Monday, May 28, 2012

We Remember

There will be no pithy blog post today, no sarcasm, no snarky asides.  Today is a day of remembrance to  honor those who fell in service to our country.  The men and women of the armed forces and law enforcement face danger on a daily basis.  Few set out to be heroes. Perhaps they set out to make a difference, do their job.  But more often than not, fate determines who becomes heroes.  A man answers a radio call, a woman witnesses a crime in progress, troops follow orders, the danger escalates.  They remain stalwart in their purpose.  Usually, they live to tell the tale. Unfortunately, not always.  Their sacrifice should not be forgotten, and their songs should be sung--even in their absence.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When a Wizard Can't Help You...

The FBI Academy has its own version of the Yellow Brick Road.  It is an obstacle course made famous by Clarice Starling in the movie The Silence of the Lambs.  It consists of 6.1 miles of hilly, wooded trail built by Marines with walls to jump, creeks to traverse, simulated windows to enter, rock faces to climb requiring the use of ropes, mud pits covered with barbed wire to shimmy under, and a cargo net to negotiate.

In a word?  Fun.  Well, that is if you're the kinda gal who likes that stuff.

Why does one do this?  For a brick.  Yup, I am the proud owner of a yellow painted brick with my FBI session number stenciled across the front in black paint.  Truth is, I'd do it again for nothing.

Needless to say, graduates of the FBI National Academy have a soft spot in their hearts for The Wizard of Oz and its famous footpath.  A fellow graduate of my class emailed me the above movie poster.  When I stopped laughing, I thought how appropriate it was for writers too.

The caption reads: You don't really think Dorothy went through tornadoes, a forest of evil trees, dealt with flying monkeys and a witch all for a stupid pair of red shoes do you?

It begs the question:  What's at stake?

The thought of going through the FBI National Academy and coming home without a brick was enough to motivate me over hill and dale (literally, I think I stepped on Dale in the creek).  Heck, I would have gladly faced off with a flying monkey.

Characters must face obstacles.  Why do they chose to face them, overcome or abandon them?  Is the reward worth it?

Did I really want a brick, or did I want what it represents?  The brick is just a brick.  But, running the yellow brick road? Now, that's a story!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Strength of Simplicity

I became a cop because I hate bullies.  Well, that and the opening sequence of Charlie's Angels, but I digress.

The other day, I tried to capture the angst my female protagonist suffered while she contemplated the brutalities of humanity.  I employed flowery prose, words with gravitas, heavy metaphors.

And it was crap.

In my quest to infuse the scene with meaning, I lost sight of the elemental reason my character entered law enforcement.  Simply stated, she thought she could make a difference.  Hubris?  Perhaps.  But that single reason guides her decisions and propels her into confrontations with evil.  To be successful, she has to internalize these encounters, learn from them, analyze them when necessary, but she can not forget them, or shove them aside.  It is her recognition of evil that allows her to deal with it.

In real life, people who enter law enforcement because of pay, benefits, or prestige often leave the profession before reaching retirement.  The realities of police work don't make the recruitment brochures.  I've been shot at, spit on, cursed, and fought.  I've worked holidays, birthdays, double shifts.  I've stood in rain, and slipped on ice. Not for the money. Certainly not for the prestige (Charlie's Angels aside, this is not a glamor job...). No, I became a cop because I hate bullies.  That motivation allowed me to make a difference.  I might not have moved mountains in my career, but I certainly shoved around a little dirt.

The goal of police work is that when the cops show up, things get better.  Whether a writer or cop, a person who loses sight of her goals loses her ability to be effective.

Monday, May 7, 2012


The weather has finally settled down in the Florida Keys and I am off diving....
Not even a gun-toting muse could keep me at my keyboard today.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Voice Recognition

Character distinction can be difficult to achieve and harder to sustain. I was reminded of the importance of individual voice when I received an email from a friend of mine. Two of his granddaughters recently wrote free verse poetry. Mind you, one is seven years old, and the other is six.  The poems are not sophisticated, but there are a multitude of lessons contained in their words.


They have flowing manes, and long tails.  I love them.
They come in many different colors.
They feel soft.
They smell yummy.
They are so big!
They hear other horses.
They eat apples.
              Jade, age 7

Mouse Guts

Ooie Goe. Gooie Gooe.  Awsome!
The stomach looks like snot.
It smells.....Awesome!
And sounds like Jade Screaming!
The Cats would like to eat it.
               Grace, age 6

Apparently, Grace illustrated her poem, but her grandfather thought it was too "gross" to forward.

It doesn't take much imagination to envision these two little girls.  The authors reveal so much of themselves through their voice.

Do your characters speak this vividly?