Category Archives: writing

Writing with Synchronicity

I don’t use this space to do many book reviews; I do that mostly over on Goodreads. However, I found a section of David Wilcock’s The Synchronicity Key that could be especially interesting for all the writers out there. Though I just read his book this week, I see clearly that the successful stories I have written have followed the patterns Wilcock explains, while the ones that didn’t follow these patterns are still living in the arid wasteland of my hard drive, visited only by the stray tumbleweed. If synchronicity or writing interests you, it might be worth your while to pick up a copy.

Wilcock’s main point in this section is that people/readers/viewers expect certain things because our brains are hardwired similarly (Synchronicity, you know). So we crave similar elements in our entertainment no matter the genre or subject matter.

Plot structure: Wilcock explains how all stories are versions of the Hero’s Journey which we credit to Homer and teach our students in lit classes. The most outrageous of ideas can work if the author uses not necessarily a lock-step pattern but a definite structure similar to the classic hero’s.

Time structure: If your book is a 120 page book, the plot should break into three significant acts where the first would last for 30 pages, the second for 60 pages, and the final act 30 pages.

Character structure: People expect to find certain types of characters (archetypes) in order to connect with the story. And synchronicity is all about interconnectedness. The audience has an innate desire to find the character’s flaws so they can “transfer (their) identity into that character.” If this transfer doesn’t happen, the rest of the story falls apart. When it does happen, the audience is ready for the ride.

Do books and screen plays break these rules and still become successful? Sure. Is there way more to writing than this? Absolutely. Are all three of these ideas shocking revelations? Probably not. Wilcox is showing that since people are collectively interested in stories told with these elements, a writer can reach a wider audience by telling the story in this manner. It’s worth some time to ensure your story connects with your audience.

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Writing Lessons from a Chinese Festival

I went to a Chinese festival this week because I’ve never been to one.  It wasn’t big, but it was inspiring.

chinese fest 

Not inspiring in the I-want-to-learn-the-dragon-dance kinda way, but in the story fodder way.

  • I saw a man with eyebrows long and pointy enough to form scale-model curling Maui waves over each eye to the point that his vision was partly obscured.
  • I met several women who were visibly shocked to have a door opened for them.
  • Among the traditional dancing, singing, tai chi, and guzheng demonstrations, I witnessed an excellent Mexican dancing troupe.

chinese fest now with more mexican dances 

A step (which here means: an hour-and-a-half drive) out of my normal routine led me to think about characterization and story.  First, physical traits should be unique.  Second, people will react when their ingrained expectations are challenged in even the smallest of ways. And third, sometimes random, cool things happen that enhance the experience. Here, the juxtaposition of the Machete dance with stomping, whooping, and rhythmic clanging machetes highlighted the nearly silent Chinese dancing. What seemed kinda out-of-place, made the overall presentation more powerful.

Step out of your routine this week, writing friends.  Notice new things and use them for inspiration.


Mommom’s Bid for Hollywood

Mommom passed a few weeks ago.  She was the 97-year-old incarnation of independence who raised three kids by herself in the 50’s and let no one hold her back from doing what she wanted to do.

I believe all people have a story–that one event that should be made into a movie, but it never gets published. Hollywood never hears about it. And sooner or later it just disappears because no one remembers it anymore.  

Certainly her previously-blogged eye freakishness could be an interesting subplot, but I would imagine surviving a terrorist attack as the main attraction.

In 1973, Mommom, along with with her sisters and families, boarded the Sounion for a cruise to Israel.

Sounion cruise ship

While they were docked overnight in Beruit, two men set a bomb on the ship and probably set it to detonate once the ship was out to sea the next morning. I say “probably” because they botched the job and blew themselves up right then and there.  Certainly this still caused the ship to sink, but since the ship was in port, nearly all passengers made it off alive.  The newspaper reported no casualties; however, Mommom claims one couple didn’t make it off.  A man had a heart attack and his wife chose to help him instead of saving herself.

 

That’s not the only place her story differs from the article.  The article states all passengers spent the night in a hotel.  She told me it was a warehouse where they stayed until they could prove their US citizenship in order to return home. . And the article says everyone climbed aboard a plane the next day and continued their trip.  However, the passengers escaped in their pajamas, with little else.  Certainly, jewelry, wallets, and passports went down with the ship.  How would they be able to continue their trip? If you read the article, you’ll pick out lines that tell you this is a cleaned up account of the events.

Mommom’s version involves a lot more yelling, threats, and huddling together for comfort for days. Her perspective makes it real, makes it different than the accepted truth, makes it her story.  

So you know people.  They have stories.  You have a story.  Write it down.  Write the truth.  Don’t let it disappear when no one’s left to remember it anymore.

 

 newspaper

 

 


Perspective

Me, 5 years ago: 59 degrees?  Screw this.  It’s too cold to run.

Later:  50 degrees?  Ok, I’ll wear a long-sleeve shirt.

Later: 45 degrees?  I’m going to need gloves.

Later: 40 degrees?  And maybe a hat.

This morning: 38 degrees?  Cool, I can wear shorts.

Perception is reality.  Change the first one and you can make the second one whatever you want.


New Teaching Article Is Live

My new teaching column was posted this morning on Reading Today Online, the International Reading Association’s online magazine.
“Sorting out the Details” can be found here.


Upcoming Book Festival

Just signed on to present at the 2013 Festival of Words in Middletown, Delaware on March 9. The keynote speaker is Walter Dean Myers! I’m stoked. He was one of my biggest inspirations for writing guy books, so I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’ll post more details when we get closer.


A Picture is Worth a …Movie Script

"Last Kiss" by Mo Gelber
This photo by Mo Gelber was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Ron Howard. The winner wins a movie based on the photo. Unfortunately, Gelber announced on facebook an hour ago that his photo was not chosen.

But, wow! What a cool idea to base a whole movie on one instant caught in a snapshot.

When I was an editor on my college newspaper, we did a similar ritual for the April Fools’ edition. Chuck, the photo editor, had access to all photos that had ever appeared in the newspaper. Note: this was in the days of film photography. Chuck dropped a stack of black and white 8x10s on a table, and we spent an hour or so sorting through them to find inspiration for fake news stories. (We only did that for the April Fools’ edition, I swear.) I chose a close-up photo of a line of policemen in full riot gear and wrote a little article about how the university had hired tuition cops to torture students into paying their debts.

Flashing forward many years, writing about photos is still a powerful way to unlock a story. In my high school literature class, I show photos from the news as the starting point for discussion as well as grammar and writing assignments. As a writer, I take a ridiculous amount of photos, sometimes of the most mundane things, in order to get a mood right for a future story. If I don’t have a camera with me, I pull a Cam Jansen and record it the best I can in my head and write it down later. That brief moment can be the spark that any writer needs to creating a masterpiece.

Mo, your photo is amazing. Thanks for being an inspiration.