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Posts Tagged ‘television’

  1. How Did You Spend Your Time Last Year?

    January 22, 2017 by Diane

    Two coffee cups
    So, Holcomb, here we are.


    A brand new year.


    For you. For me, it’s 2017. But you knew that. You’re a smarty.

    High praise, coming from you. I mean, from me. In the future. So, how’s the outlook?

    Well, a year ago you were dickering with that short story. Rewriting it.


    Still dickering.

    Oh, no.

    Oh, yes. A year ago, you were spreading it around you’re rewriting that novel.

    I’m planning to blog about it! I’m going to declare my commitment, to all thirty-eight of my followers!

    Sixty-eight now. And you dropped the commitment.

    Yow. Scary word, commitment.

    You’re good at making excuses, too. That copywriting business you started? The one puttering along with one client?

    One GREAT client. He keeps me hopping year-round. He wants me for the whole next season, too.

    Agreed. A great client. But your plan is to get more than one client.

    One GREAT client.

    The plan is to beef up your clientele.


    You’ve still got the one.

    No networking?


    No notifying my LinkedIn contacts?


    No cold-calling, cold-emailing, making a list of places to contact?


    What the hell have you been doing for a year!?

    Not me, YOU.

    Me? I haven’t even begun. You’ve already been. What the hell took up all of your time?

    YOUR time. The Bachelor.


    The Bachelor. That stupid reality show. On Monday nights. The one that highlights women in their worst possible behavior.

    Oh, that. But it’s only on for a season, right?

    Then The Voice.

    Okay, so there goes Monday nights. What about the rest of the week? Surely I did something the rest of the week.

    The Voice was on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too.

    Listen, you. I’m not letting you hijack my dreams with your stupid reality shows.

    YOUR stupid reality shows. YOU’RE the one choosing to watch them, escaping your own reality. I’m in 2017, remember? Hello! The view’s swell from here. And I’m finishing up the short story.

    No more dickering?

    One last dicker. That’s it. I’m sending it off to journals.

    And the novel?

    It’s either the novel or the blog. I haven’t decided which one gets my attention.

    And the copywriting? Please tell me you’re not shelving the copywriting business.

    Nope. Actually, I had a brilliant insight: If I want to be a successful copywriter, I need to act like one. So I’m putting on my copywriting hat, I’m rolling up my sleeves, I’m snapping on my suspenders. And I’m asking myself: Do copywriters watch The Bachelor? No. Do copywriters futz around on Twitter? No. Not unless they’ve finished their work for the day. Do copywriters blog about rewriting a novel rather than rewriting it? Not likely. Now, every day (except Sundays, when I rest), I’m doing one task on my list of tasks to do to be a legitimate copywriter. I’m already writing a marketing plan. I’m scouting around for networking groups. I’m applying for that Tax ID number. I’m…well, you get the picture. So you know what that means, Holcomb. You’ve got one year to get The Bachelor and The Voice and Twitter and the blog and anything else you’re distracting yourself with, out of your system.


    Got it?


    Ah, cheer up. The year isn’t a complete loss. You do get a business license and business cards. You find mentors. You become a founding member of the Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild.


    And you win The Liebster Award for blogging.

    The what?

    And you manage to write some decent blog posts.


    You’ll find out.

    Ah, c’mon. Give me a hint.

    See you in 2017.


  2. Your Novel Offers One Big Benefit for Readers

    December 4, 2016 by Diane

    I love strolling the neighborhood at dusk, seeing inside the well-lit houses I pass without the occupants seeing me. There’s a family sitting around a dining table. A teenage boy wearing earphones, dancing in a living room. An old woman watching the weatherman on television. I see framed photographs on a pinewood dresser; an iron bed pushed up against a window that’s steamy from the chorizos frying on the stove; a lacy curtain turned gray. Glimpses of lives being lived.

    Rooms reveal something about the people who live within. Are the walls bare and painted a peach hue, or adobe white, cluttered with photographs? Are the furnishings leather and chrome, cast-offs from the flea market, or Scandinavian minimalist? And the house itself, is it battleship gray, sunny yellow, or dull as mud? Is the yard mowed or overgrown, fenced, or unfenced with flagstones leading to the front door? Did someone plant tulips along the walkway, or vegetables in wooden boxes? Is there a sign on the gate: Beware of Dog, or does a cat slumber on a window sill?

    On my evening walks, I view the world through the lens of a writer. I yearn for a home of my own, to be sharing a meal with family. I empathize with the woman alone in front of the TV–could that be me in twenty years? Wait, don’t close the curtains, I’m not done looking.

    I spy on people.

    It’s not what I do in life, but it’s something I do.

    What do you do?

    When meeting someone for the first time, we’re often asked: “What do you do?” Leil Lowndes, the author of How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, suggests phrasing your answer in a way that says: “Here’s how my life can benefit yours.” She gives these examples:

    Instead of real estate agent, say: “I help people moving into our area find the right home.”

    Instead of hairdresser: “I help a woman find the right hairstyle for her particular face.”

    Instead of financial planner: “I help people plan their financial future.”

    What about fiction writers? How does our work benefit the lives of others?

    Here’s an answer:

    As readers, aren’t we spying on imaginary people? We peer into their lives, listen in on their thoughts, watch their most intimate moments, shadow them through their days. We part the curtains of a book, and lose ourselves in the lives of the characters within. By observing how they think through their problems, and what actions they take to overcome obstacles, we learn to navigate the real world.

    As writers, how do we help readers satisfy that itch to spy? Here are three tips, with exercises to practice:

    1. Engage the reader through their senses

    By choosing a few specific sensory details that describe person, place, and thing, the better the reader can “see” the world they’ve entered. In other words: show, don’t tell. He isn’t mad at his wife; he stiffens his shoulders, sets his jaw, and slams out the door. She isn’t trying to get the boy’s attention at school; she’s tapping her pencil against her binder, reaching out one toe and nudging his calf. The car isn’t old and messy; there’s dog hair on the upholstery, McDonald’s wrappers on the floor. The radio sputters between a Spanish station and Big Band music, and the air smells like French Fries.

    Don’t overload the reader’s senses (something I need to watch out for in my own work); allow room for the reader to engage their own imaginations.

    Practice: Write a scene using sensory details only.

    2. Let the reader in on the character’s thought process

    Readers don’t want the kind of detail provided on Facebook—this is what I’m having for dinner—unless that’s crucial to a scene. If a character’s inner monologue doesn’t move the story along or reveal something about the thinker, it doesn’t belong.

    Readers want to know what’s going on behind a character’s facade. What is the character wrestling with? How do they sort through options? How do they deal with depression, anxiety, or fear? How do they really feel?

    Practice: Write the inner monologue of a nervous man or woman getting ready for a date. Why is this person nervous?

    3.  Hold the reader’s interest through conflict

    Why do we tune into bad news on television? Why, when driving past an accident, do we slow down to look? Why do we gossip? Why do we watch someone on YouTube get slammed in the crotch by a baseball? We want to see the reaction to whatever horrible thing has happened. We want to see how people survive, how they handle getting knocked down, how they band together, how they process bad news. We want to see how rotten life can get for someone else, and how, against all odds, that person rises up. It makes our own lives seem better.

    Practice: Write a scene where something bad happens to a character. Use action, dialogue, and inner monologue to show the character’s reaction, and how they fight to overcome the obstacle. Include a few sensory details to bring the scene to life.

    Remember: outside the window of every work of fiction, there’s a reader peering in. It’s up to writers to open the curtains wide.

  3. What Would the Wives Do?

    September 18, 2016 by Diane

    Elegant composition retro style, vintage perfume bottle

    Merv Griffin was a talk-show host before the Jimmies, before Craig or Seth or Jon or Conan or Leno or Letterman. Merv was a star-struck man who asked his guests safe questions:

    “Do you like to cook?”

    Due to the magic of reruns, I slipped back in time to November 23, 1973, when he interviewed the glamorous wives of famous men like Robert Stack and Johnny Carson and Dean Martin and Aaron Spelling and Sammy Davis, Jr.

    “Oh, yes,” said one of the wives. “I’m a good cook.”

    “Do you go grocery shopping?” Merv’s voice was soft, eager.

    Spelling’s wife giggled. “Sometimes,” she said.

    Silly questions, predictable answers.

    Were any of the wives involved in important causes? Would Merv ask Michelle Obama if she cooked and shopped?

    Who cares?

    Well, evidently I do.

    For some unfathomable reason, I was riveted. Maybe it was the memories that tugged at me. My junior high school graduation, when I wore my hair curled, and piled high on my head. The days when I wore lace and white sandals and Lauren cologne.

    Two by two, they came out as Merv ran a commentary: “Mrs. Martin is wearing a designer gown by Oscar de la Renta…” She pivoted and posed, then took a seat. “And Mrs. Stack is wearing a knock-off, one the home sewer can create from a Vogue pattern for thirty-eight dollars.” Pivot, pose, sit.

    “Would you buy these outfits?” Merv asked each woman.

    The one in the knockoff said, “Well. No.” Gently.

    I was captivated by their grace and charm.

    There were a dozen women, sitting with their legs tucked to one side. They spoke in tones reserved for libraries or Presidential visits. Their nails shone, their hair tumbled to their shoulders in light waves, their teeth flashed Pepsodent smiles. But what struck me most about the wives was their femininity.

    No galumphing around in old jeans and scuffed running shoes.

    “Do you dress like this at home?” Merv asked.

    One of them said she wore slacks. Not pants. Slacks.


    “Do you remember your husband’s proposal?” Merv asked Dean Martin’s wife.

    “Which one? He kept forgetting that he’d already asked me four times.”

    ‘Atta girl.

    Dolly, the wife of Dick Martin from Laugh-In fame, admitted that her hair color came from a bottle. “Oh, yes,” she said, pointing to her red tresses cut in a stylish shag. “I’m getting old.”

    “How old are you?”

    “I’m 29!” she said.

    Merv almost choked.

    “My husband is 59!” she said, and covered her mouth, laughing. “But he looks great, doesn’t he? That’s because of me.”

    They claimed their successes.

    “The most important thing to my husband is work, after me!” Sammy’s wife said.

    They didn’t waste time with humility.

    Too soon, the program was over. And I was left with one burning question of my own:

    What would the wives do in my situation?

    If Mrs. Carson, before she became Mrs. Carson, lived in my playhouse, would she paint the coffee-colored walls a pristine adobe white? Would she take down the dance posters, the Chinese lantern on a hook in a corner collecting dust, the plastic files screwed to a plank, and hang something tasteful—a Van Gogh, perhaps? Would she buy pale pink roses every week and display them on the dresser in a cut-glass vase, next to a silver tray holding her perfume bottles? Most definitely she would eliminate the clutter of books. The desk would hold a sleek laptop and a table lamp. The sheets would be silk, the pillowcases edged in lace. The ironing board would be hauled to the garage and replaced by a comfortable chair to curl up in with a book. Valley of the Dolls, perhaps.

    The wives were all class and grace. I can develop those manners, that soft voice, that proud posture. I can spend hours giving myself facials and manicures, and soaking in fragrant bubble baths, followed by a dusting of talc or a spritz of perfume. I can save my pennies to buy only the finest in fashions, a few select pieces that I handle with care and hang on padded hangers. I can eat meals on good china, with heavy silverware, cutting my lean meat into bite-sized pieces, the fork tine-side down as I bring it delicately to my mouth. I can aspire to be like these paragons of femininity, asking myself in tough situations, “What would the wives do?”

    Instead, I yank on the old jeans, the Gap t-shirt, the running shoes. I pile books onto my dresser, papers on my desk, mail and notebooks and magazines in my hanging files. My sheets come out of the dryer wrinkled, and undone projects lie about on every available surface: a book cracked open at the spine, the Panasonic phone manual to read, the file of bills to pay.

    I do my own grocery shopping.

    And I cook, but I’m lousy at it.

    What would the wives do if their paycheck barely stretched through the month? Would they set their sights on a better paying job, or a husband? I can’t imagine they’d stay stuck. A woman wallowing in a rut wouldn’t attract the attention of the Carsons and Spellings and Martins.

    It’s a good bet the wives wouldn’t be in Target buying socks.

    Okay, maybe they were blessed with perfect genes, and a wealthy upbringing, and braces. Maybe they had a pampered existence their whole life.

    But I wonder, can making those small changes—fresh flowers, smooth sheets, expensive perfume, tailored outfits—affect the results in my life? I believe so. I believe, by surrounding oneself in class, in beauty, it affects the soul, it changes the posture, it rewires the brain, it prompts a brighter outlook. Treating oneself as worthy of finery, with dignity and respect, dictates what you’ll allow in your life.

    None of those wives settled. Not even for a knock-off.

    What do you think?