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Thursday, June 1, 2017

What Sgt. Pepper Can Teach Writers


by Gary Fearon


It was fifty years ago this week that The Beatles released the album that made the music world's head spin. Sgt. Pepper may have "taught the band to play", but he also provided some teachable moments for writers.

A little friendly competition can be a good thing
Wordsmiths readily draw inspiration from other wordsmiths. The Beatles' Rubber Soul album (1965) motivated The Beach Boy's Brian Wilson to create their most ambitious album, Pet Sounds (1966). Then, after hearing Pet Sounds, Paul McCartney set out to create ...


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Unfinished Business

by Gary Fearon

Having recently attended the funeral of a former professor, a writer friend was exhibiting a more philosophical side of himself than I usually get to see.  His contemplations led us to the question:

If you knew you had only a year to live, how would you spend it?


I think most of us would share some of the same answers.  We'd make sure our affairs were in order. We'd express our love and thanks to the people who've meant something to us.  We may travel to some place we've always wanted to go.

I'd like to take that question a step further and ask:

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

That Oscar Feeling!

by Gary Fearon

For my money, there is no greater example of artistic collaboration than movies.  Where else do writing, music, acting, directing, choreography, cinematography, set design, editing, etc all come together as one? The exhaustive list of credits at the end of any feature film catalogs hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who all contributed to the project in a significant way.

Of course, it all begins with a story.  When the Academy Award nominations are announced each year, it's an interesting exercise to look into the written origins of each Best Picture nominee.  In alphabetical order, here are the ones that made the grade for the February 26, 2017 telecast:

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Monday, February 6, 2017

The Other Faces of Conflict

by Gary Fearon

When we think of antagonists from literature, we typically think of the classic villains like Captain Hook, Injun Joe, The Wicked Witch of the West, Hannibal Lecter, Dracula, and the other memorable personifications of evil.  But there are many other faces of conflict not of the human variety that can be put to good use in a story.

Many children's books choose not to pit the hero against another person.  Instead, the dilemma comes from a small difficulty that can be turned into a problem-solving life lesson.  A terrific example is Pete the Cat, who loves his white shoes. When he steps in strawberries that turn his shoes red, what follows is a simple but brilliant story about learning to accept and love yourself, cleverly disguised as a tale about shoes.

Even as adults, conflict in story teaches us to deal with life, each dilemma in its own small way representing the eternal struggle.  A problem is a problem, no matter what form it takes.  Here, then, are some classic inhuman antagonists:

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Famous Songs Inspired by Real People

by Gary Fearon

A couple of years ago on the blog, in a post called Songs in the Key of Life, I chronicled some famous songs whose inspiration came from real-life situations in the writers' lives.  In this post, let's look at a few hits that were inspired by real people, some as well-known as the songs themselves.  I suspect you'll know several of these origins already, but some may surprise you.

This one goes back a ways, but 60s songster Jimmy Dean's claim to fame (long before he became a sausage king) was story songs about people, some imaginary, some drawn from life. While "Big Bad John" was fictional folklore, "P.T. 109" celebrated the heroic Navy background of...
 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Five Ways to Get Into Your Character's Head

by Gary Fearon


"If you could read my mind," Gordon Lightfoot once sang, "what a tale my thoughts would tell."  We may approach a story that we write as one single story, but it has more layers for readers to enjoy when we take advantage of the fact that each of our main characters has his or her own hidden history. 

How do we unlock those secrets deep inside our fictional friends?  I offer these five easy pathways to perception.


FEEL THE FEAR
Knowing your characters' primary goal for the story (finding the right mate, conquering an enemy, winning a case), imagine the worst that can happen to them.  What will be...


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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fortunately/Unfortunately

by Gary Fearon


Perhaps you've heard of (or played) a game called "Fortunately/Unfortunately".  It's been around since the 80s, although I only learned of it recently. Apparently I travel in the wrong playgroups.

This verbal game requires nothing more than people to play it. You simply take turns making up a story, alternating sentences with the first words "fortunately" and "unfortunately".  For example:


"Fortunately, I won a trip to Paris."
"Unfortunately, my car had a flat tire on the way to the airport."
"Fortunately, a friend...



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