DL Fowler's Blog

Character in Characters

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Those words define what we mean by character. They are words that remind us of  the difference between a leader and a con-man. For writers like me, these words are a guide to crafting characters who inspire readers through stories. Characters with character are more important today, than ever before.

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What’s Your Story About?

We are going to be asked, “What is your story about?” There is a three-part answer to that anxiety-inducing question. The short answer is the story’s theme. Another reply is to outline the moral dilemma—a choice between opposing principles that lies at the heart of the Lead’s psychological journey. We can also describe the physical journey that our Lead character pursues. All three answers help focus our writing.

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Perfection

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, SYWS by DLFowler on May 25, 2014

Yesterday I walked three miles (roundtrip) for a beer. I don’t mind walking or even drinking by myself; gives me time to sit back, observe and reflect. I overheard one conversation about wind turbines – mostly about their faults. Another group was building a list of the negative unintended consequences of the recent health-care act.

I doubt there was a false word that came up in either conversation. There are certainly problems with wind turbines and the health-care act. One thing that surprised me, though, was that the first group overlooked my chief complaint about wind turbines. Why do they have to be white? Why can’t they be painted to blend in with the landscape? So their list of problems was certainly not exhaustive.

The notion that jumped to the front of my mind after that was – the double standards we live by. If we don’t like something, perfection is the standard we measure by. But the things we like get a pass on most their deficiences.

Where’s the big picture?

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The Hunger Games & PTSD

I just finished reading Mockingjay the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. I could say something about how Suzanne Collins kept the story moving at breakneck speed, or how immediate a story can be when told in first person (even better in present tense). I could even complain about the graphic violence, but that complaint is only valid when it’s gratuitous. Here it wasn’t. It was just the unvarnished truth about human beings. But, I digress…

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Vampire Hunter – Abraham Lincoln?

So it’s time for me to weigh in on the latest commercialization of our revered 16th President – I believe that Seth Grahame-Smith is an absolute …

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SYWS – You Have the Right …

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, SYWS, Writing by DLFowler on November 27, 2011

In America we have rights. We have the right to express ourselves freely. And we have the right to remain silent. I guess there’s a time and place for everything, because rights have consequences. So, if you can’t bear the consequences, don’t exercise the right.

I just read a great story in a lousy book. The story kept me wanting to know what happens next. The writing screamed, I don’t care if you can’t decipher the story. Okay, but if that’s the way you feel, then I have the right to think you should tell your stories around a campfire, but not in a book. In fact, I look forward to an invite to your next camp out. I just don’t want to buy your next book – unless you give it to a competent editor first.

With the flood of poorly edited books these days, maybe every book should include the editor’s name and email address. That would be an appropriate exercise of free speech.

Do you have thoughts on rights and responsibilities? Chime in with a comment.

SYWS – Do Your Own Homework

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, Psychology, Research, SYWS by DLFowler on November 13, 2011

Here’s the difference between an argument and a discussion – in the latter all participants did their own homework. Arguments turn into yelling matches because at least one person is defending a position they don’t fully understand, something unsupported by facts and rooted in emotion. 

I think (I call this speculation, but if I get too vested before I research the notion, I’ve got good fodder for an argument) the problem became pervasive with the invention of objective questions – multiple choice, fill in the blank, true/false. From there it evolved to don’t explain the problem, just give me the answer. 

At one point we got all our opinions from the liberal media. Today both sides get brainwashed (thank you ‘fair & balanced plus talk radio for evening the playing field in a game where everyone still loses.) Hey, if a talking head can mold my brain, why do I have to put out the effort to think?

So the risk in arguing is that everyone could be wrong. But in a discussion there’s value added by each contribution.

So the next time some one wants to think for you, just say no (okay, ‘no thank you’ if your mother’s tuned in.) After all, that simplistic slogan won the war on drugs, right. 

SYWS – Give and Take

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, Psychology, SYWS by DLFowler on November 6, 2011

You know you want to. But you just eat your words and let the moment pass. Maybe that’s because you don’t know how to say it, or you think showing self restraint is polite. In either case, I’ll be devoting my Sunday morning blog post to Stuff You Want to Say (SYWS). Feel free to use my words. You can memorize them and play them back to end your weekend on a powerful note, or you can print them out and slip them onto a co-worker’s desk to show him/her you’re locked and loaded to survive the work week.

So here’s my next offering.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Givers and takers. Tell givers they can’t give enough to satisfy a taker. If you know one, tell them to practice discretion. I’m not talking about setting boundaries with takers. The only boundaries they understand are things like moats, rings of fire and the like. You have to avoid them like the plague. They don’t really get that their behavior is just plain wrong.

Takers. Do you know one of them? They’re the ones whose core value is: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours might has well be mine ‘cause I’m going to use you until you’re worn out. Another way to phrase it is: Use them then lose them. So what do you tell them? Start by realizing their going to be offended by anything you say other than “You want it? Okay. You can have it.”

Here’s how you handle a taker. Demand quid pro quo. Tell them it’ll cost something. After they have their little tantrum, they’ll move on to their next victim.

SYWS – Death Has it’s Upside

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, Lincoln, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, SYWS by DLFowler on October 16, 2011

You know you want to. But you just eat your words and let the moment pass. Maybe that’s because you don’t know how to say it, or you think showing self-restraint is polite. In either case, I’ll be devoting my Sunday morning blog post to Stuff You Want to Say (SYWS). Feel free to use my words. You can memorize them and play them back to end your weekend on a powerful note, or you can print them out and slip them onto a co-worker’s desk to show him/her you’re locked and loaded to survive the work week.

So here’s my next offering.

If you have any takes on this subject, feel free to share with a comment.

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SYWS – Different is not Deficient

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, Psychology, SYWS by DLFowler on October 9, 2011

Someone says to you, “They’re not listening to me.” What do you say back?

Well just in case you’ve lost your tongue, I’ve got an idea for you. If you want to use it, just print it out and slip it on ‘Someone’s’ desk.  (more…)