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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Have a Peaceful and Reflective Ressurrection Sunday.

Somehow or other, Easter just sneaked up on me this year. Normally, I spend some time thinking about the Lord's sacrifice, the hard road to the cross, the mocking, the empty tomb. Maybe you're there too. You just got too busy, and then, here it is, the anniversary of our Savior's rising from the dead. Here's poem I wrote a few years back. It's a sestina, so you'll notice the repetition of 7 words throughout. I hope the poem draws you into His presence and reminds you of events long ago…

Silver and Red

Jerusalem’s dusty streets watch money changing hands
among the robed merchants, traders who parley silver
for gain. In the sepulchral halls where lush tapestries kiss
the cold stone behind the throne of the chief priests in their red
robes, it is no different. A solitary creature, bent with burden, has come across
their hallowed threshold to hammer

out a deal. Whispering oaths and an offer, his heart hammers
with fear, indecision. All the while he holds out his sweating hands
to the holy men. Phylacteries weigh lightly on each priestly brow and ghastly smiles cross
their lips for a triumphant moment as they smugly deliver thirty silver
pieces for a life. Reclining later with his rabbi at a table of bread pale and wine red,
he feels on his thigh the electric chill of the new coins, like a harlot’s kiss

teasing. Fleeting like a tryst, the wealth leaves him empty--the betraying kiss
delivered later that night costs his life--and more. A hammer
strikes a bell with forlorn finality as the soldiers with their drawn swords and red
torches surround the gentle man, roughly bind his hands
like a common thief. Marching down the mountain with moonlight silver
upon breastplate and helm, they drag their outlaw across

the streets where he mended lame legs and gave sight to many, though cross
and bitter men chose to stay blind. Made to kiss
the ground before the lofty seat and silver
signet ring of the Roman Governor, he rises to one knee, is hammered
with questions. No guilt found but pressed by mobs, the leader washes his hands
of blame only to gouge the name Pilate red

on the stark scrolls of history. The frenzied crowd, seething red
faces, demand a murderer set free while the innocent one goes to the splintered cross.
Centurions mock the condemned man, placing a reed scepter in his hands,
a scarlet robe on his now flayed back, and, upon the head once kissed
by Mary, a crown of biting thorns. Jeering words hammer
him worse than blows: Save yourself! Prophesy, who struck you? The same silver

centurions force him prone on a wooden beam. The captain removes one silver
nail from a leather pouch. Anticipating the explosion of red,
the captain turns his head just slightly, brings the hammer
down three times. Jerusalem’s skyline, stained as his cross
is raised, darkens but the stifling heat remains. Not even a kiss
from a gentle breeze to relieve his agony as life drains from his feet, his hands.

Memory of that brutal hammer haunted Judas and crosses
time. Will we covet silver above red
or kiss, pierced for us all, His sweet scarred hands?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Suspense Technique #7: The Best for Last

You ever hear an author or a teacher respond to the question: How do I come up with an idea for a story? So often, the answer--even from well-known authors and experienced teachers--is "Write what you know." Now that's all good, in theory, because it reduces the amount of research needed to pull off the story. If you play competitive beach volleyball, write about that. If you run a home business, write about that. Great. This suggestion may work well if you're writing nonfiction, but what about for fiction? Uh…well, not so much. Think about it. Most of what we know--the routines of life--are not the makings for a bestseller.

If you happen to work for a top secret branch of the government, sure, go for it. But most of us don't have that kind of background. Not to worry. Read on.

The final suspense technique in my arsenal I call "The What If Twist." No, it's not a dance that I perform around the computer before I write. Nor is it a specific bodily contortion that, once activated, allows more power to flow to the creative centers of my brain. It is actually a technique that I borrowed from Stephen King. Now, don't misunderstand me. I don't shoot pool with Steve on Wednesday nights. Never met him actually. But I've read lots of his work, and read still more of his writing instruction. If Stephen King has something to say about writing, it might not be a bad thing to listen.

Suspense Technique #7:
The What If Twist

King explained that he always gets asked where he comes up with his off the wall, macabre story ideas. He went on to explain about "What if." What if works like this: Take any normal everyday activity: Taking out the trash, washing the dishes, raking leaves, bedtime stories with the kids, etc. As I said above, these activities would rarely produce a bestseller. But apply the magic two words: What if? And something cool will happen. Just begin the normal, routine activity with "What if" and then come up with the wackiest, weirdest twist you can think of. Be a mad scientist and experiment. Write everything down--even if it sounds unbearably stupid.

Example: Take the routine chore of raking the leaves

Apply What if: What if while raking the leaves...

Twist it: What if while you were raking the leaves…you uncover a trapdoor that hadn't been there the day before?

What if while you were raking the leaves…you discover a map?

What if while you were raking the leaves…a tiny dragon escapes from a hole in the ground you just uncovered?

What if while you were raking the leaves…you find a skeletal arm?

What if while you were taking out the trash…a dark figure ran into your house?

What if while you were washing the dishes…a tentacle reached out of the drain and grabbed your arm?

What if while you were sharpening your sword…it began to sing?

Get the idea? This what if twist draws the reader into the story in much the same way that an accident scene on a highway draws you to look even though you don't really want to see. Readers will flip through the pages like crazy, hoping to find out, just what's going on.

Now, it's your turn. Write an opening line, paragraph or two that
will really hook us using The What If Twist and Post it here.

Once I have twenty or thirty of them, I'll have my veteran Quality Fiction Team {IE: my lovely wife and me} select a winner who will receive a signed copy of Isle of Swords OR
The Door Within Paperback with "Lost Chapters!"

Only two entries per person, so get crafting and submit them when they are ready!