Thursday, April 4, 2013
6 Reasons Why I Write in First Person Point-of-View:
1. I can develop a close relationship with the protagonist, and so can my readers.
2. I can make my protagonist more real and believable.
3. I can show more of my protagonist’s personality, quirks, etc.
4. I can jump inside my protagonist and “become” her.
5. I can feel/experience what she’s going through.
6. It’s easier!
A Night with a Wild Thing
Maurice Sendak would have been proud. The Walnut Creek Library honored him posthumously with a special tribute at its fourth annual “Authors Under the Stars” fundraiser last weekend. And it was quite the rumpus.
I’ve been a fan of Sendak’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, since my kids were little. Hard to believe it was published in 1963 and it’s still popular today, having sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide. So when I was invited to participate in the library gala, along with 19 other local authors, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Proceeds would go to the Walnut Creek Library Foundation for new books and materials.
Plus, my husband and I would get a free dinner.
About fifteen minutes before we were to leave for the event, my husband decided it was time to get dressed. Men.
“So what do I wear to this thing?” he asked, fresh from the shower and wrapped in a towel.
“It’s black tie—“
“Black tie! I don’t have anything to wear to a black-tie event!”
“—optional,” I said, finishing my sentence. “Calm down. You can just wear your suit.”
“Do I even have a suit?” he asked, riffling through his closet, a storage warehouse filled with old tax returns, useless photographic equipment, aging sports stuff, worn-out shoes, and a dozen Hawaiian shirts.
“I don’t see a suit!” he called from the recesses of his closet.
“Let me look,” I said, fully aware of his disability—being unable to see what’s right in front of him. I had a feeling this was really an attempt to avoid the event.
“Here are your pants,” I said, handing them over to him in less than two seconds. “And here’s your shirt.”
“Well, I still can’t find my jacket,” he said, gnashing his terrible teeth and rolling his terrible eyes.
It was true. The jacket was nowhere to be found. Still, there was no way he’s was getting out of this. “You don’t need a jacket. Just wear a tie and pretend you took your jacket off when you arrived.”
“Do I have to tuck my shirt in?” he asked.
Once I had him in the car, we sailed over to the library and headed upstairs for the reception. While sipping too much wine, we perused the silent auction. We couldn’t afford the Hawaiian vacation home, the iPad mini, the Italian cooking classes, or golf at Diablo Country Club, but we finally found something that fit our budget: Four tickets to Disneyland!
“Can we bid on them?” I asked my husband.
I thought I saw him nod, so I signed us up. Giddy with silent auction fever, I bid on everything that had the word “Disney” in it, including a week-long vacation rental in Orlando.
“You did what?” he said when I told him. Frantic we might win, he tried to scratch out my signatures, but it was too late. Luckily for him, most of the items we bid on went to someone else. Except the Disney tickets! Yippee! Now all we have to do is pay for the hotel, air fare, food, souvenirs, and extra tickets for the remaining family members.
Because thanks to Mr. Sendak, we’re taking our Wild Things to the Happiest Place on Earth!
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
"Show" place with "telling details"
I figured the other bloggers would do a great job of sharing their techniques regarding "telling details," so I thought I'd focus on just one aspect--creating a sense of place using the five senses to show telling details, plus a couple more tips.
1. Sight: Include three things you see in the scene that are unique to your character's viewpoint. For example, if you're describing a school classroom, you might mention the clock (waiting for school to get out), the waste basket (where the teacher threw your homework), and the graffiti on your desk (a picture of the teacher lying dead on the floor.)
2. Sound: Include 2 things you hear, besides voices, such as a baby crying in the distance, a creak in the old fence gate, a buzzing bee hovering around your head, or coins in someone's pocket.
3. Smell: Include something you smell in the air, such as someone's perfume, a pie baking in the kitchen, a friend's popcorn breath, the overflowing litter box, or mold in the attic.
4. Taste: Include something you taste, but not necessarily something you're eating, such as the morning's toothpaste, a mint you just popped in your mouth, peanut butter from today's lunch, or the memory of a kiss.
5. Touch: Include something you feel physically, such as the wind on your skin, a chill down your back, the grib of a strong hand, a baby pulling your hair, or your itchy nose.
7. Plus: Include the time of day, such as brisk morning, hot afternoon, cooling evening, humid night, or 2 am sleeplessness.
9. Finally: Include the overall mood, such as creepy, foreboding, serene, excitement, or black.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Skype - It's almost like being there
Not one to let a new trend pass me by, I’ve recently learned to “Skype.” This cutting edge techno fad has only been around since 2003—a mere ten years—which is about how long it takes me to try something new. But since my husband is away on a business trip, I thought I’d give it look-hear.
First, let me explain what Skype is, in case you haven’t tried anything new in ten years either. Skype is essentially a “video-phone” that allows you to see your caller, simply by using your computer. I’ve always wanted one of these, ever since watching Buck Rogers and Star Trek. As a kid, I was sure Walt Disney was working on this telecommunications of the future. After all, I saw prototypes at Disneyland’s House of the Future back in the 50s.
Now, five decades later, Skype, not Disney, finally came up with device that allows callers to not only hear one another’s voices over long distance, but also see our loved ones dressed only in their underwear, our friends drunk at a party, or our relatives’ cats. And it’s all free-ish!
All you need is an internet connection (not free), a computer with a microphone and speakers (not free), and a “webcam” (not free). Once you have the equipment, then you simply follow these easy steps:
1. Download Skype and create yet another account and forgettable password.
2. Click on one of your “contacts.” No one on your contact list? Bummer. You’ll need some “contacts.”
3. When you finally get a contact, check to see if he is online.
4. Click “video-call” and listen to the catchy Skype tune while waiting for your friend to answer.
5. When he does, smile (make sure there’s nothing in your teeth), wave (the Queen’s wave is best since the viewing screen is limited) and say hello (in fact, say it several times to make sure your friend can hear you.)
6. While you chat, play with the options to increase the esthetics of your call. Adjust your volume, change the light, add color, include bizarre backgrounds, draw on mustaches, etc.
7. If you can’t see your friend, click a bunch of keys, check your settings, call tech support, go to the Apple genius bar, or hang up and use your regular phone.
That’s it. Now, whenever my husband is on a business trip, we Skype. Our conversations go something like this:
Me: “Hi!” (Remove glasses.)
Me: “How was your day?” (Hide new purchases.)
Him: “Oh fine. Yours?
Me: “Fine.” (Lean out of view and sneak a sip of wine.)
Him: “What’s new?”
Me: “Not much. What about you?” (Play solitaire while waiting for answer.)
Him: “Same. Just watching sports on TV.”
Me: “Ah.” (Turn on TV and watch anything but sports.)
Him: “Your hair’s sticking out.”
Me: “Thanks.” (Pat it down.) “Have you put on weight?”
Him: “Ga—be—du—mo—You’re breaking up.”
Him: “Ga—be—du—mo—You’re breaking up.”
Me: “Yeah, you too.” (Matt Damon is on Ellen!)
After a few more words of garbled jibberish, I shake my head, which means “This sucks” in Skype language. We hang up.
Pretty amazing stuff. I can’t wait until the next new invention. Maybe 3-D holograms of our loved ones beamed right into our homes, so we can sit and drink wine and watch the news on TV together, without saying a word. Just like real life.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Grandma, what's a pencil?
I realize that if it weren't for technology, I wouldn't be writing this column on my new laptop. But does it all have to be so complicated?
It seems as if every day there's a new gadget I should upgrade to -- and then learn how to use. I think I spend more time reading manuals and calling tech support than I do actually using the gizmo.
I'm starting to sound like my grandmother, but things were simpler when I used a pencil and paper to write articles and stories. If the lead broke, I sharpened the pencil. And when the notepad was full, I started a new one.
Back then I never lost a year's worth of work because the notebook "crashed." I never had to call tech services in order to learn how to operate a writing utensil. Even when I "upgraded" to a typewriter ('member typewriters?), it only took a few minutes to figure out how to put words on paper ('member paper?). In fact, the most complicated thing about my old typewriter was changing the ribbon, but I managed without ever having to call The Geek Squad for help.
I just bought myself an iPad mini, mainly because, like Goldilocks, my iPad is too big, my iPhone is too small and the iPad Mini feels "just right." Besides, it's cute, lightweight and fits in my purse. Unfortunately, I've had it for a week and still can't download my mail, surf the Internet or play Spider Solitaire.
I suppose there's an "app" for all that, since there doesn't appear to be a manual, but I can't find it. I've already got some 50 other apps, including Instagram, Crackle, Zombie Café, Mirror, Shazam, Dropbox, Beat the Traffic, Talking Tom, Crack Screen, Pandora, Sound Effects and Mickey's Club House. I just don't have time to figure out how to use them.
I've been on the phone for days calling AT&T, Yahoo, my techie nephew and my son who thinks I'm an idiot, to no avail. I've been to Best Buy's Geek Squad, Apple's Genius Bar and some random guy who was holding a cellphone at Starbucks but with no luck.
I'm still trying to figure out how to use the four remotes for the TV/DVD/X-Box/Whatever. (We used to have six or seven, but we lost those.) Plus we have something like 500 channels. I only use half a dozen of them, but the rest are available to me, so I can watch low-tech shows like "Honey Boo Boo," "Swamp People" and "Antiques Road Show," featuring typewriters. I haven't seen my old friends in years, but I know every detail of their lives, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and TMI.
Things are only going to get worse. Coffee makers will become more complicated as we try to make our own double-shot decaf mocha frappachinos without an IT degree. When the post office finally shuts down, I'll have to learn how to Photoshop my own stamps, find an app to weigh my letters and figure out how to send packages via email. And if I want to write a letter the old-fashioned way -- with pen and paper -- I'll have to learn how to use a stylus and e-pad.
I might as well get a degree in computer science. No problem. I'm sure there's an app for that.