Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Personality in Pictures (part I)

Instructions can be found, and blame can be placed here at Ms. Katey's site. You're all lucky that I could find 10 without delving into my strange and somewhat personal stash of photos... I'll leave that to Ms. Sin.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Didn't really have anything to throw out there for discussion tonight.

Our son left for sea cadet camp yesterday. We saw him off at the airport with a couple hundred other kids from Newfoundland attending either sea, air or army cadet camps on the mainland. Sean is spending nearly 2 weeks at what used to be the Naval training center at Cornwallis in Nova Scotia. He announced to us at age 12 he wanted to join the sea cadets as he figures that he'll be in the navy when he gets out of school. Kids are so advanced to day...I was in my last few months of high school before I decided on a direction for myself (and it turned out I was wrong, at that!)

I thought I'd stick up a photo of him in his hat as he looks so darn cute in uniform (oops, did I say that?) What I meant is he looks rugged and manly in his uniform...Grrr!

Dialogue...Let's Talk About It (part II)

Below is a bit more 'schtuff' from others regarding dialogue.

Elizabeth Bowen's Rules of Dialogue:

  • Dialogue should be brief
  • It should add to the reader's present knowledge
  • It should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation
  • It should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk
  • It should keep the story moving forward
  • It should be revelatory to the speaker's character, both directly and indirectly
  • It should show the relationships among people

A few extra points that I could squeeze from my class notes...

  1. One thought at a time.
  2. Over three sentences per speech runs into danger.
  3. If dialogue does run into speech, break it up with interruptions by other speakers, by actions, or thoughts, or convince the reader the speech is important.
  4. Dialogue should allow the reader to read as much as possible between the lines, in what is left out, and in the stage directions, actions, and gestures that accompany the dialogue.
  5. One of the most important purposes of speech is to express character.

As I was typing out #3 on the list, I got to thinking of when I was a teenager and read '1984' by George Orwell. Early on in the story a character, a political leader I think, goes into a long speech to give us an idea of their futuristic environment. The speech must have went on for at least 14 or 15 pages and I almost put the book down. Luckily, I am a patient man and the wait paid off.

Has anyone else got to the point of giving up on a book as a result of cumbersome dialogue?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dialogue...Let's Talk About It (part I)

This week's rejection from Necrotic Tissue has got me looking over my school notes again for something, anything, that could make my writing stand out just a little bit more. I recall reading some stuff on dialogue at a couple of blogs the past week or so and I thought that I would throw this "recycled" information out there (yes, more stuff pilfered from school notes...sorry,the notes don't reveal the source).

Points to Ponder

  • Approaches to dialogue over the centuries
  • Placement of dialogue and how much
  • Selectivity
  • Beginnings with dialogue
  • Subtleties of indenting
  • Dialect and slang (see Mark Twain's preface to Huckleberry Finn)
  • Punctuation. Yes or No?
  • Beats
  • Length and proportion
  • Dialogue as exposition
  • Use of the dash and ellipsis points
  • Use of bold; use of oversize letters
  • Speaker attributions
  • Use of ly adverb; exceptions regarding sound
  • How real is real? Pruning the inessentials: the art of compression
  • Voice
  • Rhythm and pacing
  • Profanity
  • Duffer dialogue. Prune where necessary
  • Stripped dialogue. The absence of speech tags
  • "Said" as an invisible tag
  • Italics

As I have previously noted (ie. whined about) on the blogs of others, I am jealous of those who seem to make dialogue flow effortlessly and exude a lot of atmosphere. That was always a complaint of my night school instructor regarding my dialogue. I agree and I think that I unconsciously try to avoid using dialogue. I present to you, my friends whose work I admire and whose opinions I trust, an excerpt from my short story "The Inscription". I want to submit this to the newspaper competition over the next couple of days before the contest closes...


I rested on a rock outcrop protruding from the damp grass. The dark clouds hanging over the bay that morning were now lifting; the sun immediately brightened the cemetery and warmed my face. I was startled by a young girl who had walked up behind me. An elfin-faced child, wearing a pink sweater and dark denim pants, clutching a large doll clad in a similar fashion.

"What'ya doing, mister?"

"Reading the grave stones."


"Because I'm trying to learn about my family name."

"I already know my name. It's Emily," she said, extending her hand.

"Nice to meet you." I reached to shake her hand but she quickly withdrew it, twisting her arm behind her back.

"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she said, twirling the end of her long, red hair with her index finger.

"I understand. That's a very good idea."

"Me and nanny are here to visit poppy. He's dead." She skipped off in the direction of an old woman placing flowers on the white stones of a well-tended grave. Emily tugged on her grandmother's sleeve and whispered in her ear.


Anyway, this is first of only two exchanges of dialogue in the 1200 word story. Do you get a feel for the major male character and the minor female character? The second exchange of dialogue is between the grandmother and the male character where he gets information that helps him in his search for information. Any thought on how to inject more life into these people? All advice would be graciously accepted...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Out of Town

Just a quick hello to say that the fog has finally lifted here, partly due to the Movie Meme as started by Katey. There were some interesting and funny responses out there. Finally got my story Breathing New Life to a point that I'm happy with, so off it went to Necrotic Tissue. I still await a response from Every Day Fiction to my story Targeting Hunger and Blue Balloons. I have another almost ready to go to the local news paper for the competition that I posted about a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway must be off. I'll be out of town for work shtuff today and tomorrow...no Internet access as work does not deem me of enough stature to supply me with a laptop. So if I am conspicuously missing, it's not because I'm being a snob or anything like that...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Movie Meme

The movie questions were courtesy of KV Taylor. It's a perfect morning to work on these as I'm a big video-phile (is that a word?) and the fog's still on top of us like a big, damp blanket. There's a crap-load of questions and a possibility of multiple answers per question so I may end up making up answers by the time I reach the end...perhaps I should have done this last night with a couple of rum 'n cokes in me...

1.Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times. Don't think I've seen anything that many times, but Ferris Bueller's Day Off is way up there. We saw Lord of the Rings at the movies and a couple of times on our box set as well. Also Highlander, Fargo, The Hunt for Red October and A Christmas Story are way up there (my son is obsessed with our James Bond box set and I've seen some of them multiple times as well...).

2.Name a movie that you’ve seen multiple times in the theater. Being Scottish, I have a hard time to part with cash to see something more than once...I broke that rule recently to see the new Star Wars Movie a second time. I probably would see some twice, but there's so many options out there with a limited movie budget...if only I could give up the single malt to have the extra movie money *sighs*.

3.Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie. As a kid, I was a big Sean Connery fan and always make it to his movies. Now if Johnny Depp is involved I usually go see whatever he's in (pretty much captured my attention since Sleepy Hollow).

4.Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie. David Spade always annoys me as did the late Chris Farley. You can add Tim Allen and any of the Wayans brothers to the list as well. Hmm, Paris Hilton (if you want to call her an 'actor').

5.Name a movie that you can and do quote from. I'm hopeless at remembering and telling jokes so remembering movie lines is just as bad. Dirty Harry comes to mind, "Well, do you feel lucky, punk? Ask yourself, was it 6 shots or just 5?" (I probably messed that up). Also from LOTR "One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them."

6.Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs. I tend not to do musicals, but have made exceptions over the years. The songs that have stuck with me the most have been from Grease as I've seen the movie a couple of times and saw the play done twice on stage (once a high school production our school did). The Phantom of the Opera songs have stuck with me as well...yeah, they sound cool when I sing 'em in the shower...

7.Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with. Hmm...my lack of musical prowess is noted in #6. If I were to sing along with something, it would be from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (but y'all had better where ear plugs as I'm pretty tone deaf!)

8.Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see. I love the big, inspirational Oscar winners such as Gandhi and Chariots of Fire.

9.Name a movie that you own. The aforementioned Bond and LOTR box sets, Pirates of the Caribbean, and a bunch of questionable stuff gotten from Walmart at $5 a pop.

10.Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops. Hmm...I think Tom Hanks started as a stand-up comic and always impresses me. Kris Kristofferson impresses as well.

11.Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what? There's no drive-in movies here, but I had one in London for my 20years living there. I think I saw one of the Alien movies there (shh! What's that noise coming from under the car...)

12.Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it. We wanted to see The Soloist but it left the theatres so fast we didn't get a chance. Thank God for video rentals.

13.Ever walked out of a movie? Not that I recall. I research a bit before going (as noted, the Scottish in me doesn't want to piss away my money...) at Rotten Tomatoes. Also, as I do with people, I try to give the benefit of the doubt and sit through 'til the end in hopes of s0mething to redeem the questionable movie.

14.Name a movie that made you cry in the theater. Guys don't cry at the movies, they get something in their eye...the one I recall that put a lump in my throat was LOTR: The Return of the King.

15.What’s the last movie you saw in the theater? The taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Travolta was a pretty bad-ass dude in that. We were going to The Proposal last night (waiting until my son is around to take him to Harry Potter) but it was sold out.

16.What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie? It's hard to put a label on anything. I don't like westerns, but I loved Pale Rider and Unforgiven. All of the genres have something to offer (but horror movies are the coolest).

17.What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater? That's tough, I can't even remember what I had for dinner yesterday...and high school is a blur. My cousin and I used to go see the Roger Moore version of Bond in the theatres. I remember my dad 'signing me in' to see the restricted Rollerball when it was released (1975).

18.What movie do you wish you had never seen? The Sound of Thunder was a wonderful concept of time travel, but the script and special effects sucked. Sir Ben Kingsley must have been desperate for the pay cheque from that one.

19.What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed? Edward Scissorhands was pretty weird. I would have to say Rocky Horror Picture Show was top of the list. I went in 1980 in a run-down theatre in Victoria where you could get away with the audience participation stuff. Nothing like toast and rice flying about at the movies!

20.What is the scariest movie you’ve seen? I recall getting the shit scared out of me seeing Jaws in the movies as a 14year old. As I mentioned at another blog this week, The Legend of Hell House could teach the slasher movies a thing or two about creepy atmosphere.

21.What is the funniest movie you’ve seen? Ferris Bueller is way up on the list as well as Spinal Tap. Umm...Meet the Parents; Planes, Trains & Automobiles ("those aren't pillows!").

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Treadin' water

Yep. Still here. The daunting world of blogging and subject matter of said blog hasn't scared me away yet. It's been a hectic few days, though. Went out-of-town to visit the parents for 2, they came here for 2, and the general workload has increased. Optimism is running rampant that the economic downturn is finally, well, turning down...I've been trying to make arrangements for an out-of-town visit to one of our buildings under construction, a mere 5 hour drive away. Knowing the weather here, there's a 50-50 chance I won't get rained on.

On the writing front, I've been picking away at a story I want to send to Necrotic Tissue. Breathing New Life is a 850 word story that started as a 300 word flash but sort of grew in scope with the hint of "naughtiness" injected into an additional scene. I'm at the point where I've edited at least 5 times and I'm about to say Shag It, and send it off as-is...

Ah, no real topic today. Let me throw out some random words and you can expand discuss at will:

swimming, quantum physics, garden fairies, pantaloons, anniversaries...oh, that reminds me, today is our 15th anniversary so I thought to celebrate the day I would toss a photo of myself into cyberspace. I'll leave the better half out to protect the innocent. The photo proves that A) I don't dress like a bum all of the time and B) That I did have dark hair at one point.

Wow, just goes to show what 15 years will do to a guy. I usually say the grey started that day and has since been on me like a maritime fog. On other occasions I blame it on the 'space cadet' who arrived on our doorstep about a year and a half after the picture was taken. Of course, that's just one guys opinion...anyway, I'm still here, just treadin' water. Bye for now.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Holy Grossness...

Carrie Harris has today posted a great video from SNL spoofing the cult sci-fi classic 'Soylent Green' (long live Charlton Heston and Phil Hartman). As a child, I recall running between two houses and ripping through a large spider's web that was draped there. Of course, my mouth was wide open as a screamed like a little girl...I ended up chomping down on the offending beastie and swallowed it faster than I could say 'arachnophobia'. One would call that "accidental ingestion."

As an adult, the grossest thing that I consciously ate was calf brains. It was served up as part of a meal that I ate while travelling abroad. We were half way done the tasty, mince-like substance before someone thought to ask what it was. The gentlemen at the next table also had calf brains, but it was presented in a more solid, brain-like form. I of course kept eating. Having eaten liver, haggis, cod tongues and yes, juicy spiders, what's the big deal about a wee bit of brain? Anyone got some grossness to add to the list?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Picture This!

Ok, so I figured that it was time, again, to dig through the photo archives (phives, for short) to find something to amuse you all and to prove that I did do something bizarre.

I had come in from mowing the lawn yesterday and my wife commented that my hair was all poofy (yes, I know that means something different in the UK...) from the humidity. This I take to mean that I need a haircut. I used to keep my hair longish when I was youngish. Now I keep it shorter as I get older...hmm, did I just make a rhyme? Anyway about 5 years ago, while still working at the steel plant in Ontario, I was approached to participate in a fundraiser for the local food bank. It was mid-October and I was needing a haircut (a semi-yearly event, as I hate forking over $8 for a cut). So I defered my haircut for the freebie at the charily event.

One of the welders and I agreed to shave off all of our hair in mid-December for the charity. On a side challenge, I agreed to shave off my beard and mustache as well if they reached a certain dollar value of fundraising from the employees. So below, I present to you the before and after photos of me taken by one of my co-workers at the office.

The video is pretty funny as well. I'll have to look into getting it converted from VHS tape onto a disk so I can post it. The tape is cool because when the lady makes the first cut right up the middle, front to back, you can hear the audience gasp (it was shot it the welding area of the shop with an audience of over 100 people. The first cut left me looking a bit like Bozo the Clown...what some folks do for entertainment. You will notice that the final product shows a head devoid of tattoos as I'm not that crazy. Which is more than I can say for the other guy who had a yin/yang symbol tattoo on the back of his. Oh, yeah, we made about $2800 for the food bank.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Grand Motivator

Rebecca Nazar had an interesting post at her blog on Sunday. It related to having a novel idea, yet not having the drive or motivation to start writing it. In fact, likening it to a huge homework assignment. She felt that enrolling in a writing degree program at university was a good way to go, for her, as it would be a good way to finish the novel and, at the very least get mentored and earn her degree. I applaud that. She has thought it through and determined what her motivator is. That's something that I am yet to do. It's obviously something that a lot of people think about at some point as there were quite a few comments made regarding her post.

A small piece of background on me. Since moving to St. John's nearly 3 years ago, I have been tormented with an idea for a novel that just won't let me alone (does anyone else have this problem?). I set the idea aside as it is set locally, in the future, and I figured that it would require a great deal of research to pull in off convincingly (ie. I'm not up to the job at this juncture). I have worked on short stories for a while, now a second idea has hit me, gnawing at my thoughts on a daily basis. This one is a comedy, by the way. Now, all I have to do is acquire some zaniness (ala Cate Gardner or perhaps Carrie Harris)...

I took a night school class at the university to try to build on the scant creative writing knowledge in my possession. I took a second class the next spring, now there is nothing available. There's a couple of cool workshops to take taught by a local writer, but I'm feeling wary of investing more money in my education if I'm not going to "take the plunge." I am a member of the local Writer's Alliance, which offers a mentoring program, but I would need to fork over $2000 to the Alliance, some of which would go to the professional writer that would work with me. I can see that I would gain a lot of knowledge with that, but something doesn't feel right about paying a large sum like that in the hopes that something good will be produced. Note: this sort of ties in with Aaron Polson's blog today about paying others for advice.

The one carrot that I can think of dangling in front of myself is something called the "Fresh Fish Award", also offered by the Alliance. It's a yearly prize offered to a local, emerging writer. I will now be eligible (resident of Newfoundland for 3 years) to send in a manuscript for this when it happens next in June, 2010. The winner gets a $4000 cash prize and $1000 worth of professional editing services. The prize money would sure pay for a lot of mentoring, workshops, editing, etc...sounds like a lot of motivation.

It all seems like a big, scary thing. Yet the tormenting voices continue to nag me to pursue this (or perhaps that's the other voices in my head). My night school instructor, Ed Kavanagh, said that when he wrote he wrote his adult novel (as opposed to children's stories) it took over 3 years to complete, the final year was writing full-time (ie. no job). I'm not sure if I'm ready for that sort of flat-out, nose to the grindstone, giving up family life, sort of commitment...

Anyway, the post is getting longish so I'll stop here. Apologises for ranting about stuff that I may have touched on in previous posts. This flotsam has been distracting me for the past couple of days and I thought that I'd just throw it out there (ie. get it off my chest).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence...and Seven Sins

I'll be out of touch the rest of today and tomorrow as we're off on a two hour drive to my parent's place for a visit (and to drop off our son for a few days). Whoo hoo! R & R...for us...

The seven sins posts (lying) were popular last weekend and the past few days. Got the creative juices flowing and a good laugh as well. There was one person that took the challenge to a new level and was very creative with the "game." Anton Gully at Urban Fantasy Experiment (whom I tagged) ran with the sins and posted, in serial format, a short story with his interpretation of the sins. It's gritty and a first draft but very creative. You can either link to his web site, opening the posts from June 29th to July 3rd, or hit each of the links below.

Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, Sloth

Since I will be away tomorrow, I won't be able to offer greetings to my American friends. So I'll do it now...Happy Independence Day to all of you. Hope you have a great and relaxing week end. Set your stories aside for the day and spend time with the family.

To help celebrate, click on the attached link to a time lapse fireworks display in Louisville, Kentucky. The music is pretty funky too...


Thursday, July 2, 2009


Today I opened my mailbox to discover that the Necrotic Tissue Issue 7 had finally arrived. I must now recant the nasty things that I have been thinking about certain postal services. With trembling fingers, I sliced open the end of the yellow, bubble-wrapped cocoon and out slid the glossy magazine. Now the dilemma of deciding to start at the beginning and read to the end, or perhaps jump straight to the stories by Jeremy Kelly or perhaps Catherine J. Gardner whose "The Scratch of an Old Record" was selected best story. Hmm...what's a guy to do...

To help celebrate, I have dug through some old quotes to find one that, I hope, fits the occasion.

"There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction."

--Edgar Allan Poe, The Premature Burial

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Visual Writing Prompt

I am shamelessly (yes, that seems to be my middle name of late) taking an idea from another blog I have been visiting. Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel had interesting little exercise set about a photo of a quilt on a bed. The topic was stereotypes. What sort of generalizations would you make about the owner of this quilt by looking at it?

I present to you a photo that I took from my travels (a lifetime ago).
What sort of generalizations would you make about this person? Where are they? Why are they there? Alone or with somebody else or a group of people? Can you summarize what is going on in a couple of sentences?
When I last attended a writer's group in London, Ontario, we would do an exercise where we would go around the table throwing out words one after another trying to make a story sort of flow, usually in a wacky, nonsensical fashion. It usually got the creative juices flowing. I think visual prompts are an excellent source of 'story fodder' as they get your mind working and building about a central premise. Is this story speaking to you? Give me your thoughts...maybe somebody will get a short story out of this.