Poe’s secret for inspiration is used by many writers today.
Poe scanned headlines, read newspaper stories, and gleaned ideas from the oddities. His story Berenice is about a man who digs up his dead wife and takes her teeth. This is reportedly inspired by newstories of grave robbers, some of which left the body and took the teeth. Another story reportedly inspired by a news report was the Facts in the Case of Valdemar. At the time, there were reports of people who could speak to the dead; there were other stories of ways to prolong life. Poe, it seems, blended these and created a story in which Valdemar “survives” and “speaks” beyond his natural life. This short fiction was thought to be real. People believed it!
Inspiration, for me, has come from the odd news story. A human interest story in which a homeless man was selling stories on a New York street, inspired me to write $1.00 Stories.
Another story flickered to life when someone posted a handful of gold teeth and said she’d inherited them. How does someone come into the possession of teeth, not their own, and why would they will them to a family member? Hence, The Gold Tooth springs to life from my suspicious mind!
Scan the newspaper, and let your mind wander. We’re writers; we have the desire to understand, explain, and create.
I use first person narrator in many of my stories. I find the level of intimacy I can connect with in the character makes the experience feel more authentic.
I also enjoy the unreliability of the first person narrator. Although I don’t intend to make my main characters questionable, all first person accounts must be met with skepticism.
There’s one possible downside to the first person narrator and I’m certain many writers have experienced the fan who believes they understand the author based on a story which utilized the “I”.
One reader contacted me convinced Dad Shining was about me. “This is a true story, I bet!” He wrote.
This is complimentary in the fact that the story must have been realistic enough for this reader to believe and enjoy it.
However, Dad Shining (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal) is written from a male point of view experiencing a life event incomparable to what a woman could experience.
There’s not much a writer can do about being mistaken for their narrator except to gently correct the reader without offending them or merely thank them. I said, “thank you for reading.”
My main character in West End is a young woman, and I did use an area close to where I grew up. A number of readers have attempted to call me out on that. One reader wrote, “I know most of this is you, except for the part of leaving the boy.” Another reader, convinced it was me believed I’d been married before and left them to change my name and start a new life incognito.
This did bother me to some extent; the woman in West End is in some ways stuck in life, and while that might be my fear, it is not me.
Still others found the first person narrator unreliable enough to question her sanity and ask me if she was seeing spirits. These questions I rather enjoyed. One character I had intended to be questionable, but when asked about another – I don’t want to say as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone! – I was blown away!
And that is the benefit and, perhaps, curse of first person narrator. The connection is so authentically intimate that you might convince readers it’s you; And you might just convince them the narrator is a little off her rocker!
A writing exercise to get your rusty writing pipes lubricated.
Write the same scene from three different points of view. I know this doesn’t sound new and groundbreaking, but when is the last time you did it? And what types of characters did you choose?
Let’s lighten it up for you – stretch your skills. If you’ve never written from the opposite gender point of view – try it. This is an exercise I did with Dad Shining. This story could not have been narrated by a woman, it had to be chronicled by a man. And that man, it turns out, had to be the son. Dad Shining was published by Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal – so I must have done something right.
But don’t stop there – go further. Write it from a pet’s point of view. The Art of Racing in the Rain is an adult novel narrated in total by the dog. And it is a GREAT novel! Imagine a story from outside of the human point of view.
Or write it from a child’s point of view. Because my children are older, and I’m presently writing a story which involves a nine year old girl, I’ve had to call my friends. I was fortunate enough to spend time with a delightful little girl and found the time and the young woman inspiring. I have even more ideas than I can handle.
Let me know how it goes – share in our Writing 365 Group.
One writer wrote recently that they’d received some really nice reviews, but one reader sent an email blasting him for some part of his novel. He took this to heart and let it destroy his mood and his confidence in his writing.
One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch of readers.
The cold, hard fact is – writers need reviews. But I’m not sold that a bad one is actually a bad thing to have. It shows that people, other than family, friends, and hardcore fans have taken the chance. Critical readers will look at the review closely to see what the person took issue with. Reviews that just say, “terrible,” just like reviews that say, “it was great,” doesn’t tell the readers anything and they’re likely to overlook these. If the reviewer said something more specific, “weak characters,” yet others have said the opposite, they’re likely to judge for themselves.
There’s another cold, hard fact – most readers don’t leave reviews. I know I’ve sold far more books than the few reviews that I have. It’s not write, or even ethical, to pay for reviews, although such services exist.
So – readers – review the novel, book, ebook, story, etc in an honest and fair way. If you didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t terrible, be gentle in your criticism. The writers behind these books are human and did put a lot of work into them.
Writers – don’t get upset by a bad review. Not everyone is going to like your work. That’s the value of diversity in our society. Everyone has different tastes. Focus on the good reviews, but do read the not so favorable ones.
There’s a theory that we don’t fear failure, we fear success.
A researcher gave graduating students an impromptu essay prompt: “After finding out Joe/Jane aced their medical exams for graduation, he/she …..”
It’s reported that the vast majority of students set up a scenario in which Joe or Jane went out and partied, got in some sort of trouble, an accident, arrested, or in some cases just gave up and “decided to do something else with their lives.”
The researchers decided this was not an indication of the fear of failure, because they’d set up a scenario in which the person(Joe/Jane) had already succeeded, yet the students then wrecked the plan. Therefore, they surmised it a fear of success.
This possible fear of success comes from anxiety, which is rampant in society today. People stay where they are comfortable, where they are familiar, and their habits serve them. Moving on to the next level, success, will bring about different challenges, and the fear of the unknown wins out.
It occurs to me that this happens to writers. People write, and write, and write, but then don’t submit. Is it really the rejection they fear? or is it the success? Think of all the anxiety that comes with the next level of publishing. You’ll be expected to do well, to do it again. And, what else might change?
What do you think? What do you fear?
Many people are confused by semicolons; some people just hate them.
Kurt Vonnegut hated them. Even Malcom Gladwell seems adverse to them. He said, he doesn’t see their point. So, Mr. Gladwell, this blog is dedicated to you.
I, personally, LOVE semicolons; it’s like I don’t have to stop my thought! However, some of my editors have asked me to cut them down. One editor-friend said, “they do not appear in popular fiction.”
BUT THEY SHOULD!
Whether you like, hate, are confused, or don’t give a damn about them, every writer should know how to use them correctly.
The secret to the semicolon is simple. Two complete sentences which are closely related in thought or idea. Other writers believe a comma and conjunction (fanboys) or a period is just as good, but I think of it this way:
Did this help anyone?