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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ginger and Spot: Tips on Successful Writing

 This is my last blog for a while.  I wrote it some time in the later ‘70’s.  It seems an appropriate way to close down for a spell.  I may get back to blogging after a time out.
(the posted version seems to have some spacing problems between words that I can't change)

n            Hi there, Mrs. Moody.  Ready for your first creative consultation?

n           Oh my . . . well, I suppose so, Mr. Beardsley.  I . . . I don’t know if this little piece is what you want, but . . .

n           No problem, Mrs. Moody.  Throw it out to me, and we’ll see how it flows.  Give me your first line.

n           (clearing her throat): “Hey, Leroy.  Drop the shades and watch that cat zap up the tree.”

n             Mmnnh.  First of all, Mrs. Moody, a basic rule in writing is to know your reading audience, and       how you can communicate.  Now before we get into your line there, let’s see if you can give us a    catchy lead-in statement.  The principle character here seems to be a cat, right?

n            Well, one of the characters, you might say.

n          Mmnh.  Let’s see then.  What motivated the cat?

n         I hadn’t gotten to that yet.

n         But you must.  How about . . . how about a dog?

n         That’s what I’m trying to . . .

n         OK.  Now take a step backward into the plot, and try again.

n         How about, “Leroy!  Ain’t I told you to get that damn dog out of the house?”

n         Er, maybe you could move ahead one step.  Who is looking at the dog and cat?

n         Leroy and his friend Jefferson.

n         All right.  Give Jefferson something to say, like “See the dog.”  By the way, give him a name . . .  Spot.  Now try again.

n         Well, I hadn’t given this much thought.  “Hey, Leroy.  Old Spot’s chasing cats again.”

n          No no, Mrs. Moody.  Children can’t take in so much vocabulary when they are beginning to   read.  Simplify.  Simplify and clarify.  Now, please, Mrs. Moody.  Let’s give it the old professional try.  Remember?  Write and re-write.  Right?

n        Yes sir.  Simplify.  You’re perfectly right, of course.  Let’s see now . . .  “See" . . . oh I have it:  “See Spot”   . . . uh . . . “See Spot run.”

         Great!  Now your juices are flowing!  Keep on.  Repetition is effective.  Run it past the kids again   for emphasis.

n         “See Spot.  See Spot run.”  But Mr. Beardsley, don’t you think . . .

n         You’re doing fine.  Now introduce you protagonist.  Don’t you think you should identify these characters by name for the kids?  How about Ginger for the cat?  I once had a cat named Ginger. . . she got mangled by a Beagle and . . . but excuse me.  This is your story.  Keep your style consistent, remember.  Now, you’re on your own here for the next line, but keep it simple.

n         You mean like this?  “Hey Leroy.  What’s your cat’s name?”

n         No, no, no, Mrs. Moody.  Keep it simple.

n         Uh . . . “See Ginger” . . . uh . . . “See Ginger run.”

n         Now you’re on to something.  Action words . . . keeps things hopping.

n          But Mr. Beardsley.  I have trouble thinking in direct terms.  Do I have to get rid of the line I had to begin       with?

n         To be frank with you,  Mrs. Moody, that line has to go.  No kids can get through it.  Another rule:  clean out the excess.  Remove the garbage from your writing.  Nothing is too good that it can’t be left out of a story.  You’ve got to let go.  Now, try some free association.

n          Well, here’s how I might try it: “See Spot.  See Spot run.  See Ginger.  See Ginger run.” Now, um . . . um. .  . Oh, I think I’ve got the swing of it now.  “See Jane.  See Jane run.  See Dick.  See Dick run.  See            Mother.  See Mother run.  See Father.  See Father run.  See . . . 

n          Stop right there, Mrs. Moody.  Don’t over-write.  Know when you’ve come to the end of your     plot.  Leave them hanging.  Don’t resolve.

n          Yes.  Oh yes, Mr. Beardsley.  My, what a great help you’ve been this morning.  If it weren’t for you, no  telling where I might have gone with that story.

n         That’s what I’m here for.  See you next week, Mrs. Moody.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Counseling Session: Overflow of Sorrow

A flash fiction episode, not to be a continued story:

            It happened between Rocky Road and Orange Sherbert . . . my most memorable counseling opportunity. It happened this way.
             I set up office where she corners me beside frozen desserts.  Her litany of pain is familiar: the bad hip, high blood pressure, “sugar.”  Today there is a new one, the one that has been hiding behind facades of facile reasons.  “They fired me last week.”  Her eyes brim, tears overflowing onto frozen packages of pie-crusts, fruit, cakes, which soon are swimming in briny sorrow.
            Having learned to listen, saying nothing, I stand there while she enlarges the litany of injustices.  Pizzas and thawing raspberries, floating in her tears, rise to the edge of the bin.  Biscuits and pies spill over into aisles, as shopping carts edge through, their controllers oblivious, seeking the 20% off items for the week.
            An hour later she winds down, blows her nose into the napkin she had tucked in her pocket, sighs and maneuvers her cart in and out of floating groceries as stock boys mop and shovel packages back into the bins filled with near-frozen salt-laden pools of tears. 
            As she moves away, I think of all injustices – of centuries, millenia, of stifled, oppressed victims.  My thoughts take form and crowd the supermarket aisles.  Buyers and clerks cannot pass through.  We are all blocked, and a crushing force of old wrongs begins to pour from the shoppers.  We fall to our knees in grief and anger, our despair alive in songs of lament.  The wail creeps through openings in offices and check-out counters, pours through automatic doors into town.  Memorable moment.  Unprecedented.