I am thrilled to announce the return of an old friend. Tony Flaner is back! Our sarcastic slacker detective is back in full form with the return of THE FINGER TRAP, winner of the Diamond Quill for Best Book of the Year.
This week, I'd like to share with you a long interview I did with the wonderful Emily Merrell. Follow this link to see my interview (disregard the picture of me—not my best). Also check out her other great podcasts and her music.
A great one day event is around the corner up in Logan, Utah.
On June 15, 2019 The League of Utah Writers and Utah State University English Department are proud to present the 2019 Summer Writing Symposium, featuring renowned authors, university writing educators, and presenters from the League of Utah Writers.
This is a full day of creative writing classes and presentations for just $25 (early bird pricing).
Intensive critique sessions and lunch are also included!
One of the key questions to ask your characters as you prepare any writing project, is what they want. It’s a question about goals. It is not motivation, but actual tangible destinations. For example, Tony wants to find out who killed Rose Griff. Michael wants his nightmares to end. Eleanor wants to fit in.
Why they want these things—the motivations behind these goals—are interesting and complex enough to fill a book, but it’s the characters acting to achieve these goals, fulfill their wants, that supports a story where we get to ask them why they want it in the first place.
Characters can change what they want later on, that’s fine, but active characters are the ones who’ve set out to do something. They succeed or fail, but dammit, they try. That trying is the muscle of the story. Wanting that luring goal is what keeps them and the narrative moving. Taking a ring back to a mountain, helping a friend take a ring back to a mountain, getting the ring back so I’m not alone, my precious, are good examples of simple wants that motivate character to act. Without those wants, simple and plain as these are, the characters wouldn’t leave the shire (or the cave) and we’d have to Deus Ex Machina their butts into gear if we want more than a mood piece.
To borrow from Tony Flaner again, there’s a the push and the pull. If the action is thrust upon them, that’s reactive—the push. “Run there are dark baddies chasing us.” Once the character chooses to do something, that’s active—the pull. “I will recycle this ring because someone needs to do it.” Both function, but which is heroic?
Ay, there’s the rub.
What if we apply this simple self examination and story telling device to real life? What if I ask myself, what do I want? Then I carry it on to you. What do you want? Look at anyone, can you get a handle on them by figuring out their goal is? Hell yes. They want money, a girl, health, a puppy. It is a powerful tool when applied to others, but let’s face it, it is terrifying when applied to ourselves.
It comes down to this: Are we wise enough to know what we want and brave enough to act on it? Are we the active characters we’d demand in our books? Can we write down a quick statement or a numbered list of things we want? Are we actively doing things to achieve those goals? Or are we content with station keeping? Holding still? Is our want to be safe only? Unchallenged? Stagnant? Is that the list? Or are there real but not yet achieves goals out there that we’ve chosen to ignore?
In the story of our own lives, are we the protagonist or a side character? A walk on? An extra? Background noise? Are we an actor or a reactor?
I flew to Michigan last week for StokerCon™. I don’t fly much. It’s expensive and frankly no fun. I’ve long thought that it is an authoritarian control power trip to discourage movement. After 9/11 when we were all scared, they took the gloves off and we our shoes. I don’t know of a single terrorist the extra hour of waiting in line to be x-rayed and groped has ever stopped, but it is doing something. It’s a deterrent, but I’m not sure it’s deterring what we think it is.
Remember when “show me your papers” was a clichéd Gestapo stereotype? That’s an airport now. Searches and questions and show ID and delays and suspicion. It’s how it’s done. You are made to feel like a criminal. Show me your shampoo bottle. Let me RFID your wallet.
The inconvenience and suspicion is not equally applied. Hell no. Not even close. You can pre-screen through the TSA if you have time and a computer and resources. You can buy an upgrade that lets you go through the fast lane at the security checkpoint where there’s less rigmarole. I guess terrorists can’t upgrade. it’s a microcosm of a failed state, a peek into dystopian America; one set of rules for the upper class, another set for the rest.
We board by classes. First class, Comfort Class (which is a middle thing on Delta and has some leg room) and then economy, or the cattle. I saw that first class passengers also had their baggage marked so they’d be the first out of the plane. Egalitarian ideals do not extend past the curb in any way.
Bag fees are so ridiculous that everyone tries to carry everything on, so the already cramped cabin is twice that. On every plane I took they offered to have people check their bags for free because of bin space concerns. If only they’d offered that at check in.
Airports are huge. I thought I’d have a stroke changing gates for a connection in Detroit. Nobody told me there was a train until I was off my fifteenth conveyer belt and the gate was finally in sight. (Don’t they move cattle that way?) The distance to be a mile down the concourse. Similar experience in St. Paul.
Compared to most, since I did have some leg room by upgrading my ticket, I had it better on this last trip of mine than most. Not glass highballs like first class, but a complimentary bourbon in plastic. It was something. Nevertheless, if there’s a way for me not to fly, not to go through that humiliation of searches, the degradation of suspicion, the inconvenience of crowds, the insult of claustrophobic seating, I won’t fly. It’s discouraging.