Friday, December 22, 2017

Mental Can Openers & Writer's Hash ~ The Writer's Gift


      Christmas, that time of year when we stop to consider what we cherish, and what we want to give.  I cherish words – words, and the stories they tell.  Stories were my refuge when I was young and hurting, so stories are what I want to give to others today.
      Words can communicate an idea.  But they can do more than that.  Words can stand up, grab a crowbar and lantern, then burst into someone’s darkened soul.  Words can make ideas sizzle like a branding iron, or words can draw out poison like carbolic salve on a wound. 
      Soft words can swaddle you in reassurance as tenderly as a mother wraps her wiggling nestling.  Action words can be harnessed like huskies, pulling the reader around each dark tree, over each new drift, and finally over the frozen water with an ominous snap.  Stories with ice-cracking plots, mercurial characters you love – or love to hate – quicksilver settings.  Wonderful.  But wonderful stories take crafting, and the artist’s skill.  Skill I did not start out with. 
      In the early 90's, I acquired rejections shoveling out stories like shoveling out a hen house.  Both products smelled the same.  A Christmas story that didn’t just fail, mind you; starving buzzards circled, descended, then left it untouched.  One manuscript regarding fishing sent maggots crawling away.  After a quick read, they took the coward’s way out, leaping into a bucket of Pinesol.  The EPA considered paying me not to write, to save clean-up super-funds. 
      After my writer’s soul had been scorched and kicked like an asbestos soccer ball in the satanic semi-finals, I came across a particular word I had initially ignored.  Crafting.  Sounding like some paint-pottery class, hope now sprang from this word.   How do those paid pros do it?
      Craft is a dance.  It looks effortless, but techniques and practice have gone ahead.  Words Box Step, rather than trip along.  Sentences that sashay, not wander.  Paragraphs waltz, describing marble-floor settings and characters cast chandelier-shadows, until the whole story magically picks you up like Cinderella arriving at the ball.  If the crafting is good, life’s ugly pumpkins suddenly transform into glorious carriages. 
      Craft is timing.  A story that pulls, choosing the magnetic word at that iron moment.  It doesn’t rush forward before the heart’s compass is ready; it doesn’t drag until the mind’s attraction fades.
      Craft is dialogue.  Not chat.  Not, “Good morning. How’s the dig coming?  Okay.  I broke my shovel.”  I want dialogue that forces the Sphinx to blink.  I want banter that reaches out and grabs your throat like a mummy.  “Tell me, Sullah.  Why would a righteous God allow his law to be buried in Egyptian sand?” 
      “He wishes to see who will seek the ark, Indy.  He notes who will dig.  But not with this broken shovel, my friend.”
      Craft is plotting. Events setting out on a wild sea hunt.  Turning points so sharp they harpoon the audience, drawing them into the chase.  Mystery that beckons like Ahab, bound to the pale prize itself. A climax that renders hearts to their essence, leaves mouths dry with Ahab’s thirst, and drives readers to pursue the elusive whale lurking below those crisp, white pages.
      But crafting, skill, and artistry alone can’t make this magic happen.  No matter how cleverly I weave words or stitch sentences together, I must rely on God’s Spirit to fashion the garment through me.  He must awaken the desire for the story.  It matters not how skillful the prophet’s parable if the people’s ears have become dull. 
      Authors, don’t leave your talent forgotten under your tree this year.  Give yourself the gift of crafting words.  There are excellent books, seminars, and classes full of advice and examples.  Topics abound, including how to hook plots, fashion characters, make a scene, time tension, and doctor dialogue. Challenging word exercises abound.  Make sure one (or more) of these grace your tree.  Feed your talent, so your talent can feed others for years to come. 
~ Brad




18 comments:

  1. As always, while I laughed -- particularly at the EPA SuperFund site sentence -- I found myself nodding at just how many valuable points you made, Brad. Great job. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you for the most gracious words from not only our writing group leader, but from one who has mastered these concepts in over 30 of her novels.

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    2. Brad, true words spoken about and from our leader!!

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  2. Brad, excellent as always. You brightened my day! Merry Christmas.

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    1. Thank you Jill. I hope Texas is treating you well. Our loss was Texas' gain. Keep writing.

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    2. Hi Jill, so nice to see you here. I hope Christmas in Texas rocks, it'll be different for sure. Did you put up your village this year?
      Hugs,
      LA

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  3. L.A., you've outdone yourself. Not just a great blog, but such nice graphics. Love the boy, with his books and toy, but the antique plaque is fantastic. Did you make it? It captures the point perfectly!

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    1. Brad, your post is perfect. Hits exactly the right notes. We forget that writing is a craft and all crafts need work.

      Yes, I did the chalkboard, it was fun. Another craft of mine is graphics.

      Merry Christmas, my friend. I know we'll soon be hearing more about your 4 books!!
      LA

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  4. Brad, you had me snickering at word one and then laughing out loud at the part about buzzards circling and maggots crawling away. Way to go! You're right, writing stories is not easy -- reading your blog posts is!
    Merry Christmas!!

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement. A day with a chuckle in it is not a wasted day. I'm so happy you are writing again. And thanks for sharing the chunk method with the group.

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    2. The comments on Brad's posts always make me smile as well. So that's pretty darn cool.

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  5. Thanks for the fun blog, Brad. I even heard a couple of my rats chuckling. It seems the more we learn about craft, the more we realize how much more we need. Cheers

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    1. Glad the rats enjoyed it. Their last hours should be pleasant - hopefully their last hours. That's one aspect about writing I love, you never quit learning.

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    2. Rats? That sounds Dickens-ish for sure. Merry Christmas, Marilyn.

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  6. Jeepers Creepers, Brad, your words hit the target! Crafting. I'll keep it as my focal point this next year. Leslie, thank you for a great Blog!

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    1. Thanks Gretchen. And L.A. does do a great blog. Crafting is important -- as your own recent award attests to.

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    2. Gretchen, you've already figured that out, congrats again on your win. AWESOME.

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  7. And Brad, thank you for the kind words regarding my blog. It's always a joy to host you.

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