Tag: writing

Devil in a Blue Dress

This spring semester, for my Gotham Writers novel class, I decided to use Easy Rawlins for our character study. Usually I use Jane Eyre, who I love, but I figured I might branch out. Devil in a Blue Dress was published in 1990, and set in 1948 Los Angeles, but really could be set today. Easy Rawlins is a World War II veteran, who fought for the U.S., came to Los Angeles to get a job, was fired for not being respectful enough of his white boss, and winds up getting a job working for a really dangerous man. One of the things that becomes clear as you read the book, is that racism is a daily indignity. Easy almost gets killed when a young white girl starts up a conversation with him. He tries to back away from her, but she’s relentless, and clueless. At another moment he goes to an office to talk to the white man who’s hired him, but when he’s asked who he’s looking to see, he starts to stutter. “It was a habit I developed in Texas when I was a boy. Sometimes, when a white man of authority would catch me off guard, […]

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What I Love About Writing Fiction, Part 2: Creating Interesting Characters

What we remember best about the books we’ve read is usually not the plot or the setting, as wonderful as these can be. We remember characters. Some of them walk into our hearts and never leave us. I recently finished reading the New York Times Bestseller We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet for my book club. The novel is set in the south of England (a favorite setting), during and after World War 2 (a favorite time frame). The story begins when a young woman, Ellen Parr, finds an abandoned child, little Pamela, asleep on a bus. The theme is courage and love—the fierce love of a woman’s heart for a child. The plot, spanning decades, is beautifully laid out, but what will stick with me forever is Ellen herself—a believable, relatable, flawed, lovable human being. Some fictional characters achieve immortality—Miss Havisham (Great Expectations), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice), Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), Sherlock Holmes (The Complete Sherlock Holmes), Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Lisbeth Salander (The Millennium Trilogy), Celie (The Color Purple), Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Peter Pan (Peter Pan), Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With The Wind), Mole (The Wind In The Willows), Armand Gamache (The […]

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Survival Tip #3: Stillness

I’m finding it very difficult to focus. No sooner do I sit down to do one thing that I jump up and have to do another. Partly, I suspect, this is due to anxiety. Its hard to relax when people around you are suffering. But partly it’s because there is a steady stream of things calling for my attention, and everything has become more time-consuming and difficult. Tonight I teach my first Novel Draft class of the semester, and I’m always particularly partial to new classes. I love meeting new students. I love hearing their stories. I love telling my stories, and the great thing about a new class is they haven’t heard them before. I’m sure the whole thing will go well, and yet I have this steady undercurrent of anxiety. I’m going to have 14 faces staring at me from a screen. How do I get them to know each other, and like each other? There was a book I wanted to show them, but I couldn’t go to the library. Usually I have lots of hand-outs, but I can’t get to a photocopier, so I’ve downloaded them and will share them on Zoom. But what if I […]

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Survival Tip #2 Inspiration

Due to a series of odd events, I’ve become chair of the Communications Committee at my church. I say odd because I know nothing about communications, beyond the fact that I know how to post pictures of trees on Facebook. But oh well. Part of my job is managing the church Facebook page. I assume that people who come visit are looking for comfort and inspiration, and so one of the first things I do every morning is try to find something inspirational to post. I read through Bible passages and look through various photographs and cartoons to find the right thing. This morning search for inspiration has become one of my favorite times of the day. I invariably wind up inspiring myself, which gives me a boost. There are so many inspirational stories coming out of this pandemic. I’m awed by the bravery of our health care workers, and all the people who’ve put themselves at risk to take care of us. Reading about these people, these heroes, I feel like I absorb just a tiny bit of their courage, I hope. Not to say I don’t panic every time I cough, but I believe that seeking out inspiration […]

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Save the Old Ladies

No, not those old ladies…as far as I know we’re fine. What I’m talking about are the lovely old houses of the past–especially the “grand old ladies” of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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