Breaking Rules

No, I’m not talking about breaking rulers here; I’m talking about rules of writing. I’m no expert, I just sit down and write what comes naturally to me, I’ve never taken a writing course (yeah I live dangerously) and I didn’t know that there were rules but apparently there’s a bunch of rules out there. The following are a few examples of rules I’ve come across, mostly stuff I’ve found on the internet, some make a lot of sense to me, most of these so-call ‘rules’ are just silly. It’s been said that in order to break the rules one must know the rules, yeah that sounds good and all, but at the end of the day, you as a writer should follow your own instinct and write the best story you can write.

Write What You Know

This one’s easy and blatantly obvious, see the gist here is that if you write what you know your story will fly out into the page much more easily, no argument there because is true, however I’ve always had a bit of a problem with it because it got me thinking: As far as I know; Dante Alighieri never took a stroll in hell yet he wrote about it flawlessly in “The Divine Comedy” that takes imagination and to me; imagination trumps anything when it comes to writing. I like a challenge therefore I like to dive head first into matters which I know nothing about, by doing so, I get to learn something and, hopefully, so will the reader. As a writer you just got to make sure you do your research and come across as someone who knows what you’re talking about, otherwise you’ll come across as a jackass, which I’m sure I’ve done plenty of times.

Don’t Write About Music

Oh boy, I did it now! See, again I see where that rule’s coming from as most folks could care less about music while reading a story, novel, etc. unless is the book “Please Kill Me” which I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone interested in the Punk Rock movement. That being said; yours truly is currently writing a story saturated in music from the 1980’s, I know, I think I just shot myself in the foot on that one. Aside from turning people away when you dwell into music in writing, one has to keep in mind the copyright consequences that this endeavor brings, which means; you can’t go around penning song lyrics for songs you haven’t written, you will get it in the ass for doing so and it’s not cool. But if you still want to pen someone else’s lyrics into your masterpiece know that you’ll need permission from the copyright holder and a shit load of mullah, so beware. On the other hand you can do what I tend to do… I write the name of the song, sometimes crediting the singer or band, and then I tend to describe what the song is about to the reader.

Don’t Tell Jokes

Whoever wrote this ‘rule’ must have a broomstick up in their keister, I mean; who doesn’t like a good laugh? Say two guys who don’t know each other are waiting around having a smoke; you, the writer, wants to break the tension, what do you do? One has to tell a joke. Fuck the guy that came up with that rule. The same goes for the guy who said you should avoid pop- culture references, this one I kind of understand because it will ‘Date’ your novel, story, etc. But the guy that said not to inject food into your piece? Fuck that guy; I do it all the time because when writing I tend to get hungry.

Show Don’t Tell

Oh man, this is a big cardinal rule driven into the skull of many a writing course attendee, again, I can see why. You want the reader to feel what it’s like to be inside of the thunderstorm, so by describing it as lucidly as possible you will get the reader in there. I’m a bit ambivalent about this one because the majority of writers tend to abuse the hell out of this one in order to ante-up their page count which makes the reading tedious and boring. On this one I tend to follow rules 8, 9 and 10 of the Elmore Leonard rules of writing which are:

  1. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. (Sometimes I break this one)
  2. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. (Sometimes I break this one too)
  3. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. (I try like hell to stick with this one)

As a side note: there are no rules in fiction.

Write on and do you.

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A Sweet & Short Update

The Mullet, neon colors, pastel colors, cheesy pop tunes, and cocaine; as the drug-du jour, plus the Golden Age of heavy metal. What better place in which to set a story right? Well, guess what? Yours truly is taking the plunge by writing a story which takes place in that era. This new story is much more than simple nostalgia though. Is a fictional story set mostly in the town of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Florida. The opening scene came to me in a flash of imaginary flight of fancy, as most good ideas tend to.

Now, I know I mentioned that my next story was going to be a serial-killer type number. No worries; chill homie, chill. I’m not ditching it (is still in the works, I’ve got 7,156 words going on it) but this new story has a hook on me. It wants to come out and play, so I’m writing it. The working title of the story is Gray Salt, the tag line is: Drugs, Heavy Metal & Murder; a coming-of-age-story. The research is a lot of fun and I’m having a blast writing it. The 1980’s were colorful years indeed, as colorful as a comic book. Stay stoned, eh, I mean, stay tune…

And that, as they say, is my report from the writerly trenches. Y’all have a good one.

Too—doo—loo.

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Mini Book Reviews

For the first time in a looong time I’m enjoying a three-day weekend (actually; I don’t remember ever having a three-day weekend, but I digress), so I decided to go on an autobiographical bender and read a few short books to keep me from losing my melon. Here are my thoughts on these short and easy reads.

My Seinfeld Year by Fred Stoller

This Kindle single delves into author (character actor and writer Fred Stoller), extremely lucky streak of becoming a writer on one of the most popular sitcoms in modern American TV history (Seinfeld), yet he wasn’t too happy about it. I can’t imagine that writing for TV is an easy gig, especially for such a stratospherically popular show. He describes the almost Darwinian elements of a competitive writing gig which, quite frankly, would give anyone nightmares. He did managed to write some memorable episodes for the show, such as the one where Kramer is forced to apologize to a monkey and the one about the suit for a meal, in which Jerry has to buy Benia a meal for a suit, but Benia only has a soup and a sandwich after which he declares that a soup and a sandwich is not a meal, funny stuff. His insight into the ‘real-life’ Kramer is very interesting because the guy comes across as a real New York hustler, just like the TV Kramer. Overall a good read. 4 out of 5

***

The Girl in the Photo by Gaspar Gonzales

The historical background on this short alone will have you glued. The author (writer and documentary film maker Gaspar Gonzales) has been obsessed with a picture of the brother he never met, and decides to trace the girl who’s posing on said photograph with his brother, a photo, presumably taken on prom night. And so begins a journey of forty plus years in the making. This is an immigrant’s tale intertwined with family, history, war and the love of one’s adopted country. I just wish the book was longer because, as it stands, it feels like a taste of a much longer story, a story which honors the legacy of the brother he never had a chance to meet, a shy and smart guy who became a quiet war hero. If you haven’t guess already; this short will hit you in the feels (is someone peeling onions around here?) 5 out of 5

Happy Fourth of July!

 

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Literary Quote by Raymond Chandler

(AP PHOTO)

I hate to admit it, and quite frankly, I’m a little ashamed, but I’ve yet to read anything by Raymond Chandler, (so many great books and so little time to read them all). I keep hearing great things about his work. I was over on Reddit the other day and found an outstanding quote of his, I can’t say that I subscribe closely to the style he describes because I don’t like too much description on the stuff I’m reading or writing, when reading I tend to skip that stuff, I’m a firm believer in the Elmore Leonard adage of “I try to leave out the parts people skip”, anyway here’s the Raymond Chandler copy-pasted quote:

“A long time ago when I was writing for pulps, I put into a story a line like ‘he got out of the car and walked across the sun drenched sidewalk until the shadow of the awning over the entrance fell across his face like the touch of cool water.’ They took it out when they published the story. Their readers didn’t appreciate this sort of thing: it just held up the action. And I set out to prove them wrong. My theory was they just thought they cared nothing about anything but the action; that really, although they didn’t know it, they cared very little about the action. The things they really cared about, and that I cared about, were the creation of emotion through dialogue and description; the things they remembered, that haunted them, were not for example that a man got killed, but that in the moment of his death he was trying to pick a paper clip up off the polished surface of a desk, and it kept slipping away from him, so that there was a look of strain on his face and his mouth was half open in a kind of tormented grin, and the last thing in the world he thought about was death. He didn’t even hear death knock on the door. That damn little paper clip kept slipping away from his fingers and he just couldn’t push it to the edge of the desk and catch it as it fell.” – Raymond Chandler

Now, this other quote was said about Raymond Chandler’s writing by George V. Higgins.

“He did not write about crime or detection… He wrote about the corruption of the human spirit” –George V. Higgins (1988)

I think I can hang my hat on that quote

Cheers!

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Mini Book Reviews

You’re in for a treat partner because we have, not one, but two opposing genres in this here review. First up; the always great Michael Connelly’s ongoing Bosch series, and a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since it first came out; the sci-fi action-adventure by Ernest Cline: Ready Player One. Let’s go…

If you want masterful set ups, delicious twist and turns; you can’t go wrong with Trunk Music which also packs a lot of procedural details, great characterization and the introduction of a new lieutenant in the excellently named Grace Billets (or Bullets, as per her nickname) plus, a new partner named Kizman Rider (or Kiz, who may or may not stay in the unit) we’re also re-introduce to Bosch’s old flame Eleanor Wish. The only cats missing here are Crate and Barrel (I really like those guys, this being book #5 of the ongoing series, I might’ve miss the why of their absentia in this story) In Trunk Music we are treated to a fun case with the killing of a movie producer found in the trunk of his car, hence the ‘mob-term’ trunk music. Corrupt cops, back stabbings and blackmail set in the City of Angels where homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch and his partner Detective Jerry Edgar are the heroes every police department should have. 5 out of 5

Confession time, I’m not a fan of ‘hard sci-fi’ so this book was a treat. Think a dystopian future steep in the 1980’s and all its pop culture trappings neatly wrapped in an action-adventure story with 80’s video games, avatars, music, movies, TV shows and powerful enemies under the umbrella of an evil corporation, and you have what will, no doubt, become a huge Hollywood summer blockbuster at a time when tinsel town needs it the most. The story is a classic hero’s journey; David vs. Goliath with smart geeks at the helm of a twisty and funny ride. I for one enjoyed the hell out of this book. Great job Mr. Ernest Cline. 5 out of 5

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Consumer/Creator

It goes without saying that being a consumer is easier than being a creator. I buy my ticket, grab me a tub of popcorn, a giant soda, and I’m ready to be assaulted by the surround sound of the bombastic score from the new and shiny blockbuster that resembles the last great shiny blockbuster I saw a week ago. See? Easy as pie. You want to write a fun, great and engaging story…you will, undoubtedly, end up staring at a blank screen with the accusatory cursor blinking at you, mocking you. To hell with it, there’s a great TV show I must watch, (and there’s always a great TV show you must watch) because what else are you going to talk about with your co-workers? Easy as one, two, three and the cursor on the page keeps daring you to play.

You cruise over to the giant behemoth known as Amazon and hey! What’s this? A Dead Sea Mud Mask I didn’t know I needed, and over here they’ve got the latest electronic gadget which promises to do pretty much everything for you (short of giving you a mind blowing B. J.) Argan Oil what the fuck is that? But hey I might need it because the celebrity du jour promises that it’ll change my life. And the cursor on the page keeps blinking, laughing at you.

Say you’re a musician and an idea for a song comes to you—out of the ether, as most ideas tend to. You’re pump, you get yer guitar and go at it, but hey wait, this tune sounds like that other tune…fuck it, let’s go play the new Grand Theft Auto, the new Hitman, Candy Crush or the new Monument Valley (great game btw) What does that accusatory little cursor know about having fun anyway? Easy as taking a pill from a baby

The same thing, I’m pretty sure, happens to painters, cartoonist, dancers, etc. Nobody tells you to be a ‘creative type’ (sometimes I get the sense that the world doesn’t need another ‘creative type’ don’t you?) But you do it because is in your nature, because you want to do it, because it makes you feel good, it makes life worth living, it gives you tremendous satisfaction and a great sense of accomplishment. More than likely though, what it doesn’t do, is give you enough bread which you need to live and to keep doing what you love which is being a ‘creative type’ and so, you forged ahead with a fist full of hope, dreams and courage, because, believe it or not, it takes giant pelotas to be a creator, to put yourself outhere to be judged, loved or admired by the masses, or to be hated, judged and dragged through the mud—but you hope for the best.

Hello blank page, did ya miss me? Hmm, you know what? Fuck it, let’s go get a beer, these 516 words are worth it, for today I’m a consumer, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Cheers!

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The Hate U Give–Review

Reading YA is not my bag, I’ve got nothing against the genre, is just not my thing. I didn’t know this book was a YA novel, had I known I probably would’ve passed on reading it, I’m glad I didn’t because is much more than just a story about a sixteen year old girl growing up in the hood while also attending a private (mostly White) school.

The story’s core is the social issue of the day, a “torn from the headlines” if you will, meaning: white cops shooting young black men. It’s timely, it’s hard-hitting and it should be require reading for everyone, especially law enforcement personnel.  Here’s a quote from the young protagonist Starr Carter.

“When I was 12, my parents had two talks with me. One was the birds and the bees. The second was what to do if stopped by police. Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you.’”

A quote many in minority communities are very familiar with. This book is a mirror to some, a reality for others and—hopefully—eye- opening for all.

A solid 5 out of 5 Starrs ( ha! see what I did there?)

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