Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Tue, Mar 14 2017

Nix the glour with baling powder and asalt

The recipe typing continues. There are crazy typos that come with typing recipe-related terms. To keep from being tired of working on the recipes, I often note the funnier terms that end up in the files.
Garlix, perhaps an antiquated plural for garlic?
Beta butter, which could be bypassing alpha butter in favor of beta butter?
Chopped muts, which probably means short mutts?



posted at: 12:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Wed, Mar 08 2017

Was that a falling knife you just caught in your laundry basket?

Writing is serious business, but it's also fun. I can be working on some remarkably sad story when I get the urge to insert some giggles. After all, real life is not one long uninterrupted tragedy, unless you happen to be a dedicated pessimist. Life's funniest moments often come sandwiched between lost jobs and orphaned puppies. It's the treatment of events that creates tragedy or comedy. Watch a comedy on TV with the sound off and you'll find that it feels a lot more serious than when it's frilled with sassy dialogue and quirky music. A lot of stand-up comedians will tell you that it's the unfortunate events in life that gives them most of their material. When some scene gets so serious that we can't seem to resolve it or frame it in proper context, maybe a good old-fashioned pratfall will give a scene the grounding it needs in order for the reader to stay engaged.

posted at: 15:21 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Tue, Feb 28 2017

What's really in the scene?

If you watch a favorite film several times you may begin to notice more about the way the background in scenes is presented. Are there two characters in a shot? Are they in front of a crowd of background activity? Camera work usually handles details that make it easier for our vision to accept a sceme as natural. When two characters have a conversation while crossing a city street we accept the noise, traffic and pedestrians as part of a busy city intersection, even if the background is in softer focus. If we suddenly took away all the background activity and showed those same two characters against a backdrop of deserted streets our mind would start to assume other things about the scene. Maybe it's too early for traffic and crowds or maybe it's the weekend. As the shot widens out we might find that there is no one else in the whole city at all, due to evacuation or alien abduction. Without cameras, it's up to the writer to help a reader picture the context in which the characters are presented. We don't have to provide every single detail when we describe a scene in a written story. Four pages of written description are going to be tedious and may ruin the pacing of the story. But a few well-chosen details can help the reader's mind fill in the rest of the setting naturally with their own imagination.

The more exotic the setting, the more details one might need to set up a scene. Most of us have crossed a street in a large city, but if the story takes place in 3012 the reader may need more background description in order to accept the scene as a natural one. The same might be true of a city set in early Athens. Decide which details will give your reader the best chance to build the scene in their mind and make them feel like part of the action.

posted at: 14:52 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Tue, Feb 14 2017

Writing and the art of lawn maintenance

Just as writers in snowy spots have to stop writing to go shovel snow now and then, writers in California have to stop writing to go mow lawns now and then, even in February. It's a struggle to keep one's head in the game while filling up the yard waste can with trimmings.

One of ways I make the yard time do double duty is to consider setting details and to notice my characters' habits in depth. Would my characters plant tulip beds or cactus gardens? Would they revel in digging into rich compost piles or would they sneeze and run inside at the first sign of spring pollen?

If you're working on a mystery, you might learn to not have a killer try to bury a body beneath a plum tree, unless you want them to get caught in the process. (Plum trees behave more like shrubs than trees and their roots can be too tangled and dense to bury anything bigger than a field mouse.)

The whole thing does underscore the habit that writers have of making everything about writing, even when one is not actually sitting and writing. Going off into the weeds may be literal, but it doesn't have to be figurative unless you let it.

posted at: 13:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Mon, Jan 30 2017

Themes and seasons

Spring comes early to this part of California. The tulip trees often flower out before February. Bulb plants have already sent up green shoots and are about to unfold packed flower tips as I type this. In less than three weeks we'll see new buds decorating the tips of deciduous trees branches. Nights throw temperatures down into the 30s, but a late winter day can warm into the the 60s and 70s.

It doesn't feel like an ebb and flow in nature, but more like someone jumping out from behind a familiar door in a familair building with one surprise after another. Frost on Tuesday Monday moring reminds us that winter has not finished with us yet, but hazy sun reminds us that we're right on track to spring.

A well-written story makes me feel the same way. It's not predictable, but it's also not easy to just fall in and out of a reading session. What pulls me in is the suspense or a curiosity to know what happens next, but what keeps me reading for a longer peiod of time is a familiar sweet spot, comfortable like a seasonal track running just below the surface of the twists and turns. I take delight in the surprising events, but I also feel satisfied that this is the way of all things in a larger sense.

posted at: 14:23 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry



Fri, Jan 27 2017

Beguiled

I caught myself reaching for a link to an online game this morning while I was enjoying a warm cup of liquid. It was one of those games that has little gems or jewels in rows and columns. The object is to make switches in order to get three or more of a kind in a straight line. It's too easy to go from playing three rounds to playing 30 rounds. Thankfully, my brain reminded me that this morning's game was intended to be only a brief distraction.

Somewhere behind the attention required to play the game my brain was seeing something that made me realize that such a game is kind of a fast-moving matrix for plot elements and twists. While one thing resolves or falls into place, something else changes with one or more characters reacting to it.

Now I need to make my own matrix for those times when I get a bit stuck on the way a plot is moving (or not moving). I don't condone playing games in order to procrastinate, but in this case when my subconscious mind was working on a story, it turned out to be a good move. Fiction does have to flow somewhat naturally from a character's make-up, but fiction, like real life, sometimes throws a monkey wrench (or a gem) into the mix of things.

posted at: 12:33 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



Fri, Jan 20 2017

Covering the Parade

I watched quite a bit of the inaugural ceremony earlier today and then viewed the parade and the subsequent attempt at torching metal trash receptacles by a few. There should be a better English term for one who throws tantrums and starts fires when they don't get their way. Arsonist doesn't quite cover it, because arsonists often set fires because they fixated on the blaze and the tantrum-thrower isn't quite that focused. They usually come ill prepared to create a proper flame and they run out of fuel and end up tossing in everything from metal items, which don't burn well, to their own clothing, which leaves them a bit defenseless if/when the police bring out the water cannons. Vandal might be a better term, because it involves destruction of property with no real control over the outcome. And, as a side note, to the people who damaged the vehical carrying media equipment, why would you hurt the very ones who are giving you the best chance at getting attention?

The actual parade was full of movement and music, protectors and performers, rugged blast-proof vehicles and a photographer walking backwards to capture that close-up shot of the drum major (who never broke stride). It was a rather wet day, but that worked in favor of the whole event. The rotating lights of the official motorcycles would have been pale in direct sunlight, but with a backdrop of gray sky and soft rain, those same lights became a brilliant banner of red and blue stars with silver metallic outlines. Very patriotic on such a winter's day.

It's fun to live in a country where people can either celebrate or protest on any given day without getting our heads chopped off for exercising our rights. I have no doubt that both protestors and celebrants will talk about this day. But there's the parade and the pageantry. And then there's the day-to-day work we each have of being an American in 2017. That's a parade where no one gets to be merely a spectator.

posted at: 16:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry



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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!