DL Fowler's Blog

In Memoriam: Hank Searls 

Posted in Favorite Books, Hank Searls, Inspiration, Intimacy, Show Don't Tell, Sounding by DLFowler on May 14, 2017

I recently learned that one of my favorite authors, Hank Searls, passed away at 94 years old, on February 17, 2017. He was a gifted and prolific writer. You might recall Jaws 2.

I had the privilege of meeting Hank several years ago, and we spent a good hour or more talking about writing.  One of my all-time favorite novels is Sounding, Hank’s story about an aging sperm whale. It has been called the best whale novel since Moby Dick.

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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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Lincoln’s Blackouts

Lincoln’s law partner, Herndon, described episodes when he’d find Lincoln sitting in a catatonic state from which he couldn’t be aroused. Often there’d be a book of poetry in his lap.

No one has any idea of what went on in Lincoln’s head during those episodes. He never talked about them.

One possibility is that were flashbacks of an earlier trauma that his body was defending himself against. That happens to people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Lincoln suffered several traumatic moments early on. At 7 he almost drowned, at 9 he suffered a life-threatening head injury, and months later helped bury his mother, at 10 his father left him and his sister to weather a brutal winter unattended and on the brink of starvation, as a teenager his father beat him often and when he was just past 20 his first love died. Lincoln’s emotional responses to these and other events are explored in Lincoln Raw-a biographical novel.

Maybe his psyche just went into overload from processing flashbacks of too many traumas at once.

Would we let someone with that much emotional baggage be President today?

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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Author Interview at PaperBackSwap.com

The folks at PaperBackSwap.com were kind enough to interview me on their blog. Here’s a link to our conversation. We talked about being how is it was for me, a man, to write from a female character’s POV, Lincoln’s psychology, my biggest influences and a few other things.  Hope you’ll take time to check it out.

And PaperBackSwap.com is a well done platform. Only, whenever my book goes up, it’s snatched up in a matter of minutes. So either you have to be fast , or more people need to share Lincoln’s Diary – a novel.

Lincoln Trivia Question #1

As I travel the country in coming months, promoting my new book, Lincoln’s Diary – a novel, I’ll be engaging readers with some tidbits about the real Abraham Lincoln. Focusing on some thngs they never told us in school. There will even be prizes for people who invest in some research to answer the trivia questions on my website.

So here’s some help on your research, one of the questions – and the answer:

What was the name of the boy who saved Lincoln from drowning in Knob Creek when he was just 7 years old?

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Lincoln’s Cosmopsis and My Tribute to John Barth

Don’t bother looking it up. Cosmopsis isn’t likely in your dictionary. John Barth used (probably invented) the term in his 1958 controversial novel, The End of the Road. The image of Jacob Horner, Barth’s main character, sitting on a train station bench all night has stuck with me since my college days – yes, they had trains before I entered USC.

What was Horner’s problem? He was paralyzed by indecision. He had $30 with which to buy a train ticket and couldn’t find a reason to visit any of the available destinations.

No. That doesn’t parallel anything we know about Abraham Lincoln. Not the indecision, that is. But the paralysis, yes.  Many of Lincoln’s contemporaries describe episodes like the one his law partner William Herndon recounted. Lincoln sitting in a chair in their law office one morning, staring into the cosmos, disconnected from the reality around him.  Herndon couldn’t shake him out of his trance. Two hours later, Lincoln kicked one leg straight out then crossed it over his other leg and launched into telling a raunchy story as if the previous two hours never happened.

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The Angel Inside

Posted in Angel Inside, Chris Widener, Inspiration, Writing by DLFowler on February 28, 2011

That’s the name of a little book by my friend Chris Widener. It had a huge impact on me. I unlocked my lifelong passion for writng and have been a happy camper ever since. (Except for those times I’ve been distracted from writing or from spending time with family.)

Well the sole purpose of this blog is to encourage you to look up Chris, or follow him on Twitter @ChrisWidener  – He can help you believe in yourself if you struggle at doing that. And his book, The Angel Inside, impacted me enough to change my life for the better.

How Would Lincoln Have Scored on Myers-Briggs?

For you Myers-Briggs fans, I’m trying to pigeonhole Abraham Lincoln’s personality type ala Carl Jung’s perspective. If you’re not up to speed on Jung’s personality types and the Myers Briggs Type Indicators, click here. By the way, the best book I’ve read on Lincoln was Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. I would have enjoyed his insight into this subject, but its’ something he didn’t address directly.

 In my research, I’ve seen three takes on the question. ENFJ, INTJ and INFJ.  Okay, so the N and J are solid. There’s agreement that Lincoln gave greater weight to ideas that to things he could touch and feel – that’s the N part. And he was decisive – that’s where the J comes in. The controversy is over whether he was an introvert or extrovert and if his decisions were driven by logic or relationships.

 And this is where it gets messy.

 If Lincoln was introverted, he would have tended to mask his weakest strong trait. So he would have shown his thinking skills to hide his sensitivity to relationship issues, or he would have focused attention on relationship issues so he didn’t have to expose his logic to criticism. If he was extroverted, that kind of masking wouldn’t have fit.

 Since Lincoln was renowned for his debating skills, his almost faultless logic, ENFJ seems to drop to the back of the pack in this three-horse race. And by default, INFJ would move into the lead.

A couple of observations add weight to the introversion argument. First, he withdrew inside himself frequently. So much so at times that he could block out all sensory stimuli. His associates couldn’t even shake him out of his trance-like states. He also brooded often, sometimes spiraling into near-suicidal episodes of depression.

And the masking of F with T may have been one of his most practiced skills. So much so that he never shrank from a debate, even surrounding himself with critics. He appointed one such detractor to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. When his appointee argued that the Emancipation Proclamation was unconstitutional Lincoln argued that he had power as Commander-in-Chief to appropriate enemy property to advance the war effort. But if slaves weren’t property, no emancipation was necessary. The slaves were already free.

When his adversaries pointed to the Tenth Amendment to justify deferring to the various states to settle the slavery issue for themselves, Lincoln countered that the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, was the higher law. Therefore, no part of the Constitution could be used to give authority to the institution of slavery.

 Notice that in each case the primary motivator for Lincoln’s decision based on human relationships – specifically the humane treatment of enslaved people. The logic was used means to an end, not the end in itself.

 Lincoln’s struggle with relationships was the common thread running through his entire life. From his mother’s death to surviving a brutal winter with his sister during his father’s absence – from the loss of his first love to his heartbreaking marriage – from being estranged from his father to losing two of his sons – and the loss of several family members in the war that he was often accused of starting – his live was defined by broken unions that he was impotent to save.

 So what kind of person was Abraham Lincoln? An extrovert? An introvert? A man who made decisions based on how they impacted people’s lives and relationships. Or someone who towed the line of facts and logic, regardless of where they led?

 What do you think?