Can’t We All Just Get Along?

My friend Anthony and I worked hotel security together, once upon a time, and I believe he was the best officer there. However, he had a habit of downplaying everyone elses contributions to the department. No matter what you did or what you said, Anthony had done it longer and it had been more difficult. Let me give you an example.

One day we were shorthanded and I, being the newest guy on the team, was sentenced to “the guard shack.” It was a little booth, maybe ten feet side to side and five feet front to back, that monitored the only entrance and exit into the hotel. To make matters worse, it was the graveyard shift and other than a static-y radio there was nothing to do for hours on end. I told my friend Anthony about it. His response? “That was nothing. Once I had a sixteen hour shift in that box and no bathroom breaks.” I believe he was telling the truth. Still, a little sympathy would have been nice.

That reminded me of a pair of articles, one from The Writer Magazine and the other from Writer’s Digest. Both talked about conflict and status. The theory goes something like this: any two given people in a situation will have differences in status (the non-FB kind), for example: social class, jobs, families, leisure activities, friends, toys, etc. The differences between them will cause conflict – one will be the dominant personality and the other subservient.

The conflict occurs because of that difference – if the status was the same, there is little room for conflict (unless one of the two people hates their own status and is using the other person to rail against their own status). It’s an ego thing. We want to associate ourselves with those who are our own status or of a superior status. There are many movies and books about the guy who attempts to win over the girl “out of his league (or vice versa). Not so many stories about the guy who is of a greater status, say a vice-president and the girl is a data entry clerk. Those stories do exist, but the guy will have other areas in which she has higher status, perhaps a brilliant mind but has been unable to strut her stuff. And in most cases, the story is told from the point of view of the lower status character. The underdog.

These situations, their differences in status, provide great material, not just for conflict, but conflict that is meaningful to the characters.

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Where there’s smoke, there’s sausage

So I’m sitting around at eleven o’clock at night and I’ve just finished the latest edit of my eighteen page fantasy short story called “Stalking Justice,” and I’m hungry. I rummage around in the refrigerator and I pull out a package of Italian sausages and dump a pair of them into the frying pan. Okay, I didn’t bother finding a frying pan – I found a cheap aluminum tray and slapped it on the stove. It works just as well.

Anyway, I turn the heat on seven (out of ten) and start cooking it. After it starts to brown, I cut them into pieces. And then something strange starts to happen. The sausages start smoking. Not talking a few little wisps of smoke either. Think chimney. Of course, being a guy, I’m not going to turn down the heat. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I thought that the meat would run out of smoke or something. Didn’t happen.

After I had a hard time seeing around in my tiny kitchen, I had the bright idea to turn on the ceiling fan. Worked too – at least it spread the smoke around. I opened up a few of the pieces of sausage and they were still red in the middle, though a dark brown or black on the outside. Still, I let it smoke till I was sure that a bleary-eyed neighbor, looking outside, saw smoke pouring out of every crevice in the house, and called for a five-alarm fire house response.

At that point, I gave up on the frying. I punched in four hundred degrees on the oven and cooked the meat for thirty minutes while I watched Supernatural on Netflix. Halfway through the show I had to calm my wife down and assure her that the house, in fact, was not burning down.

Next time, I think I’ll just bake them.

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Narrator and Voice

I was editing a story the other day and I became stuck. The number of variations of what I could do with each sentence stopped me in my tracks. I suppose that it’s an aspect of fear – if I make the wrong choices with the story, if I chose the wrong description, it could slow it down or even dissuade a reader from continuing on. Which, makes me even more nervous about the editing. A downward spiral of paralysis.

Then I realized something: the narrator is a character, even if it isn’t one that plays an active role in the story. The narrator has hopes, dreams, goals and so forth, even if they aren’t articulated to a great degree by the author. The narrator has a personality – chooses certain words over others, has a tone, perhaps light-hearted, sarcastic, sincere or whatever. The narrator, as obvious as it seems, has a voice. That clarified the thing that was holding me back and gave me a direction that I could work towards.

In my case, it was easy – I was using the first person POV. I made sure that the words used to describe his world and his thoughts matched his mood and personality. My narrator will focus and describe people, placed and events that interest him, not simply because they exist. My narrators will touch the world.

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Hello all,

I’ve attempted several blogs, but none of them have stuck. I’m hoping that I’ll have the fortitude to keep with this one. I’m a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, but not of literary fiction. I’ve been writing off and on for more than twenty years and can’t seem to give it up. Currently, I’m finishing an edit of an eighteen page Dragonlance story, but since the market for such stories is nil, I’ll reshape it to fit a standard fantasy market.

In any case, I’ll post my own thoughts on writing, short bits of what I’m working on, or my take on what’s going on in social media¬† – especially on writers boards and such.

See you around.

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