Showing posts sorted by relevance for query the night and the music. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query the night and the music. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, October 5

The Night and the Music by Lawrence Block: 5 out of 5 stars


I thought I had read all Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder short stories, but I had missed one or two, and of course One Last Night At Grogan's was brand new. It was a joy to be drawn into Scudder's world again. It's one of those things you know is going to happen but is impossible to pinpoint the exact moment it occurs. One moment I was reading words and thinking about writing style and point of view and the next I was in the story, sharing Matthew Scudder's thoughts, alive in his world.

It was a thrill to read this collection of Scudder stories; this is Lawrence Block at his best. Here's hoping he never stops writing.

One more thing, at the end of THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC, is a section titled, 'About These Stories,' in which Lawrence Block writes a bit about each of the stories in the volume. For me, this was one of the best parts of the book since I love reading writers discuss their writing, what they were thinking, what influenced their craft, and so on.

All in all, THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC was a treat to read.

I know I've probably left a lot of questions about THE NIGHT unanswered, so here is a FAQ about The Night and the Music from LB's blog:
Far as I’m concerned, it’s not a real book unless a tree dies. How do I get The Night and the Music in real book form?

There’ll be print-on-demand trade paperbacks on sale at online booksellers, or through your local brick-and-mortar store, in two weeks or so. The price is $14.95.

You don’t understand. I want a signed copy.

No problem. At last count, there are thirteen top mystery booksellers who will be carrying signed copies. You can drop by one of their stores, phone up, or order online. The full list is on Matthew Scudder’s Page.

Or you can order from our own website operation, LB’s Bookstore. Our price is $15 plus shipping.

You only ship to the U.S. I live in Canada/Scotland/Tierra del Fuego. Don’t you care about your overseas readers? How can I get a signed copy?

I cherish my overseas readers, but stopped shipping out of the country because postal rigamarole makes it way too much trouble for an operation our size. The booksellers on Matthew Scudder’s Page are not thus constrained, and most if not all of them will be delighted to fill your order.

And, of course, the eBook is accessible just about anywhere. International prices may vary among online retailers, so you may want to shop around, but you’ll find it.

Will there be a hard cover edition?

Otto Penzler of Mysterious Bookshop has an upscale leatherbound signed-and-numbered edition of 100 copies that should be ready sometime in November. It’ll be gorgeous—and, at $150, it ought to be. (It’ll also sell out, so if you want one, better call: (800) 352-2840.)

It’s possible there’ll be a hardcover trade edition as well, sometime in the future, but at this stage I’d say chances of that are fairly slim.

What about an audiobook? What about foreign editions? Some of us like to read with our ears, and some of us prefer our native tongue. What are we, gehackte Leber?

I should have audiobook news soon. And my agent, the estimable Danny Baror (danny@barorint.com), will be representing the book at Frankfurt Book Fair. The Matthew Scudder books have been translated into a couple dozen languages, and I have every expectation that The Night and the Music will join them.
To read LBs entire post, click here: THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC--some FAQs.

Here are some links to THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC:
- on Amazon
- on Barnes & Noble
- on Smashwords

Tuesday, September 3

Roy Peter Clark Tells Us How To Write Better Prose



Sometimes I make the most wonderful discoveries.

Case in point, two days ago, as I wove my way through the jungle of the Internet I came upon Roy Peter Clark and his book Writing Tools. That would have been wonderful all by itself, but it got better!

Next I discovered Mr. Clark had narrated 50 podcasts, one for each chapter in his book ... and that each chapter's narration was only about 2 minutes each! And it's free! If you'd like to take a look, here's the link: Roy's Writing Tools.

So far I've listened to the first 10 podcasts. At that time I'd been putting the finishing touches on a story and I think it helped polish up my prose.

By the way, I had no idea who Roy Peter Clark was so here's a short bio:
"Roy Peter Clark (born 1948) is an American writer, editor, and teacher of writing who has become a writing coach to an international community of students, journalists, and writers of many sorts. He is also senior scholar and vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism think-tank in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is the founder of the National Writers Workshop. Clark has appeared on several radio and television talk shows, speaking about ethics in journalism and other writing issues." (Roy Peter Clark, Wikipedia)
Enough background, let's jump in.

10 ways to make your prose stronger

 

1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.


This is called a right-branching sentence which is one that has the main clause on the far right. If it were on the far left then--you guessed it!--we'd call it a left-branching sentence.

Here's an example of a right-branching sentence:
"The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain." (Stephen King, It)
That's the opening line from Stephen King's It. The core sentence reads: The terror began with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

Beautiful! We're oriented immediately. What is King going to be talking about? The terror. What about the terror? How it began. Then he goes on to talk about a boat made of newspaper. My reaction: That is a mighty odd way for something referred to as "the terror" to begin. Instantly, I'm interested.

But anyway, that was a digression. A right-branching sentence gives us the subject--the doer--and the verb--the action--right up front so that when we pile on qualifiers there's less of a chance readers will become confused.

Clarity is king! (Yes, that was a little punny.)

2. Order words for emphasis. Place strong words at the beginning of a sentence or at the end.


It's the same with paragraphs. The first word of a paragraph, as well as the last, should pack a punch. Here's an example from Shakespeare:

"The Queen, my Lord, is dead."

There we have the emphasis at the end. Pow!

3.  Use strong verbs.


We've heard this advice before but it is so very true. Strong verbs help create interesting, engaging, stories.

Strong verbs:
- Create action
- Save words
- Reveal the players

Ian Flemming, creator of James Bond, was particularly skilled at using strong verbs. Here's the key: we want our characters to preform the action of the verb. For example:

"Bond climbed the stairs."
"Sunlight filtered through the curtains."

Simple. Uncluttered. Clear.

Mr. Clark quotes George Orwell as saying: Never use the passive where you can use the active.

4. Use passive verbs to showcase the victim of the action.


It used to be that when folks stressed the importance of strong verbs I'd wonder: Is there really no place for weak verbs? There is!

Mr. Clark uses this sentence to demonstrate this point, it's from Steinbeck:

"The night was loaded with omens."

Steinbeck could have written, "Omens loaded the night," but Mr. Clark writes that this would have been unfair to both the night, the omens and the music of the sentence. I agree.

5. Use adverbs to change the meaning of a sentence.


When I first heard the advice to forgo using adverbs I was boggled. Why the hate for adverbs? How else should we say something like, "I was not able to go"?

Of course it's not adverbs, all adverbs, so much as it is "-ly" adverbs, adverbs such as justly, enthusiastically, dismally, loudly, and so on.

For instance,

"Turn down the music," she screamed loudly.

Typing that hurt! Why? Well, how else would one scream other than loudly? "Loudly" doesn't add anything to that sentence and so works counter to our over-riding goal: clarity.

But what about,

"Turn down the music," Jan screamed weakly.

That gives us something new. "Angrily" or "desperately" wouldn't have worked as well because often--though not always--when people scream they're angry or even desperate. However weakness isn't part of the concept of screaming so it's adding something new, perhaps even something unexpected. Why is she weak?

Perhaps it would be better if we wrote something like:

"Turn down the music," Jan screamed, or tried to. What came out was an unintelligible sound, a dry rasping, nearly drowned out by the pounding of her heart. She couldn't catch her breath. There was someone in the house, someone else, someone who shouldn't be there, but who could hear anything above the discordant jangling of the music? Clinging to the banister, she gasped for breath and with a trembling hand reached for her asthma inhaler.

Or something like that.

In the last example I used words to try and paint a picture. I wanted to show the reader that Jan was desperate and give him or her a peek behind the curtain, give him or her an idea why Jan was desperate.

Rule of thumb: Use "-ly" adverbs only if they change the meaning of the verb. For example, "She smiled sadly."

6. Take it easy on the INGs.


Minimize ING endings, use "s" or "ed" instead. Why?

a. Adding ING adds a syllable to the word.
b. ING words tend to resemble each other.

Which sentence do you prefer?

i. My friend Kelly likes to walk, run, cycle and swim.
ii. My friend Kelly likes walking, running, cycling and swimming.

7. Don't be afraid to use long sentences.


Mr. Clark writes that length will make a bad sentence worse but it will make a good sentence better.

Here are some tips on making long sentences work:

a. Have the subject and main verb come early in the main clause of the sentence.
b. Use the long sentence to describe something long. For example, a long elevator ride, trip, walk, etc.
c. Let form follow function.
d. Write the action of the sentence in chronological order.
e. Use long sentences alongside sentences of short and medium length.

8. Establish a pattern and then give it a twist.


Mr. Clark tells us to build parallel constructions but cut across the grain. For example:

Parallel: Faith, hope and love. (Each noun has equal impact.)

Parallel with a twist: Faith, hope and being kind and nice to your neighbors even though they're terrible to you.

Pure parallel structure: boom, boom, boom.

Parallel with a twist: boom, boom, bang.

Mr. Clark points out that Superman doesn't stand for truth, justice and patriotism, he stands for truth, justice and the American way. Two parallel nouns with a twist.

9. Let punctuation control pace and space.


We punctuate for two reasons:
a. To set the pace of the reading.
b. To divide words, phrases and ideas into convenient groupings.

A sentence with no punctuation but a period is a straight road with a stop sign at the end.

A paragraph with a lot of periods in it will have a lot of stop signs and therefore a slower pace. This is good for providing clarity, for conveying emotion and for creating suspense.

Comma: Speed bump
Semi-colon: A rolling stop
Parenthetical expression: A detour.
Colon: Flashing yellow light that announces something important is up ahead.
Dash: Tree branch in the road.

10. Prune the big limps then shake out the dead leaves.


Simply put: Cut big then small. Mr. Clark holds that creativity must be moderated by cold-hearted judgement.

Brevity comes from selection not compression. Lift entire blocks from the work.

- Cut any passage that does not support your focus.
- Cut the weakest quotations, anecdotes and scenes to give greater power to the strongest.
- Cut any passage you have written to satisfy a tough teacher or editor rather than the common reader.
- Mark optional trims, then decide whether they should be actual cuts.
- Murder your darlings.

That's it! I hope you found something that could help put a little extra zing in your writing.

Once again, these points have come from Roy Peter Clark's series of podcasts entitled Roy's Writing Tools.

Photo credit: "STHLM #17" by Thomas Leuthard under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, April 21

Writing a Murder Mystery: The Making of a Murderer, Part 2 of 2


Writing a Murder Mystery: The Making of a Murderer, Part 2 of 2


Yesterday I began fleshing out a character, the murderer, for a murder mystery I'm tentatively calling Murder in Meadowmead. Today I pick up where I left off yesterday (The Making of a Murderer).

Note: I've included this material in my book, How to Write a Murderously Good Murder: The Major Characters.

2. Differentiate the murderer’s motivation from his/her goal.


a. How does the murderer’s motivation resolve into a concrete goal?


As we saw yesterday, the murderer, Lydia, is motivated by her twisted love for her husband, Mark. Her goal, on the other hand, is to murder her father and brother. Let’s break this down.

Motivation --> goal: Lydia (incorrectly) feels that the only way to keep her husband is to acquire large amounts of money. The only way she can do this in the near future is to inherit her family’s wealth. Unfortunately for them, the only way this would happen is if her father and brother were no longer among the living. Therefore Lydia decides they must die.

b. How does the murderer’s motivation show their passion?


The murderer’s motivation (keeping Mark) IS Lydia’s passion. She is head-over-heels in love with Mark. But it’s an unhealthy, immature, love. Mark is the ONLY person she cares about, he is a splash of color in a world of grey. (In other words, the murderer has bigger problems than losing Mark, but she has no idea of this.)

3. What is the murderer’s goal?


The murderer passionately wants to keep something: her husband. Yes, she wants vast sums of money, but she wants the money because she wants to keep her husband.

(Perhaps it will turn out that Lydia is actually more attached to money than she tells herself. Perhaps she wants to think she just wants the money to keep Mark but she’s kidding herself. This is something we can explore down the road.)

a. What does the murderer love? Be specific.


The murderer loves her husband, Mark. She also cares deeply that her business is failing. It isn’t just the money, it bothers her that she wasn’t able to make a success of things, that her father is ashamed of her.

b. Why is the murderer passionate about attaining this particular goal?


There are many ways a particular motivation can be expressed, there are many ways it can resolve into a particular goal. What this question is asking is why did this particular murderer choose this particular goal?

In other words, why choose to go straight to murdering her family rather than do something else like stage a kidnapping or, less violent still, try to sell her failing business, or (despite what her father said) go and beg her father for more money. Why go straight to murder?

The answer is pretty clear: there’s something a bit off about our Lydia. Also, she’s not a big fan of her father and brother. My guess is that there’s a backstory we haven’t uncovered yet. How about ...

Her father didn’t treat Lydia very well when she was a child. He beat her and kept her isolated because he didn’t want her telling anyone.

A few people suspected what was happening at home but they didn’t want to get involved. Lydia’s father was wealthy and could have made a lot of trouble for anyone who spoke up. Her brother never beat her but he didn’t do anything to try and help her either.

4. Be merciless! Give the murderer a deep psychological wound.


a. What is Lydia’s deep psychological wound?


I think we’ve just found out what it is: childhood abuse. Lydia was beaten as a child and not allowed to interact with anyone but her father, brother and their servants. She wasn’t allowed outside unsupervised. Even when she was old enough to go to school they brought tutors in to educate her rather than let her go off on her own. After all, then they could never be sure who she Lydia talked to or what she had told them.

b. How is this deep psychological wound tied into Lydia’s strength?


Every significant character should have a strength, something concrete they’re good at. I know it might sound odd to put it like this, but they should have a characteristic that could help them win a bar bet.

I’m going to say that, because of the abuse she suffered, Lydia became hyper-observant. She’s a past master of Where’s Waldo. Also, ask her to tell what differs between two pictures and it only takes a glance for her to see it. Sometimes, though, she only knows that there IS a difference but she can’t see it. When this happens—and it doesn’t happen often—she becomes paralyzed, obsessed, until she is able to identify the difference. (And, yes, I’m shamelessly borrowing this from Mr. Monk and Sherlock!)

Another effect of her psychological wound, of the childhood abuse she suffered, is having to live with a feeling of isolation. She was isolated throughout her childhood and rarely felt the simple comfort of human touch, a hand on her arm, a quick hug. Consequently, she has an intense aversion to being touched (except for Mark). She can’t bear the touch of a stranger, it feels like ants crawling over her skin and her anxiety ratchets up into the stratosphere.

CHARACTERISTIC: Lydia can’t bear a stranger’s touch.

5. Let the murderer win occasionally.


a. How does the murderer get the upper hand? Give at least one instance where the murderer ‘wins.’


It might sound odd, but Lydia gets the upper hand by killing the brother first. Why? Because Lydia had no obvious motive for killing her brother. Also, for her brother’s murder she has a run-of-the-mill alibi, as one would. The night her brother died Lydia said she was making a new recorder and, when asked, her neighbors say they heard music coming from her workshop. This checks out and, since the detective is used to thinking of Lydia as innocent, this biases him in this direction when her father’s body is found.

CLUE: The night her brother died the weather was unseasonably cold. The only way the neighbors could have heard Lydia play is if she kept the window open.

CLUE: Lydia is quite thin and tends to get a chill. It doesn’t seem to the detective as though she would have left the window open on such a cool night.

Detective’s action: Detective asks Lydia what she was wearing. If she was bundled up then, fine. Sometimes you just want the window open to air out the place. After all, she was working. Perhaps she was sanding? If so, the open window makes sense. But if she WASN’T she may have left the window open because that was the only way the neighbors could have heard her music. It would be easy to set music to automatically play at a certain time.

The detective could say something like: “Say, this looks like a drafty old place. What do you spend in heating?” “Really! That much. My mom was always telling us to put on sweaters, I used to tell her I could tell when she was cold, she’d get me to put on a sweater! So, what do you do in the winter? This place must be cold. You like wearing sweaters? No? Well, that’s interesting.” Or something less lame!!! You get the idea. Just watch an episode of Columbo. He talks to suspects about completely irrelevant things ... or rather, things that seem completely irrelevant until he’s spun his web around the suspect.

6. How does the murderer attempt to mislead the detective?


At a certain point toward the end of the story all the clues will be on the table. The detective just isn’t seeing them in the right way. This will soon change. The murderer needs to at least TRY to spin the events. They need to have some sort of story that explains the murders, the clues gathered, but in a way that casts them as an innocent person. I think of this as the Janus Story, after the two headed god. The murderer is in the unique position of, throughout the entire story, knowing the truth but being driven to lie.

Lydia’s Janus Story: At the moment I’m not sure what this will be and that’s okay. It’s early. One idea is to bring in a touch of the paranormal. Lydia could try to get the detective to believe there’s some sort of a curse at work. If I don’t want to draw in the supernatural/paranormal I could perhaps try to pin the killings on a secret organization that the family had contact with.

Let’s explore each of these possibilities.

Secret Organization (SO)


I love reading stories about secret organizations! This secret organization can’t take over the story, it has to be kept in the background. I’m thinking that it’s something that would (for me) be exotic, something that originated in Asia thousands of years ago.

The reality is that Lydia’s family IS involved with this organization. Lydia stumbled across something, a clue, when she was a child, something she was beaten for. Perhaps a letter in her father’s desk. He had left his desk drawer unlocked intending to be out of his office only a moment. Lydia wandered in and saw something she shouldn’t have. A piece of paper. A letter with an odd looking symbol at the top. Lydia remembered the symbol.

Much later she had to do a book report on something-or-other, and came across that same symbol. The author was talking about a secret organization shrouded in mystery. She wrote her report then forgot about it. Now, casting about for an alternate explanation, an idea occurs to her.

MURDERER’S CHARACTERISTIC: Lydia saves everything. She has every book report she’s ever written, every essay she wrote. 

Since Lydia is a hoarder she still has the book report she wrote and so I don’t need to worry about hiding her internet trail as she does research!

CLUE: Lydia knows she’ll need something substantial to tie her family to the secret organization (I need to think of a cool name!) and so visits her father’s place while he’s away on vacation. The problem is, he arrives home early and catches her there. She stammers a bit and comes up with what she hopes is a plausible reason for her presence. She hopes her father bought it. Later it turns out that although her father didn’t guess what she was up to he thought the event strange enough to mention to his attorney/friend. This was the last time Lydia saw her father but she keeps her mouth shut about it and doesn’t tell the detective. When the detective finds out from her father’s attorney that she met him at his place, that she was digging around there, that her father thought her presence was suspicious, the detective confronts Lydia about this.

QUESTION: What story would Lydia give the detective a) for why she lied to him and b) why she was there?

Okay, good progress! I’m going to shift gears now and think about whether Lydia should, instead, go with a paranormal explanation. I like the idea of having a secret organization, it feels fun, but let’s think about how we could spin a story of a curse.

Paranormal


My detective isn’t going to be in the least superstitious, but the murderer doesn’t know that.

I’m being inspired by the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor. There the murderer, Susan Maltravers, makes it seem plausible she is seeing ghosts. In reality Susan is attempting to build a narrative that will scare her husband to death (this has a shot of working because he has heart trouble). When this doesn’t work she gets impatient and shoots him. Her Janus Story: The ghost scared him to death.

It could also be that Lydia’s family used to be part of a larger clan but has been plagued with unfortunate accidents. Now the clan has shrunk to contain only the three of them: Lydia's father, Lydia's brother, and herself. Her brother is unmarried and childless. She has no children. Her mother died at some point but I don’t know why.

QUESTION: Were Lydia’s father and mother still married at the time of her mother’s death?

QUESTION: How did Lydia’s mother die? That is, how did she REALLY die and how does Lydia think she died?

It could be that one of Lydia’s ancestors made a promise, one that her grandfather broke. Ever since then tragedy has befallen the family.

I think I like the secret organization angle better. That said, I could roll the curse explanation into the secret organization explanation. It could be that grand-dad did something to anger the secret organization of which they’re all a part. Perhaps even Lydia’s own actions are somehow (unbeknownst to her) occasioned by the secret organization. Perhaps they have been subtly influencing her. Perhaps that’s too exotic for a traditional murder mystery! Though perhaps I could dangle it as a possibility at the end.

(I just got back from the gym, while working out it occurred to me that Lydia’s mother discovered what was going on with her husband and the secret organization. Something happened when Lydia got into her father’s papers. Lydia’s father flew into a rage and her mother intervened to protect her child. Lydia’s father lost control and hit his wife. Taken unawares she fell backward, hit her head and died. Lydia’s father, unable to accept that he killed his wife (whom he loved) blamed his daughter.)

CHANGE: Lydia’s beatings began AFTER her mother’s death.

QUESTION: How old was Lydia when her mother died?
Answer: It has to be the case that Lydia remembers the symbol but young enough that we believe she doesn't have a vivid memory of the event. That is, it needs to seem plausible that she forgot the symbol of the secret organization was in any way tied to her mother’s death, etc. Let’s say 5 years old? 6 years old? (I don’t have children, so if any of you parents want to chime in here, please do!!)

DEEP DARK SECRET: This is another deep dark secret for the murderer. She will discover the truth about the symbol of the secret society and believe (incorrectly) that she was the cause of her mother dying.

CHANGE: This is more of an addition than a change, but ... Let’s have it that Lydia adored her mother. Her mother’s death was immensely traumatic for her. When she learns the truth about her mother’s death—and that she was indirectly the cause of it—she wants vengeance. This doesn’t change anything I’ve already said about Lydia killing her father and brother for the money, but it will make her father’s murder easier for her to carry out. We could say that she came across this information as she went through boxes in her storage locker, perhaps these were boxes of her mother’s things, boxes she hadn’t gone through before. (I just had the thought that perhaps it would be most dramatic if her father tells her this information just before she murders him.)

QUESTION: Why was Lydia going through her mother’s boxes now, at this particular time? What event occasioned this?

Okay! So far so good, we’ll leave that there for now.

7. Reveal the killer’s true face.


The killer has been hiding for most of the story. We haven’t been able to see her directly, we’ve peered at characters wondering: Is that him/her? Is THIS person a seething sea of madness under their mask of calm normality?

The reveal is the place to show the murderer as they truly are. And how do we do that? Put the character in a crucible.

a. At the end of the story how does the murderer reveal his/her inner nature? What do they say? What do they do?


I’m not sure. I think Lydia would be more on the quiet side. Perhaps she would cry, sob. Perhaps she would try to get Mark to understand why she had killed, why she had to kill. (Such behavior will repulse Mark.)

b. What does the character fear the most?


In Lydia’s case, she fears ... Well, what’s her trauma? She fears her father, she fears isolation. She has lived through isolation and she never wants to be that alone ever again. In a sense, her not wanting to lose Mark, her husband, is because she can’t be alone. For Lydia, hell would be solitary confinement. It would be the feeling that she is all alone and that is how she will be forever.

c. How does the murderer react to being unmasked? Does she become violent? Does she curse the detective? Does she try to make everyone understand why she did it, why she had to do it? 


I think Lydia would abandon her dignity, break down, and beg Mark not to leave her.

8. What happens to the killer at the end?


a. How will you wrap up the killer's story? Do they go to jail? Are they killed? Do they (as Agatha Christie ended several of her books) take their own lives? 


I’m not sure. I think this is something that will become clearer as the story progresses.



Every post I pick something I love and recommend it. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post.

Today I’m recommending Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft: A step-by-step guide to revising your novel, by Janice Hardy. I’ve read Janice Hardy’s blog for years and her advice is top notch.

From the blurb: “Award-winning author Janice Hardy (and founder of the popular writing site, Fiction University) takes you step-by-step through the novel revision process. She’ll show you how to analyze your draft, spot any problems or weak areas, and how to fix those problems.”



Okay! It looks like we’ve gotten through the making of a murderer! Yea!! If you’re following along and making your own murderer as we go I’d love to learn a bit about him or her. Did you discover her name? Her motive? Her backstory? Please share!! :-)

I’ll continue this series tomorrow and talk about the detective. Till then, good writing!!

Monday, July 30

My New MacBook Air: The Adventures Of A PC Gal In The MacBook World


A couple of folks have asked me to talk about my experience as a former dyed-in-the-wool PC gal who, just recently, made the transition to Apple with my brand new 13" MacBook Air. So, for anyone curious about a PC-to-Mac transition, this is for you.

My Experience So Far

I love my MacBook Air. No, more than that, I am in love with my MacBook Air. I feel like writing sonnets to it, I hear music when I look at it and, above all, I wonder why on earth it took me so long to get one.

And then I remember: Money.

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment.

The PC Argument
It goes something like this (I know, because I've used it often enough!): You are going to pay about 400 dollars more for a MacBook Air than a PC laptop and the PC will weigh about the same, have about the same processor speed, RAM and memory.

Windows 7, the OS I use on my desktop, is a decent operating system and I'm used to it, so why change? Also, the functionality of the software I would run on a Mac laptop is about the same as the functionality of the software I would run on a PC (and I already have the programs).

Yes, the Mac is definitely prettier. No question. It has an elegance that no PC can match, but a person can do basically the same things on a Mac as on a PC so the only reason to buy a Mac is because it looks pretty.


Conclusion: If you buy a Mac laptop you're getting basically the same machine as a PC but you're spending around $400 more.

 The Mac Rebuttal
Although my belief in the soundness of the PC argument wavered in the weeks before my Mac purchase I held onto it until the first time I sat down with my Air and took it for a whirl.

Here's the flaw in the argument: There IS no comparable PC.


I don't want to offend PC folks. After all, I'm one of you. My desktop is a PC and I love it. I bought all its parts and built it from the ground up. It works beautifully and if it ever has an issue, hardware or software, I feel secure in my ability to fix it. I have oodles of RAM and my video editing programs run like a dream.

In my experience so far, the biggest difference between a PC and a Mac is the user experience, not what you can do with the machine. For me, that was worth the money.

The Teensy-Weensy Problem
Okay, that said, there was one little hiccup I encountered.


If I could give one tip to a PC person using a MacBook for the first time it would be this: The spacebar is your friend.

Odd advice, right? Here's the thing. On the PC if you ever want to get a program to accept a command you press 'Enter'. You want to accept the changes made to a picture? Press Enter. You want to close down a program without saving? Press Enter. You want to shut the computer down for the night? Great! Press Enter.

So there I am going through the install for my MacBook Air trying to figure out how to advance to the next screen and wondering why the 'Enter/Return' key wasn't doing what it was supposed to.

It was embarrassing. I built my own PC and I can't advance to the next screen on a Mac!? This did not bode well.

At first I tried pressing return, then I tried return and every other keyboard combination possible, then I took a break, scratched my head and started pressing keys randomly. And yes, I agree, reading the instruction book probably would have helped, or even calling AppleCare.

But no.

I had to figure this out on my own. Besides, I didn't want to be That caller. You know, the one joked about in the coffee room, the clueless PC gal who couldn't figure out how to get from one screen to the next. Yea. That was SO not going to be me.

In any case, just as I started to believe the world didn't make sense anymore, I accidentally pressed the space bar and advanced to the next screen. I kid you not, it was a religious experience.

So, you PC people who are thinking of transitioning, learn from my ineptitude: the spacebar is your friend.

Whichever computer you use, I hope you have a good writing day. Cheers!

Related reading:
- Apple's MacBook Air: A Bundle Of Awesomeness!
- 19 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Following
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer

Photo credit: Quang Minh

Monday, January 6

409 Horror Tropes And Suptropes

409 Horror Tropes And Suptropes


I'm in the process of revising my post on How To Write A Horror Story and, as part of that, just came across a massive list of horror tropes over at tvtropes.org.

Below are 409 horror tropes. All of these--all of them--are from the article (just ONE article) I linked to in my last sentence. AND each one has a link to its own article, one that will tell you more than you'll likely ever need to know about the troupe.

Just for fun, why not pick a random number between 1 and 409 (if you like, you can do this by heading on over to random.org) and exploring the associated trope? Or how about picking two or three random tropes and using them to write a piece of flash fiction?

What twists could you add? Which non-standard characters could you use?

Click here for a list of character tropes: Characters.

409 Horror Tropes & Subtropes


Once again, these tropes are from: Horror Tropes.

1 Abandoned Area
2        Abandoned Hospital
3            Abandoned Hospital Awakening
4        Abandoned Playground
5        Abandoned Warehouse
6        Ghost City
7        Ghost Town
8        Ghost Planet
9        Haunted Castle
10        Haunted House
11    Absurdly Ineffective Barricade
12    The Adjectival Man
13    Afterlife Express
14    Alien Geometries
15    All Hallows' Eve
16    All in the Eyes
17    All Webbed Up
18    Alucard
19    Always Night
20    Anal Probing
21    Ancient Tomb
22    And I Must Scream
23    And Show It to You
24    Ankle Drag
25    Another Man's Terror
26    Apocalyptic Log
27    Artifact of Doom
28        Artifact of Death
29        Summoning Artifact
30        Tome of Eldritch Lore
31    Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever
32    Attack of the Killer Whatever
33    Attack of the Monster Appendage
34    Autocannibalism
35    Ax-Crazy
36    Backstory Horror
37    Bad Black Barf
38    Bad Humor Truck
39    Barred from the Afterlife
40    Barrier-Busting Blow
41    Bat out of Hell
42    Bat Scare
43    Bear Trap
44 "    Beat Still, My Heart"
45    Belly Mouth
46    Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts
47    The Blank
48    Blood Bath
49    Bloody Handprint
50    Blue-Collar Warlock
51    Body and Host
52    Body Horror
53    Body of Bodies
54    Brain Food
55    Broken Heel
56    Buried Alive
57    The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House
58    Campbell Country
59    Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore
60    Cannibal Clan
61    Cannibalism Superpower
62    Cat Scare
63    The Chain of Harm (especially #4 and #5)
64    Chest Burster
65        Spawn Broodling
66    Child by Rape
67    Chinese Vampire
68    Chupacabra
69    Circus of Fear
70    Clingy Costume
71    Cobweb Jungle
72    Complete Monster
73    Conjoined Twins
74    Connect the Deaths
75    Corpse Land
76    The Corruption
77    Cosmic Horror Story
78    Creepily Long Arms
79    Creepy Basement
80    Creepy Cemetery
81    Creepy Changing Painting
82    Creepy Child
83    Creepy Children Singing
84    Creepy Circus Music
85    Creepy Doll
86    Creepy Housekeeper
87    Creepy Long Fingers
88    Creepy Souvenir
89    Crop Circles
90    Cruel and Unusual Death
91    Crusty Caretaker
92    Curiosity Killed the Cast
93    Damsel in Distress
94    Dangerous Key Fumble
95    Dangerous Windows
96    Danger Takes a Backseat
97    Dark Lord on Life Support
98    Darkness Equals Death
99    The Darkness Gazes Back
100    Dark World
101    Daylight Horror
102    The Dead Can Dance
103        Vampire Dance
104    Deadly Bath
105    Deadly Prank
106    Deadly Road Trip
107    Death by Materialism
108    Death by Mocking
109    Death by Sex
110    Defanged Horrors
111    Demonic Dummy
112    Depraved Dentist
113    Developing Doomed Characters
114    Distress Call
115    The Doll Episode
116    Don't Go in the Woods
117        Stay on the Path
118    Drool Hello
119    Ear Ache
120    Eaten Alive
121    Electromagnetic Ghosts
122    The End of the World as We Know It
123    The End... Or Is It?
124    Enemy Rising Behind
125    Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette
126 "    Everybody's Dead, Dave"
127    Evil Elevator
128    Evil Hand
129    Evil Is Visceral
130    Evil Phone
131    Exorcist Head
132    Extremely Dusty Home
133    Eye Awaken
134    Eyeless Face
135    Eye Scream
136    Eyes Are Unbreakable
137    The Eyes Have It
138    Face Revealing Turn
139    Facial Horror
140        Tear Off Your Face
141    False Innocence Trick
142    The Family That Slays Together
143    Faux Horror Film
144    Faux Horrific: Pretending something is scary for laughs.
145    A Fête Worse than Death
146    Final Girl
147    Fingore
148    Flat Scare
149    Flaying Alive
150    Flies Equals Evil
151    Food Chain of Evil
152    Footprints Of Muck
153    For Doom the Bell Tolls
154    The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You
155    Freak Lab Accident
156    Gate of Truth
157    Ghostapo
158    Ghost Butler
159    Ghost Story
160    Ghostly Chill
161    Ghostly Goals
162    Ghostly Glide
163    Giant Eye Of Doom
164    Giant Spider
165    God and Satan Are Both Jerks
166    Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death
167    Gory Discretion Shot
168        Sound-Only Death
169    Gross-Up Close-Up
170    Grotesque Gallery
171    Gutted Like a Fish
172    Gypsy Curse
173    Half the Man He Used to Be
174    Halloweentown
175    Hair-Raising Hare
176    Harbinger of Impending Doom
177    Haunted Fetter
178    Haunted Headquarters
179    Haunted Heroine
180    Haunted House Historian
181    Haunted Technology
182    Hazardous Water
183    Headless Horseman
184    Hell Hotel
185    Hell Is That Noise
186    Hockey Mask and Chainsaw
187    Hollywood Exorcism
188    Homicide Machines
189    Horny Devils
190    Horrifying the Horror
191    Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
192    Horror Host
193    Horror Struck
194    A House Divided
195    Humanoid Abomination
196    Human Resources
197    Human To Werewolf Footprints
198    I Can See You
199 "    I Hate You, Vampire Dad"
200    I Love the Dead
201    Inescapable Horror
202    I'm a Humanitarian
203        Cannibal Clan
204        Cannibal Tribe
205        Horror Hunger
206        Invited As Dinner
207        No Party Like a Donner Party
208        Picky People Eater
209            Brain Food
210    I'm Cold... So Cold...
211    Impromptu Tracheotomy
212    Indian Burial Ground
213    Infernal Retaliation
214    Initiation Ceremony
215    Inn of No Return
216    Inscrutable Aliens
217    In That Order
218    Ironic Nursery Tune
219    It Can Think
220    It Won't Turn Off
221    The Jersey Devil
222    Jump Scare
223    Kaiju
224    Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge
225    Kensington Gore
226    Lamprey Mouth
227    Life or Limb Decision
228        Amputation Stops Spread
229    Light-Flicker Teleportation
230    Lightmare Fuel
231    The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday
232    Living Bodysuit
233    Living Shadow
234    Long Neck
235    Losing Your Head
236    Lost in the Maize
237    Made from Real Girl Scouts
238    Made of Plasticine
239    Madwoman in the Attic
240    Magnetic Medium
241    Malevolent Masked Men
242    Malevolent Mutilation
243    Man-Eating Plant
244    Marionette Motion
245    Meat Moss
246    Meaningful Background Event
247    Medical Horror
248    Menstrual Menace
249    Mirror Monster
250    Mirror Scare
251    Mobile Menace
252    Monster Clown
253    Monster Progenitor
254    Monsters Anonymous
255    Monstrous Humanoid
256    Mook Horror Show
257    The Most Dangerous Video Game
258    Mother of a Thousand Young
259    Mouth Stitched Shut
260    Mummy
261    Mummies at the Dinner Table
262    Mundanger
263    Murder by Cremation
264    Murder Water
265    Murderous Mannequin
266    Murderous Mask
267    Museum of the Strange and Unusual
268    Nested Mouths
269    Never Sleep Again
270    New House New Problems
271    Nightmare Face
272    Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book
273    Night Swim Equals Death
274    No Face Under The Mask
275    No Immortal Inertia
276    Not a Mask
277    Nothing but Skulls
278    Nothing Is Scarier
279    Not Using the Z Word
280    Occult Detective
281    Occult Law Firm
282    Offscreen Teleportation
283    Ominous Crack
284    Ominous Fog
285        Fog of Doom
286    Ominously Open Door
287    Ominous Music Box Tune
288    Once is Not Enough
289    Organ Theft
290    Orifice Invasion
291        Orifice Evacuation
292    Our Werewolves Are Different
293    Paint the Town Red
294    Peek-A-Boo Corpse
295    People Farms
296    Personal Horror
297    Perverse Puppet
298    Phlegmings
299    Picky People Eater
300    Pleasure Island
301    The Power of Blood
302    Prank Date
303    Pretend We're Dead
304    Protect This House
305    Psychological Horror
306    Psychological Torment Zone
307    Psycho Party Member
308    Puppeteer Parasite
309    Over The Shoulder Murder Shot
310    Rain of Blood
311    Raising the Steaks
312    Razor Apples
313    Regret Eating Me
314    Resist The Beast
315    Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain
316    Rise from Your Grave
317    Room 101
318    Room Full of Crazy
319    Room Full Of Zombies
320    Rule of Scary
321    Sadist
322    Safe Zone Hope Spot
323    The Savage South
324    Scare Chord
325    Scary Flashlight Face
326    Scary Jack In The Box
327    Scary Scarecrows
328    Scary Scorpions
329    Screamer Trailer
330    Screaming Woman
331    The Secret of Long Pork Pies
332    Security Cling
333    See-Thru Specs
334    Senseless Phagia
335    Sensor Suspense
336    Sensory Abuse
337    Serial Killer
338    The Seven Mysteries
339    Shadow Discretion Shot
340    Shaggy Search Technique
341    Silver Bullet
342    Sinister Scraping Sound
343    Skele Bot 9000
344    Skeleton Crew
345    Slashers Prefer Blondes
346    Slow Transformation
347    Sole Surviving Scientist
348    Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
349    Spiders Are Scary
350    Spooky Painting
351    Spooky Photographs
352    Spooky Seance
353    Spring Loaded Corpse
354    Stages of Monster Grief
355    Staking the Loved One
356    The Stars Are Going Out
357    Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome
358    Supernatural Proof Father
359    Surprisingly Sudden Death
360    Surreal Horror
361    Swarm of Rats
362    Taxidermy Is Creepy
363    Taxidermy Terror
364    Tentative Light
365    Television Portal
366    Terror At Make Out Point
367    Too Much For Man To Handle
368    These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
369    Things That Go Bump in the Night
370    Through the Eyes of Madness
371    Too Many Mouths
372    Touch of the Monster
373    Tongue Trauma
374    Torso with a View
375    Torture Cellar
376    Town with a Dark Secret
377    Traumatic C-Section
378    Tulpa
379    Überwald
380    Ultimate Evil
381    Uncanny Valley
382        Uncanny Valley Makeup
383    Undead Author
384    Unexpectedly Abandoned
385    Unfinished Business
386    Urban Legends
387    Vampire Invitation
388    Vagina Dentata
389    Van Helsing Hate Crimes
390    Very Loosely Based on a True Story
391    Viral Transformation
392    The Virus
393        The Corruption
394    Virus Victim Symptoms
395    Walking Backwards
396    Wax Museum Morgue
397    We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties
398    Wendigo
399    What Happened To Mommy?
400    White Mask of Doom
401    Who You Gonna Call?
402    Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
403    With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
404    Word Salad Horror
405    The Worm That Walks
406    You Are Who You Eat
407    You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost
408    Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb
409    Zombie Apocalypse

Good writing!

Photo credit: "2014-005 pulvis et umbra" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, November 25

NaNoWriMo: The Homestretch & Kindling The Will To Write

NaNoWriMo: The Homestretch & Kindling The Will To Write

We're pulling into the homestretch of NaNoWriMo!

Exhaustion is setting in. I feel like a marathoner nearing the end. I've seen pictures of runners near the finish line reaching out for a tiny paper cup of cold water, dumping it over their heads with an expression of ... well, not ecstasy, but close.

That shock of cold gives them the impetus they need to keep going, to find the will to finish.

This morning I found my impetus in the form of Kathy Steffen's article, 10 Quick Tips to Get Your Writing Back on Track! It gave me the jolt I needed to keep putting one word after another.

Below are 5 of Kathy's 10 tips:
3. Print out motivation quotes or writing affirmations and tape them to your computer so you will see inspirational words every day. We all can use a cheering section. Make your own.

6. Collage your book or your writing goals. Visuals can be inspirational and bring a different motivational aspect to your writing. Don’t like glue stick? Have you tried Pinterest? It’s more than pinning recipes. I use Pinterest to make WIP boards. This one comes with a warning. It can be a huge time drain, but only if you let it. Just be sure to set a timer and limit your time on the site, and stick to your WIP board. Later, as a reward for writing, give yourself a little “fun” Pinterest time.
I love this tip! Just yesterday I wrote about using Pinterest to help organize research for your work in progress. (See: Using Pinterest To Help Build Your Fictional Worlds)
7. Make a writing sound track. Whether it’s for a specific book or just music that inspires you to write, make the soundtrack and play it! And write.
Kim Harrison is someone who does this, she can tell you what sort of music each of her major characters from the Hollows likes. She's even made playlists for them! (See: Writing To Music: Knowing Your Characters)
8. Set a timer for ten minutes and write a journal entry about what writing means to you. Inspire yourself by putting words on a page and remember what writing brings to your life. Remember why you love to write and write about it.
This exercise is how I worked through a particularly bad case of writer's block. Well, this one is similar. All I did is write for four pages or 8 minutes, whichever came first. In my imagination I re-entered the first scene of my last story and wrote about what I saw. That's it. The damn burst and words spilled out of me. (See: Vanquishing Writer's Block)
9. Hook up with a critique group or partner. Being accountable is a terrific motivator and a deadline every week  (or even every month) will keep your eyes on the prize, as they say. A group or partner will force you into writing consistently, and before you know it, sitting down to write will be second nature! This one keeps providing motivation, long after you’ve begun.
Great advice! I speak from experience. Here is what Kim Neville has to say about it: Lessons learned: Why I love giving critiques.

Kathy's article was published on the How To Write website. If you haven't visited them yet I'd highly recommend it. They have great articles about every aspect of the craft of writing.

#  #  #

NaNoWriMo Update: As of last night my manuscript was at 47,025 words. Only two NaNoWriMo writing times to go!! :-)

Other articles you might like:
- Using Pinterest To Help Build Your Fictional Worlds
- How To Become More Creative: Nurturing Your Muse
- For NaNoWriMo: 10 HarperCollins Books On Writing For $1.99 Each

Photo credit: "Mumbai Marathon -011" by through my eyes only under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.