Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Tue, Feb 14 2017

Writing and the art of lawn maintenance

Just as writers in snowy spots have to stop writing to go shovel snow now and then, writers in California have to stop writing to go mow lawns now and then, even in February. It's a struggle to keep one's head in the game while filling up the yard waste can with trimmings.

One of ways I make the yard time do double duty is to consider setting details and to notice my characters' habits in depth. Would my characters plant tulip beds or cactus gardens? Would they revel in digging into rich compost piles or would they sneeze and run inside at the first sign of spring pollen?

If you're working on a mystery, you might learn to not have a killer try to bury a body beneath a plum tree, unless you want them to get caught in the process. (Plum trees behave more like shrubs than trees and their roots can be too tangled and dense to bury anything bigger than a field mouse.)

The whole thing does underscore the habit that writers have of making everything about writing, even when one is not actually sitting and writing. Going off into the weeds may be literal, but it doesn't have to be figurative unless you let it.

posted at: 12:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 30 2017

Themes and seasons

Spring comes early to this part of California. The tulip trees often flower out before February. Bulb plants have already sent up green shoots and are about to unfold packed flower tips as I type this. In less than three weeks we'll see new buds decorating the tips of deciduous trees branches. Nights throw temperatures down into the 30s, but a late winter day can warm into the the 60s and 70s.

It doesn't feel like an ebb and flow in nature, but more like someone jumping out from behind a familiar door in a familair building with one surprise after another. Frost on Tuesday Monday moring reminds us that winter has not finished with us yet, but hazy sun reminds us that we're right on track to spring.

A well-written story makes me feel the same way. It's not predictable, but it's also not easy to just fall in and out of a reading session. What pulls me in is the suspense or a curiosity to know what happens next, but what keeps me reading for a longer peiod of time is a familiar sweet spot, comfortable like a seasonal track running just below the surface of the twists and turns. I take delight in the surprising events, but I also feel satisfied that this is the way of all things in a larger sense.

posted at: 13:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 27 2017


I caught myself reaching for a link to an online game this morning while I was enjoying a warm cup of liquid. It was one of those games that has little gems or jewels in rows and columns. The object is to make switches in order to get three or more of a kind in a straight line. It's too easy to go from playing three rounds to playing 30 rounds. Thankfully, my brain reminded me that this morning's game was intended to be only a brief distraction.

Somewhere behind the attention required to play the game my brain was seeing something that made me realize that such a game is kind of a fast-moving matrix for plot elements and twists. While one thing resolves or falls into place, something else changes with one or more characters reacting to it.

Now I need to make my own matrix for those times when I get a bit stuck on the way a plot is moving (or not moving). I don't condone playing games in order to procrastinate, but in this case when my subconscious mind was working on a story, it turned out to be a good move. Fiction does have to flow somewhat naturally from a character's make-up, but fiction, like real life, sometimes throws a monkey wrench (or a gem) into the mix of things.

posted at: 11:33 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Fri, Jan 20 2017

Covering the Parade

I watched quite a bit of the inaugural ceremony earlier today and then viewed the parade and the subsequent attempt at torching metal trash receptacles by a few. There should be a better English term for one who throws tantrums and starts fires when they don't get their way. Arsonist doesn't quite cover it, because arsonists often set fires because they fixated on the blaze and the tantrum-thrower isn't quite that focused. They usually come ill prepared to create a proper flame and they run out of fuel and end up tossing in everything from metal items, which don't burn well, to their own clothing, which leaves them a bit defenseless if/when the police bring out the water cannons. Vandal might be a better term, because it involves destruction of property with no real control over the outcome. And, as a side note, to the people who damaged the vehical carrying media equipment, why would you hurt the very ones who are giving you the best chance at getting attention?

The actual parade was full of movement and music, protectors and performers, rugged blast-proof vehicles and a photographer walking backwards to capture that close-up shot of the drum major (who never broke stride). It was a rather wet day, but that worked in favor of the whole event. The rotating lights of the official motorcycles would have been pale in direct sunlight, but with a backdrop of gray sky and soft rain, those same lights became a brilliant banner of red and blue stars with silver metallic outlines. Very patriotic on such a winter's day.

It's fun to live in a country where people can either celebrate or protest on any given day without getting our heads chopped off for exercising our rights. I have no doubt that both protestors and celebrants will talk about this day. But there's the parade and the pageantry. And then there's the day-to-day work we each have of being an American in 2017. That's a parade where no one gets to be merely a spectator.

posted at: 15:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Tue, Jan 17 2017

Junk or brilliance? Brilliance or junk? Whatever I wrote it was still what I thunk.

When the experts, whoever they may be, tell writers to write down something, even if what's written is junk, they mean well. What they don't realize is that writers can be very prolific at writing junk, but that the junk still may not translate into a good piece of fiction.

I sat down earlier today and spent about 30 minutes writing what I can only call a scene, one involving a new character from a story I haven't outlined or plotted very well. I've been stuck on the whole project for awhile, so I decided to just spend the day with my character on a day that might be the type of day she would experience in the midst of a full-blown story. I generated several paragraphs, but I don't know that it was anything except junk. I still don't have a real direction for her, though I did find some events that were coming at her from out of nowhere.

I also found out something else new about her. She went to talk to a professional who is in a lot more trouble than she herself is. I'm wondering now if that was also a rather subconscious way of thumbing my nose at the experts who tell us to write just anything, even if what's written is junk, even if they are only so-called experts who are worse writers than those trying to write something brilliant.

In some sticky, twisted way, the experts are right, because I did end up writing something.

posted at: 13:58 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Jan 16 2017

2017 is in full swing.

This is a bit of a test post after some absence. I'm checking a different method of uploading posts.

The end of 2016 went past me like toilet paper unrolling on the floor when cat paws go into action. I knew it was passing, but by the time I tried to do anything about it, the days were lying in a soft little heap and there was nothing I could do but put up a new roll.

posted at: 11:36 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 12 2016

Are some pictures worth only 997 words?

I recently realized how much I'm in the habit of using words. I've been using Rabadaba, a social media app that pays users after a certain attainment of points or "Rabs". Photos, videos, audio and text are all allowed in Dabs (posts). Original content is encouraged, while obscene content is forbidden, as is copyrighted content without credit and permission. There are versions of the app for both Android and iOS.

There is no requirement to post titles and descriptions with photos, but I like it when people do add to their photos with words. The worldwide attraction to the app and website mean that a photo may have come from high African plains or a suburban backyard deck in Ottumwa, Iowa. Some landmarks are obvious in photos, but many dabs are of brilliant flowers or rabbits. A simple screen swipe may take you straight from a weathered doorway at a seaside cottage to a sandwich being stolen by a fast-moving dachshund. It's nice to know where the photo-taker was at the time.

A good photo should tell a story on its own, but the writer in me is always tempted to add to the picture with words, something I didn't realize was so important to me until I joined this particular social media platform. I try to act with restraint, but it's not always easy. (If you go and have a look, I am @debberzz there.)

posted at: 11:42 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!