Saturday, April 5, 2014

Coming this Summer!!!!

Romanian folklore tells of the Strigoi, a creature who once was a man that died and rose again to become the undead. The Strigoi is a shapeshifter, capable of taking on the form of another man or animal, a favorite being the wolf. This being needs to drink human blood to survive. The Strigoi became the basis of vampire and werewolf tales, including the most famous Dracula by Bram Stoker.
 
In 1792, Nikola Choroleeva emigrated from the city of Sighetu Marmației near the Carpathian Mountains to the Americas and founded a secret colony, hidden in the mountains of Appalachia, comprised of followers who offered their blood for his nourishment and he in return gave them eternal life. Being infected with the malady as him, they became the living Strigoi.
 
Impervious to old age and disease the members of this society from time to time die by accident or murder. By Lord Nikola’s edict, they are staked through the heart and buried to keep them from coming back as the dead Strigoi. When a citizen is lost, a replacement must be found. To this hidden world an unwilling Alex Regal was brought as a replacement.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Creating Memorable Characters

One of the nicer rejections I received praised my writing ability but had some issues with my characters.  The publisher said: "...It's a good voice -- as I said, Mr. Voigts is a good writer. But the ms would be a lot better if the characters were more strongly differentiated." I know some books are plot driven and some character driven, but when a work gets turned down because the characters start sounding alike something needs to be done. 

Looking back over memorable books, the characters come first to mind. To name some classics here is a list. I think most people would be hard pressed to tell  the plot of all these books, but the characters easily come to mind.

Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby, F. Scot Fitzgerald)
Sherlock Holmes (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett)
Tarzan (Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell)
Harry Potter (Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling)
Willie Wonka (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl)
Tom Sawyer (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain)
Dracula (Dracula, Bram Stoker)
The Artful Dodger (Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens)

Over the next few weeks I will look at characterization, how to improve the players in our books, some theories and perhaps invent some new approaches. Maybe we'll unlock the secret of creating memorable characters.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Paper or Plastic?

I miss paper bags—the kind with brown heavy paper that groceries came in back in the good ole days.  As a kid, armed with scissors and crayons, I’d turn them into space helmets. The kind with handles made great trick-or-treat bags. Just paint the sides with ghosts and witches and black cats. Smaller ones easily became terrific paper bag puppets. Things with paper bags were almost unlimited.

Then came plastic. Back in the beginning, cashiers asked, “Paper or plastic?” Paper please.  But soon the offer vanished, although they kept paper hidden under the register for anyone brave enough to ask.  Finally that too went away and plastic was it. Take it or leave it.

A local grocery store, touting the advantages of plastic when it first came out, filled one to capacity with cans and package goods, and suspended it over the store’s entry way to demonstrate the strength to anyone brave enough to walk under it.  They poked holes in the sides so the contents stuck out to further prove the bag’s worth. 

Fast forward to the present. I tried to open a plastic bag at the Wal-Mart self-service kiosk. The bags hung on the chrome rack placed at the far back of the landing area for scanned groceries.  I grabbed and picked and scratched at the center tab to open one, but only succeeded in pulling it loose from the rack.  It fell to the floor where a pile of plastic bags had accumulated from my predecessors’ attempts to open them.

Frustrated I signaled the cashier who frantically moved from kiosk to kiosk helping other shoppers (probably opening their bags). I explained the problem. She immediate grabbed a tab and popped one open. I filled it and again struggled to open next one. Again she came over and pooped a bag open.

“Okay tell me the secret. How do you do that?” I asked.

“Cashiers use a damp sponge to wet their fingers. It makes grabbing the tab easier,” she said.

I looked around and back to her. I’d not seen her go back to her station once to wet her fingers. Nor did she carry anything with her. Where did she keep this magical sponge?
 
Before I asked she blushed and smiled. “To tell the truth, I licked my fingers.”

Aha, another mystery solved and probably more than I wanted know. I grabbed my bags of groceries and left.  As I walked through the exit, the plastic handles on one bag tore and dumped cans and boxes across the sidewalk and into the street.

I really miss paper bags