If you were your character…


Today, I will address rule #15 of Emma Coats’ 22 Rules of Storytelling.

If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

In Something Different This Year, I would feel disregarded and disrespected. I would feel like directing loyalty toward myself and my teaching approach, rather than the school system’s. And I would, in my perfect world, want to do just what the teacher is planning to do— undermine ‘conventional wisdom’. To that character, wisdom comes from knowing her students and what she thinks they need and what she thinks would keep them engaged and interested and willing to invest themselves in their own learning, rather than play the role of robots.

In Stealth Students, if I were to witness the same loss of teaching and learning time, I would be just as frustrated as they were. Would I be taking those steps that they were taking? Probably not, because as a student, I tended to try to work within the system. In a way, that is what they are doing, at least to the point of still completing their assignments, but when given the chance, they work outside the system and bend school rules. Not in a hostile or malicious way, but in a way that feeds their need to maximize their time at school.

I would want to join these students. I would follow them to see what they were up to. I would see that they were on to something interesting and valuable and so if I were excluded, I would at least follow their example. If I were included, t’s possible I might be a little annoying to them. I would be supportive of all that they were doing. And I would ask a lot of questions.

In my foreign student story, I would at first feel intimidated. As a newcomer both socially and culturally, I would want to get a lay of the land. I would probably be overly vigilant about what I said and did, especially if I faced the bigotry that Anand faces. In a more perfect world, he would ‘play within himself’ and deflect the hatred and bias directed toward him, and lump the teacher’s childish bigotry in with the bullies.

In my Lisa G story, if I were her, I would probably, as in Stealth Students, try to stay below the radar. But I guess I’m discovering that half the fun of writing the stories is letting the characters pull off what I probably never would have pulled off.

I like her independence and her ability to shut out all the distractions, preferring to remain in her own little bubble of curiosity and creativity. She doesn’t seem fazed by the disapproval and, at times, even toys with characters like Mrs. B and Heather.

In Zucchini, I would probably react like Beth and I’m not sure if I would ever come around, despite the obvious enjoyment and fun her dad is gaining from their adventure. I would possibly be too self-conscious and too wary of being discovered by the other kids in the neighborhood.

In Bubbe and Bubba, I would, like the main character, enjoy serving as a bit of a promoter, especially considering there was good cooking involved.

What’s on my bookshelf? If You Can Talk, You Can Write

First of all, I love short chapters.

Thank you, Joel Saltzman, author of If You Can Talk, You Can Write [1993]—50 chapters squeezed into 190 pages.

And he practices what he preaches, as Saltzman might as well be playfully preaching to us over coffee in the kitchen.

Three of my preferred chapters:

  • If You Don’t Know What to Say, Start Saying It
  • Write About What Matters to You
  • But It’s Not Even Close to Perfect

My favorite Saltzman quotes:

  • “What’s needed is entitlement, the firm belief that ‘If it interests me, it interests others.’ “
  • “All you have to do is learn to stop rejecting your thoughts and start writing them down.”
  • “…you can adopt a much saner, more productive point of view: PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION.”

Saltzman also weaves in short anecdotes, pop quizzes [Ten questions you can’t get wrong], and valuable quotes from other writers, including:

  • “In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts.” —Goethe
  • “If the result of something I do is that someone feels 10 percent less crazy because they see someone else thinking what they’re thinking, then I provide a service.” —Albert Brooks

This is one of about a dozen books I would snag from my shelf in case a fire broke out at home. [If it wasn’t already been planted in my back seat box of writing stuff…]

What’s on my bookshelf? The Writer’s Idea Book

From my bookshelf, The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron, published in 2000. [Note: There is also a 10th Anniversary Edition.]

It’s broken down into four sections: Bending and Stretching, Exploring, Finding Form, and Assessing and Developing.

To quote the author: “…the tone of the book will vary, from high-minded to playful to downright crabby.”

I really haven’t come across the crabby parts, which sound well worth tracking down.

Heffron–an accomplished writer and editor [Writer’s Digest Books, Story Press, and currently copy director at Barefoot Proximity in Cincinnati] provides over 400 different prompts to nudge, shove, cold-cock the reader into some fertile writing territory.

Some examples:

  1. A Day in the Life of a Writer. In this mindfulness exercise, “Your goal here is not to develop material for a single piece, but to plump your notebooks with ideas and details.”
  2. “You’re very old. You’re on your death bed…Family and friends gather around you. What do you tell them about life? What advice about living do you offer them?”

Apologies to the ‘absolutes’ police: With this book, you’ll never have nothing to write about…ever.

What’s on my bookshelf? The Wizard of Ads


Here is the first of an occasional wordinventions feature, What’s on my bookshelf?
I hope you like it.

Today: Marketing consultant Roy Williams’ The Wizard of Ads from the trilogy by the same name.

Quote: “Intellect is to be cherished. Please don’t think I’m trying to diminish it. I’m merely urging you to give intuition the credit it deserves. I hope to give you the courage to follow your heart. Sometimes the thing that makes the least sense is exactly the right thing to do.” [page 182]

I like this work because it places just as much emphasis on people skills and life’s intangibles as it does on effective writing.

Twitter Gems: July 10-14

IndieAuthorsAlliance @IndieAuthorALLI Book Marketing Ideas for Indie Authors: Introducing the New Bookfunnel Bundle #author bit.ly/2umr57V

David Gaughran @DavidGaughran
Scammers Break The Kindle Storetwitter-2430933_1280https://t.co/5s7fqjTBfs

Kindle Direct Pub  @AmazonKDP
Some guiding words from KDP author @jaltucher.

IndieAuthorsAlliance @IndieAuthorALLI
5 Top tips to Boost Your Productivity bit.ly/2evBWDL#selfpub
[I’ve been working on the ‘road map’ tip. Sometimes I’m just not disciplined enough.]

Jon Winokur  @AdviceToWriters
If I see an ending, I can work backward. ARTHUR MILLER #amwriting#fiction

And yet more productivity tips!! Jeff Goins  @JeffGoins
Kill Distractions and Amp Up Your Productivity buff.ly/2tCpDgv
[I like the instrumental music tip.]

Twitter Gems July 3-7

Some of the greatest writers of the past century on how to handle criticism   https://t.co/DvCwfSOue4

twitter-rubix cube

A self-publishing primer from @JaneFriedman is among this week’s Finds for Writers: wp.me/p4x0h8-bKZ.

You have to resign yourself to wasting lots of trees before you write anything really good. J.K. ROWLING #amwriting #writing #writinglife

“When an idea comes, spend silent time with it…” https://t.co/WjESlYRIkz

You re-learn how to write a book every time you write a book. bit.ly/2sFlNUQ