Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
Everyone is welcome here.
(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)

Mon, Aug 30 2010

September 2010 Deb's Monthly Review has been uploaded

Please take time to enjoy the September 2010 issue of Deb's Monthly Review, which is full of festivals and other events in the USA. It's always free to view. You'll find events featuring everything from turkey races to mule polo to the joys of popcorn.

posted at: 20:04 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 26 2010

Dilemna: Balancing time to create, time to design, time to deliver, time to learn, time to promote, time to socialize

Just looking at these free brick textures from BittBox starts the story wheels turning for me. What writing scenes would take place in front of (or behind) a grungy brick wall? Sometimes a visual cue is stronger than any other for the creative part of me. I see more and more stories presented as packages, with art, audio files, even book trailers that mimic movie trailers in intensity and scope. The old-fashioned craft of telling stories and the old-fashioned method of curling up in a corner and reading a book are both evolving into a new form of entertainment in many instances.

In addition to making time for writing stories I'm also busy creating content for informative web sites. I see wonderful online sites with riveting design go sweeping by me as I struggle to maintain what I already have going. And one can't sit designing and writing 24/7. There are other people in the universe to communicate with and spend time with. With all the toys we now have available for phoning and texting and tweeting and sending videos and pictures, it's easy to spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in a corner figuring out the technology while the rest of life passes us by. And I'm in the minority among those in my age group. Many of them use technology sparingly. That's fine, but if we expect to draw young people to our content and creations, we're going to have to learn how some of the newer technology works and what young people are using in their daily lives. Radio was easy for generations before me. Television was easy. Movies were easy. Unless you were a creator of content, viewing and listening were mostly passive. Technology, including entertainment technology, has become increasingly interactive. If we don't keep up with things a little we're going to look up one day and be dinosaurs that deserve the labels of ridicule we'll be getting from younger people.

HTNL 5 is upon us and I've barely scratched the surface of HTML 4. I spend so much time creating contest that I lag behind on design and content delivery vehicles. I liked the post on My Ink Blog, in which Chris Thurman asks us to Blue Collar Designers: 5 Lessons From the Lunch Pail. Having dealt with many blue collar workers who are the basic builders of structure and infrastructure, I see his points. But the thing that also comes to mind, if the analogy is taken too far, is that a certain number of blue collar workers are so exhausted at the end of their working day that they are tempted to grab a six-pack and collapse for the remainder of their waking hours. At the end of a day spent working on design and content there are many other things still to be done and there needs to be energy and enthusiasm for those activities. Balance is key. It's not a new problem for society, but it's been flapping in my face lately. If we're going to work even a little like blue collar workers we're going to have to find time to pack that lunch pail and maintain a social life after navigating high-rise girders all day. Now, do we have to look good doing it or can we still get away with sweatpants and bedroom slippers?

posted at: 10:39 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Aug 24 2010

The post that wasn't

Three unsuccessful tries at a new blog post means I'm not really ready to post. I'd rather wait until the thought comes together properly. I'm also hoping to soon add more blogs to the list of those I read so that when the proverbial cat has my tongue you don't have to go away feeling cheated. They will be happy to share their wisdom with you.

posted at: 22:16 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 23 2010

I need a name. Give me a name.

I was trying to form a visual image of a character this morning, but was having a tough time of it. For some reason I began to think of names, since I hadn't yet given her one. Once she had a name, details began to clear up. I felt a little conflicted about that. Was it somehow unprofessional to need a name in order to fill in the rest of the blanks? But names really do have a lot of clout, in life and in fiction. How often have you talked with someone on the phone or corresponded with them for awhile until an image of that person began to form in your mind? If you saw them in person later you may have been disappointed to find that they looked very little like what you had imagined.

The reader of a short story or novel usually has the advantage of getting to know your characters along with their names. You, the writer, have described John Leonard as the short, gray-haired, pencil-chewing physics professor with a fondness for military macaws and a weakness for red-haired women who compete in sand volleyball. That gives a reader a nudge in the right direction. But before John Leonard can come to life for the reader, John Leonard has to become a force in the writer's mind. And as strange as it might sound to a non-writer, a lot of what is going to make that happen has to do with John Leonard being called John Leonard. And just wait until CEO Miriam Hahn and Chef Cristo Yale start forming images in some writer's mind.

posted at: 22:11 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 20 2010

Your protagonist's last nerve

You know how some days everything feels as though it goes wrong? You sleep through the alarm, burn breakfast, lose your favorite watch, have to clean up after sick kids or cats (or both), miss a job interview and then, as a last bit of insanity, mash your finger in a drawer and that's when you really thinkg you'll just give up? Think. What brings your main character to that exact moment in your story?

posted at: 21:25 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Aug 18 2010

Five things toward the preamble of a tale

Things I wrote in longhand today:

Types of coffee beans on bags
A grocery list entry for powdered sugar
A note to find a paper someone wrote on family history
A reminder to read the 8th chapter of Romans
The correct spelling of the town of Nappanee, Indiana

These things, taken together, would make a great preamble for a story, wouldn't they? All I need are the characters that will inhabit a world where all these items have relevance. Writers, I hope you have your own set of things like this, again and again.

posted at: 22:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 16 2010

A simple feast

This blog post is about food. If you came looking for writer support, forgive me. I had to think about food a lot this past weekend and I had to either write a culinary blog post or put more food into my fiction. (That latter option isn't a bad one, of course.)

We had lunch out last weekend at a little place just inland from here. It was full of old world charm and antiques, vintage glass lamps inside and adobe styling outside. The menu was short and simple and the food was simple and satisfying, but not boring. How is it that some cooks can take the most basic ingredients and come up with food that rivals fancier dishes and still make you feel pampered and special?

I also made cookies yesterday, using a recipe we usually utilize at Christmas. We shared them with friends and I was reminded of how silly it is that we tend to cram all the goodies into a few weeks at the end of the calendar year. The cookies were not surrounded by six other varieties and were the star of the occasion, dusted with a little powdered sugar and enjoyed for their own merits, instead of being part of a cookie buffet.

I'm going to put this in the food category of the blog, but the truth is that it still makes me think of writing fiction. Fiction, skillfully presented, gives a certain satisfaction to both writer and reader. It comes out much the way a good sculpture begins with a block of material and elements are taken away until it has just the right form and dimension. It may be part of an intricate thought process, but the experience we get from sharing in its story feels complete, authentic and maybe even inevitable.

posted at: 22:39 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 12 2010

Grab some paper and write.

I've given up on being keyboard-centric when it comes to working on fiction, until it becomes time to polish it. In the meanwhile, if ideas flow from my mind to a notebook or pad of paper or the corner of a fast food napkin, so be it. I used to write in longhand quite a bit as a teen, when typing meant banging the keys of a manual typewriter and battling ribbons and carbon paper. (If you're too young to remember those as anything but cute vintage items, you're lucky.)

I've managed to steal a few minutes for writing this evening, so this entry will be short. I hope you're writing too, if you can, and I really hope you're writing if you must, because not writing if you must will dwarf your spirit and make life less fun. So find a blank space and go to it.

posted at: 20:02 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 09 2010

Too many beginnings and not enough endings

Just before I fell asleep the other night I had a sort of story vision that gave me an idea for a whole new tale. The problem is that I created the beginning of the story. I'm notorious for starting stories, but not finishing. I wonder. Why do I never seem to just naturally imagine an ending of a story the way I imagine a beginning? Is it just a habit, or is it related to the same idea that packing for a trip is a lot more fun than unpacking? And aren't all beginnings the end of something else anyway? Maybe I simply need to take a step back in time in my imagination and see what has gone on just before I imagine a beginning. I'm going to work on this and try to turn it into a useful tool instead of a hindrance.

posted at: 11:24 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Aug 06 2010

Songs with words, words with song

Someone sent me a link to a video of someone singing another verse of The Star-Spangled Banner this morning and it started me thinking about how music enhances our words. When you have trouble remembering a phone number it often helps to sing it to yourself. My explanation isn't very scientific, but apparently, singing something uses other parts of the brain from just saying something aloud. I used to sing multiplication tables as a child and it was a big help in memorizing them. A lot of folk songs are really stories set to music and they tend to stick in the mind for a long time.

I associate with a lot of musical people, but it never really occurred to me that I've neglected using music in my fiction. It might be time to remedy that, though it's often difficult to effectively describe music by using just written words. I think it will be worth a try.

posted at: 15:24 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Aug 05 2010

Phone calls and fiction are a bad mix for me

Today was one of those days when the phone took a great deal of time and energy. I've learned that phones can be a big enemy to writers if we aren't careful. There are business calls and personal calls, both of which are necessary at times, but which can also be an energy drain. When I'm working on writing that isn't fiction I can devote more time to talking on the phone. But when I'm trying to stay steeped in a story I have to walk a chalk line as far as monitoring my time on a phone. It's always good to know what hinders our fiction writing and what moves it along. Phones are high on the list of hindrances for me while I'm trying to write a tale.

posted at: 22:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Aug 03 2010

I don't know, but I know someone who does know.

I plotted with a friend today to plan some new food experiences later this year. She has been avoiding certain ingredients for awhile. This makes restaurant eating and food shopping quite an adventure and I learned that she's quite knowledgeable about hunting down places that will cater to food allergies and intolerance. It started me thinking about the many experts we writers know. If we ever need to find out more about a topic or need to add to a fictional character's skill set, we have a wealth of information available to us through the people we interact with in our daily lives. It's not that we should treat our friends and family as vending machines, but it would be silly to think that we know everything about every topic. Why not approach the people we know when we have a question about shipbuilders or egg-free baking or Kevlar fiber. We can go to the library or the internet, but we might gain something else by asking the experts we already know. Their personal experience or their take on a subject might be the very thing we need to make our story unique and compelling.

posted at: 19:48 | 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!