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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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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Writing Prompts You Can Use Today

by Gary Fearon
 
I'll admit it.  Every once in a while I get stuck for a story idea, and when I'm desperate enough, I resort to googling "writing prompts".  Inevitably it's a dead end because "Write about your favorite Christmas memory" or "What's your biggest pet peeve" isn't what I have in mind.

When talking to writers, I'm always curious to learn whether they like to listen to music while they work, or whether they prefer to have it as quiet as possible. Being aurally oriented myself, I enjoy knowing that many authors listen to music that...

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In the Summertime

by Gary Fearon

Down here in the South, most students have just wrapped up their school year and begun their summer vacation. Up North, many kids are still hitting the books, and will continue to well into June. Officially, the calendar says the first day of Summer is June 20th. But the days have been hot and summery enough lately that many Southerners consider Memorial Day Weekend the start of the sunny solstice.

"Summertime and the livin' is easy," said George and Ira Gershwin (actually, it was DuBose Heyward, the author of Porgy, the novel on which Porgy and Bess was based).  Regardless of whether your daddy's rich and your mama's good lookin', there are plenty of folks...