Words on the Page

by Gayle Bartos-Pool

We here at The Writers-in-Residence are writers. Whether it’s a novel, short story, news article, play, movie script, or even a How-To book on writing, words are our life and love and sometimes our nemesis because it can be hard to get those words on the page when life gets in the way. But we have all had our work published and know how hard it is to get that done. Whether it’s more than fifty books in print like our Linda O. Johnston or a few books like some of us or newspaper articles like Jackie Houchin, we have gotten those words out.

I have taught writing classes and have spoken to numerous people in my daily life who wanted to write, but they didn’t know exactly how to go about it. I’m very sure they actually knew how to write. We all learned to do just that in the first grade, at least we learned how to get a few words down on that wide-lined paper way back in the Dark Ages before computers. I would ask these folks who wanted to be writers what had they written so far and over half said nothing. Not a chapter, an opening paragraph, an outline or even a concept. Nothing. They have a long way to go, but perhaps they are more interested in the “idea” of writing rather than have an idea of what to write.

I remember speaking with a nurse in a hospital lunchroom when Richard was ill. I had mentioned that I was a writer and she said she wanted to write. I told her that everybody had a story or two in them whether it was a fiction tale or the story of one’s own life. She started telling me some of her family’s stories. They were fascinating. This gal had a story in her that should be written even if only her family reads it, but the way she told those few tidbits, lots of people would enjoy reading about her life. I wished her well.

But talking doesn’t get those words on paper. Whether writing it in longhand like Ray Bradbury did with every single book he ever wrote including The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 which he wrote with a pen, he got those stories written down. Don’t get mesmerized by the “idea” of writing, or the “fame” (that’s only if you sell a million copies the first week your book is in print), or the “money” you’ll make (authors usually get a small percentage of the cover price after the publisher and the distributor and the bookstore get their cut; sorry, that’s the reality unless you have sold that previous million copies). Don’t let that stop you from writing. Write.

Do you have a story you want to tell? After these past two years being basically isolated due to the flu that has kept most of us living in solitary confinement, you just might have something you were tossing around in your head or maybe even you got a chapter or two written or an outline dashed off so you wouldn’t forget the story line. I can tell you from personal experience, if you don’t write it down, you will definitely forget it. Dear Bonnie Schroeder, a fellow scribe, gave me a notepad that hangs up in the shower along with a pencil that allows one to write down that elusive idea that pops into your head while the hot water is calming you and you are free to let those creative juices flow. Write.

You can always run an idea past a friend to see how it sounds. If you belong to a writers’ group, you might toss the idea out during a meeting and see what the group thinks. They might have some suggestions to help you focus your story. If they shred your idea like a head of cabbage, perhaps join another group. I’m serious about this. Some groups aren’t there to help. But then again, you might get a good story out of the fact the group was all wrong because of the hidden agendas of the other members of said group. Hey, ideas are everywhere. Write.

Nevertheless, if you actually have an idea for a story, write that outline. Who are the characters in the story? Don’t have a cast of thousands. Readers won’t be able to follow Who’s on First. Next, where does the story take place? Location, location, location. They do that all the time in the movies. Where do you want your small cast of characters to be situated? You’ll get to describe the place. Don’t make it a travelogue, but make it interesting. Visual. Maybe even astonishing. The moon, a sinking ship, a haunted house. A jail cell. Write.

When your characters speak do they have something to say? Again, I’m serious. Make whatever they say part of the story. If their dialogue doesn’t add anything to the story, cut it. And make a character or two colorful in his or her speech. It adds to the flavor. Write.

Then of course you have to have a plot. Why are those interesting characters in that interesting place saying those interesting things? That is your story. You have had this idea running around in your head; what is it? You will realize (hopefully) that the story you are telling has a point to make. You might think that the story is the point. Ask Aristotle about that. Since he’s busy, let me say this: After someone reads your story and has gotten to know your characters and has visualized that intriguing setting and has listened to the witty dialogue your characters are saying while the story progresses, when the reader gets to the end of your story they need to be able to say, “Ah! That was a story about Man against Nature or Woman against Society or Man Struggling against Himself.” That’s the point of the story, not the plot.

Say you want to tell a story about Man against Himself. Now you have a goal to come up with a story that centers on that Theme. The man keeps setting up roadblocks to stop himself from doing something he really wants to do. You must construct that plot. You will define those roadblocks and his excuses to not do what he needs to do to fulfill himself, to reach his goal. You create the characters that both help and hinder him. You design a setting that either lulls him into complacency or he thinks is above his lot in life. And you write the dialogue that has him expressing his dreams and desires along with those who tell him can or can’t achieve his goal. And Voilà, you have that story. And you might actually realize that the stubborn character you are creating is really you and then get more of those words on the page.

We are finishing up one hell of a year, actually two. Soon a New Year will open up those dreams you have buried because you keep telling yourself you’ll write that story later. It is later. Write it. What do you want to say? Get those words on the page. Write it.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Write on!

Author: gbpool

A former private detective and once a reporter for a small weekly newspaper, Gayle Bartos-Pool (writing as G.B. Pool) writes three detective series: the Gin Caulfield P.I. series (Media Justice, Hedge Bet & Damning Evidence), The Johnny Casino Casebook Series, and the Chance McCoy detective series. She also penned a series of spy novels, The SPYGAME Trilogy: The Odd Man, Dry Bones, and Star Power. She has a collection of short stories in From Light To DARK, as well as novels: Eddie Buick’s Last Case, Enchanted: The Ring, The Rose, and The Rapier, The Santa Claus Singer, and three delightful holiday storied, Bearnard’s Christmas, The Santa Claus Machine, and Every Castle Needs a Dragon. Also published: CAVERNS, Only in Hollywood, and Closer. She is the former Speakers Bureau Director for Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles and also a member of Mystery Writers of America and The Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She teaches writing classes: “Anatomy of a Short Story,” (The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook and So You Want to be a Writer are available.) “How To Write Convincing Dialogue” and “Writing a Killer Opening Line” in sunny Southern California. Website: www.gbpool.com.

12 thoughts on “Words on the Page”

  1. If you make excuses for why you aren’t writing that story you have been wanting to put down on paper, turn those excuses into a short story and then maybe you will see you have another story in you and that will end up on the page as well. Write on!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gayle,
    I love, love, love your post and the fact that you take the issue down to a ingle word: WRITE. The every best advice not only for beginners but to all writers. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to remind us of who and what we are, and strive to be.
    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved this. What a good pep to my day this post makes. You share my passion for the word ‘write’ as well, Gayle. Because at the end of the day, no matter what’s in our way, we writers have to simply write, as cliched as it is. And lovely pic of the typewriters at the end. Are they yours? I’ve been meaning to get into typewriters. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So good, Gayle. A fantastic way to end the year for our blog. I hope I can come up with something good to begin 2022. All the writing I’m doing now is Christmas cards. I’m determined to write a little something in each besides just our names. They are getting shorter however, after over 100. About 25 more to go, then on to wrapping some family gifts. Then I need to come up with a traditional family scavenger hunt with a dozen clues for Christmas. (The next generation.) Oh my, oh, my…. what can I write about… writing?? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, I took your advice, Gayle. I got a message from LinkedIN asking what I was thinking about at the end of 2021. So I let them know, writing about three things on my mind in three medium-length paragraphs. Guess l’ll see if I get any back-lash. Haha. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Gayle, and the perfect gift to us for the holidays. Years ago, I met a writer whom I admired and told him I wanted to be a writer. His reponse: “Then why aren’t you?” It changed my perspective. Your post reminded me of that, of how we call can write but choose not to for many reasons – how do I begin, how do I finish, what if it isn’t good? We need to take your advice to just WRITE, because no matter how many great ideas we have, it isn’t writing until it’s on the page and it isn’t a story unless it’s completed.

    Liked by 2 people

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