Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The big picture: competing anchors from the three network evening-news programs appeared together, non-competitively, on this morning's Today show to promote Stand up to Cancer, a collaborative cancer-research fundraiser to be simulcast on September 5.

The detail: after a two-year absence, Katie Couric was back on the set of Today.

Surely everyone has experienced such a scene: a beloved or respected (or detested) employee returns to the workplace after an absence. What's your scene like? Or imagine your own return: how do you behave? how do others? how about your
"replacement"? Toss a twist into the mix, to throw everyone off-guard, and see what happens.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is full of insightful passages, among them a proposition that we tend to define people’s character in simple, binary ways (e.g. good or bad; aggressive or passive) rather than muddy things up by acknowledging their behavioral complexities. But Gladwell argues:

Character […] isn’t a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits […]. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context. The reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment. (emphasis added; page 163, pbk ed)

Gladwell’s comment pertains to real-people personality traits, but it also speaks to characterization in the writerly sense. Writers are advised to let characters develop beyond simple cliches, into surprising, conflicting, complex people. We’re advised to let more, and worse, things go wrong for them. Aha, I get it: it’s precisely when things begin to go wrong -- when characters lose control of their environments -- that they begin to reveal their complex selves.

Monday, May 12, 2008


From a retail display:

And I thought "work of art" referred to the words on the pages.

Friday, May 9, 2008

O! The Suspense!

Oh, to be able to dramatize tension this tight ... but by using words on a page ...

Try it, why don'tcha?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tipping Points

I’m finally reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, an engaging exploration of how social trends ignite and spread.

It brings to mind an email from a friend who owns a restaurant franchise. He sees people do the same thing at the same time, seemingly out of nowhere:

Sunday was only moderately busy, with lunch rush ending early at about 12:30. Then at 2:50, we had 10 large orders within a 10-minute period. All 10 included a taco pizza.

We see it all the time in all areas of the business: one day everyone pays with checks, one day with credit cards, one day with twenties, one day with exact change, one day with fifties. One day everyone wants breasts, one day thighs, legs, wings, mashed potatoes, green beans, coleslaw, ranch dressing, deep dish crust, original crust, thin crust, on and on and on. Something clearly affects us that we are unaware of.

What trend (repetition) can you weave in to deepen your current piece of writing?