Reality vs. Fiction, According to Tom Clancy

tom Clancy Fiction Reality Quote

Today, April 12th, is the birth anniversary of Tom Clancy.

Tom Clancy was once a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history.

Then he wrote The Hunt for Red October, which catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn”. Clancy was known for  weaving realism and intricate plotting into can’t-put-it-down suspense novels.

I can readily recall more than a few real-life situations that I’ve transferred to the page, only to find that they were unbelievable.  How can that be? It makes no sense that actual events or conversations don’t translate to fiction. Sense or not, the reality is that reality sometimes bends or tests or even shatters the suspended disbelief of our readers.  Why is that?

Have you ever written real life situations that were just too unbelievable to be included in your work?

Perhaps the entertaining conversation you overheard on the train doesn’t fit into your story. Or maybe your character wouldn’t be caught dead doing that crazy thing you saw the tourist do at the national park. It could be that what you observed was so jarring that it yanks your readers right out of the story.  Speaking of story, did that real-life tidbit actually further your plot or develop a character?  Did it serve a purpose?

The possibility exists that, sometimes, truth actually is stranger than fiction, and should be left alone. 

For now.

Keep it in your idea arsenal for another time.  You never know when your fiction could use that dose of actual real-life.

Photo taken by Gary Wayne Gilbert, 20 Nov 1989 at Burns Library, Boston College and is used under Creative Commons License.

How We Create Magic with Paper – Does It Matter?

How We Create Magic with Paper – Does It Matter?

Robert Sabuda illustrator and author, turns 54 today. He bucked convention and experimented with a variety of artistic approaches to book illustration, including batik, stained glass, and papyrus textures.  

Three time recipient of the Meggendorfer Prize (in honor of German illustrator Lothar Meggendorfer), Robert is a multiple No. 1 New York Times best-selling children’s book creator and has over five million books in print published in over 25 languages.

Robert focused on 3-D paper engineering during his studies at Pratt Institute in New York, and his enormously successful pop-up books, both for children and adults, showcase his mad skills.

 

Most Important Tool of All

Robert reminds us that the most important tool in our craft can’t be bought. Like Robert, we create magic with paper (okay, words, not necessarily on actual paper). He uses folds and engineering, we use language. We all use imagination – the magic emerges from inside our heads. The apps, the type of keyboard, the kind of pen or brand of paper, they don’t matter so much, do they?

Or perhaps they do.

How You Get the Words Down – Does it Matter?

Some of my most intriguing ideas seem to bloom with the flow of actual ink. I organize and plot primarily on a keyboard, making full use of assistive tech for word-processing, outlining, time-lining, world-building, formatting and whatever else I’m forgetting at this moment. If I didn’t have the convenience of online resources and cut-and-paste for my research, I’d probably never get past information gathering. I use all kinds of resources. But the bottom line is, I can use whatever medium is available to get that story out of my head and into the real world.  The magic comes from within.

How Does Your Magic Flow?

How about you?

  • Do you find that the mechanics of how you write has in impact on your creative process? 
  • Does the speed with which you get the words down impact your creative flow?
  • Does the ability to forego spelling worries in the latest app keep your mind focused on story? 
  • Does slowing down to write words out longhand help you think through the story?

I’ve spent a few paragraphs exploring how the mechanics of writing impacts the process of making a story. I have no doubt it varies from person to person. And now, having reflected, let’s get to writing. In any way you like.

 

Another Reminder – The First Sentence Matters

Today, January 25th, marks the birthdate of some highly regarded writers.

Gloria Naylor

Gloria Naylor (5 Jan 1950 – 28 Sep 2016) saw her  debut novel, The Women of Brewster Place, (1982) win critical acclaim and become an Emmy-nominated miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey.

Gloria’s parents were sharecroppers who migrated from Mississippi to Harlem to seek new opportunities. Her father became a transit worker and her mother a telephone operator. Despite their own limited education, Gloria’s parents encouraged her to read

Gloria  Naylor shares her birthday with Virginia Woolf  (1882 – 1941) and Robert Burns 1759-1796).

Gloria Naylor (5 Jan 1950 – 28 Sep 2016) saw her  debut novel, The Women of Brewster Place, (1982) win critical acclaim and become an Emmy-nominated miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey.

Gloria’s parents were sharecroppers who migrated from Mississippi to Harlem to seek new opportunities. Her father became a transit worker and her mother a telephone operator. Despite their own limited education, Gloria’s parents encouraged her to read and to keep a journal.  By the time she was a teenager, Gloria was a prolific writer of poems, short stories, and observations of the world around her.

Gloria’s family moved to Queens in 1963, and she was placed in advanced classes at her new high school. Gloria graduated from high school the year Martin Luther King Jr. was was murdered, and served as a Jehovah’s Witness missionary for seven years.  She then enrolled as a nursing student at Brooklyn college, but quickly changed her major to English.  Gloria worked her way through college, earning her bachelor’s degree and then a masters degree in African American studies at Yale.  Her thesis would become her second novel, Linden Hills.

Gloria’s first published novel, The Women of Brewster Place,  as her other novels, addressed social issues such as racism, homophobia, poverty and women’s rights with intensity and grace.  She became known for her vivid telling of what it meant to be a black woman in America.

Gloria’s work includes several more novels and inclusion in anthologies. She taught at Cornell, George Washington University, and Boston University.  Gloria received numerous awards, ranging from a Guggenheim Fellowship to several National Book Awards.

 

We’ve Heard it Before – Always That First Sentence!

“One should be able to return to the first sentence of a novel and find the resonances of the entire work.”  ~ Gloria Naylor.

We hear it at conferences, in classrooms, at critique groups, on podcasts and on “how to write” blogs. This is timeless advice, folks, and there’s a reason famous authors say it. Time for me to go reevaluate my first pages.

 

A Good Day to be Born, if You’re a Writer

Gloria  Naylor shares her birthday with Virginia Woolf  (1882 – 1941) and Robert Burns 1759-1796).  My own birthday seems to be heavy with politicians. Perhaps I’ve missed my calling?

Go Slow and Don’t Stop

Go Slow and Don’t Stop

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”   ~ Confucius

Confucius Statue

Today is the birth anniversary of Confucius, who would be 2,568 years old if he’d managed to stay alive for twenty or so extra centuries. 

Confucius was born on or about the equivalent of September 28, 551 B.C.E. He was a political figure, philosopher, educator, and founder of the Ru Chinese School of Thought. He was also an author and has been credited with writing or editing the Five Classics and other Chinese texts.*

We hear some version of his advice often these days, don’t we?

 

Just Keep Swimmin’

Persevere

One Step at at Time

Never Give Up!

Just Do It

 

The truth is, a hundred thousand words is daunting. I suspect it would be all the more so without my keyboard. Or a pen. Or paper. I’m pretty sure my chiseling skills are woefully inadequate.

Yes we’re pulled in umpteen directions and the clock never stops ticking. But we can carve out a few minutes most days, if we’re intentional about it.  And when I say we, I mean I. 

Because I’m great about talking about planning my writing. I acknowledge that a plan, a schedule, a timeline would be helpful.  And then I get distracted.

Sound familiar?

So, enough talk about writing. Time for me to write. How about you?

*Cunfucius peppered his writing quite generously with adverbs!