Friday, June 29, 2007

Starboard Center

There are lots of directions to take in developing the bigger story of this picture.

But within that bigger story, what's the little story -- what's going on with the rower in the red shirt … that's gotten him or her out of sync with the other rowers?

Thursday, June 28, 2007


A sizeable compound for such an inaccessible location ... what's going on there?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Psychic Distance

I saw these excerpted recently and, along the lines of show-don’t-tell, thought they did a better job of communicating differences in narrative psychic distance (“the distance the reader feels between himself and the events in the story”) than two pages of exposition would have.

It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.

Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.

Henry hated snowstorms.

God how he hated these damn snowstorms.

Snow. Under your collar, down inside your shoes, freezing and plugging up your miserable soul.

[From John Gardner’s "The Art of Fiction."]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Atomic Sombrero

The Teaching Company offers terrific college-level, home-study courses for adults -- in areas of art, history, literature, philosophy, science. They're expensive, but every course is available at an affordable sale price at least once per year.

I'm working my way through a physics series on DVD, where the professor talks from a classroom set that includes a podium and the ubiquitous image of an atom with its circulating particles. It's a fine little set, quite non-distracting -- except when the professor stands in a certain spot relative to the atom.

I finally couldn't resist snapping a picture of my TV screen.

For more about distractions, see Jerry Weinberg's post about how writers break the reader's trance.

Monday, June 25, 2007


"You were injected with a radioactive substance … it may set off a radiation detection alarm …"

This quote is actually excerpted from a little card that hospitals now give to patients after a test or exam that involves the administration of a nuclear medicine -- for the patients to keep handy in case they accidentally set off an alarm while trying to board certain types of public transportation in the subsequent couple of days.

But taken out of this context, the quote prompts story ideas more along the lines of a thriller ...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Stun Sung

Remember in The Shawshank Redemption, when Andy Dufresne locked the prison guard in the loo and then played The Marriage of Figaro through the prison’s network of loudspeakers? Out in the yard, hundreds of hardened prisoners stood agape, stunned in the pure humanity emanating from the speakers.

That’s me -- a hardened non-fan of shows like “American Idol” -- now sitting agape at the performance of Paul Potts … a cell-phone salesman by day and interpreter of Puccini by night in the current season of Britain’s Got Talent.

Finals are Sunday, June 17.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sound Effect

A caller to the Mr. Fix-It radio show complained that whenever she was in her extra bedroom, she heard knocking from the other side of the wall -- a common wall between her townhouse and the one next door.

Mr. Fix-It's suggestions were along the lines of mechanical (plumbing or heating lines) and canine (a Golden Retriever's thumpy wagging tail).

What suggestions might a novelist offer?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What Happened Here?

Go beyond the first answers … your mind will wander deeper ... and stumble upon a more unusual story.

In mine, smugglers have cut out interior sections from loaves of bread, creating pockets in which to hide their loot.

Then they scattered the removed bread for the birds and squirrels to eat.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Reading Room

A book-meme blog received so many answers to its question about where readers read, that it then posed an about-face: Ask Not Where But Where Not?

Most of the answers to “Where Not?” involved predictable matters of practicality and individual preference: not at work, not while riding in a car/train/plane, not in direct sunshine. But while some readers don’t read in those places, other readers do. A decade ago (even a year ago), I’d have uttered “Duh!” at someone’s answer of “not while driving.” But I’ve recently seen it happen … and not just at a stop light, but at both full speed and in stop-and-go traffic.

So, practicality and preferences aside, imagine some characters who do read in these other, less-likely places:

At the family dinner table

While grocery shopping

In the dentist’s chair

In the shower

In a movie theater

At a birthday party

While walking the dog

At a funeral/ wedding/ in church

While sleeping (great sci-fi potential here!)