What if you faced the choice between losing your inheritance or saddling up for a journey of hundreds of miles on horseback – and you’re in your sixties? That’s the premise for As All My Fathers Were, the latest novel by my friend Jim Misko. We sat down recently to talk about the book and the writing life. [Read more…]
Writing was my dream, but I had to delay it for almost forty years as I worked and raised a family. [Read more…]
I’m so anal I used to have a list of values (Recognition, Relevance, Time, Money, Service) by which I would measure whether I was living a good life. It was only several years into having developed this list that I realized ALL OF THE VALUES PERTAINED TO MY JOB. None of them addressed the pursuit of family/friends, artistic interests, health, love or leisure. So for all the list-makers who think that completing your to-do list is synonymous with living a full and satisfying life, here’s the risk you are taking. And thanks to Janet Reid and Toni McGee Causey for reminding me not to sleepwalk through my one precious life.
For those of you who are writing memoirs and/or personal essays, Writer’s Digest offers some tips here for not nuking your relationships in the process.
According to Wikipedia, these are KV’s eight commandments:
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O’Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.
Did you ever want to get even with somebody by putting them in your book? Don’t waste your time.
I always regret it when I create a character because I have a beef with someone or because there’s somebody who is so appalling or frustrating that I just have to write about them. They always end up looking cartoonish or pointless. You can’t put a person in a story for your own gratification alone, which totally blows the idea of getting even with anybody through your writing.
Bummer, huh? So here’s your bottom line: if it doesn’t SERVE THE STORY, it shouldn’t be in there.