Stretching those little bird arms!

To this day, I always tell my sons that they need to stretch those little bird arms of theirs if they want to be as strong as their father. The truth is that one is almost as strong as me anyway. But I like to poke fun where I can.

Writing can be like that too. Recently I’ve been editing. And by editing I mean pretty much that’s all I’m doing all the time. I don’t mind editing, but it can become tedious. It’s sort of like being a gun nut (like I am) and only getting to fire one bullet before bringing the target back to examine the shot. Sure, there is time for that kind of thing. But sometimes you just want to spend lead and shred the target until it falls to the floor in tiny pieces. Or maybe like a baseball player who is only allowed to practice hitting the ball and running half way to the base before being told to come back and try again. Frustrating!

I have a ton more editing to do. But I shoved it aside tonight to work on story idea I have had in my brain for a while. It’s all first person and the main character tells you the story of his family. Granted they are a majorly f’ed up family, but they are a family never the less. Yes, someone is going to be beaten to death and something awful is going to happen, but I am trying to tell the story as an adult, but as if they are remember it through the wonderment of an eleven year old who finds out the world isn’t as great as he thinks.

Getting away from editing and actually letting first draft material flow from my fingertips is intoxicating. The characters are starting to come up off the page and develop personalities of their own. The world I’m creating is surreal in that you are seeing a beautiful mansion, made all the more amazing because an eleven year old mind is telling you about it. Bathtubs become20160124_131456 pools, picture windows become impossibly grand, the dinner table could seat a thousand people or more. It is just great first draft kinds of stuff.

Like I said, it gets me into the groove and feeds my soul. It’s hard only editing for the last six months and, to be honest, I have kind of had my fill of editing for now. At this point I wanted to take some time and get back to the business of just writing new stuff.

I don’t know where this story is going to end up, but I do know one thing. It is going to be a ton of fun to write! Sometimes you just have to stretch those little bird arms.

 

-Your Humble Servant,

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I love it!

Sometimes you write something, edit, edit again, edit yet another time, and then something comes out that blows you off your feet. Stephen King talks about not really having the ability to shoot out gold laden brilliance from his fingertips every time he writes. What he is eluding to is the need to edit, edit, and more editing until something beautiful emerges. 

This isn’t to be confused with polishing a turd! The writer’s first draft is never brilliance ready to hit your local bookshelves. Anyone who tells you that’s possible is probably not an author at all. Admittedly, I still have things that are less than brilliant, but occasionally I get something right.

Today I was editing a paragraph and removed, tightened, and changed a few key elements and I saw the paragraph jump up off the page and smack me around a bit. I suddenly fell in love with that paragraph. That isn’t to say that when I send it to a professional editor, I might not still change it slightly, but for this edit, I fell in love.

I wanted to share with you what it looked like at first draft and then what it looked like after I had a couple of runs through the paragraph. While I am not really done with it, I hope you see the changes and what it looks like after I have worked with it a bit. 

First Draft! Not bad, but not great. It lacked pop and sparkle.  

After what seemed to the assemblage like an hour of staring at each other in silence, he turned towards the large globe next to the desk. Flipping open the secret compartment, he brought out three glasses and filled them with bourbon. Placing two on the desk in front of the men, he sat down in his chair. “You two had better sit down and have a drink.” For the next few minutes, the three sat in stunned silence.

Here is the paragraph after I re-wrote it. A lot more pop and sparkle. Probably not 100% yet, but much better. 

After a timeless expanse where no one dared utter a word, Donny turned to the large globe next to the desk. Flipping open the secret compartment and retrieving three glasses, he filled them with bourbon. Placing two on the desk in front of the men, he sat down heavily in the leather office chair. “You two better sit down and have a drink.” For the next few minutes, the three observed a moment of stunned silence.

My point is this. Editing matters! While I am far from perfect, I am striving for it. Will I ever get there? I don’t know. But, I’m having a great time working towards it.

-Your Humble Servant,

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A serial killer, priest, and cop walk into my mind …

How does one delve into the mind of a serial killer? Actually, it’s really hard. Here’s the thing you have to remember about any character you are developing for a story line. You have to be willing to let that character into your mind for a little while. I’ve read other people refer to it as trying on a personality.

You may find this hard to believe, but I am not a serial killer. Nope, never gutted anyone like a fish, removed their eyes, or tied anyone into a chair to watch them die slowly. However, in order to write a fictional character and have them believable, you have to walk around in their shoes a bit. Barring actually becoming a real serial killer, how do you accomplish this?

What a writer is
The voices in my head have been busy!

First off, I read about real serial killers. The closer I can get to something which gives me what they said and did and a good psychoanalysis of why they did it, the better. It isn’t enough to just mimic the insanity, you have to actually try to understand the motivations behind it. Not everyone is crazy for the same reasons. Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, had a really hard time explaining why he was the way he was. Although, after seeing the interview with Jeff, his father, and his mother, I have my own theories. In almost every serial killer there is an element of looking for control of some sort.

Studying the phenomenon of serial killers is very interesting. While it’s hard to pin down themes there are a few which manifest.

  • The need for control
  • Unresolved issues usually in childhood
  • The devaluation of human life which can be linked to shame

I’m missing a ton, by the way. There are many more. However, these are all values that I don’t have. So in order to write them effectively, I have to let my mind take these ideas on and try them out a bit. Sometimes I sit by myself and think about what it would be like to be a controlling husband, telling their wives what they will and won’t do. I think about what it might be like to take a hooker and kill her while tied up to a bed post. BTW, I should probably let everyone know that my wife would never let me get away with being controlling. Besides, Mrs. Nowak will tell you I am usually wrong when it comes to anything family related. But she loves me anyway.

Next, it is helpful to watch a good amount of horror movies. I’ve probably seen the classics more times than I care to count. But I also really enjoyed the show Dexter. While unrealistic in some aspects, I really liked the show. It is a classic example we have in the modern era of a television show centering on serial killers. I think Michael C. Hall does a great job. Some serial killers had families. BTK actually comes to mind.

I love Tales from the Crypt from HBO. It shows that horror can be not only clever, but hilarious at the same time. If you have never watched Tales from the Crypt. I give you permission to go order off the internet and watch a few episodes. Go ahead … we’ll wait for you.

Serial killers are just one aspect though. On a recent project I had to get into the mind of a law enforcement officer who is corrupt … sort of. However, he really does try to do the right thing. It is hard though. That project is called Riapoke and should be out in early summer.

Women can also be difficult, especially young ones. Another thing you may not know about me is that I’ve never been a teenage girl. True … never been. So, I am forced to resort to what I see my own teenage daughter and her friends do on a continual basis. BTW, I have three teens so I am actually a bit of an expert on the topic. God help me!

In all these examples, I have to, and any author does, let myself roam around in their shoes. There is a bit of a serial killer, woman, teenage girl, teenage boy, corrupt police officer, and all kinds of other people in my head that I continually take out and let interact with the world around me so I can see what they do and how they react. Kind of like really weird action figures or invisible friends; I play with them in the dollhouse of my mind and watch them do their thing on the world stage and I chronically it for readers. My ultimate goal is to make the characters as believable as possible and deliver them to you.

Back to playing with my fictitious friends!

-Your Humble Servant

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