- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 141
Back to Normal for Me
Yep, I finally finished my coloring books, and corrected some glaring errors in my last novel, so now I can move back to “Shadows Fall On Rosarito,” which is about half-done. It feels good to be back to writing a novel after at least a month break from it.
We have another small Mailbag this week. Don’t shoot the messenger, please. I can only answer what I can only answer.
Let’s do it!
From Mary: “If that is the case, then here is a question for a future mailbag. Is a journalist merely an informer or a storyteller? A journalist, as most people believe, report the facts of an event, but there are always two sides to a story. Do you think the role of the journalist has lost credibility and where do you see journalism heading?”
What a great, insightful question, Mary. I’ve been looking forward to answering this one all week.
Ever hear of yellow journalism? The phrase was coined back around 1900 to describe some increasingly bizarre, and downright untruthful, headlines and articles written by competing newspapers owned by two gentlemen named Pulitzer and Hearst.
I’m a bit amused by the amount of uproar today over the “biased” press. Hell, Mary, the press has always been biased. People act like this is something new, but it’s been around seemingly forever. Newspapers are owned by businesses, so by their very nature they are incapable of being unbiased. Does that mean journalism has lost its credibility? I don’t think so at all, no more today than back in 1900. It would be nice if journalists were not influenced by their parent corporation, but me finding a million dollars would be nice too.
My advice to anyone looking for the truth from journalists is the same advice my English teacher gave me back in 1963 . . . do the research, check various sources, form an intelligent opinion based on the research, and then get on with your life.
From Ann: “I have a question. Many of us are influenced by our favourite writers. What do you take from your favourites? Obviously we can't copy a style or a 'voice' but how do you pick out a facet of an author to emulate, rather than copy, and how do you carry it through?”
It’s an interesting question, Ann, and since this is Monday, I’ll call it a “monstrous Monday question.” (inside joke between Ann and me)
Of course we can’t copy an author, but we can certainly see something in their style we try to emulate.
James Lee Burke is my favorite mystery writer. I love the way he describes a scene, touching all the senses, making that scene come alive for his readers. I try to be like that when I’m writing. I try to remember that I have five senses, just as my readers have five senses, and when I’m describing a scene I need to alert all five senses, if possible, with my words.
Thank you James Lee Burke!
Harper Lee was my favorite novelist for decades, partially because of her storytelling simplicity. Lee subscribed to the same writing theory that I subscribe to, that the story is of utmost importance, and above all else, a writer is a storyteller. Tell a good story, a riveting story, a story that touches people on a very human level, and people will read it. When I read “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I instantly like Jem, Scout, and Atticus, and I was transported to their town and walked along their streets. I was wrapped up in the drama because it had become my own personal drama, and I believe that happened because of Lee’s very basic, simply style of storytelling. She didn’t waste time trying to dazzle her readers with an extensive vocabulary. She didn’t go overboard with philosophical diatribes. She didn’t weigh the story down and thus ruin the rhythm with too many detours. She simply told the story and by doing so allowed the readers to enjoy every delicious word of that story.
Thank you Harper Lee!
And thank you, Ann!
Today’s Political Craziness
From Michael: “Crazy times we live in, you know? I keep thinking that I have a responsibility, as a writer, to speak out about social issues. What do you think? Should writers become a voice of their generation and tackle current issues?”
Whoa, Michael! Way too heavy a question, buddy! LOL
Here is what I believe and please remember this is simply one man’s opinion.
I believe, first and foremost, a writer’s number one responsibility is to be a storyteller. That can either be fictional or truthful, but storytelling is what we writers do. Craft writers tell a story. Newspaper journalists tell a story, and novelists tell a story, and we should attempt to tell the best damned story we are capable of writing at that particular time.
Having said that, if you feel so strongly about a particular social or political issue, then tell its story. That’s what writers do and yes, I think writers are the voice of a generation and yes, I believe they should tackle current issues if they are inclined to do so.
Just don’t become a nut job in doing so. LOL You don’t want the FBI to put your name on a watch list. Remember, always, that Big Brother is watching…and reading!
From Liz: “That said, and off my chest, I have a problem that may not be unique, but is unique to me. I will write and write, and research and write, and go gangbusters with "inspired" ideas for new articles, and publish up to three in a week's time. Then, I feel burned out, and get nothing at all done for over a week; just can't get it going again. What is YOUR means for kicking yourself in the slats to get going again? (Forcing myself to 'just do it' usually results in inferior quality writing.)”
I actually went through this just recently, Liz, with regards to my novel writing. My solution was to do something else, so I published a coloring book. By the time I was done with the coloring book I could hardly wait to get started on my novels again.
In other words, I didn’t worry about it, but instead just did something different. The stories and ideas are there, inside of you, and sometimes we just have to give ourselves permission to take a break so the ideas can surface on their own time.
Strategies? Anyone else? Maybe one of our readers will have something else for you, but that’s what works for me.
And That, My Friends, Is the End…
Another short Mailbag….hey, them’s the breaks, as my uncle Jim was fond of saying. We were dealt from a short deck and we made the most of it.
See you next week? I hope so. In the meantime, go find your crayons, order my Urban Farming Coloring Book, and have some fun. I barely make any money on HubPages, so I have to self-promote whenever possible.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”