Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I'm often asked how I get ideas for stories. One way I come up with ideas is while traveling. Most people going on their summer vacations will think of nothing but how much fun and sun they can pack into a week or two before they have to return to life's daily grind. As a writer, every place I go tends to spark story ideas along with fictional characters. Some ideas have enough substance to develop into something strong enough for an entire book.
Every place becomes a potential book setting. Sometimes I go to a place with specific research for a specific book as my top priority. But regular vacations are never wasted either. Even if I don't have a book setting in mind for a particular vacation spot, I still seek out museums, bookstores, and tourist information centers where I can collect local history and tidbits that I might be able to use in some capacity in the future. And, if I never use it, the extra knowledge certainly won't do any harm.
Road trips are especially conducive to research. I like to travel across the states and see how the terrain changes as well as the people. I like to feel firsthand the heat, cold, the smells and sounds, the traffic or the emptiness, the gentleness or ferocity of the wind–or the total lack of a breeze in a stifling, muggy place. I enjoy taking pictures, sampling the local fare, observing the people and their customs and culture, listening to the way they talk, their accents, their unique way of interacting.
Writers have a natural curiosity about people and the human condition in general. If we didn't have this curiosity, I daresay we wouldn't be writers. I'm lucky to have a spouse whose degree is in history, so he fully enjoys searching out the history spots with me and going to museums where I can rummage through the remnants of lives long past and the stories they left behind just waiting to be told.
So don't waste a perfectly good opportunity. If you don't have a story or a setting before you set off on vacation this summer, keep your eyes and ears open and you might just conjure something fantastic by the time you get home.
Linda is the award-winning author of thirteen novels. Several of her books have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Romanian, and Russian. She has won such awards as Idaho Writer of the Year, Affaire de Coeur's Reader's Choice Award, and Women Writing the West's Laura Award. She has worked as a secretary, a bank teller, a technical editor, and once even trained to be a beautician. Born and raised on a ranch, she has spent most of her life in Idaho. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband own and operate the ranch her grandfather homesteaded in 1915. You can see more about her books at www.linda-sandifer.com
In my last post I talked about how writers are called upon to wear many hats and I mentioned some of the hats my career has asked me to don. One that I didn’t elaborate on much in that last post was my screenplay hat. I signed up for an online screenwriting course and I have just finished the adaptation of my “Buddy” book into a movie. The followers of this blog who have delved into the art of screen writing, will know that it’s a whole ‘nuther ball game; a different style of writing altogether. The reader has to actually see the movie on paper through the characters‘ dialogue, their actions, and a very limited narrative prose.
We can only write what can be seen on the screen—the ultimate in “show, don’t tell.” An example might be a scene in which “Buddy” is very cold. The script might read: Buddy shivered, reached down, picked up his dog Blondie and held her tight to his chest. Hopefully, we see Buddy’s desperation. As stated in my lesson manual, screenplays are sparse in detail. The screen writer must learn to strike a balance by providing only enough description for the reader to “see” the film and still keep things brief enough for that reader to experience a sense of “moving” through the story. Scripts must adhere to a strict format as well. If one deviates from that format, the script will in all likelihood not even get a reading, let alone be considered for purchase.
Something else I learned about screenplay writing is that screenplays usually appear in two scripts; the spec script and the shooting script. The spec script is the script that a producer buys. It contains very little detail about camera angles, or any other kind of direction. All that comes later in the shooting script.
All in all, this screenplay has been a fun challenge. Although novels and short stories are still my favorite venue, with the aid and direction from my screenplay instructor, I am looking forward to maybe someday seeing the final product of my little movie on the big screen.
Bill lives in Pocatello. He is a two time Associated Press award-winning columnist and writes fiction under the name Will Edwinson. His national award-winning book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or by asking for it at your favorite bookstore. Check his web site and blog at www.willedwinson.com. Bill also writes free-lance for IDAHO magazine.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Today I think about writing. All of a sudden I have nothing to say. I look through my computer to find it is full of stories that seemed important when I wrote them. They were! I wonder why my book isn’t published. No matter.
I’ve become interested in ancient history. The pyramids, sacred sites, cave drawings, megaliths, and so much more tells the stories about another place and time – another people. Year 5010, my archaic computer (the future information system will be a thought request to the cosmos that downloads into the brain – the Mindnet is truly wireless) tells historians tales of beautiful mountains, anger, religious disagreements, flying to different dimensions, and much more. And, just imagine, a quirk in the system saved Google or what part the computer would hold.
Did someone say some computers were wireless? Half my desktop is wires. Maybe it was a wireless connection that required a dish of some sort. You guessed it. I thought dishes were in the kitchen.
By the way, the 5010ers think we had a goddess requirement for entering the country because of the Statue of Liberty. Future history has this so wrong because as you know it was given to us by France. War also earned this era the title of neosavage. History? Just write.
A pleasant summer to all.
Mary graduated from University of Missouri, Columbia with a Masters of Social Work. Having completed clinicals in mental health, she worked for a county health department and spent several years of her career on a neuropsychiatric unit of a hospital. (She always knew she would get help.) Having retired she has jumped off another cliff to try her hand at writing. "Writing is the chance to make things up, fantasize. I can say anything, almost." Home is Southern Indiana. As an adult she lived in several states and traveled the U. S., settling in Idaho Falls, ID. She loves the mountains and the snow.
Friday, June 4, 2010
As writers we are often asked where we get the ideas for our books. This question, more often than not, has left me at a loss for words until I realized that I've gleaned some terrific ideas from old movies, especially those of the 30's and 40's found on cable. However, confessing that a good movie can leach away my writing time can be embarrassing. But let's face it, where else can a person discover such a large range of juicy tidbits, one liners, gags, and plot ideas in a day except from TV?
Did you know that: if you want to shoot at a horseman riding downhill, you aim at his knee? For a time bobbies in England were called crushers? Adding nickel to gold will harden it? If an adult swallowed enough table salt, he could die of heart failure? (What a nifty way for an undesirable character to rid her/himself of a rival, especially if the victim is a fanatic on taking herbs in capsules. Someone could easily replaced the herbs with salt.)
Old movies are my downfall. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of I Was A Male War Bride starring Cary Grant. He marches into the heroine's office with an armload of clothes and dumps them on her desk. Their laundry gets mixed up, but he purposely gives everyone the idea that she's left her things in his apartment. The more she denies the implied accusation, the more he "tisks." What a cute scene! With a different setup, this could be a delicious way for the protagonists to meet, or to create friction, or it could be a means for them to see each other again and make up.
In Mazy in the Congo starring Ann Sothern, Mazy, a show girl, dresses up and convinces the attacking natives that she is a witch by doing simple magician's tricks, thus saving everyone. The locale could easily be changed to the early West and the natives to Indians. The heroine could be running a friend's traveling magic show when the scene unfolds. But why stop there? What if the heroine is actually using the show as a cover in order to dig up evidence that could clear her father of fraud, but the way she goes about it could send her to prison? What if the hero is sent out by Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate the case and rumors pertaining to a certain young lady only to find...by golly, I think I've come up with another plot.
From the cop shows, I've found different ways to defraud people out of their money, learned what can spoil a good murder, and figured out how to set up clues. Thanks to the talk shows, I've gathered a wide range of scholarly nuggets from the molding of a serial killer and the psychological makeup of a schizophrenic, to split personalities and extreme life styles. All fodder for a good plot. There are other pluses! Have you ever copied down last names from the list of credits? Have you ever written descriptions of the actors--their personality quirks, facial expressions, the way they walked, talked, acted,--and put what you found on cards to file away? Or have you ever watched a movie and come up with a twist of your own? Well if you haven't, come on over. You bring the popcorn, I'll furnish the drinks. If anybody asks, we're doing research.
Sherry Roseberry won Idaho Writer of the Year with her first novel. Besides her historicals, she's the author of four plays, short stories, and articles. A dedicated thespian, she's given workshops on using acting techniques in writing at local, regional, and national conferences of Romance Writers of America. Her lifelong dream came true when she had the opportunity to appear in the movie, HANDCART. The experience was glorious even though the winter scenes were filmed in (average) 20-degree weather. Writing is in her blood, but her greatest treasures are her five children and nineteen grandchildren.