WRITE RIGHT QUICK
by Honeydew Zubari
Can’t bear the idea of slaving for months or possibly decades to produce a novel, but still want to brag to your loser friends from high school that you’re a published author with millions of readers? Have a non-existent attention span, but yearn to see your work on shelves, being picked up and read- and hopefully purchased? Need some bucks but have no grasp of grammar and don’t give a hoo-ha about punctuation? The answer is no further than your local Wal-Mart or (insert name here) grocery store.
“What is she talking about?” I can hear my faithful reader in Michigan asking. “Not the cicadas again, please!”
“Oh geeze, I thought we’d heard about the last of the cicadas,” a reader in Maryland who looks suspiciously like my sister agrees. “If I hear her whine about them one more time…”
Fear not, Ms. Michigan and Ms. Sister in deep trouble when I finish this article, the cicadas are gone and you won’t find me mentioning the red-eyed devil bugs for another seventeen years. No, I’m talking about…
They’re perfect, easy to write (you can pop off hundreds a day) and the beauty part is that you don’t even have to do the pictures. The companies hire illustrators and photographers for that. Just throw together some lines and “ca-ching” the money comes rolling in.
Here’s one I thought of while clipping my toenails…(cover) Happy Birthday Dad!
(See how easy it is? I don’t even have to be original, yet I still get paid for it. Hee-hee, what a racket.)
(inside) What’d you get me?
Phooey on books, I’m writing for instant gratification from now on. So what if my name will never be well-known in snobby literary circles? I’ll be rich and living the high-life while they’re forced to eat spiders because not even their relatives will buy their 50-pound books filled with snooty pretensions to use as doorstops. How can they, when they’re flocking to the stationary aisles and reading my hilarious and appealing cards?
Here’s another best seller I cooked up in about ten seconds:
(cover) Sorry to hear about your operation!
(That one required a little more thought, but I charged extra for it.)
(inside) There are worse things than being a eunuch. At least you still
have your health!
I’m laughing all the way to the credit union. How to get started? Easy! Just access that thing called the Internet that plagues most homes these days and do a search for “greeting card writers wanted,” or something along those lines. Approximately 1,483,022 sites will pop up in response. Approximately 1,483,018 of those will be porno sites, but nestled among the “hot photos of things that will make your eyes pop out of their sockets” and “virtual positions that no real person can do” listings will be ones for writers wanted. Click on them and watch the dough roll in.
"But aren’t you going to give us any tips?” I hear a mob of you asking. I’m getting to that, sheesh. Ever heard of patience?
SOME TIPS FOR WOULD-BE CARD WRITERS:
1. Keep it snappy. There’s nothing I hate more than having to read through tons of words to get to the point. You can have mushy sentiments without the paragraphs of prose. What, an example? Sure!
(cover) I love you!
(Inside) I paid $4.50 for this stupid card didn’t I?
2. Be original. Cards with corny jokes or clichés are boring. If you want to write about aging, go a new route:
(cover) so it’s your birthday again, Grandma… (inside) when are you going to kick the bucket so I can save a few bucks on cards?
3. Um, I can’t think of anything else at the moment. Make up your own
tip and put it here.
In summation, I must summarize the sum of this summary to be: novels—time consuming, hard work. Greeting cards—big bucks, house in the Bahamas, no worries.
Now if you’ll excuse me, Zeus the cabana boy (there’s a misnomer!) is waiting to escort me to dinner. Ah, life is so hard in the islands.
WRITING ABOUT NATURE:
TANGLING WITH THE WILD SIDE
by Honeydew Zubari
Got writer’s block? Lost for a good, exciting topic that will keep your readers glued to the page? Getting a fat rear from being planted in front of the computer night and day? I’ve got a simple solution…
Take a walk.
“What?” A sarcastic fan asked, his jaw dropping in disbelief, “You, the original human sloth, advocating exercise?”
“Shut up, you bobble-headed goof.” I told him sweetly.
And now back to where I left off before being so rudely interrupted.
Believe it or not, nature abounds right outside your front door! Yes, I was as surprised as you to learn about this, but it’s absolutely true. I talked to a few so-called experts, like park rangers, firefighters and the local state senator. Their response was unanimous, “Stop harassing me or I’m reporting you to the police.” What more proof do you need?
Naturally (hee-hee, get it?) I had to check this out for myself, so I gathered all my senses, including the sixth one and the senses of responsibility and ridiculousness. I decided to eschew modernity and go back to the basics, leaving my laptop behind and taking a pen and stack of old envelopes for jotting down observations. Donning the guise of intrepid swashbuckler, I bravely ventured forth through the portal that divided safety from the untamed, wild kingdom, crocodile hunting world beyond. Here is a transcript:
“Hey! When did the snow melt? Wow, the sun feels great! Since when is the ground crunchy? What…?
Yurgh! It’s a plague of thumb-sized, red-eyed mutant devil bugs! The grass, sidewalk, bushes and trees are seething with them. The walls of my building have changed from brick to bug.
Millions of them, all staring at me with hatred and a thirst for blood. All that is, except for the hundred or so of their brethren, who are now flattened mutant nuclear goop sticking to the bottom of my… Gag, urp… Wish I’d worn shoes. Think I’m going to be sick.
An enormous thundercloud has blocked out the sun! This is the end of the world! What next, balls of flame?
I hear a helicopter, or twin-engine prop plane. The wind is picking up, turning into tornado force… aaagggghhhhh… it’s a herd of the scary monster insects, flying my way!”
Having enough fresh air for one day, I dashed for the safety of inside. I pushed the plasma TV in front of the door, checked that windows were locked, pulled down the blinds to block out gazillions of unblinking red eyes.
In the scalding hot shower, I scrubbed my feet until the creepy-crawly feeling dissipated. Then I poured myself a tall diet Coke on the rocks with a twist. With still shaking fingers, I dialed the nearest entomologist. (That’s “bug guy” for you non-ancient Greek sorts.)
I wondered as the phone rang how much a flamethrower would cost, and if I could clear a wide enough path to the car with it so I could drive to wherever the creatures from planet Xzylop-5 weren’t. But the rising cost of gas (expected to reach $40/gallon any second now) made that a not a worthwhile proposition.
The bug dude, instead of being reassuring, sounded overjoyed. “Cicadas. Cute little guys, huh? Only come out once every seventeen years. They’re harmless, unless you’re a plant. Heh heh heh.”
I tried not to take offense, having been compared to vegetable matter more than once in my life. “Yes, but when will they go away?”
He had tears in his voice when he said, “Too soon, within the next four to six weeks.”
“How am I supposed to get out and buy essentials like diet Coke and cat food?” I whine.
“Are there any grocery stores around that deliver?”
“You’re a big help, Mr. Pestilence!”
I hung up and decided that writing about nature is overrated and there’s actually far too much of it. I could do with a little less, thank you.
I blame this all on the current presidency. It’s time to send those letters and e-mails to Mr. Bush. Let him know in no uncertain terms that we don’t appreciate all this wildlife and such. It must stop immediately! Open your eyes, Sir, your potential voters, as well as the majority of the U. S., are suffering!
As I type, trillions of tiny insect fists are pounding on my door. I hear their mandibles clicking and their thoraxes growling and…
©2004, Susan “Cicada Chow” Scott
GIVE ‘EM HECK, BY GOSH! (Humorosity 9)
by Honeydew Zubari
So, you’ve invented the perfect character. He’s a smooth talking con man, one who’d rob a blind lady blinder, yet takes his elderly Momma to the park every Saturday. You’ve got his spiffy wardrobe down, what he drives, his favorite color, his childhood traumas. This guy is so real to you; he almost could be picking your pocket! What now?
You can set him up in the city, make him run scams, have him wine and dine women… All very nice, but where’s the story?
After you’ve developed your character, you’ve got to find another one to give him the worst possible time imaginable. Someone who clashes with Mr. Smooth at every step, making his life one big irritant. As you work on this new character, presto! A real story with drama at every turn develops as if by magic. (Thus my "presto" allusion).
Let’s think about this… Mr. Smooth; the suave charmer, the scammer. Who could drive him bonkers? A cop could give him trouble of course, but that would be all in a days work for him. Rocco "Pebbles" Stallino, the lawyer, would have Smooth out of jail and on the street before he’d been in the holding cell long enough to introduce himself.
What if, one day as Mr. Smooth worked on conning a group of school kids out of their milk money, a self-righteous, one hundred percent honest, holier-than-thou nun caught him at it? This is a good woman, but she’s got a "saving people’s souls" kind of thing that goes a tad too far.
We’re talking, "I’ll redeem you if it kills you!" She takes her job very seriously.
She sees Mr. Smooth at the opposite end of the block, figures out what he’s up to and pounces with wild abandon and a religious fervor oozing from her pores. She sends the kids scampering away after returning their money, then turns to Smooth and prepares to make his life holy heck. His free and easy days of roaming the streets are gone. Now he has a figure in black robes tailing him, reading him the bible riot act. He wanders through his favorite store, ignoring her, and tries a little five fingered discount on a package of silk boxer shorts. But our lady is right there, wise to his moves and starts spouting "thou shall not steals," and "What kind of a dirtbag are yous" loud enough to get the attention of everyone in the store.
What can Mr. Smooth do but slink away, with his new shadow attached as firmly to him as er, his shadow. And so, on it goes. You can imagine
what Mr. Smooth’s existence has turned into. And the nun is having the time of her life, clearing out seedy gambling joints with a wave of her habit, following Smooth to the racetrack and watching an entire line of betters melt away under her stern disapproval. Even Smooth’s bookie won’t come near him anymore.
Smooth tries to pull off a few fast deals, but the nun is right there by the pay phone, "tsk-tsking" and declaiming him loudly enough that the people on the other end of the line hang up. She follows when he takes his Momma out, but for once is approving and smiles upon him.
How long before he cracks? Can she keep up the tailing forever? Don’t you feel the tension building?
Mr. Smooth will have to take drastic action soon, he can’t continue his corrupt lifestyle with this woman around! That’s your climax. Does he tie her up and toss her on a train bound for Timbuktu? Does he push her under a passing bus? Does he suddenly notice how young and beautiful she is under that constant expression of pious distaste? And then what?
Ah! I hear one alert reader asking why Smooth doesn’t pack up and head off to another city in the dead of the night when the nun isn’t looking. Good point! After you figure out a character to give your first one trouble, you have to make sure there’s a reason they can’t escape each other. Otherwise, there’s still no story! Have them locked in a room, lost in the woods, stuck in an elevator, forced to work together for some reason, or, as in my example above…
When the nun first approaches Mr. Smooth on the corner, she handcuffs him to her, saying "I’m arresting you in the name of goodness!" This is a dramatic stunt she likes to do to get the vile offender’s attention, the cuffs were left over from her previous life as a lady of the street corners. Normally after the capturee promises to change his evil ways, she produces a key and sends him on his way with a handful of pamphlets. But in this case, the key has gone missing.
Of course Smooth drags her to the neighborhood chop shop where someone can get it off, but they all see him coming with the nun in tow and don’t want to know him. In fact, all his friends can’t remember who he is and avoid him like a pile of rotting fish. He can’t go to a police station since there’s a bench warrant out for his arrest. He has no cash on hand, and when he tries to buy a hacksaw with a stolen credit card the nun raises a deafening hue and cry. You see how this could be a real problem? See how it adds a Mt. Everest of tension to Mr. Smooth’s already tension-filled situation? This woman is driving him bonkers, and she’s attached to his wrist! She’s as opposite from him as a person can get and he can’t get rid of her for bread or butter. (I made that cliché up. Nice, huh?)
I can see all of you hanging on my every word, wondering, how will this situation ever resolve itself? Not just yet… There’s one more aspect to the story.
The characters must change. I don’t mean Mr. Smooth will go into the priesthood, but at some point he has to start taking a good look at his life and wondering if it’s what he really wants. He may ignore every word the nun says, but some of her messages have to seep into his thick skull. And at some point he needs to realize the nun is a person.
Perhaps he hears her stomach growl and feels a pang of unwanted sympathy. He takes her to the hotdog kiosk, and over lunch on the bus stop bench they have a real conversation. Smooth is surprised that she’s got more sides to her than just the religious one and starts to like her, until she reads him a ten-page lecture for littering and makes him pick up every wrapper and French fry he’d tossed onto the ground, marching him to the nearby trash can. But now there’s a crack in the wall between them, and now you, the writer, have to work on making it bigger with more moments like this, until Mr. Smooth’s walls come a tumbling down.
It’s not one-sided, the nun has to change too. Perhaps she’ll realize that using a softer approach in the future will win more people over than her current "run ‘em over with a tank" method. She’ll learn that people aren’t "GOOD" and "BAD," everyone is a mix. Mr. Smooth, who she’d filed in the "hopeless sinner" drawer, will surprise her with a sweet, caring side when he deals with his mother. This makes her look at him a little closer. When Smooth buys the nun a rose on impulse from a street vendor, she’s touched. In her whole life no one has ever done that before. She realizes how the nun’s habit is like a wall that keeps others away, and how she’s reinforcing that wall with her fervor. The cracks start forming fast and furious, and stones are falling right and left as her fortress begins to crumble too.
In the end you might still have a con man and a nun, but they’ll be softer, fuzzier folk. Smooth will turn his fast-talking abilities towards productive things like raising funds for charities or telemarketing. The nun will toss the black robes and don everyday clothes, and go forth among the people as one of them, finding she can now communicate without scaring them away.
And so you may type "The End." Roll the credits!
©2004, Susan "Spielberg" Scott
STARTING YOUR STORY (Humorosity 8)
By Honeydew Zubari
For some people the hardest part of writing is getting those first words down. They’ll stare at the empty screen or blank paper for hours, frozen, immobile.
"Sue, I have a zillion great ideas," they whine to me, "but when it comes to getting that first word down I stare at the empty screen or blank paper for hours, frozen, immobile."
My name is Honeydew!" I remind them forcefully.
"Yeah, yeah. What about my problem?"
I ponder this for a moment or two. "Well… Having never experienced that problem myself, it’s hard to really understand. I’m blessed with the ability to sit and produce an entire short story or book chapter or article without so much as a… ouch, hey, who threw the mouse? If I get a black eye…"
Okay, how to start a story? Ask yourself a question, then answer it. Not "What will I write?" or "What will this be about?" Smarty-pants. Sheesh. I mean, start small.
"What if I woke up and found I’d turned into a duck? What if a boy caught the winning home-run baseball, only to discover it was an alien? What if a killer stalked the halls of a mental ward and everyone thought he was one of the patients, and no one took him seriously?"
It’s much easier to answer a question than it is to say something like, "I’ll write a twenty-five hundred word short story right now." From the question you go forwards, spinning your tale, and sometimes backwards too- if you need to get the story to the point of the question.
Right. Example time!
The question: What if I found a lottery ticket?
The rough idea: On my way to the store to buy my usual numbers, I found a lottery ticket that someone dropped, laying in the parking lot right next to my car. Hmmm, I wondered, is this a sign from the heavens? Being a highly superstitious gambler-type, I pocketed the ticket and bought a diet Coke with my dollar instead. That night I sat in front of the TV with bated breath as each little ball came up and was read out. 31…8…45…11…20. My eyes glazed over and jaw dropped open, and I felt as though I might vomit at any second. Those numbers! No! I fell to the floor and wept until I became severely dehydrated and the neighbors downstairs had to put pans under all the drips in their ceiling. Those were the numbers I’d played faithfully every week for the last five years!
Of course that’s a quick sketch. From there I might go on to say how the character goes on a rampage and smashes lottery machines with a tire iron and plots to blow up the studio where the drawings take place. Have I made my point yet? Start small! You don’t build a house overnight; I’m talking real houses for the purpose of my metaphor now, not those glue-together things that aren’t worth the price of a bottle of rubber cement. A real house is built brick by brick. A tree starts as a seed and grows into a mighty elm. A story begins as a germ of a possibility and develops into a full-blown cold, complete with runny nose and hacking cough. Ah, I mean a finished manuscript—be it flash- or novel-length.
In closing, I quote the words of that talented author and my best friend, Rita Mae Brown: "Education is a wonderful thing. If you couldn't sign your name you'd have to pay cash."
©2004, Susan "Say what?" Scott
Whadda character! (Humorosity 7)
By Honeydew Zubari
“Sue,” a fan asked me despite my telling him repeatedly my name is now
Honeydew, “I have a great idea for a book, but I can’t get the
characters in it to seem real.”
“Yes,” I agree, “This can be a problem. That’s what I’m here for; to
help, to nurture, to guide you along the path to success… To waste half
an hour before my favorite game show comes on.”
“So,” I ask, “Tell me about your idea.”
He shuffled his feet a little, “Well, it’s about a guy named Joe.”
“Great!” I enthuse. “We’ve got a title for your book already! ‘The
Adventures of Joe.’ Now tell me about Joe himself.”
“Um,” shuffle, shuffle, “He’s kinda boring.”
“Okay, and what else?”
“That’s it… Boring.”
“Now,” I lecture, “Nobody is totally one-dimensional. Nobody is just
one thing. Think, what else is there about Joe?”
Mental forehead slap, this is like talking to a backwards cucumber.
“Fantastic! We can go a long way with that, tell me more.”
“I guess that’s it.”
“No no no! The most important thing to do when developing a character
is to list his flaws and his good traits. Here, I’ll start you off…”
Flaws: Boring, no fun at parties because he lectures about the
responsible use of psychic ability instead of telling fortunes, older
than his years (he’s 26 but passes for fuddy duddy of 48), clothing
impaired- wears cardigans, doofy pants and plaid socks, has a mullet
cut, works as a telephone operator.
Good stuff: Has sense of humor-although deeply buried, is kind to old
people and animals, has secret desire to learn to samba with woman with
flashing Spanish eyes, is cute in a sort of nondescript way.
This by no means is the entire list, but it isn’t necessary to fill
pages and pages. Just a few descriptive words and we’re starting to see
Joe as a whole person! What next? We put him in enough situations to
fill a book.
For starters, how about if Joe’s friends gang up on him and send him to
“Style Court” where he receives a total makeover including a trendy
short haircut, tight jeans to show off a great rear and some decent
shirts. No more cardigans! A few tanning sessions and suddenly his
blue eyes are bluer, his teeth whiter and girls are doing double takes.
Due to his television exposure, Joe gets discovered by “The
Bachelor/Bachelorette” people and asked to be their next bachelor. He
agrees and has the time of his life coming out of his shell with twenty
five adoring women. When he goes on the special date with woman number
eighteen, Ella Lou, his latent psychic abilities suddenly tell him she’s
the one. They go through all the hoopla and wind up having a
multi-million dollar marriage on the air, with all of America watching.
The happy couple moves to Hollywood, and Joe gets a job on a studio lot
while waiting for his big break. One spring day he’s singing on his way
to work and Simon, from “American Idol,” is waiting at a red light and
overhears him, and demands he audition. Well… Need I tell you what
Suddenly Joe has a gorgeous wife and a solo singing contract and an
offer to model underwear and life is great. A dream. Who would ever
guess that this is old boring Joe?
But into every dream some negativity must fall, or it gets too sappy and
readers wander away looking for Stephen King’s latest tome.
So, enter George, Joe’s identical but evil-hearted twin brother. They
were separated at birth and George happened to catch “Style Court” the
day Joe was on it, thus finding out he has a brother. Since then, he’s
been watching Joe’s meteoric rise to stardom with jealousy.
George hitchhikes from Dustmote, Tennessee to LA, determined to take all
that Joe has. Although the brothers resemble each other outwardly like
mirror images only backwards, it stops there. George isn’t psychic and
is tone deaf. He’s also mean, having led a hard scrabble life instead
of the comfy middle class one Joe had. Their young mother had to make a
choice of which to keep, so since George was born first he stayed with
her while Joe got adopted and moved to Wholesome, Wisconsin with his new
Enough flashback, back to the present…
George disguises himself and stalks Joe until the day he can put his
nefarious plan into motion. He hires a couple of thugs to kidnap Joe
and smoothly steps in, loving the fans adoration and signing autographs
and showing up at all the hot spots all over town.
At first Ella Lou chalks her husband’s strange behavior at home up to
tiredness, then begins to suspect something more disturbing is going
on. George/Joe is forgetful and constantly searching for misplaced
things. It dawns on Ella Lou that he’s a (gasp) multiple personality!
Why else the loss of their psychic connection and his tooling around
town with busty babes in his BMW convertible?
On and on the saga goes… We read with chewed fingernails of Joe’s
struggles to free himself, the fight with his captors and final escape;
coming just in time to keep Ella Lou from running home to her mother and
divorcing him for fifty percent of everything he owns.
Then there’s the exposing of George’s vile activities, the subsequent
capture and courtroom trial replete with tons of publicity as the media
blows every factoid, including those they make up, way out of
The excitement! The drama! The gratuitous love scene between Joe and
I spun out this whole sordid tale in twenty-five minutes, just from a
brief list of flaws and good traits. So I say to the mysterious person
who started it all and is now sitting on my office couch with
glazed-over eyes and drooling slightly, “If you want to develop rounded,
three-dimensional, interesting characters you have to make them more
than flat, one-trait cardboard cutouts.”
Okay students, today’s lesson is over; mostly because “Love Connection”
©2004, Susan (Your Ad Can Go Here) Scott