Sunday, December 23, 2012

The First Writing Instruction That Made Sense to Me

In my first writing class in college our instructor told us not to use the verb 'to be' unless absolutely necessary. Like an old cliché, the verb 'to be' brings nothing fresh or exciting to one's writing. That verb delivers no action.

She gave us an exercise. Take a news item with about fifteen hundred words and rewrite it eliminating each instance of the verb 'to be.' Then compare your version with the original. I found this devilishly difficult. She proved right on it.

She forbade us to use the verb 'to be' at all in any of its many forms for one month. After that she relented. Times come up when nothing else but the verb 'to be' will work. When that happens its use will have great effect on your readers.

Use this. Your writing will improve immediately.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What I'm Working on Right Now, Cheap Lipstick

Right now I am working on finishing the first draft of a novel titled Cheap Lipstick. This takes place in Ottawa in 1955 - 1956. It involves Elizabeth Fulton, a young woman in her twenties getting her footing in her government job and entering a relationship that turns out to be abusive.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some Background on The Seven Second Kiss.

In the 1930s the film industry adopted a set of guidelines for the production of motion pictures. Known as the Hays Code it consisted of a set of rules that mostly dealt with what could not be depicted in motion pictures. This code remained in effect until the 1960s. One of the stipulations that came about because of this was that on screen kisses could only last for seven seconds.

I found this out in my late teens and put it in the trivia section of my memory, which is probably the largest store of things memorized that I have. In the early seventies I took a young woman on a date to see some movie at one of the local theatres. Back at that time some of the theatres still ran entertaining short subjects prior to the main feature. On this particular date at that particular theatre the short subject had to do with movies made in the thirties and it had clips from them.

A series of clips depicted kisses from a number of movies made in that era. I told my date that on screen kisses were limited to seven seconds and she started counting. The onscreen couple pressed their lips together, 'one, two, three, four, five, six, seven,' they broke apart. Another kiss came on the screen and we both counted. After four or five we found it funny and started laughing quite heartily.

The rest of the audience must have wondered what we were laughing at because the content and narration on the screen had not been set up to get laughs.

So that stayed with me for decades. After I had written three or four novels it came to me that 'The Seven Second Kiss' would be a good title for a story. (I have written several other things than 'The Seven Second Kiss.' That's the first one I went through the rewriting and work to put out there. There will be more but it may be a while before you see the next one.) I began to think of what kind of story that would be. The ideas and images that came to mind did translate into the content of the novel. The story takes place in the 1930s. It starts in a small town in New York State and then moves to New York City. It involves a teenage woman who finds herself with an unexpected pregnancy. There is a young black saxophone player.

Before I wrote the story I had envisioned it as being much darker, taking place over a much longer period of time and over a much larger geographic area, largely involving the east coast of the United States, including Atlantic City, Miami and Louisiana. I wanted to, as much as possible, violate the Hays Code. I think I hardly touched it.

I remember seeing how African American individuals were depicted in movies, on radio and in other media in the thirties. Most of the time I find those depictions offensive and demeaning. I wanted very much to depart from that. I hope to some extent I succeeded.

I hope those reading the book will like it and like the people who populate it. I am toying with ideas for a possible sequel. If I do write one I expect it to be much darker than 'The Seven Second Kiss.' The seeds for that are there in the book. They just need some attention.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now I am a Novelist

I have recently published as an e-book a novel I wrote. I have written about eight or so works prior to this one. That makes it the first one published, not the first one written. Look for more to come.

This one, titled The Seven Second Kiss, can be accessed at:
From that page you may download a sample of the book and see if you like it.
As Lurcio in Up Pompeii said, "I will quote from the last words of Cleopatra to Mark Antony: if you liked it, tell your friends. Saluté!