Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
I knew I was in trouble when . . .
My grandma always told me never to . . .
The last thing in the world I wanted to see was . . .
I should have known that it’s impossible to . . .
I’ll never forget the sight of . . .
It was confusing to see . . .
When I opened the washing machine, I looked in and found . . .
Who would have known that . . .
When I opened my birthday present, I was shocked to see . . .
My life changed with the arrival of . . .
It didn’t turn out to be a very good idea when my friend suggested we . . .
If you come up with some good first sentences, not so good first sentences, or whatever, drop me a line and let me read them.
Let's use those jumper cables for the imagination once again, shall we.
Great writing begins at the beginning– with a great opening sentence often referred to as . . .
In writing a story, sometimes it’s that first spectacular sentence which launches you, as a writer, into the story. In other words, the story flows from the first sentence.
So, what makes a great opening sentence?
There are no rules, but it seems to me, a great opening leaves the reader in a state of curiosity, asking questions like, “What’s going on here?” “Where is this story going?” and so on. The reader’s curiosity has been tweaked, so they feel compelled to read on.
At least, that’s my theory. Stay tuned for some specific suggestions on how to create such mind-blowing opening sentences.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
A riot broke out at the Marcel Marceau School of Mime when it was announced that white makeup would be severely rationed. This dangerous problem was soon defused when an anonymous donation of twenty cans of white latex paint arrived at the front gates under the cloak of midnight. The donor remains a mystery, although the school's principal may know more than any of us could imagine. Since that chaotic day, a quiet peace has reigned at the school. How long this peace will last has been thrown into question as rumours persist that a worldwide shortage of invisible boxes is looming. Caution is advised. There’s nothing more dangerous, nothing more frightening, than an angry mime.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
So, here I am, flipping open the dictionary, closing my eyes, and BANG! I point to a word. And that word is . . . stunt, as in stuntman. Switch on the imagination, and let the words flow. Here's what I've come up with . . .
Stefano had a dream. That dream was to become a stuntman. One day, his big chance arrived. A movie was being filmed in town, and there was a call out for people who were interested in taking that first step into a career in the movies.
Stefano waited up all night outside the door of the movie director’s office, desperate to get a part in the movie. As he waited through the night, he dreamed of driving a Porsche at high speed through town, swerving around invading zombies while dodging machine gun fire. Or maybe they’d ask him to wrestle an alligator that had escaped from a zoo and was terrorizing the town. Could it be he’d be shot from a cannon, flying through the air and landing right on top of an escaping bank robber? The possibilities of Stefano’s role in the movie were endless, and he was ready for anything.
Finally, at eight in the morning, the door to the office swung open, and a scruffy looking man in a sweat suit covered in coffee and ketchup stains looked out at Stefano.
“Yeah? What do you want?” the man said.
“I’m here for a part in the movie!” Stefano shouted, jumping to attention to show his eagerness. “I can do anything! I’m not afraid of fire, loud noises, man-eating animals, or going really fast in a car! I don’t even mind jumping from trains or being shot from a cannon!”
“Have you done any of that stuff?” the man said, looking quizzically at Stefano as he rubbed the stubble on his chin.
“Well . . . not exactly,” Stefano replied. “I mean, I have ridden my bike really fast, and I’ve jumped from an awful lot of swings in my recess career. I figure those experiences have really prepared me for a career as a stuntman.”
“Is that so?” the man replied. “Well, the role we’re looking to fill in our movie isn’t exactly that dangerous, I’m afraid.”
“That’s okay,” Stefano said. “I’ve got to start somewhere!”
“Okay,” the man said. “If you’re keen, the job is yours. Come on in. We start filming in an hour.”
Stefano spent the rest of the day on the set of the movie dressed up as a giant ice cream cone. The movie’s director gave Stefano only two instructions– “Just stand there! Don’t move!”
Stefano’s first job as a movie stuntman wasn’t exactly thrilling. Even worse, Stefano was allergic to the giant ice cream cone costume. When he took it off at the end of the day, he was covered in strange purple dots.
But even worse, the director decided to cut the scene with the giant ice cream cone from the movie. The whole experience was one great big disappointment for Stefano. As a result, he decided not to become a stuntman.
“I want something with more danger!” he declared. “Something where I’m risking my life!”
So if any of you hear of someone looking for a lion tamer, please give Stefano a call. He’s busy in his backyard practicing with his tabby cat named Snickers.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
What’s the greatest fear of every writer? Illiterate zombies taking over the world? Loss of use of the left pinkie finger, thus necessitating the use of words that exclude the letters ‘q,’ ‘a,’ and ‘z’? Probably not.
I’m talking about Writer’s Block– the sudden inability to put words to paper. More accurately, the inability to create ideas which spawn words. I have a particular fascination with this phenomenon. Don’t ask me why.
Over the years, I have taken on this dreaded condition, developing a variety of methods for its remedy. They don’t always work, and some work better than others.
The first one I’d like to mention is what I call . . .
“The Dictionary Game”
If you’re stuck, and can’t think of the next sentence to write, grab a dictionary– a dictionary of slang is my favourite. Close your eyes, open to a random page, and jab your finger on a random spot on the page. Open your eyes and read the word. Challenge yourself to include that word in your next sentence.
It sounds counter-intuitive. Here you are, forcing yourself to fit a word into a sentence when you can’t even think of a sentence in the first place. The strange thing is, it often works. For some reason, when your mind is backed into a corner by being forced to use a particular word, this is a call to arms for the imagination. The random word is like a jolt that gets the mind rolling again.
Give it a try. Think of it as a game. If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost anything. Let me know how it goes.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Oh, the joys of getting lost! Last week, we were driving around Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, looking to head out of town when we took a turn and AMAZING! We came upon this very old school. I recognized it immediately as the inspiration for Eric Wilson's Ghost of Lunenburg Manor. Plus, right next door was the grave yard that is an important element of this fine book.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
After six and a half hours of riding, this is my “Exhausted Bewilderment” look.
You be the judge as to which of these author photos would be best for the back of a book. In the meantime, I will continue to write and recover from my exhausted bewilderment.
Ever noticed how author photos at the back of a book are mostly quite polished, staged, and posed? You never have a photo of an author at 6:00 a.m. only fifteen seconds after they’ve rolled out of bed. And you never see a picture of an author right after spending an hour or two in the dentist’s chair having a root canal. Yes, they are all so polished and refined.
I’m afraid I’m somewhat guilty of this myself. My photo in Klutzhood and Tabloidology was taken by my son, Ben, when we were out snowshoeing one Boxing Day. It’s the, “Hey, I’m in the Wilderness Under a Snow-covered Tree” look. No studio, no special lighting, but still, it was staged and posed.
May I present to you in the following posts a much more authentic set of author photos. These were taken spontaneously during the course of a six hour mountain bike race in Williams Lake called the Pedal by the Puddle.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
What do these two activities have to do with each other?
Nothing and everything. (By the way, I wouldn’t recommend doing them at the same time, however, the mind works in strange ways regardless of what the body is doing.)
If you’re stuck for that killer ending to make your reader gasp in amazement, go for a bike ride.
Looking for a great opening line? Go for a cross-country ski. Or a run. Or a paddle in a kayak. Whatever works.
For me, it’s time to be out there, in the woods or on the water, all on my own, simply moving. This combination immerses the mind in a relaxed, creative mood when revelations suddenly flash forth whether you want them to or not.
I have to admit to carrying a notebook, and on occasion, stop to jot down a note or two. But usually, the revelation is enough to be remembered and applied to whatever I’m writing later that night.
So, riding and writing go hand in hand, along with skiing and writing, paddling and writing, and running and writing. Maybe I should buy a pogo stick!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Take a look . . . a good close look, and I’m sure you can tell. Underneath that thick layer of brilliant red hair, behind those big friendly eyes, and somewhere inside that benign smile, you must be able to tell. Yes! It is, in fact, yours truly dressed up as the world’s biggest red dog.
But don’t think dressing up as Clifford is just all fun and games with a bit of tail wagging and paw waving. No siree! The Clifford costume comes with guidelines. Very strict guidelines. Among them . . .
Clifford is not to be seen with his head off at any time.
Clifford is NEVER allowed to talk.
Clifford is NEVER to lift his leg.
And there’s more. Plenty more.
So when you’re dressed up as Clifford the Big Red Dog, the pressure is on. You have to act like Clifford, which means you have to improvise.
How would Clifford react to, say, knocking over a book display with his errant tail?
How does Clifford dance like John Travolta?
How does Clifford sign autographs without an opposable thumb?
How does Clifford maintain his friendly, cheerful persona when he’s melting in a pool of sweat and his glasses are fogging up so he can’t see a thing?
How does Clifford manage the greeting of young children when he has no peripheral vision and can’t see anything within two metres of his big feet? (Check the picture. This kid is out of Clifford’s range of vision. We hope he wasn’t traumatized by being ignored by the Big Red Dog.)
Fortunately, I had a very capable handler who guided me through the trappings of a school family dance and fund raiser night. The evening was incident free– at least, as far as my limited vision could see– and Clifford’s reputation as a happy, helpful, rabies-free dog was upheld. Thank you Randy!