Changes

 Crater Lake | Guy L. Pace

Changes

So much changes in our lives. About fifty years ago, I was a young man in Central Oregon. My friends and I made a huge playground of the high desert. We explored lava tube caves and the wide open juniper forest, climbed Mt. Bachelor and the South Sister, among other things. What is now a national monument (the Newberry National Volcanic Monument) was our back yard.

Where we used to hunt rabbits, bike, and hike is now filled with subdivisions around Bend, OR. Our old archery deer hunting grounds became the Sun River resort destination.

Now I must pay admission to go up Lava Butte or visit Paulina Lake. Well, I would if I didn’t have my senior pass (that was a very good decision).

Change is the only constant.

I met my brother and cousin in Southern Idaho recently, and the three of us rode our motorcycles through to Oregon, the coast, and finally to Crater Lake. In all the time I’ve lived around the area, I never got to Crater Lake. This time I did and it was the final destination we had as a group. From here, we split and went different ways. This gave me some time to reflect on our travels, the places we visited, and the sights we saw.

The pace

Some places, like the John Day area, change little or slowly. It seemed some of the farms we passed had the same horses I used to see all those years ago. The pace is slower and all the businesses are still there.

Bend, on the other hand, is so very different now. The pace is faster. Growth continues. Nothing looks the same. It takes time and effort to find the old house, the park, the high school, and some of the other places that were meaningful so long ago.

Like the characters in our stories, change is a given. Nothing stays the same for long. Prices increase and people move. Farmers grow different crops because of economic changes. New highways bypass old neighborhoods and leave the past behind. All that impacts our characters. Sometimes for the good. Sometimes not. It is rare that a place retains the nuances someone might remember from long ago.

Keep this in mind as you work with a character in your story.

Keep writing.

 

P.S. — Never explore lava tube caves alone. You never know when you need a friend to pull you out by the feet. And, take a flashlight with fresh batteries.

 

 

Small

Small is Beautiful

Small | Guy L. PaceThese days, I’m amazed at how small things can get. What used to need more carrying capacity, now fits into a small bag.

I’m packing for a trip. My sleeping bag compresses into a very small bag. My sleeping mat and pillow go into a smaller bag. Cooking and other necessities take much less space in the saddle bags these days. What required a lot of bungee cords and cargo nets in the past, now fit neatly into the saddle bags and I have more room for basic luggage and me.

In the past, touting on my Harley-Davidson softail was more complicated. Now, with all the newer, more compressed, smaller equipment, it is getting simpler. I now expect a more enjoyable journey. I’m looking forward to it.

Like the Chihuahua in the picture (that looks so very much like my little Paco from years ago), small is beautiful. Simple, little, small things make a huge difference in our lives and in our writing. Chihuahuas bring to their humans huge loyalty and great courage. What a wonderful and unexpected benefit from such a small package.

After the first draft

When we write–after the first draft of course–we should make every effort to trim the writing down to the essentials. Just those words necessary to the story. Like Hemingway, use economy, precise word choice, nuance, to move the story and the reader. In The Old Man and the Sea, Papa kept the narrative to a minimum and used his skills to tell a powerful, complete, Nobel-prize winning novella in under 30,000 words. He claims the story did not have symbolism, but was the bare story of courage, pain, and triumph.

Like Papa, I don’t need to lead the reader around the story by the nose. I let them fill in the details with their own imagination. My own Sudden Mission could have run to 100,000 words, but would have been more of a doorstop at that length. Write just what needs writing.

Keep writing (with a Chihuahua in your lap).

 

Something Happened

Something Happened

Joseph Heller (author of Catch 22) published Something Happened in 1974. I read Catch 22 shortly after leaving the military, so the theme and humor wasn’t lost on me. I thought Something Happened would be a good read too. It was a good read in a very strange way. I won’t spoil the books in case you haven’t read them.  Something Happened was–as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. called it–deeply unhappy.

something happened | Guy L. PaceBut, something did happen.

That’s the point of writing a story or novel, isn’t it? Something happened. You develop characters, settings, motivations. Then something happens.

Unlike Heller’s second novel, more than the thing happens in most of our writing and usually much earlier in the story. Short stories may have one or two things happen. Novels can have a lot of things happen. In all cases, though, there is one key thing that happens and that drives the story or plot.

In my current work in progress, the main character Amy is working and living in the community her friends, family, and neighbors built after the collapse of everything, “the Troubles.” She’s mentoring Paul’s little sister, dealing with jealousy, and working in a subsistence lifestyle. Then something happens. It isn’t the really big something happens, but it does lead to other things. She gets involved in dealing with that, and something else happens.

Gardening

Think of a writer as gardener. The gardener plants a seed. Between the soil, the moisture, nutrients, and the seed; something happens. The seed sprouts and emerges out of the ground. The writer nurtures this new life to see it grow, bloom, and produce fruit. The result depends in large part on what seed the gardener chose, what kind of soil, and if the plant got enough moisture. It also depends on the nurturing the writer pours into it.

What follows after something happens spins on your character(s). Characters react and respond in ways true to their nature and believable to the reader. That, then, takes your story to the next thing that happens. And so on.

In the end, the reader find the fruit. The reader knows that something happened.

Keep writing.

 

Doors

Doors

Doors to open | Guy L. PaceWhen one door opens …

We’ve all heard some version of that. Whether it is the doors closing or the doors opening, we see it as new opportunity or opportunity lost. From an observer’s perspective, though, the door is just a door and it is either open or closed. To the character it is a portal. The character can watch the door open or watch the door close. That can make a story pretty boring.

Or, the character can take control of their own destiny (especially in a story) and open or close the door. That’s what can bring a reader into the story. The reader can identify with the character and follow him or her into the portal to discover what is on the other side.

Waiting for a door to open or a door to close tends to make a story boring. Give the character the motivation and desire to open the door and pass through the portal.

You might want to make sure the character closes the door behind them. Or, maybe not. It depends on the kind of story you are writing.

The character opens a door and enters. He or she continues through and leaves the door open. What could possibly go wrong in that scenario?

Just a little food for thought this week.

Keep writing.

 

Words

Words

Words | Guy L. PaceThe words we use color our lives and our relationships. Some bring people closer together and others tear people apart.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t always used the best words or language. I was a sailor and I’ll use that as my excuse. But, there is no excuse for what some of those words and some of that language led to. All I can do now is ask forgiveness.

As a father, and now a grandfather, I see the children and grandchildren trying to navigate this world. In my writing, I try to give lessons and examples they can use. If I used words like I did when in the service or later, I find I’d be mortally embarrassed to have my granddaughters read my work.

The problem with them–and we all know what words we’re talking about here–is they often represent a violence. Some just physical violence, some sexual violence. Some are just plain degrading and disrespectful. The last thing I wanted my granddaughters to see was their grandfather using those words in any form.

Today is my 30th wedding anniversary. My wife had a huge influence on me. It took a lot of years of work for me to remove those words from my daily speech and writing. Now I wince when I hear or read any of those words. An author I’ve read for a while suddenly includes more of those words in his work. It’s a shock when I run across them in my reading, but they are becoming more frequent.

Anglo-Saxon

Granted, those are good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon words, single- or two-syllable. Direct and emphatic. Is there a place for them in today’s literature and film? They are, as I mentioned above, violent. They describe emotional, physical, or sexual violence; carry a negative connotation; are derogatory and insulting.

You won’t find them in the stuff I do. They don’t fit the story, the message, or the tone. I try to set a positive tone, create solid relationships, and respectful communication.

I think the strongest expletive I’ve used in my writing to date is, “Oh, crap.” The hero has to have something to say when he or she exhausted all options, finds him or her self cornered, and there seems no way out.

Find good words.

Keep writing.