This Writer's Journey

This Writer's Journey
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

HOW TO KEEP YOUR READERS READING

“Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy any more. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.” __Mickey Spillane


“The first page sells that book.” Mickey Spillane understood the concept that the job of the opening lines of a book, a short story, or an essay is to grab the reader’s attention so that they have no choice but to continue reading. Spillane sold over 225 million copies of his books.

I’m a FFLR - a first few lines reader. I sail through bookstores reading the first few lines from an assortment of books—classics, not so classic, and bestsellers alike. The first few lines (or paragraphs) should attract the reader’s attention, set the stage for the rest of the story, and should be an indication as to the theme and genre of the story.
The first few lines are also a way in which the author introduces himself. It’s his/her way of saying “hello.”  Sometimes an author will start his story slowly, bowing courteously like a Japanese host. Some authors go a step further using the hot, wet, clammy dead-fish-in-your-hand handshake. (Yuck.) Then there are those that use the hardy handclasp, which indicates a warm, neighborly and inviting hello. Finally, some authors use the screaming, slap-on-your-back, two-fisted, hand-over-hand handshake that literally pulls the reader into the story, like it or not.
Personally, I like to wake the reader with a hold-on-to-your-hat first few lines, grabbing the reader and never letting go. Here are the opening lines from my mystery/thriller novel The Deal Master:

Before she could react, he attacker her. He flung her backwards onto the floor and lunged at her, pressing the cold steel blade of a pearl-handled straight razor menacingly against the side of her neck. His face, only inches from hers, began to sweat. “Don’t move,” he said through clenched teeth.

And here are the first few lines from my theatrical comedy, Discipline:

HAROLD:  I find that no two nipples are alike - even on the same person.
LILLY: It’s not polite to compare them.
HAROLD: I wouldn’t know why.
LILLY: I wouldn’t think you would, so I’ll tell you.

Notice how in both examples the atmosphere of the story is clearly laid out. There is no question as the genre of either story.


So, go back and change those expository boring first few lines you used to begin your story. Grab the reader’s attention. Shake him/her about. Keep your reader reading. Make your first impression impressionable. You may not get a second chance.


Monday, April 7, 2014

DONALD BARTHELME - SHORT STORY AUTHOR WITH A SHARP, PLAYFUL WIT

April 7th. Today we celebrate the birthdate of author Donald Barthelme (1931-1989).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Barthelme was a postmodernist short story writer with a sharp wit.

"There's nothing more rewarding than a fresh set of problems." Donald Barthelme from The Guardian Book Blog.

To learn more about this terrific writer visit Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Barthelme and The Guardian Book Blog: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2009/apr/01/donald-barthelme-short-story

Friday, April 4, 2014

ROBERT E. SHERWOOD - SCREENWRITER OF "THE BISHOP'S WIFE" & "THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES"

April 4th. Today we celebrate the birthdate of playwright, editor and screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood (1896 - 1955).


Sherwood received numerous literary awards throughout his career, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1936, '39, '41, and '49, and the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history in 1949.

Sherwood had a fascinating career screenwriting such hits as The Bishop's Wife, Rebecca, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Lincoln in Illinois to name a few.

"To be able to write a play a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool." Robert E. Sherwood from Brainyquote.com

To learn more about this artist check out his page on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0792845/

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

WASHINGTON IRVING - AUTHOR OF "THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW" & "RIP VAN WINKLE"

April 3rd. Today we celebrate the birthdate of American author Washington Irving (1783 - 1859).

Daguerreotype of Washington Irving
(modern copy by Mathew Brady,
original by John Plumbe)
"Great minds have purposes; others have wishes." Washington Irving from Brainyquote.com
Learn more about this artist on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Irving

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN - A GIANT OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

April 2nd. Today we celebrate the birthdate of author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)

Photograph taken by Thora Hallager, 1869

The son of a poor shoemaker, Hans Christian Andersen is one of the world's greatest storytellers. Although he wrote novels, poems and plays, he is and always will be most fondly remembered for his fairytales.
"Now when her sisters thus rose arm in arm through the sea, the little sister would remain below alone looking up after them, and she felt as if she must cry; but mermaids have no tears and so suffer all the more." From "The Little Mermaid."
Learn more about this artist on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Christian_Andersen

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"A TATTOO" PUBLISHED BY BURNINGWORD LITERARY JOURNAL


"A Tattoo," one of the short stories from my collection A Sharp Bend in the Road, has been published by Burningword Literary Journal. Here's the link. I hope you enjoy it!  http://burningword.com/2014/04/a-tattoo/

Monday, March 31, 2014

NIKOLAI GOGOL - UKRAINE-BORN RUSSIAN AUTHOR - PREEMINENT FIGURE OF RUSSIAN REALISM LITERATURE

March 31st. Yikes, last day of the month, where did it go?

Today we celebrate the birthdate of Ukraine-born, Russian author Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)

Painting of Gogol courtesy of Wikipedia
Gogol is important in that his writing laid the foundation for Russian realism literature. His most famous works are his novel, "Dead Souls," and his short story "The Overcoat."

"When and at what time he entered the department and who appointed him, no on could recall. However many directors and other superiors came and went, he was always to be seen in one and the same place, in the same position, in the same capacity, as the same copying clerk, so that after a while they became convinced, that he must simply have been born into the world ready-made, in a uniform, and with a balding head." From Nikolai Gogol's short story "The Overcoat."

Learn more about this author here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Gogol