changed and M.J. never got the memo. There’s only one thing to do—reinvent Christmas.
The coming weeks will hold their share of busy-ness. But take some time to remember your best Christmas ever. Pick up a Christmas book or two to get yourself into the spirit of the season. Take some time to reflect on what’s most important for you during Christmas and recapture your child-like wonder. If this Christmas isn’t shaping up to be what you hope for—reinvent it.
* I'll be taking a little break from The Writer's Vineyard for a few months to focus on some writing projects, but I'll be back with you in the spring.
* I'll be taking a little break from The Writer's Vineyard for a few months to focus on some writing projects, but I'll be back with you in the spring.
Posted by linda_rettstatt at 1:50 AM
Thursday, December 5, 2013
My next novel and first fantasy endeavor, "Tracks", is now going through its editing stage, courtesy of Champagne Books' editor Sharon Cassiel. She has ferreted out the usual suspects - word usage, passive phrases, and consistency. It is always a great thing when an editor catches some small detail that tells you they've combed through the novel - several times.
I'm pleased to say that "Tracks" is doing quite well, having no great issues to address. Ms Cassiel is the first editor I've had to point out some story tweaks in so far as character relationships and what might be done to improve them. Invaluable stuff. So what does an editor go after? Well, here's some generalities based on her work with me so far:
1. The major sticking point is excessive use of certain words. Yes, the book was ran through some professional-strength software to sniff out repetitions - resulting in a "top ten" list that also advises me what a tolerable level of usage is expected. Didn't know I used so many exclamation marks (grin). Other offenders include "all" and "as". It's the small stuff that gets you. Even with my own albeit humbler program to catch repetitions, quite a few things slipped through. This will take the bulk of my time to remedy (I've a two week deadline).
2. Passive sentences. Not a lot of these, but boy are they loathed when found. Little past-tense lovelies like "might have been" and such still survived the initial weeding.
3. Consistency. Things like calling the same town by two similar but not equal names ("Two Rivers" vs "Three Rivers"). Using "Mother" and "Mom" instead of settling on one or the other.
4. Story issues. The big bugaboo as far as I'm concerned. Fortunately, no killers here, but I did have the fore-mentioned character relationship changes to work in.
The takeaway here is to pay attention to all of this early on in order to avoid paying the piper later. You can't be perfect - especially when dealing with over 80k worth of text, but anything helps. Too much of these issues and you might not pass muster with being accepted. Also keep in mind that every editor sees things differently. I had one book where the editor didn't like contractions in internalized observations. This particular editor has a differing opinion, and one must roll with the tide as the release date approaches.
There are also specific publisher "house rules" that have to be abided by - such as single spaces between sentences and particular characters to denote a time break (not to mention page formats).
My adivce for anyone weathering the editorial storm is to be flexible, and above all stay professional. Odds are your editor knows more than you do (grin).
For those who are wondering, here's the blurb for "Tracks":
Vincent’s sister is swept away by a steam locomotive riding rails that vanish along with her. Ten years later he rediscovers those tracks, and heads down them to bring her back.
The above picture is a tentative cover I suggested - I'll see the actual one come January. The book is scheduled for release in March of next year. I'm proud to say that no wizards, fae, vamps, wolves, or dragons were injured in this novel. Why? Because this fantasy didn't include them or any other European trope.
Posted by KMTolan at 2:23 AM
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Since I put up one post at the Vineyard each month, and given it’s December, this must be my annual holiday blog post! I cannot offer unending pop star carols in the background, no flashing lights, fake snow on plastic trees or even a mocha pumpkin cinnamon double whip with red and green sprinkles. Sorry.
I can point out how this holiday month for various religious traditions is filled with one thing I think we can all agree is one of the most wonderful creations of human beings. No not the Easy Bake Oven. Although, now that it’s genderless (not exactly sure how ‘experts’ identify the gender of a toy oven-- but that’s another blog) we can all make cup cakes with a light bulb. But I digress. The gift of the holiday season is story in all of its forms.
Whether you are Buddhist, Wiccan, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Secular Humanist, Great Spaghetti Monsterist, nothing or something in between or barely defined in your consciousness, we all carry around stories of what it means to be human in this world. And so we write short stories, plays, screen plays, poems, novels, radio plays, and every other form of story to answer one basic question--the same question Charlie Brown and Scrooge struggle to understand--Why am I here? What is the meaning of life?
Traditional holiday stories can have some depth and edge to them, although much of what we hear gets softened and homogenized to leave us with a taste of joy and hope. Nothing wrong with that. Besides, we have eleven other months in the year to get at the meaning of life through vampires, private investigators, serial killers, alien life forms, lustful lovers, and talking dogs.
So today I give you the gift of story. Yes, I bought it online at a steep discount and the shipping was free. That doesn’t mean I love you less.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
|Aaach. Even the letters have been taught self-awareness.|
Yes I know everybody quotes John Gardner, some to the point of ad nauseam. Not to say he didn't give some excellent advice such as never write you looked or saw because your reader figures that you're looking or seeing something that you're writing about. That is great advice and something I discuss with my writing students. So hats off to you for that one, Gardner. Unfortunately, he was also somewhat of a pompous ass. The same with Robert McKee the author of Story. What is it with these men? Neither of them has ever written a top selling novel or screenplay so what makes them an authority on writing? Nothing.
|I know I've never really written anything, but if I keep this intense look on my face no one will notice.|
Anne Lamott, on the other hand, is a successful author and teacher. She's published numerous books that are, if not best sellers, very good reads. So she knows of what she speaks. Which takes me to Bird by Bird, a book about the slings and arrows of becoming a writer. She named the book after advice her writer father gave to her brother struggling to write a book report on birds. He told his son to write about one bird at a time, a concept Anne Lamont discusses in her helpful book. She advices writers to not take on a huge story all in one piece. Instead, focus on one little corner. Write about it until its complete and then move on to another corner. Do this step by step until you've written about the whole picture.
In addition to giving helpful advice, she also talks about her failures in her writing, which is wonderfully refreshing. It also makes it clear that she gets what it's like to be a working writer. This book is something all writers of any genre, fiction and nonfiction need to buy and put on their bookshelf to refer to again and again.
And just like Anne Lamott shares her heart piece by piece, Janis Joplin, another female hero, tells us to break another little piece of heart. Now this is real angst. Sing it Janis.
Posted by Gabriella Austen at 12:00 AM
Monday, December 2, 2013
Enchanting the reader with gentle persuasion begins with seduction. The first hook is showing our well-chosen title large enough to be read on an online display no larger than a postage stamp. The second is the hook itself. Not to be forgotten examples:
“The last camel died at Noon.” Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
“Midnight in the garden of the dead...” The Devil’s Punchbowl, Greg Isles
"I was six years old the first time I disappeared." Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult.
Each of these hooks is compelling, poetic and contains vivid imagery. Many good hooks evoke a double entendre. How do we do that?
Authors are singular people, not given to social frenzy, so the cocktail party approach: “Hey I’m writing a book and I’m looking for a word for…?” won’t provide a likely source. We writers are more inclined to draw gems from our inner places.
Brainstorm yourself. Play devil’s advocate to your own title selections—rapid fire. It won’t matter that the losers drop to the floor, Out of the ashes will come your perfect hook or title.
When I was asked to come up with a hooky title for my recent “How I became a writer…” on Linda Rettstatt’s http://bit.ly/dJ3GVp blog, I remembered how much time I’d spent in the slush pile before landing in a bookstore with my romantic suspense, Mortal Coil, http://amzn.to/1dahbIw. “Slush to Mush” came to mind.
Cutline editors for books and cartoons or magazine covers go through the same creative process. A recent example in graphic art would be Chris Christy’s silhouette appearing on the cover of Time, entitled, THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Those who felt that was an insult have forgotten the reference to having an unspeakable secret or concern in the family and not talking about it for fear of giving it credence. Time’s cut line/title was a brilliant, double entendre: “always there, always a factor”. If we don’t talk about the New Jersey governor and his influences and his example of plain speaking, might he go away? He’s not just fat; he’s bigger than life and threatens the lackluster candidates, who might be more qualified but pale, overshadowed by his presence. (This is not a political observation but an example of Time’s clever imagery.)
Speaking of picking titles, I was thinking about all my favorite recipes. If I were to collect them, what would I call that tome?
Seventy-seven Deadly Dishes
Dinners to Die For
The Complete Collection of Cholesterol Cuisine
For the writer, there are no wasted words. The cardinal sin is to waste our readers’ time. Our finished products must sparkle from Title, to Hook, through Chapter One to The End. We must deliver, but first we must draw them in with a good hook.
Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare. Daughters of the Sea is available from MuseItUp Publishing in e-book or paperback. Watch for Morning After Midnight, coming in January. Visit Julie’s Web site at www.books-jepainter.com
Sunday, December 1, 2013
I was washing an apple for a midmorning snack, when peeling off the little sticker on it triggered a memory and a blog/column idea.
About 20 years ago I worked with Ted, a newspaper reporter who was absolutely convinced these stickers are edible. He proved it by his frequent consumption of them. As well, the coffee mug he refused to ever wash grew a suspicious lump at its bottom. It could have been crystallized coffee, but like all the other members of the newsroom staff, I suspected it was much worse – probably some type of toxin-producing fungus.
A few years after I had moved on to another newspaper, Ted died of cancer although he was not old – only in his late 40s or early 50s. Hearing about his death, I was saddened but, knowing his story, not surprised.
Since those days, I can never eat an apple without thinking of Ted.
His questionable dietary habits, my memory trigger, weren't his only distinguishing characteristic.
Ted openly admitted that alcoholism had taken him to the skids of a major city before he got sober and launched his career. He'd married a singer and helped her raise her children from a previous marriage. Then, after she divorced him, Ted lived in a rooming house and saved money. He first grew fat and then lost the weight, eating pepper steal prepared in his microwave every day for at least a year.
Sounds like a real mess, doesn't he?
Actually, Ted was a likeable, hard-working and generous colleague, someone I enjoy remembering, an everyday hero whose resilience and determination were admirable.
He's also a good illustration of the way I get ideas for stories. I think of people I have known and the things they would believe and do.
We all meet interesting people, but writers remember them and use them. Charles Dickens is a good example. His father's imprisonment for indebtedness pushed the young Dickens out of school and into the workforce where he pasted labels on shoe-blacking jars at a factory and met many impoverished people. As well as inspiring him to a lifetime of working for reform of working conditions, this experience was essential to his writing career. Dickens' near-photographic memory and writing talent allowed him to transform grim experience, creating stories with remarkable characters, some heroes, some tragic victims, and some villains.
In three decades of gypsy journalism, I met many people, many of whom I have animated or will animate in stories. Expect to see a character resembling Ted some day.
Posted by Ann Harvey at 3:46 PM