Listening to The Voice
I know a Good Story / June 11, 2015

If you hang out with writers or writer wannabes for any length of time, you’ll hear them talk about Voice.  They mention the word with awe and respect, like the Voice is Gandhi’s or Caruso’s or God’s (a Voice, according to the clergy and Kevin Smith, that would literally Blow. Your. Mind.) and every writer wants one.  A strong narrative voice.  A recognizable voice.  An exciting voice.  You might think that all these adjectives had made the word-nerds squishy-brained but the fact is Voice is often the hook that pulls a reader into a story.  For example:  Listen my children and you will hear-Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.Hear those fourteen words again and suddenly you are a kid again, curled up with some pals by a wing chair  because the storyteller in the center has promised you tales of derring-do. Fourteen words and the narrator’s in charge.   That, my friends, is Voice. All of this is build-up for a novel I just finished called The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  My mentor, Javacia Harris Bowser (she of Writeous Babe fame) mentioned it as a topic for research but scanning it for data brought to light a…

The Nature of Obsession
I know a Good Story / June 6, 2015

How does an obsession begin?  Usually with something unknown, an experience or event outside our frame of reference with an overwhelming amount of detail.  We want to understand how it happened, to put it into context, but the matters that trigger obsessions usually resist easy categorization.   So, we dig deeper, thinking one more visit, one more review of the facts and we’ll figure out the problem and finally lay it to rest.  Obsessions don’t work like that: they’re spirals into a black hole of nothingness, they’re the itch we cannot scratch and that’s why they’re dangerous.  It’s the rare person who conquers an obsession; most survivors have to stage an escape. Obsession is the key beneath James Ellroy’s Black Dahlia, the novel grounded in the infamous murder of Elizabeth Short, a crime that still shocks almost seven decades after it happened.  Ellroy’s novel focuses on two (fictional) detectives assigned to investigate her murder. In the post-war world of Los Angeles, officers Bleichert and Blanchard both enjoy the minor celebrity perks of being former boxers and members of the L. A. P. D. and both are reasonably happy in their lives until coincidence places them in the neighborhood when Elizabeth’s…

When Fans Go Bad: Finders Keepers
I know a Good Story / June 3, 2015

Fans are the double-edged sword to creative people, everyone knows that.  Actors, artists and poets makes a living (occasionally a good one) because the fans like and purchase their work, which is great.  Develop a big enough fan base and an artist will encounter those who want to thank him or her personally.  A smaller group than that will mistake their enthusiasm as the basis of a personal relationship.  Gain enough popularity and the artist will face fans that expect to control his/her life and work.  Take this to the extreme and the artist will certainly die.  Stephen King covered this in his novel, Misery but he gave Annie Wilkes a few bits of leavening humor.  What other professed lover of words would cut herself off from expressions of anger, so her profanity is limited to words like “cock-a-dooty”?  As destructive and strange as Annie is, at times she’s also comical.  That endearing shade of grey is missing from King’s newest novel about toxic fans, Finders Keepers.  It suggests admiration may be the most dangerous response in the world.  At odds are two readers of a twentieth-century novelist.  Both readers are young males when they find their author’s most-lauded works, a series of novels reminiscent of John Updike’s “Rabbit” series. The…

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