Finding Your Character

By Bob McCrillis

I like to write in the first person. That POV helps control my natural desire to tell rather than show. That means that there is a lot of dialogue in any of my stories, which brings up a continuing problem – losing the reader in the dialogue.

Everyone, I’m sure, has had this experience. I’m caught up in a book when I realize that I’ve lost track of who’s speaking. Then I backtrack to the last speech that’s tagged and work forward again. While this may not be a fatal error, anything that takes me out of the story spoils the flow of the narrative and provides me the opportunity to decide it isn’t a very good book and move on. At the very least, it’s an annoyance.

The easy solution is to tag more speeches. Duh. The thought of all those “saids”, regardless of how artfully I conceal them by using synonyms, strikes me as beyond boring. In the back of my mind I also have the Elmore Leonard rule to not replace “said” with a synonym. He says that the word should disappear into the background. I call this the said-balance solution – to have enough tags to keep the reader on track but not so many that he gets bored. Continue reading “Finding Your Character”

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In Celebration of Deadlines

By Bob McCrillis

Did you know the origin of the term deadline? It arose, among many other horrors, at the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. The Confederate guards established a line about twenty feet inside the stockade walls which no prisoner was allowed to cross. Should a prisoner cross, or even touch, the line, he was shot by the tower guards. According to War Department records, this policy was strictly enforced, leading to the term deadline.

It’s not too difficult to see how the concept could migrate to the newspaper world in the days of manually set type and travel-impaired distribution. With such long lead times between presentation of copy and delivery of a finished newspaper, getting copy in time to print it was very serious business. I was unable to find a verified instance of an editor shooting a delinquent reporter of columnist but I’m sure punishment was severe. Continue reading “In Celebration of Deadlines”

Rules for Writing

By Bob McCrillis

Elmore Leonard, as we all know, is fabulously popular in the crime genre. What I didn’t know was that his work is popular with literary people – the kind who actually have a shot a Pulitzer. Understand, I don’t personally know any of those writers, but read it in the New Yorker.

I was also unaware of his very cold-eyed approach to the business of writing for publication. When he left advertising to write novels in the early Fifties, he found that Westerns were popular so he wrote Westerns. When Westerns dropped out of favor, he switched to Crime.

A writer like this should be my hero, right? Work intended for publication is a product. It needs to be within a recognizable genre. Then I found his Ten Rules for Good Writing.

My work breaks every one – I’m doomed! Continue reading “Rules for Writing”

Specialization: How Much Is Too Much?

By Bob McCrillis

In a wide-ranging conversation with two other writers for whom I have great admiration, I made the comment that “Most of my stories are set in the turmoil of the Sixties and Seventies. It was a period of great social upheaval, which affected each of us differently. We didn’t all go to Woodstock – regardless of what some would have you believe.”

Both of my friends argued that I was crimping my ability as a writer. Worse, I might be limiting the marketability of my books. The sweeping social changes of the present are having the same uneven effect on ordinary men and women. Writing about their struggles to adjust, triumphs, and failures are worthy of exploration.

“You don’t want to be thought of a guy who just writes about old stuff.” I was told. Continue reading “Specialization: How Much Is Too Much?”

The Crash

By Bob McCrillis

Over the holiday week, the Goddess of Rhamnous, Nemesis, schooled me on my dangerous tendency to hubris.

As you know, I’ve set myself the project of writing a short story every week for a year – as recommended by Ray Bradbury. Quite proud of myself after the first four weeks, I added a page for the resulting stories to my website.

“I’m accepting the Ray Bradbury Challenge,” I crowed. “Just watch how great this will be. My stories will be good and can only get better – and I’ll have fifty-two publishable stories,” said I.

Should have known better. Continue reading “The Crash”

June Writers Guild Meeting Summary

By Anne K. Kaler

The June 17th meeting started at 1 pm in the upper area of the red barn. Cindy Louden (chair) and Anne Kaler (instructor) led the meeting where all seven attendees presented their writings which are summarized below.

Notice was given on several new sources for short stories and poems under the BookBaby ads. One of their downloads includes a list from Authors Publish Magazine of 180 journals who accept submissions of poetry and prose. Visit www.authorspublish.com. Continue reading “June Writers Guild Meeting Summary”

Avoiding Seduction

By Bob McCrillis

Got your attention, didn’t I? Certainly generates more interest than Paperclips: the pros and cons.

Yes, I was serious last week when I told you I’d be talking about paperclips this week. The modern “Gem-type” paperclip has been in production since the late 19th century. The exact date of its incarnation is in doubt but there is general agreement that it was in the 1890’s. And, in my opinion, has been helping disorganized people become even more disorganized for the past century and a half.

The little twist of wire’s utility as a missile in the office or classroom is well known. It also provides raw material for the Zen-like chain making that gets all writers and other office drones through conference calls. It can even, reportedly, be used as a make-shift lock pick. It, oh yes, also holds sheets of paper together. Continue reading “Avoiding Seduction”