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Writer’s Club salutes literary giant Kurt Vonnegut, Jr Nov., 1922 - April 2007

The Beat Goes On...
What’s On and About on the Writer’s Beat Forum A lively discussion on the importance (or lack of) coffee took place in The Inkster Incorporated foru m: "Co ffee is a constitutio nal right. If not, it sho uld be." - Gary_Wagner "I believe co ffee is the joy o f peo ples m orning s." - Esthe rM arie But not everyone was as enthusiastic about a morning cup ‘o mud: "Coffee is the devil's brew. It makes users (add icts?) indulge in motormouth babel while their brains are hotwired on caffeine. First step on the road to coke, crank and the cheap thrills of pse udo-e phedrine cold m edication." - Starrwriter

“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.” - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Slaughterhouse Five Works by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.:
Player Piano The Sirens of Titan Mother Night Cat's Cradle: Go d Bless Yo u, Mr. Rosewater Slaughterhouse-Five Welco me to the Mo nkey H ouse

Useful Writer’s Tip from the WB Forum:
" I came across a tip that I found helpful and thought I would pass it on. Some words you just don't need. They clutter up otherwise clean writing. There's a list of the most frequent offenders I keep near my keyboard. Here they are: just, really, definitely, so, even, such, very, at all certainly, exactly, anywa y, some. And some unnec essary p hrases: started to, began to, proceeded to. You rarely need these words. For crisper writing, lose the unnecessary words.You'll have more room for your story to grow." - PiperDawn You Really Don't Need the Word "Really" Writer's Beat Forum, Writer's Tips and Advice


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Writer’s Beat Monthly Contest Winners
Non-Fiction Category


For several years I bathed in the
bosom of nature. M y first natural bath was a waterfall pool in the tropical rainforest on the island of M aui. I lost hot water in my house when the family that delivered propane gas went out of business in the rem ote area. Rather than take cold showers, I decided to carry a bar of bath soap and a towel to the pool below my property. The pool water was refreshingly cold. I would strip naked, jump in and gasp as my body adjusted to the temperature. Then I would lather up and dive under the waterfall, breathing a fine mist rising from the splashing water. The pool was far enough away from the road that no o ne co uld see me ex cept wild anim als -- birds and the occasional mongoose or wild boar. My neighbors began calling me "nature boy" and I felt like a Hindu Bra hmin perform ing his daily ablution to the gods. Later I built my own house on the Big Island where I had purchased three acres of rainforest property. My only water source was rain catchment from my roof into a redw ood storage tank. I ran a garden hose from the tank to a gully. Using gravity feed, I took cold showers bene ath a tall ohia tree that flowered twice a yea r. I rinsed my hair with the sap of shampoo ginger, a better hair conditioner than any store sells.

Although my outdoor shower "stall" was a long walk from the road through dense rainforest, I was interrupted once by a fetching young lady who came for a surprise visit. She was em barrassed , but I only smiled. I finished my shower while she talked with her back turned to me. After I dressed, we drove to the other side of the island and camped on the beac h that night. A few years later I came down wi t h a b a d c a s e of "civiliza tion." I built a tiny bath house, installed an on-demand propane water heater and a 12-volt water pump, and I began taking hot showers like everyone else. It represented a fall from the state of grace. Now I live in the big city of Ho nolulu where taking showers outdoors is prosecuted as the criminal offense of indecent exposure. City dw ellers do n't realize what they are missing. Fiction Category:

visit him and his new wife, Ruth. I soon realized the visit was a mistake. The night of the moon walk my father got very drunk after Ruth went to bed and he started harassing me about my recent divorce. "W eren't you man enough to keep your marriage going?" he asked insultingly. W hen he bragged about seducing a neighbor, something snapped inside me. The next morning I told Ruth about his philandering and p acked my things to leave. I was backing my car out of the driveway when my father rushed out of the house to stop me. "You stabbed me in the back," he said incredulously. "You asked for it," I said and drove away. He died five years later. Poetry Category

Josie Henley


There was a young woman from
Vickers, W ho ord ered a new pair of K ickers. She paid for a parcel But regretted the hassle W hen the box revealed three frilly knickers.

M y father was a hypocrite. W hen I
turned eight, he made a big show of promising never to use physical punishment with me again. Two years later he kicked me do wn a flight of stairs for breaking a window. From that point on I despised him. The last time I saw him was the day N eil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was just out o f Air Force boot camp whe n he invited me to

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Misused, Misplaced and Misspelled:
Spelling, Grammar and Mechanics
Azael S., Hak eem S., Mridula C., Taya L., Tina C.

Writing M echanics Commas Commas are the simplest of tools; we barely notice their existence. But if you pay more attention, you would notice that without them writing is nothing. While reviewing a piece of writing posted on the boards, we occasionally have to comment on the same things: misplaced comm as, comma splices, serial commas, and unnecessary co mmas. It is of crucial importance that you proof-read your work before putting it up for review—co rrecting your mistakes will drain the critic, so let’s just agree that it's your job. How to spot a comm a splice: Skim your writing, stopping at every comma. If there are two com plete sentences at bo th sides, then you have a comma splice. Before anyone sees you, change the comma to a period and act as if nothing happened. It is not necessary that you change it to a period; there are other ways of fixing this horrendous mistake. Try to replace the comma with a sem icolon, use other punctuation, or simply re-word, playing with the clauses at hand. Serial comma s? A serial com ma, a lso called an Oxford comm a, is the one placed before the last item in a list. We know that you were taught otherw ise in school, but this is the real world. The first, the second and the third, and the fifth book. Journalists do not abide by serial comm as, but you most certainly have to because most publication houses prefer its use.

Unnec essary comma s: Admit it alread y; we know that you like to put a comma between every word.

O Do not write a comma after
Like and before Such as.

O Commas are not placed
before parentheses, but you are free to write one after them. B etween most double adjectives, a com ma is not necessary to use. What you need to realize is that writing is different from speech. You may be tem pted to use comm as to indicate pauses, mimicking the way we talk thinking that it’s going to make your writing believable— well it is quite the contra ry. Spe ech is something, and prose is another. Abide by the comma rules, and you shall be safe. Dialogue Punctuation Nothing vexes us more than a piece of dialogue not p roperly punctuated. When writing dialogue, pay close attention to every comma, period, question mark, exclamation point, and especially quotation marks. From The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition: “Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single … T ypographical usage dictates that the comma be placed inside the [quotation] m arks, though logically it often seems not to belong there … The same goes for the perio d.” Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside the quotation marks only when they are a part of the quoted matter. You know, said is not the only speech tag in the world. Try to make your dialogue more lively and believable by using other tags. That


It’s not easy being a critic. Forget
the fact that we have a weekly quota of critiques to do ; we often have to trawl through travesties of the English language. Let’s be frank. If you are taking the effort of writing something, the very least you can do is respect the language you are writing in. Granted, not everyone is a grammar expert, but a line must be drawn when the basic upshot of a story is: “n den da lil gurl liek totilly fel 4 dat guy hu woz liek sooooooo hot *faints*” Maybe we're exaggerating and that’s on the farther spectrum of things, but that does not mean we should igno re the ‘better’ ones. A discussion of our pet peeves made us realise that an article highlighting com mon faults we find while critiquing would help. It mushroomed from there and we are now proud to present M isused, Misplaced and Misspelled, a series of articles that will tackle several issues from grammatica l errors to chara cter develo pme nt. Without further ado, we bring you Misused, Misplaced and Misspelled: Spelling, Gramm ar and Mechanics.

being said, you can use said after a question mark. (“Am I an idiot?” you said.) Keep in mind that dialogue is primarily a tool to help develop and mov e the plot. Do not ov erwrite it! Speech T ags: There are four types of tags: speech tags, action tags, thought tags, and description tags. You may write, “I love you,” Jack grinned, but that is purely incorrect. If you think about it, you will conclude that you ca nnot grin and talk at the same time! Therefore, the correct version of both the speech tag and the action tag would be “I love you.” Jack grinned or “I love you ,” Jack said. To show direct thoughts (that little voice, which speaks inside your head), use italics or simply underlining. Make sure you use a thought tag: "I suppo se I got th is right,” Jack thought." You can also let your reader know more about the character’s perso nality by using body language and facial expressions. Y ou use description tags for this. “I love yo u.” Jac k turned his head, feeling ashamed. Ellipses and Dashes Ellipsis points (which are three periods not seven) are not used when a speech is interrupted, but used when the speaker is at loss of words. It can also be used to portray hesitation or stuttering. You use four periods when the ellipsis is at the end of a sentence—no main sentence—placing emphasis on what is after it—or when the flow of a sentence is strongly broken. An en dash is half the wid th of an em dash. This one is used to indicate a ce rtain range between d ates and numb ers. Please bear in mind that no space precedes or follows an em or en dash. (You do know why they were named like this, don't you?) Another thing; the overuse of dashes is a sign of inexperience or amateurish writing. Do not say we did not warn you. Numbers in Writing: Serial numerals that are really long are not spelled out; it would tire the reader. Don't say one thousand two hundred and fifty six pages for an example, simply write 1,256 pages. Rem emb er, you must put commas after every third digit from the right or it will be hard to read. Dates are not spelled out and the nume rals are written. How ever, don't begin your sentence with numerals; always use words. Capitalizing T itles: If you want to post a story o n the board s, please make us look good and capitalize the title properly. You capitalize everything in a title except for articles (a, an, the), prepo sitions, and conjunctions. Be careful though, the first and last words are always capitalized no matter what. Subtitles are not different; they follow the same rules. Punctuation in Poetry As was already said, in poetry there are no rules for grammar, but to facilitate reading, think of how the poem should be read. Even if your idea is the best one ever, if the grammar is bad, no one will know

Writer’s Beat

The Beat Goes On...
What’s On and About on the Writer’s Beat Forum Free-Writing: a spotlight on short works

Capturing the Moment
by T-Mania
Som ething happened. It didn't just happen like that out of the b lue. There w ere ev ents, people, decisions, action, and mistakes leading up to the moment, culminating in that ap ex tha t pu rpo rts to expla in the ch ain of ca use an d effec t. Emotions were involved, decisions made, conversations exchanged, and plans executed. The atmosphere, the psychology, the tension, the curious stares, everything, rushing up to that m om ent, waiting to b rea k loose, is necessary to capture the mom ent. Something happened. That's just the beginning, the first sentence that invites us back in time, back through the chain of cau se and effect, to the beginning, to the expla nation , to the ca use if there's such a thing. Capturing the moment really is capturing the series of causes leading up to the e ffect; that is, one m ust capture mom ents to cap ture the mom ent.” - Posted on the Free Writing forum, Rough Draft section on Writer’s Beat

, the fourth period

is not included within the ellipsis; itis only the full stop at the end of any sentence, you fool. (We say either an ellipses, or ellipsis points.) An em dash is equa l to the wid th of two hyphens. We use it when we want to set something apart from the

how to read your poem to get the best out of it— it is as valuable as a piece of paper with scribb les. Com mas are used to either make a stop or to tell the read er, “T his is where the thou ght for this line ends.” Avo id using co mmas too much; in poe try, a comma could be substituted by ending the line. Periods are not used much in poetry, unless it is the end of a stanza. Periods tell the reader to make a stop. If used in the midd le of a stanz a, it could mess up the poem’s flow. There are no periods in the middle of a line. Period. Spelling and Grammar Usage Whether or no t you weather this storm of advice is up to you. Misspelled words are often a writer’s bane. While computer spellcheckers root out several errors, they do not always pick up on ever y t h in g — p articularly homophones. For the less-informed, homophones are words that sound similar and are hence often misused. Similar, but just not the same! Effect is a noun and is therefore the 'subject or object' of the sentence. “The effect was startling .” Affect, on the other hand, is a verb and therefore is the 'action' in a sentence and should be used like this: “The virus is destructive and can affect the hea rt mu scle.” Past is an adjective, which is used to 'describe or mod ify' a noun (see above.) “Things have been terrible in the past yea r.” However, Passed is a verb: “The bullet passed right b y him .” Except is conjunction; it means 'if not' or 'unless'. “All th e King's horses are white, except for Dobbin, who was techn ically a pon y.” Accept is a verb and should be used like this: “Jenny cou ld not accept Je rem y's proposal of m arriage.” Alter (verb) means to change something; Altar (noun) a table or surface where religious ceremonies are cond ucted . “Jack altered the altar's height by a couple of inches, so next time; it would be easier for him to reach the sacrificial virgin.” Allusive and elusive are not the same. I say, “My girlfriend is so allusive; she's always asking whether I like kids or not.” Allusive is used when som eon e's speec h/actions c o n t a in hidden meanings o r intentions— not necessa rily ill behaved. Elusive is quite different; it means subtly mischievous: “When I prepare different exam p apers so my students cannot cheat, I am b eing elusive.” People sometimes write illusive instead of elusive, and that is not just a spelling mistake. Illusive is a word that describes a devious p erson , a trickster. (T he neg ative side.) Therefor is not a misspelled therefore; the form er is the ancient meaning for "for". We trust that you know the latter; therefore, we are not going to say anything. Timber and timbre have nothing to do with British/American usage. Timber is that thing your hut is made of, while timbre is the distinctive trait of a complex sound. To avoid confusion, the latter is occasio nally referred to as a "vocal timbre". Yeah I know; we have musical experts on the beat! The old wether (a castra ted male sheep) was wondering whether or not the weather was going to get worse. W hat do you think? And our personal favorite: Desert (noun), which generally means “a sandy piece of land with very little water.” Dessert (noun) - meaning som ething with whipped cream, glace cherries and preferably

Writer’s Beat
chocolate sauce! And remem ber, it’s i before e except after c. So, it’s chief, not cheif and receive, not recieve. Other commonly misused and misspelled words are: stair and stare, whole and hole, stationary and stationery, practice and practise, maybe and may be, nigh t and knight, knew and new, and great and grate, not to mention several others. The only way to get past this problem is by reading a lot. Ab ove all, if you are not sure how to spell a word, go ope n a dictionary. Speaking of which, here’s a handy tip for getting its and it's right. W henever you are contemplating writing it's, decid e if you co uld replace it with it is, because that is what it’s with an apostrophe me ans. If you can't, then it must be its. So for instance, in this sentence: It’s a joy to watch a hawk dive after it’s prey. Can you say, "A hawk dived after it is prey?" No way! Therefore, no apostrophe. You can also use this trick for wasn’t (was not), haven’t (have not) and shouldn’t (should not). Rememb er, the more grammatica lly correct your story is, the more likely you are to get feedback. And for the love of all that is sacred, please do not expe ct anyone to waste their time correcting your spelling errors.

Structuring Sentences Several novice writers do not know how to structure a sentence. It’s easy if you think about it logically. Every sentence has one subject and one predicate. A subject is the part of a sentence about which something is said. A pre dicate is the part of a sentenc e that says something abo ut the subject. Confused ? H ere is an exam ple: (Continued)

Leopards are excellent hunters. Here, ‘leopa rds’ is the subject and the predicate is ‘are excellent hunters.’ As long as your sentence has a subject and a pred icate, you shou ld be fine. However, don’t forget fragments. Those are sentences where there is either no subject, or no predicate. Sente nces where thoughts are left incomplete are also classified as fragm ents. Exam ples: The young boy. (No predicate) Ran to his mo ther. (No subject) If he had not foun d her… . (Inco mplete thought) Fragments are very valuable for creating an impact. Needless to say, if you insist on over-using them, you are killing a useful tool. You alone are to be blamed if you still go ahead with the fragment-attack Grammar Exercises Don’t groan! W e’re not forcing you to do this, though if you are one of the reasons for this article, you should already be pulling out a pen and paper, or opening that document on your computer. Here are some exercises for you to check if you have learnt anything from this article. Answers are at the end of the issue.

Writer’s Beat
Pwom an witho ut her m an is
nothing M ake correction s:

P It is recommended that
writers persue a career as colum nists.

The Beat Goes On...
What’s On and About on the Writer’s Beat Forum A random pick from the Poetry Foru m:

P His attempts to escape his
f a t h e r s t y rr a n y desp arate. w e re

P The desert was m agnificent!
It was complements from the cheif.

P The occurence of any
developement good results. can yeild

Summer Day
- Poemgirl

P At my house, eating brocolli
is an indispensible fate. If it were up to us, we wo uld make grammar and spelling so sacred that by messing them up, you would be breaking a cosmic rule. Unfortunately, we don’t have any axe to follow you around with. Instead, we are going to settle by giving you all of the adv ice above. Don 't get us wrong though; we are not trying to make writing harder, but sometimes it enrages us to see the language mish andled. After all, this is a writing forum! For Answers, see page 11

Punctuate the following:

Phe bought fruits and
vegetables bo oks and pens

Pwhen the drunk husband
stumbled into their house his wife was furious Pbefore he did anything Daniel Fischer asked the girl wo uld you go out with me Peveryone can write not as perfectly as Paris Hilton and get published

"The great art of life is the sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain." -Lord Byron

Dripping sweat, sun burnt nose, blistered hands, tired feet. Shady grove, shallow pool cool and sweet, splashing in What relief! Work hard, yet at times, stop. See this day, cream-blue sky, quiet fields, gurgling stream open lilies, singing birds. Summ er days are not here forever so pause, stop and listen


Writer’s Beat
Equally vague is the Dedalus family’s, particularly M r. Ded alus’, position. Frequent removals to progressive ly poorer sections of Dublin let on that Step hen’s father is in financial trouble, but young Stephen was left in the dark and so too, therefore, is the reader. Desp ite the murky nature of the narrative, one thing becomes extremely clear: Stephe n doesn’t know what to do with his life. He struggles with religion, philosoph y, beauty, politics, sin and Irish nationalism. He rebels against the conventions he is bro ught up with a n d h e s e e k s i n t e l l e c tu a l individuality. There is no midd le ground in his psychology and actions; when he com mits, it is fully done. For instance, in the third section of the novel, he is convinced that he is so very damned that he should die for his sins. Then, pages later in the fourth section, he considers himself to be so very pious that he sho uld die for his excessive purity. And you thought John Kerry w a s w i s h y- w as h y . I n sh o r t , everything in Stephen’s life has fallen short of his expectations and he must find something else to give himself to. This something else comes in the form of art. The church is abandoned; St. Stephen is trampled by Daedalus; Stephen leaves for Paris to pursue his calling as an artist. Though a reader may welcome this conclusion, the final sentence of the novel is an o minous one . “Old father, old artificer, stand me no w and ever in good stead.” Here Stephen is Icarus, asking Daedalus for help. But we must remember that the last time Daedalus aided Icarus, it ended with the young man drowning. A P ortrait of the A rtist as a Young Man is not an easy read. And re-reading it was no easier. The

Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by Taya L.


now and then, a nagging voice in the back of my head tells me I should be reading more edifying books than the ones that currently grace my bookshelf. T he voice tells me my next book should be one of those “classics” that fill book club reading lists. I’ve never liked that particular little voice. D on’t get me wrong, those classics aren’t all bad. But I never liked being told wh at I should read. On March 16th, that voice got itself a microphone and so I decided to tackle James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I’ll admit that I’m che ating a b it; this isn’t the first time I’ve cracked the binding on a copy of Portrait. But the last time around I was on the verge of graduating from high school and I was finding m y English class a b it tedious. P o r tr a it is a semi-autobiograp h i c a l w o rk published in 1916; the footnotes kindly included in my Penguin Classics edition make it clear that many of the characters are near carbon-copies of Joyce’s college

chums and J oyce himself appears in the form of an alter-ego named Stephen Dedalus. The choice of this name is an important one. Another Stephen, this one from biblical times, was martyred and becam e the first Christian saint. Daeda lus is a master craftsman of Greek mythology. He built King M inos’ great maze to house the Minotaur but when Minos refused to let him depart from Crete, he created waxen wings for himself and his son, Ic arus, to fly away on. As is well known, Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he fell into the sea. Because Stephen is also son of a Dedalus, Stephen can therefore be both D aedalus, the artist, and Icarus, the fallen man, the one who c omm itted hubris. The fire and water imagery associated w ith this myth pervades the five sections of Portrait. The plotline follows Stephen’s life in Dublin from early childhood through his years at a Jesuit boarding school and then on to university. To ld in an elusive manner that leaves much unsaid, a reader without a considerable amount of knowledge of early 20th century Irish history may find it difficult to understand what Stephen is ex perie ncing. Charles Stewart Parnell, the political leader, has a great impact on young Stephen, but he remains a shadowy figure, referred to at dinner table conversations, an image in Stephen’s mind that is never fully articulated.

narrative style makes it difficult to connect with the characters and I found that I was reading it with the intent of turning pages rather than savoring the experience. However, many of the scenes are really quite brilliantly done and there is no question that Joyce was a master of language. In the end, I suppose I should say I’m glad I took on Portrait one more time, but I have to admit that statement would n’t be co mple tely true. Sure, I got a lo t more out of it the second time around and I understand why it’s considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, but in terms of my personal tastes it will never be cherished like some boo ks I own. Joy ce’s W orld Interested in learning about the man behind this story, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce? Check out: www.themo dernword .com /joyce. Readers Speak Out Reviewers o n Barnes and N oble’s website gave Portrait five out of five stars, comparing Joyce to literary giants like Homer and Shakespeare. Amazon custom ers were slightly more critical, giving Portrait four out of five stars.

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“...you can't write interesting stories until you have lived an interesting life. That means taking risks in life as well as in writing.”
- Starrwriter

How I Becam e a Fiction Writer WB forum, Inkster Incorporated


Rules For Critiquing
Excerpt from Guidelines for Critiquing Posted by Lacy, Writer's Beat forum, Writing Tips & Advice

T Always be kind and considerate when making a critique statement. Respect and support your fellow
writers. We are all in the same boat and no one person has the paddle.

T Wh en offering critiques, please follow the rules: no profanity or personal attacks. T Remem ber that unless you are a trained Editor critiquing a polishe d w ork for publication, your critique is
only a suggestion to help som eon e work on a d raft. Th ey do NOT hav e to a ccept your word a s law .

T Whenever possible, try and present your comments as an experienced opinion rather than gospel or law.
Man y writers join critiquing groups an d forget that everyone is just learning. No on e has all the answ ers. Steven King was told that his writing was so horrendous that he should just stop writing all together and get a rea l job.

T Comm ents such as "This is how it has to be," or "you have to do it like this" are not constructive. Instead
say, " this is what I would do", or "could it maybe be said this way?"

T Be hon est in your reviews but at the sam e time be thou ghtfu l. You are not h ere to poin t out e very little
nit pic or mistake the writer has made. You are here to nurture and support the writer while helping one another to grow and learn. ___________________________
Source, as cited in the original thread:The Allyn & Bacon Handbook. 1999 For the rest of this informative post, see the thread Writing Tips & Advice on the Writer’s Beat forum.


Writer’s Beat


Writer’s Beat
standing on an empty street. Then, from around the corner someone appears. Yes, you will notice what they look like, but you will also start t o m a k e ju d g e m e n t s a b o u t them...Hark, I hear cries of, ‘No I don ’t...I’m n ot prejudicial! Unfortunately the truth is, yes you are. W e all are. The urge to prejudge is built into our most basic of instincts, which is, ‘Do I need to be afraid of this person?’ It is the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. We do this subconsciously all the time. T his is not the only question we ask. In order to make a judgement on threat, we also ask, ‘What does the ir appearance mean?’ For example, if I had just robbed a shop, had a TV in my arms and the person who came around the corner was in a police uniform, to me it could mean trouble. On the other hand, if a serial rapist had just chased me down deserted alleyways, the sight of a police uniform would be m ore o f a com fort. As a writer you must consider what your characters appearance means to your reader and to your other characters. Play with it. Just think of all the fun you can have turning this on its head. It is much more interesting if after being chased by the serial rapist, I run over to the policeman and discover that he’s sixteen, drunk and going home after a fancy dress party or the policeman is the serial rapist’s partner in sexual deviance.

Characters That Breathe
Part 1
By Tina C

Let Your Characters Show Their Story
There are so many articles and threads on W riter’s Beat on this subject that I am loath to m ention it again, but...show, don’t tell! Take a look at these two exa mples, Alan was so envious of John he wanted to spit. He had Joanie and a fanta stic flame-red Ferrari. John seemed to have everything Alan did n ot. In this example, the writer is telling the story, but that makes Alan a very dull bo y. G e t y o u r characters up and moving! This is what the reader paid their hard earned cash for. Characters who ‘do’ things are alive. Alan stuffed his clenc hed fists into his jacket pockets, smiled and nod ded his farewells to John and Joanie. He watched the flame-red Fe rrari turn out of the d riveway. O ut of sight, the smile fell from his face. He sniffed hard, turned and spat green mucus onto their snot coloured lawn. Hop efully, you can see that Alan’s actions mean exactly the same as the previous example, but this time he is much mo re interesting. He is showing the reader the story.

No matter what genre you prefer, all
written characters come from the s a m e p re m is e — P e o p le . A n y character you create, if it doesn’t have that ‘people factor’ your characters will seem flat and unreal to your reader. It is easy to believe that because each and every human being has a different appearance from the next, and has differing perso nality traits that you can be lacking in the consideration o f your character. You wo uld be wrong. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Here are some things to consider when you are creating your hero, arch enemy or sidekick.

Describing Physical Appearance
Tall, dark and ugly is fine, but it is all too easy to give a list of hair and eye co lour, the style, type and colour of clothes. However, a long list is boring and your readers will pick up on it. Keeping it simple allows the reader to fill the gap s with their imagination . In the ‘Drago ns of Pern’ series, author Anne McCaffrey describes one of her m ain characters F’lar, as a dragon rider whose dark fringe flopped into his eyes and who smelled faintly of leather. Oh b e still my beating heart! Som etimes simple is sexy. If you can’t keep it simple then imagine for a moment you are

Characters with Developmental Problems!

In 99% of all fiction the protagonist’s perso nality grows. The reader expects it. Your protagonist needs to change and develop if they want to have a reader who believes in them and has sympathy for them. If your hero remains the same from page one to page six hundred and one, they will be incred ibly bo ring. For example, let us look at an archetypal hero character: Buzz Lightye ar. Now Buzz, at the beginning of the movie Toy Story, is a heroic Space Ranger. No one doubts it as all his actions and dialogue shows us this. However, he is flawed. He is completely delusional, but over the course of the film, his character begins to realise that not all is at it seems and his character ‘develops’ and grows along with the plot. This is what makes Buzz a symp athetic character. It doe sn’t matter that he is a toy or a digitally enhanc ed b it of animation—Buzz lives for one hour and thirty minutes! The starting point is the ‘flaw’. Every protagonist needs something they struggle with. It enables the reader to ‘relate’ to them. It makes them human (even Buzz). Howe ver, they key is ‘growth’. Over the course of your story the character must show how they are overcoming this flaw. If Buzz rem ained the sam e all the way thro ugh the film he wo uld become very annoying. Now conversely, antago nists don ’t have to have a perso nality that ‘grows.’ Let’s go back to our serial rapist. Your story might start when he is eighteen and just stalking his victims. Throughout the plot his behaviour progresses from just stalking to physical assault, to rape and eventually murder. That is definitely growth. But a serial rapist who commits rape and murder in the first chapter and does it again and a g a i n t h r o u g h o u t th irty -th re e chapters is perfectly acceptable.

Writer’s Beat

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late
W hether you are describing your character, putting them into action or making them grow, it is all about r e v e a ling your charac ters in measured amo unts. T his is not easy. If there is too much de tail, you will slow the pace in your story and put the reader too sleep. Too little and there is not enough for the reader’s imagination to build a realistic character. If too late, your reader will have moved on to the next book on the shelf!

Ten questions to ask your characters
1. W hat is distinctive about their appearance? 2. What does that say about them? 3. W hat do they do during a normal day? 4. What things do they like/hate? 5. What is their favourite saying/phrase? 6. W hat is their most common habit? 7. How would they react if _________ ? (fill in the blank). 8. How would they feel? 9. W hat would they say? 10. What do they want most in life? ____________________________ (End of Part I. Be sure to look for Characters That Breath in our next issue)










Writer’s Beat

WB Critic’s Choice
February & March 2007
W ell! The nom inations and scoring are finally done and finding our winners was a very tough decision. It was close to the wire all the way! But that is what we expect from a forum full of very talented people. The standard and q uality of writing is fantastic to see. W e critics would like to congratulate the winners and thank all our members for contributing their wonderful work to the site and for giving us some fantastic reading. February w inner:

For some reason the sight of false teeth and b are gums in a young person like Frank horrified me. I suppo se it made me think of premature old age and death. All at once I was afraid of surfboard s. A few years later the case of another surfboard victim convinced me to stay away from the damn things. M ark was a hapa-haole (part Hawaiian) young man who worked in the compo sing room of the Maui newspaper where I was a reporter. He was mellow, soft-spoken and pleasant to work with. Although he enjoyed surfing, he was the antithesis of surf N azis -- maniacs who had no real life on dry land. One day Mark had a surfing accident that changed his life. In a bad wipeout his bo ard struck his head, fracturing his skull and causing brain damage. He was in the hospital for weeks and when he was finally released, he wasn't the same person. The new Mark wa s fine physically, but the brain injury affected him emo tionally. He spok e too loudly and used a different kind of language. He seemed ag itated and unhappy. He lost his job because he co uldn't concentrate. His friends thought he was too weird and bailed on him. He either didn't notice or he didn't care. He lived in his own world, which obviously wasn't a good place. It was a tragedy and I felt sorry for Mark. But I loved the ocean and I couldn't stay away from it, so I took up diving and eventually body

Surfing Tales
by Starrwriter I never tried to learn board surfing for a coup le of reasons. I have a lousy sense of balance. At different times in my life I tried other sports that required good balance like riding a surfbo ard -- ice skating, roller skating, skiing. I couldn't do any of them. Board surfing is also dangerous. I knew two surfers who suffered extensive injuries when they were hit in the head by their own surfboards. Frank was an Air Force buddy. He raved about the joys of surfing, but one day he reached in his mouth and pulled out his upper front teeth. It was a partial bridge of false teeth. His real front teeth had been knocked out by his surfboard.

surfing. Laying down in a wave do esn't require a good sense of balance and the ride gives you a thrill similar to board surfing. One day some friends and I went to a remote beac h in W ailea, M aui, (now occupied by a huge resort.) The surf was ide al -- perfec t form and 4 to 6 feet high, which is big enough for a great ride but small enough to avoid serious injury if you "went over the falls" o r wiped out. I went out around noon and started catching waves. I didn't have to padd le for position, they simply picked me up and carried me all the way to the beach. Every hour or two I went back ashore to drink a quick beer, then returned to the surf. By the time I left the water for good the sun was dipping below the horizon. It was the most perfect day of body surfing I ever experienced. I felt exhilarated and serene at the same time. It was the first time I truly understood why peop le surf in spite of its dangers. W hen you encounter ideal conditions, the ocean caresses you with a power you can feel in your bones. The surge o f water is like a pleasant electric tingle and you never forget the magical rush. Later on I pushed my luck and went body surfing in waves that were too big (10-15 feet). I nearly drowned twice before I learned my size limit and I continued body surfing for years. I don't body s urf any longer. Getting old and all that. Now I stick to free diving and sp earfishing in calm water. Yo u can't see the fish very we ll in churned-up surf.

15 What the critics said…
As always, I find his writing flawless. I think the ending is a little bit disappointing, but the wh ole piece is perfect. What can I say the guy can write. Wo nde rful! Excellent writing. description, flawless Massaging her fingertips, she returned them to the keys. Sheri couldn’t quit now, even if she wanted to. Derek, her serial killer, was stalking his first victim. The house around her remained quiet, save for the clicking of keys and occa sional tiny blip from her computer. Her cat, Solomon, twined around her legs in a bid for attention. She gave him a quick scratch on his ear. "Chill out, Sol. I’ll feed you as soon as I’m done with this section, I promise." He m eowed, and she detected a note if irritation. Then again, maybe she’d been awake far too long. Times like these were rare, though. When the M use finally called, Sheri answered the damn phone. She typed on; her mind caught up in her unfolding tale. Then, an hour later, she paused and noticed a headache brewing. She massaged her temples and re-read Chapter Two.

Writer’s Beat
A floorb oard upstairs creaked and he froze, listening. Emily moved abo ut, maybe preparing to take a show er. He’d watched her through the window of the house across the street for several days running and knew that she showered several times a day. Her bedroom window stayed open, affording him an excellent view. The walls groaned as water rushed up ward thro ugh rusty pipes. "That’s my g irl," he whisp ered and licked his kips. "Right on schedule." Em ily feared germs like others feared rapists a nd m urderers. H e felt a rush of pleasure knowing that he’d soon bring an end to her suffering. Calculating from memory, he estimated the time it would take for her to un dress and step into the show er. She would stand beneath the steaming water for at least ten minutes before she began to scrub herself. He had plenty of time. He slipped into the kitchen.

M arch Winner:

by OnceUponATime (W arning:. Rated R for excessive violence, gore and strong language.)

Derek checked the front door and the doo rknob turned easily. He gave a nod, satisfied. Emily grew up in a small town where they did n’t use locks. She’d told him so. Pity. He crept into the house, setting each foot down with care onto the clean tile floor. Emily didn’t like carpet – she’d told him the day before that a rug was hard to keep clean. Som ewh ere, deep in the house, he heard the sound of an appliance churning. A dishwasher, perhaps. Positive that the machine made enough noise to cover his footsteps, he ventured further in, past an ornate mahogany grandfather clock and a table covered with a collection of porce lain pigg y ban ks. How odd, he thought and suppressed the urge to laug h. Emily collects pigs.

Solomon jumpe d up on Sheri’s desk and set one of his velvety black paws on the keyboard, typing ‘mmkljnk.’ She laughed and hoisted him off the keys and got up to carry him to the bedroom door. H e felt heavy, warm and fuzzy in her arms, and for a moment, she buried her face in his fur. When she looked up, the digital clock on the nightstand by her bed told her that she’d worked way past bedtime. Three thirty-three a.m. I’ve been at this for over fourteen hours. Holding both Solomon and her cell phone, she peered out into the hallway. Through the darkness, she made out the shape of the light switch on the wall beside the stairs. "I swear I hate this place at night," she said, more to herself than to the cat. Solom on purred and rubbed his

Derek watched the light win k on in
the second floor window of Emily 's house. As much as he enjoyed her company, the tim e had come for him to collect his reward. Her skin.

"Hmm mmm... not too bad," Sheri said to herself after reading what she'd just written. She leaned back from her keyboa rd and sighed. Her back ached, yet she was unable to stop writing, and her eyes wept from staring at the screen far too long.

face against her neck, not worried in the slightest. Ho lding him close, she hurried to the light switch and flipped it on. The stairwell plunged down into utter blackness - the yawning throat of the house. Solomon blinked at her, his bright yellow eyes reflecting the overhead lamp. "I suppose if you’re really starving, I can brave the depths of the first floor." W ith a shudder, she descended, each wooden step creaking beneath her. -This is an excerpt of a longer work. To read th e story in its e n t i r e t y , v i s i t http://www.writersbeat.com/scissor s-t9083.html M arch Memb er: starrwriter. Title: T he M ushroom P eop le Memb er: gunner Title: Murder at W illow Bridge Memb er: Toyzrock Title: Another window Memb er: gary_wagner Title: A hmed of A ramc o (Con’t) Memb er: starrwriter Title: A Tale of Two Fathers Memb er: tarakan Title: The Adventures of Tarquin Jenkins - Bare Faced Cheek! Memb er: starrwriter Title: The Dreaming Pool

Writer’s Beat
Member: pugh7755 Title: Retribution Memb er: gary_wagner Title: The freakasaurus ____________________________

“ You know you're a writer when...

around you seems like a

very good character
for your next novel.”

What the critics said…
The descriptions were very well written in every respect. Almo st putting m e as the w riter. A terrific story, Jiilian; wonderful plot and great characters. Spectacular stuff…what did I say when I first read this? ‘Oh Yeah… I wanna write like this when I grow up!’

- Fanci
From the Inkster Incorporated forum on Writer’s Beat

Top ten cliché sins
By Tina C.
1. No Luke…I am your father. Need I say anymore about this plotline, hmm? 2. Characters solving plot deficiencies by going to the library…or even better the good old let it slip in tactless conversation. 3. Dialogue that starts with ‘Hey’, o r ‘Say’. 4. Chapters that begin with the weather. 5. Incorrectly spelled names, so that characters appear cool. Trust me, they do n’t. 6. Those Mundane metaphors. You know the ones I mean…it was as cold as ice…icy fingers ran down his spine…her eyes were the colour of the sky. 7. Any sentenc e that includes… Little did he/she/they/it know that… 8. One for the fantasy writers – W izards with long grey/white beards and flowing cloaks…erm… this may come as a bit of a shock but it has been done already. 9. One for the horror writers… Vampires who are traumatised by the ir condition b ut are d own right sexy d oing it! 10. O ne for the SF w riters – Aliens who attack the human race beca use they have had an ecological disaster on their home world…or… they attack us just because they can.

Other Recommended Reading
Here were the other nominations, which we would highly recommend you take a look at. Congratulations to all of these writers for a job well done! February Member: rocklion Title: Honeysuckle Blues Memb er: Torpeh Title: C rucifix H ill Mem ber: novu Title: W hite Rain


Writer’s Beat
The re is little of us in a boy, perhaps a talent for fishing and a love of sailing coupled with a propensity to stare w istfully out to sea on long evenings. I stayed until he was weaned and it broke my heart to leave him, but his father was a good man. The longer we stay, the more difficult it is to go back but I have heard of those who chose to linger before returning, and those who never return. I have heard tales of ones who were driven out by the locals, or worse: burned, and the child too. I knew that the day would come when they noticed how I did not age, and I could not let this happen. I still think about my son som etimes. His dark brooding eyes contrasted with the blonde curls that all our babies are born to bear. I called him Benjamin for his father. Although he is long dead now, perhaps his descendants continue to work the estuary. My second child I rarely think about as it hurts so much. It is my own fault that she p erished . I went too far inland to satisfy my curiosity and when the time ca me to birth I could not make it back to the sea. She was born a mile from the coast in the hovel of an old woman. I was running, running along the track when she caught me. I screamed for her to leave me for I still thought tha t I might reach the water. But she pointed to the trail of blood and once she had hold of me my legs

A Writer’s Beat VIP Club Featured Story.

Ocean Maiden and Apple King
by Josie Henley

I was born at sea; I spent the first
100 years of my childhood in the ocean; if it were my ch oice I would die at sea. The land is not right. It is heavy, hard and static. The water is uplifting, yielding and fluid. The first time I came to land, I could not force my legs to work pro perly. T hey felt like great lum ps of m eat with b ig clunky feet, knob bly knees and horny toes, it was all wro ng, wrong! Not like the smooth and beautiful rainbow-reflecting scales that I was used to. In the sea there are three dimensions: forward-back; left-right; up-down. On land you can’t dive down deep or leap up high. On land you must stick rigidly to a twodimensional life. If it were my choice I should not visit the land ever again. But it is not my choice, for I have been sent on a mission to this dry and brittle realm. I must bear the desiccated land until I have completed the task set out for me. As children we are taken up the channel, grad ually a few miles more

each year through the noxious brackish water. W e must learn to bear it until we are prepared for dry earth. I have a strong memory of the relief felt when swimming back out of the channel to delicious cool salinity. Each time I make the journey, this memory floods my mind and I am a youngster again. I have been sent three times in total, and this is my last cha nce to accom plish my duty. The first time I travelled this path the baby was male, which happ ens. As the wise one told me, it cannot be helped and it must be borne. Some stay and raise the child themselves for as long as they can, some find it a home or ab andon it and escape to the sea once m ore. It is a risk to stay f o r l o v e . S o on enough the son will turn against the mother, it is inevitable. W e are different. Compared with their short and brutal lives, we m u s t s e e m immo rtal. There are other minor diffe r e n c e s : o u r famed beauty is entrancing, our voices captivating. It is a great burde n to bear, to be so attractive to those for whom one can only feel sorrow.

Once I am certain that this is a person, I reach for my mobile phone. I am horrified to think of what might have happened to her.

crumpled. I lay back and she put her hand on the bab y’s head. At least I was on the earth and not confined between the woman’s stone walls. A few minutes later I was holding my daughter. If the old woman expected me to be happy then she was disappointed: I was disconsolate. I cried so passionately that my tears washed the child until her skin glistened. I begged the woman for a bucket of water and tried to sink the baby in it, but she stayed my hand. She thought I was trying to drown the poor mite. It would have been too late anyway. If the baby is not born under water then she will not become a full Ocean M aiden. She wo uld no t die from exposure to the air, but neither will she find her fins. She will be forever trapped with legs and lungs, wandering the barren earth in search o f something that she cannot say, yearning and hoping and eventua lly being driven mad with unrequited need. I did not want that for my daughter. I left the old wom an’s shelter some days later and suffocated my poor darling, taking her little bo dy back with me to the deep est trench to mourn my loss. I had not nam ed he r, as this would have contributed to my suffering. Following that I stayed in the sea for some centuries and have not ventured out. B ut I have been told now by the wise one that I must go. I must fulfil my obligation to my grandmothers. My mother had three daughters, and my sisters each have two alre ady. I am the only one in our family who has failed in this way. Thus my desperation this time to conceive a girl and bring her to birth. I so want a dau ghter and it is this wanting that draws me forward, out of the water. The metho d of choosing a man is taught to us before we make o ur first journey to land. He must be clean and free from disease; he must be young and fit, not burdened; he must have a spark of intelligence. But most of all, he must be alone. I fall on the rocks several times as I pick my way toward the land, try to make it to the thick sharp salty grass. But finally I give up and drop onto a hard, smooth boulder, naked, bruised and shivering. I shall lie here and wait for dawn, gathering my strength. I am a fish out of water.

Writer’s Beat
the local, and the tourists. Between them they give my profits a hefty boo st. I like them , but I would n’t want to drink with them, if you know what I mean. This bar is the only one within walking distance that doesn’t have a TV blaring in the corner. On a Friday night I generally find myself drinking my own cider at the bar, paying a bit extra to drink it from a glass instead of straight from the barrel. Shep comes with me and sits under the table. He gets an ashtray full of bitter and lots of petting from the old gu ys who gather to play dominoes. Apart from the mob ile phone in my po cket, this could be fifty years ago. I like that. Soon enough the sleepiness of this town will be overtaken by the global machine. Why not enjoy its last days of leisure? Occasionally we get a disorientated tourist here. The lost adventurer who has made it past IceCream City, through Amusement Arcade Jungle and discovered that there is life beyond Them e Pub World. A weekend ramb ler marching out into the landscape and confused by the lack o f facilities. I shou ldn’t do them down, really. Some of them are pretty smart folk. But the more that come, the more likely the landlord is to give in to the pressure to renovate the soul out of the old place. So far the only concession to tourists is the old dog-eared poster writing up the history of the house, done back when the current landlord first took over. Apparently, hundreds of years ago, an old dear used to cater for sailors and travellers. She was mobbed by locals for helping a witch to kill her baby and the place was burned dow n. No -one wanted it so it fell into ruin. Folk said it was cursed and haunted and all that. It was turned into a bar then in 1920 by an enterprising old navy man and a photo of him hangs between the

I was born under an apple tree. My family have owned this farm for centuries, and now I run the business. W e brew organic cider and perry and have rec ently experimented with liqueurs for the growing market. I am not rich b ut I would say that I’m com fortable. Folk around here call me T he Apple King, which does make me la ugh. M y name is Ben jamin, a name which has been handed down through my mother’s family for genera tions. Most of the family on her side were sailors, but my father’s family were farmers. The land is in my bones, the cider my blood. I like to think that I have a bit more intelligence than the average Neanderthal you might meet in this small town. I read classics, I play sudoku. I run my own accounts and use the internet to sell my specialist liqueurs. The internet is also a handy way to keep a track of the latest competition. I h a ve some companionship in the form of my employees, but my parents are both dead and my only brother emigrated to New Zealand to run a sheep farm. I am lonely, you see, and isolated . I can’t think of a way to change that situation a s I’m also painfully shy. I like to drink at a coastal bar, which is really just an old stone shack with a couple of barrels and some rough seating. I prefer this to the ‘local’ which is all done up for tourists. Do n’t get me wrong, I like

optics. He looks a bit like Popeye. The sun is long gone an d the last orders have been called. I could stay for longer. I’m sure the landlord wouldn’t mind, me being his main supplier. But I don’t feel like sticking around tonight. I feel restless for some reason, perhaps it’s the heat. “Hup , Shep !” I say and he d oesn’t need a second telling. I take my leave of the old lads and hitch up my trousers before walking out into the night. I wouldn’t use the toilet here, little more than a hole in a hed ge it is anyway. I need to go so I walk down the coastal path till I find a bush. It’s the long way home but old Shep likes a run on the beach before bed. As I’m pointing over the sea front, I notice a gleaming shape on the rocks out there. It’s probably just an old bit of bleached driftwood but from here it looks like it could be a person. You never know what you might find washed up on the shore. Curio sity leads me down onto the first boulders to try and get a closer look. The nearer I get, the more it looks like a woman, lying down with long hair spread out around her. I reach for my hip-flask – apple brandy of course – in case she needs resuscitation. Cautiously I approach. There is a strange smell, a fishy m usky smell. Not unpleasant, a bit like lobster perhap s. Onc e I am certain that this is a person, I reach for my mobile phone. I am ho rrified to think of what might have happened to her. She is naked and b y the way she is spread-eagled I think that she must be dead. W ho could do a thing like this? W hat is the world coming to? But then, just as I am about to dial 999, I jump nearly out of my skin because she moves. No t only a small movement but she virtually leaps up to a standing position as if she’s a pupp et being pulled with strings. I stammer a few words and step backwards, tripping in a rock-po ol. Shep runs up to us barking and I put my hand out to stop him. I apolog ise to her and put my phone away. She is obviously uninjured. Maybe she’s a strange hippy-tourist who decided to come for a midnight swim alone in the nude. Who knows what’s inside these people’s heads? She walks towards me and I back away again. Calling Shep, I turn and meander back up to the headland, trying to appe ar casual. I am glad of the cover of darkness because I am so embarrassed that I think my face is as rosy as an ap ple in full blush. W hen I get to the top, I turn, fully expecting to see her gathering a towel or running in the op posite direction. She is not. She stands there looking at me for a momen t, then slowly and deliberately strides over the rocks towards me. The panic I feel is like nothing ever before, even the kiss I had in high school. I make a grab for my hipflask and take a massive swig, ignoring the burn in my throat. I wait for her to step onto the path and then open my mouth to speak. But I can’t get my words out. Her eyes bore into me, as if she can see deep into my soul. She takes two steps nearer, her hips swinging suggestively and by her look I know what’s on her mind. I stumble backward s again. S he makes a coo ing noise, as if reassuring me. I try to tell her to go find another man, someone with more of a way with the ladies, not me! She lifts a finger to stay my lips, then leans forward and replaces her finger with her own lips. Then I am gone and I can think no more. I fall into her embrace like a drowning man accepts his watery grave.

Writer’s Beat

Another VIP Writer ’s Showcase Feature:

Ahmed of Aramco
by Gary_Wagn er Ahmed was a light-skinned, blueeyed Saud i, a rarity in the land of black hair, dark-brown eyed, lattecolored skin Arabs. His blue eyes and light skin were the gene pool inheritance from his Lebanese mother. Ahmed also dressed in western clothes, instead of the anklelength tho be m ost Saudi men wear. I first met Ahmed standing outside the doors of the main Aramco office building in Dhahran. Another rarity for Saudi Arabia, the office building there had just been made smoke-free. Smokers had to make their way down to the ground floor and smoke outside in the op pressive hea t. Ahmed approached me and told me he really liked my shirt, which was not all that surprising - it was my favorite shirt, a Ralph Lauren that my wife bought for me. Well, who am I kidding, I have only bought two shirts in the thirty-one years we have been married – she has bought all the rest. I had no idea Ahmed was a S audi. He didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask. If you have never worked in Saudi Arab ia you might wonder why that matters. If you have ever worked there, you would realize that either being a Saudi or not makes all the difference in the wo rld. It is their country, we were little more than servants working for the m at their

˜ ________________________

whim and d esire, and they were not have never agreed. I went there, we shy to let us know that. Granted, we watched Pink Floyd videos, I got were highly spe cialized and highly drunk and threw up , and slept it off paid servants, but we understood our on his couch – a common n ight out place which was lower than the for a we stern expatriate in Saudi. Saudis in all matters. Americans used I went back to his place abo ut a to rank highest in the non-Saudi week later. A friend of his was sitting pecking order, at least which was on the floor, obviously a Saudi with still true in 1996 when this story the clothes, complexion, hair, and o ccur r e d . W e eyes that were higher than d e c l a r e d his o t h e r nationality loud I felt like running for nationalities, but and c l e a r. the door. Instead I had a There was a definitely second class citizens. W e newspaper couple of sidiki and tolerated it in spread out in colas; got really return for them front of him mellow. Then I smoked paying us twice where he was times as much one of the half-tobacco, dis assem blin g money as we cigarettes and half-hashish cigarettes could make pushing the anywhere else in tobacco in a Mohammed made for the world, full pile. I was a me. I was 39 years old pay retirement little nervous and just had the first benefits at age because I was 50, paying for not abo ut to illegal drug of my life. our housing and d r i n k u t i l i t i e s , homemade providing us with hooch in front a car, six weeks vacation per year, of a Saudi. Never had, never planned private schools for our younger to, too risky. children, luxurious private boarding His friend introduced himself, said schools anywhere in the world for his name was M ohammed (true of our high school children, and paying about half of all Saudis) and that he airfare for a trip home once per year. and Ahmed were go ing to drink Ahmed and I talked about Sidiki (the homemade bo oze) and inconsequential things - normal smoke hashish. Would that bother me? smoker’s chit-chat. It seemed like I was floored. I ha d trave led to over the next week or so, he was out London and Los Ange les with Saud is there smoking every time I went out I worked with and they could drink for a smoke. He knew I was working me under the table in a heartbeat, but there with my fam ily still back here I never had one admit d rinking while in the USA, and I knew that he lived “in kingdom” before. It was a huge alone in the bachelor’s section of the unspoken rule. Plus, alcohol can get Aram co co mpo und. you in a lot of trouble there, illegal Ahmed invited me to his apartment drugs carries the death penalty. No to watch some videos and drink kidding, they cut peop le’s head s off some homemade bo oze on new-years for that – with a big curved sword at eve, which is not celebrated as a noon in public squares, one Friday holiday there. I still had no idea at per month. Father’s pack a picnic the time he was a Saudi or I would lunch and take their sons to watch.

Writer’s Beat
There are no protests, no candlelight vigils; it’s just something they accept as part of their normal life. I was seeing a glimpse into the private life of a Saudi – lives kept extremely private, especially from the eyes of expatriates like me. There w e r e r u m o r s , th e r e we r e assumptions, there was talk, but this was the first glimpse of reality I had ever had while working there. I felt like running for the door. Instead I had a couple of sidiki and colas; got really mellow. Then I smoked one of the half-tob acco , halfhashish cigarettes Mohammed made for me. I was 39 yea rs old and just had the first illegal drug of my life. I got a little go ofy and had another. We were all goofy and laughing at everything. Put the Pink Floyd video on again, it was hilarious. Ahmed asked for my keys, which I gave him, and he told me to come with him when he ran for the door. I knew Ahmed didn’t have a car or a driver’s license. I never asked why, I just knew he did n’t because he told me more than once. I didn’t really care much in the haze of booze and drugs. He didn’t drive us far, just to a hill in the compound not far fro m his apartment. He parked the car and said, “I just wanted you to share this beautiful sunset with me” and took my hand. I have never b ecom e sober so fast before in my life. Let me back up a minute and explain something about men holding hands in Saudi. It is a very common practice and doesn’t usually connote anything except friendship. W e shake hands in greeting, they hold hands. The pinky hold is pretty common too. It is rather jarring to see two policeman walking down the street carrying automatic weapons over their shoulders and swinging their arms with their pinkies linked

together. It is such a common practice that I have had Saud is at my office reach out and take my pinky in theirs while we walk d own a hall without even thinking abo ut it. It is something you simply have to get used to. To refuse or pull your hand away would be an insult so you just accepted the difference. All of our contracts contained a clause that we could be terminated and deported for insulting a S audi. The way Ahmed was holding my hand, they way he referenced the sunset, and the way he was looking at me told me instantly that he was looking for more than a friend. Earlier that evening I had just learned that Ahmed was a Saudi citizen. That changed the balance of the equation. Saudis have an inherent power over expats, it’s just a fact of life there. P iss off a Saudi and you might as well pack your bags and go home, or worse, get set up for something and go to prison, or worst of all, get your head cut o ff. I endured a few minutes of extreme discomfort before I told Ahmed I wasn’t feeling well and would have to go home. He offered to let me sleep over, I declined, lying that I was scheduled to call my wife back in the USA at a predetermined time and couldn’t miss it. I prob ably said the word s, “wife” and “family” half-a-dozen times as if I ne eded to remind him that I was married with children. I began using a new exit from the office building and found a different smoking spot. I never saw Ahmed or Mohamm ed again. I guess neither of them wanted to make trouble with me for running away and breaking off contact without another word spoken between them because although they could make trouble for me, I could make just as much troub le with them. We had reached a stand-off of MAD (mutually assured destruction) and bo th decided to just keep quiet and move on with our lives in hopes that they other wouldn’t cause a ruckus because everyone would go down in flames together if any one of us did. There are still things about that situation that I don’t know and d on’t necessarily want to know. Did I somehow lead him on? Did I misunderstand the watching the sunset incident? Did he miscalculate the depth of my loneliness being there alone before my family came to stay with me? D oes this incident make me a homopho be? And the biggest question, how could I be so blind and naïve to a situation unfold ing aro und m e. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, but it will always still bother me to some extent. I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings too much but he sure freaked the hell out of me.

Writer’s Beat

Writer’s Block?
Try some of these prompts:
From the Story Starters thread in Writing Tips & Advice on Writer’s Beat
K Pick three characters who have nothing in common. Place them together in an unlikely setting and describe what they talk about as well as what happens. K Write from a cliché - taken literally. K Think about a person from work or school whom you can’t stand. Write a couple of paragraphs from their point of view. K Write a character sketch about a person who people don’t normally pay attention to. K Write about a dream you would like to fulfill before you die. K Write a story about a weird event in your town’s history. K Write about a colorful family member / ancestor K Write a poem about an awkward moment in your life.


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"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure"
– Samuel Johnson (G.B. Hill (ed.), Johnsonian Miscellanies, Vol. 2)


Writer’s Beat

Paper or Plastic?
WB Members comment on the differen ce be tween writing a draft on pap er or on a com puter: “I use both. If I'm sitting in my room wo rking on som ething, I generally click it into my computer. But I also like the feel of having a pencil scratch the paper, especially for my non-fiction stuff. Also, I find ideas flow better when my materials are right there in hard copy lying on my desk.” -Alyosha “I always type my actual written work, but I never go to sleep without a notepad nearb y, because hand writing is still the best way to hammer out those demented scraps of genius that wake you from your sleep.” -Darthwader

Photo Prompt
Hopefully, a picture really IS worth a thousand words. See if you can write a few paragraphs based on this photograph:

“I prefer the computer because I can type faster, and should I ever need to go b ack and ed it, Backspace leaves a clean sheet of paper. No scribbles or circles or arrows. Also, if I have a pen in my hand , I'm probab ly more inclined to doo dle than I am to write.” - Citizen

Need another idea? Try going through your family photo albums. Find one from your early childhood and focus on it for a few moments. Do you recall any events from the time the photo was taken? If so, put yourself back into your kid’s-sized shoes and write about your memories.

“Does anyone remember this anachronistic thing called a typewriter?”

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Excerpts from What Do You Prefer: Pen and Paper or the Computer? Inkster Incorporated, Writer's Bea t Forum