Showing posts with label Rizer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rizer. Show all posts

11 June 2012

Are You Sitting Down?

by Fran Rizer

Usually,  "Are you sitting down?" introduces conversations that deal with topics that are shocking--either tragically or wonderfully.  In this case, the question is meant literally and directed toward the writers among us.  Perhaps I should expand the inquiry to, "Are you sitting down when you write?
When I first considered this, I thought that people with computers probably always write sitting, but with a laptop or the proper positioning of bed or couch and computer, writing can be accomplished while lying down.  Personally, I know a couple of writers who still write in long-hand before moving their work to a computer.This would make writing while reclining easier.  I also have a friend who writes everything on his Ipad.

Mark Twain, Truman Capote, and Marcel Proust were all inclined to lie down on the job when writing.  They weren't lazy.  Each of them was ambitious and prolific.  Mark Twain scolded writers who complained about the difficulty of writing.  He is quoted as saying, "Writing is the easiest thing in the world...Just try it in bed sometime.  I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away."  Imagine how much more prolific Twain would have been with a computer on his knees!
Marcel Proust's housekeeper said that she'd never seen him write when he wasn't lying down.  He didn't even use a pillow to prop himself up.Truman Capote had a ritual of writing everything in long-hand, then editing and copying it over in long-hand before ever transferring it to a typewriter.  Revisions after the typed versions were typed on a special yellow paper.  Capote wrote lying down while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.  Whew!  No wonder he reclined to write.  Just thinking about this routine makes me tired.

The opposite extreme from the writers who lie down to write are the ones who stand to write.  Ernest Hemingway is said to have written A Moveable Feast at a stand-up desk.

Philip Roth claims he paces constantly when writing and that each page of his books represents about half a mile of walking.  His  Goodbye, Columbus would represent a 100-mile walk, but it did win a National Book Award, so perhaps it was worth the long walk.

Charles Dickens was also a stand-up writer, but when he needed inspiration, he became a walk-around author.  He commented that when walking in Paris, his rambling walks always ended up at the Paris Morgue.


Writers sitting, reclining, standing, or walking? Another interesting consideration is clothing. There are writers who wear their pajamas or nightgowns while creating.  The author of Cyranno de Bergerac, playwright Edmond Rostand, worked while in his bathtub.  D. H. Lawrence sought inspiration by climbing trees when nude.  This is one kink I don't recall reading about in his work.

During a spell of writer's block, Victor Hugo once gave his servant his clothes and had him lock Hugo in a room, forbidding the servant to let him out until he'd completed his day's writing goal. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, frequently cured writer's block by hanging himself upside down in gravity boots.


What about you?  What's your favorite position to write?  Do you use any special kind of paper? What do you like to wear when writing?  Any unusual rituals?  Tell us about them.

What's that?  You have a question? 

Absoutely not!  I have no intention of telling you where I'm writing this or what I'm wearing.


Until we meet again...take care of YOU!

28 May 2012

A Lesson in Digression

By Fran Rizer


Recent events in my personal life have led to many kindnesses from relatives, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.  Thinking about this made me consider kindness in literature.  As some of you know, great lines I find in reading tend to earn permanent homes in my digressive mind.

"Years from now, when you talk about this, and you will, be kind."  What a great line after an older woman restores a young  man's sense of masculinity by bedding down that virgin.  The closing line's been with me since I first read the play Tea and Sympathy while in seventh grade though not as assigned reading. 

On the left is Deborah Kerr as Laura Reynolds (the older woman) and John Kerr as seventeen-year-old Tom Robinson Lee in the movie produced by Vincente Minnelli in 1956, an adaptation of the 1953 stage play by Robert Anderson.

The plot of Tea and Sympathy created an uproar in the uptight fifties since it dealt not only with an older woman seducing a teenager but included accusations of homosexuality.

During eighth grade, I discovered I could go into school, store my books in my locker, go out the back door, and catch the city bus to the Five Points Theater where they showed old movies of many of the plays I'd read and loved. I caught the city bus back to the school right before dismissal. I spent most of my high school time downtown watching movies at least two days a week.  I was only caught once.  When the principal pulled my records and saw I was a straight A student, he patted me on the hand and said, "Now, Francie, don't do that again." (Kinda like cases when the jury says "guilty," but a judge gives a ridiculously light sentence because it's the first time the defendant's been in trouble.)

Vivien Leigh as Blanche when the man who'd
fallen in love with her reacts to learning that
she's a woman with a past.
I read plays by Eugene O'Neil. Anton Chekhov, Henrik Ibsen and others, (I confess I thought The Iceman Cometh was going to be off-color.) I still enjoy reading plays, but I was (and remain) especially fond of Tennessee Williams's work, and  my favorite Williams play was A Streetcar Named Desire. The movie had been out several years before I first saw it at the Five Points. 

This one included rape and everyone's refusal to believe Blanche's accusations though they accepted the rumor that dismissal from her teaching position was because of sexual misconduct with a student. Blanche's last line, when the authorities come to take her to a mental institution because she "hallucinated" that her sister's husband raped her is,  "Whoever you are, I've always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Personally, I don't depend on the kindness of strangers, but I do appreciate them.

Are you, like me, wondering where I'm headed?  After all, most SS posts have something to do with mysteries or writing.  I seem to be digressing all over the place.

I began this blog thinking of kindness and could be headed toward something I learned long ago:
When it doesn't hurt anyone, sometimes it's better to be kind than right.

Both of the movies I mentioned dealt with older women seducing teenaged students--Laura, the coach's wife in Tea and Sympathy and Blanche who'd lost her teaching job for that offense before the action begins in A Streetcar Named Desire. Heaven knows we can't turn on the news these days without hearing about something similar, but as a retired teacher, this violation of professionalism and, in my opinion, decency, leads me to *&^*(*&^%$$# words, so I'm not going there.

I told you about skipping school and the principal's reaction.  Perhaps I was headed toward telling you my parents' reaction, which wasn't at all like the school's.

My mind is digressive. I've already warned you.  Having a digressive mind means that thoughts jump from one subject to another, frequently straying from the main subject.  In the extreme, it's not easy to even identify the main subject.
    


What were we talking about?  Reading plays.   How is that related to mystery or writing? Live drama and movies are entertaining, but reading plays is more beneficial to prose writers.  The structure of most plays is acts divided into scenes. Though the structure is there in performances, it's more obvious when a reader is looking at a print form.   Having trouble with plot sequence and pacing?  Think of your story as a three-act play.  It has a beginning, middle, and ending.  Scenes are the smaller parts of each act.  Thinking in those terms also helps in chapter division in longer works unless you're James Patterson.  I like his short, short chapters, an easy task because it's just making each scene a chapter. My last manuscript to my agent was "Pattersonesque."  It's only been a few days, and I'm eager to see his response. 

Now, what else did I want to write?  Danged if I know, so I'll just say

Until we meet again, take care of . . . YOU!



14 May 2012

Worst of the First

By Fran Rizer

Regular SS readers are aware that first lines fascinate me.  Today I'm sharing something that may be old news to you, but is new to me.

WRITERS' CONTEST

It's too late!! I am so sorry that the deadline shown at the top of the website for this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction
Contest is April 15, 2012, but I want to make you aware of this writers' competition so you can be preparing for next year's event.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored by San Jose State University challenges writers to produce the worst possible first sentence for a novel. They've been doing this since 1983. The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (pictured at left) who penned this famous first line in the novel Paul Clifford in 1830:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled againsgt the darkness."

Have you ever noticed that sitting atop his doghouse, beginning his novel on that old typewriter, Snoopy never gives Bulwer-Lytton credit for those first seven words?








The 2011 winner was Sue Fondrie, Oshkosh, WI, with this entry:

Cheryl's mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

ABOUT  KISSING

Molly Ringle, Seattle, WA, won in 2010 with this interesting comparison:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.

ABOUT  FIRE

Going back to the first years of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Steven Garman, Pensecola, Florida, won with this bit of ridiculousness in 1984:

The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my steel through your last meal.

ABOUT GETTIN' LUCKY

In 1993, William W. "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, WA, demonstrated his knowledge of ordinal numbers in this prize winner:

She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming "The Twelfth of Never," I got lucky on Friday the Thirteenth.

ABOUT SAND  VEINS

My last example, and favorite of these, was the 2004 winner, Dave Zobel, Manhattan Beach, California:

She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight--summarily like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tale--though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridicuolous euphemism--not unlike "sand vein," which is, after all, an intestine, not a vein--and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand--and that brought her back to Ramon.

There are winners in a multitude of categories, but the ones I've quoted are grand prize recipients.
For more of the worst of the first as well as the rules, origin, prizes and an entertaining webpage which advertises itself as, "Where WWW means 'Wretched Writers Welcome,'" go to

 http://www/bulwer-lytton.com/

BTW, if you've read this to the bottom, you'll learn what I learned at the end of the home page regarding the 2012 deadline.
Directly quoted:

"The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories.)  THE ACTUAL DEADLINE IS JUNE 30."

How about you? Got any horrible opening lines lurking in your brain?
Until we meet again, take care of . . .YOU!