My guest today is RC Bonitz, author of A LITTLE BIT OF BLACKMAIL and his recently released, A BLANKET FOR HER HEART, available at: AMAZON Barnes&Noble
You can contact him at http://www.rcbonitz.com
It's not the elephants but the ants that'll kill you.
That's a quote from a friend of mine who was speaking about the problems of running a small business. I was thinking about it the other day and realized that in many ways it applies to writing and learning to write as well, though perhaps with a different twist.
When we start out as newbies we tend to emphasize the story we want to tell. We sit down at our computer and write away, trying to get that wonderful story in our heads just right. If we're lucky enough, or smart enough, to get involved in a peer-writing group we tend to get criticism about how our sentences are worded and whether the story sequences make sense. Later, as we learn more we get advice from others -- about point of view, show don't tell, how to plot, etc. and we diligently follow the rules. Unfortunately, that's a little bit of dealing with the elephants.
Don't get me wrong -- the elephant in the room can't be ignored. But, neither is he/she the answer to successful writing. That's where the ants come in. I'd say the ants in writing aren't quite the same as the ants my business-owning friend was concerned with. They can be a problem, but to me they're opportunities. It's not that every word is a manuscript must be perfect, but when you use the right one in the right context the result is dramatically different.
Let me use an example. "She felt her stomach twist into a knot and her hands begin to sweat." Looks like a good case of show don't tell, giving us the idea the character is nervous or under tension. Point of view? That's clear enough, it's hers, right? (Assuming the context is her point of view.) But, "She felt" is an ant. Even though the rest of the sentence is attempting to "show" her reactions, "she felt" is telling. And it might be from her POV, but it takes us out of her head. So, if it's an ant, what is the opportunity? If we get rid of those two words we're left with, "Her stomach twisted into a knot and her hands began to sweat." Better? Yes. But. Is that little word "and" helpful? How about- "Her stomach twisted into a knot. Her hands began to sweat." Better, we created more tension. But, can we create more? "Her stomach twisted. Sweat broke out on her hands." Maybe you can write it even stronger. I'm sure you can, give it a try.
My point in writing this is very simple. Look for the ants. They come in armies, sometimes in one sentence as they did here. There are lots of opportunities to improve and the cumulative effect can be dramatic. I'm still discovering new ants in everything I write. RC (Bob) Bonitz
Blurb-A Little Bit of Blackmail
When some creep plasters nude photos of Diane's kid sister on the Net, Diane plans a little game to stop him- seduce the guy until his clothes come off and take his picture. Then it's blackmail time.
Brian's no stranger to the wiles of beautiful women. Most want him for his money, but when Diane springs her trap he's sure she's out to trash his reputation. Furious, Brian resolves to teach her a lesson…until he learns the truth and loses his heart to this daring woman. But to win her trust and convince her he's not the villain, he has to best her at her own game. How will he succeed? Find out in A LITTLE BIT OF BLACKMAIL
A BLANKET FOR HER HEART- EXCERPT
~ ONE ~
First light formed leaf shadows on the cabinets as she entered the kitchen. Those big trees had been there for years, but they were old now, tall and thinned out, blocking less of the early morning sun. Winter sometimes seemed better, on sunny days when bright rays slid through barren branches to flood the breakfast table. Not always though. Not when winter’s cold was dark and penetrating.
Bright and sunny, just comfortable, the day was starting well. She’d been up since three, reading and pacing, waiting for the light so she could start her day outside. Early was a pattern lately, into bed and out of it, bored to numbness when sleep was so elusive.
Her friend Molly thought it was time to see a doctor, but there was nothing a professional could say she didn’t know already. Physically her health was perfect.
"I need a new bed, that’s all," she told her friend. "Besides, I’m always thinking of what I’m going to do in the morning."
"What’s so important?" Molly asked, and she offered the usual list of things.
That was what she did, things. This thing, that thing, nothing. Tend her garden, read Jane Austen or some travel book; wash the dishes, paint, or whatever. Granted, her paintings were beautiful and she did so many one always sat unfinished on the easel, but she hadn’t sold any. Furniture restorations brought in some income, but she usually didn’t do that many pieces.
Fifty-four years old and not counting, she lived like a hermit with few friends. She did know one neighbor, but she’d never married, and had always lived alone. Molly often told her she’d be happier if she did more with her life and she struggled with such thoughts these days.
She turned on the TV, hoping the movie channel might have something good.
Sly Stallone in his first Rambo. So stimulating. Thought provoking. Annoyed but too bored to care, she settled back in the sofa and within minutes the images barely touched her mind. By seven-thirty, she’d had enough and punched the off button with the remains of her wrist. Dry cereal and milk, half an orange, and coffee for breakfast; she dumped the dirty dishes in the sink twenty minutes later and abandoned the kitchen.
The patio garden looked like an impressionist’s palette. Her one green thumb coaxed flowers to brilliant life year round. Indoors in winter of course, but she had plants ready to bloom as spring temperatures began. Each morning she spent two hours weeding and pruning, winding her fingers through the dirt to carefully arrange it to her whim. The stump of her left arm served as well as her right hand, caressing dirt and flowers with the same gentle touch. It was a touch returned by the earth, giving her the best hours of each day in quiet occupation of her mind. She put a dozen pansies in a juice glass and remembered she hadn’t thanked Molly for picking up the flats this year.
After gardening, she returned rake and hoe to the garage and cleaned up at the slop sink in the corner. She wiped black dirt from her knees and delivered a good scrubbing to the right hand. A brush screwed to the wall just above the sink did the job. Small stitch scars in her stump got an easy wipe. The skin was smooth and quite soft for all the abuse it got. Both hand and stump got a dose of hand cream, spread liberally, but only lightly rubbed. A wipe with the old towel she kept handy finished the job.
Lunch was the usual. Peanut butter and grape jam on white, red wine, and a handful of Lorna Doones. Sometimes it was cream cheese instead of peanut butter, chocolate chips instead of Lorna Doones, but that was about it as far as variety went. She took two glasses of merlot this time instead of one. That was not unusual lately.
Afterwards, she wrapped a dishtowel around the left arm and secured it with two rubber bands to wash the dishes.
"You’d be amazed what I can buy through the mail now, Hannah. Rubber bands, seeds, books, clothes, all sorts of things. You’d probably be selling things on a website these days yourself." She wiped the breakfast bowl with the left arm towel and set it on the drying rack. "Not like me though. I hate that ridiculous computer. Molly talked me into buying one, but I can barely turn it on right.
"I’m having trouble with that painting I've been working on too. It looks so bland, not even that maybe, so much as gray and dismal. I should probably trash the thing. You know what? I think I’m going to catch a little sun this afternoon."
It was one sided, this conversation with her dead grandmother, but quite all right. She knew it was imaginary, though sometimes it almost seemed she got an answer.
Her father got an occasional remark as well, but little more. It was Hannah she talked to, Hannah she often wished were truly at her side. Their chats had served to keep her company, at least until now. There was no one else to talk to most of the time.
Except Molly, or Grace, when one of them came around. Which didn’t seem to be that often lately. The house was still too, her world so very silent these last few months.
Dishes washed, towel removed, she headed for the bathroom, stripping off her pink tee shirt as she went. She dropped it in the hamper, brushed her teeth and hair, and relieved herself quickly. Then it was out to the patio, where she pulled one white lounge chair into place and stretched out to take the sun on her back. She’d heard all the cancer warnings, but never did the sun thing very long. Besides, everyone needed some vices in their life.
Face down on the lounge, wearing only shorts, she was drifting into sleep when something made a sound behind her. She turned. A man smiled weakly, then stared, eyes wide, as she dashed for the house.
"Please. I need help," he called as she slammed the door in his face.