Brita Addams

Call Them Sentient, Autonomous, Floating, Or Disembodied, They Are Still Detached Body Parts – By Brita Addams


Of course, when an author writes “His fingers inched up her leg,” they don’t mean it literally. The problem, however, lies in the interpretation and not in the intention. An author’s job is to paint a picture with words, to create a story. If we use detached body parts as a part of that picture, we have conveyed the wrong picture.

Authors generally dislike the rule about no autonomous body parts—where eyes, legs, hands, arms, feet, and other parts, act on their own, independent of their owners. “His eyes traveled over her body.” Well, ew. What kind of mental image does that conjure?
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Guest Contributor, John Goode

John Goode Gets To The Heart Of The Matter In This Final Installment Of His Writing Series


Ok, so here on our last installment I want to go over the part that is the most important part of any story to me personally: the theme. What, at the end of the day, is your message, and how well did your story get that message across? I know you’re thinking, message? What message do I need? I am telling a story, isn’t that message enough?

No.

You see, an amusing or interesting story has as much value as the message it is trying to convey to the reader. The better the message, the longer the impact; the weaker the message, the faster it is forgotten for the next set of words placed in front of that person. As storytellers, we want our stories to keep talking to the reader well after they put the book down and to do that, you need a message, a theme that encompasses everything you just wrote.

To further this point, you need to look at your message and ask yourself, does this scene or character do anything to further that message along, or is it there just to fill up space and to be amusing? There are a lot of things that can happen in a book that make no sense to the overall message and when all is said and done, those moments are the ones the readers are going to look at and go, “Hmmm, what was the point of that?”

In my book Taking Chances, the theme is accepting yourself for who you really are. Not trying to be the person you think you want to be, be the person you need to be. In that measure, Tyler thinks he has to be this uber-straight acting jock type guy who can never let people in on his sexuality or emotions because that doesn’t fit his mindset. Matt thinks he needs to be this stereotypical homosexual, as if there is such a thing, and when he finds he’d rather stay home and watch Disney movies than go to a club, he thinks he is failing himself. Those two characters are pretty straight forward in the message, but there was one person that needed to be in the book to me.

Patrica, the transsexual hairdresser.

She gives what I think is the most important line in the whole book, which is, “And it’s okay. Most people assume I’m dressed as a woman, you know, like I’m in drag. I am not a female impersonator and this is not drag. This is who I am. There is a difference. We are all somebody inside, and most of the time we are too chickenshit to stare that person in the face. I stared into the abyss and when it stared back, it was wearing Revlon photo-ready concealer and cherry blossom lipstick.”

She is not there to give comedy relief, and she was not there to just throw in a gender confused character, which she isn’t. Patrica, not Pat, tells Tyler the moral of the story which is really for the reader, but if you don’t tell them, I won’t. We all have someone inside of us dying to get out, but we don’t let them because of society’s expectations, manners, embarrassment; whatever the reason, we lock them inside and long for the time we can be alone and ourselves.

It’s why we don’t burst out into song in the middle of a work day when you hear a song you like, you don’t tell the woman who you work with that she in an intrusive bitch and should back off, and it is the reason you put up with so much shit from your friends— because it is just impolite to speak the blunt truth most of the time. The book is about people trapped inside themselves and are making themselves miserable. There is no prejudice that does this, no oppressive society making them, it is their own hang-ups, and it is a huge problem at times in the gay community. Because of this, many gay men who read the book loved the message because they had gone through it, while some straight readers found the book tedious because it was stupid people doing stupid things, and they couldn’t figure out why they kept doing them.

Which brings us to the second part of your theme: Who are you talking to?

You cannot please all of the people all of the time. We all know the saying, and it resonates because it is true. And you cannot write a book for every single person in the world because it would just be a jumble of random things that ended up pleasing no one. You have to know who you are trying to talk to and hope the message is so strong that it captures other people as well. When I wrote Foster High, I wrote it for gay teens going through the hell that is high school right now. I didn’t write it for the parents or for straight kids; in my mind, I was trying to talk to sixteen-year-old me and saying everything I needed to hear back then.

It turns out, though, what sixteen-year-old me needed to hear was what a lot of other people still need to hear today. It struck a chord with straight kids, their parents, a lot of people I could never imagine reading a story about two gay teens in North Texas. I like to think it is because high school sucked, sucks, and is still sucking for a lot of people. The picking that happens on gay kids happens to a lot of people for whom the message of the book—which is, do not allow someone else make you miserable—hits home with a lot more than just sixteen year old me.

But I didn’t write it that way.

You can’t allow your desire to get as many readers as possible dilute what you think is your pure message. As a writer, I can only give you one piece of advice that I think is foolproof and can only help your career.

Write unpopular truths.

Do not think just because a subject has always been handled a certain way before that means it is the only way it can be handled. Speak your truth fearlessly, and I assure you people will respond. Your voice, your message, it needs to be as loud and as strong as humanly possible to make a difference. If you think something might offend or upset someone but you know it needs to be said, say it. Say it loud and say it often. There is only one you in the world, and you have to believe first that what you are trying to say will make a difference before anyone else will.

So there it is, my final writing tip to you. Find the message of your book and make sure that each scene, each character is part of a larger machine that exists to move it forward. Don’t be afraid to upset people and never, ever let someone else make you feel that you are anything less than what you are. Do not give them that ability, not a reader, a reviewer, and never yourself.

Remember, the only way your story will have any value to anyone else is if it has value to you first. That is the god’s honest truth, and it can never steer you wrong.

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Guest Contributor, John Goode, Uncategorized

This Post Has Been Made Before (And Was Probably Better The First Time Around) by John Goode


I have come bearing bad news if you are a writer or want to be one. I know this will come as a shock to most people, but I am afraid there is just no getting around it. So, here I go.

There are no more… new? Untold? stories in the world.

There! I said it. We can all start praying to Neil Gaiman and offering tributes up to The Bard but I am afraid all the stories in the world have been told, and we are just fresh out of new ones. The cupboard is bare, the balance is zero. And both cupboard and balance are most definitively ex-stories
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Guest Contributor, John Goode

Hello? Whose Line Is It Anyways? – John Goode Knows


Okay. So write me a novel.

No, don’t look at me like that. Go think of completely new characters, complete with back stories, an entire setting, and a fully developed plotline. Stat. I still don’t know what Stat is, but I like saying it. Write me a novel! Stat!

No?

Not sure where to start? Yeah, welcome to the club. So if we can’t just jump into a full-blown novel, let’s look at some baby steps that might head us in the right direction. Baby steps, yup, that’s it!
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Guest Contributor, John Goode

Let’s Have A Little Talk With John Goode


You said what now?

So an acquaintance of mine said on Twitter that he was working on a screenplay and posted a picture of his laptop with it open. Being the nosy inquisitive person I am, I enlarged the picture to read what he had written. Now, I know nothing about the story or the scene in particular, but it was set in an art gallery and the janitor sees a man looking at a painting and asks him if he was liking it.
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Guest Contributor, John Goode

John Goode Asks The Question “Where Are We Now?” Good Thing He Also Knows The Answer.


Where are we now?

113013_0101_AndNowHeres1.pngOkay, so we’ve gone over turning an idea into a story. We have looked at how important words can be to describe a scene. Let’s hit on a point some writers don’t think about a lot: the setting. Where and when we are can color a story as much as the characters inside it. Capturing a moment in time is hard, but success in doing this can make an okay premise into something amazing.

So, when we are looking at the setting, the first and most important question we should ask is why? Why does this story need to be in Texas? Or in the 60’s? Or in late nineteenth century London? What exactly about that period and place is important to you or the story? Trust me when I tell you “just because I felt like writing a story in Pacific Northwest” is not a great answer.

Places have soul and meaning. And, and this isn’t immediately obvious but is very important, they have a preexisting backstory with some readers. If you are going to write about the gay scene in Seattle, then do yourself a favor and know something about both the gay scene and the city. If you start to make things up, people will notice. Little things can kill a story. Just one piece of erroneous information can send a reader into doubt so he or she will begin to disbelieve the rest of your story.

Don’t believe me?

What if we had a story set in New York in the seventies. We are talking about the summer of the Son of Sam, a record heat wave, and a massive blackout, along with life from day to day. All these things are imprinted in the collective conscious of the public and surge to the forefront when you start to mention that place and time. Some people might think of early Saturday Night Live, some might remember the looting and riots that took place. Some might remember disco and Studio 54. Whatever the detail may be, most people will have some kind of snapshot of this time.

Let’s say I am writing about a gay man (Jim) who has met another guy (Joe) he likes at a club. He wants to meet him again so he asks him for his number?

In the seventies, what was the proper response?

If Joe was being coy, didn’t want to just give his number out, or wanted to make Jim work for it, what would he have said to him to give him a hint about where his number was? The response no longer has any meaning in this day and age, but back then, Joe would have told Jim he was in The Book.

The Book here is the White Pages of the phone book. Phone book? People back then relied almost completely on The Book (or, in the case of New York City, The Books) when looking for a number. Then Joe could have also told Jim to call information for the number. However, back then using Information involved using switchboard operators who had, at least sometimes, the skill to pull a number out of the air. Information operated more as art than science and more times than not, you found yourself going back to the phone book as your primary source.

Today Joe would have said he was on Facebook or Instagram or might even have given Jim a Tumblr site to look at. Currently, we wouldn’t bother with something as random as an email. Emails were the norm during the late 90s and early 2000s, and most of them would have been an AOL address.

Things like knowing what The Book was may seem almost silly; but in reference to your story, if you are trying to sell a time period, you need to know the details. And the closer to the present you’re writing, the more you’ll have to know and use correctly.

I have friends who are from England, and they have more than once asked me to look over something they wrote to make sure there was no ‘Brit-speak’ in it. In other words, if the story is set on a ranch in Texas, when people are talking, do they sound like they are from Texas? Are they using the right words? Not everyone in Texas has an accent. In fact, most if not all the people I have met in the past decade I have lived here do not have one. They don’t wear cowboy hats, they don’t wear Wranglers and only some own guns. When you are describing the gay scene in Dallas and you have people talking like they are some ignorant hick, I assure you people will notice and they will tune out.

But more important than the little things is the why.

Why am I setting this story in the seventies? Do I want to examine the open era of sex and drugs and compare that time with today? Do I want to show the innocence of the time? Do I want to make a statement about AIDS? If none of those things is true and I just think it’s cool to have a story in the 70s, I might have to ask myself if I just want it there because I know the story by itself is not strong enough to stand without some window dressing.

It’s disheartening to read an entire novel and, at the end, wonder, “Why couldn’t this story have been set in the current day? Treat the era like a character itself, one that has a purpose, a story and its own motivation.

To go back to my imaginary 70s story, if I was to write a story in that time and place, it would be about longing, about a passion that is threatening to overwhelm the main character. Maybe he has been in the closet for his entire life and now in New York, with such a gay scene, he just lets it all out. The story, like the summer of 1977, would build with the heat and the killings and the anger until finally, when everything hit critical mass during the blackout, not only Jim and Joe but the city itself experiences a moment of complete and total disassociation.

Maybe Jim confronts people who used the night and the lack of power as a reason to bash him. Maybe the gay people at the bar he goes to had enough and went outside to fight back. Whatever the climax is, it happens when the power is out. In those hours, where the basic social rules have broken down, force is met with force. In that primal darkness, modern man lashes out exactly as his ancestors did thousands of years ago. The paper thin veneer of culture cracks and the old, hard wired responses emerge.

You see how the city and the events help the story along, not just frame it? The city is the main character: what Jim feels the city feels. His tension tightens and grows as the heat builds and the air becomes more stifling until everything explodes. And, in those hours of darkness, no one knows what happens. You have this whole waking up and realizing what has happened after, the regret, the shame, the sadness, the emotional arc of the character that makes him realize what he was missing or lacking in the whole story.

Why are your characters cowboys? Because they don’t accept conventional life? They don’t want to sit in a cubicle and work forty hours a week. Do they want to live under the sky and work hard and make something of the land? By saying they are a cowboy, are you saying what kind of man they are?

Or are you just saying cowboys are hot?

Trust me, go for both. It makes a better story all around.

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Guest Contributor, John Goode

“It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…” According To John Goode


It was a dark and stormy night…

So let’s get down to the brass tacks, the things that make a good writer a great writer—invoking emotion using the printed word, for example. Using images, it is so much easier since your brain can take visual information and then fill a story in for it, creating an emotional connection without a word being said. Look at those Humane Society commercials; they have become so heartrending in my mind that just hearing Sarah McLaughlin makes me feel both sad and guilty.

So what the people who made the commercials are doing with images of poor animals and a song is what we are trying to do with our words. If you’ve tried this before, you know how hard it is. If you haven’t, well, this should show you how hard it can be.
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Guest Contributor, John Goode

John Goode Had This Idea Once, And Then He Came To Share It With Us


“I had this idea once.”

How many times have you told someone you were a writer and, within nanoseconds, heard those four innocent little words balloon into what promises to be a story which, even if it stopped at three words, is WAY too long? We all have ideas. All of us. Imagination is the cheapest form of entertainment on Earth, cheaper than reality television, cheaper than drugs, cheaper than any form of media you can get your hands on. People have ideas all the time; that’s nothing new or unique. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

It’s what you do with them that matters.
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