Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category
I just read — and enjoyed — Christina Dodd’s blog post on her funniest mistakes. My personal favorite from her list:
In INTO THE SHADOW, my heroine stumbles onto the hero sitting in the Japanese garden. He jumps to his feet and says, “Is this your private place? Should I leave?” and she says, “No, it’s okay, my private place is big enough for the both of us.”
I can’t think of any doozies like that in my own writing. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t sold yet — I haven’t caught those big, hilarious mistakes. Maybe there are agents out there, reading something I wrote and laughing their @s$es off.
That’s a little sad, actually, because I get paid — not the big bucks, but a few bucks — to catch errors like that before they make it to print. Yep. You heard correctly: As a copy editor, I get paid to have a dirty mind.
It started in college. When we were putting together our “welcome back” issue of the Crescent, I remember much debate on correct wording for a headline on the new “No Parking” signs on campus.
It was 16 or more years ago, so I don’t recall exactly what we said, but discussion amongst us editors went something like this:
“You can’t say ‘erected.’ That’s dirty.”
“Well, ‘Mounted’ is out, too.”
Eventually, we settled on “posted.” But not before cracking many jokes about erecting and mounting various items. I believe that was the same issue for which our photographer snapped a picture of someone on the groundskeeping crew holding a hose in what appeared to be a compromising position.
Newsrooms actually provide great fodder for the dirty-minded. I’ll never forget a headline that ran in my old paper’s sports section: “Bigger balls don’t slow pros.” (The story had something to do with tennis players. I don’t know if the sports editor thought he was being clever or he just didn’t notice. Back then, I was just a reporter, and not privy to the ins and outs of headline writing.)
A few other funny headlines, intentional or not:
- I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, it’s huge’ (on a story commemorating the anniversary of a giant tornado)
- Lady Jacks off to good start (a college newspaper on their women’s basketball team, I believe. That one made Jay Leno’s show, if I remember right.)
If you’re on Facebook, check out “Overheard in the Newsroom.” There are some doozies sure to make you laugh.
Now it’s time to cough it up: Have you ever stumbled on a hilarious headline? Or a funny mistake in your own manuscript?
While celebrating my Golden Heart® finalist status in one of many phone calls over the weekend, my friend Pat said something that made me tear up a little. She said my mother would be proud.
That’s true. My mom, an English teacher before I came along, always encouraged me to write. When she died in 2003, I hadn’t yet accomplished anything in the fiction world (although I do think she watched me receive a first-place award from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists for a series of stories on students peeved about a high school’s piercing policy).
Since her death, I’ve lost 100 pounds (and, unfortunately, regained most of it). I’ve found myself a significant other. I’ve finished more than one manuscript and — finally — gained the courage to start putting my fiction out there.
I experienced a moment of sadness that Mom didn’t live to see this moment. But I like to think she knows. Somehow, she knows … just like she knows I sit down and watch one of her favorite movies, “A Christmas Story,” at least once every year. (She grew up in Hammond, Ind., on the street Ralphie supposedly lived on.)
I’m sure I’m not the only one counting down the
days hours until Golden Heart finalist calls go out.
To keep my nerves at bay, I’ve been checking in with the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. They’ve been on GH countdown all week, and will have a big e-party on Friday.
I scheduled myself a massage Friday morning and (inadvertently) a chiropractor’s appointment. (I realized that when I went to enter the massage in my cell phone calendar.)
Maybe I should go shopping for some consolatory chocolate — or a celebratory tiara, as Anne Marie recommended in Wednesday’s post.
And I’ll definitely keep in mind the advice in Thursday’s entry: Not finaling in the GH doesn’t mean your story is no good. Maybe one of your judges was having a bad day … or a bad hair day. Or they hated your hero/heroine.
I hope that none of those things are the case, and that my sparkling prose earned me a lot of high scores, securing me one of those coveted calls and a spot in the 2011 class of GH finalists.
But if it didn’t, don’t worry: I’m not going anywhere. What is it they say? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
If your mother was anything like mine, she dispensed tons of advice: Sit up straight … Don’t go outside with a wet head or you’ll catch a cold … and NEVER stop at a rest area after dark.
Well, I slouch all the time, frequently go out with wet hair and recently stopped at Sunset Point at midnight (under the Boyfriend’s watchful eye) — and the world didn’t stop spinning. My posture may suffer, but I didn’t catch my death of cold or get myself murdered.
So Mom doesn’t always know best.
She was right about one thing, though: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
As a reporter, my best interviews happen when I approach them like I’m sitting down to chat with a friend. Interview subjects share more — and give better quotes — if you set a friendly tone and bond over something you have in common.
Interviewing characters is similar. I like to sit down with my laptop, usually in a coffee shop, and make myself comfortable. Then we chat.
Of course, your characters are in your head, so you control the response. However, if your characters are anything like mine, they’re mouthy at best, uncooperative at worst.
To get the conversational ball rolling, I lob them a few softball questions first, questions like How’d you get your nickname? Where do you live? Any roommates?
With the niceties out of the way (and the creative juices flowing), you can get serious. If you’re lucky, your characters’ responses tell you something you didn’t know or didn’t consider important … something you can use to enrich your story.
For example, when I sat down with the hero in a half-finished, still-untitled WIP, I discovered he’s a bit of a stuffed shirt who likes to please everyone but himself.
So, Drew, tell me about your childhood.
(shrugs) There’s not much to tell. I grew up in a stable home with a mother and father who both loved me to distraction. I’m the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother.
I understand they’re both screw-ups.
Denise is a successful attorney. I’d hardly call that a screw-up. Of course, Mom isn’t happy that she’s decided to get herself artificially inseminated.
How do you feel about that decision?
It’s not my decision to make. She is 32 years old and still without a husband or any prospect of one. I say if she thinks the sperm bank is the best way to achieve her goal of having a family, she should go for it. (Hmm … I sense a story there! 😉 ) Just don’t tell my Mom I said so.
I like being “the good child.” If Mom heard me siding with Denise, I might lose my standing.
What about your brother?
Dan? He’s no threat. He can’t hold a job for more than a few months at a time. He just lost another one, for boinking some girl in the copier room.
Let’s explore your need to be “the good child.”
Now you sound like my shrink.
You have a shrink?
No, but if I did, he’d surely want to “explore my need to be ‘the good child.’”
Pass. Ask me another question.
No, I think we’re onto something here. We’re going to continue exploring this topic, if you don’t mind.
(scowls) I like making people happy. Is that a crime?
Not at all — unless, of course, by making someone else happy you’re not pleasing yourself, too.
You can’t please someone else and yourself at the same time, genius.
Of course you can, if you both have similar goals, needs and desires.
And how many truly compatible people do you find in this world? I’m willing to bet the answer is “not too damn many.”
It only takes one, Drew.
Now you’re talking romance, huh?
You got it, genius.
So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and have a heart-to-heart with your hero/heroine. What you find out just might surprise you — and it’ll probably improve your WIP.