Monday, September 26, 2022

Doris Day: Success Despite Tears

 Doris Day died in 2019, but she released her last album, My Heart, in 2011after being out of the public eye for 17 years. 

I'm a fan, and Ms. Day was one of my favorite actresses.  She's an inspiration because her story is one of trials and perseverance.  She's also from my hometown, beautiful, historic Cincinnati! 

I'll thank you not to "dis" Cincinnati, please.  I've heard it all before...home of the Cincinnati Bungals, the Big Dead Machine, and Over The Rhine--once rated the worst neighborhood in the United States!

However, Cincinnati is home to several Hollywood legends.  Director Steven Spielberg was born there and actress Sarah Jessica Parker grew up in Cincinnati.  Dancer Vera-Ellen, singer Rosemary Clooney, and super star George Clooney all hail from the Cincinnati area.

But today, the spotlight is on Doris Day, actress, singer, dancer, super star! She could do it all, and as an actress, she could play dramatic roles, just as easily as comedic ones.  Add to that her pretty looks, svelte figure, magnificent legs, and presto--you have box office dynamite!


Despite her sunny, perky disposition, Ms. Day's road to stardom was filled with heartache and tragedy.  As a young teen, she had hopes of dancing professionally, and even won $500 in a contest with her amateur dance partner, Jerry Doherty.  But her dream to become a pro came to an end in 1937, when her leg was shattered in an automobile accident.  The car she was riding in was hit by a train.  However, while recovering, she started singing along with songs on the radio, and discovered a talent she didn't know she had.  Her mother paid for voice lessons from teacher Grace Raine, who said Doris had "tremendous potential."

Doris eventually sang on a local radio program, at a restaurant, and then went on to perform in the band of Cincinnati bandleader Barney Rapp (whose daughter Bonnie was my kindergarten teacher).  It was while performing in Rapp's band that she met trombonist Al Jorden.  She originally thought him a creep, but later fell in love and married him at the age of 17--he was 24.

Jorden abused Doris physically, cheated on her, and even insisted that she have an abortion when she became pregnant.  She kept the baby and later left Jorden.  Ironically, Doris's main ambition was to become a full time a wife and mother, not a super star.


As a single mom, she recorded "Sentimental Journey" in 1944, and that song made her a star.  A second marriage followed to saxophonist George Wiedler.  That marriage ended after less than eight months.  By this time Hollywood had noticed Doris, and Wiedler (not fond of her son, and already cheating on her) didn't want to be known as Mr. Doris Day.

By 1951, Doris was on her way to super stardom and had married her third husband, Marty Melcher.  But 17 years later, Melcher and his business partner squandered her $24 million dollar fortune.  Melcher died leaving Doris $400,000 in debt. He'd also contracted her to do a television sitcom, which she had no desire to do. But she did it anyway, and gave it her all.  The TV show saved her, and she was later awarded a court settlement after suing Melcher's business partner. 

The Doris Day Show was a success and ran from 1968 through 1973, which is how I first became acquainted with Doris Day when I was a kid.  Back then I had no idea of her tremendous talent.

Doris Day is the number one female box office star of all time, and she's the only one who was number one four years in a row! Her extensive body of work includes 39 films and 29 albums.  Today, she works as an animal rights activist.


"Que Sera Sera" is known as her signature song, and she is a true example of that mantra, "whatever will be will be."  She has experienced numerous hardships in her career and personal life.  But she has endured and maintained a positive outlook.  "...I just feel so fortunate and so blessed to have been able to entertain people in the theatres and on record, it’s just an amazing life that I’ve experienced." – Doris Day

My favorite Doris Day film is Calamity Jane.  In it she sings the song "Secret Love," which won the Academy Award for best original song of 1953.  Last year I learned that Doris Day had had a real "secret love" when I read that she'd had an affair with Maury Wills.

Wills is the famous L.A. Dodger base stealer, and one of the first, post-Jackie Robinson African American integration baseball players.  According to Wills and a Day biographer, the affair took place in the early ‘60s.

I had known about another interracial relationship in Doris's life, but it involved her father. In her autobiography, Doris Day: Her Own Story, she talked about her father's dislike of blacks, yet, later in life, he married a black woman!

Interracial relationships are becoming more commonplace now, but black and white couples still tend to turn a few heads. These relationships no longer need to be kept secret, however, that was a different story not so long ago.  I've written about a secret love in The Governor's Sons. I hope you'll read it, then be thankful that times have changed, and then enjoy a Doris Day movie!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 19, 2022

Before Scandal: Race and Sex in Political History

A few years ago, I read One Drop of Me by Harry Kraus and thoroughly enjoyed it. This novel opens in the present, while the main character, Lisa, is recovering from a traumatic experience. To help herself cope, Lisa starts writing a play about Sally Hemings. As the story progresses, the reader sees parallels between Lisa's life and the life of Sally Hemings. The narrative moves back and forth from the present to the past, so we get a clear picture of Lisa's day to day existence, as well as that of Sally's. This novel was hard to put down! So if you love history, as well as some great storytelling, be sure to check out One Drop of Me.

Regarding race and sex in political history brings to mind this post, which I originally published in 2013.

The titillating television series Scandal ran for seven seasons on ABCIf you are unfamiliar with the show, it centered around Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a former media relations consultant who had the power to "fix" things for everyone.  
While working on a gubernatorial campaign as a media relations consultant, she had an affair with then candidate, Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III (Tony Goldwyn).  As a fixer, she's taxed to fix a scandal in the president’s office.  However, the president residing in office just happens to be Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III, and his affair with Olivia begins all over again.  By the way, did I mention Olivia is black and Grant is white?

Forbidden love is nothing new in politics, but throw race into the mix and it becomes explosive!  According to the Monticello website, “The claim that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemings, a slave at Monticello, entered the public arena during Jefferson's first term as president, and it has remained a subject of discussion and disagreement for two centuries.

“In September 1802, political journalist James T. Callender, a disaffected former ally of Jefferson, wrote in a Richmond newspaper that Jefferson had for many years ‘kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves.’ ‘Her name is Sally," Callender continued, adding that Jefferson had "several children’ by her.”  Visit the Monticello site for further factual information.  The novel Sally Hemings by Barbara Chase-Raiboud  provides a fascinating fictional account.

Another interesting story revolves around Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson and his mulatto, Julia Chinn.  Johnson served as vice president under Martin Van Buren.  He and Chinn are referred  to briefly  in distinguished historian Thomas Fleming’s novel, The Wages of Fame.

Undercover Blackman says, “How much of a “Negro” was Julia Chinn? Well, she was a slave… a slave Johnson inherited from his father. She was “Negro” enough that Richard Johnson couldn’t have married her legally...Yet she was his mate. His common-law wife, in effect.

“ ‘She was the hostess at his Kentucky home when [French aristocrat] the Marquis de Lafayette visited,’ wrote Lindsey Apple, a retired Georgetown College history professor, in answer to questions from me.”

Johnson served in Kentucky’s state legislature (1804-1806; 1819), the U.S. House of Representatives (1807-1819; 1829-1837) and the U.S. Senate (1819-1829) prior to his becoming vice president.
Richard Mentor Johnson

Abraham Lincoln made reference to Chinn in a rather non-complimentary way. He exploited Johnson’s relationship with her to score a point against Stephen Douglas during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.
His words are as follow:

...I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so frequently as to be entirely satisfied of its correctness – and that is the case of Judge Douglas’ old friend Col. Richard M. Johnson.



One of the most recent political indiscretions revealed was South Carolina Senator (and segregationist) Strom Thurmond’s love affair at 23 with his family’s African American maid, Carrie Butler, who was 15.  Newsday mentioned in its obituary of Thurmond that rumors flew for years in South Carolina that Thurmond, while still a segregationist, had a relationship with a black woman that produced a daughter.  Jack Bass, author of the Thurmond biography Ol Strom, says, “Thurmond never denied it, though he kept it under the rug for years...” 

Thurmond’s love child from his relationship, Essie May Washington-Williams, penned her memoir, Dear Senator, in 2005.  She waited until after her father’s death, at age 100, to reveal his secret.

Publisher’s Weekly review  of Dear Senator explains that Carrie Butler died at 38 in a hospital's poverty ward.  Although she rarely appears in the memoir, Ms. Washington-Williams “fashions her a kind of love story: ‘I knew [Thurmond] loved my mother. I believed he loved me, after his fashion.’”

The love story Ms. Washington portrayed in Dear Senator provided the inspiration for my novel The Governor’s Sonsa provocative tale that examines a “politically incorrect” relationship of a young law student who falls in love with his family's hired help, a college age black girl.

Perhaps there are more forbidden love stories hidden in the annals of history just waiting to be discovered. Maybe they'll inspire more novels—or even influence a story line in a TV series.

Were you a fan of Scandal? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Six Ways to Hook Your Reader!

I visited Write it Sideways and found a great article by Suzannah Windsor Freedman on how to hook your reader from the very first line. Hope this comes in handy for any writers out there!

Although I consider myself an avid reader, I must admit I have a short attention span when it comes to getting into books. If you fail to grab my attention in the first few lines, I start spacing out.
Most readers are like me. Most people don’t want to spend the first 50 pages trying to get into a book.
Here are a few things I find annoying in the first lines of a story:
  • Dialogue. Nice somewhere on the first or second page, but not in the first line. We won’t know who’s speaking or why we should care.
  • Excessive description. Some description is good, but not when it’s long winded. Skip the purple prose and opt for something more powerful.
  • Irrelevant information. The first few lines of your story are crucial, so give your reader only important information.
  • Introducing too many characters. I don’t like to be bombarded with the names of too many characters at once. How are we supposed to keep them straight when we don’t know who’s who?
The last thing you want to do as a writer is annoy or bore people. Instead, try one of these 6 ways to hook your readers right off the bat:
(N.B. One of the easiest ways to check out the opening pages of nearly any book you want is with the ‘Look Inside!‘ feature on Amazon.com.)

1. Make your readers wonder

Put a question in your readers’ minds. What do those first lines mean? What’s going to happen? Make them wonder, and you’ll keep them reading.

2. Begin at a pivotal moment

By starting at an important moment in the story, your reader is more likely to want to continue so he or she can discover what will happen next.
  • “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
  • “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
3. Create an Interesting picture
Description is good when it encourages people to paint a picture in their minds. Often, simple is best so it’s the reader who imagines a scene, instead of simply being told by the author.
  • “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ~Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca
  • “She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.” ~Michael Ontaatje, The English Patient

4. Introduce an intriguing character

The promise of reading more about a character you find intriguing will, no doubt, draw you into a story’s narrative. Most often, this is one of the main characters in the book.
  • “I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” ~Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

5. Start with an unusual situation

Show us characters in unusual circumstances, and we’ll definitely be sticking around to see what it’s all about.
  • “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” ~Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
  • Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” ~Julie Buxbaum, The Opposite of Love

6. Begin with a compelling narrative voice

Open your story with the voice of a narrator we can instantly identify with, or one that relates things in a fresh way.
  • “As I begin to tell this, it is the golden month of September in southwestern Ontario.” ~Alistair MacLeod, No Great Mischief
  • “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” ~Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
No matter how you start your book, keep your readers in mind. What will make them want to continue reading? What will potentially make them put down your book?
How does your favourite book open, and what makes it so compelling?
 Thanks for visiting and have a great week, and thank you, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, for a great article! 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Monday, August 29, 2022

Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme

 

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
My newest novel One Family Now was recently released. It's an interracial love story, so this week I dug around in my interracial love story blog archive and pulled up this post. 

Back in 2017, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Denise Turney on her Off The Shelf Radio program. We discussed interracial relationships, which is what I focus on in my novels. You can click here for a link to the interview.

Also, please enjoy Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme posted below, which originally appeared in 2010, and be sure to check out One Family Now.

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Aristotle

Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? But what drives one to make it great? Conflict!
And when you throw an interracial element into the mix (pun intended) you have an intensely compelling and emotionally volatile story.

Several films address this topic including, Come See the Paradise (Japanese/white American), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (white/black American), Mississippi Masala (Asian Indian/ Black American), Something New and Jungle Fever (both white/black American).

Othello
Throughout history, interracial love has been a topic of great literature. In Shakespeare's Othello, a Moor is married to Venetian, Desdemona. Here racism is seen as Iago schemes to break up their marriage. Hoping to spur Desdemona's father Brabantino to annul the union, Iago tells him "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe."

In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the slave Cassie is repeatedly raped by her master Simon Legree.  But she's also been in a previous relationship with her former master, who she loved. "I became his willingly, for I loved him!" Cassie says in chapter 34.

Sinclair Lewis's Kingsblood Royal tells the story of a bigoted character who discovers he has a small percentage of African blood, then falls in love with a black friend named Sophie.  When he held her hand, it was "warmer than any hand he had ever known," and when she kissed him, "he had not known a kiss like that..."  For more interracial love in literature, see Doug Poe's post on Interracial Sex in Classic Literature here.

Out of all multicultural combinations, perhaps the most explosive in our country is black and white. Make it a love story in the American South of the past--and POW!

Something New
I'm black, and my husband is white, but many years ago I began to think how sad it would've been if we'd lived a century earlier. Back then, we couldn't have married. That thought inspired me to write my first novel, Escape, about the abolitionist son of a wealthy merchant who falls in love with a slave he helps to escape.

After reading Essie Mae Washington Williams's memoir Dear Senator, I wrote my second novel, The Governor's Sons. Ms. Williams's memoir told of her black mother's love affair with her white father, future South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond.  In my novel, a rich white law student plans to sacrifice everything and move overseas for the black woman he loves.

All through our country's history, interracial love has ignited conflict.  Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus and  Martha Hodes's WhiteWomenBlack Men are two fascinating non-fiction accounts on the subject.

The topic of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress, was swept under the rug by history, and Jefferson's white descendants, until DNA tests revealed that her descendants, were Jefferson's as well.

Although there was an enormous amount of rape and exploitation of black women by white men in the United States (especially the South), there was also love.

If a plantation owner chose a slave as his "wife" and actually lived with her, he'd become an outcast from the community.  To prevent being ostracized, some white men, assuming the facade of bachelors to friends and family, would set up separate housing and provide financially for their black "wives" and children. And then there were those white men who chose to have two families, one white and the other black, hidden away in the shadows.

Thank goodness it's a different time!  Although still a touchy topic among both the black and white communities, at least as human beings we can freely love whomever we fall in love with.  As the old cliche goes, "love has no color."

Do you know of an interracial love story to share?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 22, 2022

One Family Now Available Now!

 

My newest novel One Family Now is now available on Amamzon.com! Please take a look inside here.

If you think there's conflict in your family, wait until you read about Jessica and Geoff, a young couple separated by devastating circumstances, but decades later given a second chance!

Unsuspecting Jessica Leigh, a poor black girl from a disadvantaged family, believes wealthy college student Geoff Worth to be her knight in shining armor. Yet with no explanation, he ends their relationship, leaving her shattered and pregnant. 

Twenty-six years later, Jessica and Geoff rediscover each other because their sons become friends by chance. Eager to mend their relationship and start afresh, Geoff reveals the ugly truth surrounding their past. Because she was deemed an unsuitable match by his powerful political WASP family, Geoff was forced to end his relationship with Jessica to prevent her from falling victim to a deadly “accident.” 

Though their passion reignites, Geoff’s explanation of what transpired over two decades earlier is ignored by Jessica’s over-protective sister. She suspects Geoff’s family of being responsible for their father’s murder. Geoff’s mother refuses to accept Jessica because of a past scandal. And the two sons, once friends, find themselves pitted against each other as enemies once their relationship as half-brothers is divulged. As Jessica and Geoff examine the intersections of their parents’ lives, they uncover a history checkered with adultery, bribery and rumors of murder. How can Geoff and Jessica be together without losing their families?

I hope you'll be sure to check it out here and if you enjoy it, please leave a review. Happy reading

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Charles Thomas: Inspiration to Integrating Pro-Ball

It's baseball season, so today I'm republishing a post about Charles Thomas, the man who inspired Branch Rickey to integrate professional baseball.

Below is information compiled from the American Dental Association News. Not only was Thomas an extraordinary athlete, he went on to become a dentist.

Charles Thomas was born in West Virginia in 1881, but his family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, when he was 3 years old. In high school, Thomas was a star athlete in baseball, football and track.  In 1903 he began college at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio where he played fullback on the football team. 

While at Ohio Wesleyan, he met Branch Rickey, the future Brooklyn Dodgers' executive, who was also a two-sport college athlete. When Rickey's playing days ended, he became Ohio Wesleyan's baseball coach and recruited Thomas to replace him as the team's catcher.

At the time, Thomas was Ohio Wesleyan University's only black ballplayer. Several times, Thomas-led teams were refused admission onto their opponents' field because of his skin color.

It's said that Branch Rickey's vision of integrating America's pastime stemmed from his time at Ohio Wesleyan in the early 1900s, and several accounts reveal that Thomas had a lasting impact on him.

During a 1903 road trip, the Ohio Wesleyan baseball team traveled to South Bend, Indiana. When Thomas was refused lodging at a hotel, Rickey asked that Thomas be allowed to sleep on a cot in his room.

Later that evening, Rickey found Thomas upset and crying. According to Rickey, Thomas said, "It's my skin. If I could just tear it off, I'd be like everybody else. It's my skin..."

Years later, Rickey told the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber about Thomas. Barber recounted this story in "Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns."

"For 41 years, I have heard that young man crying," Mr. Rickey told Mr. Barber. "Now, I am going to do something about it." 

To read more about Charles Thomas and Branch Rickey, check out Black Pioneers of College Baseball.

Had you ever heard of Charles Thomas? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Esther Williams: Fighter, Champion, Star


I'm off for my birthday today, so I'm reposting an article about an actress I share a birthday with!

One of my favorite stars from Hollywood's Golden Era was the beautiful Esther Williams (August 8, 1921-June 6, 2013), a swimming star of several MGM movies known as Aqua Musicals.

Something you may not know is that Ms. Williams was a proponent of civil rights--keep reading to see how!

I love watching anything filmed underwater, and seeing Esther Williams swim in those pictures is amazing and a real treat.  If you've never heard of Esther Williams, check out this video to see what I mean!

Prior to becoming a movie star, Esther Williams set multiple national and regional swimming records while part of the Los  Angeles Athletic Club swim team during her teens.  She had wanted to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics, but couldn't  because of the outbreak of World War II.  At that point, Ms.Williams joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, where she spent five months swimming alongside Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer and Tarzan star.

While performing at the Aquacade, Williams caught the eye of MGM talent scouts. After appearing in several small roles, Williams began making the Aqua Musicals, featuring elaborate numbers with synchronized swimming and diving.  From 1945 to 1949, Ms. Williams had at least one movie among the top 20 grossing films of the year.

Several years ago, I read her autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid.  If you do enjoy bios of the stars, don't pass this one up!  I was thoroughly impressed by her candor, zest for life and positive outlook.  She lived through experiences that might have been crushing to some of us, but made her a fighter, champion and star!

The most devastating time she endured was the repeated rape that began at age 13.  The older teen who abused  her had been charitably taken in by her family.  Orphaned and left on his own, this young man was an exceptional student and athlete.  Ms. Williams had lost an older brother years earlier who was the "golden child" of the family, and this orphaned youth filled the void in her parents' lives.

As a victim of abuse, Esther remained quiet for two years, fearing his threats.  Finally at age 15, she told her parents.  Their reaction was hurtful to her, and I almost cried when I read it.  They were in denial at first, but finally confronted him.  When he admitted the truth, her parents were more upset with him for not living up to their expectations of who'd they'd thought him to be, rather than the fact that he'd repeatedly raped their daughter for two years.

Esther listened from another room, completely demoralized.  Why hadn't her father been ready to kill the guy and kick him out?

The pool at the athletic club was her solace, and after hearing her parents' exchange with him, that's where she went.  But when she'd changed and was ready to swim, the rapist confronted her.  To his tearful apology she responded, "If you touch me again, I'll kick, I'll scream and I'll fight!" After this, he left her family's home and joined the armed services.

During Ms. Williams's days in  the Aquacade, she had fight off Johnny Weissmuller's aggressive advances and endure substandard treatment from bosses since she wouldn't "give in."

Prior to stardom, Ms. Williams survived an abusive marriage, and after stardom, the loss of her fortune through another husband's gambling.  She also lived through some near death experiences from swimming mishaps during filming.

But in addition to the painful times she shares, her story has some humorous ones as well.  Here's the civil rights anecdote I referenced earlier.  She was the mother of three children and employed the same African American babysitter for a number of years.

While performing in a live show, Ms.Williams wanted her babysitter and the sitter's husband to attend one of her performances.  However, the establishment where she'd be doing her show was segregated, but this didn't deter Ms.Williams, who thought the whole segregation system unfair.

She procured Middle Eastern garb for her guests and told the management that they were friends of hers from a royal family.  Needless to say, the sitter and her husband had the best seat in the house that night, and the last laugh!

Are you an Esther Williams fan?  Thanks for visiting! 

Monday, August 1, 2022

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Art of Writing Dialogue

Think of your plot as a blank linen canvas stretched over a stiff wooden frame, and your dialogue as the oil paint you will use to create a masterpiece. Well written dialogue produces a vivid image that truly brings your story to life in living color!  It’s also one of the first things agents and editors look at when reviewing a manuscript.

If dialogue is choppy, wooden and stilted, a potential agent will assume that that sets the tone for your writing, and then reject your manuscript.  For the indie published, poor dialogue is what makes a potential reader either skip a purchase, or write a very bad review!

Dialogue has many functions, but two of the most important are to advance the story and intensify the conflict, all the while keeping it natural.  So here are a few ways to craft dialogue into a more compelling and natural sounding work of art.

Red: Tension, Conflict, Emotion
In Writing Fiction For Dummies, Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy say, “Dialogue is war! Every dialogue should be a controlled conflict between at least two characters with opposing agendas. The main purpose of dialogue is to advance the conflict of the story."  

·         Skip the pleasantries.  No one cares about the “Hi, how are yous?” Jump right into the heat of the moment.
·         Stay away from the info dump monologue.  Providing information without tension is boring.
·         Never use dialogue as filler.  Dialogue has to  heighten conflict, advance the story or display character development.  If it does none of this, hit delete.
·         Show emotional tension in dialogue through your characters actions and reactions. Perhaps a he falls silent, she interrupts, or the teen changes the subject.  

The Abstract: Loose and Free Flowing
Dialogue has to have a natural flow, but a common mistake among many new writers is to make it stiff and formal. Use these guidelines to make yours sound real:

·         Read dialogue out loud.  Does it pass the “ear test” and sound like actual conversation? Avoid fancy words.  In The Elements of Style Strunk and White say, “Do not be tempted by a twenty dollar word when there is a ten-center handy.”  "Seeing her confused him” is plain and simple. “Upon looking at her, he became discombobulated" is not.  It’s also too wordy. Streamline your dialogue and cut out unnecessary words.
·         Use contractions:  will not/ won’t, do not/ don’t, we will/we’ll, etc. They’re much less formal.
·         Think about real conversations with family and friends. It’s okay to be grammatically incorrect by ending a sentence with a preposition. “So what was that about?” sounds more realistic than “So about what was that?”  In stressful situations, you can use sentence fragments and one word answers.
·         Avoid the lecture.  A character expounding in detail about a subject will bore your reader. You’ve done your research, but it’s not necessary to show how much!

Flesh Tone: Make it Real
Stay away from unnatural dialogue.  Would your sister really say, “How’s your husband Ed and your step-son Frank, the child by Ed’s ex-wife, Beth?”  Using dialogue like that sounds artificial. Find a subtle way to convey those facts.  For example:
     “So where’s Ed?”
     “I left him at home working on my honey-do list.”
     “Is Frank helping him?”
     “No, he’s with his mom, this weekend.”
     “Beth, the wench?”


The Portrait: Provide a Distinct Voice for Each Character
Dialogue is an important part of characterization. Keep in mind the time period, age, gender, social status, education and geographic locale.

Imagine how different a Wall Street executive would sound compared to a Georgia factory worker.  White collar professionals are more likely to use correct grammar and speak in longer sentences, whereas blue collar workers might use rougher language and shorter sentences.

Take into account individual personalities: quiet, talkative, cruel, manipulative, compassionate, insecure, outgoing. Be mindful of the situations they’re in; dialogue has to be suitable for their action and reaction.


The Difference Between the Male Still Life and the Female Landscape   
According to Richard Drobnick from an article in YourTango:

“He believes communication should have a clear purpose. Behind every conversation is a problem that needs solving or a point that needs to be made.”

“She uses communication to discover how she is feeling and what it is she wants to say. She sees conversation as an act of sharing and an opportunity to increase intimacy with her partner.”

So keep in mind that men are more direct and brusque in tone. They use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers, and are likely to use one word responses and shorter sentences.  Instead of talking about people and feelings, they’d rather talk about things.  Also, dialogue is action for men.  Instead of discussing a way to save the heroine, the hero plans and executes it.

Women, however, love talking about people and relationships.  Their language is softer, and they’re more likely to talk around a subject.  “I’m not too happy about this,” she might say, while he says, “I’m mad as hell!”  Women express themselves in complete sentences, and want to share their feelings.

In closing, always keep your dialogue tension filled, loose, naturalistic and distinct for each individual character to create your masterpiece!

What do you like most about writing dialogue? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Sometimes It's Okay to Tell and Not Show

Writers have been hearing about the importance of 'showing' for so long that they've begun to forget the value of 'telling'--of exposition, of summary, of omniscient narration." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 12. Tell, Don't Show

This rule sounds contrary to anything most writers have ever read or been taught.  It's of course important to show everything worth showing, such as dramatic interaction and heated dialogue.  But it is acceptable to tell a few things, too.


Utilize the power of description about surroundings, what's going on inside a character's head, or in the world of your story itself. Masello points out the opening of Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  So if Dickens can do it...

Also, things that don't need to be seen don't need to be shown.  Who wants to read about a heroine getting ready for work? We know she'll shower, style her hair, put on makeup, get dressed, make coffee and eat breakfast.

Only show these things if something important happens to affect the story. Perhaps she slips in the shower and breaks her leg, or spills hot coffee and scalds herself, etc., etc.

Masello mentions something that Elmore Leonard, a master of pacing, once said.  He keeps his books moving briskly along leaving out all the parts readers don't want to read.

Anything in your current WIP that can be told and not shown? Happy writing, and thanks for visiting! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Pinky

Racial passing is a subject matter that interests me and Pinky, a film from 1949, deals with this issue. I have never seen it, but plan to watch it this week for research purposes. Pinky is a race drama about a light-skinned black woman passing as white. For more about the film and the plot, click here

One of the controversies regarding the film was the casting of white actress Jeanne Crane to play the title role. Black actress Lena Horne had wanted the part, but having a white actress as Pinky with audience appeal and monetary pull led to the casting of Miss Crane. (In my opinion, since the actress had to be white, I would have chosen Jennifer Jones. She could have more realistically passed for black, again, just my opinion.)

Anyway, here's another interesting fact about the movie from Turner Classic Movies:

[A] major change in the production of Pinky was the director. [Director] John Ford left the film after only a week of shooting that was so traumatic [black co-star] Ethel Waters described it as a "shock treatment", with Ford's abrasive personality making her "almost have a stroke". [Producer] Zanuck was unhappy with the rushes he saw. 
Jeanne Crane
"Ford's Negroes were like Aunt Jemima caricatures. I thought we're going to get into trouble. Jack said, 'I think you'd better put someone else on it." Ford was replaced with Elia Kazan, who had made Gentleman's Agreement (1947), another racially-themed film for the studio, and earning it an Academy Award in the process. The official reason for John Ford's departure was listed as a bad case of the shingles, which Kazan later admitted was a lie. 
Lena Horne
"He pretended to have shingles. Some years later I said to Zanuck, 'Jack Ford never had shingles, did he?' And he said, 'Oh, hell, no. He just wanted to get out of it; he hated Ethel Waters and she sure as hell hated him.' Jack scared her to death and he knew she didn't want to work with him. I also think maybe he didn't like the whole project. Anyway, Zanuck wired me and asked if I'd come out. I wired back, 'I'll do it as a favor.' Firstly, I threw away whatever Ford had shot. It was poor. It showed a lack of interest and involvement. So, all the footage was mine. The only things that were not mine, which are a hell of a lot, were the script and the cast. It was the last time I ever allowed that. Jeanne Crain was a sweet girl, but she was like a Sunday school teacher. I did my best with her but she didn't have any fire. The only good thing about her face was that it went so far in the direction of no temperament that you felt Pinky was floating through all of her experiences without reacting to them, which is part of what 'passing' is." 
Jennifer Jones
Have you ever seen Pinky? If so, what did you think?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!