Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Fri, Oct 23 2015

There's more than one way.

You can't just decide to kill off a character. You have to decide whether to kill them for good, kill them the way they do on soap operas, or kill them the way they do in vampire/zombie stories. Are they dead and gone, gone and wrong gone or gone and dead wrong? Writing is complicated.

posted at: 18:18 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Oct 12 2015

Past Tense

A few days ago I saw a self-captioned photo online of someone I knew perhaps three decades ago. The person was still reminiscing about old times. I was surprised until I realized that this had been an old habit they had even when I knew them and had possibly repeated itself many times over the years. The old days were where everything happened for this person, where all the action took place. Their present was someplace they had been thrust into the way a six of clubs is dealt from a deck of cards, thrown onto the table of life through no choice of their own. Their talk of future was full of hopeful dreams, but the dreams were rarely based on reality from their past choices or present circumstances. Their self-trajectory for the future seemed based on something that might happen to them instead of on something they might help make happen.

Real people have a history when we meet them, but if they spend most of their time steeping in their history, it's hard to build a relationship with them in the present or make plans with them for the future. So I thought of the way writers handle our fictional characters. When we tell a character's story, we create a back story for them in our minds, so that we know them well, but we usually write more about their present and we hint at their future. We might sprinkle in bits of the back story, but we use it like a fine spice to enhance the reader's experience. (There are exceptions, of course, such as characters who are time-travelers or who remember nothing except their past because of a medical issue.) But a writer simply can't afford the luxury of leaving all characters in the past. We have to present a story that makes readers want to turn a page or move to the next scene to see what happens next.

posted at: 08:10 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Oct 01 2015

The care and comforts of writing

Plenty of sleep: Check.
Dressed comfortably: Check.
Glass of fresh water at hand: Check.

Am I too comfortable now? Maybe I need to feel a little of the stress of my fictional characters. I don't have to fast for a week, forego showers and then go stretch out in a gutter and wait to feel the fear of being run over by a speeding motorist, but a little hunger and thirst and basic fatigue might put the brain in a frame of mind to better convey the highs and lows of a character's journey.

There's been a lot of joking about Ernest Hemingway and his alcohol, but as far as I can tell he didn't drink while he was writing. He probably knew that alcohol, besides being bad for his diabetes, made him too comfortable and sleepy when he worked. And maybe that's the key. A low level of comfort let's us be tugged away by our own malaise. A high level of comfort lets us drift into something nowhere near an alert state of mind.

Like alcohol, our state of mind can serve as both muse and monster in this sea of words. Success may lie in neither a lazy float with the current nor an all-out flail against it, but moving with steady strokes, fixing our gaze on the sweet shore in front of us.

posted at: 09:19 | 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!