Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Truth vs. fiction

Some of you may not know that I have been ill for quite some time.  Better now, but for a few years I was in pretty bad shape and am just now trying to get my feet on the ground and carry on.
I had cancer once, got over it, got it again somewhere else, got over that, but then I broke both my legs and still haven't quite gotten over that.
In between all this garbage (and it has been garbage, putting me way off my scheduled life) I did some writing, most of it pretty awful. I sent nothing out (a sin, yes, but true to my usual modus operendi) so nothing happened.

I can't even remember when I wrote Chatty Hooters.  It must have been some time inbetween the first and second cancer.  Using my one trip to England as reference, I wrote a ghost story that involved the living, too.  It is a good, solid story and I intend to put it up on Amazon for Kindle before Halloween because, well, who doesn't like a good ghost story?

Now to get to why I'm writing this blog.

When I first wrote the story, I invented the British Institute of Paranormal (or Psychic) Studies for my female character to represent.  I thought it was terribly clever, making up that acronym.  Very clever indeed.  So, I sort of tried to publicize my genius by posting that I had been selected as the sole American member of the prestigious institution (which did not exist).    Honestly, I was just joking around, many people knew I was involved with a ghost story wip.  Lots of people knew this.

Unfortunately, some people did not know and wrote back congratulations on this same loop.  I felt awful!  I didn't want my friends thinking I was a liar...I don't lie, I make up stories.
So, I had to confess that I was joking.  That there was no such B.I.P.S. and that I certainly didn't quailfy for membership if it DID exist.

Eventually, I changed the title of Chatty Hooters to Kiss My Ectoplasm.
Hopefully, it will be available before Halloween for everyone!

I'm still sort of ashamed, though.  But really, I didn't mean to trick anybody.  And I did confess to the intended joke....
Publicity isn't always done right.  Ya gotta be careful!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Writing is easier for some people than it is for others.  There are people who can naturally tell a story, it just slips from their lips in order and we laugh with them or cry with them, but whatever it is that they have, this magic ability, we are enrapt and cannot turn away from what they are telling us.  These people are just great story tellers!

But there is something, ingrained perhaps, or something they have picked up along the way that aids them in what they do.  Maybe they read constantly.  Maybe they watched people on television who could capture the crowd—certain stand up comedians come to mind—and they learned from these folks.  The story, related with expression and great timing, keeps our attention through the ups and downs to the very end.  We laugh at appropriate times, we cry if necessary, we feel triumph when the speaker finishes the tale.  We’ve been involved through some magic talent of theirs so that we are not listening to the story, we’re a part of the story.

There are rules to telling a good story.  They’ve been broken down by several learned people, Joseph Campbell in his Hero of a Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler who took directly from Campbell.  Each outlined the steps of the storyline, based on myths but applicable to any century’s stories, like yours, like mine.  The journey.  What the hero must pass through and accomplish to reach the good ending where his quest is fulfilled and he has done his job and accomplished what he or she set out to do.  Vogler listed 12 steps.  I don’t remember all of them, but then, I sort of use the steps naturally.

First, there is the call to adventure.  Okay, it could be hard (win a war) or relatively na├»ve and easy, like delivering a summons to a rich guy who has bodyguards and everybody else who has tried to serve this guy has failed miserably.  The character knows it’s difficult and probably impossible, so he/she hesitates and tries to put it off on someone else. They refuse to go, knowing in advance that they will fail.  Then something happens to force the character’s movement…gun to his head, loss of job to her if she doesn’t , or something far more dire…if you don’t do it, your family will suffer.  So the character goes.

Along the way to somewhere impossible, they gather allies and a mentor.  The mentor knows the way or knows how to accomplish the mission (holds a key to getting into that office or getting into Bin  Laden’s compound) and even might possess a magic weapon (or key or code word) to allow our hero or heroine access.  It isn’t easy, the road there is nearly impossible and impassible, fraught with danger at every turn, several times the h/h faces danger and death but manages to squeeze through.  Often there are consequences and the allies don’t make it…you can’t kill off your h/h, but members of the band might die…think LOTR where some of the fiercest die so that the others may go on.  Such devotion…red shirts on Star Trek who are nameless but give their all for the cause.

Okay, we’ve gone there, we’ve lost friends, now we are into the compound/office and think we might have smooth going until suddenly, the bad guy or giant or dragon or watchman or worse yet, the antagonist, the impossible guy, appears, fully armed and we must confront him, the danger, the enemy, the boss.  We use our wits, we use our magic weapons, somehow, we manage to defeat the villain and get what we want.  But, looking at what it cost us, sometimes an arm or a leg or a friend, and we wonder whether it was worth it.

We bring the magic elixir home to those who need it.  The plans are with our generals, the stolen jewels are back with the queen, the bad guy is either dead or in jail or somewhere where he/she cannot hurt anyone ever again.  We present the goods to whoever needed them and people rejoice and we are heroes.  We get the girl/guy/job/retirement/recognition and our story is over, unless it is a series and we get sent somewhere else to do the same thing only in a different time and place.

This is the hero’s journey.  This is the story, done.  These elements are usually always present, though the order might be changed and the dangers on and on, but these elements must be observed for the story to be worthwhile.  Even literary fiction has most of these elements while the ending might not be Happily Ever After, just because real life is not always that way at the end of a journey.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Baby Doll

Turner Classic Movies ran Baby Doll last week.  It stars a very young Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach and Karl Malden.  This is a famous flick, probably condemned by the Catholic Church and would probably have been given an X rating had there been those kind of ratings back when it was made, somewhere in the mid-50s.

Essential plot was that this old guy marries a young girl and promises not to have carnal knowledge of her until she turns 20.  I only saw the very end, maybe the last seven minutes, but from the wild look on Karl Malden's face, I guess he was her husband and perhaps had killed somebody or attempted to kill somebody the night before his wife's 20th.

Eli Wallach, looking as evil as only he can look, with dark hair and mustache, seems to have run afoul of both Baby Doll and her husband.  He finds her with a scraped leg on the side of a road or field as she has been running away from her husband who is now in the cop car.  He runs away from the authorities at the front of the house and Karl Malden, saying he will come back for her.

So, knowing no more than the above about this movie, I can see that there's plenty to upset a mid-50s viewer or titillate that same viewer.  You see Karl Malden being carted away by the authorities and just as he leaves the front of the house, you hear a big old clock inside chime midnight.  His wife is now 20 and he can't have his husbandly way with her because he is going to jail for sure.

Here's what I took away from the movie, though.  The very last line. 
Baby Doll goes up on the porch of her large house and there's an elderly woman sitting there with a suitcase at her feet.  She beckons the old woman inside.  The woman asks,  "What are we going to do?"
Baby Doll flutters her eyelashes and says,  "We got nothin' to do but wait for tomorrow and see if we're remembered or forgotten."

I will have more to say about this.  Much more.