Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to cope with Writer's Block


In my previous post, I mentioned cause and effect and stated that the cause of writer's block is emotional. This assumption is rooted in experience.

However, you might remove the emotional blockage by writing about what triggered the feelings. You might pen an essay, or a blog post, or write a short story allowing your protagonist to shoulder the emotional burden you feel but cannot release.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with taking a break from writing. If you truly love the craft, you'll suddenly feel the need and resume pounding the keys in the middle of the night or whenever.


The effect of writer's block should be a DUH Moment. Duh, I'm not writing. Duh, the monitor is blank, and the cursor is torturing me. The block is causing me to desire to do horrible things to the keyboard, or the goddamn mouse (always did hate those things; I'd like to meet the inventor in a dark alley).

Oh, look, writer's block unblocked long enough to blast out a plot, albeit weak, but it has possibilities. Hmm, maybe there is hope.

Perhaps, just maybe, boredom caused your writer's block. Same cause and effect, but needs a different solution, I think.

The solution to the pervious paragraph: Write about a subject you never thought you would find interesting.

The only solution that ever worked for me was simply this: I wrote whatever came off my fingertips as they bled self-pity on the keyboard. What do I mean? Write! Write anything. Write about writer's block, but put words out where you can read them aloud when you finish.

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More plot freebees:

Our male Siamese woke at five in the morning growing, fur puffed out, tail twitching as loud footsteps slammed up the front steps and a fist pounded on the front door hard enough to rattle window glass.

When her hand brushed hair off my cheek, I turned my head enough to kiss her palm. I had known her for years, but never before that moment, had either of us expressed a lover's tenderness.

She was really pissed. For the fifth time that morning, the computer locked up. She cursed every programmer and computer engineer alive today, and then slammed her fist on the center of the keyboard. The keyboard sagged and bent, jamming the Y H N B and G keys together, and the escape key flew off and disappeared between the back of the desk and the wall.
At least one of us knew it was time to escape, I thought, with a chuckle and left to refill my coffee mug.


Until next time, guys!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More about Noir Mysteries


More on Noir Mysteries as I understand them

Here are the first sentences included in the previous post along with the authors and book titles.


It was like coming back from death. Chinese Nightmare by Hugh Pentecost

He lay there in a silk-lined casket looking very waxy, but it was eight to five that he looked no more waxy than me. Slab Happy by Richard S. Prather

We could see the low bone-white hotel now, its wings curving toward the sea like the base of a sun-bleached skull. Dead Man's Walk by Richard S. Prather

The guy was dead as hell. Vengeance is Mine by Mickey Spillane

It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick walk. The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett

The man and the girl walked slowly, close together, past a dim stencil sign that said: Surprise Hotel. Pick-Up on Noon Street by Raymond Chandler

Rain. It washed the two men, slid down their raincoated bodies, and made a sea of mud at the open graves at their feet. The Plastic Man by David J. Gerrity

The father of PI Noir fiction was Carroll John Daly. He wrote the first Noir Mystery. While he, like Mickey Spillane a couple of decades later, was vastly popular with readers, critics did not regard either man as serious a writer.

An interesting fact is that books written by both writers are easily available today online.

What I want to do now is quote my personal favorite opening paragraph, which made me want to read this book. Although the first sentence is terrific, the entire paragraph is better.

From One Lonely Night by Mickey Spillane.

Nobody ever walked across the bridge, not on a night like this. The rain was misty enough to be almost fog-like, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy, yellow lights off in the distance.

The second paragraph is as good, maybe a little better.

The significance of all of the above has to do with setting a mood, tugging on an emotion that lies just beneath one's mental flesh. The transition from reader, to a person who is suddenly part of the story as a vicarious bystander tagging along after the protagonist, is subtle yet quite effective if done successfully.

The technique is based on knowing how to find that small opening behind a reader's eyes where words are inserted, and transformed into a scene that expresses what the protagonist feels as the reader steps into the page with him.

Perhaps it is learned, or maybe finding it requires only a good level of self-awareness. What makes me as a writer tick? If I write a sentence to open a story, do I feel something as I write, or after?

Many writers delete their original opening paragraphs or just the first sentence because when they reread it later, the words do not accomplish the act of involving the reader.

Next we'll look at some modern writers of Noir.



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Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to deal with Writer's Block

Writer's Block removal 101

Cause and effect. The cause may be emotional issues. Emotions are distractions. Or are they? Yes, but no, if you turn it around.

Stuck in traffic? Does it piss you off? Write down why it pisses you off while you're stuck behind that idiot developing paralysis of the thumb by text messaging who the hell knows about what to whomever. ERG!

Now that you can read why it pisses you off, twist your anger into revenge. Use whatever devise your mind creates to move traffic. Go to extremes. A death ray that disintegrates matter! A narrow focus electronic beam you can aim that drains car batteries, causes flat tires.

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Stuck sitting in a cubicle 8 hours a day entering data, or answering questions via phone or Internet? What could happen that would break the spell created by boredom?

A computer virus that melts only the letter "a" from all your documents?

How about the grime on your keyboard? What virus might inhabit the gaps, or cohabit with your fingertips?

Your boss stands at the entrance to your space watching you type as if he/she knows by being there you'll make errors.

What would you like to do about that? Accidentally spill coffee on him/her? Not enough?

Ask him/her to help you loosen the jammed escape key, you know, the key pad with the thickest layer of bacteria waiting to invade and disable the first finger to tap it hard enough to dislodge the little creeps.

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Now, for some freebee plots.

There’s this dog barking outside; it's three in the morning. You look out the window and see a Rottweiler standing with its front paws on the windowsill, its face inches from your face. The huge beast is snarling as it tries to claw through the glass.

The car won't start but the battery is brand new. You run to catch the bus to work, and witness a meteorite burning through the sunrise, exploding above the house across the street.

You get out of bed and discover blood in the bathroom sink, but you're not injured.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

What is a Noir Mystery?


Originally, I planned to start this series with examples of modern authors who I feel write Noir Mysteries.

However, the longer I dug through my pulp fiction collection the more I knew that my decision would prove itself incorrect.

Running backwards creates blind spots, so I've altered my approach, and or direction. With that straightened out, I'll begin with early Noir writers instead.

For me, the mood of a good Noir fiction mystery should be set in the first paragraph, preferably in the first sentence. And the mood needs to be dark, emotional, and command my attention, make me desire to know more.

Nothing like: The lollipop stuck to his tongue, not until he attempted to peel it off did he realize his mistake.

Okay, maybe that wouldn't be so bad. I'd like to know more.

With that in mind, here are a few first sentence examples from early Noir writers.

It was like coming back from death.

He lay there in a silk-lined casket looking very waxy, but it was eight to five that he looked no more waxy than me.

We could see the low bone-white hotel now, its wings curving toward the sea like the base of a sun-bleached skull.

The guy was dead as hell.

It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick walk.

The man and the girl walked slowly, close together, past a dim stencil sign that said: Surprise Hotel.

Rain. It washed the two men, slid down their raincoated bodies, and made a sea of mud at the open graves at their feet.

What stories are these from and who wrote them? Answers in the next entry, and I will include first paragraph examples. Some will be from these authors and some not.

I'm ending this with a Noir author quiz:

Who was William Irish?


Comments are welcome.

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