A Fun Little Experience

Some of you might remember I participated in NaNoWriMo last November.  Within the month I finished a first draft of Summerton Blues.  Some of you might also remember that as soon as it was done I put it away and started my next project.  That was advice put out by Stephen King’s that has been really valuable.  When you come back to it later it’s easier to spot the issues.

Well, in my excitement over Camp NaNo next month I decided to read Summerton Blues.  I haven’t looked at it in almost six months and figured it would probably be awful.  During NaNo I never did any revisions and I hadn’t touched it since.

cover draft 2s

What I read surprised me greatly.  I got caught up in the story and finished it in a single sitting.  At the end I got tingles.  It was actually pretty good.

Does it need work?  Definitely.  Does it need a good editor?  Definitely.  But I kind of surprised myself, it’s a solid story.  With some effort I think it’ll be a good novel.

What a great way to get pumped up for Camp NaNo.

 

 

Bad words in fiction

On a recent bout with WriteClubFightClub a comment was left about how a good story doesn’t need profanity.  My story used two swear words, the s-word (once) and the f-word (twice), probably the reason why someone chose “neither” instead of voting for a story.

I was really tempted to write a response justifying my language but I decided that would be a bad idea.  Everyone has an opinion and that reader was simply mentioning theirs.  I don’t necessarily agree but that’s just my opinion.

I could probably find a list of the classic novels that include some form of profanity but honestly that wouldn’t change anyone’s mind or even necessarily make my point.  To me, swear words are just words, which means there’s a use for them just like any other word.  Also, just like any other word, they can be overused or misused.  I either use them or avoid them depending on the type of writing I’m doing and the potential audience.

In my story, Closing Time, the main character is a nurse who is at the end of a long, arduous, 16-hour day.  I wanted her to come across as worn, annoyed, exhausted, even petty at times.  She’d been in the trenches, probably been covered in blood and other bodily fluids all day, dealing with “emergencies” around every corner, at the end of her proverbial rope when she’s given just one more little job.  To me, the occasional swear word was appropriate for her.  I could have easily left those three swear words out but I thought they were more authentic than softer alternatives and I liked that edge they gave her voice.  They weren’t used that often either, there were three swear words in five pages of text, just enough to add a little spice without being overwhelming.

But, of course, that’s a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs.

So, speaking of opinions, I would love to get some more on swear words, or specifically on the word choice for Closing Time.  Were the “bad” words overused, misused, do they distract from the story?  Were they acceptable but it could have been better without them?  Good, bad, something in between?  I would really appreciate honest feedback.  Follow the links, let me know what you think, good or bad.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Whooooo!  After weeks of working out, training and sparring it’s time to fight!

Write Club Fight Club.  The writing is done, all that’s left is the fighting and today I’m up against N. J. Layouni.

J.M. Payer vs. N. J. Layouni.

I encourage all of you to visit the site, check out the two stories and vote for your favorite.  Honestly, I don’t even care if I win or not, I’m just having a blast participating in the adventure.   I’ve already learned some lessons from reading the other stories that have battled so far.  Any excuse to stretch the writing muscles in a different direction is worth the time and effort.

Feedback on both stories is encouraged and I’d love to know what you think about mine.   I don’t even want to name mine, that might skew the results and I want a straight forward battle.  I’ll just say it’s the one about the cop and a cat.  If you read it and have any suggestions or feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Battle on!  Go to WFCF and vote!

Well rounded characters

One of the things that I struggle with sometimes is creating characters with depth.  It’s really easy to fall into superficial stereotypes, descriptions and reactions.  One of the things that I try and do is figure out what kind of intelligence the character has.

The summer before I started High School, I got enrolled in a mentorship course.  I had zero interest in taking it but my mom told me that my best friend really wanted to but would only go if I went too.  So, after arguing for a while, unsuccessfully, I agreed to go but only to hang out with him.

My best friend at the time was Pablo.  His mother was one of those types that had his entire future planned up until University, which classes, sports, and extras he would take to set him up for success.  She had a ten-year plan for him, made sure he knew it, and always pushed him to achieve perfection in everything.

Almost as soon as I arrived at the class and sat down with Pablo, we realized that our mothers had set us up.  He hadn’t wanted to take the class either but his mom told him that I wanted to.  She’d convinced my mom that the class would look good on our college applications and they tricked us into going.  We spent the next six hours stewing.

The mentor ship class was some kind of new age thing based on pop psychology, it was really weird.  At one point they had us all laying on the floor, eyes closed, imagining that we were walking down a corridor filled with doors.  When you open the first door, what do you see?

While most of the class was fairly ridiculous to a couple of fourteen year-olds, the portion on different types of intelligences was interesting.  According to the teachers there were seven different personality/intelligence types and they were arranged by colors.  I think I was a green, if I remember correctly.  Each type learned in different ways, had different strengths and weaknesses.

Neither Pablo or I signed up for further classes and we both refused to enroll in the follow up program in High School.  When our mother’s came to pick us up, we had some harsh words for them.

As much as I didn’t like the class, the perspective I gained on intelligence/personality types has served me well over the years.  It made me think about how I might be better at sports than another kid but that he was probably better than me at something.  Or the kid who gets straight A’s on tests is probably not as good at something as a popular kid with bad grades.  Each different type has strengths and weaknesses.

That perspective also helps when I’m trying to write full characters.  Maybe I’m writing about a character with a weakness, I don’t want him to be flat so I balance that out by figuring out what he’s good at.  If the guy can’t count to twenty without using all his fingers and toes maybe that’s balanced out when he can paint like Picasso.   Or fix diesel engines like a pro.  Or he’s a shark at the poker tables.  Even if those things never make it into the story, it gives the character more depth in my own mind which helps put more depth on the page.

A little slow

I haven’t been spending much time on WordPress over the past few weeks.  I’m sure you can relate, sometimes life just gets busy.  And when life gets busy I prioritize, which in this case meant using what little free time I’ve had to work on things that are higher on the list.  For example, family, friends, and projects.

That said, I have some good news.  I’ve started work on my submission for Write Club Fight Club.

In case you haven’t been paying attention (shame!), Write Club Fight Club matches up two writers and provides a challenge.  The writers submit their work and readers vote on the best piece.  We have some interesting conditions placed on our fight, which can be found here. I’ve been paired up with N.J. Layouni, we’ve been scheduled to “fight” on October 2nd.  

I’ve been pretty psyched up for Write Club Fight Club ever since I heard about it.  So, you might think I jumped right into writing as soon as the matches and conditions were announced, that wasn’t the case though.  I was really busy and decided to let the ideas bounce around for a while.

Yesterday, I put fingers to keyboard and the story started to flow.  I’m excited, can’t wait to see where this all goes.

Stay tuned!