I grew up among middle-class everyday folk. Language was one thing that separated groups of people as I had come to know them. When I was young, every once in a while I’d hear someone say, “Oh my! She talks so uppity!” Read More
Tag Archives: memory
In order to make that story linger in the memory of the reader—which will make them yearn for your next book—your characters must not only have differences but they might be irreconcilable. Certainly two people in love and having those kinds of problems ache inside. You as the writer must ache with them. You must write that story so that you feel all the pain. If you do not feel the pain, you have not presented a plausible enough reason to keep these two people apart. More importantly, you probably haven’t written convincingly enough for your reader if you cannot convince yourself.
If you can write so that you ache for your characters, then can come up with a solution that alleviates your own pain, your reader will feel that same duress and subsequent relief for your characters. You will have raked the reader’s emotions over fiction’s fire, presented a viable solution, and enticed your reader to remember your byline. Read More
MA: My guest today is Steven Jay Griffel. Steven was born in the Bronx, 1952. He tells me he, “met a beautiful blue-eyed art student in my junior year at Queens College (BA, Creative Writing, 1973) and married her in 1976. We’re still holding hands.” Steven studied American Literature at Fordham University, and he and his wife have two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Julia, grown and on their own. He spent his professional life in publishing, and he still works as a publishing consultant, though most of his time is now spent writing novels and talking about them. Steven is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer and especially enjoys leading book club discussions about his novel, Forty Years Later.
You told me you thought writing was a part of your DNA. How did you describe that, again?
SJG: I’m a born storyteller: sired by a father who never met a fact he couldn’t spin into fancy, and by a mother whose bitchin’ neuroses could make a grudge match of any relationship. From my father I learned there is no division between truth and fancy, just a wonderful gray area where imagination and ego could thrive. From my mother I inherited a genius for nursing regrets and grudges, so I’m never at a loss for reasons to rant.
I was raised on the colorful streets of the Bronx, where home plate was a manhole cover; where there was a pizzeria and deli on every other block; where there were always enough kids for a ball game; where it was okay to be Jewish, so long as you didn’t piss off those who weren’t.
MA: Well, that’s a colorful life! How did you decide to write novels? Was it always something you longed to do?
SJG: I wasn’t cut out to be a scientist or movie star or athlete. But I always had lots to say—and a talent for saying it well. In college I considered a career in journalism—until I learned I’d have to stick to the facts. I like facts, but I much prefer the novelist’s god-like sense of entitlement. As a novelist I decide the facts. I decide who rises, who falls. If I need a perfect line I create it, rather than relying on interviews and research for my gold. Thus I prefer fiction, where the music and meaning of words have primacy over facts. . . . I just remembered a pair of wonderfully relevant quotes:
“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” –Matthew Arnold
“Literature is news that stays news.” –Ezra Pound
I like to think that my writing is meant for the long haul.
MA: Well said! So tell us about Forty Years Later.
SJG: A middle-aged man (smart, handsome, happy, successful) has a single, gnawing regret: a lost opportunity to make history. He has kept the regret alive for forty years, continually picking at the scab of its memory. A coincidence (Fate, if you believe in such things) reunites this man with a former teen sweetheart who is very much a part of his regret. The man is married with children, the woman is famously and formerly gay, and their reunion results in the kind of sparks that presage trouble. It is a tale of music, movies, murder—and madness too. It is also a story of love and redemption—except for those who are probably going to Hell.
MA: Oh my! So had did you develop your protagonist’s character? Sounds like there may be a little of you in him…
SJG: Until recently, I too had a gnawing, life-long regret. Like a cancer that does not metastasize, it was annoying but not life-threatening. A complicated coincidence reconnected me with someone I hadn’t seen in forty years: a successful screenwriter who is best known for writing about the subject that framed my regret: Woodstock. We met and hit it off—big time. Of course, I was happily married with children and wouldn’t think of getting involved with another woman—but I have a protagonist; an alter-ego; a doppelganger, I suppose, and this fellow (named David Grossman) has been known to explore roads I dare not travel myself.
MA: So, what are David’s strengths and weaknesses?
SJG: Like many people, the novel’s protagonist is a miracle of contradictions. He is clear-seeing despite his blind spots; confident when not suffering from crises of self-esteem. He is a man who misplaces loyalties and manufactures jealousies. He loves and is loved but sometimes loses his way. All of which is to say, he’s flawed enough to get himself into a royal pickle—and brave enough to see his way out.
MA: What about an antagonist … is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
SJG: There is a brilliant, formerly famous lesbian screenwriter with a blind lover and hip-hop son, who becomes a vengeful alcoholic with a particular fondness for dangerously sharp objects. Unique enough?
MA: (Smiling) Okay, so did any of your real-life experiences factor into the plot at all?
SJG: I also nurtured a life-long regret tied to someone I had not seen in forty years. We were reunited. Sparks flew. . . . Note: The real-life tale is private and tame and not worth the telling in this space. However, the novel it inspired is rip-roarin’. But it is not a story for the faint of heart or for those of unbending scruples. It is tale signifying: One is never too old to change; Beware what you wish for; There is no greater grace than tried and true love.
MA: Excellent! So what’s next for you?
SJG: I am working on a new novel called The Ex-Convert. It is, loosely speaking, a sequel to Forty Years Later. Though I am now in the enviable position of having a publisher waiting for my next book, I have no guarantee of publication. My publisher believes I hit a home run with Forty Years Later and demands I hit another one with The Ex-Convert. Batter up!
MA: An enviable position to be in…so will any characters from Forty Years Later migrate over?
SJG: David Grossman is the protagonist in each of my novels, and I haven’t sworn off him yet. Having said that, he is not quite the same character in each book. His voice and sensibility are pretty consistent, but his circumstances vary: he has a wife or not; he has a family or not; he lives in New York, or not, etc. Expect to see him again in the Ex-Convert.
MA: How do readers get a copy of your book?
SJG: Forty Years Later is available as an e-book on Amazon.com. The download is incredibly fast and easy. And no special reading device is required. Most people enjoy Forty Years Later on their computer, PC or Mac. But with each passing day more and more people are using e-readers (like the Kindle) or tablets (like the iPad) or screen phones like the Android, Blackberry, or iPhone. In fact, one of my first readers sent me the following text message from his iPhone: “Reading Forty Years later at 40,000 feet—and loving it!” I also encourage readers to friend me on Facebook and share their thoughts. It’s a digital dawn!
MA: Well, thanks, Steven. Folks, please visit these websites for more information about Forty Years Later and Steven Jay Griffel!
Get Away From That Story
What writers visualize for a plot, and what they actually write into a story, may be two different versions.
Most writers know their stories by heart, including every single bit of researched information they learn before they write the first draft. With a lengthy manuscript, writers cannot and should not include all of the facts they hold in memory. When the writer re-reads the manuscript some time later, it is normal to wonder if readers will perceive what they, the writer, intended to say, according to the scant details they selectively included in order to write lean.
When writers write as fresh creativity flows, they visualize much more of the story in their minds than makes it to paper or monitor screen. Details crowd their thinking, yet, they actually write only carefully selected scenes and dialog that move the story along.
Writers like to think they have included all of what they have learned about their subject. They hope they are presenting the material in such a way that the reader will understand. To be the best judge of that, time away from the story allows a writer to determine if they got their point across. This is something very difficult to determine after having just completed a first draft. Reading at a later time allows a fresh view of the overall composition. The writer becomes a reader instead of the author, and determines whether the story was told as originally intended. Only then can the areas that need fleshing out, cut or re-written be seen.
Many writers may find that what was in their minds and what they actually wrote are two separate versions of the same story. Remembering all the information gained through research before the writing, and later seeing what’s been included in the story, tighter editing can begin anew. Read More
Every time a writer gets an idea, a hot plot line, a shocking sentence, a joke, it should be jotted down. Those that are hand written should soon be entered with the rest into a file of notes in a word processor. Before “walking away” from that note, make sure you have captured it properly in words, so the original mood or thought is clearly expressed.
Nothing is worse than to look back at your entries, searching for something you know you logged, and not understand why you wrote something.
You may not know into which story any of the notes fit, but they are just too good a thought or idea and should be captured, given life, and not left to recall later when the original creativity and memory has faded.
Into that file of notes goes everything that you cannot presently use. Character sketches, humor, plot ideas, beginnings, endings, titles, something someone said. You name it. From this file of notes is where you will draw many tidbits to enhance your stories, especially when your Muse takes unannounced time off.
Very often with me, a certain entry will stand out in my mind and my muse will “play with it,” that is, enlarge the idea, and make something happen with it. At that point I usually know into which story the material can be applied. Should I not know where it belongs, I simply enter the new information expanding the first idea and then leave it alone.
I have gone back to my notes for each and every novel or short story that I write. In the case of making notations of funny lines and crazy quips, when I knave a particular character with a unique personality, I know exactly which lines I can pull from the notes and incorporate into my story.
The importance of note making can’t be stressed enough; hence, the use of the proverbial paper table napkin, ala JK Rowling and Ernest Hemingway before her. Read More
My guest today is quite an impressive woman! Laura Elvebak is the author of the Niki Alexander mystery series. Laura was born in North Dakota, but raised in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She draws from her nomad kind of existence in various cities throughout Baja California, New York, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania before settling in Houston with her three children, now grown. Along the way, she studied writing at UCLA, USC, Chaffey Community College, and Rice University. Laura optioned three screenplays to a production company and a fourth script placed second in the Empire Screenwriting Contest. Laura also wrote, directed and acted in a play staged in Houston. She is a member of The Final Twist Writers, Sisters-In-Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Whew! That’s quite a list of accomplishments. Read More