Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dialogue: Another Lesson from Arthur Conan Doyle

Yep, you read that right: A lesson in dialogue from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who dredged up Sherlock Holmes from the depths of a quiet, unassuming genius mind.

Dialogue brings life to your characters. When you're writing descriptives, or going into plot details, the reader is listening to you, the author, rather than the characters. The reader is watching the characters silently move about the scene, advancing the story, interacting with their world, but the reader cannot hear the character, or listen to the character. In these scenes, the reader interacts with you, the author, and not with the character.

It's only during the dialogue scenes that the reader hears the character's voice. The reader interacts with the character here. The reader listens to the character. The reader is a willing participant, now, being dragged into the story via dialogue!

And it's amazing how few authors master dialogue. Even successful authors prefer their own voice over that of their characters. The author launches into page after page of descriptives, often referred to as Purple Prose, hogging the reader's mind and time for their own selfish needs.

Even authors who are good at dialogue often interrupt the dialogue with a constant barrage of items such as these:

o "Oh, my," she said, moving through the door and out into the yard, which was ...
o "No, it's over here," said Doug. Then he picked up the ...
o ..., etc.

You see how the author nags the reader with descriptives?

And don't get me started on adverbs and creative dialogue tags. For example, if you want me to throw your book across the room, add in this fluff:

o "I'm not going!" she exclaimed. ** Redundant! Your exclamation point means she exclaimed. **

o "I'm so tired," he exasperated. ** Same thing. Redundant. Tired means you're exasperated. Stop it, please God in Heaven, stop it. **

o "You're what?" she asked quizzically. ** Again, redundant, and in this case, irritating. Drop the adverb. **

So, I've just highlighted two bad dialogue habits:

1) Too many descriptives interrupting your dialogue. Let the characters talk!
2) Creative dialogue tags. They are fine in small, small doses, but limit yourself to "asked" and "said" as much as possible, or better yet, drop the tags altogether!

But, back to Doyle. Why did I mention him?

Because he was a master of dialogue!

Here's a fine example from The Man with the Twisted Lip:

'Now Watson,' said Holmes, as a tall dog-cart dashed up through the gloom, throwing out two golden tunnels of yellow light from its side-lanterns, 'you'll come with me, won't you?'

'If I can be of use.'

'Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use. And a chronicler still more so. My room at the Cedars is a double-bedded one.'

'The Cedars?'

'Yes; that is Mr St Clair's house. I am staying there while I conduct the inquiry.'

'Where is it, then?'

'Near Lee, in Kent. We have a seven-mile drive before us.'

'But I am all in the dark.'

'Of course you are. You'll know all about it presently. Jump up here! All right, John, we shall not need you. Here's half-a-crown. Look out for me tomorrow about eleven. Give her her head! So long, then!'

He flicked the horse with his whip, and we dashed away...

Freaking GENIUS!

Do you see it? You, the reader, are standing next to Holmes and Watson, climbing into the horse carriage with them and dashing away!

Doyle didn't constantly repeat "..., said Holmes" and "..., said Watson" over and over.

Doyle didn't interrupt the dialogue to describe the setting. Instead, he set up the scene, ran his dialogue, and then concluded the scene.

He used the dialogue to do these things, specifically:

1) Determine where Holmes was lodged, and where it was located.
2) Determine the distance of the drive to his lodge.
3) Set up the next scene, which will be a description of the case.
4) Release the carriage driver, John.
5) Set the horses for the fast trip.

So not only did Doyle use dialogue to let the reader interact with the characters, but he used the same dialogue to advance the story, fill in the scene, and add a sense of urgency to the story.

When you're looking for a fine example of a master of dialogue, look to the Holmes series, and minimize your dialogue tags. Dialogue is a powerful tool. Learn to use it!

- Eric

Friday, December 25, 2009


Backstory should be felt, not heard.

Let me give you an example of one of the finest authors to ever tell a backstory: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I bet most of you haven't read Doyle. If you haven't read any Sherlock Holmes stories, do as I do, and with the movie coming out soon, take advantage of some of the re-prints of the Sherlock Holmes series.

In Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson is constantly referring to outside cases, as well as his extensive list of notes on Holmes's cases. For example, here's the beginning of The Five Orange Pips:

When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes cases between the years '82 and '90, I am faced by so many which present strange and interesting features, that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave. Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers...

And etc. See how he makes you feel the backstory, without telling it. Reading a little further along the same story, we see another volley of backstory:

Among my headings under this one twelve months, I find an account of the adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the British barque Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the Camberwall poisoning case. In the latter, as may be remembered, Sherlock Holmes was able, by winding up the dead man's watch, to prove that it had been wound up two hours ago...

And again, etc. Do you see what Doyle did? Do you FEEL the backstory?

He didn't tell you all that happened. He didn't detail each case, nor did he dwell on any case in particular. Dr Doyle -- he was a doctor, like Dr Watson, who originally wrote his Holmes stories while waiting for patients to arrive -- touched his pen on the backstory of Holmes, building a huge and wonderful past for the detective and his loyal secretary, Dr Watson, all without ever telling the reader about the backstory.

JRR Tolkein did this in his series, constantly poking the reader with a backstory that was never fully revealed.

JK Rawlings does this with the Harry Potter series. Her backstory is a feather tickling the back of your neck, just below the brain stem, touching you in places so primal you don't even realize you're being backstoried.

You turn the page, feeling the history, unraveling the past, wrapped in a backstory you didn't even realize you'd read.

Remember these authors when you write. Let the reader feel the backstory. Don't cram it down their throat. Don't dwell on the backstory.


Let it be felt, not heard.

Study Doyle. There's a reason Dr Doyle was knighted into Sir Doyle for his writing. It is because of his wonderful instinct for backstory that Holmes is one of the most beloved and well-developed characters in all of literature.

And he did it all without telling you a damned thing about Holmes! You just felt it.

See how that works?

- Eric

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Percy Freebottom: From Novel to Short Story

So I've been working on this story about a guy named Percy Freebottom. The story's been brewing since May of 2009, when I finished my last book.

Originally, Percy was just a scene. A scene is fine for short story, but it's not enough for a full-on novel, which needs a storyline, plotting, more characters, tons of scenes, deeper descriptions, and so forth.

But all I had was this scene.

I described the scene to people, and they loved it. "I want to read that!" they said.

Which got me to thinking: Cool fucking scene! That'll make a cool fucking novel.

And for the past six months, now, I've been trying to stretch out the scene into a novel. You ever try to stretch out a scene into a novel?

Ever tried to stretch a turtle? Same thing, only people don't think you're insane for trying to stretch a turtle.

So the other morning I woke up at 4AM -- that's when I write, 4AM -- brewed some coffee, and sat on the couch and banged out Percy. I got to 2100 words and stopped, and this afternoon, I polished it off with another 2100 words, making it a decent little short story.

And it's just the scene! Jump in. Describe some shit. Jump out. It's the perfect short story!

But the point of all this ranting is that I tried to make a large something out of a small something. Stretching that short story into a full-length novel consumed a ton of my mental capital, stalled me out, and frustrated me.

I mean, do you know how many times I started the novel! I must've written 50k words just trying to get ~started~ on Percy Freebottom. Plots. Characters. Research. Talking to people, getting their opinions, proof-reading, test-reading... and I threw it all away!

So the lesson is this: If it's short story, make it a short story. If it's a novel, make it a novel. If it's a novelette, or a poem, or a haiku, or a blog post, or an email, leave it as such!

Don't fuck with the worms! They know what's best. Trust em.

Let em dig, and don't question why they only dig a few feet, or why they want to wiggle their slimy little bellies all the way to the core of the Earth.

It's just what they do.

Let em dig. Dig dig dig!

- Eric

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Pet Peeves

Every author, writer, storyteller has pet peeves. So does every reader, for that matter.

For instance, the simple things peeve me, such as its v. it's, and your v. you're. Compliment v. complement, and so forth, you get the picture. Usually a simple edit will take care of these sorts of errors, but you run into them in emails and blogs quite often.

Also, quit and quite and quiet. Gotta be careful with those boogers!

For writing, one of the most common peeves is the "had" placement. When the author needs to flashback, place a few "hads" in the beginning, and then drop the rest.

He had gone, he had run, he had bought, he had left, etc. Drop the had. After the first couple, I get it, we're in flashback.

Another peeve is the "like" analogies.

"She had hair like a bird's nest."

Ugh. Come on, let's do better than that!

How about, "Her hair was a bird's nest!"

Or, "Her hair looked better suited for holding bird eggs than a hat."

Or so forth. Some "like" analogies are okay, but some authors use them far too many times. A general rule, for me, is no more than one "like" per page, and I try to avoid them altogether, unless I'm feeling lazy, or it just sounds better that way.

In any case, "like" is sloppy and lazy. Drop it when you can. I do.

But, then again, who am I to judge anyone's writing but my own!

- Eric

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music and Writing

Someone said to me, "Music speaks to your soul."

Maybe it does. I guess it does, on some level. Music can hypnotize you, inspire you, put you to sleep or rile you up. Music can be soothing, irritating, loud or soft.

Music can be anything your mind imagines. Sing. Whistle. Tap. It's all music.

And your soul listens.

Now, what the hell does this have to do with writing? I'll tell you: Writing is the soul speaking.

That's right. When I write, I'm responding to the music.

Do you hear it?

- Eric

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vote and Buy!

All right, the book is here!

It's got a lot of fun short stories, some from first-time authors, others from veteran storymakers.

WEB SITE: http://ahlvol1vote.debrincase.com/

I've been stuck on my novel "Who the Hell is Percy Freebottom," working title, and can't seem to dislodge myself from that point where I'm wedged. I've plotted, written, chunked, re-plotted, re-written, chunked, and re-re-plotted until I'm nauseous.

So I'm going back and writing some new short stories, and finishing up some shorts that were previously unfinished. One of them is called "Melvin Gee's Short Trip to Hell." Lemme know if you want to read it! I'm almost finished editing it, and clinching the finishing scene.

Now go vote for me!

- Eric

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's in a name?

Ah, the name, the name the name the NAME! What's in a name!

Saul Goode. That's my online handle, has been for a while, don't google it, you might not like what you find.

But do you get the name? "It's all good."

Get it? See, I picked a name that meant something, something that inspired me, something that when I used it, I could become someone else, and become something that I could not otherwise have become.

Percy. Percival. King Arthur's most righteous knight, and the only one who saw the Holy Grail. What a great name, eh!

Mira. I used that on in Evander's Forge. Mira, in Spanish, means Look! Mira was Evander's foil, and she helped him see. Get it?

And Evander, what about that name? Look it up. It means Good Man. His last name was Gennesee, after the beer. His middle name was James, which is a biblical name, a name of God (at least to a Christian). Evander James Gennesee. A Good Man of God and Beer! How perfect is that!

Maybe I'll change my name, eh, Evander James Gennesee fits me perfectly.

I had one guy who's nickname was Spats. I didn't get it, but turns out, my subconscious was playing tricks on me. Everyone around Spats was spitting on him, metaphorically, and he was emotionally covered in sticky phlegm you could bottle and sell as wood glue.

Anyway, point is that you should pick good names. Give a dog a good name, that's something you always hear down south, and speaking of, we used to have dogs named Bandit, Lucky, Todd (which somehow meant he had a white spot on his chest, don't ask...), and this Beagle named Scotch.

Why Scotch?

Because that was my dad's favorite drink. ;)

Good names. Give em all a good name, and not only will your character spring to life, but they'll live forever in the reader's memory.

- Eric

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Everyone has an agenda

So I'm writing this story about a kid named Percy Freebottom, and I get 10k wds into it, wad up the story, chunk it, re-write from the beginning, I'm back to 10k wds, wad it up, chunk it, re-write from the beginning, and so on. I've done this several times, now, and I'm finally up to about 20k wds.

And I'm ready to wad it up and chunk it.

I keep trying to figure out what's ~wrong~ with the story. Something's wrong, I can feel something's wrong, but I don't know ~what~ is wrong.

The name's a good name -- I love Percy Freebottom.

The storyline's great. I dig the plot, rough though it is.

The setting's right -- rural East Texas. The time is right -- 1980. The age is right -- 10yo, pre-pubescent.

I have the dogs, the woods, a cast of characters, all lined up in their dressing rooms, waiting on me to hand them their lines and tell them where to stand and how to act and what to wear and how to look and what to think. Everyone already knows who lives, who dies, and who wishes they had one or the other.

It's all there.

But something's missing, and I don't have a fucking clue what it is. At least, until last night.

I watched a movie, and it clicked -- ~EVERYONE~ has an agenda. I mean, everyone. Every character, every clerk, every police officer, every taxi driver and teacher and well digger and horse wrangler. The all have an agenda.

And that's what I forgot. I have Percy, and he's integral to the plot, but really, Percy doesn't give one rat's ass about my plot. He's not interested in what I want, or what other people want. Percy's interested in what ~Percy~ wants, and he sure as hell doesn't want my story, or my plot, or all those other characters.

Nope. Percy has his own agenda. He has things he needs to do that do not involve me, Dear Author, or you, Dear Reader.

Funny, because this is my fourth book, and I have a ton of short stories. I looked back over the old books, and some shorts, and realized I'd instinctively given all my characters their own agenda.

This guy Steve, he's in San Antonio not to meet this girl I wanted him to meet -- he's in San Antonio on business, with his company, even had to call in the next day, after I roped him into my plot. Steve had his own agenda, see. So did this girl I wanted him to meet, Amanda.

Harold -- God bless Harold -- he's not interested in my plot, or the things I have lined up for him. Nope, he's more interested in feeling sorry for himself, trying to gain pity from his daughter and his ex-wife, and wishing ill-fortune on his ex-wife's new boyfriend. Again, my character has his own agenda, and it's Eric v. Harry in The Keeper. I have to bend Harold to my will, and it's like ripping off a hangnail every single morning.

As a writer, I've always instinctively followed the rules, until they stump me, I suppose, and I'm forced to quantify just what the hell stumped me.

And this one stumped me, even though I've said it a million times: Remember the back-story!

Remember the individuality. Remember that your characters are not interested in YOU, the writer, they are interested only in themselves, their own desires, and they all, every last one of them, have their own ~what~, I ask you, Dear Reader, they all have their own ~what~?

They have their own agenda, you answer.

- Eric

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Honest Lie: The First Meeting

So last night, or July 20th, Monday, I met the folks at Open Heart Publishing who are about to make the An Honest Lie Anthology a reality.

See us here: http://openheartpublishing.debrincase.com/

And here: http://debrincase.com/blog4/

Our graphic artist carries batteries in her purse. I didn't ask, or maybe she didn't tell. Hell, maybe I don't want to know. Artists, eh. She can sing, too.

The girl in the yellow jacket, she's cute and all, looks like she's made out of vanilla icing with cherry-sprinkle freckles, but she drinks black-and-something beer, and her story involves a coffin and a guy who "is most-definitely still alive, his watch even has the right time," she says.

Our editors are a mother-daughter team. The Sr. Ed., she's evil. Not really, she's a sharp-witted editor, and it's her job to dissect the story and make it readable. I'm looking forward to letting her rip out and devour my soul. In the name of good reading, see.

Our Jr. Ed. is a sweet librarian who's also contributing a story to the Anthology. She'll probably eat what's left of my soul after her mom gets tired of chewing. What's left after that, she'll probably feed to her cat. Librarians, eh. She probably had batteries in her purse, too.

The guy to my right -- no, left, the Jr. Ed., the sweet librarian, she's on my right -- is a college guy who wrote a story of preposterous proportions about a giant jellyfish. He's a brave man to write such a big story. He's nineteen and published. How's that for success.

Then there's the self-help coach. Her story's got a hint of truth in it, and the publisher said that when he first read her story, he cried. He doesn't look like a crying-man -- self-help, pow, right in the kisser -- so she must've said something profound, eh.

Of course there's the publisher, a man who knows good pubs, and has an aggressive business model planned for 4Q09 and 1Q10. We'll be storming through Dallas, soon, keep an eye out.

Then there's me. I'm the guy at the end of the table in a pumpkin-colored polo. Me and that yellow-jacket girl sure lightened up the pub. Turn out the lights, and she and I would glow, we were both dressed so bright.

"So what's your story about?" they ask me.

"An apple tree, that's not an apple tree."

- Eric

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sample from "Evander's Forge"

Evander's Forge
Eric Trant
copyright 2009


When the end came--and it did, as promised, although not quite how he'd pictured it--Evander James Genesee simply opened his eyes and became what he had been forged to become.

People knew him as anything but Evander. His co-workers used to call him Brewsky. Some guy from New York said there was a beer up there called Genesee, but Evander never drank the beer, and in fact, he never met the guy from New York who knighted him with the name Brewsky.

Except for his parents, Evander's family called him Van, or Vanny. Mom and Pops called him Evan, formally, as if that had been Evander's intended name, as if the trailing "der" had been accidentally added, then quickly reneged and forgotten. His little sister, Gracie, when they were younger, found humor in calling him Der, especially after Mom and Pops would say, "Evan."

"Evan," Mom would say.

"Der," Gracie would say. Then she would run. Der meant a chase and a chest thump to Gracie.

His daughters called him Daddy. His wife called him Love.

Van. Vanny. Evan. Brewsky. Der. Daddy. Love. That's how the world knew him. Anything but Evander.

Evander James Genesee had no idea what to call himself. In his mind, he was a null and a void, hollow as a shucked and sucked oyster, nothing soft left inside, no pearl, no meat, no salty innards. Nothing remained of Evander but the tough outer shell of a man. Evander didn't feel tough. He didn't act tough. He didn't realize how rigid he'd become, or how scaly and sharp his edges had grown.

Then again, neither do oyster shells.

Down South, near the coast, they use oyster shells to pave their driveways.


"Get over here and get down!" the man said to Evander. The man motioned with the pistol where he wanted Evander, pointing the barrel downward, toward the floor. "Get down over here where I can see you, man, now!"

A red-striped hooded jacket concealed the man's head and face, but not the gun, which the man aimed toward Evander's chest. The man's hand wobbled as he yelled at Evander. So, in reality, the gun pointed in Evander's general direction, but more accurately would be described as pointing anywhere but Evander's chest.

Evander stared at the man.

"Mira, you okay?" Evander said.

Mira nodded. She stood behind the counter, frozen, with her hands out to her sides as she watched the man in front of her register. She wore her white cook's apron with her ponytail tucked into a white cook's hat, and had been frying up the morning taquitos for the truck stop restaurant last time Evander had checked on her. They were otherwise alone in the truck stop. Only the truckers outside, in the parking lot, idling in their sleeper cabs, might hear any shots that were fired.

"Muthafucker, get down, you better get down! Now!"

Evander looked down at his hands and realized he still held the paper towel from the restroom, wadded in his palm. Evander had just finished checking the men's and women's restrooms, and in another two hours, after he'd emptied the trash and made another sweep through the parking lot, and maybe bagged some ice for the ice machine, he'd be through with this shift, and he could sneak off to his Tahoe in the parking lot and sleep until noon.

Or, maybe not. Evander waited as the man shook the gun in his general direction. "I just mopped this floor, too," Evander said.

When the man didn't respond, Evander stepped to his booth, laid the napkin next to his coffee, picked up the cup, and sipped it. The coffee had grown tepid while he was cleaning the restrooms. "Hey, Mira, you think you can warm up my coffee?"

Two shots rang out in the truck stop restaurant. They were nervous shots from a shakey hand, and both bullets plunked into the wall behind Evander. The sound echoed through the restaurant and slammed into Evander's ears with nearly the same impact as a bullet. Evander popped his ears as he walked toward the hooded man.

A cloud of smoke hung over the gun as the hooded man yanked the trigger again and again without report. The man banged the gun on the counter and jabbed his finger into the gun's sliding bolt, trying to dislodge the uncleared casing, but instead, he ejected the gun's clip. The clip clanged to the floor at the man's feet.

Evander paused five feet from the man, leaned down, and peeked beneath the man's hood. The man had to be at least seven inches shorter than Evander, around Mira's height. Evander pointed a finger-gun at his own forehead and said, "Right here, between the eyes, one shot, pop." Evander clicked his thumb against his forefinger.

The hooded man stumbled backward, pointed the now unloaded pistol at Evander, yanked the trigger one last time, and then threw the pistol at Evander. The pistol flew over Evander's head and bounced beneath the neighboring booth.

The hooded man turned and sprinted into the entrance doors. The entrance doors opened inward, not outward, and the man slammed into the doorway head-down, stumbled backward, then grabbed the door and threw it open, turned left and ran down the sidewalk, around to the back of the store.

"You okay?" Evander said to Mira.

Mira began to cry, and Evander saw her shaking, but she nodded at Evander and said, "I'm okay."

Evander picked up the man's gun and looked it over. The weapon was an out-dated Taurus 9mm, and it looked like it had never been cleaned. He and Gracie had one like this, when they were kids. Their father bought it at Walmart, and no matter how much they cleaned and oiled the weapon, it never did fire well, and always seemed to disperse a cloud of discharge smoke from the back of the weapon, right into the face of the shooter. It was the cheapest gun their father could find.

Evander slid back the sliding bolt and picked out the bent casing jammed inside. Along with chunking smoke at the user, the gun also jammed frequently, and as the robber had discovered, the weapon was more effective when you threw it.

"I'm gonna check out back," Evander said. "Call the cops if you want, but I don't think he'll come back, and they won't catch him anyway." Evander slid his coffee across the counter to her. "Think you could warm this up?"

Mira picked up the coffee and nodded. "Oh, Vanny, I'm, um, I'm..."

"It's okay," Evander said. "Really. It's fine. He's gone, and he's not coming back, trust me. If he does, well..." Evander waved the pistol in his hand. "We'll be ready, I suppose. I can throw this at him."

Mira smiled a little at the joke, but Evander could tell she was still rattled. He rounded the counter, took the coffee out of her hand, and hugged her. Mira's head nestled just beneath Evander's chin. He held her for a dozen or so seconds, letting her shake it out, until the fry alarm began to go off in the back of the kitchen.

"Your taquitos are done," Evander said. "No sense ruining breakfast, now is there?"

Mira shook her head. She smiled a little bigger this time, and Evander had an almost over-powering urge to kiss her forehead.

Mira sucked in a breath and stepped away from Evander. She shook her hands by her side, turned and looked for something, and then pulled down a large butcher's knife from the magnetic knife rack next to the grill.

"I'm not so helpless," Mira said. She twisted the knife in her hand, and then stuck it beneath her apron string. "He comes back, he's gonna lose some appendages."


Friday, June 26, 2009

On Editing

If you look through my quotes, you'll see that I have two thoughts on editing, and both imply the same thing: editing can destroy your piece.

Quote #1: Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!

Quote #2: Write first for yourself; write again for others.

See, when I write, I create stories ~I~ want to read. I don't write for the readers. I don't write for the publishers, or the editors, or a particular age and gender group. I don't write for you.

I write for me.

And sometimes, I create something beautiful. I love the words, the story, the characters and settings and scenes. It's ~my~ story. It's the only story I'll print out, and it's the one I'll store in my file cabinet with all the other works that will never see paperback distributions. It's the story I'll dig out years from now and re-read. It's my story, kinks and all.

The other story, the polished copy you see published, or in paperback, or on someone's website, that's not my story. Not anymore. That one's been hacked-up and edited, reviewed, and revised by people who do not have worms in their skull. Scenes have been added, modified, and deleted, along with characters, voice, and setting. Personally, I may not like that story. In fact, I may ~hate~ that story.

But that's not my story, not anymore. My story is safely hidden away in a dark cabinet.

My published stories, the ones you buy in paperback or see posted online, those are ~your~ stories, and I can only hope you like them as much as I like my own.

- Eric

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Point-of-View: Listen to your characters!

I like to hear my characters, feel them, ~be~ them. I write strong characters with strong voices, strong opinions, strong beliefs, and strong emotions.

And when I write, I listen to my characters. They tell me when they're bored, or when I've irritated them with something I wrote.

For instance, I'm reading this book that on page 83, the author writes this, paraphrased:

She usually had a quick comeback for every situation. But this isn't the movies, she thought. This is real life, and in real life, she just killed a man, and almost died doing so.

Wow, huh. Are you listening to the character? Do you hear what she just said? I hate it when characters say that!

The character said this, paraphrased:

DUDE! What the hell! That was an unbelievable series of events you just put me through. Nobody's gonna buy it. Hell, ~I~ don't even buy it! You just knocked me out of the story. So much for suspending my disbelief, eh. Here, let me remind you: THIS IS NOT THE MOVIES! STOP IT!

Yeah, well, the author didn't listen to her. He chugged along his path, writing more fodder, eventually leading me to skip a couple of filler chapters. I told my girlfriend that I feel like I should be reading this book with a red pen in my hand!

And I saw a movie the other day where a character said this, as he was about to be tortured, and the villain was spewing off a long spiel before peeling the skin off our hero:

Um, can we get on with this? I'm not getting any younger.

Do you hear that one? The character says he's bored. The character yawned, what do you think a reader will do!

So listen to your characters. If they're not into the story, then you need to re-write that part, or maybe even delete it.

Characters know best.

- Eric

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Three Cs: Notes on Copyrights, Contacts, and Content


I should note to all you Dear Readers that ALL work posted by Eric W. Trant -- that's me -- is implicitly copyrighted by Eric W. Trant -- that's me -- and should not be reproduced without explicit written consent from said poster.

Please feel free to reference this blog, or bookmark it, or even email things you think might get someone fired just for opening and reading, but please reference me -- Eric W. Trant -- when you send this stuff, or reference my site, since I'm kinda trying to make a go of this writing gig, and any publicity I can get is helpful.

Furthermore, it is not my intent to offend anyone, but my language can, at times, drift toward the gutter. Please be aware of this. I'm not a shock-jock, but I also don't like to moderate my worms. They say whatever they feel like saying, and I just write it as fast as I can.

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Thank you!

- Eric W. Trant

Me on writing

COPYRIGHT Eric W. Trant 2009

All right you knuckers, here's an ongoing list of things that wiggle and writhe in my head with respect to writing.

Maybe I should add some weird formatting, eh, so it'll look cool, and so you might think I know what the hell I'm doing.

Onward, ho!



Write big, write arrogant, write unbelievably tall; write with inspiration, passion, patience and truth; write unabashedly; write with wit; write with huge looping letters, crowding everyone else from the page; and write little words between, above and below; write persistently; write with purpose; write with the nerve-wracking suspense of a teetering tightrope walker about to fall; now fall; write against the grain; write with the ever-changing flow of the masses; write with the sudden ferocity of a shark attack and drag the reader into your darkest depths; write first for yourself; write again for others; write it obnoxiously in the sky and dare the wind to blow it away.

Or write not at all.

To the wind I say: Blow me away.


How stupid am I? How ignorant, blissful, and delightfully unconscious? I see no further than yesterday, peek backward in search of tomorrow. And what I see, with each glance to the past, is the burned husk of a man, without forethought or foresight, who dives deeper and deeper into the murky waters of the future. Burned because I am seared by the knowledge of today; husk because I realize now how empty and unfulfilled I had been. Fearing the future, mocking the past, onward I go from each day to the next, thinking, for God knows what reason, that somehow I am more than I was yesterday; thinking I'm perhaps wiser or smarter, less hollow, and maybe more capable of opening blind eyes to the light of the morrow's sun; thinking God has heard my prayers—or ignored me entirely—and that this life has revealed itself to me more fully; thinking I have answers. How stupid am I?


I want to live forever; so I write.


It is what's unsaid that's most prolific. The reader should feel the back-story.


I found my wings.


How vain to love your own words. It pains me to think how many years I've wasted in silence.


I'm 120 pages into my book—and finally reached the beginning.


Writing is such wonderful torture.


As Aristotle pointed out, to master the metaphor is the finest form of writing. But take care the beast does not consume the story; untamed, it can anger the page if allowed too much freedom to roam. Pepper it sparingly amongst the words, or risk sneezing the reader.


Yell "Action!", not "Back-Story!"


Good writing is demanding, tiresome, and tedious as hell. But then again, so is good sex.

According to Hemingway, all first drafts are shit. I'm on the right track.


Swing Poe's pendulum over the reader; and with turning the page, drop it a notch closer.


Plot story plot story plot story plot story character plot character story story story character story plot story character character story plot.

Which came first: the story or the plot? Or the character?

And which is more important?

To me? Story.

To the reader? I am a reader. As a reader, I like story. I like plot, too. But don't let it fuck with the story. And for God's sake don't warp the characters to fit the plot. Be true to them, let the plot form around. Story. Character. Plot. That's the order. Always story; then character; then plot.

Story should be the bones; character, the bloody heart. Plot's just the road they take.



Characters we care about. Give me characters we care about. Provide, Dear Writer, real characters, all flesh and emotion: the next door neighbor washing the car with his fat farmer's tan; the scolding bus driver on the high school band bus who wreaks of smoke; a red-eyed security guard just trying to get by, two empty paper cups stained with coffee next to a photo of three kids and a woman; the shy doctor with bad breath.

We care about these people. We want to know what happens to them, not be bogged down with trite analogies, descriptions of the cracked riverbed face, the chestnut eyes, the teeth that glinted light.

Who fucking cares? I don't. I don't give one rat's ass about whether her hair was curly brown or straight bleached blonde. If it ain't pertinent, I don't need it. Throw it out. Too many words out there to waste time with pointless descriptions.

What we care about are characters. Not hair color. Characters.


I write; how else to hear what I have to say?


Writing, for me, is a state of constant contradiction.


Where does style come into the writing? That eloquent lilt to the words that floats them off the page and into Reader's ears? Where is my style? Do I like the old-school method, with its rolling sentences, tailored and cut for the story, full of color, flavor, sentences that flow around and around the paragraph with nary a period in sight, soft rivers of words chortling through the story? Or am I concise? Direct?

Come to think of it, the more I write, the more it feels like talking. It's hard for me to write like I once did—cheesy, long sentences. Now I like short. Here's the point, now let's continue—that type of stuff. I'm not gonna bore you wrapping words from one margin to the other, chock full of two-bit locutions (which remind me of taunting squirrels, jamming nuts in their cheeks—mine are bigger than your-oors, mine are bigger than your-oors). I've got big words. I just don't use them. Webster's ain't all that interestin', knowaddamean?

So that's it, I suppose. My style. My style. Short. Sweet. Here's the fucking point, now let's move on. If you want a description of what color some chick painted the inside of her sock drawer—and why—go read someone else. Or write your own story.

As a writer, I'm forced to fake interesting. I'm just some schmuck.


To write is to work rabid dogs, loosed free within the confines of your own fleshy skull, with this pen as their only collar.


To be successful is to have people love your words, to cry over them. That is why I write. But when I stumble, my nose bends a bit farther out.


To write is to say something ordinary in an extraordinary way.

But writing is not the art of saying something already said, only in a cleverer way; writing is to say something new! in cleverer way.

Be brief.

Religion is God's way of weeding out the weak and unimaginative. To the rest He gives common sense.

Don't let the blank page intimidate you; let it inspire you.

Saddle up and hold on tight. If it doesn't throw you, writing will take you somewhere.


Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!


Geniuses may change the world, but it's the idiots who get paid for it.

Writing is an obsession. If it ain't, it ain't writing.

When I write, I try to stay away from deep and thoughtful stuff. I get enough of that in real life, and frankly, it bores the shit out of me.

Death is when the soul sleeps.

Echos of love lost.

The difference between master and student, is not knowing how, but knowing why.

sniffing my droppings
a green-eyed, self-said genius
defining man-crush

slithering genius
his head too low for high thoughts
looks up and wonders

slitted eyes scratch words
genius filters, imagines
pretends he exists

tongue and mouth of dirt
spitting mounds of prophecy
he can't make us see

impeccable genius
curled in prints he couldn't make
the world steps over


mirror-topped lake
slender neck, slender beak, strikes
two worlds, one rippled

palms up, begging rain
lungs blowing against the wind
thunder has no heart


I believe you can't have true genius and be completely sane. They're mutually exclusive. Genius, by its nature, is an uncontrollable and insatiable obsession, fed by a mind bent into a shape most folks cannot conceive.


When life gives you a bucket of piss, drink it, and tell everyone it's lemonade. Then they'll leave you the fuck alone about it.

I don't dream of writing. I write, and let the world dream of reading my words.


Details separate the pros from the amateurs.


Writing has two parts: story, and style.

Good storytellers with bad style become rich.

Bad storytellers with wonderful style become famous.

Good storytellers with good style become writers.

Or something like that...


Burn your eyes on my words, you fuckers.


If you don't finish, you've accomplished nothing.

Nothing unfinished can be called an accomplishment.

Only finished work succeeds.



Crap, huh.


Good writers write. Great writers confess.